Echoes, Ghettos & the Chasm of Unknowing

Start here with Robert Royal’s piece on the “anti-Catholic moment” Are we living in one?

Maybe. But I’ll get back to that, later.

The hatemail and disgusting threats being made against Stacy Trasancos are reprehensible and cannot be justified.

They can’t. Don’t try. Don’t say “well, she…” and then prattle on that her expressed frustration and the hurt feelings of others justifies wishing that her children be “kidnapped, raped and murdered.”

Don’t say, “but…” because there is no but. There are lines. The excessive, gratuitous frenzy of hate that Trasancos experienced was all out of proportion to what she said.

And what did she say?
Well, for some reason I can’t cut and paste it, but in a self-described rant, she expressed approbation at seeing what she perceived to be gay public displays of affection, including two women who were “so happy to see” a baby boy laughing in a bucket swing that they embraced and then “remained, rubbing each other’s back in a way that was clearly not just friendly affection.”

Now, of course, it was very possible that what Stacy was seeing was a gay PDA, both at the swings and at the public pools where she spied two men “effeminately rubbing elbows and exchanging doe-eyes” — behavior which her children “don’t see Daddy do, except toward Mommy.” It’s very possible she did see that.

It’s also possible that she saw something else.
In the case of the two women who were so happy to see a laughing baby that they embraced and then tenderly rubbed each other’s back, she may have seen two sisters who had recently endured a death in the family, or two friends who had shared a journey of infertility, or cancer treatment. Maybe that child had been critically ill at some point, and his laughter was sweet and poignant. What she perceived to be Sapphic tenderness could have been simple human consolation, shared between two women who had walked through a fire together and in that child’s laughter, recognized that they had made it through.

In the case of the two doe-eyed men, she may well have seen two men with homosexual inclinations, but she can’t have any way of knowing whether or not their affection was anything more than that. In fact, for all she knows, the men make a point of going somewhere public, like a pool, rather than a bathhouse, because — while attracted — they prefer to not tempt themselves.

Which, ironically, would be an intention Stacy would applaud, I think.

My point being, we can’t actually know.
We can wonder, but unless something is more overt than what is being described, we really can’t know.

And if we cannot know something for sure, then perhaps we ought to hold our rants until we do.

I don’t know Stacy Trasancos, but I’ve had a few email interactions with her and she has always struck me as pleasant, smart and serious. I probably would not have written what she wrote; had I observed what she reports, I might have looked at it differently.

Nevertheless, a spree of violent fantasies made in response to her admitted “rant” was mature? Spite is legitimate?

Might makes right? Is that what it comes down to?

Anyone who thinks they’re going to force gays back into the closets
is kidding himself. And anyone who thinks Christians are going to stop believing what they believe because the conventional wisdom says they should is also kidding himself. We are all going to have to learn to live together.

This is not all about “tolerance” and relativism; it’s not about holding hands and singing Kumbaya. It doesn’t mean that see people (gay or straight) making out in public we have to take it and say, “it’s alright children, there are all sorts of people in the world.” Of course not. We try to discretely make the couple aware that there are children present (assuming they would care) or we leave and tell our kids that such behavior is unacceptable; that it is disrespectful to the self and to others, and we explain why — and that lesson extends into all of the other kinds of conversations.

It also doesn’t mean that when someone goes on a “rant” about perceived behaviors, the proper responses are death threats, vile name-calling and the worst sort of vituperative hate-spewing. Descending en masse upon a blogger and — because you didn’t like what she said — using that as a pretext for justifying threats of rape, murder? How does that sort of bullying and intimidation convince people of anything? How is different from the sort of bullying and intimidation a project like “It Gets Better” tries to address?

How does becoming the bully make everything squared?

The increased Balkanization of our society
— with everyone hanging out in echo chambers peopled primarily by those who agree with everyone else — is settling us into ghetto mentalities. I once had a Catholic Mom express concern to me that her kids admired a flamboyantly “g-a-y” singer, and she didn’t know what to think about that, or what to tell them, since “we don’t know any people like that.”

And in the ghetto next door, of course, there are gays who have nothing good to say about “Christian conservatives” because they don’t actually know any people like that. A family member once brought a gay friend to an Eagle Scout ceremony. He’d prepared to walk into a lion’s den of growling, spitting haters, and instead found himself told to get comfortable by a bunch of firefighters doing ceremonials and middle-aged moms fighting over the coffee urn, none of whom cared about his eyeliner.

It’s easy to simmer in the ghetto, easy to get comfortable with assumptions, stereotypes, paranoias and fears, because there is nothing to challenge them. Actually meeting the people we think we know all about (gay people; “illegal” immigrants who have been here for twenty years, the progressive blogger everyone told you was a meanie, but is just worried; the conservative who seems so terse but is just shy) getting to know them, working with them, agreeing on some things, disagreeing on others — when you do that, suddenly the “other” is a person struggling along, just like you, being battered in some ways, soaring in others. That’s when caricatures crumble.

And others, of course, culled from the same groups, are just miserable bastards you can’t do much about but kiss ’em up to God, and move on.

So, what are we going to do? Have ghetto wars? Try to legislate each other away? Act like shrieking baboons in an attempt to convince the other that we are humans worthy, at the very least, of simple courtesy and respect?

I don’t know what we’re going to do. Let’s pray about it, and for each other.

One of the things I love about Catholicism is that it’s not strident. We have an enormous catechism, and we have a depository of faith, a duty to propagate the truth and a pope who gives excellent instruction and models the life of faith for us. We know that there is only one truth, the Word Incarnate, and all that flows from that Source — but we also have the humility to understand that, as we heard last weekend at Mass, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.”

Which means that sometimes even things that strike us as infuriating, unjust or in all-ways-wrong are used by God for his purposes and glory.

The crucifix reminds us of that, everyday.

It is into the chasm between our imperfect and limited understanding and God’s infinite Knowing that we sometimes must simply trust that — even though we do not understand — the the Holy Spirit is on the move. The same Holy Spirit who so often confounds us by saving the “unlikeliest” of people, or reaching into and turning a heart in ways our understanding (and our attachment to letters-of-law) cannot quite get. We dislike it when a politician committed to a pro-abortion platform publicly receives Holy Communion but we have no idea how Christ, in Flesh and Blood, may be working on that person. We know the law; we know what we think. But we cannot know what is happening, supernaturally, within that exchange — in the power of that absolute, darkness-overcoming-Light received in that Communion, or its effects over time on a soul with whom God is not finished.

As he was is not finished with any of us.

In that chasm of unknowing is where the miracles happen. And knowing that should cue us toward humility for all we do not know, no matter how much we do.

Are we in an “anti-Catholic” moment? I dunno. The world is supposed to hate us, if we’re doing the thing right, and sometimes the hate is completely unwarranted, and other times our imperfect, flawed selves tempt it, all unwittingly. In either case, we’re supposed to respond to that hate with, in ways the world would not:

The job of the Christian is to hold fast in the face of chaos and recall that Christ is more powerful than any man or media — that darkness does not overcome light. To be honest, all the fretting from us Christians is a bit unseemly. If we are secure in what we believe, [nothing takes] us down, no matter how perverse and offensive, because Christ is alive, and Grace abounds, and because– just as an Abbess or Abbot is entitled to use whatever resources his or her community contains to advance the stability of the abbey — the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding us by using what is out there in the world to do the will of the One.

Pray for those who hate us. There is power there. [. . .] This is why sometimes stillness and silence and even retreat is so important. If we Christians do not occasionally step out of the whirlwind, if we do not remove ourselves from the day-in, day-out noise and craziness of the world . . .we tend to get caught up, to forget that half of what is assailing our senses is strictly illusory and the other half is only semi-important. We start hyper-ventilating about every insult, we start wringing our hands about conspiracies. All of which flies in the face of faith, and grace and trust.

Don’t get distracted. Don’t get over-involved in the whirl, and leave the wind to the Holy Spirit. There are angels and demons in the whirlwind; let ‘em battle it out. Observation is valuable; so is reflection. Most valuable of all is prayer and contemplation and communion.

We probably are in something of an “anti-Catholic moment.” But it’s not the first one, and it won’t be the last. Don’t get hooked into the daily chaos; don’t buy into the force out there that wants to tempt us away from reason and into group hysterics — regardless of the topic — none of it is of God.

Msgr. Charles Pope
Heather King
Fr. Ryan

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