The Double Gold Standard

The Double Gold Standard October 6, 2020

The English translation of Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti was released on the fourth. Among other things, it restates the Church’s rejection of capitalism and why she rejects it. This has provoked the usual suspects1 to accuse His Holiness of being a communist, which irritates me in the extreme—not as a communist (which I’m not), but as a gay man.

Let me explain. A musician and medical, uh, do-stuff-guy that I follow on Twitter posted something this afternoon that hit a nerve for me. It was an email from a local pastor. The church in question apparently had a mission statement (wow, I hate this already): “Love God, Love ALL People”. The gentleman in question sent them an email, asking whether they baptize, marry, or ordain LGBTQ people. The pastor’s response was this.

For anyone who doesn’t realize why this is multiple kinds of awful, good news: I’m mad enough to tell you!

First of all, the guy asked a very straightforward (heh) set of yes-or-no questions. Now, can yes-or-no questions call for tact and nuance? Yes. But the coy “hear more of our heart” shtick is vomit-inducingly twee at best. If you can’t write the barest preliminary answer to a simple question, it’s hard to hope that the in-person conversation will be productive.

Second, a Christian saying “Let’s get coffee” is only going one degree less obnoxious than “I’ll pray for you.” An affirming church would have immediately answered “Yes” to this email. They have nothing to weasel their way around. Frankly, trying to do so insults the reader’s intelligence.

And trying to set up a one-on-one chat with a stranger on those terms? Downright slimy. Or at least it comes across that way. Like I said, a “no” can merit context. But when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t already trust you, you have to earn the right to explain your views. Especially if they’ve been traumatized by Christians in the past, which lots of LGBTQ people have. Be honest. And don’t get huffy if they don’t want to talk to you about something so intensely personal. They don’t owe you that. This kind of canned reply betrays a complete failure to think about the person who’s asking the question as if they were a person, one with a history and a mind, one who reacts to things for their own reasons.

But, uh … what does any of this have to do with capitalism? Simply this: I can affirm Catholic teaching about sexuality, and strangers will still question, harass, lecture, and insult me, just because I call myself gay instead of same-sex attracted (no matter how clearly I explain the word). Yet I have straight friends who openly reject the Church’s teaching about the moral side of economics, or even her authority to teach on the subject at all. And everyone still treats them like good Catholics.

That double standard? That’s what we’re talking about when we say Catholic culture is homophobic. People who honestly object to doctrinal dissent don’t appoint themselves judges of the Holy See. Side B2 Catholics walk on broken glass to maintain our orthodoxy. Our nonconformity is social, not theological, and it is costly. Very few people want to give up sexual intimacy, all reasonable expectation of marriage and family, and the opportunity to enter ministry, all in one go. But we do it. We do it to be faithful to the theology we believe and the Church we love. And for this, we get hit pieces written against us by Catholic journalists. Patronizing remarks from Catholic priests. Assumptions that we’re pedophiles from Catholic churchgoers. All while people who ignore, contradict, or ridicule the Church’s teaching—even people who vilify the Vicar of Christ—experience no social or ecclesiastical consequences whatsoever.

That is wrong. It’s wrong and it needs to end.


1Horny trads on the internet.

2Side B is a sort of nickname for the view that, while marriage is for one man and one woman, having a gay orientation is not a sin and doesn’t need to be changed or concealed.

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