The Reputation They Deserve

The Reputation They Deserve January 20, 2022


Yesterdays I saw the news that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will be putting certain steps in place to protect people from my trans brothers and sisters.

Trans people are being hyped in many parts of the Church as a terrible threat for some reason. They’re the latest boogieman who is going to ruin our children. When I was very young it was “feminists” who were the enemy. Quickly after it became gay men “recruiting” children. Now it’s transgender people.  The Diocese of Milwaukee is going to fight them by insisting on certain pronouns, by policing the locker room, by not letting people take certain medications, and by insisting that everyone “dress in accord with their biological sex.”

My mind began to wander upon reading those words.

What does that mean, to “dress in accord with biological sex?” Are any clothes intrinsically in accord with any biological sex?  Does this mean that men must wear trousers and women must wear dresses and skirts? That men wear sensible shoes and women wear cute little heels? Men dress in blue and women wear pink?  Skirts were men’s attire until a couple thousand years ago. Ancient Roman men wore skirts as they conquered the known world. Jesus wore a dress every day of His life. Moses wore a dress as he received the Law on Sinai.  Devout Catholic noblemen wore high heeled pumps to show off their tights-clad legs before the French revolution; it was the anti-Catholic revolutionary men who wore long pants. Pink was a boys’ color until about the 19030s. Priests wore dresses to celebrate Mass through the ages, and still do. We all know the fuss they make the two days a year they wear pink. We all know how traditionalist Catholics esteem a priest clad not only in a dress, but in lace and satin and embroidery and a ridiculous hat.

Joan of Arc was burned to death for not dressing in accord with her biological sex, even though she only did it to protect herself from rapists, and then she was re-tried and found innocent by the Church. But the Church didn’t bother to punish those who murdered her.

I couldn’t tell you how clothing gets the reputation it has. I don’t know why trans people are the new scapegoat. I don’t know why we’ve currently decided that this outfit is a girl’s outfit and this is a boy’s, and that being obedient to that dress code is a sign of virtue.

In any case, the Diocese of Milwaukee seems to be referring to school dress codes and uniforms when they made the statement about dressing in accord with biological sex. A nice modest plaid jumper and blouse for young ladies and khakis for young men, I suppose.  When I was a little girl, in the first through the fifth grade, I attended Catholic schools and wore those uniforms. Sometimes, in the hottest weather, I wore the uniform shorts, but usually the jumper. The jumper was a plaid pinny going down to just past the knee; the blouse underneath had generous short sleeves in the warm months and sleeves down to the wrist in the winter.  I quickly discovered that those outfits are the world’s least secure. The blouse is a thin slippery fabric and the buttons tend to come undone if you move around too much. The skirt is just the right length to fly up on the playground, and if you wear anything but underwear under it you get teased for being a prude so of course you don’t. A handsy person can get under the skirt’s stiff fabric in a second. He can reach in the armhole of the modest jumper. He can see through the thin slippery fabric of the modest blouse and tell whether you’re wearing a bra or a camisole or nothing, and pinch or snap accordingly.

By contrast, a good sturdy pair of pants with a belt and a polo shirt would be as secure as a fortress for a girl. If my daughter ever goes to a Catholic school, I will insist she wears the “boy” uniform instead of the one for girls, biological sex be damned. But my daughter will never go to a Catholic school. They aren’t nice places.

I don’t understand how some things get the reputations that they have. I don’t know why we think school uniforms are modest or Catholic schools are quality places.

That was the stream of consciousness that was going through my head yesterday– that, and being sorry for my trans friends being maligned again.

Today, all those thoughts were driven out, because we have new news about the Catholic Church: the news that when he was Archbishop Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict ignored sexually abusive priests under his jurisdiction.

This news is being described as a bombshell, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s entirely predictable. We get “bombshells” like this time and again. That’s what bishops do. They ignore abusive priests. We’re known this goes all the way to the top for the longest time; there’s no surprise at all anymore. Every article printed about this topic today might as well be recycled from 2001 or 2018 or any other time. It’s old news.

Everyone knows the Catholic Church abuses children and ignores abusers while raising up scapegoats whom they claim are corrupting our children. This is how it works. One day, the bishops come out with a new scapegoat and a tactic to fight them. The next, we find out the bishops were complicit in ignoring abuse again. They don’t care about real dangerous people; they care about pretend ones. Everybody realizes this by now.

Sometimes, eventually, things get the reputation they deserve.

It makes me sad that the Church has such a reputation, but it’s just.




Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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