Friday, November 2, 2007


From the Archives

(September 2005) And now the latest in homophobia (which, at this rate, could become a column at the end of my entries, perhaps replacing SINGING IN THE SHOWER, which I always forget to include): The Vatican is sending inspectors to each of its US seminaries to look for evidence of homosexuality and for instructors who dissent from church teaching.

Does the phrase “witch hunt” mean anything to anyone?

This news got me thinking about my radical co-conspirators at The Quixote Center, where I worked in the late 80s. We sent humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, started an artist collective in Nicaragua, worked to end sexism in the Catholic Church and to have women ordained as priests, and I wrote one kick-ass full-page New York Times protest ad in response to the Bishops’ restrictive Pastoral Letter on Women.

Bill, the Jesuit priest who co-founded the Center, was excommunicated after refusing to cease and desist associations with the Center and its work.

Of course, the current apostolic visitation has nothing to do with Bill, but is instead in response to the burgeoning sexual-assault scandal.

The church has, historically, demanded that priests repress their sexual urges and then hidden the results of their sexual urges seeping out all over. Yet stil they deny these natural longings. Jesuits are instructed to wrap barbed wire around their thighs to rid themselves of arousal. And gay men are instructed to take an abstinance oath, to bury their longing as well.

And um need I mention that sexual attraction to children and sexual attraction to grown men are entirely separate things? Yet these people insist on lumping gay people in with the largely hetero child abusers.

The New York Times notes that “the catechism of the Catholic Church says people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies must live in chastity because homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” ... I guess because a bunch of men who never have sex are more qualified to define sexaul disorders than the psychiatrists who are experts in this area.

Here’s a sample question that will be asked of every faculty member, seminarian, and student who graduated in the last 3 years:
Is the seminary free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality?

Amazing how subjective this question is—but, of course, we are talking about a witch hunt, aren’t we?

(Um does a spirit catcher hanging off my mirror count as New Age spirituality, guys?)

In other news, Massachusetts soundly rejected a bill to eliminate gay marriage by 157 to 39. More than 6,500 same-sex couples got married last year in this state and, turns out, most of the lawmakers who supported marriage equality were re-elected.

Still, it looks as if we’ll have a new Supreme Court justice who is comfortable weakening the separation of church and state and who had no qualms about weaseling his way around answering those pesky Roe v. Wade questions.

And did anyone else note that an NPR commentator referred to media coverage of the Supreme Court as “the sound byte-ification” of the Court? I wonder if that term will show up in Webster’s 12th?

Meanwhile, here’s an apt op-ed piece that ran in today’s New York Times:

by David Brooks

ARLEN SPECTER Welcome to Day 3 of the confirmation hearings of John Roberts. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind the nation of what a wonderful job I'm doing chairing this committee, and I'd like to let the ranking member tell me so.

PATRICK LEAHY Absolutely, Mr. Chairman! And let me kick off this morning's platitudes about the grandeur of our Constitution by quoting its first three words, "We the People." That means that here in America the people rule - except on issues like abortion, where their opinions don't mean spit.

SPECTER Very well put, Senator Leahy! And welcome Judge Roberts back before our committee.

JOHN ROBERTS JR. Aw, shucks. This has been a humbling experience, Mr. Chairman. To think that a boy from an exclusive prep school and Harvard Law could grow up and be nominated for the Supreme Court—it shows how in America it's possible to rise from privilege to power! That's the hallmark of our great nation.

So while, of course, I can't talk about specific cases, or any emotions, weather patterns or sandwich meats that may come before the Supreme Court at any time between now and my death in 2048, I do want to reiterate that I feel humbled by this experience. I feel humbled that my wife is dozing off behind me. I feel humbled by this committee's inability to lay a glove on me. And I feel modest. You see this suit? I skinny-dip in this suit. That's how modest I feel.

TOM COBURN Well put, Judge Roberts. Yet when I think of the polarization that still divides this great nation ... waaaahhhh ... waaaahhhh. (Senator Coburn breaks down weeping.)

JEFF SESSIONS This may be a good moment to remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that in this country unelected judges don't write the laws. We have unelected lobbyists to do that. Under our system, judges merely interpret the law and decide presidential elections.

SPECTER Senator Sessions, let me interrupt you right there. We're not here to argue among ourselves and ignore the nominee. We're here to deliver thirty-minute speeches disguised as questions and ignore the nominee. So let me turn to Senator Bid—

COBURN And when I think of the flaws in the reconciliation process! And the gerrymandering! Oh, the suffering! Oh, the humanity! Waaaahhhh ... waaaahhhh. (Senator Coburn collapses and is taken back to his office on a stretcher.)

SPECTER As I was saying, Senator Biden, you have the floor.

JOSEPH BIDEN JR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thought this might be a good moment to give the committee a complete history of my heroic sponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act, but before I do that I'd like to interrupt myself by mentioning that I ride the train every day, often speaking with regular Americans, but before I do that I'd like to interrupt my interruption of myself by asking the chairman to restrain the nominee. During my first round of questioning, the nominee continually interrupted my questions by trying to give answers. I could barely keep up my train of thought on stare decisis.

EDWARD KENNEDY Starry De Cysis? Didn't she do a fan dance down at that old burlesque house in Providence?

ROBERTS Mr. Chairman, I certainly don't mean to draw attention to myself, for, as I have said, judges are like umpires - not home plate umpires, but those umpires stuck way out by the right-field foul pole. Nobody ever went to a game to watch the umpires.

But as you know, Judge Ginsburg, during her confirmation hearing, had herself wrapped in duct tape for fear that any involuntary reflex gestures she might make would mar her impartiality in deciding cases later on. Following her example, I have decided to spend the rest of these hearings in a soundproof booth, sunk in a tank of ravenous sharks and accompanied only by the illusionist David Copperfield. But before I go into isolation, I would like to mention the intense modesty I feel at this moment, notwithstanding the fact that not a single one of you slobs could have charged $700 an hour the way I did in private practice.

RICHARD DURBIN Judge Roberts, before you go, one of the ways we in the Senate prove our superior souls is by emoting mawkish sentimentality on cue. Would you please emote sadness and pain on behalf of politically powerful but downtrodden groups?

ROBERTS I am emoting, senator.

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