Saturday, September 6, 2014

Don't Ask the Question if You Don't Want the Answer

I have a new policy...I am not letting preconceived notions go unchallenged or bullies barge into my space any more. If you are out there offering offense, I'm going to take it and respond in an appropriate manner.

On Thursday I had an interaction with the latter at Target at the Pharmacy – the woman in front of me was wearing an NRA t-shirt that said in huge block letters on the back “KEEP CALM AND CARRY GUNS.” I waited until she was finished and turned to leave and I smiled brightly at her and said “What are the odds? An NRA activist and one of the original 'Mad Moms' – that's not an insult, by the way, it's pretty much the job description – being in line together?”

She snarled at me, which I expected, so I turned to the pharmacist and said “I don't know about you but I sure will sleep better tonight knowing she's armed.”

She literally got to stomp off, red face rising, humiliated, to the laughter of four or five people that were all laughing at her. Fuck these people. They've invited ridicule and mockery, and it's time to give it to them. I'm betting the gun-fondler's don't have the balls to shoot me, so I'm going to mock them. Openly.

On Friday night, something similar happened on Facebook with the former. A friend in the real world and on Facebook shared a post about the lesbian couple who was married in New York and fired from their jobs teaching at a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Louis after the school came into possession of their mortgage application. He is gay, in a long term relationship, and righteously pissed at the homophobia and discrimination of Catholic schools toward perfectly qualified and capable teachers who have been dismissed from teaching positions for being gay. I agree with him there...I want the church to change and the sexual orientation of a teacher has no bearing on their abilities in the classroom. I am too. I have a daughter who is a lesbian and a teacher, she couldn't wait to get out of Catholic school when she was a kid, and now she teaches Montessori.

But then he asked a question that I felt compelled to answer...He asked his Catholic friends how they could continue to be Catholic.

I spent over an hour being civil – I didn't flame or attack, even though I got attacked, because I didn't have to, I was right. So I was methodical, Jesuitical even, and I laid it out.

First of all, I don't think the school had the right to fire them, that the evidence of wrongdoing it used to dismiss them was “fruit of the poisonous tree” because I think they have a Fourth Amendment civil rights violation claim; I believe they should get their jobs back and there should be some sanction against the Gladys fucking Kravitz who maliciously leaked the document to the school, that they have a Fourth Amendment right to expect privacy in their papers. I argued that tax returns and credit scoring agencies provide information about where one works and how much one makes; that there is no reason to contact the employer and if privacy laws don't currently exist to protect such couples, they need to be crafted, either by the state legislatures or the courts.

But just as the couple has Fourth Amendment rights, the private schools that are operated by the Catholic church have rights under the First Amendment, and this is where the two bump up against one another. In the interest of protecting everyone's rights, tougher privacy laws need to be enacted while the courts sort out the validity of the competing claims. I don't want anyone's right's trampled, not individuals, not the Catholic church's, no one's. I also had the bad manners to point out that no one is forced, past age eighteen anyway, to be a Catholic, nor is anyone assigned a job teaching at a Catholic school. It is a job one seeks, and enters into at will. It is us liberals who are always going on at such length about the wall of separation between church and state. Do we mean it, or not? Is it a cherished value, or just an empty slogan? I know what it is for me, but I fear that there are those who, like the gentleman last night, who denied “attacking anyone” but how else to interpret “your beloved church” – no derision tag needed – simply because I want the Constitution applied evenly and fairly, to both individuals and institutions.

That still wasn't good enough for one of the folks in the comments thread. He asserted (wrongly) that individual parishes aren't removed from the larger church, and demanded to know how I could continue to be a Catholic when the organization is homophobic. I answered his question a couple of times, but he refused to apply any critical thinking skills to the answers I was so thoughtfully typing out...again, without using any curse words!

I pointed out that yes, we were pretty independent from Rome, and that “the Church” as he put it had made more tolerant statements than I ever thought I would hear, and that the Pope had more influence over Catholics in KC than the Archbishop of St. Louis does, in fact, on more than one occasion I've heard the Priest on Sunday say something at the Archbishop's expense from the altar. There is no love lost between KC and St. Louis.

He countered that parishes were not independent of the larger institution (we had already established that he is not a Catholic) so I explained that he was wrong about this, but let's assume for a moment that he was right – the larger institution has expressed tolerance – Who am I to Judge? – That's tolerance. That's the tolerance of Christ's emissary. It's the Archbishop of St. Louis who is the heretic.

The church is a holdover from medieval times, and each Bishopric is, essentially, a fully-functioning Feifdom, and what happened in St. Louis should have no bearing on what is happening in my parish. That is why Redemptorist Priests in Kansas City say derisive things about the Archbishop of Saint Louis as part of their homily. Not only is each Bishopric a Feifdom unto itself, each Holy Order has a church home. The Redemptorists in Kansas City have called Our Lady of Perpetual Help home since the place was nothin' but stockyards and whorehouses, actually acting on those Corporal Works of Mercy, and I could not, in good conscience, say nothing while they were unfairly maligned.

I said I had answered his question a couple of times, but I would give it another shot, and be explicit. I explained that I'm a “Liberation Theology” social justice Catholic, that I am a member of the organization that was the ONLY resistance to right-wing fascists in Central America in the 70s and 80s. I am a member of the organization that has taught 90% of the people who are literate on the face of the Earth how to read. I am a member of the organization that delivers more healthcare to more poor people without asking for payment than any other.

I explained that I am a member of a parish that is liberal and welcoming of gay people and operates a social service agency, that I see the good every day because it is lined up waiting for the doors to open. I support the food bank. I support the clothing bank. I support the adult literacy classes. I support the English classes for adults. I support the assistance people can get with rent and utilities. I support the help with medical and dental care that people are able to get through the social service agency that the parish where I attend weekly mass operates.

I also pointed out that by myself, I am a lone ant and not very effective, but with a whole bunch of other ants, we can pick an elephant carcass clean in mere minutes, so I had decided, with the advent of this Pope, to return to church and throw my lot back in with a whole bunch of other Social Justice Catholics.

I got a two-letter response back: “ok.”

I went back this morning to offer that I took Honors Civics I & II and American Government from Jesuit lawyers, but the post was gone.

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