Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Death of Irony, Part MMMDLVI

by Tom Bozzo

In the Isthmus, Madison Bishop Robert Morlino is seen weighing in on the Wisconsin same-sex marriage/civil unions ban. From a homily he reportedly gave in March:
Our mission to purify the culture in the United States is down the tubes if we cannot protect marriage.
Oh, where to start? Thanks, but no thanks? Pot calling the kettle black?

I have to wonder whether the purported "mission" is sent down the tubes more by allowing the gay faithful to marry than by playing musical assignments with "problem" (not necessarily gay) priests, bearing at best middlingly truthful witness about it, and generally behaving like a bunch of embattled CEOs when actual moral leadership is called for.

The overt irony, of course, is that gay priests marry straight people all the time. Indeed, the scheme of things as descibed by the Catholic Catechism routinely stands gay men in for Jesus, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Things are undoubtedly Different for those of you whose background is in more fundamentalist traditions. But Catholicism is liberally non-literalist when it suits its purposes (*), which makes its instances of selective fundamentalism more conspicuous — especially motivations for its insistence on a celibate male priesthood and significant elements of its positions on sexual morality. After all, once you take a scriptural passage saying X, Y, and Z are "unclean" and decide to tolerate Y and Z, "I said so" looms larger than "God said so" as the justification for deploring X. (**)

I would think that this selective fundamentalism would fare very poorly in a hypothetical second coming. Were I to handicap the contents of the Newer Testament, it would be likelier to feature the conversion of water to Macon-Villages at the Gay Wedding Feast of Cambridge than any denunciation of homosexuality as per se immoral. In fact, I'd wager that the pathetic excuse that the Catholic church uses for excluding women from the priesthood would suffer badly from some combination of (a) a coeducational Last Last Supper and/or (b) Jesus returning as a woman. (***)

Beyond the specific oddity of "defending" marriage by arbitrarily excluding people who want in, what's this "purify the culture" business? It's one thing to insist on orthodoxy in a religious domination, and leading no church myself, I have no opinion on the direction of any particular sect — though I will note that a rump Catholic church made up of William Donohue-style nutballs would be a gift to snark. The "culture" at large, though, is pluralistic and almost surely wouldn't agree with Morlino on the nature of the impurities. So what coercive power would be brought to bear in this effort? The Spanish Inquisition?!


As an added bonus, Morlino provides a sort of complete idiot's guide to the "intelligent design" [sic] of human reproductive biology. We wonder if he noticed the sniggers of the teenagers and eye-rolling of certain adults as he uncorked:
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to look at human anatomy and see how the equipment works.... When we look at the drive of every human person for total intimacy and we look at the anatomy of the human body the conclusion is: one husband, one wife, one lifetime, with openness to children.”
I don't disagree that the reproductive machinery has a primary function of (literally) disseminating information and integrating it to produce hopefully Adorable Offspring. But I wonder how someone with an inclination to take Morlino's flying logical leap manages not to wonder about all the apparently unauthorized functions human anatomy provides.

For example, perhaps Morlino is some combination of master of his domain and the most sheltered man alive and hasn't figured out that there is entertainment to be found in, say, masturbation. (****) Nor is the "anatomy of the human body" any insurmountable obstacle to combinations other than "one husband, one wife." I'd also view the Data on people willing to get married who ultimately don't want to live together to be Saying Something about that "one lifetime" business.

In summary, just say no.

A Fair Wisconsin Votes No


(*) Ol' Papa Benno, though, has been viewed as more open to literalist creationism than his predecessor.

(**) And, really, dispensing dietary and sexual advice isn't a very divine sort of thing to do when you think about it.

(***) Which would probably lead sexist elements of the old guard to other highly selective anti-fundamentalism.

(****) But I'd guess somthing between disingenuousness and rank hypocrisy is likelier. And "I spanked the monkey but didn't like it and felt such moral outrage at myself that I'll never ever do it again" would have to be the least credible claim this side of Boomer politicians' efforts to explain what they did with themselves in the late-sixties.
Excellent post. The quote about "purifying" the culture is particularly interesting. To paraphrase Sarah Schulman, any group of people looking to "clean up" another group of people is up to no good. I wonder how many people would continue to support the same-sex marriage and civil unions ban if it was continually put in terms of a "cleansing." Probably more than I'd like to imagine.
Thanks, Acre.

The 'more than you'd like to imagine' part is almost surely right. But I think the really committed 'cleansers' are a relatively small minority -- abetted by people who are willing to exercise their prejudices on same-sex marriage on the theory that it won't stop them from using birth control, watching sex comedies, etc. What arguably needs to be better communicated is that the full program is not popular at all, but it only takes the right people at the right political leverage points to implement minority rule.
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