Monday, April 21, 2008


"'Once you actually see him, you can feel him, his eyes are just glowing and he's so happy,' Gaggioli said. 'Everyone just goes crazy.'" [For the full article, see here.]

No! This young woman wasn't talking about Jesus or the reality of the Holy Spirit residing within her! She was talking about a mere fallible human being, the Pope.

About this pope, the article says, "In his writings before and since becoming pope, Benedict has stressed the importance of a strict adherence to orthodoxy, and opposition to a wide array of modern cultural trends, including feminism, gay rights, and demands - especially among American Catholics - for greater democracy and administrative transparency within the church."

So, this mere fallible man who talks about the need for "a strict adherence to orthodoxy," and who decries civil and sacramental rights for Gay people and, indeed, who demonizes them and their families every chance he gets, and (if I'm interpreting the article correctly) who seeks to dispel the crazy idea that there should be "greater democracy and administrative transparency within the church," is fawned over by such gullible people that they loudly cheer and congregate around him to merely just figuratively touch the hem of his garment.

The institutional Church, particularly the RC Church as constituted since the age of Constantine, has been enmeshed with the State (Indeed, the Vatican is its own State.), and usually with the most reactionary forces within the State, and has become so bureaucratic and autocratic that it attracts and reinforces authoritarian personalities that veritably fawn over authority figures (especially when they are associated with pomp and circumstance), and are all too frequently one-dimensional, closed-minded, inordinately rigid people who are extraordinarily uncomfortable in contemplating and/or dealing with ambiguity that entails so much of life as it is lived on this earth.

The authoritarian personality is characterized by: "excessive conformity; submissiveness to authority; intolerance; insecurity; superstition; rigid, stereotyped thought patterns."

It is this kind of personality structure that is both eminently suitable to rigid, conformist-oriented, disciplined bureaucratic structures and, in the secular world, it is those with authoritarian personalities who are usually the careerists who know whose rear end to kiss in order to "work" their way up the corporate ladder.

What is so pathetic about the authoritarian personality of lay people within the institutional Church (beyond its inherent unchristian nature) is that they usually receive no financial rewards for their fawning over authority figures. Indeed, it is they who pay those authority figures in both money and in fidelity.

A mark of an intelligent person is that he or she is able to handle ambiguity in life. Those with highly developed authoritarian personalities are most comfortable in bureaucracies that inculcate and reinforce in the individual the need to be "methodical, prudent, disciplined," to use the Sociologist Robert Merton's term. ("Bureaucratic Structure and Personality)

The RC Church doesn't merely encourage such a personality structure, it virtually demands it of its followers, lest they be considered not really "good" Roman Catholics at all, and are thus often derisively termed "cafeteria catholics." The unfortunate fact is that the Pope and the Vatican usually don't have to twist the arms of their supplicants too hard in order for them to conform (save for the issue of artificial contraception), as those with authoritarian personalities, many of whom are largely attracted to the RC Church precisely because it's conducive to such personalities, are more than amenable to whatever messages emanate from the Pope's speeches and encyclicals.

Even when such a large-scale abomination as the priest ephebophilia scandals, and the coverups by assorted Bishops (and had they not been RC Bishops, they undoubtedly would have been serving hard time for criminal facilitation) came to light, costing the RC Church roughly two billion dollars in settlements, and the Vatican then engaging in a witch hunt so as to use gay men in seminaries as scapegoats to help divert attention from those scandals, relatively few Roman Catholics expressed revulsion sufficient to motivate them to leave that institution. Indeed, even many who did express such revulsion decided to stay within that denomination!

People with authoritarian personalities want to be told what to do! Indeed, they even want to be told what to think! Life is much simpler for them when they can be assured that what they are being told is a truth that they can count on, even if the maker of those remarks is just as befuddled (if not more so) by the mysteries of life as are his supplicants.

Every Christian worships God and no one and nothing else! He/she doesn't worship the Pope, the Vatican, clergy, deacons, tradition (see, for example, Matthew 15:3), or any other elemental thing in this world. Only God is worshipped by the Christian, and to worship anyone or anything else, including the Bible itself, is to commit the sin of idolatry, and those who commit such a sin are not Christians, no matter how often they attend a church, and no matter how much they profess to be Christians!

Once anyone places fealty in a mere human being, or uses any human being or object as an idol, or as a virtual replacement for Christ Himself, he/she is removing that fealty from God, and is, thereby, turning his/her back on God!

Part of the above linked article reads: "The thousands hearing the pope at Mass included a group of women from Milwaukee - wearing red 'Wisconsin welcomes Benedict' T-shirts - who cheered the pope with rock-star-like adoration."

I have the feeling that if Jesus came to our shores, or to any shore, for that matter, He would be scorned, debased, humiliated and, perhaps, even killed by a howling mob who would share the very same authoritarian personality as did those who "cheered the pope with rock-star-like adoration."

You see, Jesus wouldn't be arriving in the equivalent of a Popemobile, amid pomp and circumstance, dressed in the utmost finery, and wearing Prada shoes. He'd undoubtedly come with calloused hands, dressed like anyone else, and preach grace, love, faith, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.

In other words, He'd preach the Gospel, the "good news," the only Gospel to be found in Christianity!

And those with authoritarian personalities, those who would idolize a mere human being, and who love and want to be told what to do and what to think, and who would in any way demean or discriminate against any of God's children, would hate Him!

And they would be so secure in their prejudices, so secure in their place in the institutional Church, that they would undoubtedly have no compunction about crucifying Him afresh! (And it must be noted that most Roman Catholics are no different in this regard than are most within the Protestant traditions.)

And why would they? They are repeatedly crucifying Jesus every time they believe those authoritarians who preach and practice discrimination (be it against women or LGBT people) whom they have chosen to follow, rather than believe and follow the One Who personifies grace and love, and Who promises us freedom from yokes of bondage placed upon us by the very people that that cheering mob simply adores.
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jmKelley said...

Great analysis of personality types in the church. But despite those who would impose their authoratarian rule on the Ecclesia, the Holy Spirit still manages to seep even into the Catholic church.

The Pope visited Ground Zero on Sunday and met the sister of the late FDNY chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, "the Saint of 9/11," the first official casualty of the attacks.

Mychal was considered a living saint by many even prior to his heroic death. His extraordinary works of compassion have been compared to Mother Teresa (see )

Ironically, Fr. Mychal Judge would be barred from the priesthood today because he was openly gay, though celibate. Benedict says that men like Mychal Judge are “objectively disordered.” Mychal often asked, “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love ?!”

We have no illusions that this pope is going to change. But most Catholics affirm two truths -- that God created and loves gay people, and that the pope does not speak for the whole Church, the Ecclesia, on these matters.

Indeed, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the pope’s homophobic views and support either civil unions or full marriage rights, according to numerous surveys.

As Fr. Mychal also said, "Don't let the (institutional) church get in the way of your relationship with God."

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks so much for your insights, jmkelley.

You mentioned, "But most Catholics affirm two truths -- that God created and loves gay people, and that the pope does not speak for the whole Church, the Ecclesia, on these matters."

I'd very much appreciate it if you would provide one or two studies supporting these two contentions.

It may well be that most Roman Catholics, including the Pope, might say that God loves Gay people, but might then say, as does official Vatican policy, that being Gay is "intrinsically disordered."

It would be interesting if a study could be provided that concludes that most Roman Catholics disagree with Vatican policy on this matter, and feel that Gay people deserve full civil and sacramental rights enjoyed by their heterosexual brothers and sisters.

Best wishes, Jerry.

jmKelley said...


I’ve seen a 64% figure for US Catholics who support gay civil unions and/or full civil marriage rights (hence “two-thirds” of US Catholics), but I can’t find that 64% figure now.

However, my quick google search reveals that consistent majorities of US and Canadian Catholics do, in fact, support civil unions and/or full civil marriage rights. Thus they reject the Vatican’s opposition to “any legal recognition” for gay unions.

Here are a few links to surveys of Roman Catholics.

Pew Forum (2005): 62% of US Catholics support civil unions; 39% favor full marriage rights.

ABC/ Washington Post (2006): 53% of US Catholics support civil unions; 41% support full marriage rights.

Zogy/LeMoyne (2004): 56% of US Catholics support civil unions; 39% support full marriage rights; 29% support sacramental marriage within the Church. (This was the only survey I found asking about sacramental marriage, though I made no claim about support for sacramental marriage).

Ottawa Citizen (2003): 57% of Canadian Catholics support full marriage rights.

Finally, in heavily Catholic Ireland (2006): 51% support full marriage rights; only 16% think homosexuality is “morally wrong”.

I meant to say that “most Catholics affirm….that God created and loves gay people as gay” -- an acceptance which is implicit in their support for civil unions and marriage, and their rejection of Rome’s position. The pope really doesn’t speak for most US Catholics in-the-pews on these matters.

This is also the experience of many GLBT Catholics today, me included, at the parish level. Most Catholics, straight and gay, simply ignore the pope and hierarchy in matters on which they are ignorant.

Pax et bonum,
John M. Kelley

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks so much, jmkelley, for this information. I didn't think the numbers would be as high as those, but as you might know, I don't believe "civil unions" to be on a par with the designation of "marriage" and the acquisition of full dignity and civil and sacramental rights, and legitimacy, that that designation confers.

Canada is much more progressive on LGBT issues than is the U.S, a major reason being the strong influence of "evangelical" professing Christians and Roman Catholic clergy in the U.S. who have sold so many within and without their churches and denominations a phony and hateful bill of goods.

My take regarding this struggle is that it wasn't Roman Catholics, or any other denomination, that spearheaded the success of the acquisition of same-sex marriage in Canada. Rather, the denominations again played the caboose to the civil rights struggle there, as they once played in the U.S. regarding the civil rights struggle for African-Americans.

I'm afraid that one day when full and equal civil rights are won by LGBT people, including the right to same-sex marriage, very few denominations, Roman Catholic and otherwise, within the institutional Church will be able to say it was on the vanguard of the acquisition of those rights.

The fact is that most denominations have done their very best, through rhetoric and/or discriminatory actions, to help retard the winning of those rights by demonizing LGBT people, and blaming Gay people for most ills of society, from "the breakdown of the family," to Hurricane Katrina.

As with the civil rights struggle for African-American rights, very few religious leaders advocated for integration. They are running true to form: very few religious leaders are advocating for full and equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people and, as with the struggle for integration of African-Americans, I don't see their congregations confronting them on it, or expressing hostility to their hateful and discriminatory views.

Thanks for your insights and the citations you provided.

genevieve said...

One of reasons that you had the Reformation was because of the abuse by leaders in the RC church. If you at the world map, many of the poorest countries in the world are predominant RC. Protestants were more progressive and weren't tied down to orthodoxy the way some Catholic institutions are. I am a former Catholic myself and know this to be true.
There many LGBT Catholics and i sympathize with them because their church prevents them from their full rights. I'm thankful for groups such as Dignity where they can worship God in their faith and be free to express themselves.


Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks genevieve. I'm not so sure that today's protestants, for the most part, are much different from most Roman Catholics regarding LGBT issues. Some protestant churches are "open and affirming," but then, again, some RC churches are also "open and affirming."

The major problem as I see it is that the Vatican speaks for the RC Church so, despite what any individual parish does, the official doctrine of the RC Church is that being LGBT is to be "intrinsically disordered," and I fail to see why any LGBT person would be part of such an organization.

At the very least, it strikes me as masochistic. And for an LGBT Roman Catholic to say that it's his/her church too is, as I wrote, a delusion, in that he or she doesn't make RC Church policy or doctrine; doesn't have the ability to excommunicate anyone; doesn't advise the Pope as to what to write in his encyclicals.

I'm appreciative of Dignity and Rainbow Sash, but I don't see what changes will occur due to the work and activities of these groups.