Thursday, March 11, 2010

Queer Notes From all Over (Catholic Entrenchment Division)

   First of All is an ecumenical blog. That is, we have no one axe to grind; we are a many-tricked pony. (Insert "trick" joke here.) (Insert "insert" joke here.)
   That said, we are not disinterested in news of all things lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and etcetera, of which there is a dizzying blizzard these days. Herewith, then, we inaugurate a new feature: "Queer Notes From all Over." 
   Be patient; our inaugural post is a long one. (That's what she he said.)

BOULDER, Colo., March 11 - The administrators of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School, in Boulder, plainly are doing their best to practice the love, acceptance and good-heartedness that defined the teachings of the school's namesake.
   A week ago, according to KUSA-TV, in Denver, they refused to let two children re-enroll in the school next year after discovering that the children's parents are lesbians. 
   The Denver Archdiocese sent a statement to the television station that read, "Homosexuals living together as a couple are in disaccord with Catholic teaching." 
   Note the use of "homosexual." This word is used by "heterosexuals" - especially conservative religious ones - as a way of distancing from and dehumanizing the human beings they are discussing. "Homosexual" is a clinical term for those who are sexually attracted to members of their gender. Some "homosexuals" act on that desire. Others don't. "Gay" and "lesbian" people, on the other hand, though by definition homosexual, integrate sexuality into lives lived in full societal openness. 
    Parents of other students have shown an open-heartedness - the true test of spirituality - that apparently eludes Catholic officials. Some have considered pulling their children from the school. 
   "We're all very hurt by this decision," one told KUSA. 
   The station also reports that school staff members have said they are "disgusted by the decision." 

                         Church Has Become More Aggressive

   Yesterday, KUSA quoted Luis Leon, a professor at the University of Denver's Religious Studies Department as saying that, in the wake of the pedophile priest scandals, the Church has become more aggressive about all things homosexual. 
   The no-doubt-well-meaning Professor Leon here makes an unfortunate connection - one widely repeated, including by the conservative religionists - between same-gender pedophiles and gay men and lesbians. 
   Pedophiles are those who have sexual interest in, and sometimes relations with, children. Some pedophiles are oriented to children of their gender, others to those of the opposite gender. 
   But a pedophile's sexual orientation is, first and foremost, to children; the gender of those he or she is interested in is secondary. 
   So to link male-priest-male-child pedophilia with homosexuality is misguided. If, for example, a pedophile male priest had a sexual relation with a female child, would the Church take a more aggressive stance towards heterosexuality?
                          "Form Students"

   Archbishop Charles Chaput released a statement, the full text of which is on the KUSA Web site, pointing out, among other things, that the "main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values." 
   One supposes that Chaput is hard-pressed to explain the sexual kerfuffles ("scandal" is such an overused, and therefore cliched, word) stinking up the Vatican just now.

                         "'Two Cuban Lads'" 

   In a March 4 story, the British newspaper the Guardian reported that telephone wiretaps in the paper's possession reveal that a man named Angelo Balducci, a Gentleman of His Holiness (that is, one of the very special ceremonial ushers of the papal household), allegedly spent a good deal of his time having a friend in the choir procure male prostitutes for him, the dirty thing. 
   The chorister, a man named Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, is twenty-nine and hails from Nigeria. He said in a recent magazine interview that he met Balducci ten years ago - that would be at the tender age of nineteen - and added, "He asked me if I could procure other men for him." This locution, "other men," suggests that Ehiem may be referring to men other than himself, which further suggests that he and Balducci may have, to put it colloquially, hooked up. 
   Ehiem added, "He [Balducci] told me he was married [closet case] and that I had to do it [find sex-for-pay partners] in great [great] secrecy [blackmail]." 
   The two evidently made a proficient team. The Guardian notes that the wiretap transcripts show that "over a period of around five months, Ehiem procured for Balducci at least 10 contacts with, among others, 'two black Cuban lads,' a former male model from Naples, and a rugby player from Rome." 
   Ehiem also is alleged to have attempted to set Balducci up with a seminarian - that is, a student studying to become a priest - which seems efficient: why not keep it in-house?
   It is plain from these hookups, then, that Balducci has catholic, if not Catholic, tastes. 

                          Another Kerfuffle  

   Another kerfuffle is rattling the Vatican cages, and this one could scar the Papacy. 
   Pope Benedict XVI, who was known, before becoming God's hatchet man, as Joseph Ratzinger, was Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982. German officials are now investigating claims of physical and sexual abuse within the Church in Germany in those years; to what extent Ratzinger knew about the abuses; and, if he did know, whether by remaining silent about them he covered them up, according to a March 11 Associated Press story. 
   In a separate investigation, the Regensberg Diocese told the AP it will look into claims of physical and sexual abuse in a choir led by the Pope's brother, Rev. Georg Ratzinger. So far, the claims appear to predate Ratzinger's tenure as choirmaster.
   Georg Ratzinger said Tuesday that, after taking over the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir in the mid-1960s, he systematically slapped boys by way of punishment. The AP notes that such punishment, though typical then, was later banned. 

                         Shaping the Good Catholics of the Future

   Yet these claims offer a window into how the Catholic church, a mere fifty years ago, set out to, as Denver Archbishop Chaput so poetically put it, "form students in the Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values."
   The AP story notes that the Regensburg Diocese has, so far, reported two sex abuse cases at the choir, one in 1958, the other in 1959. More than one hundred and seventy students in Germany have claimed sexual abuse at the hands of officials at various Catholic high schools. 
   One man who sang in the choir from 1958 to 1967 said that, at the choir's boarding school, "Severe beatings were normal." He added, however, that Georg Ratzinger "did not belong to the group of more sadistic abusers" - did Ratzinger, then, belong to the less sadistic group? - and that "I do accuse him of covering up the abuses." 
   The Etterzhausen elementary school, in Pielenhofen (pop. 1.3 million), was considered a feeder school for the choir. A man who matriculated there in the early nineteen-eighties told the AP he was slapped, witnessed other boys getting beaten, and saw the school's director hit an eight-year-old boy with a chair. 
    That same man joined the choir in 1982. He has made plain that he personally did not witness or hear about abuse at the choir boarding school. But he did, at the time, tell Georg Ratzinger, then the choir director, about the violence. Ratzinger did nothing. 
   "He chose not to listen," the man told the AP. 
   Incidentally, the Catholic Church is held in low opinion in Germany these days, and not surprisingly. Last year, the Pope lifted the excommunication of a British bishop.
   The reason for the excommunication? 
   The bishop had denied the existence of the Holocaust. 

                            Archdiocese Should Support

   With these facts known, it becomes understandable that the Denver Archdiocese should support the Boulder Catholic school that, in effect, expelled two offspring of lesbian parents. 
   After all, lesbian parents do not physically and sexually brutalize their  children, and therefore cannot be said to conform to "Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values." 

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