Thursday, May 03, 2007

Intolerance is intolerance is intolerance.

It seems that Suzanne Menghraj's post at Guernica's blog--a response to this New York Times op-ed and the comments it generated--was written just for me--so I wouldn't have to write it myself.

Though I was made aware of the NYT piece only upon reading Menghraj's post, Menghraj's response articulates many of the thoughts I've had upon encountering intolerance towards Catholics/Roman Catholicism over the past year and half.

Some of Menghraj's points that particularly struck chords with me are as follows:

Toner’s article and the lively comments it prompted remind me of an observation my mother, a former nun, voices now and then: Catholicism, she says, is the only religion it’s okay to bash these days. [...]

I find the targeting of Catholicism particularly frustrating: partly because, thanks to an immensely open-minded and compassionate Catholic mother, I had what appears to be an uncommon early experience of the religion (I’ve got a conscience, but I’m pretty damn near guilt-free!) — the Church of intolerance and guilt and conservative values is unrecognizable to me as the Catholic Church; partly because I’m as appalled by the Catholic hierarchy’s responses to contemporary (and not so contemporary) issues — need I name any one of them? — as the next freedom-loving person is; and partly because for all the harm Catholics did as they colonized the New World (not to mention the harm the Church’s clergy and followers have inflicted in the five hundred years since), they have played tremendously important roles in social justice and civil rights causes. And partly because I’m not really a practicing Catholic; the two or three times per year I go to church I go either to think in the solemn context of the Catholic mass or to participate in a ritual I find comforting. I don't go because I think the religion’s establishment has got it all right. It obviously has so many things wrong.


Catholics for whom belief is a private — not public or political — matter exist everywhere. I’ve met far more of them than I have Catholics who can't make the distinction between private belief and public law. Those who don’t have the capacity to make the distinction are far more impaired by conversative [sic] ideology than they are by Catholicism.

Like Menghraj, I don't regularly attend mass (I'm not proud of this; I'm just stating a fact.) While I find both solace and beauty in the ritualistic and symbolic aspects to Catholicism, there is a profound disconnect between my own beliefs and Catholic doctrine where issues of gender and sexuality are concerned. Notwithstanding this, though, I find that the faith in which I was raised not only informs but underscores my pacifism, my environmentalism/vegetarianism (Catholicism teaches that humans are to be stewards--not consumers--of this planet), and my desire for social justice.

But the fact that Catholicism has such a socially liberal dimension does not matter to those who would blame it for the conservatism, hypocrisy, and outright evil of some of its adherents. And it matters even less to the so-called "liberal" intellectuals who speak to me with scorn, treat me as if I were stupid, not because I'm Catholic, but because I believe in a higher power period.

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