A Matter of Honesty, Part V--You Keep Using That Word. . . .

Let's do a thought experiment, shall we?  Imagine I call you up on the phone and say, "hey, it would be great to see you.  Why don't you come by and visit?"  "Great!" you say, so you drive to where I live.  You knock on the door, and I answer the door while talking on the phone.  Without getting off the phone, I usher you into the house.  Eventually, I get off the phone, and proceed to have a long monologue about how your life is going astray, and how you are making terrible decisions and "lifestyle choices."  I then tell me that you can stay, but you can only have a meal with me if you promise to give up said "lifestyle choices."

Would you say that I have been "welcoming" to you on your visit?  Probably not, right?  And if I claimed I was being welcoming insofar as I invited you to come to my house, it would be fair to object that welcoming has much more to do with the treatment once I arrived than the official posture of the visit in the first place, right?  And if I were to claim I thought I was plenty welcoming from my point of view, it would be fair to point out that it makes sense to judge welcoming from the point of view of the person being welcomed, as opposed to the person doing the welcoming.  Right?

Let's change the scenario.  Again, I call you up and invite you to my house.  Except this time, when you arrive, you make a series of burdensome demands on me--that I buy you some special food and cook you special gluten-free meal, that I immediately euthanize my cat that is triggering your allergies, etc.  I refuse to do that, and you storm off in a huff.

Here's the thing--you can still say that I was not welcoming to you.  Again, the measure of welcoming is determined from the point of view of the person receiving the welcome.  I can absolutely say that your standard for what constitutes a welcome is more burdensome than I am willing to meet.  And I think many folks would agree that it is unreasonable to expect me to euthanize my cat for the convenience of a house guest.  But, heavy or light, fair or unfair, if I am not willing to do the thing that the guest expects, then I am not being welcoming to that guest.  I have an aunt who is notorious for showing up at people's homes and making a bunch of demands of them.  She is allowed to make those demands, and I am allowed to tell her I will not meet them.  But I am not allowed to re-define welcome to be whatever I think is reasonable.

These thought experiments essentially sum up the posture of the Catholic Church toward LGBT people.  The newest mandatory talking point is that the Catholic Church "welcomes" LGBT people.  One good example of this meme is a lengthy letter to the editor from an Irish priest in response to a dust-up over a gay couple (thanks to Maureen Clarke for drawing my attention to the story).  In the letter, there is a one-sentence paragraph that literally says "[e]veryone is welcome in the Catholic Church," bracketed by ten paragraphs before that sentence and two paragraphs after about how gay marriage is terrible, and anyone who supports it is terrible.  It is as if the phrase "gay people are welcome" is a kind of talisman that shields the Catholic Church from criticism for anything else it might do or say about the topic.  Otherwise, it is a kind of CYA, a built in, pre-packaged defense to anyone who might complain.  "What do you mean you don't like the way I talk about you and your life--I mean, I'm welcoming you, aren't I?"

Notwithstanding this posture of welcome, overwhelming numbers of LGBT people view the Catholic Church as hostile to them.  This hostility is in large measure because most LGBT people have set the bar for welcome (for religious institutions and otherwise) at (1) acknowledging that being LGBT is a integral part of who they are; and (2) accepting their loves and relationships in a way that is indistinguishable from non-LGBT people.  By this standard, the Catholic Church is not welcoming, because it bobs-and-weaves on #1 and rejects #2 outright.

Now, I think the measure of welcome that LGBT people are requiring is the equivalent to the first scenario I laid out--a request grounded in basic notions of politeness, dignity, and fairness.  But, let's say you think the request to affirm same-sex sexual relationships is more like scenario #2--the equivalent to asking someone to euthanize their cat.  That's your right, but it still means that you are not being welcoming to LGBT people.  The Church could say, "most LGBT people insist that we affirm their sexual relationships, and we won't do that; thus, if you require that we affirm your relationship, you are not welcome in our church."  I think that is wrong, but at least it is honest.

This business of loudly proclaiming that the Church is welcoming to gay people and then blaming LGBT people for not feeling welcome is Orwellian nonsense.  It does violence to basic language, and it is an act of emotional manipulation--it allows the people who want to exclude LGBT people to not have to face the consequences of that position by flipping the responsibility on the recipients of the exclusion.  That is cowardly and it is cruel.

[Edit:  Here's a good example of the same dynamic in the Church of England, using the same "Orwellian nonsense" using the related word, "inclusion."]

If the Church wants to be welcoming to LGBT people, it needs to change its theology and practice with regard to same-sex relationships.  If it is not willing to change its theology and practice, then it needs to stop claiming it is welcoming.  You can't have it both ways.  


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