Monday, February 23, 2015

Open Letter to No One in Particular

Hello, kiddies. I have risen from the grave to write this blog because of Facebook (who really should change their name to Rageboner. I mean really, no other social media site could get me blogging again.) I saw a post, prepared to repost it, and after almost half an hour of writing the comment, source checking, and re-writing, realized I was blogging whether I liked it or not.

Damn it, Facebook.

So, into the meat of things: now and again, I'll be talking to someone and it will come up in the course of conversation that I was raised Catholic and am no longer Catholic. No really, this happened almost a dozen times last year.

Asked why I am no longer Catholic, I will generally say something along the lines of "I don't agree with their doctrines, and I'm not fond of the actions and positions of their leaders, in particular towards homosexuals."

This is the point in the conversation where Pope Francis comes up. 

This guy. (Source.)
And on finding out that I'm not particularly fond of this Pope, I am inevitably told that I'm projecting my negative views of Catholicism onto Pope Francis due to my bad experiences growing up. I am told that he keeps saying wondrous liberal things about a new direction for the church.

I have said it before, and I'll say it, once again, with feeling: Francis is a conservative pope. What he said is that he wants the church to stop being so publicly focused on the issues that have caused them problems in the past. Not that he wants to change the Church.

For your viewing pleasure, a fun instance of "no srsly u guys, I'm not imagining things."

Jeopardy kitten will wait while you read.
I can hear people screaming "Bias!" from all the way across the internet, so let me point out: this is where the story broke. And it's a Catholic news site.

Let's break this down, shall we? And because this is a journalistic article (yay, inverted pyramid!) we'll start at the bottom of the article and work our way up.

Working backwards, the first thing we discover is that the Pope would like not to be refered to as Marxist, and futher would like you to study Marxism before you use it as a slur. I have not read the original piece that he makes this comment in response to, nor have I read the comments he made that caused some idiot to stand up and shout "Marxist"-

What's that, Strawman Schmoe? No, I stand by the "idiot" bit. If you want to use "Marxist" as a serious description of someone's economic policies, you must be a college professor of economics, philosophy, or (surprised me too) English. Having passed those criteria, you must also be sure that the person you're calling a Marxist doesn't happen to have a non-Marxist reason for suggesting wealth sharing. Such as, I don't know, being the freaking Pope.

At any rate. His comments here, however, lead me to believe that he's more saying, "We make more money all the time, but the poor are still poor. Why is that, you guys?" But I dont know that for sure.

However, as it leads on upward, it does seem fairly clear that his theme is "help the poor" and "the global economy makes lots of money, but also more poor people."

Good stuff, very Catholic, nice sentiments. I happen to agree that trickle down economics is a shitty way of running things. While I'm not fond of government, I think this is the sort of thing regulation really should be enacted to take care of. Because damned if an economy that spawns multibillionaires through outsourcing wages, downsizing workers rather than fixing systemic problems, legal tax evasion, and a refusal to pay living wages to the vast majority of workers is going to do jack about fixing itself.

Sadly, our government is too busy trying to destroy a successful president and dictate morals to actually help anyone. But I digress. So far, this is the Pope everyone knows and raves about.

Moving on up, environmentalism! Here's a quote:

"Creation is a gift that God has given to man to keep custody over it, to cultivate it, to use if for sustenance and to give it to future generations," the pope says. 
"The vocation to guard is human before Christian, it regards all: It is the custody of creation -- its beauty -- it is to have respect for all the creatures of God and for the environment in which we live."
That seems fairly straightforward, very nice. Self-explanatory, based on good Catholic doctrine about the natural order, and man's duty as caretaker and ruler of creation. Not particularly progressive, but still very much the Pope Francis of myth and lore.

Now, having been a good little English major and presented my opponent's counter-arguments first, let's hit the other half of the article. The top half, to be blunt.

Gender theory and genetics are comparable to nuclear weapons. Says Pope Francis.

No, really, go read it. It's oodles of fun.

I'll get back to gender theory in a moment because Pope Progressive says some incredibly unkind things about it, but genetics only gets a passing mention.

And why? Because that's dumb. "Genetic manipulation," as Francis refers to it specifically, so I'll not harp about the function of DNA testing in law enforcement. Instead, here's an article from the National Institute of Health about your friend and mine, gene therapy.

Notice the bit about curing cancer? Or "certain viruses" (hint: HIV is one of them)? Or congenital hereditary defects? That's what gene manipulation is freaking for. Also note that it is being tested primarily for diseases that cannot be cured through conventional means. Genetic manipulation has the potential to save lives, possibly end diseases that kill millions, bring quality of life to sufferers of things like cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis if not cure them outright.

So obviously, it's a big ol' box of nuclear destruction. Right? Who's with me?

In all fairness, it must be noted that Il Papa may be referring to "designer babies," the idea that you could construct your child to your personal specifications in utero by manipulating their genetic code. That is a horrible idea, and I hope it never gets traction beyond it's use to identify and eliminate life threatening congenital conditions.

But even if that is the case, just saying "genetic manipulation" and leaving it at that is...well, dumb. You're the Pope. Condemning potential cures for billions because some fuckwad can pervert a perfectly good tool would be like the US President condemning all opiate painkillers as evil because some people abuse them. It has a place, and a use, and shouting it down is really quite dumb.

Anywho. Gender theory. Hooboy.

Guys? Pope Francis does not like modern gender theory. He really doesn't.

And just in case anyone wants to tell me I'm an idiot, the author of the article goes out of his way to clarify what sort of "gender theory" the pope is talking about:

"Gender theory is a broad term for an academic school of thought that considers how people learn to identify themselves sexually and how they may become typed into certain roles based on societal expectations."

And how does the pope feel about this? Well:

But he then says that every historical period has "Herods" that "destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation."
"Let's think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings," he continues. "Let's think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation."
"With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator," the pope says. "The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate."
Yeah...those bold bits are my own emphasis to call attention to the salient points. Gender theory, in the pope's opinion, encourages a violation of the natural order and disfigures the face of man and woman. Also, depending on how those commas were meant to fall out, possibly destroy creation. 

Now, where most sensationalist articles go at this point...actually, in all fairness, the only place sensationalist articles go at this point, is that Pope Francis hates trans people. And given a basic interpretation of the thing, yeah, I can see that. I will point out that he reportedly met with, hugged, and said nice things to a transman

But, as those articles came out in January, and the Vatican is not confirming anything re: saying nice things to a transman, and the "Francis does not like gender theory" article came out almost a month later, I'm not going to say it isn't at least possible that Francis was including transpeople in his statement about gender theory as a whole. 

Where I'm going to go with this is over here: 

Gender theory helps to facilitate the breakdown of arbitrary barriers created by and surrounding the concept, both practical and theoretical, of gender. Catholic doctrine, and the Catholic Chrch as a body, has been in the business of creating such barriers for quite a hile now. For instance, Catholic doctrine is fairly firm on the point that men should be in charge of things. It also has some firm things to say about non-binary gender roles (no such animal), the roles of men and women in society (men are the default heads of things, women should follow and support them), and the responsibility of women both to maintain their sexual purity (cause wimmins is for baby makin') and as being responsible for the sexual purity of men (cause mens just can't hep theyselves when wimmins show skin). 

In other words, and I'm going to write a thing that will have my sister dancing, the Church is a patriarchal structure that acts in multiple ways as the priviliged group within a broader societal kyriarchy. And gender theory undermines one of the hallmark priviliges of the Church, to define "natural order" through dictating the meaning of gender. 

So, essentially, Francis' stated dislike of gender theory can more readily taken as a condemnation of the way gender theory personalizes one's expression of gender, allows for the deconstruction of classical patriarchal control, and espouses the belief that an individual is the sole arbiter of his or her body regardless of societal programming on the use of ones body vis a vis gender roles and expression.

But hey, that's my guess as to why he Does Not Like That. 

Am I overreacting? Reading too much into this? Projecting my bad experiences with Catholicism onto an innocent bystander who ony wants peace and love for everyone? Have some more Pope Progressive!

Francis' remarks on gender theory in the book follow similar remarks he made in a press conference on the papal plane in January in which he criticized what he called "ideological colonization" of less developed countries by those with more resources.
Recounting the story of a public education minister he knew who was offered money to construct new schools for the poor, Francis said to receive the money, the minister had to agree to use a course book with students that taught gender theory.
"This is the ideological colonization," the pope said. "It colonizes the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure."
"It is not new, this," he continued. "The same was done by the dictators of the last century. They came with their own doctrine -- think of the Balilla [youth groups of Fascist Italy], think of the Hitler Youth."

Bluntly put, no. Pope Progressive invoked Godwin's Law to describe the propgation of gender theory. When describing "ideological colonization" -- you know, the sort of evangelism the Catholic Church practiced for hundreds of years -- Pope Progressive conflates gender theory with Nazism and facism. 

So. Ladies, gentlemen, and others as applicable: I give you, Pope Francis. A pope, as I frigging said many times, who is conservative. Now stop telling me what a lovely liberal he is, and how he's bringing a culture of love and change to the Church, and pay attention to the man behind the curtain for the love of gods.

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