I’m an ex-Catholic. Catholicism was a big part of my life for a long time. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. As a kid, I used to love to read the Bible – not for the rules and regs, but for the stories, the imagery. I was obsessed with the Vatican. For a while when I was in elementary school, I went on a kick of lecturing my heathen cousins (who all went to public school and – gasp – didn’t even go to CCD!) about how wonderful Jesus was. God, was I obnoxious.
Anyhow, my zealous Catholicism all started crumbling down during high school, when I started realizing that I was not only a leftist, but a big ol’ queer. I think the real turning point was when I went the big anti-abortion march in DC during my Junior year. Ironically, the primary reasons for going to the march were to a) get out of school for a day and b) more importantly, spend a lot of time with the uber-Catholic girl who I had an incredibly huge crush on. I got there and was totally horrified by most everything I saw, from the huge placards with the gross and utterly misleading images of fetuses, to the gay anti-choice activists protesting from the sidelines because they weren’t allowed to march, to the creepy fervent droning chanting of the Rosary that was going on around me. Luckily, I was able to convince my crush to escape with me and go hang out in some random government building for much of the afternoon.
Since parting ways with Catholicism, I’ve had many opportunities to cringe, sigh, and scream over the activities of my former church. The large majority of what gets the Catholic church into the news is very cringe-worthy stuff, from the rampant child abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups, to the Church’s continuing persecution of queer folks, to the total disregard for women’s rights perpetuated by the anti-choice movement.
But, every once in a while, there’s a news story that shows that, sometimes, the Catholic establishment can do something right. My friend Dex sent me one such article today: an op-ed piece from the New York Times lauding Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for taking a stand against the appalling anti-immigration legislation that’s being pushed through Congress right now.
I didn’t actually know much about this legislation, H.R. 4437, until a few weeks ago, and I was both horrified at its contents and at the fact that I didn’t even know about it. I try to stay relatively abreast of stuff like this, and was shocked that I hadn’t heard more uproar about it. The uproar is there, I’m sure, but I just wasn’t hearing it for some reason.
Anyhow – in case you’re in the same boat, here’s a good summary from the Immigration Legal Resource Center of this awful piece of legislation. There’s some really horrendous stuff in there, including the creation of a whole new federal crime of “unlawful presence,” the transformation of minor offenses into aggravated felonies when involving undocumented immigrants, and the expansion of “alien smuggling” to include merely assisting undocumented immigrants, making such assistance a federal crime. That’s right – individuals and social service organizations who merely help undocumented immigrants survive could be charged with fucking crime. And it’s already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate.
It’s absolutely disgusting, frightening and enraging. And Cardinal Mahony thinks so, too. From the NY Times article:
If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.
… Cardinal Mahony’s defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. “As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,” he said.
It’s refreshing to see the Catholic Church, or at least one member of the Church establishment, rallying people and using their political clout around the good parts of Catholic doctrine – that people should care for and help one another, that charity and justice are important, and that Catholics have a duty to help those who are most abused and neglected by our society. It’s a nice change from the usual stories about Catholic political pressure, like when the bishops decided to start denying communion to Catholic politicians who were not anti-choice.
One can only hope that those Catholics who are all too willing to use church doctrine as an excuse for their rabid homophobia, sexism and anti-choice attitudes are equally willing to heed this call to defend the human rights of immigrants. Of course, Catholics tend to let me down with their hypocrisy all the time, especially those who are virulently anti-choice but are either silent about or supportive of the death penalty. So I guess my hope is kind of slim. I’m prepared to sigh, cringe and scream as usual.