Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Washington, DC 2.10.90: Liberal Catholics and Demise of Ties That Bind

The Future of the American Church conference: a dark experience. I felt dark and full of bitter emotion much of the time. When I arrived at the meeting, I asked two women from Baltimore if the registration counter were different from the check-in counter (we were in line for the latter), and one said just a curt yes, no explanation; the other mumbled head down and no eye contact something like, “Back there,” and threw her hand about. This elicits all sorts of feelings in me about how the church talks the idea of community but serves it so badly in practice.

Then I met Christoph P., who was full of mock sympathy about Steve’s denial of tenure at Notre Dame Seminary, and who smiled with undisguised Schadenfreude at my discomfiture. What angers me most about such experiences is that I let myself bed treated this way—or that all my achievements, such as they are, don’t buy me freedom from this treatment. Ditto my encounter with Lou Mc., who was with former Glenmary Nick S. and his wife, something Thibault—but not introduced to me as such. And when I did not understand, all treated me as if I had transgressed some line evident to them—gay theologian who doesn’t understand normal relationships. I hate it—the homophobia at any of these liberal Catholic gatherings which profess solidarity with the marginal but never practice it when the marginal are gay; and the unjust and vicious hidden structures that permit people to do this to one another with abandon.

Consequently, I felt awful about my paper. Fell I’ll never go to one of these Catholic whingdings again. Feel if I’m to remain a theologian, “success” has to seek me out. I’m tired of batting my head against the wall.

The highlight was the day I spent at the Phillips Collection. What moved me greatly—and surprisingly—was the Rouault series, La cirque de l’√©toile filante. I must have seen it in repros, but it struck me forcibly on this viewing. The sense of noble, tragic doom in the heads—people bypassed by modernity, judged superfluous, or what’s worse, unmodern. People who know that what they do is essential to a humane and joyous culture, but who are being deprived by that very culture of the right to do it. And so they dance and cavort in sad defiance, because they can do no other. I thought of Bakhtin’s carnival as I looked at this series. The most impressive head of all was Pierrot, who made me think of so many of those deemed Other.

No comments: