02 November 2012

The Catholic Connection

A former co-worker once accused me of being a "self-hating Catholic."  She--who was attending a seminary while she worked with me--claimed that I would defend Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or just about any member of any ethnic group or race, before I would stand up for Catholics.

She was wrong about the "self-hating" part.  However, she might have been right about the other part of her claim.  As I pointed out to her, there aren't many places left--at least in the Western world--where the rights of Catholics have to be defended.  In most of the currently or formerly Judeo/Christian parts of the world, whatever discrimination Catholics suffer has to do with their race or ethnic heritage.  Francophone Canadians, nearly all of whom are (at least nominally) Catholics, are examples of what I mean.

Also, as I pointed out to her, I don't think of myself as Catholic, simply because it wouldn't be proper for me to do so.  I go to church only for funerals, weddings--and the occasional Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which I attend for the music.  (Actually, I don't think of the latter as "going to church", any more than I see going into a cathedral to look at the stained glass or sculpture as church attendance.)  Furthermore, I don't participate in any other aspects of church life.  

I don't even factor my disagreement with much of Church doctrine into my non-identification with the church, for many Catholics--including some who are  relations and acquaintances--attend Mass and partake in other parts of Church life even though they disagree with even more of the ecclesiastical mandates than I do.

And then there are those who probably no more consider themselves Catholics than I do, but who agree with pronouncements from the College of Cardinals that are bigoted or simply illogical.  Their arguments--such as they are--can be summed up in such as this post.  

I guess I shouldn't be too shocked.  After all, Elijah Muhammad and George Lincoln Rockwell agreed that the races should be segregated.

But here's what I find interesting:  Three of the most prominent writers and activists in so-called Second Wave Feminism--Janice Raymond, Cathy Brennan and the late Mary Daly--have their origins in the Catholic Church.  Janice Raymond was a Sister of Mercy.  Daly,  a longtime professor of theology and feminist ethics at Jesuit-run Boston College, got all of her schooling in Catholic institutions.  And, to my knowledge--I am still researching this--Brennan also studied in schools and colleges connected with the Church.

And their fellow-traveler (at least when it comes to transphobia) Germaine Greer studied in a convent school before going to the University of Melbourne. I suppose her schooling gave her a lesson or two in standing up for her principles:  Shortly after she was appointed as a special lecturer and fellow at Newnham College of Cambridge University, she opposed the election of her transsexual colleague Rachael Padman to a fellowship.  Greer lost that fight and resigned after the case generated negative publicity.

I plan to explore the topic of this post in more detail, in later posts and, possibly, in other venues.  It isn't enough to merely equate the transphobia of the Church heirarchy with their transphobia.  After all, the Church is not the only institution whose leaders espouse homophobia, and hardly the only such institution to have schooled large numbers of people.  Also, there are plenty of people--including at least two whom I love dearly--who are practicing Catholics who were educated in Catholic schools but do not share in the transphobia expressed by the likes of Greer, Brennan, Raymond and Daly.

Learning more about how and why such trans-haters came from Catholic backgrounds is of more than passing or personal interest.  Those so-called Radical Feminists are, I believe, among the reasons why we have the Lost Generation of Transgenders I have mentioned in other posts.  They helped to create the climate of fear and paranoia--which dovetailed quite nicely with the agendae of the so-called Moral Majority and other right-wing religious zealots--that led to a generation of trans people opting not to transition or delaying their transitions--or, worse, dying horribly as a result of violence, homelessness and AIDS.  I want to hold them to account for that, but I also want to further understand how they became the sorts of people who complained about their own repression while doing everything they could to aid the oppression of people who have suffered at least as much discrimination as they have.


Freya said...

As for Catherine Brennan, Although the extent of her connection to the Catholic church is not known to me, if you look at her profile, on the Hudson Cook website, you will find that she is a graduate of Fordham University, Bronx, NY, B.A. in English and Psychology, May 1992. Please see:
You will also notice that she is deeply involved in financial law. Her professional experience is listed as including:
"Assist national and state banks, investment banks, commercial finance companies, savings associations, mortgage bankers and other licensed lenders in the development and maintenance of nationwide consumer mortgage and motor vehicle finance programs. Engage in consumer credit due diligence on behalf of investors of mortgage loan companies, mortgage loan servicers, Internet lenders, consumer finance companies, title loan companies and payday lenders."
Even if you forget about the transphobic bigotry, she is a real enemy of the working poor in the country.

Justine Valinotti said...

Freya, I agree that she is an enemy of the working poor (and a lot of other people) in this country. I didn't feel I could cover that aspect of her work in this post, but I may write about it at some point.

As for her graduating Fordham: It is indeed a Jesuit-run school. However, many people have graduated from it without becoming transphobic, or bigots of any other stripe, along the way. While I do agree that the Church is run by bigots, I think that she--and other Second-Wave Feminists--were affected by it in a particular way, which I want to explore. Why are they such prejudiced, hateful people, while other Catholics aren't?