Catholic Church

Lesbian wedding.

Image via Wikipedia

Brian Brown is a name you may, or may not, know depending on the depth of your interest and/or passion about marriage as a civil right. Putting aside the fact that the State’s only interest in marriage is from a contract and licensing point of view, and that marriage as a social or religious issue is purely fabricated to push whatever agenda is deemed necessary, Brown is the brainy brawn behind the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), which believes that marriage is a man/woman thing.

Brown’s group has been instrumental in interfering in states where same-sex marriage is/was/or is liable to become legal. NOM’s most recent victory was the appallingly disingenuous campaign waged during Iowa’s midterm retention vote for three State Supreme justices who happened to be presiding over the court when it unanimously ruled that Iowa’s own constitution forbids discrimination against gays when it came to obtaining marriage licenses. Brown’s group, instead of pointing out that the justices ruled according to existing law, lied to Iowans, telling them that the justices imposed their own personal agendas in place of the law to create a right where one didn’t exist.

It’s fine to campaign against politicians who are responsible for the creation of policy and law, but to attack non-partisan judges who simply clarify existing law is out of bounds. The retention vote – though most people don’t appear to understand this – is about the judge’s qualifications to read and enforce existing statute. Brown knows this. He is a Harvard grad after all and I am sure that makes him intelligent enough to know what the vote was actually about. It unfortunately also makes him smarter than most of the Iowans he needed to trick into helping him push his personal agenda of making sure that same-sex marriage is never legal in the United States. Ever.

Personal agenda?

Brown would not agree. He is quoted in a recent Newsweek article, quite artfully really, giving his reasons for taking up arms against the formation of couples and families with the following statement:

“Marriage is a public good. If you change the definition of marriage, you don’t just change it for the gay married couple down the street, you change it for everyone,” he says. If gay marriage is allowed, “then the state is essentially saying that my views on marriage, and the majority of Americans’ views on marriage, are equivalent to discrimination…It profoundly affects me if my children are taught in the schools that my views on marriage are bigoted. It profoundly affects me if the church that I’m part of is treated in the law as bigoted. And, ultimately, same-sex marriage is not true.”

And he is not wrong. Equality in marriage regardless of orientation would make him look like a bigot. It would call into question his Catholic faith. It would brand tens of millions of Americans as prejudiced.

Why is that wrong? He is a bigot. The Catholic Church is so riddled with hypocrisy that one more glaring affront to the call of Christ’s “love thy neighbor” hardly breaks its bigoted straw back.  And the American people, generally speaking, have always needed to be legally compelled to promote marginalized and discriminated against groups (like blacks and women for example) to equal footing.

They are all bigots, and apparently, not okay with owning it.

So not okay, that they are willing to campaign and protest and promote the idea of laws that are discriminatory.

All because people like Brian Brown can’t personally come to grips with that real fact that he is wrong, his religion is wrong and that the American people prefer inequality to equality, a peculiar flaw in a people so devoted to the idea of personal liberty and so very much about fairness (as it applies to them specifically – they don’t do abstract well at all).

Having taught public school at the middle school level for a couple of decades, I can assure Mr. Brown that his children will one day come to their own conclusions about his bigotry, regardless of the outcome of his efforts to save face at the expense of other people’s liberties. I was raised strict Catholic myself, and I am under no illusions about the stance of some of my countrymen or my former faith.

Waging war against same-sex marriage because it forces you to look at the truth is not a good reason to take up arms.  Society has weathered all sorts of enlightenment and coming to grips with the injustices that gays and lesbians have endured will not permanently scar anyone’s psyche.

America gave up slavery and then Jim Crow. It has, superficially at least, given up sexism.  Lady Liberty didn’t drop her torch and the Declaration of Independence didn’t burst into flames.

Change is life. Life doesn’t stand still and that’s a good thing.

Having to own your bigotry and admit that you are wrong is called “growth”. It’s actually quite good for your children to see. It’s a “teachable moment” that will catapult you in their esteem just as surely as their discovery of your clinging to outdated social injustice will damn you to irrelevance.

Brian Brown is not the only person to wake up one day and realize that the world was evolving when he would rather not, but he is someone with power enough to force the rest of us to cling to our bigoted past – and that’s not right. It shouldn’t be up to him or churches that many of us don’t belong to or hate groups that revel in the adrenaline surge of pointless and anger-filled discrimination.

Brown’s justification for his actions could have easily been spouted in the early 1960’s by segregationists or in the early 20th century by those who felt women should be denied the vote or by slave owners before the Civil War. It’s the refuge of the spiritually lazy to deny the right of society to grow up because it asks too much of them personally.

Brian Brown is a bigot and he’s fighting to keep his children from finding out.

Roadside Memorial Day

It had to happen. Roadside memorials being a bitch to set up and maintain and what with friends and relatives forever asking to see pictures of the latest anniversary or holiday grave decorating, a cemetery app was inevitable. It’s handy – literally – and Facebook update ready (I’m assuming because if one can’t update the graveside status for the FB peeps – what good is it really?)

And it’s creepy wrong on levels of levels. There’s so much that’s sick on both sides of this app – seller and buyer – that it’s hard to know where to begin.

It reminds me of prayer cards.

My Catholic experience with death and funerals includes holy “baseball cards” with pictures of the deceased, born on and expiry dates, a prayer of some kind and a cool religious icon on the front.

Which, I guess, is creepy too except that you didn’t carry them around and whip them out like the latest baby photos.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

So, even though I spent fifteen minutes on the phone tonight reassuring my mom that vegetarianism and Easter dinner is not a recipe for disaster, it only just occurred to me that it is Holy Week. I hated Holy Week when I was growing up. It meant going to church on a day that wasn’t Sunday, like protestants do, and masses that were longer than 30 minutes, a practically unheard of thing when I was a child.


It started with reading the Passion ensemble style on Palm Sunday. The longest freaking mass of the year, and you spent at least half of it on your feet. No slouching. No leaning. Back straight. Missile open. Attention paid. Not that I was ever paying attention. My favorite place to hide when I was a child was deep inside my head where I had many stories to occupy me when the world around me was too intense, or in the case of mass or school, too pointless.



In school that week we had prayer services and did the stations of the cross everyday. As often as I have done them, the stations, I still don’t know them by heart. Not like a Hail Mary or the responses during the consecration which come back unbidden and  virtually word for word no matter how many years it has been.


Thursday night, we went to mass to watch Father wash feet and to read yet another version of the Passion. There are four gospels you know.


Friday. Stations of the Cross. This time in a packed church in the middle of the day. The consecrated host was taken from the altar and the tabernacle draped to indicate Jesus’ death. Fun times.


Saturday night. Mass again and since there couldn’t be a consecration, no resurrection yet, you would think it wouldn’t take as long. You’d be wrong.


Sunday morning mass, the day of the Resurrection of God’s only son made flesh, was actually the shortest mass of the week. It was like a reward for having made it through Holy Week boot camp. The gospel was about Mary Magdalene finding the tomb empty and running to fetch the apostles. It was always interesting to me that Jesus appeared to Mary first. Didn’t that make her important? The answer to that is no. Mary was a woman. My Irish Catholic view of the world told me that women ruled it, but in the Catholic church, we ran and fetched. God only loved us second best and even that was predicated on our shunning birth control in favor of Kennedyesque broods or taking the veil.


Easter was crammed full of rituals I detested. Lent with its fasting and meaningless deprivation. Confession. The sisters made us go once a week during Lent. We were children. At some point over the course of forty days, we had to start making up sins. And of course, there were the endless hours of rosary my dad would insist we recite every night after the dishes were done. Praying as a family was something the church encouraged although I didn’t notice it making my family a happier group of people.


The last Easter Sunday mass I attended was with Will the spring before we got married. We had to sit in the overflow because everyone who was ever even nominally Catholic goes to mass on Easter Sunday. I remember he thought we spent an awful lot of time on our feet and knees, and why were there seats if we weren’t going to use them? Sometimes I wonder if I am making a mistake by not raising my daughter in the faith. It certainly shaped who I am in some ways.

Maybe that is why.