Monday, September 08, 2003

He Can Dish It Out, But Can He Take It?

One day, Mark Shea posted an article about a San Francisco priest lending his apparent blessing to gay activists as they mocked the pope and engaged in lewd behavior during a gay pride parade. A Catholic layman read the article, and wrote a polite letter to the Archdiocese of San Francisco asking if the story were true. In reply, he got a snotty, juvenile email from the Archdiocese's very own director of communications, a Mr. Maurice Healy. You can find the polite request, and Mr. Healy's sarcastic and catty reply, here. Another reader of Catholic and Enjoying It also wrote Mr. Healy, pointing out that an Archdiocesan Director of Communications should be expected to answer a polite request with something besides personal insults and patronizing dismissals; Mr. Healy snippily replied "Thanks for your input."

No doubt Mr. Healy thought he was dealing with more of the people who, after receiving one of his verbal beatings, act like the characters in Chekhov's Three Sisters -- "If only we could go to Rome." But they can't, and Mr. Healy knows it. They can't even get to see the Archbishop. That's why Archbishops employ chancery rats like Healy -- to keep the riffraff from meddling in the Big Picture. Most of the time it works. Complaints about liturgical abuse get sloughed off with form letters. Questions about the Diocese's stand on sodomy get shot down with accusations of Klan membership and butchered quotes from Scripture. Polite people get treated like dirt, and eat it, thinking they must have done something wrong, been uppity, or don't realize how well the Healys of the world have everything under control.

After barrages of emails from readers of Catholic and Enjoying It, Mr. Healy was forced to keep his tongue clean, avoid insults, and squeak out an actual saran-wrapped press release. That's not good enough, particularly after Healy spent so much time hissing and showing his teeth to anyone who dared to ask a question touching on Diocesan policy. So I thought I'd try out a new word, "fisk," and dissect the chancery rat's vapid dismissal. Mr. Healy's words to Mr. Shea are in blue. Mine are in black.

Fr. Phelan did not ask permission nor did he receive permission to participate in the gay pride parade.

Right. "He didn't ask us, so we didn't have to give him permission. We might, purely as a pastoral matter, have approved of his limited participation to show solidarity with faithful Catholics who dress up in leather outfits and bare their buttocks at passersby. Or we might have, purely as a pastoral matter, regretfully asked that Fr. Phelan not wear his clericals while marching along with people carrying signs saying "Sodomize me, it's legal!" But we didn't have to make that decision, because Fr. Phelan was kind enough not to act like we're in charge of a Diocese. Now go away, you baptized bumpkin."

The Archdiocese had no knowlwdge that he planned to participate.

Don't ask, don't tell. It's the safest way. Any lawyer on a five-figure retainer will tell you that. Got to keep that "knowlwdge" confined, otherwise it bursts out and tars people with accountability. Now go away, you Tridentine neanderthal.

Fr. Phelan is administrator of Most Holy Redeemer parish, which is located in the Castro area of San Francisco.

A little background is needed to appreciate Mr. Healy's dismissive words. According to San Francisco Hotel Directory Dot Com
San Francisco is a mecca for the gay and lesbian community, and there are numerous accommodations, bars, tour operators, and merchants that cater to gay tourists from around the world.

Gay visitors will most definitely want to stay in the beautiful and hopping Castro area. Lesbian travelers will enjoy the Castro or a bed & breakfast in Noe Valley, a quiet women-centered community. Either of these parts of town will make you feel part of the gay community,and situate you close to bars, clubs, and shops of interest to gay and lesbian travelers. The Castro offers thumping nightlife every night of the week, and isn't too far from the dance clubs and hardcore South of Market club scene. . . . .
And San Francisco Guide lists the Castro area's many attractions:
This section of Upper Market Street, renovated by its affluent [-because-childless], primarily gay residents, is a collection of clothing, gift, and specialty stores interspersed with colorful Victorians, restaurants, and pubs. The Castro Theater, 429 Castro Street, is a great old movie palace that screens classic and art films.

[The] Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society Museum, 973 Market Street, Suite 400, maintains information to preserve and promote an active knowledge of the history, art and culture of sexually diverse communities in Northern California and beyond. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5pm. 415-777-5455.

The newly opened Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans-gender Center, 1800 Market Street at Octavia, houses a number of groups and programs. 415-865-5555. . . . .
Given that, it's easy to see why a guy like Healy would be asking what he's asking without explicitly asking it: "Hey, moron, whaddaya expect a priest in this area to do? Not encourage homosexuality? Not march in a parade that's got a float showing John Paul II locked up in a cage, ready to be impaled by a "Weapon of Ass Destruction?" Not smile when he sees "black-winged, bare-chested devils in leathers, dancing on a float decorated with hell fire"? Why, if we had a priest who refused to encourage that sort of thing, us chancery rats would be working uncompensated overtime!!!!" Yeah, Mr. Healy -- got you loud and clear "Shut up you knuckle-dragging laymen and let us rot in peace."

The Archdiocese does not condone the activities of the gay parade and it has spoken out before on these matters.

Well, I've got some knowlwdge for Mr. Healy. If the Archdiocese doesn't condone the activities of the gay parade, and if it's spoken out against the gay parade, then why don't chancery rats like him give two hoots in a basket whether its priests approve of and participate in the gay parade? Why do they reserve their haughty, arrogant derision for lay Catholics who write honest, thoughtful, and polite inquiries about this contradiction? Why does it take a minor internet crisis before they start talking like what they get paid to be?

And BTW, I don't want to lynch Mr. Healy. It's enough fun just watching Shea hit the lights and seeing guys like Healy scurrying out of the nave as quickly as their little legs can carry them.

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