Kathleen Kennedy Townsend—yes, one of the Kennedys—recently wrote an inspired piece of moral theology in The Atlantic. And we should all take note.
Fresh off a rally with New Ways Ministry, the Maryland-based group of Catholics who promote a “gay positive” view, Townsend felt moved to weigh in on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
And her turn at moral theology does not disappoint. She is a Kennedy, after all.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Her argument is a heavily nuanced piece of apologetics:
Catholic teaching is responsible for the murder of a gay man in Uganda. We know this because his friend was honored by her father’s foundation (her father was also a Kennedy!).
If it weren’t for pernicious American missionaries, the Ugandans would live in a state of perpetual gay bliss. Ms. Townsend, unfortunately, doesn’t explain exactly what point of Catholic doctrine caused the American Evangelical missionaries to poison the minds of Ugandans in order to kill the man. I wonder if it was CCC 2358.
In her piece, Townsend continues: how could the Church support that? It goes against the Church’s own age-old tradition. Heck, “What other institution separates men and women and encourages them to live together in monasteries and convents where they can develop deep relationships with those who share their kind of love?”
Can you imagine? How can an institution that promotes monks hate gays? Monks live together. There are no women around. They cultivate relationships. And they “share their kind of love.” They’re practically gay.
Townsend goes on, “If we wish to change the Church”—and by golly we do—“we must first convey our views in language, images, and theology that reach people where they are. And secondly, we should make it clear that disagreement with the hierarchy is a critical part of our history.”
Good points. Let’s parse this out….You know what, never mind. Townsend doesn’t really elaborate on this. BUT SHE DOES SAY, “Polls find that 85 percent say that they believe in God and 50 percent claim that they go to church every Sunday. The fact that only 25 percent do just goes to show that you can’t trust everybody’s self-reporting.”
Don’t worry though, you can trust Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s self-reporting and her moral theology, she’s a Kennedy, and her dad’s foundation gave an award to a Ugandan gay rights activist. Clearly, she knows her stuff.
Speaking of Kennedys and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend being one (her dad was Robert F. Kennedy) this should drive the nail right straight through the coffin of gay-hating Catholics: “When my father visited South Africa in 1966, he spoke with students in Cape Town about apartheid. They defended the abhorrent practice by pointing to Biblical passages that suggested that discrimination was fine. In an effort to reach them, my father asked, ‘Suppose you die, and you go up to heaven, and you enter the pearly gates, and suppose, just suppose when you get there, you find that God is black.’ Today we can ask, ‘Suppose God is gay.’”
Even worse, suppose God is a monk?
“My father grasped, as did John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, that in America the leader who wishes to enlarge freedom’s sphere must appeal to an audience’s religious beliefs as well as to their understanding of American liberty.” My favorite part about King’s I Have a Dream speech is where he extols the fundamental human right to believe that God is gay.
So far Townsend has, to my mind at least, presented a pretty iron clad argument for Church condoning homosexuality (we have monks!), but she goes the extra mile (she is a Kennedy), bringing in Biblical support for her argument.
“A few years ago, I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations [sic], and to me the biggest revelation [exegesis and wordplay!] was how misogynistic it was.” You know what, you guys? I just looked, and I think she might be right! No wonder the Church used to not let people read the Bible. To wit:
“My mother’s generation was prohibited from reading the Bible, and when I told my grandmother that my father used to read the Bible to us, she was shocked, ‘Catholics don’t read the Bible,’ she said. The Church figured that people could take passages out of context and come to unwarranted conclusions. This changed after Vatican II and now Catholic parishes offer Bible study classes.” This is history, folks. Look it up.
Townsend just thanks possibly gay God that the abolitionists and suffragettes ignored all the misogynist parts of the Bible in order focus on the part that says we are “born to be free.” I’m just thankful they found that part amidst the overwhelming misogyny and gay hating. Selectively quoting Scripture is tricky.
Townsend, however, is intellectually honest enough not to give the feminists a free ride. They weren’t always perfect, probably because in the 1970s some of them grew out of the non-religious part of the civil rights movement, like the Black Panthers, who were “uncomfortable with religion.”
“Happily, that has now changed. Women have entered schools of theology and can now show that Jesus was one of the first great feminists. Mary Magdalene is no longer thought of as a prostitute but as the ‘apostle to the apostles.’”
It’s good that women are finally allowed to enter those big forbidding schools of theology and wrest from the clutches of the misogynist priests (not the monks, though, they’re charming and their habits are so fabulous!) those long-secret passages of theology—like John 20:16 and Mark 16:9—that showed Mary Magdalene wasn’t just some filthy whore.
[NOTE: Peter Abelard and many others referred to Mary Magdalene as the “apostle to the apostles” as early as 1132. I can only assume that Abelard was really a female theologian.]
Townsend, so obviously making great strides with her expert interpretation of the Bible, decides to linger there. Did you know, as Townsend does, that the modern English “word ‘homosexual’ didn’t even exist until the 19th century”? Just more factual evidence that the Bible couldn’t have possibly outlawed homosexuality.
And yet, somehow, as Townsend says, there are “people [who] continue to read scripture simply to sustain their preexisting prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals.” But what would they say about the following passages?
According to Townsend, “King David talks about sleeping with his friend Nathan as ‘better than sleeping with a woman.’” It’s actually Jonathan, I think. And, I think, the line is actually Jonathan’s love for David “was more wonderful, passing the love of a woman,” but I’ll defer to Townsend on this one…she read the whole Bible. Can you believe that? The whole thing!
Anyway, those guys were totally gay. Because as we all know, two men can’t love each other without being totally gay.
Perhaps more importantly, to Townsend, is what the Bible doesn’t say. “The Ten Commandments don’t mention homosexuality. Nor does Jesus. In fact, our Lord teaches us that love of God and love of our fellow human being are the two most important commandments. He doesn’t exclude the love that one man can have for another, or one woman for another.”
Score one for the gays. Also, take note goat lovers, nowhere in the Ten Commandments does it say bestiality is wrong.
So, now that we have this wealth of evidence, what gives, Catholic Church? Why does the hierarchy hate the gays?
But there’s good news! As Townsend notes, “The 2000-year-old passages favored by Church authorities don’t hold up as being anti-gay.” While the passages that don’t mention anything about gays stand up stronger than ever as the positive confirmation that Jesus thought homosexuality was way cool .
Now, where do we go from here? Don’t give up hope. As Townsend says, “Contrary to conservative propaganda” the Church can change (see the Article 3, Section 1, 2033 and following for a great example of said “propaganda”). And she offers a shining example: “Sex between husband and a wife is no longer just for procreation but has value in itself.”
Remember when the Church taught that sex was just for procreation and that it had no other value? And that if you enjoyed it you had to go to confession? Man, those were dark days. Thankfully, the Church says we can enjoy sex now. Thanks, Pope!
So it can be done.
“At this time, when the hierarchy does not want to recognize that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and that the one of the two most critical commandments is to love one another, it is critical to assert that God loves the LGBT community equally.”
You hear that, hierarchy? Kathleen Kennedy Townsend asserts that possibly gay God loves the LGBT community equally. Which, ergo, means that homosexuality is good and right and just.
I’d trust her on this one, she’s read the whole Bible and she’s a Kennedy.