Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'm Not Catholic

I'm not Catholic, so all this business about the new pope is A) pretty mysterious to me, and B) not something I particularly want to care about. Some folks are ruminating on his conservativeness. I'm sure many conservatives are delighted. More liberal-minded people are appalled.

The thing is, I don't really care that much about the rules that the Catholic church declares. Celibacy requirements for priests? No non-procreative sex? Insisting that men dominate women? If Catholics want to live their lives according to those rules, that's their business. I realize that many Catholics don't actually agree with those rules and push for change from within. Andrew Sullivan had an interesting post yesterday about the fact that the church can and does change. Interesting, yes, but something I come to as an absolute outsider. Not only am I not Catholic, I wasn't raised with any religion. More power to those pushing for change, but again, I'm not Catholic and it isn't really my business.

But the actions of the Pope and the Catholic church become my business when they start insisting that their rules should influence the Law for all Americans, Catholic or not. That's when I start getting, shall we way, twitchy. What do I mean here? Sodomy laws. Blocking gay marriage. Insisting that discrimination in employment and housing is somehow part of God's plan and the duty of all. Blocking access to birth control. Pushing lawmakers to interfere in personal right-to-die decisions. On and on. Dan Savage sums up some of the damage done to gays (including non-Catholic ones like me) by the Catholic church (you have to skip past the zombie business):
When the pope -- the dead one, the next one, the one after that -- says something stupid about homosexuality, straight Americans take it to heart. The church's efforts have helped defeat gay-rights bills, led to the omission of gays and lesbians from hate-crime statutes, and helped to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments. But when a pope says something stupid about heterosexuality, straight Americans go deaf. And this pope had plenty to say about heterosexual sex -- no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no blowjobs, no jerkin' off, no divorce, no remarriage, no artificial insemination, no blowjobs, no three-ways, no swinging, no blowjobs, no anal. Did I mention no blowjobs? John Paul II had a longer list of "no's" for straight people than he did for gay people. But when he tried to meddle in the private lives of straights, the same people who deferred to his delicate sensibilities where my rights were concerned suddenly blew the old asshole off. Gay blowjobs are expendable, it seems; straight ones are sacred.
I'm not saying that Catholics don't have a right to an opinion on these matters; I'm saying that they don't have a right to encode their particular beliefs into the law and force all of us to obey them. If you think it is morally wrong to, say, marry someone of the same-sex, then there is a very simple solution available to you -- don't.

I confess I have never understood the urge that religious people have to make those who don't share their faith follow the same rules. Is it just easier to do what you believe your god demands when everyone else does it too, so you never need to question it? Imagine, for a moment, the outcry if, in some red-state town, Hindu clerics pushed for legislation banning the sale and consumption of beef. No more burgers! The horror!

What purpose would be served by such a law? How could anyone possibly see such a law as a just use of state power? Yet sodomy laws did not fall away until June 26, 2003, and plenty of conservatives foamed at the mouth about it, insisting that policing of private sexual activity was a good use of state power. How is a sodomy law different than a law prohibiting the sale of items that violate dietary codes of a religion? I mean really, the very name we use for these laws comes right out of scripture!

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