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Accommodations we make

14 May, 2013 0 Comments

The Julian Calendar

By Julian O’Dea

Until very recently, being a homosexual man was about the worst thing imaginable, and homosexual acts were sniggered at. And progressives did their share of sniggering. One of the lines of attack on Senator Joe McCarthy was the insinuation that he and his closest aides were homosexuals. J Edgar Hoover’s sexuality has been used to question his legacy. And even that touchstone of the Left, George Orwell, was always scathing about “nancy-boys”.

But now that is all being airbrushed out of history. Like Winston Smith, working in the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, we are all busily rewriting history. Or at least conveniently forgetting it. The memo has gone out. In Orwellian terms again, “we have always been at war with Homophobia.”

Having a punt

The American President has lately taken time out from his busy schedule to telephone a basketballer, not to congratulate him on his sporting prowess (the fellow is actually at the tail end of an undistinguished career), but to support his “coming out” as a homosexual.

I suppose there is a chance that the sports star is living a celibate life, but that would not even be a “sporting bet”.

New Zealand has recently legislated to allow homosexuals to marry. But we Australians seem unlikely to follow them. As John Howard once said, Australians are tolerant but conservative. And the Catholic Church is where it always was. The pope spoke against homosexual marriage when he was still in Argentina. The New Yorker recently published an article, “Is there hope for Francis on gay rights?”. Funny without even trying.


An under-explored point about the new pope is that he is from the Americas, but he is not an “American”. The people of the United States are used to getting the attention when the world casts its eyes to the Americas. The American Catholic Church is rich, has the influence that comes from being part of the Anglosphere, and is the fourth largest numerically in the world. But numbers one and two are both in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico).

The American Catholic Church is noisy. I used to suspect that papal policy, especially under John Paul II, was mediated by a kind of Westenpolitik, in which the pope attempted to assuage the obsessions of the United States (sex, personal freedom, sex), in his writings and actions. “Altar girls” was a classic accommodation to American obsessions.

Perhaps it is just an impression, but Pope Francis seems to spend a lot of time schmoozing guys like the President of Ecuador. Francis has his eyes on his home territory, naturally, and will be expected not to be as enamoured of some of the things that American neoconservatives, including Catholics, value. Many American Catholics may discover how much of American exceptionalism and Protestant influence there is in their own worldviews.

John Paul II got a lot of credit on the American Right as a sort of cold warrior. But Francis’ emphasis on the poor will sound less appealing to many American ears. And a South American is a different prospect from a European psychologically, given the patronising attitudes to Latin Americans traditionally held by North Americans.

Mother Church might do well to ignore North America’s tantrums for a while.

I have put this view to Americans and they have maintained that Francis was welcomed by the Left of the US Catholic Church at least. Nevertheless, I think they too are in for a disappointment, because he is unlikely to budge on issues like women priests and homosexuality. I could be wrong, but I also expect less “rights talk” from Francis too (the kind of talk that backfired on John Paul II in my opinion). I also expect the new pope not to be much of a feminist, unlike John Paul II who once described himself as “the feminist pope”.

In any case, American Catholics may feel, not just neglected, but upstaged by a pope from Latin America. But Mother Church might do well to ignore North America’s tantrums for a while.

Returning to long-held opinions founded on folk observation, which have suddenly become unpopular, it used to be accepted that women are generally unfitted to rule. As a woman blogger recently remarked, “the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is male for a reason”. Australian women Labor politicians, including our hapless Prime Minister, have done little to dispel this “outdated prejudice”. The list of Australian women political leaders of the Left has grown in length but not distinction. In fact, it is arguable that feminism, with its quotas and Emily’s List ideology, has done a great deal to destroy the contemporary Australian Labor Party as an electoral force. I suppose we shall know more in September.

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