Paraders included a few dozen uniformed police – way up from the scrawny attendance in the late 1980s, followed by firemen, their fire truck draped with the rainbow flag. There was a male “boot camp” contingent doing push ups in which they clapped their hands before landing back on the asphalt – and they did a new, exhausting set nearly every block between 40th Street and Christopher Street.
Meanwhile, soccer players kicked a “ball” at least a dozen sizes too large, while baseball players swung their bats and tennis players demoed their rackets. Nearby was a float of transvestites with gorgeous cleavage to overfill the eyeballs. And there were drag queens, the first to fight back when New York police raided the Stonewall bar in 1969, setting off the gay revolution.
Finally, there were politicians running for seemingly every office, including Obama volunteers passing out stick-on buttons while working the crowd for votes - and more volunteers.
Those gawking on the sidewalks were equally diverse. Standing by me was the questioning middle aged woman. Right by her were a teen-aged brother and sister visiting from Denmark, squired around the city by a smiling New Yorker. Next to them was a newly minted lawyer from Indiana who had just moved to New York, his initiation into the Big Apple consisting of an apartment shared with five roommates. “But,” he insisted, “it’s a big apartment.”
Meanwhile, well to do New Yorkers clustered on their Fifth Ave. balconies, cheering at the hours-long spectacle. Unlike the 70s and 80s, when fundamentalists shouted bible verses and thundered that AIDS was the “gay plague,” on Sunday, not a single fundamentalist was in sight. Nor would they have lasted long here.
After watching for about 90 minutes, the woman turned to leave with her husband, proclaiming “This was fun.” And yes, the parade was fun. But it was much more than that.
Just a day before, the New York Times had front paged two stories, side by side. One reported that Msgr. William Lynn, a former cardinal’s aide, was the first senior American Catholic church official to be convicted of concealing evidence of predatory priests, while also assisting in their transfer from parish to parish, where they could find new victims.
The second article was that a jury had found former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky guilty of sexual abuse of 10 young boys. Both stories gave lie to the “moral rectitude” of the church hierarchy, and to athletic teams whose stars serve as role models for many boys and girls, without ever acknowledging a single openly gay star among them. Instead, both pretend they can either “pray away” the gay, or make believe gays don’t exist in their elite world. Either “solution” calls for near lifelong sexual repression, which does not work.
The contrast between gay parade goers and would be adherents to these repressive cultures – Sandusky on suicide watch and Msgr. Lynn clinging to his morally threadbare clerical collar – could not have been more pronounced. All of which leads to the question: are our supposed pillars of moral rectitude the least moral among us?
The problem with priests molesting young boys – as well as, on occasion, women – is not new. What has shifted, however, is the Vatican’s increasing involvement in politics, American style. Back in the 20th century, there were also priests who molested their flock. But the victims were solely Catholic, who had suffered much discrimination and turned to the church for respite. And so, like any minority under siege, most Catholic lay people closed ranks behind the church. A priest – “one of us” - could not have committed such unspeakable acts; how dare anyone accuse him of such vile things? And any Catholic uncomfortable with this stonewalling could leave the church to follow another religion.
But around the 1980’s and 1990’a, as the gay rights movement became more political and forceful, the church, too, became more politicized. It intricately involved itself lobbying politicians at the federal, state, and local levels to impose church values not just on Catholics, but also on non-Catholics. It wasn’t enough for an unmarried pope in Rome and his all male, unmarried hierarchy to impose his idea of “moral good” on American Catholics living a world away; he was lobbying for laws to be imposed on all Americans. Nor were the pope’s pronouncements confined to homosexual “sin;” they also included edicts on abortion, on sexual abstinence before marriage, and on making contraceptives harder to buy.
The more politicized the church became, the less its moral authority. Days ago, the Vatican even named, as its new media advisor, Greg Burke, from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Yes, that Rupert Murdoch, whose newspapers illegally wiretapped private conversations by English citizens, and perhaps by citizens in America, then tried to cover it up. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News as the way to God? What is the Pope thinking?
The result is fewer Catholics and non-Catholics who respect these Vatican honchos in drag queen-style robes, who proclaim to speak the word of Murdoch – uh, God. While many, many priests do good work, using their uncommon dedication to save lives and souls, they are an ever smaller part of the church. The other part is the Father Knows Best Vatican honchos battling to maintain an outdated institution while transforming the priestly collar into a meaningless Halloween prop hiding moral depravity. All this in the name of Christ and so-called Christian morality. Amid this mess, Catholics abused by priests have won multimillion dollar lawsuits, even as deference to the Pope’s alleged moral “infallibility” erodes. Church after church has been closed, and this year, the New York archdiocese ordained only one priest. That’s right: one.
And still, the hierarchy, unable to see how out of touch it has become, unable to see how it is subverting the church’s mission to uplift the sick and the poor, clings to outdated teachings – with the pope even denouncing American nuns for their “radical feminism.” When any American thinks of a radical feminist, do they really think of a nun?
Meanwhile, the public is realizing that the sexual predators are not the openly gay men and women whom the church hierarchy would shove back in the closet. Rather, the predators are the closeted priests and bishops who can not reveal themselves without being thrown out of their church. They are also the football legends trapped in a macho closet of their own making, a closet which is coming apart.
Those who are supposed to guide us to God – or to athletic greatness - have not only lost their own way; they continue leading their flocks down paths which inevitably end up in molestation and abuse. Those who claim to offer the solution are the problem, and those who are the alleged problem are offering the solution.
Contrast the beaming Gay Pride paraders with the morally bankrupt Catholic hierarchy, and that at Penn State. Last week, Gay Pride revelers brought joy to gay and non-gay New Yorkers alike. Meanwhile, a top American Catholic official and a top assistant football coach are going to jail. And that's how it should be.By Joseph Hanania, Aslan Media Columnist