I read a Facebook post earlier today about pressure from an ultra conservative Catholic group called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property who urged a North Jersey parish to cancel a talk by Fr. James Martin, S.J. Fr. Martin wrote a book called Building a Bridge, which supports compassion and respect among Catholics and the LGBT community.
I recalled seeing The American TFP at the March for Life last week. They had an interesting band playing on the sidelines: three bag-pipes and a medium sized wind ensemble. The all male ensemble was dressed in interesting military style uniforms, and the pipers wore plaid skirts.
Yes, I know that these skirts are also called kilts or tartans.
Despite my antipathy for bagpipes, I thought they were a spiffy bunch. Though it as a peculiar melange of instruments, they sounded tight, balanced and strong. The only things that raised eyebrows were the words “defense,” and “property,” in the same sentence, with some visible indication that they were a Catholic organization. Last I heard, defending my piano, treadmill and expansive yarn stash is going to make it very difficult for my dromedary soul to squeeze through the eye of the spiritual needle. My citizenship is in heaven, and I am certain that neither North American Van Lines nor DHL will ship my stuff there.
I digress. Eyebrows raised, I had to learn more about this group so I did what I always do when I feel intrigued. I turned to Google and went to their website.
You can read more about the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property by clicking here. (And if you decide to become a member, we can still be friends.)
I was surprised that so many of their core classic conservative beliefs were aligned with my own self-identifyingly progressive positions on controversial issues.
The American TFP is anti-abortion, and anti-contraception. I am pro-self control. I think any medication that is going to surpress the sign of radiant health evident in my potential for childbearing is a danger to my longevity and a danger to the environment.
The American TFP is against preferential treatment for homosexual people. I believe that all people should be treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation. I’m also against preferential treatment for heterosexual, bisexual and asexual people. I’m beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I think Jesus would ask. He’d ask everyone, “why does it matter?”
TFP believes in the indisolubility of marriage. I believe that a sacramentally valid marriage is wholly indisoluble. I add a corollary to that. I dare say no marriage is 100% sacramentally valid. Our current socioeconomic climate has not made it possible for unimpeded consent. The prevalence of a wage gap is a subtle force of coersion. Until there is equal pay for equal work, it is impossible to separate a woman’s free consent from an urgent need for future financial stability. No, this is not patriarchal. This is realistic. Why is a 35 year old nulliparuous single woman such an anomaly?
TFP is anti-transgender. Okay, so maybe we fall slightly out of alignment here. As some who know me well have noticed, over the years, I’ve stopped forcing myself to conform to the feminine archetype- but I’m not about to transition for it either. I believe that the hormones my body produces should not force me to conform to societal conventions of dress and behavior. If males wish to wear skirts, as the TFP bagpipers actually do, let them play on as I wear my lumberjack flannel and fedora. Our faith calls us to an awareness that we are more than a cog in a social machine forced to conform to morally inconsequential expectations. (Really, does my fedora hurt anyone? Surely I took no offense to the skirt-clad bagpipers.) I also think that if we continued this conversation as church, a lot of people would be liberated in the ability to embrace attributes seemingly incongruent to their anatomy which we have collectively attempted to repress for centuries. I have a lot of thoughts about this that I need to save for another post.
The American TFP is staunchly anti-socialist and also diametrically opposed to the threat of communism. I am too. I believe that Americans already live in a dysfunctional socialist system, and that the trust we place in government has made it into the golden calf of our time.
Herein lies the irony.
Please, for just a second, follow my logic.
Gaudium et Spes, #26 says:
Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.
This embraces gays, queers, transpeople,
women, men, Christian and otherwise.
Gaudium et Spes continues:
Therefore, there must be made available to all people everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one’s own conscience, to protection of privacy and to rightful freedom, even in matters religious.
Yes, even in matters religious.
So, I must ask:
Why are there so many groups like TFP who vainly and vehemently insist that our government must return to system of morality that is neither consistent with the American constitution, nor consistent with official church teaching on human dignity?
Could it be the reflection of doubt in power of Christian unity in the living Body of Christ? Could it be that they’ve given up on God? Why are they turning to the cheap substitutes of politics to do things that are only the work of the God who lives and breathes among us? Have we traded the ancient bronze serpent for stars and stripes? Why are they doubting the light of Christ who shines in the hearts of all, and that all are created in the Father’s image?