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Posted by on Jul 22, 2011 in At TMV, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 10 comments

I Am no Michael Smerconish, but …

Today’s headlines on the Pentagon being set to certify that it is ready to end “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” remind me of a recent column written by Michael Smerconish at the Philadelphia Enquirer.

At the time I read the Smerconish column, I said to myself, “Wow, I could have written this myself—perhaps even better than Smerconish.”

Now, do not get me wrong, I am no Michael Smerconish—I can’t even spell his last name correctly without referring to his byline. But, first, allow me to briefly review what Smerconish wrote.

Pointing out how a Republican friend, Ben Haney, could have been “a real asset” to Michelle Bachmann’s campaign, Smerconish describes Ben as an upstanding young man, who was raised Catholic and comes from a great, conservative family. “I can personally attest to his character,” Smerconish says.

But, Smerconish continues, Ben is troubled by Bachmann’s signing of the so-called pro-marriage pledge at the request of the “Family Leader,” not only “the part about black kids being better off under slavery than they are today,” but also “the verbiage about sexuality being a choice.”

Smerconish reminds us of Bachmann’s 2004 remarks at the National Education Leadership Conference on the gay lifestyle: “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay.”

Then, Smerconish points out that “little issue” about Bachmann’s husband—Marcus—who, after obtaining “his Ph.D. by virtue of a correspondence course,” runs a mental-health clinic alleged to engage in attempts to “pray away the gay,” and also reminds us of Marcus’ 2010 radio interview remarks on parenting homosexual children where he says:

We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps. . .

Smerconish tells us that Ben, a proud Notre Dame alum, “doesn’t appreciate the reference to the devil, nor being compared to barbarians.”

Naturally, Ben would not appreciate such comments. See, Ben is a decent, upstanding young man who happens to be gay.

Now back to my seemingly arrogant comment that I could have written this piece “better” than Smerconish. Of course, there is no way I can begin to approach Smerconish’s superb eloquence, style and authority. But, perhaps I might be able to write about the challenges faced by a young, gay person with some insight and emotion.

Perhaps by “better” I mean with more sadness, pain and indignation.

You see, I have intimately known—for almost 50 years—a young man, upstanding like Ben and who, like Ben, was raised a Catholic and came from—at the time—a conservative family, hopefully a good family. I can also attest to his character.

That young man, like Ben, is gay and happens to be my beloved son.

Perhaps the reader will understand why it saddens, pains me and angers me every time so-called “family values” conservatives such as Michele and Marcus Bachmann insult and demonize my son.

Now that I think of it, I have written about my son, about why I am no longer a conservative and, ironically, about Michelle Bachmann and her own “conversion”—albeit not as well as Mr. Smerconish.

In “Bachmann’s Epiphany and My Own ‘Conversion,’” referring to how Michele Bachmann “shed her youthful Democratic roots and became a Republican,” I write why I “converted.” In part:

Perhaps it was because I came to the conclusion that “compassion,” “tolerance,” and “inclusion” are a way of life with Democrats, not just hollow quadrennial campaign slogans.

There were other reasons for my “flip-flopping.” But the most personal and compelling reason was that so many from my previous party allege that my son is immoral, a biological error, or worse. A person who does not deserve all the rights and privileges other Americans enjoy…

I fully agree with Ben’s observation that such beliefs may win Michelle Bachmann the votes for the Republican nomination, “but they all but guarantee that [she] will not win the moderate voters who continually decide presidential elections. To them and most of the nation, [her] positions are out of touch, insulting, and downright flaky.

No, I am no Michael Smerconish, but when it comes to my son I can surely try to emulate him—and thank him for setting an example to aim at.

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  • Allen

    Well Bachmann’s not a Catholic. Her idea of religious families values may be different than a Catholics, thus different from yours.

    Interesting though, late last night I watched EWTN “Catholic” news and they were interviewing a new Bishop for Philadelphia, (I have forgotten his name already, sorry). One of the questions: “Would this new Bishop support banning politicians and public advocates, (maybe even like yourself), from the sacraments if they continue to support or advocate laws supporting same sex marriage or abortions”. It appears that people cannot be Catholic and be gay unless they are celibate. He did say “sacraments”, not just the single sacrament of Communion. So I guess Confirmation, Baptism, Marriage, Confession, Holy Orders and Anointing of the sick, are voided and denied also unless one remains celibate. Pretty darn strict I’d say. There certainly won’t be any gay marriages in a Catholic Church that’s for sure.

    Bachmann;s faith only has two, Baptism and Marriage.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    “Well Bachmann’s not a Catholic. Her idea of religious families values may be different than a Catholics, thus different from yours.”

    Religion, in my opinion, does not trump human/civil rights and equality of all people.

    “One of the questions: “Would this new Bishop support banning politicians and public advocates, (maybe even like yourself), from the sacraments if they continue to support or advocate laws supporting same sex marriage or abortions”

    That’s when people, like myself, have to make choices between human rights/equality of all people and a religion/those sacraments.

  • Allen

    Good Opinion. That’s my opinion as well.

    This is such a fascinating subject to me. So I gather you and your son are no longer Catholic. That also would have been my choice. However it does leave a nagging question: “Did you, (or those making the same choice as you have), ever believe in those sacraments to begin with and now that there is a new challenge to their authenticity, you’ve/they’ve decided that, “the new challenge must be correct and the old belief incorrect” for entering the after life that Christians believe exist? In short, how on earth do people reconcile with their faith?

    A larger question I would have: “have any politicians converted from Catholicism over the issues of abortion and gay rights?” It would be a great hypocrisy, thus indicative of moral integrity, for a politician to remain a follower of a religious faith and advocate against it’s practices. Somehow I think there is an important story here, because it would seem that the “cultural west” is not only incompatible with Islam, but Orthodox Christianity as well.

    With Christian Protestant denominations shedding their beliefs, almost daily, to accommodate the new, “inclusive faith”, rather than loose vast numbers of their congregations and the money they bring in, I have to ask, “what does it mean?” Is Christianity fake? If so, how on earth can our body politic believe that, “faith based”, organizations can replace government institutions regarding the social necessities of our people? It’s simply not possible as “faith” becomes less popular.

  • Don Quijote

    As a lapsed Roman Catholic who has gone to Church a few time in his life, I can’t help but be amazed at how well the Rhythm Method works…

    I can’t believe that people take the moral opinions of people who have been buggering little boys or covering up said buggerings all that seriously…

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    @Allen. His name is archbishop Charles Chaput, going from denver to penn. 400,000 catholics, thereabouts in denver, vs 1.5 M catholics in the penn diocese he’s been ordered to. Many in Denver cannot wait for him to leave. They despise his gladhanding the rich, his trying to recruit young men into the priesthood, his harming a little child who happened to have gay parents by not allowing her to enroll in a catholic school, supporting people in the US without papers, etc. Many will miss him for the same things.

    @Dorian, thanks D for the article. There’s nothing like knowing people up close to stop projections. I wondered Dorian, re gay-bashing. Log cabin republicans… where are they on this Dorian?

  • Allen

    Dr. Estes-
    Clearly the Archbishop was promoted. Obviously the Vatican was happy with his administration and everything he did apparently fit’s Catholic doctrine. Why would you think that his Denver replacement would be any different? I’m sure the Roman Catholic doctrine is enforced world wide.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    re: “I wondered Dorian, re gay-bashing. Log cabin republicans… where are they on this Dorian?”

    Good question, dr. E.

    According to their own “mission statements” and “platform,” Log Cabin Republicans advocate for the freedom and equality of gay and lesbian Americans; support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans; believe that “opposing gay and lesbian equality is inconsistent with the GOP’s core principles of smaller government and personal freedom;” want to make the to make the Republican Party more inclusive, “particularly on gay and lesbian issues;” would like to educate the GOP’s rank-and-file about the importance of fairness and equality for all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans; want to give the GOP another chance to choose fairness over discrimination, hope over fear, and freedom over oppression.

    Now, to my own little, uniformed opinion:

    I say uninformed, because—although I have a gay son—I cannot even begin to fathom or understand the pain and hurt every gay and lesbian American must feel when many of their own compatriots—sometimes their own representatives and politicians—want to demonize them, condemn them, smear them, deny them equality, even take away their rights and freedoms because of their sexuality.

    And that is why I cannot understand why some gays and lesbians would join the very same political party that does its very best to deny them of such rights, to stigmatize them and to make them second-class citizens.

    Why they would feel that limited government, low taxes, fiscal responsibility, etc., trumps their inalienable rights.

    Now, in all fairness to them, Log Cabin Republicans feel that “working from the inside,” they can make the Republican Party “more inclusive, particularly on gay and lesbian issues;” that “equality will be impossible to achieve without Republican votes;” that “educating other Republicans about gay and lesbian issues is the most effective way to gain new Republican allies for equality.

    Now, while I may not understand them, I do wish the Log Cabin Republicans every success in these efforts—it must happen .

    As to where Log Cabin Republicans are on “gay bashing,” I am sure they hate it, but are trying to stop it by “working from the inside.”

  • SteveK

    Dorian De Wind says:
    Good question, dr. E.

    According to…

    Thank you Dorian. I appreciate, respect, and enjoy how, and about what, you write.

    It’s a pleasure to see important and thoughtful subjects brought up and discussed as you seem to be able to do… Please keep doing whatever it is that you do.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks, SteveK. The respect is mutual.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    @ Dorian, I appreciate reading the Log Cabin Republican mission statement you wrote about in your reply, and your thoughts also. I understand certain points better now. Oddly, it’s a similar set of reasons some say they stay with an organziation, like a church for instance… that they hope to help consciousness and/or change from the inside. Just my .02 but over the years, in activism, that’s often what I’ve seen, one or more groups working from the inside while one or more rouse from the outside. May all do well for parity. Your boy included. Siempre. Thank you.

    @Allen. Just my .02, as only one of ‘the elders of the tribe’, we’ve seen many many different ‘bishop’ personality types, each placing their emphasis on different aspects of the Faith over the last 7 decades or so, each in their own ways. Also appears to depend on who’s pope regarding who is appointed where and why.

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