11 January, 2012

Propaganda: Gentle Reader Series #10 - Final post

Gentle readers,

I imagine that some of you may be sitting back now and saying to yourselves:

“Well OK Martin…so you have blathered on for several posts and you have managed to demonstrate that Brian W. Clowes wrote some propaganda against gay men. Big deal – he was wrong in this ONE single instance, but he is otherwise aligned with my church’s teachings, and he holds a correct biblical interpretation about homosexuality. In any case, Mr. Clowes has a right to free speech - even if that free speech is based on weak arguments. So why should I give a tinker’s hoot about this issue?”

Good point. Mr. Clowes indeed has a right to speak freely – even if that involves making poor arguments. Similarly, I have a right to point out those poor arguments and distortions, and to make counter arguments. But that is not really the end of the story. 


Firstly, Mr. Clowes produces his anti-gay propaganda in the name of the pro-life movement and in the name of Catholics everywhere. Mr. Clowes’ affiliations are featured prominently in his bio.

Mr. Clowes cuts his half-truths out of “scientific cloth” and stitches them into a shroud to be placed over the civil rights of LGBT people. His article is not just an attempt at persuasion - it is propaganda. This anti-gay propaganda is frequently used by others as a weapon against LGBT citizens in their legitimate pursuit of civil rights. And this is all done in your name!

Secondly, the Roman Catholic Church gives permission to Mr. Clowes to do this in 2 important ways:

• Sin of commission: when the Bishops of the Church engage in the public demonization of LGBT citizens, they are encouraging such propaganda. For example, His Excellency, Bishop Fred Henry, wrote the following in a “pastoral letter” to his diocese in 2005: “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.” His Excellency not only encourages the state to use unspecified coercive force against same-sex couples, but he also suggests an equivalency between adulterers, prostitutes, pornographers and homosexuals. No evidence is offered because none is available.
• Sin of omission: when the Bishops of the Church fail to correct or discipline members of the Church (such as Mr. Clowes or Bishop Henry) who engage in unfairly demonizing an entire class of citizens, they are adding to the scandal. They are turning a blind eye to a public activity carried out in the name of Catholics that is inherently dishonest.

When the Church participates in anti-gay propaganda, or when it allows anti-gay propaganda to take place in the name of Catholics, it is squandering its moral authority in the promotion of lies. It is fine if the Bishops choose to make principled anti-gay arguments in public, but when they engage in, or encourage propaganda, they denigrate their own moral authority. They close off the message of the gospel to LGBT folks and they close off the message of Christ to thinking people everywhere.

Now - I am not going to pretend that I agree with your Church on very much. In fact, I really don’t care about your Church’s mission to spread the gospel. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that your Church and its Bishops have a lot of influence over many people, and consequently the Church has the potential to use its influence to promote the common good. 

So why should you give a tinker’s hoot about this issue? Simple: If you care about your Church and its ability to do any good in the world, then you should insist that the public anti-gay statements of your Bishops are principled, fair, and factual. You should insist that every major Catholic organization and every major Catholic public figure avoids anti-gay propaganda….and when someone does sink to that level…that they are publicly rebuked as an example to all of the faithful. To do otherwise is to diminish the very moral authority that you require to fulfill your Church’s mission.

Forget that ends do not justify the means. Forget doing the right thing for its own sake. Forget the aphorism, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Simply remember this simple truth - when you lie and you are caught lying (and you have been caught in this case), you diminish yourself as much as your target.


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