He is the happy Inquisitor. There is not a speck of God in any of it, or Jesus; he could just as easily be rising to the defense of a brewing company or a shipping magnate as a church. Catholicism begins and ends, in Bill Donohue's mind, with Bill Donohue. He is the Church; the Church is him. And while Bill Donohue is not one of the reasons I drifted from my old church, he has played a large role in me coming to despise it.
Donohue works outside the Catholic hierarchy, but is not isolated from it. He has far greater support among and access to the bishops than you or I have, or ever would. He has defended the church vigorously through the long, slow, and still ongoing slog of pedophilia and other claims of sexual assault against the church, and the church has been conspicuously silent about Donohue using the Catholic name to launch a long string of mean invective and vicious crusades on every other subject he might wish.
A far fuller story, below the fold.
On the last day of January, Bill Donohue heard a story about a dog. His reaction encapsulates, and summarizes, and even morbidly parodies all that is left for me to parse out from the bones of my old church. Where there should be understanding, there is outrage; where their should be forgiveness, there is condemnation; where there should be God, there is not. Because it is about Sex, and about the Gay, and about the Gay threatening, through demands for acceptance—no, through mere stubborn existence—us all.
The missive is called, in all caps, EUTHANIZING GAY DOGS.
The quest for autonomy has reached such a macabre level in the Netherlands that last year the Royal Dutch Medical Association expanded the list of conditions legalizing euthanasia to include “loneliness.”The common theme, then, is to be euthanasia. One can certainly have moral or spiritual convictions about the matter; whether the Dutch approach, or the Washingtonian approach, is to be favored or objected to is certainly within the bounds of conversation. We are then led into the story of a Tennessee dog that was turned in to be euthanized because his owner saw the dog humping another male dog, and decided that would not do.
In the state of Washington, a debate is currently raging over whether to expand the list of conditions legalizing euthanasia to include those who are not terminally ill, as well as those who are mentally disabled.
By contrast, this week in Tennessee a dog was rescued from being euthanized (one news outlet said he was being spared “the Gas Chamber”) because the condition driving the dog’s death was his alleged homosexuality (the owner was ticked when he saw his Fido hunch another male dog). For reasons that appear entirely reasonable, the gal who rescued the dog named him Elton [click here to read the story].So then, there we are.
The place where Elton was dropped, Euthanasia Jackson TN, encourages dog adoption, but it also promotes dog euthanasia. Not, however, in Elton’s case: the shelter has no stomach for putting dogs down on the basis of sexual orientation. It must be said, though, that the shelter is not exactly inclusive in its policies. To wit: Had poor Elton not been identified as a homosexual, his heterosexuality would not have been enough to save his hide.
The moral of the story is: Being gay is not only a bonus for humans these days, it is a definite plus for dogs as well. As for straights, the lonely and the disabled, that’s another story altogether.
Upon hearing of a dog owner abandoning their pet for such a strange (and, inarguably I would hope, cruel) reason, I would like to think that for most people, the first reaction to that little news trinket would be … horror? Anger? Mild disapproval, at the very least? The thought that there is a dog owner anywhere that does not know dogs sometimes engage in such things is surprising, at best—anyone who has conned themselves into believing homosexual behavior is unique to humans has never visited a farm, or visited a zoo, or, yes, owned a dog. The further thought that there is some person, deep in their own little social wilderness somewhere in Tennessee, who upon seeing their male dog mount another is so angry at the behavior that they decide to kill their dog makes it clear that between that specific dog and that specific human, the dog has the better soul.
The rest of the story is not quite as Donohue relates it. Yes, the dog was put up for adoption by the shelter; yes, the dog's new owner named him Elton. (Bill Donohue's thoughts on the matter are illustrated with a picture of Elton John, the famous homosexual, holding a dog; Bill seems to be particularly tickled by that detail.) But the dog was not put up for adoption as a special favor to the dog, but as routine endeavor by the shelter. Reading the story Donohue linked to also clarifies other things: the dog was also probably not acting gay, despite what the dismally stupid former owner claimed, but merely engaging in usual dominant/submissive behaviors; the dog may have been used for fighting, or was destined for fighting, but found lacking, thus perhaps cluing us in further on the motivations of that owner. But no matter, let us continue on with the simplest possible story, the story of the dog who was abandoned by his owner for no reason other than being gay, who was subsequently rescued by a kinder, less monstrously bigoted person, and whose story made the news due to the surprising heartlessness of the former owner's act.
The shelter told the dog's story when trying to get him adopted. This, in Donohue's very Catholic mind, is indistinguishable from giving the dog special treatment. Had poor Elton not been identified as a homosexual, Donohue says, the shelter would not have saved him. To you and I the moral of the story was the meanness, and stupidity, of the owner; to Donohue, the lesson learned was that not putting a dog to death for being gay was an undeserved bonus given to the dog. One that would not be given to straight dogs, or straight humans. We see a dog narrowly escaping a mean fate; Donohue sees a dog that has taken advantage of the bonus given to homosexuals. The bonus, he says.
When I initially saw Donohue's all-uppercased title scroll by on Twitter, I was not sure if Euthanizing Gay Dogs was a euphemism for something. I did not know whether Donohue would be for euthanizing gay dogs, or against it. I did not know if it was a sudden, hardline reference to events in Africa where, in no small part thanks to a few particularly loathsome American preachers, homosexuality can be an offense deserving of execution. That particular battle still continues. There may be no possibility that homosexuality will be met with tolerance, on the part of the American and local promoters of the new morality codes; it may be considered a bonus, however, if agreement can be reached so that gay citizens are not put to death. (That all those thoughts entered my mind before ever reading Donohue's little musing should tell you the low opinion I have of the bitter crank, and that Donohue managed to sink roughly to the level I expected of him satisfies me, at least, that I have his moral character pegged.) Whether he his for or against the execution of gay dogs is left unsaid, but that escaping that execution is undeserved, and worthy of scorn, and worthy of mockery (Elton, the dog has been named!) is written plain and clear. A dog was not put to death even though his owner identified him as One of Them; in a Catholic world, Donohue suggests, no such leeway should be expected.
As I said, Donohue's little musings sat on my desktop for a cold week or so. For all that week, and the month before that, and for the last year and then some, our own dog suffered from steadily failing kidneys. It is an effect of old age. She was 14, and had been with us all but the first few months of that lifetime. Our daughter has never known a home in which the dog, that dog, our dog, has not been always been with us.
By last Tuesday evening her now bone-thin body could take no more; she began to refuse all further food, and no longer would even drink; blood flowed from the corner of her mouth, a sign her organs had begun to hemorrhage. It was the end. Wednesday morning we made the arrangements; we spread a towel down in the car, and drove her to the vet; my wife carried her in; we were with her and held her as they gave the two injections that ended her life quietly, on a large heavy blanket. We had promised ourselves and her that she would not suffer, when the end came. We would keep her as long as we selfishly could, for every possible moment we could, through hand feedings and shifting diets and restless nighttimes acting as constant butler for an animal that can manage very much, but never a door handle, but when the morning came when she could no longer even hold her own insides from spilling out, we let her go.
I cannot think of any better way. When my own time comes, as it will, I can only hope to be carried softly into death by those I love most, surrounded by those I love most. If our fate is to be given the barest glimpse of life only to have it tugged back from us, an entire universe based on the cruelest and most vicious of pranks, then I would gladly give up those last hours, the very worst ones, full of sorrow, and pain, and panic shifting into struggle and delirium. No, I would like to be put down like a dog, because we grant our dogs a gift we do not as easily grant ourselves. We give them the gift of one less day, when we know for certain that that last, final day would be the cruelest one. When we see that blood, we let them go.
Maybe that, then, is the bonus. Not just granting life when life should be granted, but granting peace when the alternative is crueler.
I do not think I trust Bill Donohue's thoughts on death any more than his thoughts on life. I know there is conviction in his words; whether there is thought, or grace, I am not so sure. If life is precious, surely granting it to one more cannot be considered a bonus. If being accused of being gay is sufficient to be discarded, or at least sufficient reason not to be overtly saved, then the sanctity of all other lives must be considered tarnished as well. I think this man who rails against euthanasia treats death too lightly, and life too dismissively. If we are to dismiss the conscious, thinking, running, loving lives of those we find lacking of value, but still stubbornly battle against the last wishes of even those we cherish most, in all the other cases, it does not sound like any of those lives are thought very highly of at all.
I do not know what to do about Bill Donohue. He may not speak for my old church, but in their continued silence, they have countenanced viciousness that erases whatever scriptures are mawed at on each successive Sunday. I would like, once, to see the same convictions from the church on the government's role towards the sick and the poor, on war, on executions, and on hatred that echo with even half the same decades-long passion reserved for anything having to do with sex. I would like to see a politician refused Communion because of their votes to strip the poor of food or the sick of care, or because they allowed an execution that a single stroke of a pen could have stopped. I would like to see a row of gray-haired faces in black insist on their church's opposition to war with half the angry, fuming conviction present when condemning the rights of a secular employee to birth control if their employer does not wish it. But I have waited for all of these things for a very long time, and they do not come. Instead the church obsesses over sex, and is defined by their positions on sex, and has come undone through sex, and rotten, bitter cranks like Bill Donohue consider themselves the sword and shield of the bony old church, and revel in their roles.
So there is the story of one small story that sat on my desktop, and of one man, and a whole church, and of me losing a little more of my faith. And it is a story about two dogs: one that was saved, and another that passed only a few short days ago. I wish both of them all possible happiness.