As if the now all-too-run-of-the-mill negative comments about clergy were not ridiculous enough to listen to, one Catholic writer has found a holiday season-themed approach to express his homophobia and fear of femininity. His childish attitude provides a peek into why some conservative Catholics are so obsessed with LGBT people, and in particular gay men and priests.
After the St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Indiana, tweeted that their seminarians spent an afternoon making gingerbread houses, Taylor Marshall, a conservative Catholic writer and blogger, responded on Twitter disparagingly:
“How fabulouth! [sic] These seminarians had a ‘gingerbread house making contest’ and Corey won. This is effeminate and puerile, and it’s why some Seminarians are horrific.
“Grown men don’t gather to decorate gingerbread. (Can you imagine Basil & Gregory Decorating cookies together?)”
The use of a satirical spelling of “fabulous” to sound like a speech lisp indicates that his comment was directed against gay men, who, in an ignorant and demeaning stereotype, have been accused of having a lisp. (It’s also demeaning to people with true speech impediments to make fun of their speech patterns.)
Although Marshall subsequently took down the comment, he was roundly criticized on Twitter for his remark, according to The Kansas City Star, which originally reported the story. One example the newspaper provided:
“Greg Hillis, an associate professor of theology at Bellarmine University, a Catholic college in Louisville, Kentucky, retweeted Marshall’s tweet before it was deleted. ‘Apparently making gingerbread houses makes seminarians gay. Who knew?’ Hillis wrote.”
Another comment came from a St. Meinrad alumnus:
Deacon Tony Cecil, whose Twitter bio mentions a connection to Saint Meinrad, slammed Marshall for a “lack of charity.”
“Dr. Taylor Marshall is trying to spread the idea that my seminary is not fit to be forming priests because we decorated some gingerbread houses and put on a Christmas play for our professors and their children,” the deacon tweeted.
“Such an atrocious lack of charity is unbecoming of a Christian, certainly unbecoming of a Catholic, and I can no longer consider someone who is so shallow minded to authentically be able to convey and defend the truths of our faith. He’s shown his true colors.”
On the Patheos blog, writer Mary Pezzulo took Marshall to task in a recent posting. In part, she wrote:
“How mean-spirited do you have to be to publicly mock the sexuality of a seminarian decorating a gingerbread house?
“And what would be a party activity seminarians could do, which meets the Taylor Marshall Masculinity Seal of Approval? Cigar smoking? Arm wrestling? Talking about Thomas Aquinas? If it’s the latter, I’m glad I’ve never been invited to one of Marshall’s Christmas parties. I can’t imagine anything more boring.
“. . . [D]ecorating a big intricate three-dimensional cookie isn’t a gendered activity. The seminarians weren’t doing anything to be ashamed of; they were playing with sugar to make a craft at a party. That’s a party game. It’s a normal thing to do at your average awkward Christmas party, and way more fun than playing ‘White Elephant.’ “
Pezzulo also did a follow-up post on the gingerbread controversy, commenting on some of the ideas her readers presented.
Although he took the original tweet down, Marshall did not back down from his position. Here’s what The Kansas City Star said was his rejoinder to the blizzard of criticism:
” ‘I decorate gingerbread houses with my kids. I love it. But I dont call my adult buddies over to my home for ginger bread decorating parties. Or pajama parties. This behavior reveals arrested development or Peter Pan Syndrome,’ he tweeted over the weekend, referencing people who scientists say don’t want to or are unable to grow up.”
That’s definitely a dodge. His original tweet made no reference to immaturity, but only to femininity and an allusion to homosexuality. So, now he is trying to describe his intent definitely.
Immaturity? I don’t think so. No kid could ever make a gingerbread house without adult participation. It’s not only not a gendered activity, it’s also not an age-based one. And besides, isn’t the Christmas season the time of year when we are all children at heart?
The only immaturity in this story was Marshall’s original tweet. Childish? Yes, but in the most mean-spirited way children can sometimes act. That behavior is forgivable in children, but in adults, it’s sad, ridiculous, and dangerous.
But beyond the Christmas season, this story offers insights into the thinking of some conservative Catholics who are trying to scapegoat gay priests and oppress LGBT people. A good part of their thinking is characterized by what appears to be a childish fear of not fitting into prescribed and over-determined gender roles, of inability to tell the difference between vicious stereotypes and real human lives, and a preference for ignorance and insult. Such thinking reveals an inability to rationally discuss not only LGBT issues, but of any questions about gender. If this kind of thinking is what is behind the current scapegoating of gay priests, our church is in very deep trouble.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 19, 2018