Doesn’t Our Church Have Enough to Worry About Besides Gingerbread Houses?

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.

The tweet sent out by St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology

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


9 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Regarding Taylor Marshall , he seems rather petty and tiresome. What is a priest? A father to many. That comes with skills most fathers take on in their role. Those skills include compassion, listening, nurturing,,,,,similar to being pastoral. We should ignore the mean spirited people who mock seminarians as not being manly enough, whatever that is. Mr. Taylor Marshall sounds angry. He may envision a Jesus fighting off the Centurions on Calvary.

  2. Jim Lindsay
    Jim Lindsay says:

    Frank, I’m surprised Marshall made no reference to the rainbow-like columns and door frame of the one gingerbread house pictured! An obvious attempt to legitimize same-sex marriage or at least cohabitation! 😆

  3. Kris
    Kris says:

    Poor Dr Marshall. Seeking, vainly, refuge and integrity in one self-justification after another. And all of them cul de sacs.

    Why not be an Alpha Male, Dr Marshall, by owning that very silly tweet and by apologising for it, without any kind of face-saving qualification. Better this than digging yourself in so deeply you drop right through, and off, the planet?

  4. ii Janelle Lazzo
    ii Janelle Lazzo says:

    Every time I read about a mean-spirited and totally off base comment like the one made about seminarians making gingerbread men, I wonder about the thinking of the person who made the comment. Surely the God Who loves us all and created us all in God’s image allowed for our differences as part of the Plan. The idea that we can make ourselves more masculine or more feminine and more human, for that matter, by our activities is a far-fetched attempt to pigeonhole people I have found that my fellow creatures who feel most secure about themselves apparently feel no need to categorize anyone else. Still, it is very easy for me, even as aware as I am of my own shortcomings, to make judgments about my fellow human beings. I find myself begging pardon a dozen times a day, and those are just the slips that I catch! Mea culpa.

  5. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    In a Church where the standard dress for a priest is a dress and long flowing gown and the higher the ranks, the frufruier the costumes become, who is to have trouble with baking? What is the butch quotient for red patent leather Prada shoes? Benedictines are known for their holiday sweets cooking which they sell to support their efforts. The chemistry, engineering and brute strength needed to be a pastry chef is highly involved and honored when done the spirit of Christ.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Slam dunk, Tom – especially your first sentence. I think “frufruier” should be added to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) as a neologism which indicates a comparative degree of queer self-presentation! Where in the Catechism does it declare that you can’t be faithfully Catholic and aesthetically outrageous? Dickens’ Tiny Tim pronounced the perfect benediction: “God Bless Us — Every One!”


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