In This Episode
In this week’s episode, Phil chats with two religious experts about the perversion of Christianity on display during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. First, progressive faith leader Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons explains how the majority of the Christian electorate is *actually* voting come November 3rd, and how Barrett’s positions betray many of the teachings of Christianity. Then, the author and journalist Olga Marina Segura joins to explain how Barrett’s allegiance to the Catholic Church institution makes her a “secret weapon” of their agenda—one that is steeped in a history and legacy of white supremacy.
Phillip Picardi: From Crooked Media, this Unholier Than Thou. Well, folks, here we are. After an arduous week of confirmation hearings, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a woman who devoted her entire life’s work to stripping marginalized people of equality under the guise of religion, appears poised for confirmation to the highest court in the land. Her appointment would officially mean a six-three conservative majority on the Supreme Court. And last week we explained how that could potentially impact everything from reproductive justice to LGBTQ equality. So this week we’re diving into the exact charade of Judge Barrett’s religion. She calls herself a proud Catholic, which prompted many Republicans to accuse Democrats of being anti-Catholic. News flash to those Republicans that Joe Biden is himself a Catholic. But what do Catholic-Americans actually believe when it comes to the issues facing the Supreme Court? Well, you’ll soon hear. It’s pretty complicated. On the one hand, Amy Coney Barrett is, quote, “the Catholic Church’s secret weapon” according to religion journalist and author Olga Marina Segura. We’ll hear more from her in a minute. First up, though, we’re welcoming back the progressive faith expert, Guthrie-Graves Fitzsimmons. He’s going to talk about the principles of Christianity up for debate at the Supreme Court and how Barrett is a mockery of those very ideals.
Phillip Picardi: Guthrie. Welcome back.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Thanks for having me back on.
Phillip Picardi: So I want to start by talking a little bit about the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is quickly becoming the villain that gay Twitter needed to overcome this year. I’m wondering, Judge Barrett made a point in her opening remarks to mention her position of faith as a positive thing that informs her approach to justice. And I wonder what you as a progressive person of faith made of that?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Well, Phill, I was, I’ve just been sickened by the entire nomination from the very beginning of kind of doing it over RBG’s dying wish that that we wait for the election. And then this whole portrayal of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as this good Christian and total erasure of all the harm she’s going to do. And, you know, all this talk about how she cares about family values—she doesn’t care about my family. She doesn’t think my husband and I should be allowed to be married. We live in Kentucky where, you know, the Supreme Court’s decision Obergefell meant that we could get married. If she had been on the court at that time, we would not, you know, be here today, married, living our lives with that dignity and respect. And so I’m alarmed about LGBTQ rights. I’m alarmed about reproductive rights and overturning Roe v. Wade. I’m worried about civil rights. She doesn’t really seem to care about anyone’s rights except conservative Christians. And then to see her portrayed as a good Christian really disgusts me, because that’s not what I think following Jesus means.
Phillip Picardi: You know, Judge Barrett seems to imply that her faith does inform her point of view on issues like you mentioned, gay marriage, also of abortion. And I’m just wondering, from your point of view, do you find that people of faith tend to overwhelmingly agree with her points of view on these issues?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I find the opposite Phill. The majority of people of faith in this country do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade, for example. 59% of Christians, including 68% of Catholics, do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. And similar numbers, majorities of Christians and people of all faiths in this country support nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community and support marriage equality. So these policies that get portrayed as Christian policies and from this Christian nice judge are actually rejected by Christians and Americans overall. And they’re deeply unpopular, which is why if you watched any of the hearings today, they kind of are not, even the Republicans aren’t focusing on it that much because they know how unpopular are taking away marriage equality and taking away a woman’s right to have control over her own body are with all Americans, and even Christians.
Phillip Picardi: Right. In fact, Mike Pence tried to dodge and evade questions about abortion during the vice presidential debate just last week. You know, he knew that it’s an unpopular topic for him to be wading in on. And yet it does seem like a major agenda item, especially with the confirmation of Judge Barrett for the Republicans to nevertheless overturn Roe v. Wade to appeal to their deeply white evangelical base. Isn’t that right?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: It is. It’s a small segment of even Christianity, this conservative white Evangelical base that they’re catering to. And putting, and it’s a big issue for that small group of Americans who want to control women’s bodies and and are deeply disturbed that I’m allowed to be married, you know? For that group and it’s, you know, really important to them. But then to portray that as, you know, to portray caring about equality and dignity as attacking religion, which is what Mike Pence also did during the vice presidential debate, is, it’s absurd to make that leap. And I love Kamala Harris’s response in the debate where she goes, Joe Biden and I are both people of faith and, you know, we’re not trying to knock anyone for their faith. And then she goes on to defend on the issues. And so there’s a real distinction there that I think has been lost that we’re against this small minority of Christians who want to take away reproductive choice and LGBTQ rights. And that’s not an attack on religion. In fact, the majority of Christians and people of faith support that cause.
Phillip Picardi: And yet the Democrats are being accused by Republicans during these confirmation hearings of being, quote unquote, anti-Catholic because Judge Barrett is a proud Catholic woman. Is that a fair assessment, in your opinion, of the Democratic Party, that they are anti-Catholic?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Completely unfair characterization of all the Democrats I know and the Democratic Party’s leadership. The Democratic Party is, as your listeners know, just nominated a Catholic to be our nominee for president of the United States: Joe Biden. The most powerful Democrat in this country, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, is Catholic. And, you know, people sometimes come back like, well, those people are under the control of the far left. AOC talks about her Catholic faith all the time, and she is like the chief villain for Republicans. But AOC is like, the like embodiment of everything Republicans are scared of and attack her relentlessly every day, and she’s talking about her Catholic faith all the time. I think she’s the most amazing person in all of American politics, and that’s partly because of how open she is about her Catholic faith. So this idea that Democrats are anti-Catholic. Sonia Sotomayor’s Catholic. You know, there’s so many examples of Catholics that are a part of the party. And so it’s it’s ludicrous to say, you know, Democrats are anti-Catholic.
Phillip Picardi: Right. Absolutely. And it’s interesting also to see how you’ve been talking about the different issues that Judge Bériot will weigh in on through a religious lens. And one of those that’s caught my attention is that you’ve been kind of taking up the mantle of health care and the Affordable Care Act as a religious issue. But plenty of folks don’t see the Affordable Care Act as a religious issue, maybe the same way that they’d see abortion or gay marriage as being potentially religiously contentious. So can you tell me why to you health care is so important as a person of faith and why more people of faith should be talking about health care with the same fervor we’re talking about the rest of these topics.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: That is such a great question, Phill. As a Christian, I think about what Jesus spent most of his ministry doing, which was healing people. Jesus cared about the sick, the people that were cast off by society, the marginalized, the oppressed, and Jesus healed them. And Christians, since, followers of Jesus, you know, since then have kind of taken up that cause of healing people, of starting hospitals, of trying to provide health care to people. And so health care is like a fundamental core issue for Christians. And the Affordable Care Act made so much progress in our times. You know, I remember staying up late. I was studying abroad in college at the time, and it was like way into the night and I stayed up for that final vote that got the Affordable Care Act. I was so excited because so many people then had access to health care and that should be a cause of celebration for Christians. The number of people that we’re now going to be able to see a doctor when they got sick and that preexisting conditions would not prevent people from seeking getting health care. And so now the threat of taking away health care, there’s a case that’s going to be heard right after the November 3rd election about striking down the Affordable Care Act, and we have good reason, people that have studied Judge Barrett’s findings have good reason to believe she will be in the, you know, will side with the justices that want to strike down the Affordable Care Act. And that should be a great concern to Christians on the other side. And think about just the issue of pre-existing conditions, how many more Americans now who have been infected with COVID and survived, that’s a preexisting condition now. And so all these people would be at risk for overnight losing their health care. And that’s, I think it’s obvious to anyone that’s read the Gospels as a Christian or people of all faiths that we should be concerned about people being healthy and having access to healing.
Phillip Picardi: And so, you know, it begs the question, how can Amy Coney Barrett be Catholic and be betraying the ideals of Christianity in such a profound way? How does faith make room for you and Amy Coney Barrett to both be proudly-proclaimed people of faith?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: You know, that’s a difficult question. And it’s hard when you, when, you know, just in my personal life, I’ve never met Judge Barrett, but I meet Christians and have met, you know, come across people who don’t think I’m deserving dignity, that my marriage is lesser than, that I’m lesser in the eyes of God. And it’s really hard, Phill, to look that person in the eye and go, you’re doing your best to follow Jesus. You say you are. You know, you go to church regularly, you’re reading the same scripture, and yet you would look me in the eye and say, no, I’d take away your marriage. And so just on that one particular issue, it’s often been very hard for me just personally to recognize that.
Phillip Picardi: Yeah. I’d want to punch them right in the face. I mean, you’re a bigger man than I am, I guess.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say that I. I would say I don’t think anyone, no matter what they’ve done, loses their God-given dignity. I care a lot about ending the death penalty, for example. And so no matter how many people someone has killed or what they’ve done, I don’t think the state should put them to death.
Phillip Picardi: Oh, I’m not talking about killing them. Just a little punch here and there, you know what I mean?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: You know, I’ve never actually punched somebody, so I think it would not work.
Phillip Picardi: OK, yeah. You know what? That’s fair. Me either. You know what? Maybe we weren’t meant to do the punching. But if someone—I’m Italian, there’s always a way. You know what I mean?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I’ve done a lot of Zumba and other kind of fitness stuff. I’ve never done—
Phillip Picardi: Not Zumba Guthrie, you little homo. [laughs]
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Actually one day Phill, I was, you know, end of class, you know, usually the only guy there and the instructor is gone and so everyone’s looking each otherL what we do, are we going to leave? And I said, I’ll teach. And so I was briefly even a Zumba instructor. I’ve never done the like the things where you kick and punch, what’s that kickboxing? Punch box—I don’t know even what. Boxing? I’ve never done those classes.
Phillip Picardi: This is the gayest podcast recording I’ve done yet. And Wow, wasn’t even intended to be, but it definitely is. So thank you for that.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I’m super gay and I’m super aware that there are a lot of Christians that have a problem with me and they’re just going to go along and do what they’re going to do. I feel called to kind of promote the gay Christians and the Christians that care about reproductive health and like the Christians that are doing good stuff. And I’m not in the business of kind of calling other people fake Christians or really even wanting to argue with them all that much.
Phillip Picardi: Because you feel like the arguments don’t really get anywhere.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Well, yeah, like imagine someone they could look me in the eye, meet my husband, a Presbyterian pastor. I mean, we love God. We love church. We love, we’re trying to do our best as followers of Jesus. And they would look me in the eye and think because of our love, we’re subhuman and going to hell and going to be punished in eternity by Satan. I mean, OK, I’m not really sure if I could change that person’s mind or if shaming them into doing it. I’d rather talk to people and help organize and give life to all the people, the majority of Christians in this country who embrace LGBTQ dignity.
Phillip Picardi: So recently you joined a host of progressive faith leaders in endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the presidential ticket for the election, which is literally weeks away at this point. Can you tell me more about what led to that endorsement and why it felt so particularly momentous?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Sure. And I’ll just clarify that I did that in my personal capacity, not in relation to any organization. And I did it because, well, one, I’ll just say I was asked. The Biden-Harris campaign has done an amazing job of reaching out to faith leaders. Over 1,600 faith leaders have endorsed the campaign, which is just an astounding number. And it’s because I’ve talked to other people who have endorsed and they’ve said, well, I might have in 2016, but no one asked me. So one reason I endorse is because they asked and when they asked, it was a simple immediate yes. Every election, you know, is one election at a time. And Joe Biden wasn’t my choice. I’ve been a huge fan of Elizabeth Warren for as long as I can remember and so she was my choice in the primary. And then when the general came around, it was no hesitation. Trump is a unique threat to our democracy, to our constitutional order, to American Christianity, to the world, to the climate. I mean, he’s a threat to everything. And then Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, I think, represent people who are open to progressive change. I like all the work they’ve done to, with these task forces to kind of develop policy with people who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary and then they’re open to working with moderate Republicans. I just saw this ad that Cindy McCain put out in favor of the Biden campaign, which I was really moved by. And so I think Biden and Harris will be, turn a page for our country and bring people, progressives, you know, center-left people and moderate Republicans together. I’m not saying we agree on everything, but we can at least, you know, talk and be open to finding some agreements.
Phillip Picardi: And what else are progressive faith communities doing to help with, I don’t know, get out the vote campaigns or voter awareness? I mean, I know that there’s only so much churches in particular can do in this moment. So what are you kind of seeing the progressive faith circles doing to encourage what we’re all hoping for is that Biden-Harris win in a couple of weeks?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Sure. So there are nonpartisan ways that houses of worship are getting involved in voter registration and making sure people have information about, you know, there’s a lot of questions right now about absentee mail-in ballots voting, early voting on the day of the election and so there’s a lot of information that houses of worship can give to their own members so that people can vote and feel prepared to vote. And then, you know, houses of worship have been registering voters and giving voters information about the candidates. So there’s a lot in a nonpartisan way that houses of worship can get involved in making sure we have a safe and fair election. But then there’s also groups that are not houses of worship, but are approaching the election from a faith perspective. There are two super PACs that have been formed from an explicitly faith perspective to support the Biden-Harris ticket. And then there are a range of other kind of 501C4, that’s the tax code designation for groups that are nonprofits but can do more political activity and are faith-based. There’s one called Vote Common Good, another called Faith in Public Life Action, another called Faith 2020. So these are kind of para-church organizations that are being more politically active, are going out in a more explicit way on behalf of the Biden-Harris campaign or in support of the Biden-Harris campaign to rally religious voters and persuade independent voters who—I meet people all the time who have never heard of religious Democrats. It really blows my mind, given how many Democrats are religious. I’ve met people all the time that say, I never really hear Democrats talking about God. And so there are a lot of kind of independent, persuadable voters who could also become Democrats or vote Democratic, I think, if they at least knew that Democrats weren’t against God by hearing a little bit more.
Phillip Picardi: Yeah, you know, I think kind of to sum up, a lot of what we’re talking about in this conversation is that, you know, this is a marketing issue, right? And I think that in wanting to appear progressive, maybe some Democrats have avoided being explicitly oriented around faith because they want to be welcoming to broad swaths and diverse swaths of community, which, you know, I think is understandable. But in doing so, we’ve really handed religion to the far right to own and to spin a false narrative about, that’s actually not grounded in statistics or data or fact. And so I think hearing you kind of shed light on some of these groups, some of these important figures that show us that we are not in a minority in this country, that in fact, we are the majority and that hopefully if we go and show that at the polls, we will be rewarded accordingly. Maybe it can start to change the conversation around faith, especially for the Democratic Party for good.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I hope, Phil. And you know, it’s a hard marketing task because the GOP and these conservative white evangelicals just say: we are God’s ambassadors to control women and ban gay marriage. Right? Which is a simple marketing task. But kind of as progressive people of faith, our marketing task is, you know, there are lots of diverse faith traditions that inform progressive values and there are a lot of people who have no faith, and all are welcome here, all are celebrated here and we’re actually the majority. But that’s a little more complicated to communicate. But we need to.
Phillip Picardi: Right. Absolutely. Well, on this ending note, I have to ask, you just seem to talk to God a lot. How are you feeling about the state of the country come November 3rd and the immediate aftermath? Are you keeping the faith?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: I’m keeping the faith. I’m keeping grounded in the fact that so many people have gone before us in this progressive faith work and faced so many different challenges, so many different moments in our national history where we wondered about the future of our country, and yet people persevered. They kept putting their faith into action for the common good. And, you know, it’s just our time to do that. So I’m getting up every morning and doing my best.
Phillip Picardi: And you’re doing your Zumba. Aren’t you?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: [laughs] You know, I have been trying to do it in the living room.
Phillip Picardi: Of course you have.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: It’s not the same. You trip over the tables, your dog gets in the way. It’s not the same. But I have been trying. I’m better at praying and doing justice than keeping up with Zumba. I’ll admit that.
Phillip Picardi: Well, listen, I’ll say a prayer for your Zumba routine. Guthrie, thank you so much for joining me today. Really appreciate it.
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Thank you.
Phillip Picardi: When we come back, my conversation with the author, Olga Marina Segura.
Phillip Picardi: Guthrie’s point about religion in America is valid. We’re centering the wrong people when we talk about how religious people go to vote and people like Judge Barrett are often the radical extremes of the religious, not the norm. But Olga Marina Segura, the author of Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church, points out that even if Judge Barrett doesn’t represent the religious electorate, she is unfortunately the perfect conduit of the church’s politics.
Phillip Picardi: Olga, thanks for joining me today.
Olga Marina Segura: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here. I’ve been admiring you from afar.
Phillip Picardi: The feeling is entirely mutual. And we’re just going to dive in with the hardest possible question to ask.
Olga Marina Segura: I’m ready.
Phillip Picardi: Are you ready? OK. In your opinion, is Judge Barrett’s Catholicism an important part of understanding and actually critiquing her appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States?
Olga Marina Segura: Oh, absolutely. I think that in order to understand who she is as a justice, in order to understand her legal career and also how she will serve on the Supreme Court, we cannot separate that from her Catholicism. And also the criticisms that we’ve been seeing a lot of people have are because she is very much a product of the American Catholic Church. So I think for people who are like, her Catholicism shouldn’t be questioned, she should just be questioned on her legal career—if you’re publicly talking about your faith and how it impacts the way that you think, the way that you work, then we have a right to talk about how that has shaped what you do. So I think that when we think about her, whether you support her or critique her, you cannot do that without talking about the ways that Catholicism has shaped who she is, from her education to her legal career.
Phillip Picardi: So what about the Democrats who are facing these accusations of potentially being anti-Catholic by referencing her religion in regards to her judicial appointment?
Olga Marina Segura: Sure, sure. I think that’s a really great question. So to those Democrats, I say, I think that it’s fair. First of all, I do not think that the criticisms against her are anti-Catholic bigotry. There are a lot of examples of anti-Catholic bigotry that exist in this country, what’s happening to Amy Coney Barrett is not an example of that. So for Democrats who are really struggling with, you know, the church has very specific teaching on how we should approach voting, on how we should approach elections, on how we should approach these justices and how should they should be questioned publicly. And I think Democrats are openly struggling with that in a very concrete way. However, I tell them, like I think these criticisms are necessary. I think that you can’t call yourself pro-life and then also vote in favor of the death penalty. You can’t call yourself pro-life and a Catholic in the public sphere, but then also be very homophobic. Like this is not to me, this is not what Catholicism is. This is not what the gospel is. This is not what Jesus has said. So when I see Democrats who are saying, you know, we shouldn’t give her this litmus test, we shouldn’t give her, it is unfair to question her in this way. No, it is not. You know why? Because if you are going to publicly talk about your faith, if you are going to publicly be homophobic, be racist, then you deserve to answer questions about how you, how you can dare call yourself pro-life, how you can dare call yourself Catholic, but still do very harmful violent things or support very harmful, violent, very violent policies. You know?
Phillip Picardi: You know, I think what you’re getting at is that there is a tension here between the ideals of Catholicism, which you understand from a philosophical perspective and from an understanding of the text, of course, and the politics of the Catholic Church. And so I imagine that’s why your piece was titled, you recently wrote an essay for Bitch that called Judge Barrett “the secret weapon of the Catholic Church”. So I just want to read you a quote from the essay. You said, “In an ideal world, Barrett’s nomination could be viewed as an opportunity to integrate true Catholic values of human dignity, justice and solidarity into our broader society. Instead, the potential appointment of Barrett confirms what many in our country, and church already know: the Catholic Church is unwilling to fully and authentically confront its white supremacy.” I know this is a big question and we could go on for another hour talking just about this question in particular, but can you tell me in brief about what the white supremacy problem of Catholicism looks like?
Olga Marina Segura: Oh, absolutely. And I will try to be brief, because this is one of my favorite things to rant and write about. So I think people get really caught up when they hear the term white supremacy. And in regards to the Catholic Church, I think the instinct tends to be, no, no, the church can’t possibly be racist. The church can’t possibly be white supremacist. But I like to remind people is and I mentioned this in my piece, the Catholic Church in the United States is an institution like every other institution in this country, which means this was a church, this was an institution born out of slavery. This was an institution born out of the racial capitalism that was born in this country, that has continued to oppress Black and brown and indigenous and other marginalized communities since this nation was born. And the church has been—Shannen Dee Williams is a Black Catholic historian who does a wonderful job of really contextualizing this for us, and she talks often about how the church introduced slavery into the United States even before the 1600’s, right? We had bishops who owned enslaved persons. We had religious orders who— Georgetown, the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits who ran Georgetown—people who sold enslaved Black men, women and children just to save a Catholic institution, right? We know that there was segregation in the 1950s and ’60s in Catholic schools, Catholic churches. In 2020, we are seeing leaders in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who are calling the Black Lives Matter movement really derogatory, borderline racist, xenophobic things. You know? So I think when people say, when I talk about the white supremacy problem in the church, that’s it. Right? Like the Church’s entire history, the Church’s entire timeline in America has been shaped by chattel slavery, by the institution of chattel slavery, and the Church has never fully grappled with that. The Church has never publicly and consistently apologized. Right? Because I think atonement and forgiveness is a continuous process and the Church has not done that. The Church has instead chosen to rally behind women like Barrett, women who uphold this idea of what American Catholicism truly is, which is whiteness, which is white privilege. That is what the Church—and when I say Church, and institutional Church, I’m talking about the Catholicism we see in mainstream. Right? I think that that is still very, very white. And until we become a Church that truly centers marginalized communities, we are always going to be a Church that is that has internalized white supremacy.
Phillip Picardi: In a more modern context, I’m wondering if you can help me understand what other roles Catholicism plays in American politics. In other words, how has the Church been a mighty political force, and for what causes in particular?
Olga Marina Segura: Right, right. I think that’s a really, really great question, Phillip, because you and I know exactly what causes we’re talking about.
Phillip Picardi: Sure do.
Olga Marina Segura: So to back up a little bit, since 2004, every presidential election has had a Catholic candidate that has run for office. We haven’t had a Catholic president, Biden would be would be the second person only in American history. So even from that regard, the Catholic Church has been very plugged in politically, has had very political politicians and candidates who run for office. The Catholic Church also has a lot of money that they allocate to very specific causes and those causes tend to be things that are against LGBT issues, things that are against abortion, things that are against contraception. On the other hand, the Church is very involved in things like immigration. They love, immigration is the one issue where they rally behind and they do a lot of really wonderful work. But the reality is that the Church and all of its resources, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has actual documents like the Faithful Citizenship Document that tells people how to vote and what issues to think about. Right? I think a lot of the bishops this year are like, well, you know, we cannot get involved, we can’t tell people which candidates to vote for, but we’ll tell them how to vote. Right? And they tell us to prioritize things like being anti-abortion, being against contraception, being against same-sex marriage. Right? So these are, the Church has used since its birth, has used most of its resources to really, really rally behind things that oppressed those in the LGBT community, those, those in the Black community. This is, this is the reality of the American Church. The Church has used its resources and its political power in this way.
Phillip Picardi: To say nothing of the role the church played in suppressing and further marginalizing and limiting the religious freedom of indigenous people in America in particular. And I’m sure this podcast will eventually address that issue with the dedicated episode. Also, I wanted to point out that this is a global issue, right? That the Catholic Church all over the world is still blocking reproductive justice access for people. It’s preventing same-sex couples from being able to adopt. It’s refusing services to visibly queer people, whether that’s homeless shelters or what have you. It’s withholding contraception from people as a method of prevention. And the Catholic Church is still getting entangled with local governments to enact pro-Catholic doctrine. You know, and so I think when we talk about Catholicism, we do have to talk to your point about divorcing the institution of the Church from the faith. I do think they are on two different paths, right?
Olga Marina Segura: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I love the way that you said that. I think that there needs to be this actual divorce that happens. I think right now the institutional Church sees itself as a very Christ-centered institution that really embodies Jesus’s call in the gospel and is really committed to social justice. But the reality is that that’s not what the Church’s role is in the 21st century. And I like to say, I follow Jesus, I follow God, I do not follow the Catholic Church because honestly, manmade institutions are going to continue to keep failing the faithful, especially in 2020. We’re seeing so many bishops who are openly critical of anti-racism protests. We’ve seen in recent years gay teachers who are fired from Catholic institutions. Meanwhile, heterosexual couples who live together before marriage, there is nothing that is told against them. So I think that until we divorce this, until we separate whiteness from the institutional church, we are never going to be the ally and the, we will never be an institution that’s actually in solidarity with marginalized communities. And I think the Church sees itself in a very weird way that’s not actually the reality of what the Church actually is. To so many people who are outside of the Catholic Church in my life, everyone sees the Church as a very xenophobic, homophobic, racist institution. And I think until leaders start to do actual work and actually start to grapple with issues that are happening and the issues that marginalized people actually care about, the Catholic Church is never going to be an ally. It’s never going to be a place where people feel safe.
Phillip Picardi: So in your opinion, you think it’s fair to have concern that Judge Barrett’s allegiance to the Catholic Church as in the institution of the Church, but I understand that you still identify as Catholic yourself, is that right?
Olga Marina Segura: Yes. Yes, correct. I do.
Phillip Picardi: Can I just ask you why?
Olga Marina Segura: Phillip, that’s a wonderful question, because I get that question a lot from my fiancée. He is Protestant and he is just like, look, all of these issues, just come join me, leave the Catholic Church. And honestly, that is something that I have been struggling with a lot in particular this year. I think that I have clung to my faith. I have clung to all of the beautiful elements of my Catholic education, of working in Catholic media that have really made me the writer and thinker that I am today. But on the other hand, I also see firsthand how unwilling this Church seems to be when it comes to things like racial justice, LGBT issues. The Church, to me, for example, their unwillingness to even opine on the Black Lives Matter movement, to me that tells me, oh, you don’t care about a Black Catholic immigrant like me, you only care about your donors. Right? You only care about people who look like Barrett. And I think what keeps me in the Church, as I mentioned earlier there, is the institutional Church, right, and I think it’s just reminding myself that the things that make me Catholic are not what these white men in leadership positions in the church define as Catholicism. Catholicism to me is my immigrant mother, my immigrant father, who have been working since they arrived in New York in the ’90s and have had multiple jobs, many jobs that have not been called dignified, quote unquote, in American, in the American conscientiousness or whatever you want to call it. To me, people who look like me are what keep me in the Church and who show me that Catholicism and what I love about this faith is not in the sacraments, is not in going to mass, it’s not in these bishops—it’s in people who are actually going to the margins, people who are making room for those in the LGBT community, people who are fighting on the streets in Black Lives Matter marches. Those are people who show me what it is to live my faith. And to me, that’s why I stay Catholic.
Phillip Picardi: That was really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure that there are so many people, you know, I often get called on this podcast, I get called a hater for my critiques of Catholicism. Right? I grew up, you know, a homosexual within the Catholic Church and with very Catholic upbringing and a Catholic schooling, and so I feel you. I felt that tension for so much of my life. I also felt a sort of rejection from God because of the Catholic Church right? And so as a kid, as an adolescent, I was not able to be, I guess, aware enough to divorce the Church from God. So I thought they were all the same. I thought these men who were in these robes were the living examples of God. And so therefore I thought that I was a less than the people around me, right? And it is a hard thing to grapple with. And I ultimately walked away because I didn’t have the, I didn’t have the wherewithal that I think you’re demonstrating right now. And I think that’s really a powerful thing. And I really respect your decision to stay and your willingness to keep fighting. I think it’s a really powerful thing. On that note, I’m wondering if you have any words of advice for Catholics who are feeling similarly conflicted about, like watching these confirmation hearings and watching this woman masquerade as a devout Catholic, you know, when she’s not actually living the values of Christianity. You know, what is there to do that’s not about leaving the Church or their Church communities that they value so much?
Olga Marina Segura: Yeah, I think that’s a really wonderful question. And I think it’s that tension—I just want to backtrack a littl—that tension that you shared and that sense of rejection that the Church makes a lot of people feel is very real and it’s so very real in 2020. And I think one of the things that I like to tell people and this is, this is repetitive because they’ve said this already—it’s reminding yourself that the Church is not these white men. Because honestly, if we were going to center our faith around these white celibate men, we would not say in this Church. Right? Like that is not a realistic depiction of what the faith, of what Christianity more broadly should be, right? I think what I tell people is look for examples inside and outside of the Catholic Church. Because to be perfectly honest, there are people who are showing me what it means to be Catholic who are not even in the Church anymore. Like an example of that is I got to interview Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too movement a couple of years ago, and she was raised in the Catholic Church and no longer identifies as Catholic. But she, to me, is someone who literally embodies what Christian leadership, what Catholic leadership should be. Not Dolen, not all of these bishops who are really, who thinly veil their bigotry and their sexism. Look for women like Tarana Burke, women like Shannen Dee Williams, Black women who are literally giving us the blueprint to be, not just better Christians, just to be better human beings. So that’s what I tell people. I look for the example of other amazing Black Christian faithful women who are showing me what it is to actually live a Christ-like life, right? Because I fully believe that we are called to create, to affirm people who have less than us. I really believe that we are called to radically transform the world and to do it with love, and to fight for liberation. But the church isn’t doing that. Black women are the ones who are doing that, consistently have been the women who have saved this country time and time again, and who will save this church. So to me, what I say is look for Black women for the blueprint. They literally have, are the ones who keep me in the Church and who show me what it is to be a citizen in America. At a time when this country is extremely screwed up, they help me to stay hopeful and to just know that it’s not all for nothing.
Phillip Picardi: Very, very well said. Olga, thank you so much for being here with me today. I really appreciate it.
Olga Marina Segura: Thank you so much, Phillip. It was wonderful to join you and to just chat.
Phillip Picardi: That’s all for our show today. If you like what you hear, please subscribe, leave a review and write a letter to Mitch McConnell demanding that he resign, bitch! And don’t forget, one of the only fighting chances we have against these absolute monsters is if we vote them out. Make sure you have a voting plan and know what’s at stake on your ballot by visiting votesaveamerica dot org. We’re basically two weeks away y’all. Make them count by being counted.
Unholier Than Thou is a Crooked Media production. Elisa Gutierrez is our producer, with production support from Reuben Davis. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa. The show is executive produced by me, Lyra Smith and Sarah Geismer. Thanks for listening.