Thursday, December 29, 2005

Papal PR

The Washington Blade, the D.C. gay newspaper, has named Pope B16 as the "anti-gay person the year." Ouch. Along with a damning story, the article has a sidebar on Ratzinger-Benedict's written record on homosexuality. It certainly looks ugly all lined up like that. And the story doesn't even mention the 1999 sanctions against Sister Jeanine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent for their work with News Ways Ministry, a ministry for gay Catholics and their families that struggled mightily to stay within the increasingly narrow bounds of church teaching.

My posts on the document banning gay priests should make my views on this matter clear: The church's current teaching and practice is punitive, unnecessarily harsh, and lacks proper recourse to modern psychological data about sexual orientation in general and homosexuality in particular. It also generally forgets that there are many Catholics who are gay and lesbian, as well as many gay priests, religious, and lay people who have been faithfully serving the people of God for centuries. And I think it's legit for gay folks in general and gay Catholics in particular to feel abandoned, angry, persecuted, and misunderstood--and to put those feelings into print and action, as well as to oppose Vatican interventions into the secular political sphere.

At the same time, I'm not sure if hyperbole helps here. Take the comments of one "lesbian Catholic activist" associated with Soulforce: "His rhetoric is obscene. He wants gays clearly taken care of — it’s almost like the Final Solution." The Final Solution? Perhaps I'm accustomed to Vatican abuse, but that's a little over the top.

But it's hard to deny that in the popular imagination the Catholic church is "against" gays: It opposes gay marriage and even domestic partnership benefits (like spousal health insurance), adoption by same-sex couples; at times it opposes the inclusion of sexual orientation in non-discrimination laws (even those that exempt religious organizations); and Catholic parishes and dioceses have fired gay employees for that reason only (though I doubt there is a diocesan chancery without a gay employee). No amount of asserting the Catechism's teaching that homosexuals must be accepted with compassion and sensitivity can trump the systematic resistance to almost any advancement of the secular civil rights of gay and lesbian people.

I think the tide may be turning though: The recent document on gay priests landed with a thud; it had few defenders, many mainstream detractors, and a huge number of spin doctors that tried to neutralize it. That may come to nothing, but one hopes that we've turned a corner. But I grant that I'm probably being unrealistically optimistic.

Unless Catholics really want the world to think that "the church"--we baptized--are "against" gay people... But I don't think God is, and I don't think Catholics should be either.

3 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Blogger David said...

This is a little funny. I am a Catholic man who lives with same sex attraction and who used to self-define as gay and I hope the Church never changes is stance towards homosexual sex, same sex marriage and many of the other goals that the self-identified gay rights movement sets for itself and for our society.

Please don't forget that the context for the Church's teaching on homosexuality and homosexual practice over the year includes:

1) the fact that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God with an eternal destiny;

2) the fact that men and women living with same sex attraction cannot be reduced to nothing more than the sum of our temptations;

3) that men and women living with same sex attraction can cooperate with God's grace to live lives of virtue and thus attain heaven through the power and Grace of Jesus Christ;

4) that people living with same sex attraction remain people who live with free will and the ability to freely choose their actions. No one has to have sex to live and heck, we don't actually have to have sex to have emotionally intimate friendships in our lives either.

Every week now I meet a few more Catholic men and women who made the same choice I did 11 years ago now, a choice for Christ and for making Him the focus and hope of my life and to live according to following Him and not according to the way the world said I should live, and its great.

Finally, one thing about the priest document. I am also not thrilled with its language, but it has had the unexpected and, from my point of view, salutary effect of drawing out some of the clerics and their supporters who do not support or live by the Church's teaching and have not done so in years. I don't think it's too much for the Church to ask that her priests live by what she teaches and if self-defining as gay gets in the way of doing that - and for some priests that appears to be true - then I don't think they need to be priests. That sounds harsh, but I don't need any more priests telling people living with same sex attraction in the confessional that all they really need to do is to find a lover.

 
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