Monday, December 21, 2009

The Politics of "Charity."

Non-profit charitable organizations are granted tax-exempt status by the people of America through our elected government. The reason for granting charitable organizations tax-exempt status is so that they can use those funds to provide charitable services. To feed the hungry, cloth the naked, house the poor, heal the sick and provide for education.

When charitable institutions willfully abandon charitable activities, our government should reexamine their tax-exempt status. Taxes should be imposed on those institutions and the funds collected should, then be used to help the needy. This may be done through governmental social service agencies, or other legitimate non-profit charitable organizations. In this way, the poor, homeless, sick and needy will not be left without help. Those who are in greatest need, who have nowhere else to turn, should not be used as bargaining chips by non profit organizations. Non profit organizations which are financially subsidized (through tax-exempt status) by the people of this nation. It is an immoral offense against the needy to hold them as hostages. It constitutes a violation of the public’s trust and a sin against the God who these institutions claim to serve. Incredibly, this is what is happening in Michigan and in Washington, DC.

No religious group is required to grant religious marriage to anyone. The Catholic Church does not grant religious marriage to people who are divorced and wish to remarry (unless they are granted an annulment by the Church). Society; however, does grant anyone who has divorced the right to a new civil marriage. Likewise, no religious group will be required to grant a same sex couple a religious marriage; however, civil marriage is now granted to same sex couples by various nations and some U.S. states. It is no more the business of a religion to dictate to government what may constitute a civil marriage, than it is for a government to dictate to a religion what may constitute a religious marriage.

The late Ayatollah Khomeini called America “The Great Satan.” He accused us of this because we are the first government on earth NOT to have an established religion. The founding fathers learned, from the Thirty Years War in Europe and the religious persecutions both on the European continent and in England, the stupidity of trying to impose a religion on a nation. Sadly, religious fanatics will always attempt to do what God does not do, they attempt to force others to accept their beliefs.

This has been most recently illustrated in the immoral example of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Archbishop Wuerl has issued a de facto ultimatum to the government. He threatens a suspension of charitable services to the homeless unless his demands are met. His demands!? My dear Archbishop, the Papal States became extinct in 1870. You are living in the United States of America and we have elections in which the people select who will govern. Neither you, Archbishop nor your superior were elected to conduct our civil government.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A contemporary Christmas Carol

Several months ago I came home around mid-day and as I got out of my car, I saw my neighbor standing at his door looking my way. Before I could speak, he asked me “Can you help me?” I said “sure” thinking that he wanted help moving a piece of furniture. What do you need, I asked. He answered saying, “I can’t breathe and I’ve called 911, will you show them into the house for me?” Good God! Lay down on the sofa, I will watch for them. What happened?

My neighbor, it turns out, has a heart condition. He also suffers from diabetes and is a considerably overweight 50-year-old widower whose children live out of state. His breathing seemed erratic and I was afraid that the paramedics might be too late. I asked him what prescriptions and medications he had taken, knowing that he might not be conscious when the ambulance arrived and that the medical personnel would need that information. I made him as comfortable as possible and stood at the door looking for the paramedics to make sure they came to the right house. Just then, another neighbor pulled up, it was Tracy who is a nurse. I exclaimed God sent you and quickly explained what was happening.

Tracy rushed in, checked on Kevin and then, ran upstairs to collect Kevin’s considerable prescriptions from his medicine cabinet. It turned out that the four bottles of prescriptions he had downstairs were but a fraction of his total prescriptions. At that moment, the paramedics arrived and began their work. After a methodical, but rapid assessment, they began to prepare the gurney and asked Kevin to remove his shirt so they could situate him on the gurney. Tracy prepared a bag with Kevin’s prescription medications and a few toiletries and some clothing for Kevin’s stay in the hospital. Kevin began to protest and said he did not want to be taken to the hospital.

I looked at him incredulously. One of the paramedics took his heart rate again and explained that they could not leave him at home in his condition. He explained as gently, but as firmly as possible, that Kevin’s condition was life threatening and that unassisted, Kevin might die. Finally, Kevin consented and was loaded into the ambulance. In the aftermath, I asked Tracy “Why was he so adamant about not going to the hospital?” Tracy explained in one very short and devastating sentence. “He doesn’t have health care insurance and he can’t afford the ambulance and a hospital stay.”

Six weeks ago Terry, a 48 year old unemployed cinematographer died. He died from complications of swine flu and an undiagnosed condition. Terry, unknown to him, had diabetes. Since he did not have health insurance, he had not had a physical in several years and was unaware of his condition. When he came down with the flu, he simply stopped doing his freelance work and went to bed. He tried overcoming his flu with over-the-counter drugs and when he got very seriously ill, he finally went to a doctor. The doctor immediately had Terry hospitalized and put on a ventilator, but it was too late. Terry died.

Today, the headline on the Huffington Post read “Public Option: RIP.” Over the last many months, I have followed the debates and the political process regarding health care legislation. As part of that, I have been scandalized by the fact that many of our senators and members of Congress have received obscenely huge amounts of financial “contributions” from private Heath Care Insurance companies. If this happened in a third world country, many Americans would correctly call it bribery. As if we are morally superior and somehow immune to that in this country because of our political system. Jay Leno once quipped that Congress is the only whorehouse in America that does not make money. Normally that would be funny, but it is hard to laugh when you are attending funerals of people who died needlessly, so that Senator Lieberman and many of his colleagues can live in luxury. As a clarification, I would never dream of referring to Senator Joe Lieberman as “a whore.” After all, a whore actually gives you something of value for your money and there are some things that a whore would never do for money.

I have read many comments that people have posted in response to articles on the Health Care issue. One of the most offensive was a person explaining that he had health care insurance and that he did not want to lose his great policy and be put onto a public option. Aside from the fact that this person was misinformed regarding the public option, this betrays a total disregard for the suffering a vast number of uninsured (and uninsurable) people. Dickens in his famous work “A Christmas Carol” has Scrooge state of those who would die in England due to poverty “Good! Let them reduce the surplice population!” Dickens wrote his work as a searing critique of a “Christian society” that understood “morality” as something pertaining only to the use/non-use of one’s genitalia. They seemed to have forgotten that God actually expects each of us to be our brother and sister’s keeper.

As a society, we have made wealth our national god and greed our national religion. American corporations have plundered third world countries to provide “bargains” for American consumers. When I was a boy, there was a popular ad on television with a jingle that said, “Look for the Union label.” The union label meant living wages for workers. Americans forgot that and instead looked at the price tag to determine what they bought. This national blind greed has been rewarded by American corporations that have out-sourced American jobs overseas to lower product cost and increase quarterly profit margins.

American citizens are rapidly approaching a third world standard of living. The once “middle class” is rapidly shrinking leaving an ever growing unemployed and underemployed class of poor people and a very small wealthy elite. As for our elected representatives in Washington DC, well we Americans have the best government that money can buy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Will America become a Fundamentalist "Republic?"

Why is religion so anti-gay? I was asked this question recently on the heals of Uganda passing legislation which makes homosexuality a capital offense. The short answer is that a superficial reading of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures clearly gives the impression that homosexuality is forbidden by God. This has affected the stance towards homosexual persons by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Within each of those traditions there exist literalists (who see the written word as THE law) and progressives (who look beyond the written text and seek understanding of the Divine intent.)

There is a comprehensible repulsion towards and rejection of organized religion by many LGBT people. Many LGBT people have found themselves the victims of verbal, emotional/psychological and physical abuse due to religious organizations. Heads of religious organizations have publicly condemned homosexuals as being both reprobate and representing a moral danger to society. The result of such teachings and preaching has been to create a culture of hatred towards individuals who are homosexuals.

It is important here to pause and recall that the pink triangle, which has become a symbol for LGBT people, was in fact assigned to us in order to target us for abuse and genocide. The Nazis were not an organized religion, but a secular political party. Under Joseph Stalin in the former Soviet Union, an officially atheist state, homosexuals were also targeted for abuse, imprisonment and death. We fared little better under Chairman Mao and his officially atheist regime. The point here is that we are a minority and have been, like other minorities, always held as “suspect” by the ruling elite.

It is therefore an error of logic to deduce that the problem is “religion.” The problem is the desire of social and political elites to control others through homogeneity. The great contribution and arguably the genius of Western Civilization has been the concept of limiting the power of government. Magna Carta, the establishment of representative governance and the elimination autocracy were hard fought battles to establish protection of individuals and their rights. All of these represent a movement towards limiting the power and control of the state (elite) over individuals in society. Toleration, pluralism, and in short greater respect for individual rights and human dignity are the legacy offered us by those who have thrown off the yoke of tyranny.

Although these human rights are innate and self-evident, sadly they are not guaranteed. There have always been and will always be individuals and groups who will seek to seize political control and reshape society/culture to create their utopian ideal. If individuals and their rights are trampled in the process, so be it. Homogeneity of thought, behavior and of society (the world?) were the dreams of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Taliban and Christian fundamentalists (both Protestant and Catholic). LGBT people, like people possessing recessive genetic traits, will always constitute a numerical minority within any society. We simply don’t “fit in.” The Japanese have a saying “The nail that juts up must be pounded flush.”

LGBT people have been targeted in Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and most recently in Atheist societies. In fundamentalist thought, we represent an exception and therefore a threat to homogeneity. We are the “nail” that juts up, we constitute a living challenge to a “one size fits all” social order and to those who would control that social order. We should not be surprised to see this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show.

We should however be angry and appalled, because this republic was established precisely in opposition to such social tyranny. We should be alarmed because infectious and cancerous ideologies have arisen countless times in human history. These attempts at utopia have inflicted incalculable human suffering and cost innumerable innocent human lives. At the beginning of the 21st century religious fundamentalism has imposed itself in various nations. We need to WAKE-UP and realize that we are not merely fighting for our civil rights we are fighting for our lives. We need to understand that anti-LGBT language of Rick Warren, Cardinal Barragan, and the signatories of the "Manhattan Declaration" does not merely end with the denial of the right to civil marriage for same sex couples. Its logical conclusion are draconian laws like those passed in Uganda.

What can you do?

1) Write a personal letter to your senator, congressional representative and to the President. Ask them to impose diplomatic sanctions and an economic embargo on Uganda until these genocidal laws are repealed. Ask three of your friends to do the same.

2) Write to the Secretary of State and to the Department of Justice and ask them to investigate American citizens who have encouraged Ugandan officials to enact these genocidal laws.

3) If you have investments, divest from any company doing business with Uganda. Ask three of your friends to do the same.

4) If you are clergy, prepare a sermon in which you explain what is happening in Uganda. Ask your congregants to execute the three points listed above.

5) Father Tony has asked me to include the following link. If you are Catholic this provides you with yet an additional thing which you may do to fight the forces of bigotry.

6) Visit the website Church Outing and expose those who publicly attack LGBT civil rights from the pulpit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The question of outing priests.

Regardless of what position you personally may hold in the question of “outing” priests, I think it laudable that there is a considered and lively discussion within the LGBT community, of both the ethical concerns owed to individuals and the demands of justice. I am grateful to all of you who took the time to write comments on my posts. Some of those comments were supportive of concerns which I voiced and some were challenging of those comments. However, all comments were both helpful and valued.

This is a matter which will affect many people both personally and profoundly, so it needs to be treated very carefully. At the same time, LGBT people have struggled for decades and many have actually lost their lives, in an attempt to simply be able to be. To be able to live free from socially imposed shame. Free to live without fear of verbal, emotional, physical abuse and discrimination at the work place and in housing. As I write these words I am painfully cognizant that there are those in this society, and internationally, who would very much like to see us exterminated, or at least made to live invisible and fear filled lives.

This past week alone, the parliament of Uganda considered legislation which would make being a homosexual in that country punishable by life imprisonment and/or death. Cardinal Barragan announced that “homosexuals and transgendered will not go to heaven.” The cardinal’s statement is presumptuous assuming only God can judge individuals; however, such statements engender and encourage both bigotry and hate crimes here on Earth. Many Catholics commenting on the cardinal’s statement have stated that the cardinal does not represent the “official” teachings of the Church on this matter. This is technically accurate. However, if he had stated that “contraception is morally permissible for good Catholics” he would have been instantly reprimanded by Benedict XVI or his representative.

The cardinal would have been forced to make a public retraction of his statement along with a public apology. Please note that the Pope has not reacted to the cardinal’s theologically inaccurate and inflammatory statement. The silence and inaction of the Pope regarding the cardinal therefore, must be interpreted as the cardinal speaking in place of the Pope. This is a way in which Benedict XVI can effect change without actually personally declaring a change of policy. This taken in conjunction with many prominent Roman Catholic bishops signing the Manhattan Declaration, without any correction from the Vatican, clearly denotes a new much more aggressive stance against LGBT minorities by Benedict XVI. It also reveals an intention on the part of Benedict XVI to try and dictate civil law in America and elsewhere.

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has changed its position on the question of homosexual people. It has done so twice in the last 39 years. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” That statement was made towards the end of the Papacy of Paul VI and it reflected new insights gained from the science of psychology. Theologians informed by the human science and pastoral experience came to the realization that St. Paul’s statements regarding homosexuality where the product of scientific errors and social prejudices of his time. St. Paul’s statements regarding homosexuality were not revealed truths, but rather the product of the human limitations of an inspired author of Scripture.

This radical change in the understanding of homosexuality in the Scriptures opened the way to a new sensitivity towards homosexual persons which sought to offer them pastoral support to assist them in creating and sustaining life affirming relationships. These new theological insights were made possible both by the advances in human science and by the Second Vatican Council which was for the Roman Catholic Church a “second Pentecost.”

All of this began to change under the papacy of John Paul II in 1978. One of the changes mandated by the Second Vatican was the creation of a new code of Canon [Church] law. The new code was promulgated in the mid 1980’s. John Paul II personally edited the new code’s law on marriage. As originally written, the law was gender neutral leaving the very real possibility that it could be applied to same sex couples. John Paul II personally altered the language to read so that it could only be applied to opposite sex couples.

As John Paul’s papacy continued he used the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), as an enforcer to crack down on bishops who offered pastoral support to homosexual people. Most notable the Hunthausen intervention in Seattle, in which Donald Wuerl was used as an instrument of Ratzinger to force the Archbishop of Seattle to abandon his pastoral services to LGBT people. The same heavy handed approach forced Archbishop Quinn of San Francisco into a nervous breakdown and an early retirement. Quinn was replaced by William Levada who greatly limited and/or dismantled LGBT ministries in San Francisco. This earned Levada a promotion to cardinal and a new job as head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Beginning with the papacy of John Paul II and continuing with the papacy of Benedict XVI, the Roman Catholic Church has effected a reversal of the papacy of Paul VI. This reversal is an about-face on several issues. Some of these include an aperture to the ordination of women, the autonomy of Catholic Universities from hierarchical control (John Paul II dictated that the discussion of the ordination of women, even by university professors with their students was forbidden), the question of mandatory celibacy for priestly ordination, the pastoral care of homosexual Catholics and of the ecclesiological changes initiated at the Second Vatican Council. The Council had envisioned a collaborative governing relationship between individual bishops and the pope. The reality created by John Paul II and Benedict XVI is a highly centralized monarchical system in which individual bishops are little more than subordinate branch managers.

In a theology of Liberation, Gustavo Gutierrez and Leonardo Boff speak of systemic injustice. Essentially what he means by the term is that a particular institution/system so stacks the deck against justice that it itself must be radically changed for justice to stand any chance at being realized. Boff continues to be a controversial figure in the Catholic Church, primarily for his sharp criticism of the church's hierarchy, which he sees as "fundamentalist" ("A cardinal like J. Ratzinger, who publishes an official paper stating that the only true Church is the Catholic Church, and the others aren't even churches, that the only legitimate religion is Catholicism and the others don't even possess a faith, being just beliefs, perpetrates religious terrorism, besides being a grave theological error".) It appears that under Ratzinger (the Roman Catholic Church has reached that point. Many within the Church wait for the next Conclave [election of a new pope] with the hope that another John XXIII will be sent to us by the Holy Spirit. That the errors of Ratzinger will be revisited and corrected. That the work begun at the Second Vatican Council will be taken up again and brought to completion.

Henri Belloc wrote that “hope is a light diet, but very sustaining.” That is an inspiring and noble sentiment; however, St. Augustine said “Pray as if all depends on God, but act as if all depends on you.” This brings us to the question of “priest outing” as a tool for forcing change not merely “in” the Church; but rather, “of” the Church. If forced outing of a large percentage of priests were to occur it would shake the Church to its very core. It would be covered by the news media and therefore, in the consciousness of lay Catholics. It would expose not the tortured lives of individual priests; but rather, the hypocrisy of the hierarchy who are not merely complicit in these myriad of double-lives but, are part of a system which benefits (in wealth and power) from such a monstrous arrangement.

Outing anyone is a touchy issue. Being forced out against one’s will, even when done with the most selfless and pure motives, even when it is done out of love for the one being forced out, is suspect. As I considered this issue I suddenly remembered my first day of school. I was a small child and I vividly remember that morning. After breakfast Mom bundled me up and gave me my cigar box with my school supplies. She then kissed me, opened the front door of the house and gently forced me out. I was crying terribly, I didn’t want to leave home. I thought Mom was being cruel. There I stood on the front porch with my cigar box and then, I started to walk up the hill towards school. I made new friends, I learned wonderful things and I got to use my crayons and color outside the lines. Mom knew that I’d be safe. She knew that this would help me grow and be happy. Are these the motives of people who out someone else?

I had the opportunity to have an extended telephone conversation with the founder of I was very relieved and encouraged both by his warmth and genuine concern for individual priests. I believe that his motives towards priests is wholesome. If what he is attempting succeeds, I believe it will be a liberation both for many priests and for the greater Church. May God grant him the wisdom of Solomon and the charity of St. Francis, he’ll need both. In speaking with a former priest two days ago, he suggested the formation of spiritual support groups for priests and perhaps even a program to help those leaving active ministry to transition into secular society and jobs. All of these are good thoughts, hopefully they will materialize into helpful realities. I would invite Catholic legislators to seriously look at exemptions which have been given to the institutional Church. While many of these exemptions were granted out of charity towards the Church, many of them are in fact tyrannies imposed on individual priests. For example, laws which permit bishops to strip a priest of a pension, should he leave active ministry after decades of service. Laws which exempt priests from the protection of labor laws.

Public outings of priests in various dioceses would force the hierarchy to reconsider many of their public statements and policies. It would cause the general public to view statements by the hierarchy on sexual morality with greater scrutiny. It would undermine the ability of bishops to usurp the role of politicians by dictating how they are to vote. A bishop’s place is in the sanctuary not the halls of government.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roman Culture of Death

Last evening I watched the following segment of the Rachel Maddow Show with horror.

The three fundamentalists who lobbied the government of Uganda to write laws, which target homosexual people for death, are reminiscent of the 1937 Nuremberg laws of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Laws are the codified mores of a people. If you want to know what a society’s values are, read their law codes. Like Hitler’s Nuremberg laws, they effectively disenfranchise and dehumanize a minority within society. They send an unmistakable signal that it is permissible to discriminate against, insult, assault, and even murder a despised group.

Laws are not passed overnight. It takes time to alter values such as “Thou shall not kill.” It took the Nazis four years to move the German people to embrace and support the Nuremberg laws. In 1938 when Germany annexed Austria, Hitler was delighted that the Austrian people took only weeks to embrace the Nuremberg laws enthusiastically. After the invasion and occupation of France in 1940, Hitler was upset that the French were more anti-Semitic than the Germans.

The comparably rapid embrace of hatred of Jews by Austrians and the French was possible, not because these people were morally defective; but rather, because they had been desensitized and socially pre-conditioned by a stream of hateful propaganda against Jews. While the Nazis amplified and promoted much of this, much of it was already present in European culture. What created and fed those cultural prejudices? The late Pope John Paul II apologized to the Jewish people on behalf of the Church. He apologized for the Church’s role of inculcating and nurturing this anti-Semitism through hateful references to “the Jews” in Catholic Holy Week services, religious plays, etc.

There was considerable controversy a few years ago with the release of the film “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson. The script was a slavishly literal use of the passion narrative taken verbatim from the Gospel. Such a literalist reading of the Scriptures fails to explain the nuances that would be known to anyone doing a serious exegesis of those passages. Contemporary filmgoers, unfamiliar with intricate historical, political, theological and scriptural commentaries; were presented with graphic depictions of physical abuse and violence visited upon Jesus. The audience was left to draw the conclusion that this evil was done “by the Jews!” It was precisely this sort of depiction, which promotes and inflames hatred, for which the late Pope John Paul II apologized to the Jewish people.

Religion forms culture. If you want to understand the culture of the Middle East, Israel, Tibet, or Europe /the Americas, you must first understand Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or Christianity. Hitler and his Nazi Party simply cashed in on European culture. The Nazis were the product of ignorance, fear, myths, stereotypes, and hatred created by popular Christianity. Hitler simply proceeded to the logical conclusion that this despicable group must be cleansed from society and thereby society would be “saved.” Of course, an angry mob with pitchforks and torches requires some one to direct its actions. The place of the Nazi Party was secured as the guardians of society and the arbitrators of purity. Their “pay-off” was power, wealth and control. The cost? The suffering and death of countless innocent human beings.

The last several years have seen a decided up turn in the amount and virulence of anti-LGBT language and political action coming from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. They have quietly orchestrated the stripping from same sex couples of the civil right of marriage. They have done this in California by backing Proposition 8 and in Maine by backing Question 1. Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington DC, has threatened to suspend services to the poor and homeless if the District of Columbia extended same sex couples the legal right to a civil marriage. Several prominent US Catholic bishops have signed the “Manhattan Declaration” in which they threaten to disobey American civil laws that grant same sex couples civil marriage. The papal spokesperson Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls encouraged Spanish citizens to disobey civil laws in that nation, after the Spanish parliament granted same sex couples the right to civil marriage. Most recently, Cardinal Barragan announced that homosexuals and transgender people would not go to heaven.

What are the practical effects of all of these statements and actions by the hierarchy? Recall the young gay man who was murdered in Puerto Rico, simply for being gay. His murderer burned, decapitated and severed all four limbs from his victim’s lifeless body. I asked a psychologist “Why would someone do that to another human being?” The psychologist looked at me and said, “The answer may be found in your question, he wanted to de-humanize the gay victim.” The detective investigating the murder commented, “These [homosexual] people ask for this when they go out onto the street.” Where did the murder and the detective get the idea that it is acceptable to speak of and act towards gay people in such an inhuman manner?

Religion forms culture and Puerto Rico is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Most of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and the current pope has targeted LGBT people with a coordinated international campaign to strip them of civil rights and the protection of anti-discriminatory laws. They are using their privileged social and historic position to create what in their very narrow viewpoint is a “purer” Church and society. Perhaps Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) learned this repulsive lesson during his time spent as a member of the Hitler Youth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Priest outings, further reflections

I have received many comments regarding the article “Does the End Justify the Means?” which I posted on Tuesday 24 November 2009. Some people were grateful that I published this article and some people expressed mixed feelings and/or disapproval of what I wrote. The proposed outing of closeted gay priests raises serious questions both in terms of its efficacy as a strategy and of its ethics.

The questions of ethics aside, will the proposed strategy of outing gay priests be an effective means of forcing change and undermining the power of the hierarchy to attack LGBT people? Unless such outings were numerically significant enough to affect the Church on an operational level, no.

If every gay priest in the USA were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act this would create a crisis for the Catholic hierarchy. If every LGBT member of the US Armed Forces were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act, this would create a crisis for the Armed Forces. Is either of these scenarios probable, no.

What would be the probable effects of public outings of gay priests? In the short term, the hierarchy would most probably deploy permanent deacons to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services. There is already in place a ritual for “Eucharist in the absence of a priest.” In my diocese parishes were instructed to have lay people trained and prepared to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services if need demanded these. This in combination with the redistribution of clergy would insure continuing operation of all parish services.

In the long term, the hierarchy would probably step up the importation of priests from the Third World to fill the void left by ousted American priests. These imported priests tend to be theologically very conservative and would unquestioningly serve the interests of the hierarchy. They also come with an added bonus to the bishop, if he does not like them he can simply have their worker’s visa revoked. This would give the hierarchy even greater power to censor sermons and public comments made by priests.

Let us recall that the clergy pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church have left the hierarchy still firmly in control. You would have thought that such an inexcusable violation and sacrifice of innocent children by the hierarchy would have led to criminal prosecutions of bishops and strip the hierarchy of any moral authority. It did not. In comparison, a scandal revolving around gay priests who engage in adult consensual sexual affairs is a piece of cake.

The hierarchy could simply say, thank you very much for helping us to “clean house.” They would probably spin this, and they have already begun to do this, as an attempt by militant homosexuals to attack and undermine religious liberty. The hierarchy would spin this further to portray themselves as “martyrs” for speaking up for “morality.” They could accuse LGBT groups of resorting to extortion.

The fact that individuals would be forced into making public statements, against their will, in favor of marriage equality, would invalidate such statements both ethically and in the public’s perception. It could very quickly become a public relations nightmare for LGBT people and our struggle for marriage equality and other civil rights.

Do you recall the attempted extortion of David Letterman? Letterman reported the whole matter to the District Attorney’s Office and the extortionist in that case now faces criminal prosecution. Letterman’s ratings and popularity soared as a result of the attempted extortion, even though many of his sexual encounters involved subordinates at work and could be construed as unethical and possible incidents of sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the public reacted very strongly in his support and against the extortionist. No one likes to be blackmailed, period.

In my case, I freely made the decision to make a public statement against what was, and remains, an immoral abuse of power and a grotesque attack on a minority group by the hierarchy of the Church. If someone had attempted to blackmail me into making that statement, I would have done what David Letterman did. To make that statement under a cloud of extortion would invalidate the statement.

What then can be done to help effect real change on the part of the Catholic hierarchy?

1) Introduce and pass legislation that extends existing labor laws and employee protections to clergy. Catholic priests are currently considered “self-employed” this means they are not protected by labor laws and the bishop can terminate them at will. Granting clergy the right to appeal to the Labor Board will act as a curb on the unrestrained power of a bishop over his priests. This will put sympathetic priests in a much better position to be able to speak their consciences to their congregations.

2) Revoke tax exemption status to any religious organization that uses funds collected from its members to conduct political campaigns. This will force the hierarchy to think twice before they write large checks.

3) Expose members of the hierarchy, and signatories of the “Manhattan Declaration,” who do not live by the sexual standards that they are attempting to impose upon American Civil society. This is not extortion, since one is not issuing an ultimatum to these people but simply exposing their hypocrisy publicly. These are the people who are making executive level decisions that victimize the LGBT minority in our society.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Does the End justify the Means?

A website has been established called Church Outing. Their intention, along with their rationale for acquiring compromising information on Catholic priests is stated very clearly on the site’s web page, as follows:

“This site was created to provide you with the opportunity to save LGBT youth from the hypocrisy of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who are socially, romantically or sexually active gay men, yet stand silent while Archbishop Wuerl and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops increase their dogmatic war against gay families.  If you have information that a priest in the Archdiocese is gay (or having a heterosexual affair)  please share your story.”

I believe that there are issues which need to be carefully considered regarding this particular strategy. Church Outing states its goal as the following:

“We encourage every Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington DC, gay and straight, to stand up for what is right and to give your support for marriage equality in the District.  We ask you to stand with many other local leaders of faith who have already done so through the Clergy United for Marriage Equality pledge.

Read the Declaration
Sign the Declaration”

What would happen to any Catholic priest who signed a public declaration which is directly opposed to the teachings of the hierarchy of the Church? Once it came to the attention of his (Arch) bishop, the priest would be required to publicly retract his statement and publicly apologize for having made such a statement. If he failed to do so, he would be suspended as a priest and stripped of salary, heath care, housing, etc. In effect, he would be left destitute.

On the other hand if the priest complies with the demands of his (Arch) bishop, he then runs the risk of being publicly exposed. What this would mean in practical terms is that the priest would be removed from active ministry. He would most probably be sent to Saint Luke’s, an in-house psychological facility run by the Catholic Church for priests. There he would be treated for his “sexual addiction” and after a course of “treatment” be returned to active ministry as an assistant, under the watchful supervision of a superior. In effect, his career would be destroyed; however, he would still have a salary, housing, a car, health care, and retirement benefits.

When I made my public statement in opposition to Prop 8, I had many priests E-mail me and express both thanks and support. One of them said “I’d love to say what you said publicly, but I have a heart condition. If I made such a statement, I’d be on the street with no way to pay for my prescriptions or my doctors; I’d be dead in a year. Priests receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a four year Post Graduate degree in theology. Put that on a resume and apply for a job, especially in this economy.

Priest’s salaries and incomes are very carefully manipulated by the hierarchy to keep them in a state of indentured servitude. Retirement for priests is 75 years of age in my diocese. Priests are kept in a state of economic servitude by their bishops. You can begin to see why extremely few priests will make public statements of support for marriage equality. Gay priests fear that if they speak, they will find themselves abandoned by many of the people they serve and in some cases by their families.

The gay priests I have known, like many gay men, have only come to begin to accept their sexuality much later in life than their straight counterparts. In my experience most gay priests have been sensitive and supportive of their LGBT parishioners. Targeting priests who are struggling with their own sexuality will simply not work as a strategy. It will drive out of the active ministry many priests who are quietly working on behalf of LGBT people. It will drive many gay priests more deeply into the closet. It will drive some gay priests into greater self-loathing. It will strengthen the power of the hierarchy by providing them with “thought/conduct police” which will further intimidate priests. Finally, this strategy runs a serious risk of casting the LGBT movement as resorting to extortion. While it is understandable, that a society which grew up with Watergate may have grown cynical, we need to remember that the end does not justify the means. The means which we employ define who we become.

Deception, lies, promotion of myths, and encouragement of bigotry are all hallmarks of the California Yes on Prop 8 and Maine Yes on Question 1 campaigns. National Public Radio reports the FBI announced that hate crimes against LGBT people has increased by 10% in 2009 from 2008. I cannot sufficiently express my horror and revulsion that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is an accomplice to these despicable acts.

I fully empathize with the frustration and just anger of the people at Church Outing. However, if we permit ourselves to be seduced into following the morally corrupting and corrosive example of the Catholic hierarchy, to win at any cost, we may find that we become like them. Such a victory would be very hollow indeed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moral Authority?

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops meets this week in Baltimore, Maryland. Their number one priority is the creating and issuance of a “pastoral letter” to U.S. Catholics. The very tightly written pastoral lists four “dangers” to marriage, specifically: artificial birth control, cohabitation [outside of marriage], divorce and same sex marriage. The most amazing thing about this document is not its content, which is remarkable for various reasons, but rather, the fact that in substance the document was ready drafted before the bishops met and that they will dutifully sign off on that document.

The same group of men has been unable to agree upon the age for confirmation, not for months, not for years but for decades. Some bishops require confirmation of infants; some confirm grammar school children and some administer the sacrament of confirmation in late high school. They each have impassioned theological rationales for their divergent practices, but as a body, they have not been able to agree upon a common age for the administration of the sacrament nor, upon a common rationale/theology for administration of the sacrament at that particular age. Yet, on these four cardinal questions regarding marriage they are all of one mind and in only a matter of days. Amazing!

Canon Law, a code of thousands of specific laws that governs the life of the Church, mandates that in each (Arch) diocese the (Arch) bishop shall meet with his clergy once per year for convocation. Ostensibly, the purpose of these gatherings is for the bishop to dialogue with his pastors. They are to present the pastoral concerns of their individual parishes and together with the bishop, through prayer; discussion and reflection develop pastoral plans, procedures and thereby address the needs and concerns of the faithful. By logical extension, a meeting of the national conference of bishops is to act in a like manner.

Having attended twenty-three annual convocations in my own Diocese, under two different diocesan bishops, I can honestly say that the intent of convocation and its reality are two different things. What happens at real convocations is that the bishop sends out a schedule in which he pre-determines the subjects for discussion. Usually, there is a speaker, which the bishop has selected and approved, and the pastors/clergy are presented with a dog and pony show. Periodically, a “panacea d’ jour” which the bishop has selected and pre-approved is mandated for the entire diocese. Some of these have been “Renew” RCIA, a diocesan capital campaign to raise 27 million dollars (we raised 57 million in pledges) for four stated goals. The central goal was the construction of a youth center at the diocesan retreat house, which has yet to be built.

The point of all of this is that input into these pastoral decisions/theological questions is suppose to come from the faithful, through their pastors, to the bishop. The bishop and pastors/clergy are then to formulate a response and through servant leadership help to advance the spiritual growth and development of the diocese. One level up this is to happen at the regional level and then, on the national and international level. They say that it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks and apparently, this applies to the hierarchy of the church. Pope John XXIII tried; however, he was not yet even dead for one month when the bishops gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council moved, by acclamation, to declare him a Saint. The newly elected Pope Paul VI intervened, stopped the process and referred the question to the Roman Curia.

After the death of Pope Paul VI and the election of John Paul II and now, Benedict XVI Rome has been turning back the clock and imposing a monarchial form of church governance. A top down decision-making process in which the diocesan bishops are seen as little more than branch managers and enforcers of Rome‘s views. It is the current Pope and his Curia [Vatican bureaucracy] that dictate theologies and policies remotely. The laity are seen as mere subjects of the church. They are expected to conform their personal lives to the dictates of the current central administration. This is to be done without discussion or, question.

I feel sorry for the bishops who gathered this week to discuss the “pastoral” which they have been handed from on high. They will have more latitude in their selection of entrees at the catered meals than they did in the formulation and expression of the “pastoral” letter. If the demands of the “pastoral” were to have any credibility whatsoever, the question of the moral authority of the bishops has to be clarified. First, their own freedom in constructing the “pastoral” letter and secondly, their own moral competence on sexual ethics is called into question.

Before the bishops can make demands of Roman Catholic laity in the area of sexual ethics, they themselves have much work to do in this regard. The immediate resignation of any Archbishop, Bishop or Superior of a Religious Order who knowingly transferred pedophile priests from one assignment to another and thereby facilitated new incidences of pedophilia should be required. Beyond that first step, those bishops/superiors should be required to meet with victims/families and personally ask for forgiveness. It was the (Arch) bishop’s/Superior’s administrative decision that directly facilitated the victim to suffer. The bishops knew these priests were pedophiles. Justice demands that just compensation be made to those victims and their family members. A chain of accountability and clear procedures are required to prevent this sort of abuse in the future.

There remains the question of the knowledge and the complicity of the Vatican and the Pope himself in the sexual abuse scandal. At some point, this must be honestly addressed. Yes, the pedophile priests were the primary agents of abuse; however, their superiors became accomplices when they failed to use their authority to protect the children and their families. Arguably, this is the greater sin/crime since; they facilitated countless instances of pedophilia. Only when this is addressed, will the bishops and papacy begin to regain moral authority.

A troubling illustration of this monarchial form of moral ethics is to be found in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Wuerl has threatened to eliminate programs that help the homeless. He justifies his decision because, same sex couples are to be granted the right to civil marriage and their spouses would then receive spousal benefits. The Church would be legally required to pay benefits to spouses who are in marriages the Church considers illegitimate.

That churchmen who are commanded by Christ to serve the poor, hungry and needy would instead hold them hostage is a scandal. “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 44-45) Does Archbishop Wuerl refuse to hire remarried heterosexual divorcees, whom the Church considers to be living in adultery? Does he refuse to pay for spousal benefits in those cases? Would other Catholic (Arch) dioceses shut down charitable programs because, they cannot discriminate against employees who are divorced and remarried; and therefore considered adulterers by the Church? Why is this “mortal sin” acceptable to Archbishop Wuerl and the other not?

At this point, some will object that the Catholic Church is unable to stop divorcees from remarrying and thereby enter into adulterous relationships. They can however, use their influence and wealth to reverse laws that grant full marriage equality to same sex couples. This objection presumes that it is morally sound to do so. It presumes that the God commands them to do so. Here Bishop Geoffrey Robinson offers a radically different moral view, which is held by many theologians. He states on page 190 of his book “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church” the following:

“We have already seen that Paul and the other writers of the Second Testament outside the gospels failed to maintain the radicalism of Jesus on both purity laws and property laws. If their sayings on those subjects are not divinely inspired truth, we must have serious reservations as to whether their other sayings on sexual matters can be taken, in and of themselves alone, as final proofs, and hence whether assertions without convincing arguments are sufficient. Are we once again dealing with the story of a journey that ended only in the person of Jesus and not in anyone else who came before or after him? For example, did Paul share the almost universal opinion of his time that all people are in fact heterosexual, so to engage in homosexual relations is a free (and perverted) choice by a heterosexual person?”

John J. McNeill S.J. makes a similar point, in his book:
“The Church and the Homosexual,” he states: “The persons referred to in Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are psychologically inclined toward their own sex—since they are portrayed as ‘abandoning their natural customs.’ The Pauline epistles do not explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by two individuals with same sex orientation is not ‘abandoning their natural custom.”
This is exactly what the American Psychological Association proclaimed when it declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 and stated that it is rather, a person’s natural sexual orientation.

It seems that Benedict XVI and most of the hierarchy do not want to consider or address these theological or psychological insights. That would require them to speak prophetically in the third world. Most Catholics live in the Third World and a pope or bishop would risk a huge loss of market share if, he were to voice the insights of the aforementioned theologians and psychologists. Catholicism would also risk reversals in the Ecumenical outreach to the Orthodox Church [the second largest Christian Church] and to Islam [the world‘s largest monotheistic religion.]

One can hear an echo from Scripture in their justification of this injustice. “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (John 11: 49-50). Yes, same sex couples, like Jesus, can be dismissed along with the requirement of justice in their case. Like Caiaphas, Benedict XVI, Archbishop Wuerl and most of the hierarchy have concluded that it is expedient to sacrifice same sex couples for “the greater good.” Contrary evidence from theology and psychology is simply ignored.

Jesus spoke the truth and the apostles’ reaction is recorded in the Gospel “With that, all deserted him and fled” (Mark 14: 50). None of them was too eager to follow Jesus to Calvary. In this sad and narrow sense, Benedict XVI, Wuerl and most bishops are truly “successors to the Apostles."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spirituality and Marriage

There are 613 laws, which an observant Jewish person is expected to keep. In the rabbinical tradition, there was a discussion as to what was central and essential in all of these laws. What did God truly expect of a faithful person? Jesus is asked this question in Luke 10:27; Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31. He responded by citing two passages of scripture. Both are taken from Torah. The first is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This passage was committed to memory by pious Jewish people and prayed as the "Shema Israel" [Hear O‘Israel], as Christians have committed to memory the passage from Matthew as the “Our Father.”

"Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

The second passage is taken from the Book of Leviticus 19:18. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Most Christians think of this as teaching us to love God and neighbor; however, when read closely, these two passages direct us to love three: God, neighbor and self.

Unbelievably, the hardest of those three for most people to love is self. Christians think of such a concept as “indulgent” or “worldly.” Yet, Christ specifically commands us to love our neighbor as our self. If you do not love yourself, then you cannot love your neighbor and for that matter, you cannot love God. You have not learned to love, period.

Most people in our society have a negative self-image. If you think of yourself negatively and you treat your neighbor as yourself, you will probably think of your neighbor negatively. Phrases such as “People are no good” and “that’s human nature.” Creep into our vocabulary from our minds and hearts. These people are really saying: “I’m no good” and “others are like me.”

The Prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” and “before you were born, I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1: 5.) Do you believe that about yourself? Do you believe that you are not “an accident” that your life has value and purpose? You are unique, gifted with a combination of talents, intellect; life experiences and attributes which no one else on earth possesses.

The two commandments, which Jesus teaches his disciples, serve to integrate us. First with our self. First, we must appreciate that we are created by a God who is love, a God who does not make mistakes, and a God who does not make trash. You are not defective, you are not disordered, and you are not deformed. Your gender, your eye color, the pigmentation of your skin, your intellect, and your sexual orientation is all willed by the Creator. You are willed by the Creator and the fact that you live and draw breath at this very moment is willed by the Creator.

The Creator has also created each other person on this earth as well as all other creatures and the planet and cosmos which sustain life. We are part of a larger organic whole. To hurt another person, creature, the planet, etc; is in fact, to hurt you. The consequence of hurtful decisions and choices creates a ripple effect in other lives and in the whole of the created order.

Once we learn to love and accept our self, we begin to move to greater personal wholeness and integrity within our self. We begin to see and actualize our yet unrealized potential. We begin to learn from errors of judgment. We become more sensitive to the hurts we have caused others and learn to ask for forgiveness and to avoid hurting others in the future.

We learn to become a living reflection of the Creator who is love itself. Who has moved beyond self to create others and me. We begin to see all of the created order and being ordered towards love, towards reintegration, towards potentials, which can only be realized in and through the other.

Sex is designed by God to require us to move beyond the self. If you look at the physical act of sex, it teaches you something of what is suppose to happen between two people in an intimate encounter. You undress, for intimacy to occur between two people it requires you to undress. Not just physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You reveal yourself to the other. Your true self, with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Your hopes/dreams and your fears and what haunts you. You become vulnerable to the other in this moment and they to you and the wonderful occurs when the other accepts you “as is.”

In physical sex, you give yourself unreservedly to each other. True intimacy requires no less than this. It is a self-donation to someone else. It is the greatest gift you can give. This is the great difference between lust and love. In lust, the relation with the other person is a strip-mine operation; you are there to take what you want and then leave. In love, you are there because you appreciate the other and are there to give yourself unreservedly to the other. In marriage, two people stand before each other, others and God and promise that they will be there the one for the other, unconditionally. This is the beauty and strength of marriage. It doesn’t matter what the race, religion, or sexual orientation is of the two people who enter into marriage.

I have included this video clip from a psychologist Dr. James Walton speaking on the human dynamics in marriage. I hope that you find it helpful.

I plan on posting articles on "Spirituality and Divorce" and "Spirituality and being single" in the near future.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A response to a second E-mail from someone of the religious right,

Geoff - I am the original anonymous. I prefer to stay that way, if you don't mind.

If I had know you were going to post what I wrote, I would have taken greater care writing it!

I don't care if you identify as gay or straight. As long as you are celibate, what does it matter?

When you changed your primary identity from being a Catholic Priest to a gay activist, that was the point I was referring to as abandoning your vocation. You really can't be both, because there are two contradictory belief systems at work. I got the impression at the time that the gay part of you had won the internal struggle over the ordained part. I didn't understand that, and still don't, given the celibate nature of your vocation.

I'm sure I know a great many gay priests. I actually think it's a very honorable vocation for a gay man. But, when you feel the need to identify more strongly with that part instead of the Catholic, ordained part, that is where the conflict comes in.

St Damien was my favorite "holy person" growing up. I thought what he did with the lepers in Hawaii was totally selfless. Yes, he did rejoice when he became "one of them" and contracted leprosy. There's an analogous situation here somewhere. I'm not quite sure what it is, though. Perhaps you could get past the details (leprosy is not same sex attraction) and share some insight.

Dear Anonymous,

You speak of an “internal struggle” in my life. The truth of it is that struggle began for me, as it does for almost all LGBT persons, when I went through puberty and discovered that I was “different.” The 1999 Center for Disease Control study “Youth at Risk” found that 33% of gay adolescents attempt suicide. Such a startling figure shocks a person into asking, “Why?!?” The reason is that society has said that to be attracted to someone of the same sex is deviant, wrong, disordered and immoral. Where does society draw these conclusions? For centuries the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has condemned homosexuality as sinful and drove homosexuals to live silent and lonely lives. Many homosexual Catholics became priests and religious (monks, nuns, etc.) As you correctly point out “I know a great many gay priests.” It logically follows that there are then a great many gay bishops since; bishops are drawn from the ranks of priests.

On a human level this is totally understandable, because homosexuals are conditioned to deny their orientation in order to “pass” and survive in society. The personal cost of this denial of who you are is self-loathing and this is then projected out towards others who are gay. The most homophobic people are repressed closeted homosexuals. Note the radically different stance taken by Episcopalian bishops on this same question. Ironically, part of the reason that they are more empathetic to LGBT people is because most Episcopal bishops, unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts, are straight.

When you speak of the “gay part of you” and of the “ordained part [of you].” You yourself belie a disjointed psychological, emotional and spiritual mentality which is the product of such twisted self-loathing. The whole point of authentic spirituality is to become whole. Integrity. To learn to love God and your neighbor as yourself requires that you learn to love yourself as the Creator has made you and move towards unity within yourself, with others and with God. A theology which reduces sexuality to physical acts as being determinative of their morality ignores the intent of the moral agents and dehumanizes both sexuality and society. In the Catholic Church today, we have such a theology of sexuality. This theology does not serve people, but demands that people serve this theology.

With regards to homosexual people, consider frankly what it is that this theology demands of them in their personal lives. It means that an adolescent is required to never date, never fall in love; never marry someone to whom they are attracted. It means a life lived alone; a life lived in shame and fear. This same theology which reduces human sexual acts to only their physical component also afflicts heterosexual Catholics.

A brother priest related a story to me of a straight married couple in his parish. They were very traditional Catholics and attempting to follow the Church’s ban on artificial contraception. He told me of the woman in her early 30’s who would lock herself in her a bedroom with her eight children while her young husband stood outside of the locked door demanding that she come out. She wouldn’t until he would go off and pray away desire, or “take care of himself.” Her Sister-in-law found herself in an identical predicament and had so many births in such rapid succession that she required a hysterectomy, since her uterus had been so extensively damaged. Imagine the idea of marriage that those children locked in that bedroom with their frightened mother now have of marriage. Imagine how that young woman views herself, sexuality, her marriage and her husband as a direct result of this “theology” of sexuality which they are required to serve blindly.

Most Catholics in the USA, Canada and Europe simply ignore the prohibition against the use of artificial contraception. Most priests do not preach about the subject and in my twenty three years of active ministry, I have very, very rarely encountered a priest who insisted upon Humanae Vitae in the Confessional. I never once heard a Cardinal or a bishop deliver a sermon urging Catholics to follow Humanae Vitae. The content of the statement on Prop 8 that I delivered at the end of Mass on October 5th, 2008 is pretty much what most American priests would say to someone in the confessional, or in an office appointment. What was radical about the statement which I made that day was that I made it in a public forum and the institution cannot permit a public challenge to its authority. They can permit their “theology” to be ignored, but they can never admit that it is wrong. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson explains why in his book entitled “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church” [ISBN 978-0-8146-1865-3]on page 236 he states:

"Far too often the Catholic Church has believed that it had such a level of divine guidance that it did not need the right to be wrong. As a result, both theologically and psychologically it can be bound to decisions of the past. It can be unable to move forwards, even when clear evidence emerges that earlier decisions were conditioned by their own time and that the arguments for them are not as strong as they were once thought to be. It has not been able to face the idea that on important issues and for centuries of time it might have been wrong."

One need only to consider the apology which the late Pope John Paul II issued to the scientific community for the mistreatment of Galileo to begin to understand the truth of what Bishop Robinson is saying. One has to wonder if it will also take four centuries for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to apologize to heterosexual couples for Humanae Vitae and to homosexuals for the abuse they have suffered as a direct result of the hierarchy’s inability and unwillingness to simply admit that they have been wrong.

It was precisely because I am a priest that I was driven to speak out on behalf of the people whom I was called to serve. I said this in my original statement the full text may be found on this site, it is the very first post “How it all began.” For me to have done as my bishop asked and promote a “yes on Prop 8” position from the pulpit would have been for me to have become an accomplice to a moral evil which strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights, but of their human dignity as well. To speak out on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized is not to “abandon” your vocation; it is to live it out authentically.

You raise the issue of celibacy in your E-mail. On a personal level, I did come to a practical accommodation with celibacy as many priests, bishops, cardinals and popes have done. This was never the central issue for me personally. As far as celibacy as a general issue for the Catholic Church is concerned, this requires a long response and so, I will refer you to a book by Father Donald Cozzens, PhD.
He is a psychologist; the former President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland Ohio and currently teaches on the faculty of John Carroll University. His book “Freeing Celibacy” ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-3160-7 offers a very honest and through treatment of the subject of celibacy and the real difficulties it represents in the life of the Roman Catholic priesthood and Church.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

The following is a reprint of an article from LGBT Pov I rarely do this; however, I feel that this is an EXCELLENT article and I encourage you to read it.

‘Gay Marriage’ challenges Christianity’s credibility
Karen Ocamb Essays, Marriage Movement, Politics 2009-11-04 Print This Post Print This Post

TheCall Lou screamingThere’s an old saying:

“The Devil screams the loudest just before leaving the room.”

After last night’s devastating loss of marriage equality in Maine 52.84% – 47.16% – an almost exact mirror of the loss of constitutionally protected same sex marriage rights with Prop 8 in California – it’s time to call out the “Devil” cleverly disguised as the antigay forces of the Religious Right.

This loss isn’t just about politics – it’s about the very soul of the Christian religion. For who but the silver-tongued Devil could convince quietly religious people to believe in – and act on – lies and cheap-trick illusions that twist love into a political perversion?

And that’s what happened in Maine – just as it happened in California – where Religious Right professionals manipulated voters into taking away the secular civil rights of a group of people based on the fear of something that MIGHT happen – something made up, a lie based on bigotry and myth.

When did it become OK to lie, to pervert the truth to serve God? Surely, if there is a Devil, a Satan, he is chuckling to himself at this greatest handiwork – using political strategy to make hate a virtue and love something to be scorned and punished.

Indeed, the normalization of lying, political manipulation and antigay hatred is the latest blow to the legitimacy of religious institutions and Christianity itself.

How can one believe in religious truth-telling if antigay ministers are caught in sex scandals, or evangelical Christians like The Family protect their antigay politicians from scandals over adultery or the Catholic Church that famously covered up its own child sex abuse scandals – has the Portland Diocese choose to close its own local parishes while pouring thousands of dollars into the antigay marriage ballot initiative in Maine based on the lie that gay sex would be taught to school children?

That was theme pushed by antigay Marc Mutty, the antigay Stand for Marriage Maine executive chairman on loan from the Catholic diocese who was told National Public Radio Sept.3:

“It isn’t about anything other than the definition of marriage, what it’s going to mean to us and how it’s going to be defined in society….Many certainly feel uncomfortable about [the belief that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to a new curriculum in the schools] and about the fact that children as young as 7 or 8 years old are being taught about gay sex in some detail.”

But that was a lie.

I reported extensively on the Religious Right’s antigay crusade in “Swiftboating same sex marriage in Maine.” I noted that the antigay effort in Maine was being lead by the same political strategists who won Prop 8 in California and provided links to Yes on 8 political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint expressly saying that they would never win passage of Prop 8 by “affirming” traditional marriage. Instead they created out of their own political calculations the lie of the “consequences” of same sex marriage effecting young school children.

Here’s a segment of that report:

The Yes on 8 team flew the Wirthlins from Massachusetts to California for a bus tour of the state, positing them as “real people” who exemplified the “consequence” of same sex marriage being taught in schools. “We bet the farm on this argument over whether gay marriage would be taught in public schools,” Flint said.

But the reality of this “real” couple is that they, too, were Religious Right professionals. When The Bay Area Reporter picked up the story about the LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] internal memo from 1997, reporter Dan Aiello noted the role played in California’s antigay initiative Prop 22 by Mormon strategist and Republican pollster Richard “Dick” Wirthlin, a relative of the Massachusetts couple Joseph Robb and Robin Wirthlin used by Yes on 8. Schubert told BAR that it was “preposterous” to connect Dick Wirthlin to Yes on 8.

But BAR uncovered significant information indicating that the Wirthlins actively sought conflict with the school:

“Parents in the Lexington School District in Massachusetts disputed many of the Wirthlins claims to the B.A.R., pointing out that when the Wirthlins moved into the district they were already involved with two groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage. One of those groups, MassResistance, run by Brian Camenker, has been called an “anti-gay hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The Lexington parents told the B.A.R. that the couple moved into the district and enrolled their son into the school already aware of a complaint filed by David Parker against the school’s anti-bias curriculum. Additionally, Lexington School District superintendent Paul Ash told the B.A.R. that he made “several attempts to appease the Wirthlins and accommodate their religious convictions” but he concluded that the couple was intent on a public fight. Just weeks after they moved into the district, the Wirthlins joined Parker in filing a lawsuit.”

Schubert and Flynt Flint used professional religious zealots with an agenda to create conflict where none existed to push a lie they created for a political win. And since their lie was wrapped in religion, they duped unsuspecting voters who would never believe Christians would lie – because that would be the work of the Devil.

The antigay Religious Right professionals in Maine were constantly exposed for their lies and manipulative practices -including by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills who said the gay marriage law would have no effect on the curricula in the public schools.

The aforementioned Brian Camenker was given a post-Maine shout out by Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action. (Hat tip Pam’s House Blend). MassResistence is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2008 Hate list.

Barber wants to push beyond appeasers like Schubert and Flynt Flint:

“This isn’t about ‘marriage.’ It’s about hurting and broken people desperately seeking affirmation of an objectively deviant lifestyle. One that, even in their heart of hearts, they know to be a dead end.

As for the militant ‘No on 1′ homosexual activists? I’m reminded of spoiled children dressing up and playing house, refusing to come in when mom calls for dinner.

Here’s the bad news. The margin of victory could have been greater. Many behind the ‘Yes on 1′ campaign, rather than simply telling the truth, chose the Neville Chamberlain approach. They merely circled the wagons around the word ‘marriage,’ even suggesting that ‘domestic partnerships’ (’gay marriages’ by another name) are acceptable.

This makes no sense. If that’s a viable compromise, then why not simply allow ‘gay’ duos the word ‘marriage’? It’s an incongruity that demands an explanation. This is an historic battle for the minds and souls of our children – for our very culture. The mealy-mouthed approach must end.

This is not just about ‘marriage.’ It has everything to do with forced affirmation of homosexuality – under penalty of law.

Indeed everyone who fought hard to defend marriage in Maine is to be congratulated, but if it weren’t for a brave group of truth tellers – Paul Madore, Peter LaBarbera and Brian Camenker – who came to Maine in the final hour to hold a press conference and address the pink elephant in the room – homosexual deviancy and the radical ‘gay’ agenda – counterfeit marriage might have prevailed.”

Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend has reported extensively on Peter LaBarbera – who thinks nothing of twisting the death of a gay 26 year old to illustrate his perverted views.

Joe Sudbay of Americablog has Paul Madore of the Maine Grassroots Coalition saying “he’s working “in union” with Yes on 1 campaign and the Diocese and that the Diocese was aware of the news conference with LaBabera and Camenker.

The Yes on 1 vote targeted older, conservative religious voters who apparently shrugged at being courted by known bigots. Nate Silver – defending his polling that said No on 1 would win – suggests that this is the “Bradley Effect” at work. The “Bradley Effect” - is named after LA Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American who polls showed was ahead in his 1982 gubernatorial race – only to lose, many thought because of racial prejudice. If the Bradley Effect is indeed happening here, it would suggest that Maine voters were consciously aware that their vote against gays was based on prejudice. And since “bigotry is incompatitble with Maine values“ - the only way voters could live with their conscience is if their vote was a “moral choice” OKed by their religion.

One example to bolster that premise is that the “people’s vote” revoked a marriage equality law passed through the state Legislature (ostensibly the “people’s” representatives) and signed by the governor – that survived all attempts to stop it along the way. Additionally, those same voters passed a medical marijuana referendum by 58.60% to 41.40%. Somehow what was once considered the most evil of hippie indulgences was mainstreamed into a non-religious medical necessity for people with serious illnesses.

Think of this on-going political tirade by the Religious Right as a modern day Crusades – and advocates for gay and womans’ rights are the infidels.

Bruce Wilson at the website Talk to Action has been writing about this extensively and suggests there is even more conniving going on than we image. For instance, there’s a new “Rainbow” Right with the seduction of people of color into the ranks of the heretofore primarily white Southern conservative base of religious hate. This is the Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean/Mile McPhereson crowd, pushed by their political arm – the National Organization of Marriage.

Bruce told me:

“Along with Samuel Rodriguez, Miles McPherson is one of the rising stars of the new evangelicalism, 2.0 if you will, which wraps traditional conservative evangelical positions – including antiabortion and anti-gay politics – in a swaddling cloth of impressively well crafted PR. McPherson doesn’t seem to figure into the schematics that liberal journalists have constructed, mental maps of the religious right in which race baiting crowds to be found at “Tea Parties” are believed to be somehow representative of, or even supplanting, the Christian right. I very much doubt Miles McPherson or Sammy Rodriguez would be willing to get within a mile of a Tea Party event – for obvious and quite understandable reasons. The two evangelists represent constituencies that swung hard for Barack Obama in ‘08 but also, in California, helped vote in Proposition Eight.”

Bruce noted that McPherson played a key role in the manufacture of the Christian right’s new Anita Bryant, Carrie Prejean, who he’s described as an “Esther”. Watching McPherson conduct an interview with Prejean, he said:

“I foumd myself thinking that it was a spectacle to send old-guard white racists running for their nooses and shotguns – a black man anointing a white beauty queen. Imagine. Well, that’s the new Christian right, the Rainbow Right, that we’ve discussed – which claims to love gays while attacking the “gay lifestyle” via cooked statistics and suggests same sex attraction stems from demon possession – but which is racially and ethnically inclusive unless one happens to be Jewish. And, it’s a tendency that is also aggressively promoting female leaders such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Carrie Prejean – “Esthers” all.”

But Bruce notes, this is not a funny, quirky little Christian experience with a sexy new spokesperson, the new “Rainbow” Right is deadly serious. In another post he said:

General wisdom from the left now holds that the right will work to whip up populist discontent. But, neither Democratic Party nor progressive political activists on the left seem fully aware of the nature of an emerging threat, that Republicans will increasingly gain support among ethnic groups which have traditionally voted for the Democratic Party…..

[The media] missed the specific nature of the anti-gay marriage effort.

Signed onto The Call’s advisory board was much of the top leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation and Third Wave Christianity in America, as well as the top leadership of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference which claims to represent roughly ten million Hispanic American evangelicals and five million charismatic Catholics. Samuel Rodriguez has suggested that abortion will be, in future elections, a much more salient issue for his voting block.”

But, Wilson points out, there are cracks in the antigay coalition. He writes:

The New Apostolic Reformation leadership is virulently anti-Catholic to the point of claiming that a global demon spirit blocks Catholic prayers, it is structurally anti-Jewish and spreads anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and it considers the Mormon faith to be “cultic.”

The antigay marriage coalition which successfully helped to pass gay marriage bans in Florida, Arizona, and California was launched, in July 2008, during a several hour conference call in which organizers outlined a multilevel campaign that utilized existing church infrastructure, viral marketing, Internet marketing, New Apostolic prayer networks, traditional Christian conservative media, and a range of methods, and communications channels, both traditional and unorthodox.

The November 1st, 2008 anti-gay marriage Qualcomm Stadium rally in San Diego was the public capstone of the antigay effort in California for the national coalition pulled together by New Apostolic prophet Lou Engle, California charismatic Methodist pastor Jim Garlow and leaders of the currently obscure but enormous, global and rapidly growing New Apostolic Reformation movement which so far has almost completely escaped media scrutiny despite having fielded a vice presidential candidate reported to be in a prayer network under the religious authority of the man who in 2001 founded the NAR: C. Peter Wagner.

Towards the end of The Call’s stadium event, a speaker called for acts of Christian martyrdom to reverse what Engle, Garlow and other event speakers had depicted as an immanent moral apocalypse in America that would call down the wrath of God.

The effort in California represented the emerging face of a new type of fundamentalism in America that is multiethnic, multiracial and, because of that, can appear pseudo-progressive but which is in many ways farther right than traditional fundamentalism. The new axis of bigotry is no longer defined by racial and ethnic distinctions. It is religious supremacy.”

This, too, might be a head-scratcher if it wasn’t for the growing prominence of Sarah Palin, who Wilson has been following and providing research to such media outlets as the New York Times.

On Oct. 25, 2008, the New York Times published a story looking at then-Alaska Gov. Palin’s religious beliefs.

The Times noted the two YouTube videos showing Palin praying with Bishop Thomas Muthee from Kenya who prayed for God to favor her political campaign and protect her from “every form of witchcraft.” She is also shown nodding as her former Wasilla pastor from Wasilla declares that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days,” part of the “End Times” prophecy preaching.

The Times reports:

Ms. Palin declined an interview, and the McCain campaign did not respond to specific questions about her faith. Thus, it is difficult to say with certainty what she believes.

What is known, however, is that Ms. Palin has had long associations with religious leaders who practice a particularly assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare.”

Its adherents believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and individuals, and that “spiritual warriors” must “battle” them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism. The movement’s fixation on demons, its aggressiveness and its leaders’ claims to exalted spiritual authority have troubled even some Pentecostal Christians.”

Russell P. Spittler, provost emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and an eminent scholar of Pentecostalism, told The Times:

“Most Christians would accept the view that there are forces and powers in the world that oppose Christian virtues.” But, Mr. Spittler added, “Spiritual warfare makes a religion of identifying demons by names and ZIP codes.”

Bruce Wilson told The Times:

“One of the imperatives of the movement is to achieve worldly power, including political control. Then you can more effectively drive out the demons. The ultimate goal is to purify the earth.”

In a Sept. 5, 2009 post on the Daily Beast, entitled “Inside Sarah’s Church,” Max Blumenthal wrote, describing a conversation with “Rev. Howard Bess, a local Baptist pastor who had opened the doors of his church to openly gay Christians:”

“Sarah Palin is a true believer,” Bess told me over coffee at Vagabond Blues, a café 20 miles from Wasilla in the town of Palmer. “She has a dualistic worldview that divides the world into black and white. She sees it as her mission to destroy evil, whether it is gay people, a foreign government she perceives as an enemy, or a political opponent like Obama.”

So here we are – gay people as “evil.” And Sarah Palin on the march with her Tea Party followers – out to obliterate the separation of church and state.

I’m no religious scholar – but this sure sounds like the arrogant affectations of Old Testament wanna-be favorites of that awful God – the God of wrath and vengeance and hate.

And then there’s this from a Christian website:

Some “evangelical Christians” who are caught in scandals are unredeemed charlatans and false prophets. Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves … Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). False prophets pretend to be godly men and women and appear to be solid evangelical leaders. However, their “fruit” (scandals) eventually reveals them to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. In this, they follow the example of Satan, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

And what would the Jesus of the New Testament say to all this new religious culture of political arrogance and lies and hate – the very characteristics associated with evil after his crucifixion?

If Jesus stood for love – then the caretakers of his Christianity must also stand for love – the kind of love these battles for marriage equality are all about. Not just in their hearts and prayers but in the pulpits and on their feet in the street with us, protesting the stealing of their religion. This is their challenge – and this must become their mission. For if they participate in the conspiracy of silence – like many did as gay men laying dying of AIDS – if they ignore the love, the soul of their calling – they will lose their very meaning.

But maybe – just maybe – all this hoopla about Sarah Palin’s political power and all this bragging after the antigay wins in California and Maine – is the Devil screaming loudly, knowing that love will win in the end and usher him out the door