Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview for Dignity USA

I have been invited to address the biennial convention of Dignity USA in San Francisco on the 4th of July weekend this year. Dignity USA is an organization of LGBT Catholics and provides spiritual guidance and services to these underserved and all too often marginalized people within the Catholic Church. As a prelude to this year’s convention, the organizers have asked me to respond to a series of questions which they believe will be of interest to their membership.

What are you doing right now and what are your near and long-term plans?

Presently, I am active with Love Honor and Cherish. This organization is working hard to place an initiative on the November 2010 California ballot, to repeal Proposition 8. Beyond that, I am speaking at various organizations both about Prop 8 and other such hate legislation.

How have your family and former colleagues reacted to recent events?

I have to say that I have been humbled and deeply moved by the reaction of my family. My parents have been extremely loving and supportive throughout these past six months. They have been most loving, generous and understanding to me in these difficult times. I stand in awe as I contrast their reaction with that of my “spiritual father” the bishop. “Only that which Civil Law requires” and when my Canon Lawyer invoked Church Law which requires that a bishop provide support for his priest, the bishop responded “I’m afraid I must decline.”

Mind you what is written in Canon Law is not a suggestion, it is not an “option” it is what is required. Nevertheless, I am glad that he reacted as he did. As a hospital administrator once told me about not accepting federal funds “If you take their money, you have to take their rules.” By not providing me with any monetary assistance, he has in fact freed me completely to work as an LGBT activist.

My parent’s unconditional love and support for me contrasts sharply with my bishop’s total lack of practical concern for me. Brother priests have been very supportive, although quietly so; I’ve received many messages of support, encouragement and gratitude. Some have also sent me some financial gifts.

What, if anything, has surprised you about West Hollywood’s vibrant gay culture?

The City of West Hollywood gave me an official commendation for my public statements in support of basic human dignity/civil rights for LGBT people. I was humbled by their expression of love and support. The gay culture in West Hollywood, well, we are people-just like everywhere else. People who work, who struggle, who try to find happiness. People who love, who hurt, who try to find their way through life with all of its joys and hardships. The passage of Prop 8 and the hate, which it represents, has actually caused the community to draw closer together and motivated everyone to work for equality.

How have you remained engaged with your Catholic faith since your dismissal?

The word dismissal implies rejection on some level. Many LGBT people have experienced this from their families and from their faith communities. As I mentioned earlier, I am blessed with a loving and supportive family. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if you think of the Catholic Church as the hierarchy then, there is very little reason to remain a Catholic. On the other hand, if you see the Church as the People of God, a living community of faith then, there are many reasons for hope. Catholics in the pews disagree sharply with their bishops on a host of social issues and tend to be far more progressive than their protestant counterparts. Eventually, the bishops will get it, or will die off and be replaced by bishops who do get it. John Paul II apologized for the hierarchy’s decisions regarding Galileo, the Crusades and treatment of Jewish people. No one in the hierarchy stood up and rent [tore] their garments because this represented a rebuff of the hierarchy. They simply nodded in agreement and hoped that the apology would be accepted and that everyone would simply forget. Considering that many in our society do not know what Vietnam is I believe that their hope is reasonable.

Do you think movements and faith communities like Dignity and Womenpriests are the faces of Catholicism in the future?

I believe that they are faces within Catholicism and that slowly the greater faith community will come to see the validity of their demands for simple justice and human dignity. After all, the heart of the Gospel is love and its practical extension to other human beings. In the end, some future pope will apologize to women and LGBT persons just as John Paul II apologized to Muslims, Jewish people and secular society. It took centuries for that apology to come; but, it came.

Now that you’ve come out-of-the-closet politically, do you see yourself engaging in more public speaking on GLBT issues as well as other issues?

I will endeavor to do whatever I can do in order to advance human dignity, civil rights and equality for all.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the GLBT Catholic movement, specifically Dignity USA?

Keep the beautiful and good things which our parents and grandparents shared with us through their lived expressions of love. Lose everything else. Share those good values with others, and as St. Francis said to his friars “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.”


Robert said...

Excellent interview! You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Steven said...

"...we are people-just like everywhere else." This speaks volumes!

May you reap all the support and success in these efforts you engage in.

David said...

thank-you for the update on your status- it will inform my on-going prayers for and with you


Bishop Raymond said...

Geoff + :

I realise that it is difficult to leave the Magisterium. With it comes a sense of stability and mainline "gravitas."

There are many of we "former guys" who left and revived our ministries in churches within the Catholic diaspora. If canon law is indeed valid when it works against us, then the Augustinian view of validity (as opposed to the Cyprian of the Orthodox East) grants us that Apostolic reality.

Not unlike Rome, there are canonical church jurisdictions recognised by the bishops who were ordained within the Roman obedience and authority. There are few bishops who have left and dared to build a "twig" of the Mystical Body outside Rome. My consecrator was such a man, and the canonicity is intact.

It is about the laity, and about that essential vocation that we are all called to witness. The spiritual violence is both homicidal and suicidal to our flock. The number of walking wounded is pandemic.