Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A response to someone from the religious right

Anonymous said...
Geoff, get a grip. It's not marriage equality. It's marriage redefinition.

Marriage has never been available to all. You, yourself, before you abandoned your vocation, refused marriage to at least one couple, didn't you? So, this equality semantics is just a vain attempt to paint people with deviant sexual desires as victims of bigots.

No, when the people are asked, they always answer that marriage requires a slot a and a tab b to become one flesh.

November 4, 2009 5:15 AM

Dear Anonymous,

Your statement “Marriage has never been available to all” is technically accurate. When I was born, President Obama’s parents would have been denied a civil marriage license in seventeen states. Asian Americans were not permitted to marry Caucasians in the State of California in the first half of the twentieth century. Today, a prisoner has a right to civil marriage, even though most of his/her civil rights have been taken away for the commission of a crime. A same sex couple who have been together for twenty years and raised a family together is denied that same civil right due to the passage of Proposition 8.

“before you abandoned your vocation” My attorney has on file copies of correspondence with my bishop John Steinbock. My letters to him were sent via certified mail and the US Post Office states that these were delivered to him and receipt of the letters is recorded by the Postal Service. Those letters provide legal evidence that I did not “abandon” my assignment. I was removed as pastor of St. Paul at California State University Fresno by bishop Steinbock. I was also suspended by bishop Steinbock as a priest and I was stripped of salary and health care benefits, even thought canon law requires a bishop to provide support for his priests. When my canon lawyer invoked those canons, the bishop simply chose to ignore church law.

“You, yourself,… refused marriage to at least one couple, didn’t you?” Yes, I did. In accord with canon law of the Catholic Church, I denied sacramental marriage to couples who did not, or would not; meet the criteria set forth by the Catholic Church for sacramental marriage. However, those couples were free to enter into Civil Marriage by simply obtaining a Civil Marriage license from the County and most of them exercised their right to a Civil Marriage. The point here is clear, there exists a sharp distinction between a Civil marriage, to which all citizens have a legal right and a religious marriage, the right to the latter may be (and is) determined by the various religious organizations. No religion is required to marry anyone they chose not to marry.

Your first statement “It's not marriage equality. It's marriage redefinition” is in fact correct; however, it is you and the religious right who are attempting to redefine Civil marriage by layering onto it religious understandings. These religious understandings are limited to some religions and not embraced by all religions in our nation. The Episcopal Church, Reformed Judaism, Buddhists and many other denominations have in fact had their right to officiate at what they consider valid marriages infringed upon by laws such as Proposition 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine. It has been through an inappropriate attempt to dictate Civil Law by the Catholic hierarchy and the current leadership of the Mormon Church that Civil Marriage has been redefined. This redefinition of Civil Marriage by religious hierarchies constitutes an infringement on the religious liberties of those who do not subscribe to your very narrow theological understandings and views. They further compromise the Non-Establishment Clause of our Constitution, which makes possible a live and let live pluralistic society. By doing this, you undermine both religious freedom and religious tolerance in our society.

“So this equality semantics is just a vain attempt to paint people with a deviant sexual desire as victims of bigots.” This is the heart of the religious right’s position and it transcends the question of marriage. They fully understand the position that the California State Supreme Court took when it struck down the ban on same sex marriage. The California Supreme Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court’s opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the American Psychological Association’s (APA) brief in concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

The Court invoked the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution as its rationale for extending the right of Civil Marriage to Same Sex couples. They cited the American Psychological Association’s assertion that homosexuality is a sexual orientation. Your assertions that these are “people with deviant sexual desires” contradict the science of psychology. Your assertion that these same people are “victims of bigots” is accurate and in fact is a blunt rephrasing of the Court’s opinion in striking down the ban on Same Sex marriage in California.

You conclude your E-mail by stating, “No, when the people are asked, they always answer that marriage requires a slot a and a tab b to become one flesh.” When people were asked in 1933 Germany who they wanted to lead the country as Chancellor, they elected Adolph Hitler. When people were asked by Pontius Pilate who they wanted to free, they voted to free Barabbas. When he then asked them what he should do with Jesus, they voted “Crucify him.” The problem with an appeal to popular vote to determine what is ethically correct is that it requires an informed and selfless electorate.

In mid-nineteenth century America, it was a Proclaimation of Emmancipation issued by President Lincoln that freed the slaves. Had it been subjected to a popular vote, it probably would never have become law. It was an Executive Order by President Harry Truman which forced the racial integration of the US Civil Service and the US Armed Forces, had it been put to a popular vote at the time, it most assuredly would have failed. It was an Order by the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down “separate but equal,” if it, had been put to a popular vote it would have failed. It was back room arm twisting of US Senators by President Lyndon Johnson, that forced the passage of Civil Rights laws in the mid 1960’s. If those Senators had not been coerced by Johnson, who was the former Senate whip for the Democratic party, that legislation would probably never have passed. It certainly would never have been approved in a national referendum in 1965.

I do not know who you are “Anonymous,” but apparently, what I have written has struck a nerve with you. I encourage you to consider the possibility that perhaps, the American Psychological Association and various Supreme Court Justices are correct about both sexual orientation and civil law. That perhaps you and a narrow majority of the electorate are in error on these points. Consider further the human suffering, which your stance has and is causing countless innocent and law-abiding citizens in our country.


Kevin said...

"Deviant sexual desires" hits the nail on the head! This is what really bothers these people. They only focus on one aspect of a relationship. This speaks volumes on how obsessed our society is over sexual issues. And that includes our church. How sad!

Fran said...

Your reply leaves me speechless, Father Geoff!

As for you abandoning your vocation - it would seem to me that you have not, but you have been cut out, as you stated. That has always been one of the more astounding elements of your situation to me.

You are guilty of the crime of living with integrity. And thanks be to God for that.

And even if you did not live with integrity, the Church, as much as I continue to love and be a part of it, has so very little moral authority on matters of sexuality.

Prayers for you and for our church.

Jackie said...

I was reading One News Now (gotta see what the enemy is thinking). Such ugly remarks, much like the one you just responded to. One man asked that Christians reach out in love yo LGBT people lest Christians poison the well of evangelism.
The well is truly poisoned already
by people bearing false witness against their gay neighbors every day, by the deep scaring hurt that has been done to gay families, by the lies they tell about honest priests like you, and by the terrible gloating smugness of those who have their rights who don't ever want LGBT Americans to have them too.

Doralong said...

As always, a well reasoned, sane and civil response Father Geoff.

I hope the day comes soon when a larger population really does "get" the fact that it is an issue of fundamental civil/human rights, not a theological and moral debate.

Mareczku said...

That was a great response. I wonder if Bishop Malone is savoring his great victory. I wonder if it gave him a twinge of conscience to take up all those collections. Did he think of how much money he was getting out of people that hate homosexuality and gay people? Were gay people warned not to go to these Masses? What did the gay priests feel when they were told to take up such collections. I am glad that I am not in the Diocese of Portland because I would be ashamed to have such a bishop as Bishop Malone.

Sebastian said...

Nicely done! A very nicely done reply. The venomous and violent language of so many who oppose us frightens me. And the silence of bishops and other religious leaders in condemning unchristian and violent language is appalling.

William D. Lindsey said...

Thank you for remembering that it took decisive federal legal and court action to end segregation in the American South, Father Geoff. I lived through those days, and they are vivid in my memory.

I am thinking of them now, in light of what happened in Maine two days ago. I remember how, with every small "victory" for racism, many of my white Southern fellow citizens were jubilant that they had resisted once again, and that God was on their side. Just as many "Christians" are now jubilant about their "victory" in Maine.

Until the federal government and the Supreme Court put their foot down. People's rights should never be subject to popular votes.

Anonymous said...

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.

Fr Craig said...

well done, Fr. G. Pointless, of course, to argue with bigots, but bless you for trying

love your comments, but I hate reading white on black!!

Kevin said...

I just saw a post from a friend on FB where a soldier is caring for an infant who's entire family was executed! That really makes me stop and take notice. This is an unjust world and I know many people are upset abt Maine. Hopefully these people who want so much to take love away, that they should think about how little love there is in this world already!

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Geoff,

Thank you, for letting insight from the Holy Spirit guide you more than bigotry from the majority of established Christian church organizations. Christ is on your side, so in the end, who can be against you?


Will said...

The bishop suspended you as a priest. I went through 12 years of Catholic education (which I eventually flushed out of my system, but that's another story). What ever happened to "Thou art a priest forever according to the Order of Melchiesedec"?

My answer to Anonymous is that your ministry now is vastly more in line with what Jesus obviously intended than anything the exclusive lace, gold and jewels-wearing Catholic hierarchy could conceive.