- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight
Monday, August 30, 2010
Catholics For Equality, an analysis on the Eve of their launch.
Catholics For Equality states the following as the mission of their organization:
Catholics for Equality empowers pro-equality Catholics to put our faith into
ethical and effective political action on behalf of the LGBT community and their families.
Zack Ford writes an article in Pam’s House Blend on Catholics For Equality (C4E), an organization scheduled to launch on 14 September 2010. Zack makes the following points:
"Something about 'pro-equality Catholic' just doesn't sit right with me. There's very little in Catholicism that in any way resembles 'equality' and Catholicism has never been known for being pro-anything. Let's hear a little bit more from their website:
Drawing on the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of Love, American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people of any religious group in the U.S.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HE HE HE HE HE HE HE!! WHOO! I'm rolling around on the floor. Seriously ROTFLMFAO!!! That's the best joke I've heard all day. You can't be serious, right? I mean, the Catholics come close, but it's definitely the Mormons who are the strongest supporters of LGBT equality, by far. Oh, that's rich, or it would be if it weren't so offensive to all the religious groups who do actually support LGBT equality.
Now, mocking aside, what they're talking about is that there is a rift between congregants and the leadership. Catholics for Equality is a group designed to oppose the bishops. The Catholic Church isn't exactly democratic or egalitarian in any conceivable way, so if congregants don't want to accept what the leadership is spoon-feeding, they have to form a separate group to represent their point of view, and this is such a group.
The question here is: what does it mean to be 'Catholic?'"
With all respect Zack, you may be asking the wrong question. A better question is "How will C4E move Catholic voters to support Pro-Equality legislation and candidates?" 25% of the American electorate is Catholic. They do not vote in “lock step” with the dictates of their bishops. Most Catholics do not follow the dictates of the bishops on artificial birth control. Many have suffered painful marriages that ended in divorce and they have subsequently remarried. The Catholic Church in the USA has attempted to accommodate many of these divorced and remarried Catholics through annulments. However, the Vatican has tried to make annulments more difficult to obtain. Many Catholics are now simply opting for Civil Marriages.
The point is that Catholicism is not a monolith and Catholics are not blind fanatics mindlessly following every dictate of the Vatican. Most significantly for LGBTQ people, most Catholics are not blindly following their bishop’s dictates in the voting booth. Catholic lay people tend to be progressive on many social issues and are far more progressive than most of their Protestant counterparts.
An organization such as “Catholics For Equality” should be welcomed, encouraged and supported by LGBTQ people because it could make a real difference on Election Day with Pro-Equality legislation and candidates. Zack, this is why I suggest that a better question would be, “How can Catholics For Equality reach Catholics and help foster pro-equality thinking and voting?”
The pro-equality thinking end of the equation could be addressed by the C4E foundation. Assembling progressive theologians and people engaged in pastoral ministries to speak to their Catholic brothers and sisters. Equality for LGBTQ people is a question of human dignity. Translating that into votes and political action is the missing piece in C4E.
As a former member of the founding board of directors, I do have very serious reservations about C4E’s ability to move Catholic voters and advance the cause of equality for LGBTQ people. At several Board meetings, Phil Attey (the current Executive Director) stated, “We do not want to change the [Catholic] Church.” Phil, why start Catholics for Equality if you are happy with the status quo? Phil also stated, “This is not an LGBTQ organization.” OK, then what is it? At one point, Father Joe Palacios, a priest of the LA Archdiocese, a board member of C4E and a Sociology/Latinos studies professor at the Jesuit Georgetown University, suggested that it was a Latino organization.
What emerged was a fragmented, insecure and vague set of goals. It is unclear how Catholics For Equality will move Catholics to vote for Pro-Equality legislation and political candidates. Anne Underwood is a board member of C4E and is also the head of an overlapping similar group in Maine called Catholics for Marriage Equality. She seemed concerned that C4E would replicate some of her own organization’s work in the drive for same sex marriage. This seems like this would be a conflict of interest.
The timid leadership currently in place at C4E fails to articulate (or more importantly agree on) how C4E will actually move Catholic voters. Additionally, some of board members gave me the distinct impression that they were there to make sure that C4E did not infringe on their “turf.” These conflicting agendas do not bode well for the success of this group and must be resolved.
An organization needs to have very clearly articulated goals and an understandable methodology in place to realize those goals. Here C4E breaks down and fails internally. If you visit the GetEQUAL website, they state their goal clearly and their methodology is the Direct Action/Civil Disobedience approach used by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. C4E offers “Brunch Captains.” I assume a "Brunch Captain" is someone who will host coffee and donuts after mass. Charming, to be sure; however, most parishes already offer coffee and donuts after Sunday Masses. The C4E website fails to explain how C4E "Brunch Captains” will make a real world difference on Equality issues. The C4E website invites visitors to submit reports of anti-LGBTQ speech/actions by Church officials; however, they fail to state how they will follow-up on those reports.
The C4E Board, as currently composed, lacks a clear vision and a forceful purpose. This exemplified by their launch date. The organization was scheduled to launch on 24 May 2010 and then this was changed to 16 August 2010 and then changed again to 14 September 2010. My fear is that C4E will focus on donations/fund raising and quickly degenerate into another “black tie, write us a check” LGBTQ organization. My hope is that the Board will grow a backbone and that its leadership will develop a clearly articulated vision and an effective methodology for actualizing Equality in the real world.
Some ideas that might help them would be to organize parish cells in the 17 states whose majority of voters currently support same sex marriage. The Woman Priest Movement is a good example of what can be accomplished on the parish level. These women made a real difference in my own parish by encouraging parishioners to question the hierarchy’s intransigent prohibition of women priests. Their members wore purple stoles, a scarf like cloth used by priests, at Sunday Mass causing parishioners to ask them about their unusual dress. Through their conversations with the parishioners, they engaged in theological discussions and moved people to understanding their position.
There is another organization called “The Rainbow Sash Movement” which does something similar for LGBTQ Catholics. Their members appear at Catholic Mass, and like the Women Priest movement, they quietly participate in the Mass while wearing rainbow sashes. Their high visibility provokes the same sort of discussion and thought that leads to greater understanding of their cause, which leads to real change.
Since they are “Catholics For Equality,” it would be a good idea for them to establish working partnerships with other Pro-Equality Catholic groups. Some suggestions would be: Federation of Married Priests; The Women Priest movement; Rainbow Sash; Bishop Accountability and SNAP.
I sincerely hope that Catholics For Equality will realize its potential to inform and move the conscience of millions of US Catholic voters. I am concerned that their current leadership cannot, or will not, provide a clear vision and an understandable methodology of how to obtain the goal of Equality. Without focus and a strong resolve, C4E will fail.
Let’s hope that they do not miss the opportunity to move significant numbers of voters into the Equality camp. That would be a loss for us all.