Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Price of Hate and Compromise

Tonight I sat down to check messages on my computer and I found myself overwhelmed with incredible sorrow as I read the following post, “CA Teen Filmmaker Commits Suicide After Making ‘It Gets Better’ Video.”

The article goes on to say that Eric James Borges a 19-year-old resident of Visalia, CA was, “Not accepted by his birth family, Eric James was striking out on his own, trying to deal with his personal situation, but also wanting to help others. Sadly even involvement with the Trevor Project was not enough to help him navigate the turbulent waters of young adulthood.”

Eric grew up in Visalia, California, a town I know very well because I lived there for 15 years. One year 1989 as associate pastor at St. Mary’s (the wealthy White parish) and 14 years as pastor of Holy Family Church (the poor Latino parish) located at 1908 North Court Street in Visalia.

The website for the City of Visalia speaks of the pro-South culture of Visalia during the Civil War that alarmed the Federal government enough to build a military installation in 1862 to prevent an uprising, centered in Visalia, in favor of the Confederacy.

Visalia, like most rural communities in the USA, is socially conservative. I recall walking down Main Street about ten years ago; a new shop had opened up called, “Prim and Proper.” Another priest, also assigned to Visalia quipped, “That’s Visalia.”

There is much that I loved and still love about Visalia, but there exists a dark side to most conservative rural towns in America. They are very wonderful places to live IF you happen to belong to the majority and conform to conservative ideas/values, or at least appear to conform. Eric’s story is chillingly familiar because it is the story of far too many of us.

Most of us become aware of our sexuality at puberty. Our physical attraction (sexual orientation) slowly “dawns” upon us uninvited, it simply emerges as we grow from children into adolescents. The greatest fear for a young LGBT person at this point in their life, is that they would be rejected by the very people that they love the most in this world, their family and their friends. As survival mechanism LGBT children adapt by denying who they are, they learn to lie about themselves to their parents, siblings, friends and classmates.

The price of all of this is ultimately self-hatred. The Center for Disease Control’s 1999 Youth at Risk Behavior Study, found that one-third of gay adolescents attempt suicide. One-Third! Not reflected in those statistics are the abuse of alcohol and drugs by LGBT youth. Not reflected in those statistics are the large numbers of gay teens that are driven from their homes, or emotionally alienated by parents practicing “tough love.” Parents attempting to force their children to be something they are not, heterosexual. All too often parents have been misled into adopting this tough “love” by clergy.

The fact that the hierarchy of many religions, including Catholicism, promote these attitudes towards LGBT people and makes them accomplices to this moral evil. The prejudice, emotional and physical violence, alienation of affection between parents and their children, the resulting despair and tragic suicides can all be traced back to religious authorities who willfully disregard the insights of psychology.

Pope Benedict XVI, just this week, made the absurd and unsubstantiated statement that; gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined "the future of humanity itself".

In the USA those states that have Marriage Equality laws have substantially lower divorce rates that those that prohibit Same-sex marriage.

Consider the following report from the BBC,

“A UK HIV charity said there was a clear link between happiness and health.
Research has already suggested that gay men are more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts than heterosexual men, and that social exclusion may be partly responsible.

Same-sex marriages are legal in six US states, with Massachusetts the first to allow them in 2003.”


“Researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health surveyed the demand for medical and mental health care from 1,211 gay men registered with a particular health clinic in the 12 months prior to the change, and the 12 months afterwards.
They found a 13% drop in healthcare visits after the law was enacted.
There was a reduction in blood pressure problems, depression and "adjustment disorders", which the authors claimed could be the result of reduced stress.”


“A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK-based sexual health and HIV charity, said: "There is a known link between health and happiness.
"It's no surprise that people who are treated as second class citizens tend to have low self esteem, which in turn makes them more likely to take risks.
"Whether this is drugs, alcohol abuse, or unsafe sex, treating gay men unequally has lasting repercussions for their health."

Tragically, society (like our President) is “evolving” too slowly to have saved the life of Eric James Borges, 19, of Visalia, California. Hopefully, his death will outrage us to speak louder, work harder and fight more uncompromisingly for full federal equality and protection. For the human dignity that is every person’s birthright.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reactionary "Catholic" Moral theology, cutting the foot to fit the shoe.

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the New Year.
On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage "to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings."

1. This is wrong within the realm of current Catholic moral theology.

The following book description of “The Sexual Person” by Professors Todd A. Salzman and Charles E. Curran is found on Amazon Press.

"Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics.

While some documents from Vatican II, like Gaudium et spes ("the marital act promotes self-giving by which spouses enrich each other"), gave hope for a renewed understanding of sexuality, the church has not carried out the full implications of this approach. In short, say Salzman and Lawler: emphasize relationships, not acts, and recognize Christianity's historically and culturally conditioned understanding of human sexuality. The Sexual Person draws historically, methodologically, and anthropologically from the best of Catholic tradition and provides a context for current theological debates between traditionalists and revisionists regarding marriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, and what it means to be human. This daring and potentially revolutionary book will be sure to provoke constructive dialogue among theologians, and between theologians and the Magisterium."

The critical piece in the thinking of Salzman & Lawler is to view/understand human sexuality not as merely a physical act; but rather, in the context of human relationships. What makes the sexual act morally good, or bad, is not the act per se, but the relationship between the two people engaging in the act.

2. It is wrong because it ignores the findings of science; the American Psychological Association states the following on this subject,

"The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation (Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith, 1981; Bullough, 1976; Ford & Beach 1951 ; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953 ). Homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder (APA, 1975). Since 1974, the American Psychological Association (APA) has opposed stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and has taken a leadership role in supporting the equal rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (APA, 2005).

APA is concerned about ongoing efforts to mischaracterize homosexuality and promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed and about the resurgence of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)1. SOCE has been controversial due to tensions between the values held by some faith-based organizations, on the one hand, and those held by lesbian, gay and bisexual rights organizations and professional and scientific organizations, on the other (Drescher, 2003; Drescher & Zucker, 2006). Some individuals and groups have promoted the idea of homosexuality as symptomatic of developmental defects or spiritual and moral failings and have argued that SOCE, including psychotherapy and religious efforts, could alter homosexual feelings and behaviors (Drescher & Zucker, 2006; Morrow & Beckstead, 2004). Many of these individuals and groups appeared to be embedded within the larger context of conservative religious political movements that have supported the stigmatization of homosexuality on political or religious grounds (Drescher, 2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005; Drescher & Zucker, 2006)."

3. Finally this is wrong because it places an inhuman life long burden on children who happen to have a same-sex orientation.

All of these theological and scientific discussions may be very stimulating and even entertaining; however, the real effect of these abstract ideas is made concrete in the lives of real people. The American Psychological Association states,

“According to current scientific and professional understanding, the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation-–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual.”

Imagine yourself at the age described by the APA in the preceding statement. Further imagine yourself at Sunday Mass with your family and hearing the “Courage” message from the pulpit. Imagine how your classmates hearing the same message would view you, if they “knew.”

Listen now to the words of a young Rabbi,

“You lay impossible burdens on men but will not lift a finger to lighten them.” Luke 11: 46

• Telling a child that there is something inherently defective about them as a person is evil.
• Telling them that they may never date, hold hands, fall in love with or marry the person they are naturally attracted to is evil.
• Telling them that they must live their life alone for the next 50, 60, 70, etc years is evil.
• Doing all of this in the name of God while claiming to be “compassionate” is both evil and a blasphemy.

This is the real sin here and it is the sin of the bishops who close their eyes to the truth in order to advance their careers and make an idol of an institution while forgetting God who is love and the people who they were ordained to serve.