Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The courts and protection of minority rights.

In a public comment, bishop Steinbock stated: “Proposition 8 is not about homosexuals and their rights.” I had to read that twice, that is EXACTLY what Proposition 8 is about. Proposition 8 if approved by California voters would take away the civil right to marry from same sex couples. In his actual “pastoral” letter for July, the bishop referenced the State Supreme Court decision and compared the court to the Nazi and Communist regimes. We have also heard the courts derided by others in our society. “Activist Judges” is a derisive term often employed by people in positions of power who are displeased the courts act as a curb to their power. Ironically, when our own State Assembly passed a bill authorizing same sex marriage, the governor refused to sign it and stated that it was an issue best resolved by the courts. Our own bishop, in his “pastoral” stated that it was by a slim margin that the court made this decision. I don’t recall him once complaining when the courts ruled in favor of the Church in civil cases, even if it was by a slim margin.

The judicial branch of government is there to protect everyone's rights. An independent judiciary is essential to safe guard minority rights from the tyranny of majority power. If it were not for our judiciary, African Americans and Hispanics would not enjoy employment protection laws, equal housing laws and other rights which were non-existent and would have been thought impossible just two generations ago. Inter-racial marriage would still be illegal in California. In the 1960’s had these issues been decided by popular vote instead of by the courts, these minority groups would not have been given their civil rights and the human dignity that was denied them by society at the time.

The bishop stated, in his letter of suspension: “Your statement contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church and has brought scandal to your parish community as well as the whole Church.” A scandal is not created by speaking the truth. The real "scandal" is placing impossibly heavy burdens on the faithful, faulting them for an act of the Creator in having created them with same sex orientation and then, not lifting a finger to help them. The traditional definition of theology is: “faith seeking understanding.” The idea that theology is a “done deal” is absurd. In the area of bioethics alone, theologians and the Church can’t even keep up with new developments in science. Psychology and neurology also have offered us considerable new insights into same sex orientation in the last generation. The Church itself has officially stated, that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” This begs additional commentary by the Church and ultimately these new understandings should be translated into pastoral practices. We are required to teach and guide those entrusted to our care by God. Jesus himself stated: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:12-13).

My “sin” was not to hold the position, which I hold, nor, was it even to voice it. What I stated represents current thought on this issue by many theologians, pastors and some bishops. My sin was to voice it publicly. Why is that such a big deal? Because, it represents a “crack in the dam” if, one lowly pastor in Fresno can state something contrary to the official party line today then, tomorrow it could be several priests or, God forbid, even a bishop or, two. Privately, in the ballot box on Election Day, most priests, most nuns and several bishops will vote NO on Proposition 8. Most of these people involved in pastoral ministry will do this because, like me, they know it is the right thing to do. Perhaps, fifty years from now, the “official” churchmen will.


Rev. Richard Thornburgh said...

It's an amazing stand you are taking. All the might of authority canot silence the voice of truth. Keep blogging so that we're up to speed with all that's going on,and so that our prayers may be informed.

Unknown said...

Remember, one of Christ's crimes was causing a "scandal" so you must be doing something right.

I am relieved we don't imprison dissidents from the chruch anymore, a suspension is terrible, but better than you know, jail.

Bless you, Father.

Anonymous said...

This church secretary is voting No. We had to keep detailed records on how our parish promoted Prop 8. Everytime I typed something up, I felt dirty.

Kay & Sarah said...

Bless you for your voice of truth.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your courage, Father. From you, I hear the voice many of my friends had hoped to hear from their faith, and I have passed your site on to them so they may find hope.

I had been meaning to donate to No on Prop 8 for a while now, but your actions and writings have encouraged me to finally do so, in your honor.

From myself and those at my Catholic college's Rainbow Alliance organization, thank you. You are truly an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

You quite rightly point to the Church's unwillingness to consider the findings of modern biology and neurology. This is simply one example of a larger and more long-standing trend: the Church comes to a conclusion on a question, then finds that it must change reasons that caused it to reach that conclusion. The Church, once it adopts a view of an action as sinful, has had the grounding of that adoption undercut many times. But it does not change its view of the action as sinful. The Church just goes off looking for other ways to justify its prior ruling.

John_B said...


Father Geoff,

My name is John Becker; I'm 23 years old and have been married to my husband Michael for 2 1/2 years. He and I are both Catholic, and have found several priest mentors who are understanding, affirming, and accepting of us as a couple and rejoice in our love for each other.

I just want to tell you that you are a hero of mine for the stand you are taking against the incorrect and unjust position the California bishops have taken on Proposition 8. I too love the Catholic faith very much, but we Catholics cannot be silent in the face of such injustice and oppression. It's people like you that enable thousands of gay and lesbian Catholics like Michael and I to hold our heads up and stand firm. They can take many things away from us (and especially you, in your priestly capacity), but they can NEVER take away our faith.

God bless you and the stand that you are taking. Know that thousands of us stand with you and pray for you.

If you have time, I would love to hear from you and discuss your story in greater detail. May God continue to abundantly bless you.


Once again, you totally rock!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Farrow for your tenacity, your courage and your faith.

I am a brother priest but need to remain in the closet at least for the time being.

I am sure you have read John McNeill;s "The Church and tThe Homosexual" if not you need to.

You are in my prayers

WarrenSensei said...

Bless you Father for your strength of spirit. I pray that you will quickly find the new shape of God's mission in your life. We all know it will be a powerful one, begun as it has like this.

Anonymous said...

Well put....and yes, you are correct. Many of us will indeed vote NO on 8. Weighing all the information, we have come the conclusion that this is indeed moral and just...imagine that....we come to our OWN conclusions?!

I have older family members who recall a time when to instruct church members how to vote was a 'mortal sin'...the pendulum certainly has overswung, and is due for correction.

Blessings, and please continue the communication....scandal...??!! Seriously? Not scandal, but rather a breath of fresh and truthful air.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Geoff .. This was such a powerful post!! I pray that you will, if not at this moment, see your suspension as a springboard that has propelled your ministry to great distances, where those of us who might never before have recieved the gifts you share ... can be inspired, fed and profoundly encouraged. Thank you, once again!!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Geoff, I recently saw an educational film at school titled
"For the Love of It" by Jim Dewitt.
It reminded me so much of you and
how your love for your work shows especially when you're explaining an issue. Along with so many others, I, too, admire and respect you for standing up for your beliefs. God has blessed you with courage and strength and has indeed chosen you to do His work. May God continue to bless you and keep you safe in His circle of love. Nov. 2 City Hall, I'll be there.

Anonymous said...

God bless you. I admire your courage and fairness. I was raised Catholic and felt abandoned by my faith. I was verbally abused once by a classmate in confirmation class as my teachers stood by and did nothing to defend me. I was closeted back then and never acted upon my tendencies. But I was punished before the "crime" happened nonetheless. I hope someday that the Catholic faith can focus on inclusion instead of a policy of exclusion. And you may possibly be the most instrumental person to make this happen. I truly believe that what you have done is right, just, and that God will reward your sacrifice. Thank you so much.

WifeandMom said...

You know, as a member of the church you supposedly "brought scandal to" I must say that's total bull. You weren't the one to bring scandal to the parish. What has brought scandal has happened every single week since you left. First it was a letter read to us from the bishop that said that the church doesn't condone discrimination against homosexuals, but then in the same letter described how voting No on Prop 8 was against the church.

It was absolutely ridiculous. Next, came a letter in our parish bulletin from our Deacon basically reprimanding anyone who dared disagree with the church's position on this issue (and many others like the use of birth control) and asked that if you are for same sex rights and other controversial topics, you should pray for forgiveness and feel conflicted and guilty for going against the church teachings.

Then, came every single Priest filling in for you who in one way or another, finds a way to throw in a word or phrase specifically to confirm the church's position on Prop 8.

All I can say is WTF? Each and every Sunday as I sit in mass, I find myself growing more and more infuriated with the current climate in the church. I am completely and utterly pissed off that our church is not only trying to force us all to vote for discrimination and hatred, but that they are doing it in every single way they can think of.

Father Geoff, I applaud you for your courage for standing up for what you believe in. In the past few weeks, I've made my voice heard loud and clear about this issue and will continue to rally for NO ON PROP 8. I'm a straight woman with a husband and kids and this issue has me fired up! I hope that our voices are heard and that election day proves that California is sick and tired of bigots and hateful discrimination!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Geoff,
You are truly a courageous man. I am blessed by your openess and couarge to stand for truth in the light of opposition and ouright un truth. Jesus stood against the tide of tradiion in his day and we continue to need voices to do the same today. As an Epicopalian in a Diocese which struggles with the issues of glbt inclusion I an glad to know there are others who are speaking out against unloving attitudes in the Church.

Anonymous said...

this parish music director says ditto to the church secretary's comment.....

James said...

Fr. Geoff; always remember that the religious authorities hated Jesus, too.

Keep your chin up, Father, a lot of people are "holding you up." And that includes a lot of Episcopalian friends you don't even know you have.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Geoff,

This was the favorite prayer of someone very, very dear to me. He was an embodiment of the merciful heart. I believe you are, too.

'What is the Merciful Heart? It is the heart's burning for the sake of the entire creation, for all humanity, for birds, for animals, for demons, and for all created things; and by the recollection and sight of them the eyes of the merciful ones pour forth abundant tears. For the strong and violent mercy which grips their hearts and from their great compassion, their hearts are humbled and they cannot bear to hear or see any injury or the slightest sorrow in all creation. For this reason they offer up tearful prayers continually even for the irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm them, that they be protected and receive mercy.'

from Homily 71 - St. Isaac the Syrian

Fran said...

You are really speaking from within here- and your years of not speaking up give your words momentum and clarity. I do not mention those years in a disrespectful manner... many of us who are part of the RC church what we do "from within" and not so much with the boat rocking...

However, you seem to have found your voice and for that I laud you and I pray for you.

Honestly, we may not be around to appreciate it, but what you are doing changes everything. Everything.

I know other priests and religious who, with good intentions, think you are in some big self-destruct mode. Maybe you are a little, that's ok, aren't we all that way at some level?

I think what you are doing automatically further silences the already silent and infuriates the authorities.

But to those on the liminal fringe, which is a place Jesus liked to be, you are a light.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Geoff - Gov. Schwarzenegger just released his positions on the ballot initiatives. He says VOTE NO on PROP 8 - just published in Sac Bee

Kimmers said...

Good morning Fr. Geoff! Just wanted to let you know that my Catholic family voted early today. Afterwards, I took my own "poll" - 4 No votes on 8.