Monday, January 26, 2009

Shocked but not surprised.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.” An English professor of mine in college once said, “truisms are truisms because they are true.” On Friday the Bilerco Project published an article about my recent run in with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In brief, I had applied for the position of Executive Director of a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. I had very successfully completed the lion’s share of the interview process and was all but assured that I would be given the position. I had one final interview left with the Board of Directors on December 15th, 2008. Two days before that interview, I received a phone call from a Board Member informing me that the final interview had been cancelled. He was extremely apologetic and explained that they had received a phone call from the Archdiocese threatening them with disaffiliation if I were to be hired as the Executive Director.

I decided not to pursue any legal remedy for three reasons. First, I did not in any way wish to harm the non-profit for which I had applied. They do outstanding and laudable work helping the working poor. Second, I have extremely limited financial resources and am no match for the extremely well financed and influential Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Third, my own family asked me not to pursue the matter further. They felt that I was being made “an example of” by the powers within the Church to discourage other priests from speaking out. My folks basically suggested that I just find a job and move on with my life.

Paradoxically, the actions of churchmen are pushing me in the opposite direction. On this final point, I must say that I have received first a command and then, “warnings” not to publish, not to speak with the media, and not to make public appearances. I am in a “David and Goliath” scenario with powerful churchmen who have the staff and vast wealth of the institution at their command. I was effectively blackballed by the Archdiocese from obtaining the position at CLUE-LA and I am aware that the hierarchy may try this and other means to attempt to intimidate me into silence. It is the basic civil right for freedom of speech that is at stake here for both myself and the reader.

These authoritarian churchmen are threatened by the free expression of ideas which differ from their own. They are even more acutely sensitive on this particular issue than on most others because they know that many priests (and bishops) are gay. They take it as a personal affront that threatens not only their power and position, but perhaps even more frightening, it threatens to unmask many of them as closeted gay men. The simple solution of granting gay and lesbian Catholics the practical dignity which they have conferred upon them theoretically is a non-option. This is true because of sociological reasons. Most Catholics live in the Third World and are not prepared to accept women priests, let alone gay and lesbian equal rights.

I entered the seminary in 1978 because of a sincere religious conversion. I have been privileged to know many holy priests and nuns. I have meditated on the Word of God and have been inspired by the Truth of Divine Mercy. I know that I am imperfect and have fallen short in my life but I can honestly say that I have never acted out of malice towards others. I know that the truth cannot be destroyed by free discussion and that ultimately, free discourse of ideas serves the truth since, it reveals it. Those who would lead us spiritually must do so by the wisdom and reason of their argumentation and not by coercion. They must embrace and manifest love and mercy as central values which they manifest through their words and deeds. This is how our founder proclaimed the Good News.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A cloud on an otherwise, sunny day.

There has been much buzz of late in the LGBT community regarding Obama's controversial choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at next week's inauguration ceremonies. The old adage that "politics makes strange bedfellows" seems apt but, falls short of assuaging feelings of hurt and betrayal by LGBT folks. Ironically, the only rationale for inviting Warren is to be inclusive yet, conferring this honor on someone who advocates bigotry has achieved the precisely opposite effect. Yes, the President Elect faces many demanding and superhuman emergencies as he assumes the responsibilities of his Office.

The national and international economy is in near ruins. The Middle East is bloodier than ever and it will take skillful diplomacy if not Divine intervention to pull us out of the mess in which we now find ourselves embroiled. Countless human lives have been lost along with trillions (that's with a "T") of dollars in the Iraq war. Alan Greenspan said that we went to war in Iraq for OIL, full stop. All of "W"'s Wilsonian idealism about the Middle East is, and I'm being charitable here, idealism at best. At worst, it represents a cynical smoke and mirror attempt to dupe the American people which has resulted in a bankrupt nation and decades of anti-American sentiments internationally which have placed the world in a recklessly dangerous predicament. Not to mention global warming, rising sea levels and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to regimes holding extremist positions.

The LGBT community is being asked by Obama to take one for the team. As we were asked by former President Clinton to take one for the team. Then, we were asked to sacrifice being able to serve openly in the Armed Forces so that we could obtain National Health Care. In the end, we got neither.

In the light of all of this, whoever delivers the inaugural invocation seems as insignificant as the pattern of the china on the Titanic. Who cares? This line of reasoning could dismiss the whole controversy. However,in times as bleak as these, what we need most from the Obama campaign is for them to deliver on their motto: HOPE.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy New Year!

As the band struck up Auld Lang Syne and friends helped toast in 2009 a feeling of optimism spread through the room. True, the economy is a basket case and we did lose on Proposition 8; however, the people responsible for all of that are on their way out the door. The California Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments which could reverse the bigoted law which is proposition 8. An additional reason to be cheerful is the unintended effect which the “yes on 8” forces unleashed. There is a renewed sense of mission and galvanization of the entire gay and lesbian community through out the United States.

There is much to be hopeful about. Many former Generals and Admirals have asked that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be dumped as a policy for the Armed Forces and that gay and lesbians be permitted to serve openly in the ranks, as they do in many of our NATO allied armed forces. With an even stronger Democratic majority in both the House of Representatives and The Senate along with the newly elected President, we have an excellent shot of changing this discriminatory practice.

When the late President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order as Commander in Chief desegregating the United States Armed Forces, he accomplished much more than simply a more just Armed Forces. He set into motion a national reconsideration of segregation. People fail to realize that the Armed Forces help to socialize a large segment of young adults. Once segregation became unacceptable in the Armed Forces, the stage was set for Brown vs. Board of Education in the mid 1950’s and the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s.

A wonderful thing about the military service is that once they say something is unacceptable. It is unacceptable, PERIOD. Once they say that you cannot discriminate against military personnel based on sexual orientation, it will effectively stop. People will then ask: Why did we ever do that stuff anyway? Eventually, those attitudes learned and reinforced in the military will work their way into the civilian population and bigotry will be unmasked and displaced.

So, out with the old and in with the new, Cheers!