Sunday, May 31, 2009

Change, one person at a time.

Yesterday began at 5:00 AM for me with the most unwelcome ringing of my alarm clock. I joined Cleve Jones and Lt. Dan Choi in the shuttle van, which transported us to Selma, CA where we began the march to Fresno. It all seemed a bit surreal to me, being in the van with those other people and being involved in all the events of the day, but as I approached the microphone to address 5,000 people standing in the hot sun of California’s central valley, I remembered the “why” of it all.

I want you to remember an earlier time in your life [I addressed the crowd]. I want you to remember that time when you first realized that you were different. For most of us, it was when we went through puberty. We were kids, when we first discovered that we were gay or lesbian. The greatest fear that most of us had at that time, was that we would be rejected by the people we loved the most--our families. So, we learned how to “pass.” We learned how to lie about our selves because IF people really knew the truth about us, they would not accept us and they most certainly would not love us.

The obvious cost of all of this is that we learned to hate ourselves. Lying separates us, from others. One of the great ironies here is that we lied for the sake of relationships with family, relatives and friends. Yet, those very lies erected walls between our true self and those people we loved and esteemed. Another cost of those lies, was that they caused a loss of personal wholeness--integrity, deep within the core of our own being.

In 1999, the Center for Disease Control published a study, which found that 33% of gay youth attempt suicide. THIRTY-THREE PERCENT!!! It is no mere coincidence that there is a higher incidence of alcohol, substance abuse, depression and suicide by LGBT people. These are the results of lives lived in shame, lived in fear, cloaked in lies which are intended to be shields against an onslaught of never ending attacks and abuse.

That is why we are here. That is why, even though we may lose a battle, we will never surrender. So that someone else does not have to suffer all of this crap!

That is why we will not “shut-up”, why we will not “go away.” That is why we have brought a lawsuit, invoking the equal protection clause of our Constitution, which will ultimately end up before the United States Supreme Court. That is why we have placed an initiative on the 2010 California ballot to repeal Prop 8. And we will do it again in 2012 and 2014, if we have to, UNTIL WE WIN!

All of this costs a huge amount of money and work, but it costs those who would oppress and abuse us a huge amount of money too. They will have to fight us in California, and in Maine, and in Iowa, and in New Hampshire, and in Connecticut, and in Massachutsas, and in Illinois, and in New York, and in Wisconsin, and in Vermont. They will have to fight us before the U.S. Supreme Court. They will have to fight us on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They will have to fight us as we repeal DOMA.

This will cost them HUGE amounts of monies. Funds that have been donated to them by the faithful, funds that they are misspending, they are not using these funds to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, house the homeless, educate children, heal the sick, or comfort the dying. They are using them to try and “keep the lid on” to try to manipulate and control civil society and to maintain themselves as political power brokers.

AND THEY WILL LOSE. They will lose, because the faithful will call them on misuse of funds. They will lose because they have to pay with dollars in order to maintain the status quo of inequality and abuse, but we have to pay not only with our dollars BUT WITH OUR LIVES if we do not win. That is why we will never surrender.

As I walked away from the speaker’s area, I encountered a young woman wearing one of the volunteer staff tee shirts. She came up to me, holding back tears, she said I want to thank you, because you came out, I was able to come out to my family. We hugged each other and I asked how did they react? She said, at first it was a little hard, but they have since come around and are very supportive of me now.

We hugged again and I said to her “you’re going to be fine; you’re going to live in freedom and be at peace.”

The encounter with that young woman made everything worthwhile. Years from now what I will remember about Meet in the Middle 4 Equality, will be that brief encounter with a brave young woman. That is HOW we will win, when each of us musters the courage of that young woman and speaks the truth, to our families, friends, co-workers. That is how minds and hearts are changed in Fresno and elsewhere throughout our world. A reporter once waved his arm at the depravity of Calcutta and asked Mother Teresa “How can you possibly hope to change all of this?” She responded: One person at a time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Separate but Equal" upheld in California

Today’s ruling is profoundly disappointing. As California State Supreme Court, Justice Moreno noted in his eloquent dissent:

"I realize, of course, that the right of gays and lesbians to marry in this state has only lately been recognized. But that belated recognition does not make the protection of those rights less important. Rather, that the right has only recently been acknowledged reflects an age-old prejudice that makes the safeguarding of that right by the judiciary all the more critical …
Proposition 8 represents an unprecedented instance of a majority of voters altering the meaning of the equal protection clause by modifying the California Constitution to require deprivation of a fundamental right on the basis of a suspect classification. The majority’s holding is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution".

The words of Justice Moreno “The [state supreme court] majority’s holding is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution” will most probably be lost on the vast majority of this state’s citizens.

People have become so intent on the goal of their “side” that most have forgotten the principles that make civil society “civil.” Democracy, the rule of the majority, can work only when the rights of minorities within that society are protected. US Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer has said:

"The Supreme Court must promote the rights of minorities and look beyond the Constitution’s text when necessary to ensure that ‘no one gets too powerful".

Social conservatives often refer to judges such as Moreno and Breyer as “activist judges”. The term itself was coined after the decision Brown vs. Board of Education by the US Supreme Court. That landmark case threw out the 1896 ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson by the same court, which established “separate but equal” as the law of the land.

Today’s ruling by our state Supreme Court probably has all the technical correctness of Plessy vs. Ferguson and none of the justice of Brown vs. Board of Education. Today, the civil rights of all minority groups in California are placed at risk. The principle established by today’s court ruling is that a simple majority of the electorate may, at will, violate the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

We know that we will win this battle at the ballot box. We know that the numbers are on our side and that we have reached a cultural tipping point on this issue. We will overcome this injustice in November of 2010 when we repeal Prop 8 through the ballot initiative process. No minority group in this state or in this country should be required to secure its rights through a simple majority vote. If Blacks had been required to do this, Rosa Parks would still have to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Obama would not sit in the Oval Office and would most probably not be permitted to sit in most restaurants in Washington, D.C.

Justice Moreno’s words accurately and chillingly convey what happened in California today. Today’s ruling, “is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution”.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 21, 1979

Thirty years ago today on May 21, 1979 a court in San Francisco handed down the most lenient sentence possible to Dan White. White had taken the lives of the Mayor of San Francisco and of Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco city supervisors and a champion of social justice for LGBT people. The grotesque injustice in the trial and sentencing of White was yet another slap in the face of LGBT people. It was a reminder, as if one were needed, that “you don’t count,” “you don’t matter,” “you are second class citizens.”

When you repeatedly abuse any minority within a society, there comes a point where you reach “critical mass.” A point where people simply refuse to take the abuse any longer, Stonewall was such a point and so was May 21, 1979. Harvey Milk himself left a recorded message in case he was assassinated. I think it appropriate for us to consider his words, as we pause and recall the events of May 21, 1979.

The aftermath of the assassination produced the following events, recorded here on video:

As we wait yet another court decision, which will determine our immediate fate under the law. It is good to pause and reflect on the long road we have already traveled. It is good to realize that we walk in the footsteps of others who have paid the ultimate price for the gains in our civil rights and human dignity, which we have been able to realize. It is important for us to work for the day when every person in our state and in our nation will enjoy full equality under the law.

How do we get there from here? Many legal experts expect that the court will rule to uphold Prop 8. If that turns out to be the case,there will be a great up swell of emotions when the court’s decision is announced, most probably next week. While these emotions are justified and understandable, we need to direct them in a positive and constructive manner. Yes, we need to express our indignation and outrage at injustice and the continuation of discrimination enshrined in our legal system. How we do this is critical. Many LGBT organizations are collaborating with law enforcement officials to conduct legal and peaceful protests.

We need to look down the road to November 2010. Many groups within our state are working to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal Prop 8. One such group is Love, Honor and Cherish []. We need to reach out to our co-workers, neighbors, people we speak with every day and raise the subject of marriage equality. We need to engage these people in conversations that will move their minds and hearts on this issue. Each of us needs to speak from the heart. Each of us needs to convey what it means to suffer discrimination. Each of us needs to come out, not merely about our orientation but to share what this has cost us personally.

Harvey Milk once said that if every LGBT person came out, discrimination would end. The greatest protest you can make is to “be” by making yourself and your story known.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I love a parade.

On Sunday May 17th some friends invited me to drive down to their home in Long Beach and accompany them to the Pride Parade. I arrived at their home around 8:40 AM and joined a small group of people for a breakfast buffet on the patio. I didn’t know many of the people at breakfast, as is customary in our society, after exchanging names people discuss their professions.

Soon the discussion turned to religion and its role in their various lives. One man said that he used to go to daily Mass well into his years as a university student, but he eventually stopped attending Mass after he was made to feel unwelcome. Essentially, the same story was repeated with minor variations.

Several asked me where I saw the Church moving on this issue. I did my best to explain the theology of marriage and the evolution which the hierarchy had undergone on this issue through the pontificate of Paul VI. The watershed statement by the Vatican which proclaimed that for some “homosexuality is innate.” Sadly while, after the death of Paul VI, this statement has never been refuted; it has been simply ignored.

On to the parade! It was a cool Sunday morning, you couldn’t have asked for better weather for a parade. Our little group made its way down the parade route by the Pacific Ocean. We found a spot and settled in as the parade started.

After a few moments, I heard the bellicose bellowing of a rather corpulent middle aged man in a very tight tank top. He was apparently the spokesperson for an anti-gay group. I looked twice incredulously at the banners which flanked the speaker. God Abhors You! The group had managed to use God and hate together in various declarative statements.

A psychologist in our group offered us some probable explanations for the man’s behavior. One woman if front of us simply observed “he looks like a closet case to me!”
We soon tuned out the goateed man’s vitriolic and enjoyed the parade.

Various student groups marched by followed by, LGBT police officers, firefighters who ran their sirens when they were next to the man spewing out hatred on his bull horn, a marching band and elected officials. The local aquarium had a float as did a group of veterinarians. A group of veterans walked by, one was in a wheel chair holding a placard which read “End the war” and asking for an end to our military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

PFLAG marched as did a cadre of LGBT parents with their children. Various religious groups marched past us. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church had a large contingent, several other protestant churches also marched along with their ministers. St. Matthew’s Catholic Church had about fifteen people in their group, but no priest. The man with the bull horn became particularly agitated with these groups.

After several hours, we adjourned for lunch back at the house and then went down to the festival held by the marina. As I walked past the various booths, I noticed that St. Matthew’s Catholic group “Comunidad” had a banner which said this was part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Ministry. I couldn’t help but think that this was initiated by Cardinal Roger Mahony about the same time that he forbade Dignity (a Catholic LGBT organization) to meet on church properties in the Archdiocese.

Mahony, who attempted to wrap himself in the mantle of the late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago as America’s leading Catholic “liberal” prelate could have made a HUGE difference in the recent Prop 8 election IF he had not publicly supported the “yes on prop 8” side in the referendum. His quiet collaboration with Cardinal Leveda and Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco ensured the LDS (Mormons) Church becoming heavily involved in the “yes on Prop 8” campaign and its eventual narrow win.

You have to hand it to Mahony. Niederauer got the Mormons to write the big fat checks and Mahony left Niederauer holding the bag for having done so. The Mormons were out the money and left holding the bag for the PR fallout for having underwritten the “yes on 8” campaign costs. Mahony is still “liberal” and the patron of the good folks at St. Matthew’s and elsewhere in the Archdiocese. Cardinal Richelieu would have been proud!

As I walked past St. Matthew’s booth, I came upon the “Log Cabin Republicans” and I thought how poetically ironic that it was that they were so close to the booth from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and yet how far both were from the acceptance of their respective hierarchies.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Catholic Archbishop comes out as gay & questions the hierarchy's teachings on homosexuality.

In an article by Laurie Goodstein published Thursday, May 14th in the New York Times newspaper Archbishop Rembert Weakland is quoted as follows:

“If we say our God is an all-loving god,” he said, “how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay? Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, you have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?”
He said he had been aware of his homosexual orientation since he was a teenager and suppressed it until he became archbishop, when he had relationships with several men because of “loneliness that became very strong.”
Archbishop Weakland, 82, said he was probably the first bishop to come out of the closet voluntarily. He said he was doing so not to excuse his actions but to give an honest account of why it happened and to raise questions about the church’s teaching that homosexuality is “objectively disordered.”
“Those are bad words because they are pejorative,” he said.

If you are heterosexual and really want to understand why people with same sex attraction have such difficulty with the hierarchy’s teaching on homosexuality, I invite you to read their statements, but with one little twist. Print out their words and then, “white-out” the word “homosexual” and then, go back and write in the word “heterosexual.” Go back and re-read those same documents and statements to the media. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write your honest answers to the following questions:

1) Could I as an adult, honestly live the balance of my life without an intimate loving relationship? What would this mean for me personally?
2) Thinking back to when you first discovered that you had sexual desires/attractions, for most this happened during puberty, how would these teachings by the hierarchy of the Church have affected how you viewed yourself?
3) How would these official teachings have affected your relationship with your parents, family, friends, teachers, etc.?
4) How do you think you would have handled being so classified and treated as a young person?
5) How would you handle it as an adult today?
6) Would you remain an active and practicing member of the Church?
7) How would you view the Catholic Church?
8) How would you view God and your relationship with God?

In 1975 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy, issued an official statement that “homosexuality is innate for some individuals.” In plain English, that means that God created some humans as homosexuals. The Archbishop’s questions (in the quotation above) penetrate to the very core of this whole issue; specifically, taken in combination, what do the hierarchy’s statements on this matter say about God?

Why did God make a significant number of men and women homosexual? What is God’s purpose in doing this? What are people who have been created by God with an attraction only to people of their own gender suppose to do with this “innate” orientation?

The hierarchy of the Church has a moral obligation to provide reasoned and reasonable explanations to the faithful. They have a duty to provide compassionate guidance to souls on their quest for wholeness. As the Archbishop rightly points out, the leadership of our Church has failed its members for the past 34 years. It is time to stop. It is time to reconsider the impact of such inhuman demands on the lives of real people. It is time to recall the words of our founder who said: “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New York State Assembly to vote on marriage equality legislation.

Tomorrow the State Assembly in New York will vote on marriage equality legislation (A7732). The bill is expected to pass easily in New York’s state Assembly.
It will then go on to the State Senate; this in itself represents a victory because in 2007 the Republicans who then controlled the Senate refused to take up the bill.

The New York Times ran this article in yesterday’s newspaper:

The measure is expected to easily pass the State Assembly, which approved a similar bill in 2007 and has scheduled its vote for Tuesday.
That means the fate of the legislation will most likely be decided in the closely divided 62-member State Senate.
There, proponents believe they have about two dozen; of the 32 votes needed for approval, including those of 19 Democrats who have signed on as sponsors of the measure.
Four of the Senate’s 32 Democrats have said they will vote against the legislation, and so far not a single Republican has publicly committed to supporting it.
Faced with these odds, gay rights groups like the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Log Cabin Republicans and the Human Rights Campaign have undertaken a highly methodical and personal campaign focusing on those senators from the North Country to Long Island who they believe may be open to backing the bill.

You may also help by visiting the Human Rights Organization website at action page at

If you are a resident of New York State please write or telephone your elected representatives and ask them to support marriage equality. It will be a hard battle, but we have a real chance to make a huge difference.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The truth will set you free.

There is an old joke in the Church that, if all the gays were to leave tomorrow, there would be no Mass and no music on Sunday morning. The genius of all humor is that it contains a kernel of truth stated bluntly. Estimates vary between 25% and 50%, according to a review of research on the issue by Father Donald Cozzens, a psychologist, the rector of a major Catholic seminary and the author of “The Changing Face of the Priesthood.” This book exposes all of this to the light of day.

That is most certainly what Archbishop Rembert Weakland has just done. He has written a book entitled: “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop.” In the book, which will be released in June, the Archbishop candidly admits that he is gay. He speaks forthrightly about his love with another man. Sadly, he also discusses his complicity in the cover up surrounding the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church.

At 82 years of age, such a book is tantamount to a deathbed confession, but it appears to be far more than simply that. It is an honest admission of something, which many in the Church, and especially its hierarchy, already know. Most Catholic priests and bishops are gay.

Harvey Milk once stated that if every gay person came out, it would be the end of the marginalization of gay people. Whatever else people may say about Archbishop Weakland the simple truth still stands that he spoke the truth and he did so freely.
He could have simply remained silent and taken this to his grave.

If he had done so, he would have sparred himself any more turmoil and could have quietly lived out the balance of his life. Many others would have taken that option. Many others, some of them in white, red and purple cassocks do.

If every priest and bishop in America who is gay were to stand in the pulpit this Sunday and state that in so many words to their congregations, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for Rome to continue to attempt to oppress LGBT people.

It would also force the hierarchy to take seriously its responsibility to offer practical spiritual guidance to its lesbian and gay members. It would mark the beginning of the end for hate crimes that victimize both LGBT people and their loved ones. Will this happen anytime soon? It is happening, one priest, and one archbishop at a time and it scares the hell out of Rome.

"Such evil deeds could religion prompt." Lucretius 96-55 BC

Last week both houses of Maine’s legislature delivered a bill to that state’s Governor. The Governor signed the bill into law and that state now has full marriage equality for all its citizens. The story is a rebuke to the far right which constantly bemoans “activist judges.”

That terminology has its roots in the anti-civil rights rhetoric of the 1950’s when the US Supreme Court rendered their decision in the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education. The decision by the Court was a turning point in the history of our country for several reasons. It dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities.

The Court’s decision had far reaching social implications, which over fifty years later continue to be felt in our country. It should be noted that this decision against bigotry and discrimination in 1954 occurred 105 years after African Americans filed suit against mandated educational segregation in the case of Roberts vs. City of Boston in 1849.

Winston Churchill once quipped that Americans always do the right thing, but only after exhausting every other option. Few, although there are some, today would argue in favor of racial segregation, or for the prohibition of interracial marriage. Without intervention from the judicial system, segregation would probably have remained in place as a feature of American society for several more decades.

What happened in Maine and a few other states is extraordinary in that it represents a legislative action to expand the personal rights and freedoms of citizens. Just as there remain in society today individuals and groups opposed to racial equality there are those who oppose marriage equality. These individuals and groups have launched a ballot campaign in Maine to strip others in Maine of their right to a civil marriage.

Who are these people? Specifically, the two individuals who initiated the process for collecting signatures are Pastor Bob Emrich of the Maine Jeremiah Project and Stephen Whiting, an attorney. Whiting is also affiliated with “Broken Wing Ministries” a “Christian” religious group. The Kennebec Journal also reveals others intent upon attacking LGBT people:

"Marc Mutty, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said he and other opponents want the question to appear on the November ballot. That means their signatures would have to be turned in by early August, Dunlap said.
Mutty was one of five supporters to sign the people’s veto application.
“We are full steam for November,” he said. “It will be a huge advantage to be on the November ballot.”
That’s because conservative issues such as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights and a proposed repeal of the excise tax will appear on the November ballot, he said."

I cannot adequately express the depth of my personal revulsion, disgust and sense of utter betrayal by an institution, which I have faithfully served for 23 years as a priest. Last year when Cardinal Mahony and the other bishops of California announced their support for the “yes on Prop 8” campaign I commented to a brother priest “I feel like a Jew working for the Gestapo.”

It is time for LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends to stop collaborating with those who actively work to undermine the rights of others and thereby oppress them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Morality and double standards.

At a very recent luncheon of the Catholic Fresno Professionals, a member of the organization addressed that body. He stated: I believe in the Pope. I believe in bishops who follow the pope and I believe in priests who follow their bishop. I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

At this point another member of the organization leaned over to a prominent business person and asked: “How many children does the speaker have?” “Two.” The professional who asked the question, remarked dryly: “I guess he also believes in artificial birth control.”

The late John Paul II used to refer to individuals like the speaker as “smorgasbord Catholics.” The irony here is that the speaker failed to see the obvious incongruity between his highly emotional protestations of devotion to all the moral pronouncements of the pope and his deviation from those pronouncements in his own sexual practices.

As the Gospel according to Matthew 7:2 states: “the measure by which you measure shall be used to measure you.” If your definition of what is morally acceptable is a very narrow literalist reading of official church pronouncements then, you must be prepared to apply all of those to yourself as well.

It is not only this “Catholic” professional who is at odds with official Church teachings which prohibit the use of artificial birth control by married couples. Most bishops, while not publicly dissenting from official church teaching on this matter, simply chose to remain silent on the subject. Only a statistically tiny percentage of US Catholics actually practice natural family planning.

Such obvious contradictions between what we preach/teach and what we actually practice are not limited to Catholics. Many Protestant fundamentalists are quick to cite condemnations of homosexuality in the Epistles of Paul or in passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, when was the last time that a fundamentalist pastor ascended his pulpit and condemned those in the congregation who have divorced and remarried?

Christ himself in the Gospels unequivocally states “ Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11 I promise you, you won’t hear that anytime soon at your local mega church. Why? Even though the scriptures are very, very clear and even though these are the actual words of Jesus in the Gospels, they are ignored because, half the congregation would stand up, walk out the doors, never come back and take their cash & checkbooks with them.

The Catholic church in the USA has made a “fine art” of granting annulments, as a way out for Catholics on this matter. A Catholic attorney wrote a book entitled: “Annulment: Your Chance to Remarry Within the Catholic Church Using the New Code of Canon Law.” The church in the USA is one of the great “cash cows” for the Vatican. Perhaps on this point of $piritual theology, Fundamentalists ministers and the Catholic hierarchy are much closer than they would care to state. It seems that some “sins” are more acceptable than others. Some are certainly more profitable.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Priests, Paparazzi & Celibacy.

Yesterday a story broke out of Miami about Father Alberto Cutie who was caught on the beach in the company of a woman. Some Paparazzi evidently followed the priest, took photos of him and the woman exchanging simple acts of public affection. They attempted to sell the photos to a news station for a six figure sum but the station declined. They were finally able to sell the photos to Telenotas a Spanish language periodical for an undisclosed amount.

There are several stories here. First, there is the story of Paparazzi, we all recall their role in the death of the late Princess Diana. There is something disquieting about being stalked. I had this happen a few times as a priest, most recently by a woman who had romantic designs on me. While this may seem initially flattering or humorous to some, having someone appear at night out of the shadows or, tail you car through city streets would be a cause for serious concern for most people.

There is something especially foul and crass about individuals who make it their “profession” to stalk individuals and invade their private lives. In the situation which I cited, it became apparent to me that I was dealing with someone suffering from mental dysfunction. In the case of Fr. Albert Cutie, it seems that he was dealing with someone who wanted to make a very large amount of money and really didn’t care in the least what the professional and personal consequences to their prey would be.

I suppose that is what is truly unsavory about Paparazzi, they are willing and eager to stalk a fellow human in order to make a buck and really don’t care what psychological, emotional, professional or, as in the case of the late Princess Diana, physical harm they cause. An addendum to this is that people fund Paparazzi by buying tabloids. Then again, sins against charity have always been socially respectable.

A second story is that this is a priest. Priests are public persons and therefore considered “fair game” by not only Paparazzi but often even by the people who they serve. I know of many priests whom have been followed and who have had their residence under surveillance by parishioners. I myself have found my mail opened and read. I know of a priest who had his computer hacked into and files published. I would invite the reader to pause here and consider the psychological/emotional effects you would personally experience if someone did this to you.

A third story here is about celibacy. Arguably, this is THE story; however, most folks won’t even get to this story because, they will have focused on the two more sensational preceding stories. Celibacy has a certain mystique and mystery associated with it and most people have only a cursory knowledge of the subject, which is often “informed” by popular movies and media.

Celibacy within Christianity has its origins with Saint Anthony of Egypt. He was a wealthy farmer who inherited a large estate from his parents. One day at church he heard the Gospel read in which Jesus, speaking to the rich young man, said: “If you seek perfection, go sell your processions, give the money to the poor and follow me.”

Anthony did precisely just that and after having done so, he went off into the desert in imitation of John the Baptist and Jesus’ forty days of prayer and fast prior to his public ministry. You can imagine the effect that Anthony’s radical personal faith had on others in his town. Many would go out to the desert to join Anthony in prayer, fasting and to ask for spiritual advice. Some stayed with him and followed an acetic lifestyle, which included prayer, fasting and celibacy.

St. Basil the Great created a practical rule of life for monastic life. Later St. Benedict adapted Basil’s rule for Western Europe and we had the birth of the Benedictines. Christian monasticism works because these simple and acetic living communities of faith provide a practical framework of spiritual, psychological and material support to the individual in his/her spiritual development.

Monasticism served Christianity and Western Civilization very well indeed. It was monastic communities, which preserved countless books during the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire. They were centers of learning and culture throughout a violent epoch in western history. Celibacy became viewed as a spiritually superior lifestyle for people of faith.

Eventually, the Church required that all bishops be celibate. In July of 1054 the Great Schism occurred and the Church was split into the Western (Catholic) Church and the Eastern (Orthodox) Church. Twelve years after this split, the Catholic Church required all clergy to be celibate. The Orthodox Church maintains the older discipline of requiring only bishops to be celibate. In Orthodoxy, before a man is ordained he MUST either a) marry or b) join a monastic community because they believe that ministry is impossible without the concrete love of others (i.e. a family or community).

The Catholic Church derived substantial material benefits from an all celibate clergy. Individual churches were no longer “family businesses” handed down from father to son for generations, but became “corporate property” owned by the bishops. Since priests now had no wife or children, they could be moved “at will” by their bishop. In the Orthodox Church, the bishop has to take into account that moving a priest means forcing kids to transfer out of schools, selling a house, etc..

Since priests do not have a wife or children, They are “free” to be available for service on holidays, in the middle of the night, etc. Priest also may be paid less than their Protestant counterparts since, “they don’t have children to feed, etc.” and the bishop can pocket the salary. I invite you to try that with your physician, dentist, accountant, mechanic, etc. Inform them that you will pay them predicated on the number of their dependants.

What this affords Catholic bishops is a huge amount of power and wealth, which an Episcopal or Orthodox bishop does not have. There does remain that nagging problem however, that priests are human beings and as such require love. An elderly Monsignor once told me: “Every day I eat alone with my cat and I ask myself, does this please God?” Over the centuries many priests have found love. When I studied Spanish literature I read “El Libero del Buen Amor” [The Book of Good Love] written in the 12th century by the “Archipreste de Hita”

He was a Dean in his diocese and commanded by the Inquisition to write a public renunciation of his “loose” life. He wrote the book as a satire. The professor pointed out that the Spanish surname “Braganza” was given to the illegitimate children of priests. Most recently, the current president of Paraguay, a Catholic bishop, was hit with a paternity suit for a child he fathered while he was still in active ministry.

At President Mitterrand’s State Funeral, which was held at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, there were present at the Mass both the late President’s widow and the late President’s mistress. This seemed perfectly natural and no one commented. President Clinton was almost impeached and removed from public office because of a sexual indiscretion with an intern.

This has to do with HOW the law is viewed. In Southern Europe, the law is viewed as an ideal to be attained. In Northern Europe, the law is viewed as the minimum, which always and everywhere must be met by everyone. Remember, we are speaking here of the ROMAN Catholic Church. Culturally, Catholicism is Southern European. Celibate means “unmarried.” Chastity is a spiritual virtue to which all Christians are called, the unmarried and the married.

All have fallen short, as Saint Paul states, and in Latin countries, people pretty much know this is part of the human condition and roll their eyes with incredulity at the absurd Americans. Then again, our nation was founded by all the religious crazies who were kicked out of Europe.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church do not want to let go of celibacy because it gives them great power and wealth, PERIOD. At the Second Vatican Council a bishop from Brazil attempted to introduce the subject for discussion by the bishops. Pope Paul VI silenced him and “reserved the matter for himself.” The late Pope John Paul I was supposedly going to address mandatory celibacy. Sadly, he died, after only 33 days as Pope under questionable circumstances. No autopsy was permitted by Vatican authorities.

So, what will happen with Father Cutie? The bishop will encourage Father to make a public apology, which he has. They will claim that this was an act of human weakness on his part. They will probably ship him off somewhere out of public view for “counseling and spiritual reflection.” If he cooperates fully, he will then probably be reassigned under strict supervision in an obscure parish and ordered to avoid the media.

Behind closed doors, the bishops will probably joke and express relief that he is straight (since most priests are gay). Older Catholic laity are far more “forgiving” if it is a woman and not a man in bed with their priest. In a way, this is also a welcome diversion from the pedophilia scandal. They can spin this to their advantage and simply talk about the noble ideal of celibacy and that it is a “high bar.”

Bishops don’t mention all the priests who have suffered alcoholism, morbid obesity, depression and suicide, who have lived double lives or become workaholics in an attempt to live as celibates. They won’t speak of the psychological and emotional violence visited upon priests who are stalked by “the faithful,” that priests have become the endless butt of jokes (4% of priests are pedophiles 96% are NOT) and who are kept in economic servitude by bishops (who structure salary policies specifically designed for that purpose). Business will go on as usual and the faithful need not be disturbed.

Mandatory celibacy, a lifetime alone and without intimate love, hey they ask no more of divorced Catholics, or gay and lesbian Catholics. The people today are just so darned selfish!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maine joins the ranks of Marriage Equality.

Today Maine joined New Hampshire as another state where both houses of the state assembly have passed marriage equality legislation. It is expected that the Governor of Maine will sign the bill into law; whereas, New Hampshire’s Governor may not sign that state’s bill into law.

In the case of Maine, an anti-marriage equality group has already announced that it will attempt to strip other Maine citizens of their right to marriage through a ballot initiative. They claim to be acting out of a desire to “protect marriage,” but these groups have failed to explain exactly how stripping same gender couples of the right to civil marriage in any way “protects” marriage.

How does stripping fellow citizens of the civil right to marry the person they love in any way diminish, or endanger anyone else’s marriage? It is becoming increasingly evident that what these groups are attempting to accomplish is to write their own very limited theological notions into the code of civil law and to force other citizens to adopt their narrow religious views.

As more and more states move towards full marriage equality and grant civil marriage to same gender couples, religious zealots who wish to impose their religious views on others will have to spend more and more money. The LDS (Mormon) church and the Catholic hierarchy (and their financial surrogate the Knights of Columbus) will have to open up their checkbooks again and again.

In state after state and then on a national level to try and stop the passage of Anti-Hate Crime laws. They will try and stop the ending of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” They will try to stop the repeal of DOM laws. Those are several very fat checks! Tens of millions of dollars spent to prevent same gender couples from enjoying civil marriage.

Tens of millions of dollars that will not be available to feed the hungry, house the homeless, educate children, comfort the sick and dying. Donors may well ask: “What would Jesus do?”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"It is never too late to give up our prejudices." - Thoreau

LIZ SIDOTI | May 2, 2009 09:58 AM EST AP

WASHINGTON — Gay marriage legalization in several states and the public's growing acceptance of same-sex unions have Democrats sensing political opportunity and some Republicans re-evaluating their party's hard-line opposition to an issue that long has rallied its base.

Some prominent Republicans are backing away from cut-and-dried opposition, and some party operatives say it's only a matter of time before others follow suit because the country is changing.

Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, a Mormon who is a potential presidential candidate, backed a 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But he says he favors civil unions and extending some legal rights to gay couples.

Last month, John McCain's chief campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, told the Log Cabin [a group of LGBT] Republicans: "Even though a majority of Republicans remain opposed to it, we must respect dissent on the subject within the party and encourage debate over it, and should not reject out of hand and on specious grounds ... that the party might be in the wrong on the question."

The foregoing quote from an Associated Press article illustrates just how much progress we have made on marriage equality since the passage of Prop 8 in California. On November 4 2008, the “yes on Prop 8” side was exuberant as they congratulated themselves for stripping same gender couples of the right to civil marriage in California. They conducted a campaign based on deception that permitting same gender couples to retain their legal right to civil marriage would endanger the family, specifically children.

They lied to voters and misled them to fear that “somehow” the evil gays would “brainwash” their children through the Public School system. A claim that is totally without any basis in reality, as the California Superintendent of Schools pointed out during the campaign. The California Teachers Association also confirmed the State Superintendent’s denunciation of the misleading “yes on Prop 8” ads.

However, fear and ignorance won out on November 4 when a razor edge simple majority of California voters stripped a minority group of its legal right to civil marriage. This should cause grave pause to anyone who is Black, Latino, Asian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or who belongs to ANY minority group. The specific “issue” aside the principle, which that ballot initiative established, is that any minority group can have its civil rights suspended by a simple majority of voters.

Ironically, the victory by the “yes on Prop 8” proponents was similar in effect to the victory of the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor. It was a stunning and seemingly devastating “win” but this proved to be a strategic blunder of the first magnitude in the long term. The stripping away of the legal right to civil marriage for same gender couples in California has both galvanized and energized the entire LGBT community and their families, friends and coworkers throughout the United States.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops and the leadership of the LDS (Mormon Church) may well have learned the same lesson, which the Republican Party seems to be learning. It is time to smile sheepishly, pick up the step, stop insisting on gay bashing and move on to other “more important” issues.