Monday, May 11, 2009

"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.


Kevin said...

Yes Father Geoff. I too get very upset with the church that I love, but then it dawned on me. I love the eucharist, not the hierarchy of the church that makes all these rules. Some people love the rules more...A dear friend, a fellow Priest, told me that if I leave the church, then these turkey's have won! I need to stay in the body of christ and let no one drive me away.


David Hart said...

I just received a reply from Mutty to an email: ago, as a student at Georgetown, I had the great pleasure of meeting people like Father McSorley and Father Groppi, who was a frequent visitor. Whatever happened to that activism?

Anonymous said...

As Kevin said, "Ilove the Eucharist." Does ANYONE love the Bishops? Do they ever wonder why almost nobody loves them or listens to them? (Probably their mothers do the formaer, but not the later.) If the clergy, religious had some input in the selection of Bishops, as was the custom in the early church, most of the present incumbanys would be looking for work.

Марко Фризия said...

St. Matthew's Gospel (19:8) speaks of another situation regarding the so-called religious status of intimate human relationships and the horrid insensitivity of some religious professionals. Jesus says their problem stems from σκληροκαρδίαν (usually translated "hardness of heart"). This vivid Greek word can be understood as meaning that these folks literally had rough and dry calluses on their hearts. The emotional skin on these souls has grown thick, insensate, and coarse. They have become uncaring, legalistic, inured to human need, and impervious to the pain of others. It is striking that these were religious leaders, the insiders, the hierarchy that Jesus was addressing. Our Lord seemed to be most frustrated with religious people, directing most of his criticism towards them. As a gay man I have lived with the voices of hate and intolerance all of my life. I experienced the violent, hate-crime murder of a gay friend. My own relationship with the man I love is trashed, ridiculed, and suffers regular assaults by people who want to delegitimize our married status (or perhaps even criminalize our intimacy). I sacrificed my health and wellbeing in military service on behalf of my fellow American citizens. As a result of my Army service I have seizures and I live with chronic pain. Yet I am still told by my ungrateful government that non-heterosexuals are really not fit to serve and uniform and die for their country. As an Anglican Christian I am in awe of the Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes" (promulgated by Pope Paul VI). This text promotes human dignity, freedom, solidarity and condemns "whatever violates the integrity of the human person" stating that the perpetrators, "poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator." Fr. Geoff, these injustices and evil deeds prompted by religion only steel my resolve to work for a better and more just world. Like you, I refuse to be bitter or angry. I pray to be more and more loving. And I feel compassion for these folks suffering from "σκληροκαρδίαν" calluses on their hearts. Papa Montini was right! These sad folks working against human dignity and poisoning society (I am resolved to love them, forgive them, and serve Jesus in them) are much more damaged than I can and ever will be. Fr. Geoff, thanks for your continued witness. We embrace you and send our love. We give thanks for you in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

What are we supposed to do, Father Geoff? If we leave, then we lose our "voice". However, the Church hierarchy doesn't listen to its priests, let alone the laity. If we stay, we get abused. It's a no-win situation.