Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summit meeting of California LGBT organizations.

A summit meeting of all the major LGBT organizations of California was held on 25 July 2009 at San Bernadino, CA. This conference was “live streamed” on the internet and could be viewed by anyone with a computer. I have to smile as I imagine people watching the proceeding in their homes and offices.

Since this was broadcast on the internet, both friends and foes of full civil rights for LGBT people were watching. The scene at the summit was a mixed bag. Experts gave informed opinions regarding a host of subjects which included: buying media time in 2010 (25% to 35% cheaper than in the 2008 campaign), the process of registering a petition with the Secretary of State of California, the wording of the ballot, feedback from canvassing efforts, and strategies for victory.

This part of the summit was informative and gave much room for realistic hope of victory. However, the room itself was polarized between those who want to move forward with a ballot initiative in 2010 and those who wish to wait until 2012 or later. This last phrase, revealed at the end of the day caused me to pause and ask, “What the heck are they thinking?” I instantly thought of Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Old habits die hard, and lots of LGBT people are still trying to be “good little boys and girls” in the hope that someday, if they are polite enough, society will finally grant their fondest wish accept them and gift them full civil rights. Do not hold your breath, as Malcolm X said, “no one ever gives you rights, you have to take them!”

The most salient argument that those who wish to wait presented was that “the big donors are all tapped-out.” Additionally, the argument was made that the economy is in a de facto depression, that this will effect donations and that the other side has “unlimited funds. “ This last line made me laugh. The notion that the Catholic Church has gold and platinum bars in the basements of its churches is an old and unfounded stereotype. Trust me, after the HUGE payouts over the pedophilia lawsuits, most dioceses are not rolling in cash. Donations are down for other religious groups for the very same reasons they are down for all other charities, the economy is an equal opportunity blight for everyone. The counter argument to this is that it was small donors who helped Obama win in 2008.It will be small donations that will help us win in 2010.

In addition to all of these economic considerations, the leadership of the Catholic Church and LDS (Mormons) are not stupid people. They know that statistically this is a losing battle, eventually they will lose. Why throw good money after bad? Recall how when Utah wanted to be admitted into the Union, the Prophet in Salt Lake City received a revelation that polygamy would no longer be practiced by LDS (Mormons). Recall the Civil Rights movement and how “suddenly” the Prophet in Salt Lake City received a “revelation” that blacks could be admitted into the priesthood. As for the Catholic Church, yes Pope Benedict XVI is adamantly opposed to “aggressive homosexuals” (i.e. LGBT people who refuse to shut-up and accept discrimination), but he is 82. At the last conclave, the very progressive Jesuit Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires was almost elected Pope. A number of items will be discussed at the next conclave, including the role of bishops vise a vise the papacy and mandatory celibacy for priestly ordination.

Having to shell out 40 million dollars in California, two years after having to shell out 40 million dollars in California will be a hard sell for Catholic & Mormon leadership. Even if they do, it will be 40 million dollars that they will not have to fight us on the repeal of DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in New York State, and other states where this issue will come up. The issue will increasingly come up as America continues to move towards abolishing “separate but equal” laws. Ultimately, change will happen and the PR costs to the LDS (Mormons) and the Catholic Church will become unsustainable in the face of changing public opinion. Oh, they have resisted popular opinion before, you say? When was the last time that Cardinal Mahony, or any other American bishop, gave an impassioned homily against artificial birth control? You may find a few, but only a few.

So, how did the summit end? Essentially, those who wish to move forward with a ballot initiative in November of 2010 will do so. Over 40 LGBT organizations are supportive of Love Honor Cherish, an organization working hard to repeal Prop 8 and the hatred it represents. If you want to help to restore full marriage equality in California and the human rights of LGBT persons, contact them at When they succeed in placing an initiative to repeal Prop 8 on the 2010 California ballot, other LGBT organizations will join in, or have hell to pay with the greater LGBT community.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Truth, spirituality and religion.

On Wednesday, I had lunch with my old professor of Moral Theology. We have all had professors who demanded excellence from their students and somehow, no matter how hard they tried, students were never quite able to meet their exacting standards. With the passage of the years; however, I have come to appreciate both my old professor’s wisdom and the rationale for his high standards.

We sat their in a landmark Jewish deli in Los Angeles revisiting the past and discussing theology. The discussion turned at one point to the two camps present within Christianity today essentially, conservatives and progressives. Of course, those terms are themselves inadequate since they are borrowed from politics; however, they do provide a general starting point.

The central dividing issue seems to be how both camps view and understand revelation, or divinely revealed “truth.” Briefly, the conservative camp seems to view revealed truth as the final word. It has been revealed and is not open to any further discussion. The more progressive camp views revealed truth rather as a starting point for further meditation, prayer and deeper discussion.

If we turn to the Nicene Creed, which is the most common and ancient confession of the Christian faith, we find various items which Christians have historically held to be central or core beliefs which one must accept and confess in order to call oneself “Christian.” In Catholicism such items are called “de fide” the faithful are assured that these items have been definitively revealed by the Holy Spirit to the Church and as such they must be embraced by the faithful in order to remain in communion. Among some of these are the Holy Trinity, that God is one substance and yet three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Also, the Hypostatic Union, that the Second person of the Holy Trinity is both human and divine, Jesus the Christ.

Catholics recite this Creed at every Sunday Mass and for many of them that is it. It is settled, no need for further discussion or debate. There is something very comforting in such an approach to God and religion. There is crystal clear clarity. I know God, the Church and my place in the cosmic order. A difficulty occurs when this desire for clarity and immutability then flows over to other areas of theology, like moral theology. People who subscribe to this approach to God and religion become disquieted, when someone calls into question something, which has already been “defined” even if that definition is not granted the absolute level of certitude. Many faithful view any discussion or questioning of the hierarchy as a threat to their whole cosmology and, in fact, it is. This will provide an insight into both the language and the posturing employed by the “yes on Prop 8” crowd. “We must ‘protect’ marriage” “marriage is the basis for the social order” “marriage has always been between one MAN and one WOMAN” etc… This despite the fact that the Bible itself reveals an ever-evolving understanding of marriage.

The problem is that when speaking of God, say the Holy Trinity or the Hypostatic Union, although these are in fact revealed truths for a Christian, they do not and by definition can NEVER fully explain or exhaust the truth about that singular facet of God, let alone about the totality of God. Imagine yourself delivering a eulogy for someone who you dearly loved. You would probably go over a biography of your loved one. You would most probably describe attributes, qualities, values, etc which that person held. You would probably illustrate all of that by recounting personal stories, which you would punctuated with warmth, wit and humor. However, even if you possessed the eloquence of Cicero or Shakespeare, someone listening to your presentation would not fully capture the fullness of your experiences of that loved one, let alone the totality of that person whom you are attempting to describe. St. Augustine quipped that you could spend your entire life reading, studying, contemplating and praying over the Bible and, but scratch the surface.

St. Paul says, “We see poorly, as in a mirror” in his time, mirrors only reflected about 40% of the light cast upon them. Paul uses this as a metaphor for the Sacred Scriptures vise a vise God. They are merely a poor reflection of the truth about God. A Scripture professor of mine once quipped, “If God had written a book, He would have done a far better job [than the Bible].” This is not in any way intended to dismiss or denigrate the Bible but, it is intended to illustrate its limitations and that it is only part of God’s revelation to us, after all, the Bible is not God but merely a partial revelation of God and of our relationship with God.

How people approach God and divine revelation is significant. A philosophy professor of mine once remarked that the important thing is not the answer; but rather, the question. Most of us received faith as a gift from our parents. We were taught about God and God’s revelation to humanity. As we grew, our questions and understanding of God developed. Sadly, formal religious education ends for most people in grammar school or secondary school. That coupled with the vast plurality of religions in the USA leads to a popular reductive mentality regarding religion.

The psychologist Piaget offers an insight into the developmental attitudes of adolescents. Essentially, adolescents are prone to legal positivism that is “if it is the law, it is right.” One need only to consider the Nuremberg laws of 1937; Plesey v. Ferguson; segregation laws; laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage; etc, to see the fallacy and outright danger of this line of thinking. Only later in life, do we adopt more critical and developed understandings of what is right and what is truth. This is why the philosopher Aristotle argued against teaching philosophy to the young.

If you couple this popular “stunting” of theological study/reflection with religious institutions/leaders whom are all too willing to act as the conscience for individuals “for their own good.” You produce a dangerous mix in which leaders view the faithful as voting blocks to attain/maintain political power; as sources for material wealth to fuel their religious bureaucracies; as individuals incapable of adult independent thought to be directed in all matters of morality and faith. A former bishop of our diocese actually stated, “It is not good for the laity to know canon law.”

Theology and spirituality became the private preserves of a clerical class, which then, informs and directs the faithful. The fact is that one could take items from both major political parties’ platforms, which are consonant/opposed with moral pronouncements of the Catholic Church, i.e. abortion, capital punishment, war, same sex marriage, immigration laws/rights, stem cell research, the International Monetary Fund & the treatment of third world nations. This leaves the Vatican and the American hierarchy, in the position of being able to pick and chose, which “truths” to highlight and which “truths” to ignore. In contemporary America, this has come to mean cherry picking which positions (political candidates/parties) should be supported/opposed in elections.

The truth is that most Catholics are on “auto pilot,” currently most Catholic bishops do not possess an earned doctoral degree in theology and function more as “managers” than as well informed “teachers of the faith.” That office is in fact exercised by centralized Vatican bureaucracies and/or the bureaucracies of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. The average diocesan bishop receives an impossible volume of mail from the National Conference, for him to read, digest, and comment/vote upon. The net result is that a handful of bureaucrats issue statements in the name of bishops who have never actually read the statements.

The role of the laity? Pray, pay and obey as the old seminary saying cynically observed. Laity in the American Catholic Church have little or no voice in the actual governance of their local diocese. If they had actual authority in the area of finances and personnel, many of the current scandals from which the national church is suffering would have most likely been avoided.

Another contributing factor to the plight of popular Catholicism in America today is the primary motives for active involvement in parish life by lay people. Many Catholics chose to register in a parish after they marry and/or, have their first child. At the risk of being too blunt, many young spouses are motivated to practice their faith as an instrument of ensuring spousal fidelity. Once children come onto the scene, another prime motivator is formation of children in the faith. Essentially, this means making sure that they do not get into trouble, i.e. drug use, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, poor grades, trouble with the law, etc. While one can certainly empathize with any contemporary parent, these primary motivators cast the Church not as an instrument of spiritual growth but as a cosmic policeperson. God/religion is portrayed as judge/police and the mandatory nature of most high school faith formation/youth programs set them up for rejection by the adolescents, which they serve.

When I think back over my twenty-three years of active ministry and consider the many people who made appointments to speak with me as their priest, the overwhelming majority of those people came in for marriage preparation/counseling, family counseling, a young person in trouble with the law/drugs/pregnancy, etc. I would estimate that only about 5% of parishioners came into to discuss theology. Most of these discussions were with patients near death or, in RCIA and Scripture classes. In addition, the annual parish retreat drew about 4% of the parish. The weekly homily was the greatest tool for addressing spirituality and even that was limited to about 10 minutes.

It is no coincidence that in most parishes, it is roughly about 5% of the parishioners who are engaged in the active work of the parish. “It’s always the same people,” many pastors/staff have said, that you can count on for programs and outreach. The significance of all of this is that many contemporary Catholics view their local church as a service station for their periodic counseling needs and life ceremonies. As a Benedictine monk once said to our class in a lecture, American priests are becoming “technicians of the Eucharist.” With the ever-increasing shortage of priests in the USA, deacons, who receive an abbreviated theological education, are replacing priests in the role of pastor and an even more mechanistic vision of ministry is emerging.

Add to this a large influx of Catholic economic immigrants into the USA. Realize that most of these people have very limited educations and find themselves in a foreign and often hostile “host” culture. These immigrants are operating in survival mode and many of them turn to the Catholic Church as their protector in this new and alien land. Most of these people are very hard working, many of them make huge sacrifices for their families, they face discrimination, prejudice and outright injustice. They come from cultures, which tend to be authoritarian, sexist and socially stratified. In this way, they are primed for manipulation by Church authorities.

A seminary professor quipped that Jesus established a spiritual movement and Paul established a church. The truth he was communicating to our class was the danger of becoming “professional religious” the need for the faith to renew itself in each generation. The danger is not merely to become another institution, but to become a placebo for authentic spirituality.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You are a front line soldier in a war for justice. Here are some tools.

As part of serious preparation for a ballot initiative in California to repeal, Prop. 8 polling has been conducted throughout our state. The following four points are the ones, which received the highest positive response from the general electorate.

I suggest that you read them carefully and use them in speaking to co-workers, friends and acquaintances. I would also add two additional thoughts. First, the majority of those who have changed their stance on this position in our favor have done so, because they have a friend who is a member of our community. It is very important that each of us tell our personal story, from the heart. Secondly, “HOW” you speak is as critical as what you say! Be respectful; listen to their concerns/fears. Respond in a firm, but polite fashion. All of have disagreements with even our closest friends from time to time. Words can be weapons that inflict wounds and divide, or they can be a balm, which promotes healing and mutual understanding. Please, be a vessel for healing our society on this issue.

1). Banning gays and lesbians from marriage is unfair. Gay and lesbian couples have the same hopes, dreams and concerns for their families as everyone else. They should be allowed the dignity, commitment, and responsibility that come with marriage, just like everyone else.

2). This ballot measure would allow civil marriage for same-sex couples. At the same time, it will not change religious marriage or how each religion defines marriage, and it protects the rights of religious groups that do not want to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.

3). There are over 70,000 children of gay and lesbian couples in California, and these children deserve to have two loving, committed parents who are married. Having married parents would give those children the sense of security and the legal protections that all children should have.
4). A core value for people of faith is that all people are created in the image of God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Gay and lesbian people are our neighbors, our friends and family, and our co-workers. All our neighbors should be able to enjoy the dignity and respect and commitment that come with marriage – including gay and lesbian couples.

Finally, the work to repeal Prop 8 will not start in the summer/fall of 2010/2012. It started on 5 November 2008. Ad agencies or LGBT organizations and their staffs will not accomplish the work. We all will accomplish it, by each member of our community doing his/her part to restore full marriage equality and civil rights.

Some have argued that this will cost us lots of time and money. Yes, it will. However, it will also cost those who wish to keep us subjugated as second-class citizens lots of time and money as well. They will have to spend huge amounts of money in California to try to keep us down. Those are funds, which they will not have to fight us in other states. Those are funds they will not have to fight us on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Those are fund they will not have to fight us on the repeal of DOMA.

Both they and we have to pay with dollars to win, but if we lose, we have to pay with our lives. That is why we will win. They want to manipulate and control both society; and us whereas, we simply want to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as others in our society.

Why should you care? Remember what it was like when you were young and first realized that you were different? Remember the fear of being rejected by your family/relatives? Remember the taunts at school? Remember the fights? Many young people out there are just going through that right now in their lives. By working together for justice today, we are creating a more just, compassionate and healthier society tomorrow. A society where respect replaces prejudice and where love dispels fear.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Speech delivered at a "Get Engaged" meeting in LA on July 14th, 2009.

Gandhi taught a principle called Satya-graha, the power of truth. In his thinking, the adversary is not those who oppose us, in this case the “yes on Prop 8” crowd, but rather “untruth.” While this principle is intellectually sound, it requires discipline to adhere to it in the face of people saying hateful things, or brandishing hateful signs. Gandhi would have us see that the person is not the adversary, but rather the untruth, which is misdirecting them.

In the early 1990’s I read an article in Crisis magazine, a conservative Catholic theological publication. In that, article the author made the point that we would soon reach a point in the United States where Orthodox Jews, Traditionalist Catholics and Protestant Fundamentalists would have more in common with each other than they would with their co-religionists, i.e. Reformed Jews, Progressive Catholics and Liberal Protestants.

What happens when a Traditionalist confronts a Progressive person in a discussion of social issues, the law, religion, or the “truth?” There are three great religions of revelation, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Traditionalists who are members of a “revealed” religion view themselves as possessing “the truth,” In their thinking it becomes their responsibility to conform their personal lives to these revealed truths and to impose that “truth” on society and thereby become agents of expanding the reign of God on earth.

It is important to realize that all of these traditionalist views are counter balanced by progressive views within each of these three great traditions. If we can access these progressive theological traditions, we can bring new insights and a conversion to the person holding the sign. An excellent resource is a book entitled “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality” by Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. ISBN 1-886360-09-X By invoking the scriptures and sharing different theological understandings we can move people to a new consciousness.

It is important that when we are engaged in conversation with those who oppose us, we remain calm, polite and respectful. We need to extend the same dignity and courtesy with which we ourselves wish to be treated. Weeks and months after the conversation, people will forget many of the particulars that were discussed, but they will remember the tone, and the affect with which they were treated.

People on our side of this issue sometimes say, “You can’t legislate morality.” A law professor once quipped, “What else is there to legislate?” The reality is that laws reflect the mores, values and in fact the morality of a people. In fact, we too are trying to legislate morality. Dr. Eric Fromm, a noted psychologist, defined equality not as “sameness”, but rather as respect for differences. We live in a democratic and very pluralistic society. What makes civil society possible is that we respect others in our society who have different theological, political and social opinions. We are trying to enact such laws.

The greatest thing you can do to move minds and hearts of those opposed to full equality for same sex people is to simply “be.” It is one thing to be opposed to an “issue” it is quite another thing to be opposed to a “person.” This means much more than just “coming out.” Yes, that is an important and difficult first step, but beyond merely announcing your orientation, speaking your story is critical.

When you tell your story, from the heart, you put a human face on being LGBT. Each of us can relate many instances when we suffered personal attacks/injuries. You are not an intellectual abstraction you are a human being. You are a family member, a relative, a friend, a co-worker, a colleague, a teacher, a student, a police officer, a marine, a mom, a dad, etc.

You are not asking for “special rights” you are asking for the same human rights that others enjoy in society. The right to civil marriage, which society preserves for the incarcerated who have been stripped of most of their rights, has been stripped from law abiding same sex couples in California. The right to be protected from discrimination, the right to be able to live in peace without fear of socially sanctioned verbal, emotional, economic or physical abuse. The right of all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be free to fall in love and establish a home with a spouse by a secular, civil law marriage.

We need to engage those who oppose our civil rights in open and honest conversations. We need to listen to their concerns and fears. We then need to address those concerns and fears, respectfully and systematically. We need to tell our personal stories with sincerity and strength. In the end we will prevail, because what we seek is simple justice and equality under the law.

Friday, July 10, 2009

4th of July message at the Dignity USA Convention in San Francisco

I had the distinct privilege of addressing the Dignity USA convention last weekend in San Francisco, California. The following is a post communion reflection, which I delivered on Saturday 4 July 2009. The Scriptures were Mark 6: 1-6 and Ezekiel 2: 2-5.

“he (Jesus) began to teach” Mark associates Jesus’ activity of teaching with his self-revelation. God is revealing. God makes himself known to us. The Spanish language makes a distinction between two types of knowledge 1) to know someone [conocer] and 2) to know something [saber]. The first kind of knowledge is the personal revelation, which Mark is alluding to here in this Gospel passage. We can know someone in this sense only if he/she opens himself or herself to us and us to him or her.

Mark notes, “He (Jesus) could work no miracle there, apart form curing a few who were sick by laying hands on them, so much did their lack of faith distress him.” Here faith means trust. It is our opening our selves to this personal revelation of God to us. We can trust God because God is our Creator. The prophet Jeremiah states, “Before you were knitted together in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I dedicated you.”

Think about that, before your Mom saw your face on the day you were born God already knew what you looked like, the color of your hair, your skin, your eyes, your gender, your orientation, your height, etc, all those variables that combine to make the unique person who you are. As the people at Marriage Encounter say, “God doesn’t make junk” and God made you. Furthermore, the fact that you draw breath now is because God wills it.

Notice that Mark says that Jesus could work no miracle there, apart from curing a few who were sick…” God does everything he possibly can do for us, but he doesn't force himself upon us. This healing was external, the physical, the body. God can heal us interiorly only if we open our self to him in trust (faith).

The significance of this episode is that it represents the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry foreshadowing the greater rejection by the religious leaders in Jerusalem; at the same time, it is a new phase of the ministry in which the Twelve will play a more active role as an anticipation of the mission of the greater Church to all humanity.

The prophet Ezekiel says, “Spirit entered into me” This is done to bridge the gap between God and humanity. God’s spirit enters into Ezekiel strengthening him “to stand up” to speak the truth of God and our relationship with God.

At the Second Vatican Council, we were told that “we” are the Church. We, God’s people, are the Church. The Creator made each of us in his image and likeness. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated in 1975 that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” That God created me gay/lesbian. He has called us, like Ezekiel and like the Twelve, to stand up and reach out to others.

Harvey Milk once said that if every gay/lesbian came out that discrimination would end that day. Trust the God who created you, who loves you, who wills you to draw breath at this very moment. God will heal you interiorly with this truth. God will impart the Spirit, as he did with the Prophet Ezekiel, to stand up. Then God will use you, despite the objections of some religious leaders, to bring that same faith and hope to others.


So many of us, and countless generations which have lived before us, have suffered emotional, psychological and even physical harm because of silence. The greatest gift you can give to yourself and to others is the truth. To stand up, like the Prophet Ezekiel, and speak the truth about yourself in the light of day.

Jesus said that the truth will set you free. He never promised that it would be easy, or without personal cost to speak the truth. However, the only thing more expensive, both personally and collectively, is for us not to speak that liberating truth.

Many of those who have changed their position on full marriage equality and full civil rights for our community have done so, because they have come to know of a family member, relative, friend, co-worker or acquaintance who is LGBT.

I would encourage Catholics, and people of other faiths, to wear a small pink triangle to Mass (worship services). Do not be invisible. Stand up. Make yourself known and through you, God will heal others.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Historic Prop 8 Desk" No, I'm not selling anything, nor am I authorizing such a sale. I am not profiting from this sale.

I have received several E-mails informing me of the sale of my old desk and office chair, from my days at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Fresno, on E-bay. I just want to clarify that I am not selling these items, nor was I consulted/informed about the sale of these items. Furthermore, none of the proceeds from the sale of these items will go to me.

The ad on E-bay states that the proceeds will go to an unspecified charity. As far as I know, the desk and chair are the property of Saint Paul’s Newman Center in Fresno and, of course, ultimately of the Diocese of Fresno. If this were still the case then the sale of the desk and chair would have to be authorized by Deacon John Supino, the current administrator of St. Paul’s. In that case, I would deduce that the charity in question would be St. Paul’s; however, that information was not specifically stated in the E-bay ad.

All of this seems rather ironic, since the Diocese actively worked for the passage of Prop 8, which stripped same sex couples of marriage equality in California. The fact that they would now refer to the desk as the “historic Prop 8 desk of Father Geoff Farrow” seems disingenuous. I do not want someone to purchase these items under the mistaken belief that their funds will contribute to the ongoing struggle for full marriage equality.

I would suggest that anyone seriously interested in purchasing this desk/chair contact Deacon John Supino at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Fresno, CA. and ask him what the “charity” is which will benefit from the sale of these items.

I want to state again very clearly that I am not selling these items and that I in no way will personally profit from the sale of these items. I did not authorize this sale and I was not informed of the sale. Even though my personal financial situation is very difficult, in fact I am facing bankruptcy. I have tried very hard to avoid any commercial self-interest in my work to promote full marriage equality and LGBT rights.

View the auction here

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Fr. McGivney would boycott the Knights of Columbus

Well, I guess I must have struck a nerve when I suggested that policyholders divest from the Knights of Columbus. The Catholic News Agency ran an article on my blog post “Boycott the Knights of Columbus.” You may read the full article at

When Father McGivney founded the K of C in the nineteenth century, it was to assist poor immigrant families. When the family’s breadwinner died, the rest of the family was left destitute. The idea of providing affordable life insurance to poor working immigrants was to protect those families in the face of such a catastrophic loss. I think that if Father McGiveny were alive today, he would most probably want the K of C to help the poor and immigrants of our time.

Take a short drive to your local hospital. Walk into the Emergency Room and you will find many poor people who go there for primary medical care because they have no health insurance. Speak to the nursing staff and ask them how many uninsured people they treat on an average day. I think that Fr. McGiveney would want the K of C to abide by it original intention and design that of providing low cost health insurance to the poor. They should be working to pass national public health insurance legislation that would benefit all citizens of this great nation. It is a national shame that we spend trillions of dollars on a war condemned by Pope John Paul II, and in violation of Thomas Aquinas’ just war theory, while not spending a small fraction of that cost to provide a comprehensive health care plan for the most vulnerable of our society. We are the only industrialized nation that fails to provide national health care for its citizens. That is a cause worthy of the efforts of the K of C.

Why didn't the leadership of the K of C join its voices to that of the late Pope John Paul II in his opposition to the war in Iraq? Why don't they raise their voices in union with the Pope in his opposition to capital punishment and work to end such laws in our nation? It seems that the leadership of the K of C is rather politically partisan in its "orthodoxy." Perhaps it is time for K of C members to consider a change in their national leadership.

Immigrants were very close to Fr. McGivney’s heart. Since politics is the proper sphere for the laity, perhaps the K of C could also use their considerable wealth and influence, mentioned in the C.N.A. article, to promote a national immigration law that reflects Catholic social teaching. I think father McGivney would agree that health care and just immigration laws are the two most urgent priorities facing both the poor and the leadership of the K of C today. The K of C’s leadership has lost its founder’s vision and has failed to work aggressively for health insurance for the poor and to protect the rights of immigrants. These constitute sins of omission, and their act to strip a minority group of their legal and civil rights constitutes a sin of commission.

An economic boycott was successfully applied to persuade the apartheid government of South Africa into doing the right thing. That boycott was not motivated by a desire for vengeance, but rather out of a thirst for justice, fairness and equality. It is for those very same reasons that I ask the faithful to pressure the K of C through a boycott. I ask fair minded K of C members to write to their national leadership and ask that they return this organization to the vision established by its founder and to stop its hateful attacks on the legal rights of same sex couples. I call upon them to return to the teachings of Jesus and follow the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The unchanging truth.

Someone recently said to me “The truth is unchanging.” This was intended as a reproach against same sex marriage. Nevertheless, the statement merits serious consideration. An old philosophy professor of mine once stated in a lecture “we need to define our terms.” The term in question, here is “truth.”

This term may mean many things. There are many truths. At one time Newtonian laws of physics were considered “the truth” until, they were replaced by Einstein’s understandings of physics, which then, became the “truth.” We could go on in every other field of human knowledge and find many other such examples where the “truth” is no longer the “truth” and has been replaced by another “truth.”

If by the “truth” one means God, then that is another story altogether, this understanding of truth requires a radically different approach. First, we must distinguish between the “Truth” (God) and our understanding of the Truth. The traditional definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” This implies that although the subject, God, may be unchanging, perfect, etc, we are not any of those things.

Another professor of mine once listed the various attributes of God, namely: Omniscient, Omnipotent, Eternal, Perfect, and Immutable (unchanging), Immortal, etc. He then asked us to define those terms. We were ultimately, of course, unable to do so. Because, as our professor pointed out none of these terms is within our human experience. No human “knows” what it is to be immortal, perfect, etc. so these definitions are all negative definitions. I am mortal; therefore, God, who is unlike me has no limitations, is immortal, etc.

As our professor pointed out, this means that we know very little about God. Aristotle probably went as far as the human mind can go with respect to speaking of God. He referred to the “uncaused cause” something which always has existed and which caused all else to come into existence. This Aristotelian notion of the uncaused cause so paralleled the “Big Bang Theory” that it caused the Communist Party of China to forbid it being taught in the People’s Republic of China, it smacks of theism, they observed.

So, how can we know the uncaused cause, God, the Truth? We can only know God if God reveals himself to us. However, this revelation is conditioned on our ability to both grasp and comprehend what is revealed. The reality, both on a personal and on a collective level, is that our understanding of God/the Truth changes, not because God changes, but because we do.

When the subject in question moves from God to say morality, what God expects of us, the subject becomes even more nuance. Abraham, whom we call “our father in faith” fathered a child, not by Sarah, but by Hagar and this was not considered a sin. Solomon and David both had myriads of wives and this was not considered a sin. Eating shellfish was once considered a sin and today it is not sinful. What constitutes the sin of usury has changed over the centuries. All of this can seem disquieting to many.

Voltaire once quipped, “God made man in his image and man has never ceased to repay the compliment.” Jesus said, “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] our understanding of revelation is incomplete, it is in process. We are growing.

The Bible is not a book on psychology, astronomy, biology, physics, etc. How the inspired authors of the bible understood the natural sciences is not inerrant. The bible is a book about spirituality and our relationship with God. All of those human sciences can contribute to our understanding about our selves, creation and God. This too is part of our growing process.

The insight of psychology as well as the statement by the Church that homosexuality is an orientation/innate, represent an insight that St. Paul writing in the first century did not possess. This insight causes us revisit how we understand homosexuality since, the Creator made people as homosexuals. It therefore becomes the duty of God’s ministers to offer reasoned and reasonable explanations for this act of the Creator. It becomes the duty of the God’s ministers to provide spiritual guidance and support to homosexual persons.

No the “Truth" does not change, but we mere mortals do. Thankfully, the Truth is not merely an intellectual abstraction but a very loving and compassionate being. I hope that we will become more like the Truth and that is certainly the goal of the spiritual process.