Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Reader Writes: There Is an Opportunity Worth Grasping with Cardinal Dolan's Easter Statement

In a comment yesterday in response to my second posting about Cardinal Dolan's Easter remarks re: Catholic pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics, Terry Weldon of Queering the Church offers a typically generous and charitable response to His Eminence. Terry states,

There are clear double standards at work, and a huge leap needed from declaring that there is a need for greater support, to actually developing a program. But Dolan's statement, and Cardinal's at much the same time that at a pastoral level the church should treat married gay Catholics in the same way as it presently treats divorced and remarried people, for which "there is no great problem", nevertheless provides an opportunity worth grasping.

(I think that Terry perhaps intended to add another cardinal's name after the word "cardinal's.) 

The group Dignity has also offered a dignified response to Cardinal Dolan, one which takes His Eminence at his word when he says he would like to engage in dialogue with LGBT Catholics, to listen to our experiences and learn from them. Dignity applauds the USCCB president for issuing an "Easter call to make our Church more welcoming to gay and lesbian people."

And, of course, I don't in the least disagree that dialogue is the ideal here. As Terry puts the point, there's an "opportunity worth grasping," though if that opportunity is to issue in anything fruitful, it demands a "huge leap . . . from declaring that there is a need for greater support, to actually developing a program."

And it's that leap I'll be watching for now, a leap to demonstrate that the cardinal was sincere in his Easter Sunday statements about wanting to mend fences with his brother and sister Catholics who happen to be gay--and that he wants to move beyond the easy manipulation of images that a Sunday talk show affords him, to the real work of listening to and engaging people the institution he represents have wounded and oppressed. If Cardinal Dolan wants to listen, I'm willing to talk.

For some years now, I've issued one plea after another on this blog and elsewhere for a national dialogue in which the bishops of the Catholic church in the U.S. would create formal structures and formal arrangements whereby they can listen attentively to the testimony of LGBT Catholics about what it means to be gay and Catholic in the U.S., to be gay and Catholic in parish life, to be gay and Catholic while working for Catholic institutions.

This kind of honest testimony is desperately needed, if the kind of healing Cardinal Dolan says he wants is to begin. But if such testimony is to have any real significance at all in the real world, it will have to begin with the recognition that the institution Cardinal Dolan represents has done and continues to do real injustice to LGBT human beings, including, as Terry Weldon's comment also notes, in its own hiring and firing practices.

As I have long understood, our Catholic pastors expect us to rectify injustice as a precondition to receiving absolution, when we seek absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation. The pastoral leaders of the church can hardly make such a demand in the case of lay Catholics if they don't make the same demand of themselves--if they expect to be credible when they teach us about reconciliation and absolution. Can they?

I'll watch and wait to see what follows Cardinal Dolan's Easter statement that he wants healing for LGBT Catholics.

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