Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Church Reform and Gay Catholics: What Reform?--Cases of Archbishop Broglio and Providence College

Yesterday, as I asked where there's yet any real reform in the Catholic church to address the misery dished out to gay folks by some of our fellow Catholics, I linked to an article by Jim Smith in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which notes that things are actually getting worse these days for gay and gay-affirming Catholics in many Catholic workplaces. The list keeps getting longer, Smith writes--the list of openly gay Catholics or those openly supporting the rights of gay people who are being fired by Catholic institutions.

After I posted my piece yesterday, several readers reminded me of recent stories I haven't mentioned here, due to the chunk that testifying in a trial recently took out of my blogging time. There's first of all the story that broke last week about a new set of rules issued by Archbishop Timothy Broglio to Catholic military chaplains. As David Gibson reports for National Catholic Reporter, these rules prohibit Catholic chaplains from taking part in a funeral that might give the impression that the Catholic church approves of same-sex marriage.

In other words, Catholic military chaplains are forbidden to take part in the funeral of someone who is Catholic and who was married to a same-sex partner. Broglio sent his new set of rules to Catholic military chaplains the day before the publication of Pope Francis's America interview stating that some Catholics are "obsessed" with the issues of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, and have managed to obscure what's really central to the proclamation of the gospel and core Catholic teachings by clinging to these obsessions.

Here are two good responses (and here) to Gibson's NCR report about Broglio's action that I think hit right on the heart of the matter--both by a reader called Jason:

Turning one's back on the grieving is not Catholic. Period.


As a former altar server, I guess I am in grave sin for having served at the funerals of so many divorced and remarried Catholics, since I was showing my approval of their sins. 
That being said. Did the Bishop listen to Pope Francis? About treating our brothers and sisters who are gay as whole persons, not sexual beings? The idea of not participating in a funeral--again, basically protesting a funeral--is ludicrous. 
Is not the point of a Catholic funeral that we as the faithful pray to absolve the deceased of their earthly transgressions to send them home to God? If one were to believe that being in an active homosexual relationship is wrong, shouldn't we still pray at that person's funeral? 
This is like talking about religion with a kindergartner.

As I said yesterday (first link above), Catholic pastoral officials reserve a very special kind of venom for openly gay folks, a venom injected into the lives of no other groups of Catholics. As Jason points out, Catholic parishes routinely conduct funerals for divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Catholic church--see this FAQ piece explicitly addressing that issue for the archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

As Jim Smith notes in his article suggesting that things are getting worse and not better for gay folks in many Catholic institutions, it's unheard of for Catholic institutions to go after and fire heterosexual employees who are divorced and remarried. But, citing the same moral strictures that should require them to fire heterosexual employees who are divorced and remarried or married and contracepting, these institutions freely fire openly gay employees while ignoring heterosexual employees violating the rules.

It's impossible to avoid concluding that many Catholic institutions are motivated by outright animus--by naked bias--against gay and lesbian people in their dealings with us. The disparity in how the rules are applied to heterosexuals and homosexuals is a glaring, revelatory indicator of such lethal bias.

So there's the Broglio story in recent days to underscore the point Jim Smith makes in his article.  And then there's this: last week, noted philosopher John Corvino was scheduled to speak at Providence College on "The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage." Shortly before the lecture was to take place, Providence's provost Hugh Lena cancelled the lecture, informing the campus community that Catholic magisterial teaching forbids Catholic schools to sponsor lectures by those who "act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." (This magisterial teaching certainly didn't prevent President George W. Bush from addressing graduates of St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in 2007, however.)

As the Huffington Post article to which I've just linked notes, Providence is now trying to backtrack and say that the cancellation had nothing to do with Corvino and the topic of the lecture, and that the school was merely "rescheduling" Corvino's lecture. As the same article also suggests, Corvino himself is not buying that bold lie pretense.

The Providence administration may well have its back against the wall now, because its actions in this case have provoked widespread outrage among the school's students, who have set up a Facebook page to fight for academic freedom. As Bob Shine notes for New Ways Ministry, the forum to discuss issues of academic freedom that Providence students have created in response to the Corvino cancellation is making waves throughout the campus community.

So Pope Francis asks, "Who am I to judge?," and he suggests that the obsession of some American Catholics with the topic of same-sex marriage (and with abortion and contraception) to the exclusion of far weightier matters that are at the very core of Catholic teaching distracts us from what's essential as we walk the path of Christian discipleship. And in response, one Catholic leader after another in the U.S. and one Catholic institution after another ratchets up the assault on LGBTI people.

Which is why I continue to ask: Reform? What reform? For gay Catholics in the U.S. like me, it seems to be curiously absent everywhere I look for it.

P.S. Don't miss, either, the step taken by the two Catholic bishops of North Carolina last week, which I discuss in this subsequent posting: Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Michael Burbidge of Raleigh have just resigned from the North Carolina Council of Churches because the Council will not spout Catholic anti-gay rhetoric and because it supports marriage equality.

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