Thursday, January 8, 2015

Commentary on Archbishop Thomas Wenski and His Threatening Response to Arrival of Marriage Equality in Florida

Also today, ongoing discussion of the response of Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski to the arrival of marriage equality in Florida, something I discussed yesterday: as I noted, on 6 January as same-sex marriages began in the state, Wenski issued a threatening letter informing employees of Catholic institutions of the archdiocese that anything they say in public forums celebrating marriage equality may be grounds for firing. Here's further discussion of this story from the past two days:

1. For Religion News Service and National Catholic Reporter, David Gibson points out that Wenski's memo to Catholic employees makes clear that even a tweet or even a Facebook posting, even if you're tweeting or posting in your capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee of a Catholic institution, even on your own time and not the employer's clock, can get you sacked. As Gibson also notes, when he went to press with his commentary, he had not yet ascertained the total number of people the archdiocese of Miami employs, since "Archdiocese officials said the person who had that information was unavailable to comment."

2. At Think Progress, Jack Jenkins summarizes the Wenski story, noting that there are precedents for the firing of employees of Catholic institutions in the U.S. who announce their proposal to a partner of the same sex on Facebook (Colin Collette, director of music for Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Illinois), or who have their marriage to a same-sex partner published in the newspaper (Colleen Simon, staff member of a Catholic food pantry in Kansas City, Missouri).

I'd also point out that Minnesota teen Lennon Cihak was denied confirmation after someone saw a pro-marriage-equality posting he made to Facebook, and his family was denied access to the sacraments after supporting him. American Catholics in recent years have been barred from the sacraments, fired from jobs in Catholic institutions, or had job offers rescinded after people reported that they saw mention of same-sex partners or suspected same-sex partners in obituaries.

3. At Bondings 2.0, Bob Shine contrasts Wenski's response to the arrival of marriage equality in Florida with that of Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, which, while it holds the official party line, has at least the grace to say,

I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society. 

Meanwhile, gay couples in Florida and elsewhere will go on being married, and no amount of stick-shaking or dithering and vaporing will change that fact. And as this happens, more and more people — more and more family members and friends — will see the joy on the faces of those they love, as they gain rights and privileges from which they've been long barred due to sheer prejudice. Rights and privileges that everyone else enjoys and takes for granted . . . .

More and more people will see the joy on the faces of those they love, as they begin to be treated as human beings equal to other human beings, valued as other human beings are valued. Increasingly, society as a whole will see how much it benefits from drawing previously despised, marginalized human beings into the circle of social participation and social benefits, as those human beings' relationships are strengthened and publicly acknowledged, allowing these couples and families to contribute to society as fully welcome, fully acknowledged members of society who don't have to expend enormous amounts of energy combating discrimination and justifying their existence to a hostile mainstream culture.

And as this happens, neither the hold-the-line approach of those who defend the indefensible teaching of the Catholic magisterium, while they grant that the Catechism calls for acceptance and love of gay folks, nor the ugly stick-shaking of bishops like Wenski will matter much at all to those who are celebrating what's happening in the lives of people they love, of family members and friends. Nor should it matter . . . .

No comments: