Monday, February 9, 2015

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "As a Gay Man, I Have Tried and Tried to Work Out in My Head and Soul and Conscience How I Can Remain in the Catholic Church"

In response to a good essay by Mariam Williams in National Catholic Reporter today about whether it's worth staying with a church that keeps the oppressive status quo, Tim Creekmore writes:

As a gay man, I have tried and tried to work out in my head and soul and conscience how I can remain in the Catholic Church. My partner and I of more than 10 years recently got legally married in South Carolina in an ancient Episcopal church. Before the ceremony it occurred to me that this act forever puts me out side of the catholic church. After crying about it for a while, I realized that the church, however it tries, cannot take Jesus and God from me. I am the living Eucharist always and will ever be so. The church cannot take that from me and Jesus wants me to be as I am celeberating His love and joy at my fully embracing the fullness of what he has made me to be.  
So I have left the catholic church behind I walk beside my Savior who will never condemn me nor deprive me of his sacred Communion. 
That's just the way it is. 

Back in 2011, when marriage equality arrived in New York, I wrote an essay here about the snooty, dismissive way in which some leading U.S. Catholic intellectuals were responding to the breakthroughs in human rights occurring all around them in the lives of their fellow citizens who are gay. As I noted, while many lay Catholics have been strong advocates of the human rights of gay people, some leading Catholic journals and the Catholic intellectuals whose views those journals represent had refused to follow suit.

Heaping less than faint praise on the notion of same-sex marriage in 2013, the leading journal of American Catholic opinion Commonweal editorialized,

Commonweal has expressed skepticism and urged caution regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, while at the same time defending the rights and dignity of homosexual persons both in society and in the church. In the aftermath of the chaos and destruction, both personal and social, wrought by the so-called sexual revolution, the rush to change the fundamental heterosexual basis of marriage seemed imprudent. With the institution of marriage already in crisis, such an unprecedented social experiment appeared to pose risks—especially to the already precarious place of children within modern marriage—that were all but impossible to measure. With divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates soaring, tampering with the inherited understanding of marriage seemed like only one more instance of "enlightened" hubris. Advocates cast same-sex marriage as the extension of basic rights to a once excluded group, but it is likely also a reflection of—and a further step toward—an essentially privatized and libertarian moral culture.

This editorial ended with Commonweal's admission that it's time for the church to come to terms with this "challenging new cultural and pastoral reality," which the journal admits does not represent the apocalyptic threat its detractors (including the American Catholic bishops) have claimed it represents,  and that it may be time for the church to listen and learn from those it has long ignored. And yet, as recently as this past December, Commonweal's editor Paul Baumann wrote

On whether same-sex marriage will further undermine the marriage culture and the important connection between sex, procreation, and family life, I’m just not sure.

Do  you hear his point? Same-sex marriage may — we at Commonweal are not sure — undermine heterosexual marriage. The same old canard we've heard for years now from opponents of marriage equality who seek to make the extension of marriage rights to more people, to a marginalized group of American citizens, the cause of the unraveling of the institution of heterosexual marriage, when same-sex marriage in no way affects heterosexual marriages.

This argument simply vocalizes, in a soft, intellectually gussied up form, the very same raw bigotry the bishops have been purveying to American Catholics and the American public for a very long time now — and for which they and the church they lead will one day pay a high price at history's bar of judgment.

People long denied rights are being given rights. People excluded from privileges enjoyed by all other citizens are now receiving privileges previously forbidden to them. People whose families have been demeaned, made second-class families, subjected to horrendous stress due to prejudice and social oppression, are now having burdens lifted from their backs.

The joy of couples long denied the right to marry is visible on the faces of one Alabama citizen after another today. As I wrote in 2011 (see the essay linked above), while many people in the U.S. today, including many lay Catholics, are throwing a party to celebrate the human rights breakthrough represented by marriage equality, our bishops and many of our leading intellectuals refuse to attend the party. Is it any wonder that Catholics like Mr. Creekmore have had their fill of the raw bigotry of the bishops and the more subtle but no less toxic and disdainful bigotry of Catholic leaders represented by the Commonweal editor?

I say again: the leaders of the U.S. Catholic church, as opposed to many of its lay constituents, will have much to answer for, when this decisive human rights battle is finally ended. They have stood defiantly on the wrong side of history, of human decency, of compassion, and of human rights for a marginalized minority group. To their very great discredit . . . . .

P.S. I took the liberty of removing several typos from Tim Creekmore's comment — my apologies to him. They seemed to me obvious mistypings, and I don't intend to give offense in removing them from his comment. 

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