Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"In the Catholic World, This Incident Will Be Remembered Not Just for the Sheer Horror . . . But for the Fact That It Highlighted That So Many Church Leaders Still Have a Long Way to Go"

At New Ways Ministry's Bondings 2.0 blog site, Francis DeBernardo once again reflects on the following unavoidable, shocking fact of the official response of top Catholic leaders to what has just taken place in Orlando:

Despite the fact that almost every headline reported the event as having taken place in an LGBT venue, statements from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishop of Orlando, and several other U.S. prelates, glaringly omitted any reference to the LGBT character of this event.

And so what does this unavoidable, shocking fact (this has happened, after all; it is not being invented) mean for Catholics and their pastoral leaders, for the future of their church? Here's Francis DeBernardo's answer to that question: 

In the Catholic world, this incident will be remembered not just for the sheer horror and tragedy of lives lost, but for the fact that it highlighted that so many church leaders still have a long way to go in being aware and sensitive to even the most basic human needs of LGBT people. 
Thankfully, there have been a handful of bishops whose statements have offered condolences to the LGBT community. We reported one on Monday, three more yesterday, and today, the latest bishop to join this small band is Bishop Gerald Barnes, of San Bernardino, California, who noted in his statement that he wanted to 'make clear our condemnation of discriminatory violence against those who are gay and lesbian, and we offer our prayers to that community.' 
Finally, I am truly saddened that the hierarchy's LGBT omissions separate them not only from the LGBT community, but also from an overwhelming majority of the laity and the wider world. In this moment of tragedy, people are banding together to support the LGBT community in a global expression of solidarity. Catholics, people of other faiths, and people of no faith at all are finding common ground of compassion and witness because of this tragedy. By ignoring the important LGBT character of this unique moment in human history, the bishops are excluding themselves from the many ways that God's beloved children are building up the reign of justice and peace, as a way to counter the forces of terror and hate. It is truly sad that our Catholic bishops are missing out on such an opportunity.

A reader has logged in here in the past day to suggest that the handful of bishops who have spoken out about the need for Catholics to engage anti-LGBTQ prejudice and hostility towards queer human beings in light of what has happened in Orlando are a testament to the "Francis effect" that is transforming the Catholic church.

The gist of this suggestion is, it seems to me, to imply — and ludicrously — that a pope who has been completely silent about LGBTQ lives just lost, as LGBTQ lives, is somehow "leading from behind" by maintaining total silence about those LGBTQ lives and the LGBTQ nature of this atrocity.

Just as he maintained total silence about atrocious acts of violence perpetrated in the name of God against queer human beings in Africa, when he visited that continent.

Just as he maintaned almost total silence about LGBTQ people in his exhortation on the family, and when he deigned to notice us, he misrepresented our families and offered us the thin, bitter broth of a cruelty he did not offer in the same document to heterosexual Catholics failing to meet the church's doctrinal mark.

This is the pope, we must not allow ourselves to forget, who both met with Kim Davis, and on his airplane trip back to Rome, told reporters that she and others who claim that their religious beliefs forbid them to treat LGBTQ people fairly as public servants should enjoy the religious privilege of discriminating against queer folks.

Pope Francis is not leading the church in this area. He is, in fact, doing precisely the opposite: he is betraying what is a growing sense of the faithful in many parts of the Catholic world that such exclusive cruelty aimed at LGBTQ people — nothing can ultimately be more cruel than the erasure of people from the records of their own murder in an event of mass murder — is no longer acceptable on the part of Catholics.

If anyone doubted prior to Orlando that the Catholic institution is simply not a safe and welcoming place for queer people, the response of the top leaders of the Catholic church both internationally and in the U.S. should be eye-opening. Young people seeking spiritual foundations and compassionate religious community while coming to terms with their queer identities would be well-advised to run away from this toxically homophobic male-entitled heterosexist club as quickly as their feet can carry them.

The photo of the Jesus Wept statue from the memorial to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombings is by photographer Crimsonedge34, who has uploaded it to Wikimedia with a Creative Commons license permitting sharing.

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