Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Reader Writes: "Taking Someone's Job Away Is An Aggressive Attack on the Individual" (So Why Does Pope Francis Say God Never Throws Anyone Away?)

Joshua McElwee reports that in his weekly audience today, Pope Francis told those gathered in St. Peter's Square that God never throws away or discards anyone:

The Lord tells us: "Courage! Come! For me you are not thrown away." 

Francis was speaking specifically of the woman with an issue of blood whom Jesus cured in Matthew's gospel. The pope told his listeners,

She was a woman who was thrown away by society. It is important to consider this condition -- of being thrown away -- to understand her state of mind: she feels that Jesus can save her from sickness and from the state of marginalization and unworthiness in which she has been for years. In a word: she knows, feels that Jesus can save her.

I listen to these nice words and my mind immediately flashes to the stories I told you here two days ago, of the firing of John Murphy by Saint Francis Home and the Catholic diocese of Richmond, and the firing of Kate Drumgoole by Paramus Catholic High School and the Catholic diocese of Newark. I ask myself whether, as he speaks of Jesus never discarding anyone, Pope Francis ever gives any thought at all to what the church itself does to human beings when its institutions fire people unjustly, because of who they are, who they love.

As John Bijarney said in a comment here in response to the stories of Murphy and Drumgoole, 

Taking someone's job away is an aggressive attack on the individual. I don't see this kind of language used in any reporting I have read on these many instances even in friendly venues! I wonder why? Or am I missing some?

Taking someone's job away is an aggressive attack on the individual. That's absolutely correct. Firing someone — for no reason other than who that person is and who he or she loves — is an attack. It's an attack on the humanity of the person fired.

The clear, unmistakable message an employer gives to a human being treated this way is that this human being does not count. Is not wanted. Has no place. Should disappear. Should simply vanish.  

These messages are the precise opposite of the message that, according to Pope Francis, Jesus seeks to give individuals. And yet they're the message that Catholic institutions have given repeatedly and for some time now to gay* human beings, as one gay employee after another is fired in a Catholic institution solely because of his/her sexual orientation and who he/she happens to love.

To remove someone's livelihood without just cause is an attack on the humanity of that person and everyone who depends on her. Not only is a person's daily bread, her sustenance, removed from her when she's treated this way. She also almost always loses access to healthcare benefits, receiving through her disconnection from healthcare coverage an added signal that her humanity, her life, do not count. 

One who is fired loses an important social context in which to make a contribution, use his talents, interact with other human beings. The message given to a person who is fired is that his contributions, his talents, what he has to offer the community, do not count — as he himself does not count.

As John says, these are cruel messages in the extreme to give to human beings. Yet the Catholic church continues to give them on an ongoing basis to gay employees of its institutions in the U.S., throwing away those employees, their humanity, their talents.

Telling them they are not wanted and do not count.

What do Catholic institutions (what does Pope Francis) imagine those of us treated as John Murphy and Kate Drumgoole (and a long list of others) will do with ourselves, when our careers have been disrupted, our vocations shattered, our lives turned upside down in this way? Where do we go? What do we do? Where do we find another livelihood, healthcare coverage, a place to make our contributions?

I'm not aware that Catholic institutions who do what has been done to Murphy or Drumgoole follow the lives of those they've discarded, to see how these human beings are faring, what may be done for them, how they may be assisted. That certainly did not happen when my husband Steve's and my careers as Catholic theologians were shattered.

We were on our own, homeless, unwelcome within the Catholic community.

Juxtapose all of this with Pope Francis' moving words about who Jesus is and what Jesus wants, and I wonder — all over again — why the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church seem unable to recognize the glaring discrepancy between the path set forth for followers of Jesus in the gospels, and how their own church deals with many human beings. Pope Francis' words are pretty. They point to what is clearly the unambiguous gospel message, the very heart of the gospels.

But the firings go right on as the words come forth, don't they? So that the words, gospel or not, become increasingly difficult for many of us even to hear . . . . Precisely because we do believe in Jesus and his gospel message . . . .

* Gay = LGBTQI.

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