At National Catholic Reporter, Brian Roewe provides a summary of Father James Martin's commentary as he received New Ways Ministry's Bridge Building award several days ago. Several comments readers have made in response to Father Martin's proposal for two-way bridge-building between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic hierarchy stand out for me, since they parallel points I made in my response to the proposal:
One difficulty with the two-way bridge model is that there is overwhelming asymmetry between the two shores. An LGBT person has never threatened or fired a cleric for being who he is, while the Church consistently does, and also excludes LGBT people from sacraments and recognition of their families, often in hostile ways. Bishops get to influence the views of vast numbers of people waiting to be influenced, while an LGBT person can only talk to her or his friends and associates, no more powerful than any lay person. The Church institution is imperial and monolithic with very few cracks in the wall, which are immediately tended to and sealed, and it throws its weight around with delightful abandon, insisting on its condescending and condemning language time and time again.
The Catholic clergy tends to be overwhelmingly gay, but also tends to be mighty uncomfortable with LGBT who are not clergy. Now that's a two-way street that has become a de facto NO-way street!
"Does the LGBT community really want to proceed in that way? Do gay men want to mock bishops as effeminate, when many gay men were probably teased about those precise things when they are young? Is that not simply perpetuating hatred?" [Jesuit James] Martin asked.
"Perpetuating hatred"? Really? Martin should know better the issue here is one of hypocrisy for all those "effeminate" bishops and priests who hold others to standards that they themselves do not, and can not keep. [Papa Francesco knows it too!]
The level of obvious self-loathing among especially hierarchs is astounding. [There is no need to publicly identify these men. All Catholics if they are honest must acknowledge that many, if not most, priests are gay men - many of these priests are NOT in the closet.] Not to acknowledge these facts by Martin is at best disingenuous.
As a gay person I appreciate James Martin's reach... but talk about false equivalences!! To suggest that gay people "be nice" to their oppressors or to somehow equate (what I'm sure Martin is talking about) some gay people chatting and "making fun" of the hierarchy with bishops using hateful rhetoric publicly is so disingenuous. The church is in a position of power and their words have real-world consequences. A gay person spouting off about "the church" is just that. Shame on Martin for using the time in which he is receiving an award from a marginalized group to shake a finger at.
Yes. Yes to all of these astute observations. There's something awry with the bridge-building metaphor itself. It assumes that LGBTQ human beings exist outside the heart of the church, over there as a sort of island, and someone needs to reach this insular community by way of a bridge. And it implies that equal responsibility for the creation of this island lies with both those who inhabit the mainland and those who find themselves banished to the island.
What should be asked, it seems to me, is who created this situation — who exiled a portion of the human community to his island; who informed this portion of the human community that it is not church and does not deserve to be church in the same way everyone else is? As one of many gay people shoved outside the church in the roughest, cruelest possible way, I don't conceive of myself as having chosen my island existence.
It was created for me. By the hierarchy. By the people I'm now being asked to reach by a way of a bridge I myself should build to reach them. It was created for me by the hierarchy while I considered myself merely to be going about my business, living my Christian life according to my best lights, participating in the sacramental life of the church as a struggling sinner — like, oh, say the 90%+ heterosexually married Catholics who use contraceptives and are never treated in this cruel, excluding way by the pastors of the church.
Something's radically awry in this picture. If leaders of a stolid, cruel community deliberately exile a targeted minority community and later decide it behooves the majority community to reach the exiled community, make amends with it, include it again, the responsibility of building a bridge belongs on the shoulders of those who exiled their fellow human beings. Not on the shoulders of their victims.
* I do not know how to provide direct links to comments now that NCR has implemented its Civil Comments system. You can find these comments by scrolling down in the thread beneath the article. (Later: Chris Morley has kindly pointed me to a way to find the links to each comment, and I've now inserted them.)
The photo of a bridge to nowhere is by Wikimedia user DerHessi, and is a photo of the Soda-Brücke in Castrop-Rauxel-Frohlinde. DerHessi has uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons for sharing.