Friday, September 17, 2010

Bearing Witness: Ongoing Discrimination Against Gay and Lesbian Employees in Catholic Institutions, Ten Takeaway Points

And so what’s the point I wanted to make with that diptych of confessional (as in autobiographical) posts (and here) in the middle of the week, about my dismal experience and Steve’s, as a gay couple, with the Catholic academy?  What’s the bottom line?  What would I hope Catholic leaders and leaders of Catholic institutions might take away, if—miracle of miracles—anyone from that club might happen on this story?

Here are my conclusions:

1.    First—and above all—stop the oppression.  Stop making the lives of gay and lesbian human beings miserable.  Stop treating gay and lesbian Catholics (and gay and lesbian employees in Catholic institutions) differently than you do heterosexual Catholics and heterosexual employees.  End the double standard.  And stop the false claims that you’re enforcing magisterial teachings about human sexuality that you clearly do not enforce in the lives of your heterosexual employees.

2.    If you don’t intend to do that, then stop talking about love.  Or God.  Or human rights.  Or how something refreshes your soul.  Because you’re playing a disgraceful game when you talk about love, about God’s salvific intent for every human being, about the precious value of human souls, and about your commitment to human rights for everyone, when you keep babbling on about these issues while you continue violating the humanity of gay and lesbian persons.

3.    Be honest about what you’re demanding when you write a letter to Congress asking for the continued “right” to discriminate in the name of God in the institutions you control.  You’re not asking for the right to be free of state intrusion as you hire and fire.  You’re asking for a special privilege—one not given to other institutions in our democratic society—to discriminate.  In the name of God.

4.    And neither the faculties of Catholic colleges and universities, nor the mainstream Catholic media, have provided any exemplary leadership when it comes to these stories of how real gay and lesbian human beings are treated in real Catholic colleges and universities.

5.    Charles Curran is absolutely correct when he says that most Catholic theologians in the U.S.—including those teaching in his field of ethics—have kept their mouths shut as the human rights of colleagues (and of minors molested by priests) have been repeatedly violated.  Right in their own institutions.  Colleagues who one day sat next to these theologians in faculty assemblies, and the next were inexplicably gone—no questions asked.  While these theologians have continued running off to classes designed to teach respect for human rights to their students, or have run off to the library to do research for articles about the need to respect human rights across the globe.

6.    And while the lives and vocations of some Catholics have, in recent years, been assaulted by Catholic institutions solely because we are gay or lesbian, the mainstream Catholic media have persistently looked the other way.  They’re refused to open a door to frank discussion of these issues, or to permit those who have experienced what Steve and I have gone through with the Catholic academy any space in which to tell our stories.

7.    In their own hiring and firing practices, they mirror the norm of making gay and lesbian persons invisible, which is found throughout Catholic institutions as a whole.  Though many mainstream Catholic publications critique the homophobia of the church and call for it to end, they have not taken any steps at all to add openly gay or lesbian writers to their staff.  We remain as invisible in the mainstream Catholic media as we are in almost all parishes or other Catholic institutions across the land.

8.    And so when these mainstream Catholic publications do finally decide to address the injustice that the institutional church shows to its gay and lesbian members, what they have to say falls on deaf ears.  In their own practice, the Catholic media mounting these critiques do not bespeak their own commitment to the standard to which they want to call the church at large.

9.    Until these powerful sectors of the American Catholic community—notably its academy and its media—stop making gay and lesbian persons invisible and stop treating us as if we are simply not in the room, everything the American Catholic church wants to say to society at large about human rights will continue to sound tinny and unconvincing.  

10.    It’s time for a national dialogue in which those of us who have walked through experiences like the ones I described this week on this blog can finally tell our stories.  The most helpful—the most healing and authentic—step that the Catholic academy, particularly its theological faculties, and the Catholic media can take to address the experiences of LGBT Catholics is to create a forum for a nationwide discussion of these issues. 

It’s time for such a national dialogue if the Catholic church in the U.S. does not want to look increasingly absurd, as its ethical awareness about these issues continues to lag far behind the growing ethical consensus of people of good will.  And it’s time for such national dialogue if the Catholic church doesn’t want to continue appearing, at an ever accelerating rate, simply beside the point to most American citizens of good will, as any ethical issue at all comes before the nation for consideration.

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