Monday, April 11, 2011

Many U.S. Catholics Move to Affirmation of Gays, Others Hold the Line: A Family Saga

And so here's the latest little family drama with which Steve and I've been dealing, to which I've alluded in several comments here in the past few days.  I've wondered if it's appropriate or productive to blog about this--or inflammatory and harmful to Steve's family.  Steve and one of his brothers, who is a very good friend and brother to us, encourage me to do so, however.  And since I've blogged in the past about a similar missive Steve's other sister sent him a few years ago--for his birthday, no less--I'm not introducing this subject out of the blue.

The context of this latest message.  This sister emailed Steve some weeks ago to say she, her husband, and their five children would be coming through on a trip a week or so ago, and would like to stay a night and visit.  We were happy to host them, and made things ready--including making our spare bedroom ready, along with various sofas for the children to sleep on.

But when the bunch arrived, it turned out they insisted on sleeping in their camper outside the house.  Fine with us.  Still, we cooked meals, took them out to eat when we found that they hadn't taken the five children to a restaurant on the entire trip, showed them around.  (The children are home-schooled and have seen little of anything outside their farm in Minnesota; we thought it was strange the parents had taken them on a trip from northern Minnesota to Florida and then across to Arkansas and had not once eaten a meal outside their own camper, since the trip was touted as an educational trip for the children.  Hence our insistence on taking them all to a Chinese restaurant.)

And on Friday, we got a thank-you note, a nice hand-drawn and hand-painted one the children made, with the following note addressed only to Steve in a sealed envelope inside:

Dear Steve,

Just a note to reiterate our thanks for your hospitality while in Little Rock.  The trip was fun, but it was good to get home again.

I should have invited you to join us at Mass that Sunday we left.  The chapel in Bryant, though small and humble, offers the true Catholic Mass of all time – the only one in all of Arkansas.  It is truly the remnant of the faith; the Church of our Catholic roots and heritage.

I am glad that we could visit, though not in depth or length, because I’m sure you are aware that we must abide by the rules of the Church in not condoning a gay lifestyle.  Despite the difference, I am happy that we can be at peace with one another – something Mom is particularly anxious about.  She has expressed a desire for a family reunion very soon.  She does seem sad. . . .

You remain always in my heart and prayers, and I am grateful to have you as my oldest brother!

God bless you,

Love, L.

Thank you.  God bless you.  Love.  I am grateful you are my brother.  I am happy that we can be at peace with one another. 

But please know I can stay only one evening at your house, and can't stay inside the house, and can't talk in "depth or length" (though I haven't seen you in three years, because we all, your loving good Catholic family, treat you so shabbily anytime you come to visit us that you don't come home anymore).  I can't stay with you and talk to you in depth or length because, you understand, the "rules of the Church" require me to inform you your "gay lifestyle" is sinful.

The rules of the Church I myself and my family don't obey, mind you, because we don't recognize the Mass celebrated in that Church as correct or valid or whatever the hell the word is, since only the church of the true remnant, of the Society of St. Pius X, is true.  Or valid.  Or whatever.

And our remnant church has declared all the popes since Vatican II heretics--or so we inform people to justify going only to the "true" Mass of all time.  But we join our ultra-conservative Catholic siblings who will still at least tolerate the debased vernacular Mass in our parish church, though they don't like it--we join with them in reminding you that the teaching of the Catholic church requires us to condemn your sinful gay lifestyle.  Whatever that is.

And so welcome to the real Catholicism some Catholic families are living now, A.D. 2011, when polls indicate a majority of U.S. Catholics accept and affirm gay people and gay rights.  In some Catholic families, however--particularly those most confident they and they alone cling to the the true Catholic teaching, who home-school their children because who knows what a Catholic school may teach them, who send those home-schooled children off to true Catholic colleges like the one in Steubenville--it's perfectly legitimate, required, in fact, for one family member to inform another he's a dirty sinner headed to hell.

Whose house is too sin-tainted for other family members to stay in overnight, though those same family members will gladly partake of a meal prepared by the sin-tainted hands of their brother and his partner in that same house.  And will condemn their own aunts, who are Benedictine sisters, for coming to visit this sinful nephew and his sinful partner, staying a number of days, and never feeling obliged to inform their hosts that the true Catholic church requires them to condemn said sinners and remind them they're headed to hell.  Because they're women who really pray and really love and have spiritual depth and would no more dream of passing a judgment like that than of trying to fly to the moon.

This is all just so sick to me.  The presumption.  The arrogance.  The ignorance.  The belief that any family member has the right to do this to another family member.

Because I live with and see first-hand the pain in the face of someone I love, as he opens and reads yet another sweet, loving, God-ordained letter like this, and can no longer stand by in silence as these missives arrive, I have written all of his family a letter this past weekend.  In which words like "barbaric," "uncivilized," and "savage" predominate.  With the recurring question, "What in God's name is wrong with you people?"

This is the reality some Catholic families still live, unfortunately, while the viewpoint of many other Catholics in the U.S. moves more and more towards acceptance and affirmation of their gay brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  And the activities of the Archbishop Chaputs and Archbishop Dolans and Bishop Cordileones and Archbishop Nienstedts and Maggie Gallaghers and Carl Andersons of the world don't help one little bit in curbing the self-righteous certitude of loyal Catholics from whom this ugly condemnation of their own family members just keeps flowing forth. 

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