Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cardinal George, Meet Frank Mugisha: Francis DeBernardo Puts the Two Together

And, by way of my e-friend Claire Bangasser's Facebook page (what would I do without the wonderful resources provided by so many friends at Facebook?), a wonderful statement by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, juxtaposing Cardinal George's extremely hurtful remarks about his gay brothers and sisters with the Catholic witness of Frank Mugisha of Uganda:

Francis writes, 

A common argument to support anti-gay repression in Africa has been that homosexuality is an import from the West.  Mugisha turns that argument on its head: 
"Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us. 
The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia." 
It is bad enough that Catholic leaders have not spoken forcefully against this obvious right to life issue.  What makes matters worse, however, is that the verbal abuse exemplified by Cardinal George’s comments the other day fuel the homophobia that leads to such hateful and violent attitudes. 
Cardinal George, and other Catholic leaders, could learn a lot from Frank Mugisha.

For those who feel inclined to voice strong dissatisfaction about Cardinal George's unwarranted attack on his gay brothers and sisters, as Father Geoff Farrow notes at his blog site, Truth Wins Out has launched a petition calling on George to resign in the wake of his unpastoral remarks about the gay community.  I signed the petition yesterday, and I see that in a single day (and at the height of the busy pre-Christmas season when people are otherwise occupied), it has already garnered nearly 3,000 signatures.

I doubt seriously that Cardinal George will resign, of course.  Still, in a leadership structure that affords lay Catholics no power at all to make our voices heard when our pastoral leaders grossly betray authentic pastoral leadership, these online tools at least give us a way to be heard--if not by church leaders obdurately determined to ignore us, then by others who may be moved to stand in solidarity with us.

And my intent is surely not to see Cardinal George dispossessed of his place at the table, which has long been sumptuously set for him and his brother bishops.  But if he should, miracle of miracles, choose to do the right thing and resign, I'd suggest that he'll certainly never lack a place at the table.  I say this because I feel sure he would find, on the other side of his arrogance and cruelty, that the very people who have set a place for him at their tables are the despised ones he sought to remove from his Catholic table.

This is--I'll be honest--a hard and painful Christmas season for many gay Catholics.  Just as George opened his mouth to make his atrocious statement comparing his gay brothers and sisters to the Ku Klux Klan, news broke that the "gay" parish, Most Holy Redeemer, in San Francisco (where Steve and I are spending Christmas with friends) has, under hierarchical pressure, disinvited several gay-friendly clergy to speak at Advent services in the parish church.

I am already hearing from folks who have long attended Mass at MHR that they'll not be going any longer.  The predictable result of what seems to be a stepped-up war by the Catholic hierarchy against those of us who are gay is that more of us will now simply walk away from the table--and perhaps that's what some of our fellow Catholics want.

I'm not sure that our loss is their gain, though.  In my experience, the most meaningful Christmas dinners I've attended in my fairly long life have involved a mix of saints and sinners, crazy folks and somewhat sane ones, the reputable and disreputable: those rollicking and spiritually rich meals have involved ALL.

The all to whom the good news of Jesus's birth was announced by angels.  The all Jesus was sent to save.

If the Catholic table is not set for all, it's no longer a catholic table, and not a table that contains any strong inherent connection to the Jesus it's set to commemorate.  And so, yes, Cardinal George: Francis DeBernardo is absolutely right: you can learn a lot from your gay African brother Frank Mugisha.

You can hear the gospel proclaimed by his lips, when it appears you're in danger of forgetting it.

The graphic is Brueghel's "Census at Bethlehem," from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium.  I have always thought it's significant that the Lucan Christmas narrative opens (Luke 2:1) with Caesar sending out a decree to "all the world" to be taxed, and then, in the miraculous inversion of power that the narrative celebrates, a baby is born in a stable as angels appear to shepherds in the field (Luke 2:9), announcing that good news has arrived for all.  The latter text subverts the former, demonstrating that divine concern is to bring good news to all, not to undergird the unjust power of those who imagine they rule all.

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