Thursday, November 29, 2012

Story of Minnesota Teen Denied Confirmation for Supporting LGBT Rights Continues to Circulate

Lennon Cihak

National Catholic Reporter continues to air the story of Lennon Cihak of Barnesville, Minnesota--the teen denied confirmation (and here) by his pastor Father Gary LaMoine and by the bishop of Crookston, Michael Hoeppner.  If I understand correctly, his parents have also now been denied communion by both gentlemen.

The first link above points to Dennis Coday's "Morning Briefing" column in NCR this morning, which links to an editorial statement in the Jamestown [ND] Sun and an article by Nathan Bowe from the Park Rapids [MN] Enterprise.  The editorial statement notes that more and more Catholics are likely to follow the example of the Cihak family and dissent publicly from the "rigid and authoritarian" style of leadership exhibited by the pastoral leaders of the Crookston diocese.

And many will likely continue to leave the Catholic church as its pastoral leaders refuse to budge on that leadership style--though this exodus may be precisely what the current pastoral leaders of the Catholic church, in fact, want:

Some Catholics will ask themselves whether they still belong in the church with which they find themselves at odds, unable to denounce, even to their inner selves, core beliefs. It seems the Catholic hierarchy is comfortable with that, content to watch stray members leave the fold, while telling themselves the church will be stronger when those who are not “real” Catholics go elsewhere to worship.

And Nathan Bowe reports that the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest has offered to confirm Lennon Cihak.  Which suggests, it seems to me, that there are other religious groups ready and waiting to offer hospitality to families forced out of the Catholic church by the draconian and eminently unpastoral kind of leadership demonstrated by Father LaMoine and Bishop Hoeppner.  In fact, I've been told by a number of sources that there's fairly strong anecdotal evidence that quite a few Catholics in Minnesota were so hurt by the choice of their bishops to attack their gay brothers and sisters this election cycle that a sizable contingent of Catholics in Minnesota have moved to the Episcopal church, which has set up committees in some areas to deal with the influx of Catholics to their church.

Bigotry and meanness in the name of Jesus come with a high price tag.  If Minnesotans pride themselves on anything, it's on their reputation for niceness.  And if I know anything at all about Minnesotans, especially in the Crookston diocese, from my some 40 years of visits to that state, I know that Minnesotans intensely dislike having their quarrels made public.  The façade of Minnesota niceness  depends on maintaining a smooth surface of civility and kindness, even as some communities--and, in my experience, notably some Catholic communities in the Crookston diocese--behave with anything but civility and kindness towards those who are gay and lesbian.

And so folks in the Crookston diocese are going to resent the continued airing of the Lennon Cihak story by NCR and other news outlets.  But it seems to me necessary--it seems imperative--that we pay close attention to stories like this, if we expect the Catholic church in the U.S. to be a more effective sacramental sign of God's all-embracing, all-healing love in the world.  Which is what the Catholic church claims to be all about at the most fundamental level possible . . . .

Just as Rachel Maddow says that the beltway media maintain a fiction that all is nice in GOPland even when much is decidedly not nice in GOPheartland, many Catholics in the opinion-shaping cultural centers of the nation, especially in the bicoastal urban areas, have no idea of precisely how repressive and downright savage some Catholic communities throughout the heartland can be to those who are gay and lesbian.

Or even to those who aren't LGBT, but who have the courage and compassion to stand with their gay brothers and sisters, as the Cihak family does.

We need to hear these stories from the heartland, if we expect to do better as a church.

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