Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gay Catholics Giving Witness in the Teachable Moment of Catholicism's Current Crisis: Michael Bayly and Andrew Sullivan

Yesterday, I wrote that the Vatican gay lobby story and the story of British Cardinal O'Brien place the Catholic community in a teachable moment regarding those who are gay and lesbian.  I said,

Things are falling apart at the very center of the Catholic church, and that falling apart has everything to do with vicious, dysfunctional, anti-Christian treatment of those who are gay and lesbian by closeted hierarchical figures who themselves sometimes act out sexually, and by intellectually and morally malformed Catholics intent on defending said hierarchs. Right as things fall apart and there's an unprecedented moment to discuss precisely how this very characteristic Catholic form of dysfunction is harming the entire church, not to mention a stigmatized group of human beings, a strong contingent of Catholics want to keep the dysfunction alive.

Today, I'd like to add testimony that, to my mind, corroborates what I said yesterday from two gay Catholics whose voices seem to me eminently worth hearing, if we in the Catholic community are to take advantage of the teachable moment in which we now stand. At his Wild Reed blog, Michael Bayly writes about the harm done to themselves, to the church, and to others  by closeted gay priests living secretive sexual lives within a clerical culture that denigrates and maligns homosexuality. This culture, with its enforced expectations of the closet, leads nowhere good for the church, Michael argues.

Here's how things might be different, how they have to be different if we expect to move to a healthier places as a faith community, he proposes:

Yet, undoubtedly, things are only going to get worse unless Catholics, as 'the Church,' demand a fundamental change in the way our leaders think and talk about sexuality – in all its wondrous diversity. For that to happen, however, the whole leadership system must be reformed. We can no longer depend upon a "good" pope, i.e., one who thinks like us, to come in and make everything better. A benevolent autocrat is still an autocrat. It's time we acknowledged that the church took a terribly wrong turn when, around 1600 years ago, it assumed the trappings of empire during the time of Constantine. No more overlords, autocrats, emperor-like popes. We have to return to the radical egalitarianism of Jesus. Only then will God's spirit of compassion and justice be manifested in and through the Church, i.e., the community of those committed to following Jesus.

And at his Dish site, Andrew Sullivan discusses the problem of "the dysfunctional gay men who help run a church dedicated to the marginalization and stigmatization of their fellow homosexuals." As he notes, over the course of time, he has come to the conclusion that this problematic is actually central to the crisis of the Catholic church today--and until it is addressed honestly, the church cannot deal effectively with its current crisis:

I used to think that the gay question was important to me but not that important in the context of the whole church. But as the years have gone by, I wonder if it isn’t actually central to the crisis in Catholicism today. We need honesty – honesty about gay priests who need to come out as a way to buttress their celibacy; honesty about how priests are human beings and can benefit from a stable relationship in ways that enhance rather than detract from their ministry; honesty about the absurdly high proportion of the priesthood that is gay; honesty about the desperate need for wives and daughters to be part of a priest’s life in order to help him understand the flock he is supposed to tend to; honesty about the total arbitrary nature of the ban on women priests; and a recognition that gay priests have been among the greatest leaders of the church and still could be if allowed an option for a loving relationship with another human being – as Cardinal Newman had his whole life.

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