Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bishop William Murphy's Removal of Nicholas Coppola from Ministry: My Theological Commentary

Here's my own brief theological commentary on Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy's removal of Nicholas Coppola from parish ministries due to an anonymous letter complaining that Coppola is a homosexual who will not hide or keep quiet (see my previous posting today for more on this story): 

Nicholas Coppola says, "St. Anthony's . . . provided 'a place to use the gifts God gave me.'"

This is a central point in understanding the deep injustice that was done to Mr. Coppola when he was removed from the ministries in which he was involved (and for understanding the deep wound inflicted on our Catholic community when we continue to do this to anyone).

In their pastoral letter Economic Justice for All, the U.S. Catholic bishops state clearly and explicitly, "Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community. In our teaching, the human person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community" (¶ 14).

To remove people from the social and communitarian context in which they share their gifts is to remove them from the context in which they achieve and express their humanity, since we achieve and express our humanity precisely by sharing our gifts in a communitarian context. What our church does when it singles out, isolates, and excludes people on grounds of sexual orientation is a direct assault on human dignity at the most fundamental level possible.

The bishops go on to note in Economic Justice for All that "all people have a right to participate in the economic life of society. Basic justice demands that people be assured a minimum level of participation in the economy. It is wrong for a person or group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate or contribute to the economy" (¶ 15).

And then they note that "such participation has special significance in our tradition because we believe that it is a means by which we join in carrying forward God's creative activity." What they are saying here is that our Catholic tradition is deeply communitarian, and to deny people a place in the human and religious community or family, to deny them a venue in which to express their gifts and achieve their humanity, militates against the most fundamental affirmations of what we believe about ourselves as Catholics.

I look for a day--and I think it may come sooner than many of us expect--when the leaders of our Catholic church begin apologizing to gay and lesbian human beings for having assaulted their dignity through actions like what has been done to Mr. Coppola and to many, many other gay Catholics. I look for a day when our church leaders begin to atone for the cruelty and injustice they have practiced and fostered by supporting social and religious movements that seek to isolate, denigrate, dehumanize, and exclude LGBT human beings in various societies of the world.

The photo of Nicholas Coppola is from NBC News, NY.

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