Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gay Boy Scouts, Catholic Response, and Welcome of Gays: Keeping Catholics Doors Open (or Slamming Them Shut?)

At his Spiritual Politics blog, Mark Silk compares the response of the U.S. Catholic bishops and the leaders of the LDS church to last week's vote to accept openly gay Boy Scout members. Catholic bishops: zipped lips. Mormon leaders: a public (if gingerly) statement of acceptance.

Silk writes:

Yet despite the Easter pledge of USCCB president Timothy Dolan’s Easter to do better by gays and lesbians, the bishops couldn’t bring themselves to take a position on the Scouts’ anti-discrimination proposal. If the reaction to yesterday’s vote from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is any indication, decisions will be made diocese by diocese.

By contrast, as Silk points out, the Mormon leadership issued an official statement accepting the Boy Scouts' vote to admit openly gay Scouts, which is in continuity with what church leaders had already said a few weeks back. And so what accounts for the willingness of the LDS church at an official level to abandon stances, policies, and teachings the church has upheld in the past? Here's Silk's conclusion:

A cynic might say that, so far as Salt Lake is concerned, the Holy Spirit follows the election returns. What I’d say is that the Saints understand the world to be a spiritually evolving place, where truths that once seemed timeless can be revealed as partial or even mistaken. Plural marriage, the exclusion of black men from the priesthood — these have gone by the boards when the norms of society at large required. Who’s to say that approving the Boy Scouts’ anti-discrimination rule will not turn out to have been the right call too?

Mark Silk is correct about the diocese-by-diocese game plan of the Catholic response. This Catholic News Service article by Seth Gonzalez at the National Catholic Reporter site demonstrates that dioceses are already weighing in with individual statements. In its framing of the issues for CNS, which is rapidly becoming the Pravda the the USCCB's Kremlin, Gonzalez's article suggests how right-leaning Catholics will process the recent decision of the Boy Scouts: yet another noble organization defending Judaeo-Christian values in a decaying American culture has succumbed to pressure from the nasty, organized gay Mafia, who have, as Gonzalez maintains, "been lobbying" the Scouts and have "pressured" corporations to lean on the Scouts to accept gay members.

And isn't that an interesting optic? When bishops like Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, SC, whom Gonzalez quotes, instruct the Scouts to hold the anti-gay line, they're neither lobbying nor pressuring--any more than Southern Baptist leader Frank Page, who also laments the gay "lobbying" and "pressure" that resulted in a yea vote for admitting gay Scouts, was lobbying or pressuring the Scouts when he personally met with Scout leaders to threaten the withdrawal of Southern Baptist Scout troops from the organization if the Scouts accepted gay members.

Lobbying and pressuring are evidently what only the gays do. One wonders if these Christian leaders would characterize the Poor People's March on Washington in 1963 as lobbying and pressuring, too? When matters of human rights, of basic justice, decency, and inclusion are at stake, where is the line between marching for those ideals and "lobbying" or "pressuring"? And why is it never lobbying or pressuring when church leaders do it?

Related to this discussion: at the Religion News Service site, David Gibson asks if gay Catholics can find a home in the Catholic church today. As Silk does, Gibson notes Cardinal Dolan's fulsome "welcome" message to gay Catholics this past Easter. But he notes that there has been absolutely no follow-up to that welcome message, except, well, the stories of Nicholas Coppola, Carla Hale, and the group with dirty hands who found the church doors slammed in their faces by police several Sundays ago when they tried to go to Mass at St. Patrick's cathedral.

Citing the views of a number of priests to whom he has spoken about these issues, Gibson thinks that things are going to grow worse at the parish level, as those who want to draw a hard exclusionary line continue targeting people like Coppola and Hale, and as the U.S. bishops make nice (and empty, and meaningless) statements like Dolan's which are backed by no official, comprehensive USCCB pastoral policy to prevent this kind of malicious activity in various parishes.

And, as this drama of exclusion-inclusion plays out in American Catholic life, the new pope said in his homily yesterday that those who approach the church should find the doors open and not find people who want to control the faith. Perhaps someone might send His Eminence of St. Patrick's in New York a copy of the pope's homily?

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