Thursday, May 23, 2013

Theologian Richard Gaillardetz to Cardinal Dolan: Stand Up for the Rights of Gays As for Immigrants and Unborn

In an essay about Cardinal Dolan as USCCB president, Catholics, and the Boy Scouts, theologian Richard Gaillardetz notes that (as he assured the world that the Catholic church loves the gays), His Eminence admitted on Easter Sunday  that the church hasn't done an exemplary job of communicating this message of love. To which Gaillardetz responds, 

If the Catholic Church is to make good on the claim that it is not anti-gay, then it will have to stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians with the same force with which it has stood up for the dignity of the unborn and the rights of immigrants.

And then he goes on to reveal that one of his four sons is openly gay, and was an Eagle Scout and a troop leader. Because he was an accomplished leader and counselor, younger Scouts needing counseling and support were often sent to him for assistance.

He cannot serve in that capacity any longer, under current Scouting rules prohibiting the involvement of openly gay Scout troop leaders with the Scouts. A policy that has long bowed to the dictates of the LDS church, right-wing evangelical churches, and the Catholic bishops . . . . 

I find Gaillardetz's analysis valuable because he dares to reveal something of himself and of his family's story as he appeals to the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand up for the rights and dignity of LGBT human beings with the same force with which they have stood up for the rights and dignity of the unborn and of immigrants. But I find it valuable for another reason, too: two years ago, when I responded to Gaillardetz's 2011 Murray/Bacik lecture at University of Toledo on the state of the church in 2011, I wrote the following:

For many of us who share Gaillardetz's analysis of the poor theology and anti-pastoral intent of the 2009 marriage document [i.e., the USCCB's "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan"], the fundamental problem (and therefore the solution to the problem) appears quite different [i.e., than Gaillardetz's analysis of the document, reflecting his and his wife's experience with the bishops as a heterosexual couple]. It's a problem of being unable to welcome or be encouraged by any statement issued by a group of pastoral leaders whose fundamental message to us has been, for some time now, that we ourselves are unwelcome

And I added, 

And that problem--which is to say, the deep, well-nigh intractable problem of unwelcome and lack of hospitality which is driving one person after another out of the church--is only compounded by our heterosexual and married brother and sister Catholics, insofar as they continue to seem unable to grasp the dimensions of this problem.  Or what the experience of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters within the church has been and continues to be. 
Or what deep damage the male-dominated heterosexism of our leaders, our community, and our institutions continues to do to all of us.

I can't say I've changed my mind about these conclusions in the past two years. To the contrary: His Eminence's decision to sic the police on a group of gay folks and folks standing in solidarity with those who are gay several weeks ago, as the doors to St. Patrick's cathedral were shut in their faces, only serves to demonstrate to me how intractably deep the problem is, despite His Eminence's sweet words on Easter Sunday. Though I'm exceedingly glad to see a married heterosexual Catholic theologian stand up and speak out as Gaillardetz is doing in his NCR statement--and would be deeply heartened to see more married heterosexual Catholic theologians do the same . . . .

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