Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another Week, Another Expulsion of a Gay Employee of a Catholic Institution: Sandusky Catholic High Forces Gay Music Teacher to Resign

I don't mean to be a downer in posting this piece, but it's impossible to ignore this ongoing story, it seems to me: despite the claims that gay people are being received more warmly in the Catholic church as Pope Francis models a kinder and gentler way of engaging people on the margins, the stories about the firing of gay employees of Catholic institutions continue to roll forth.

This story is from Sandusky Catholic High School, where music teacher Brian Panetta was recently forced to resign when he announced his engagement to his partner Nathan David. As Bob Shine states in his report for New Ways Ministry to which this link points, if you click the link "Employment Issues" at the bottom of the page, you'll discover a whole string of similar stories documenting how gay employees of Catholic institutions in the U.S. are being fired right and left of late--even as we're being told that we now live in a kinder and gentler church under Pope Francis.

The Sandusky story reminds me of the recent story in Indiana in which a United Methodist church that had a gay choir director (who was closeted) got a new minister who indicated that he was not "comfortable" with the gay choir director, and forced him to resign. In protest, 80% of the church's members left the church.

The witch-hunt against gay employees of church institutions is hardly confined to the Catholic church, though it's the Catholic component of the witch-hunt that predominantly concerns me, because I happen to be Catholic. And because I've felt the brutal, soul-wrenching edge of this behavior in my own life. 

I'll frankly admit that I find these stories quite a downer. I find their continuation at a time in which we're being assured that we live in a much better church with the new pope quite a downer. Just as I find the deluge of talk of late by leading Catholic journalists of the center about how nothing will or can or should change in the church's teaching about this or any other matters under Pope Francis quite a downer.

By leading Catholic journalists of the center who appear always to congratulate themselves on having had the good sense to be born near the center, or to have chosen it through their good behavior, good looks, charm, gender, proper sexual orientation, etc. . . . It's no accident that people who occupy the center, with all its unmerited power and privilege, imagine that they have earned the "rights" they take for granted at the center.

How that attitude fits Francis's call to us to think about those on the peripheries, or see things from the vantage point of those on the peripheries, is murky to me, though. And how the message of Francis about the center and the margins is best mediated to us by the same tired old centrists who have always mediated "the" Catholic message to the rest of us is equally mysterious to me.

Amidst much talk of change, there appears to be little effective change at all in my church, from where I stand. Not change affecting me and people like me, that is to say . . . . 

The photo of Brian Panetta and Nathan David is from the New Ways Ministry article linked above.

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