Friday, June 13, 2014

New Ways Ministry Claims "No Ethical Reflection Has Been Done" about Firing of Gay Employees, Since This Is "Very New on the Church Scene": My Response

At the blog of New Ways Ministry, Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBernardo writes

The most troubling issue of the last few months has been the rash of people fired from Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues. The injustice of these decisions is made even more troubling by the fact that, based on what these institutions have stated publicly, these actions seem to be devoid of any ethical reflection of the complex issues involved.  Part of the reason for this exacerbation of the problem is that no ethical reflection has been done around such situations since they are very new on the church scene.

Unfortunately, it is quite simply untrue to say that "[p]art of the reason for this exacerbation of the problem [of firing LGBT employees in Catholic institutions] is that no ethical reflection has been done around such situations since they are very new on the church scene." Catholic institutions have been firing (and running off) LGBT people for a long time now.

Many of those firings and disappearings have been done under the cover of darkness, with specious reasons offered by Catholic institutions intent on getting rid of refractory gay employees in underhanded ways that allow the institution to avoid charges of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation — reasons that have fooled no one who has been a careful observer of what goes on in many Catholic institutions. Catholic institutions have long gotten away with treating gay employees like human refuse because neither the Catholic nor the secular media have been willing to cover these stories — nor have advocacy groups like New Ways Ministry been conspicuously willing, until recently, to assist those disappeared in demeaning, destructive ways by Catholic institutions solely because of their sexual orientation.

Many of us who have been put through this particular form of hell by the institutional church have long offered our own ethical reflection to groups like New Ways Ministry and other gay advocacy groups within the Catholic community — ethically informed reflection on the "complex issues involved." I have a lengthy shelf of file folders stuffed full of documents I compiled following the destruction of my theological career and then that of my partner (now husband) Steve by Belmont Abbey College in the early 1990s.

The file folders are full of letters to several bishops and abbots, as well as other Catholic officials including the papal nuncio, I wrote from the depths of our pain, from the bottom of the heart, about what the church was doing to us and others, and how it radically affected our human lives and our connection to the church. I sent these letters to leaders of New Ways Ministry. We obtained no assistance at all from New Ways Ministry or other groups advocating for pastoral outreach to gay Catholics.

Those letters and other documents are now almost 2 decades old. Pace Francis DeBernardo, they document a story that is not in the least "very new on the church scene," and they offer "ethical reflection on the complex issues involved" in the church's abusive treatment of its gay employees that reaches back some 20 years.

What's new today is that groups like New Ways Ministry are finally paying attention to what has long been a problem in Catholic institutions — the unethical treatment of gay employees — because people are now being fired right and left, and, most important of all, the media no longer ignore those firings as they did in the past. This makes it impossible for groups like New Ways Ministry to ignore them, either — and the testimony offered by those who experience anti-gay abuse within Catholic institutions, which has often (and this is shameful) been treated by gay advocacy groups within the Catholic church as if it counts for nothing at all, unless the person offering such testimony happens to be well-connected and not the nobodies that many of us happen to be.

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