Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sam Albano on the Pastoral Emergency in American Catholicism Caused by Abuse of LGBT People: A Personal Response

Sam Albano co-founded a youth ministry in his Catholic parish in Carmel, Indiana. Until August 2014, he served on the parish council. 

His pastor then informed him that, because he had made statements on social media questioning Catholic teaching about same-sex relationships, he could no longer serve in leadership positions in the parish, unless he refrained from expressing such views.* Albano chose to resign from the parish council. 

He writes,

We know that LGBT men and women continue to face significant rejection and hardship in many communities. Employment and housing discrimination are real. Even within their own families, LGBT people can encounter rejection. We also know that LGBT persons -- especially young people -- remain particularly susceptible to depression, suicide and substance abuse. Violence against us remains a possibility even today. 
In the midst of this brokenness and adversity, the church is equipped to be a powerful channel of God's grace and healing. Regrettably, our Catholic institutions sometimes serve only to reinforce pain and brokenness.

Albano could be writing for me. I'm a man approaching old age, who has struggled for years, along with his spouse, against serious odds, as the two of us have lost jobs and have been placed in grim financial distress though we both have doctorates and had exemplary work records up to the time when we lost jobs without any explanation. We have had to deal with raw discrimination in our daily lives in areas like healthcare. We live in a state in which we married legally last year when a tiny window of opportunity opened for us to take that step.

But our marriage remains in a legal limbo due to the refusal of those with authority to change this situation, a legal limbo that has real consequences for us as I near the age of qualifying for Medicare and do not have the legal right to be covered by my husband's health insurance policy as supplemental coverage when I sign up for Medicare. We live in a state whose governor and legislators have just informed us that we're unwanted second-class citizens who would be well advised to move someplace else, if we want to enjoy the same rights everyone else in the world enjoys.

It would be nice — it would be wonderful — as we walk through the fires of persecution, and as we have decreasing energy to fight in our senior years, if our church family treated us like members of the family. It would be wonderful to know that, in the midst of the oppression, we still have a church home to turn to, a place in which we're accepted as equals, treated as human, welcomed and loved.

Unfortunately, we cannot say this of our Catholic community. In fact, much of the oppression we have endured from the time we were cast out of our professions as Catholic theologians has occurred in the most direct way possible at the hands of our Catholic family, insofar as it is represented by our pope, bishops, and the ordained and vowed religious leaders who run many Catholic institutions in the U.S.

In choosing the Catholic church as my religious home in the 1960s, I was under the impression that I was choosing a religious family, a place of refuge that would help bind wounds inflicted on me or any other member of my Catholic family in the world at large. To my deep pain, I have discovered, instead, that I chose a religious family that has actively inflicted wounds on me, and that has no intention whatsoever of helping bind the wounds I endure as a gay man who is discriminated against in the world outside the church.

To me, to Sam Albano, to all the other LGBT Catholics placed in this excruciating, intolerable situation as the leaders of our church have become ever more rabidly cruel towards those who are gay, the church is the antithesis of a loving family. Its persistent message to us is that if we want to be welcomed, taken in, loved, and treated as family members, we need to go elsewhere. We need to find some other family that's about all those nice things. They're not on offer in the Catholic family, not for the likes of you gay folks.

This is, of course, the very same message that the anti-gay leaders of my state have just given me as they pass laws designed to strip me of rights and diminish my humanity. A situation that a church walking in the footsteps of Jesus which wants to be known as some kind of Christian family would be combating, seeking to remedy, refusing to accept, rather than aiding and abetting in the discrimination . . . . 

As Sam Albano observes,

I think it is reasonable to suggest that we have a pastoral emergency before us. More importantly, we have a pressing moral matter. In the harsh treatment of LGBT Catholics, we have done more than injustice. Indeed, we have erected a substantial stumbling block to knowing Jesus Christ, hearing the Gospel, and living a life of Christian discipleship. We have lost too many of our people: God's people.

In the harsh treatment of LGBT Catholics, we have done more than injustice. Indeed, we have erected a substantial stumbling block to knowing Jesus Christ: yes, the leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. have done precisely what Albano is describing here, with their inhumane, deeply unChristian treatment of LGBT people. But they've done more: they've succeeded in evacuating of any real meaning the claims that their church makes about itself at the most fundamental level possible — that it is a family of faith that is all about welcoming the stranger, healing the hurt, taking in the homeless, and providing a place at the table for the outcast.

This is where the pastoral emergency of American Catholicism lies. And it is being made profoundly more serious as gay Catholics are silenced, removed from leadership positions and jobs, informed by such actions that they are unwelcome in the Catholic family, and, in very many cases, simply driven off into the outer darkness, while far too many lay Catholics who know better keep right on singing about how we're an Easter people and alleluia is our song.

* P.S. Anybody know of folks fired in Catholic institutions or removed from leadership positions in Catholic institutions after they expressed public disagreement with, say, the church's teaching that capital punishment is immoral, or public disagreement with the church's teaching that racism is immoral, or public disagreement with the church's teaching on the preferential option for the poor? I have been under the impression that even high-ranking prelates like Cardinal Burke have been free to express dissent from what the current pope is teaching about a number of issues — and that Burke has very solid support on blog sites and social media sites from the very same temple police set of Catholics who want to hound openly gay Catholics out of their church.

The graphic is a photo of the Latin text of Psalm 29, "De profundis," which appears at a number of websites including the Saturday Chorale site, which note that the photo is a photo of a page in the breviary.

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