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A Message to These People: Get Out

Dear Mom,

What a great season it is here in Seattle! Our warm and sunny weather has continued well into October, and I’m writing from the office in our new home, taking a break from unpacking and settling in to get ourselves back on track with these letters.  This fall seems full of contentment, new possibility, and change.

Also, what a great season it is to be gay! The Supreme Court dished up a great treat, and it feels like every few days another state decides to put the cherry on top and dig in.  More and more same sex couples in more and more states are giddy, tripping over themselves to the altar.

If you’re Catholic, though, you might want to wait a minute before you run down to the courthouse to sign your papers.  Getting hitched can get you kicked out of your job in a Catholic school, as we saw here in Seattle recently, or ostracized from your parish, as a gay couple in Montana found out over the summer.

This should surprise no one, of course.  The attitude in the Catholic Church towards gays is frosty at best, and any movement towards acceptance, welcome, or apology has been glacial.  In fact, I think you were as surprised as I was when the Vatican received praise from many quarters earlier this week when it issued the blandest of affirming statements:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Are they kidding? Is that a real question that the bishops are posing to one another?

I have a few questions of my own for the bishops: When you talk about gifts, do you mean all the paintings and sculptures that adorn your churches and cathedrals created by artists like Caravaggio, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, all of whom had (or were at the very least strongly suspected of having) sex with other men?

Also, you mention that gays want a “welcoming home,” and yet you choose to refer to us as “these people”? Do you really think that strikes the right tone?

Finally, it seems that JP II’s reiteration that homosexual orientation is “objectively disordered” (a phrase lifted directly from the Catholic Church catechism which identifies homosexual sexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” and “acts of grave depravity”) is pretty much the last official word from the Church.  Are we really to believe that the welcome mat is out?

Not really, as it turns out.  By week’s end, bowing to pressure from Conservative bishops, the Church had backtracked, realizing that despite what the current Big Guy may say (“Who am I to judge?”) they still wanted to make it clear just what they think of “these people.”

The Catholic church was, as you well know, a huge part of my youth; the community and the commandments and the scripture helped to reinforce the way of life you and dad passed down to Mark and me.  For many of my formative years, I found solace in prayer, guidance through life’s challenges from my Catholic school teachers, and community in the friendships I made with others who were raised like we were.

Despite the consternation that it caused you and dad (and my grandmothers), I had the good sense to get out.  But thank God (or thank the Divine Eternal Spirit of the Earth Mother Goddess Head) that I did.

Back to that couple in Montana that I mentioned earlier for just a moment. They were told by their parish priest that they needed to stop receiving communion until they were willing to get a divorce, stop living together (which they have done for over 30 years), and sign a paper saying that marriage was for one man and one woman. One of them has stopped going to church, but the other continued, saying “This is my home.”

Really?! Your home? A place of comfort, respite, and renewal? A place to let your hair down and be yourself? How can a place that clearly and repeatedly refers to you as a sinner because of an intrinsic, genetic characteristic as essential as eye color or a predisposition to heart disease be considered home?

I am astounded that many in the LGBT community continue to seek trusting relationships with institutions that offer such tepid welcome. Clearly we have drunk the Kool-Aid ourselves, believing we are sinful, we made some choice, and we don’t deserve better than the crumbs. Too often we gays suffer from our own internalized homophobia.  I think it’s time we stopped.

Nothing is going to change in the Church until every single gay member says “Thanks but no thanks! It’s not right, and you don’t get the value of my gifts, my perspective, my example to others about the value of love and commitment until you change.”  Some would posit that the best change comes from within, that the Church is more and different and better than its leaders.  I think that just encourages stability, when what is needed is a radical but clear message: We are done.

To all LGBT Catholics, I say go. Leave now. Don’t wait a second more. Find a church—there are many—that accepts you. Fully and completely.  No qualifications.  [Let the first litmus test be this: if they call you “These people,” run screaming.] We deserve so much better.

Change is happening, and more is on the way.  To hasten it along, we must demand a place at the table.

Love, Christopher