A Gay Catholic’s Plea for Inclusion During the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

Joseph Amodeo

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign, presently underway until July 4th, is attempting to make the case that religious liberty is under attack in the U.S.    One of the supposed attacks comes from the efforts to legalize marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, despite the fact that every  single marriage equality law passed has a clause which explicitly protects religious liberty.

Joseph Amodeo, a young gay Catholic in New York, who recently resigned his position on a Catholic Charities board because of LGBT issues,  examines some of the faults of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign in a HuffingtonPost.com essay entitled “Catholicism’s Fortnight Identity Crisis.”

Amodeo argues that, in effect, the bishops’ campaign is limiting the power of the Spirit active in the world:

“As bishops argue that their religious freedom is ‘at risk’ because of a federal government working to be just, I’m left wondering why the religious principles of a single faith tradition’s leaders should define public policy for an entire nation. If the Church argues that the word lives today through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that such inspiration is manifested through the spoken and written word of men and women, then why would such a Spirit stop at the doors of Congress and countless legislative halls throughout the country? In short, I don’t think the Spirit has stopped; instead it seems rather evident that men and women who have been chosen to lead and govern America are discerning great questions of our time and are deliberating in a way that calls to mind the great debates of the Second Vatican Council.”

As an alternative, Amodeo suggests that the Catholic Church should be initiating more dialogue with the secular world, according to the spirit and example of Jesus:

“The time has come for the Church to listen and to hear the cries of those in need. As Christ walked through the villages of ancient Israel, he encountered the people where they were, knelt with them, prayed with them, and witnessed in them the goodness that defines humanity. The time has come for the Church’s leaders to stand at the threshold of the doorway and welcome the sons and daughters who so desire a place to call home. It is in this moment of welcome when the Church will truly affirm the identity and dignity of people who have been created in the image and likeness of God.”

Amodeo hopes that the bishops’ “Fortnight” might become a time when, instead of pointing a finger to those outside, the church can do some productive reflection on the ways that it attempts to limit freedom:

“As Fortnight for Freedom begins and bells toll in cities across the country, we can only hope that this great period of prayer and reflection will lead the Church to see that this quest for ‘religious freedom’ could be a call for the Church itself to examine its own understanding of human liberty and dignity. As some of the Church’s leaders challenge the rights of women, fail to fully welcome and affirm LGBT people, and question the incredible contributions of women religious, I hope that the leaders witness the great illness of judgment that has come to define the actions of some in the hierarchy in recent years.”

Amodeo’s hope is that this time of prayer can actually be reversed to become a time of prayer for inclusion in the church:

I fear that the American bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign will only act to further codify the external view that the Church is a ‘club’ reserved only for the few rather than pro multis (for many). As the bishops begin their fortnight, I would encourage Catholics and all people of faith to share in that time of prayer; may our prayers for truth, love, and hope guide the Church toward truly becoming a ‘living space’ for all without exception.”

His hope highlights the main problem with many of the actions of the U.S. hierarchy lately:  they view the church’s relationship with the “outside” world as a battle.  The problem with this attitude is that it forces the bishops to respond in “attack” mode, rather than in a mode of evangelistic dialogue, which is more appropriate to them.  The “Fortnight” campaign is political not just in content, but in method.  It uses the tactics of a partisan political battle, rather than those of religious conversation.  The Fortnight for Freedom stands to actually harm the church, by betraying its better nature, than it will defend it.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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5 Responses to A Gay Catholic’s Plea for Inclusion During the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

  1. amagjuka says:

    Exactly my feelings. You speak for me & my understandkng of our faith more than the Pope& bishops do. It was one of the saddest days of my life when my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, joined the lawsuit against healthcare. Vatican II happened! And the Holy Spirit is alive& well & speaking through you. God made you. God loves you and wants you to live & love others, and to find your beloved. I am a straight 56 year old with no gay kids but i know you are right with a deep and unshaking certainty. I think the Holy Spirit is working through you and all who promote inclusion and love.

    • Teresa Rice says:

      Do you think every person, Church, religious college, and religious organization has the right to believe, promote and not violate their consciences? If you do, then why aren’t you sad that the U.S. government is forcing these organizations to fund things which are contrary to the Faith, not in accordance with the common good, violate their consciences, and things which they believe to be evil? Loving and having freedom doesn’t mean unfettered liberty or love that disrespects nature.

  2. Anton Allen says:

    Bravo, Joseph!! and your family name means GOD-LOVER. you are RIGHT ON!! The church should exercise not only the gift of tongues but THE GIFT OF EARS!! and LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT that is limited not only to the hierarchy but to ALL PEOPLE.

  3. Mary B. says:

    My heart has been heavy with sorrow until I read your commentary about our church’s direction in regards to religious freedom. Thank you for speaking intellectually and spiritually. I pray that other Catholics will truly hear and understand the truth.

  4. catholicboyrichard says:

    Reblogged this on catholicboyrichard (Stephen Francis) and commented:
    As usual Joseph Amodeo hit the nail just where the hammer was intended to land. Thanks for sharing this. Ironic that the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions came and indeed brought more freedom to many during this Fortnight. Maybe, just maybe, the prayers of Catholics and others were answered–just not in the way the bishops intended. I believe that they were.

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