Cardinal Dolan to Lesbian and Gay Catholics: “I love you, too. And God loves you.”

March 31, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos

Thanks to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for making available a transcript of today’s interview between ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulus and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan on This Week with George Stephanopoulus in which Dolan speaks positively of gay and lesbian people.  The entire section on gay and lesbian people is available here.  The following is an important excerpt:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know, especially this week – because it’s been at the top of the news – for many gay and lesbian Americans –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – gay and lesbian Catholics, they feel unwelcome –

CARDINAL DOLAN: They do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – in the Church. And what do you say as a minister, as a pastor – to a gay couple that comes to you and say, “We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we –

CARDINAL DOLAN: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: – want to raise a family in faith.”

CARDINAL DOLAN: Sure.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say to them?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, “I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – we want your happiness. But – and you’re entitled to friendship.” But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.

We gotta be – we gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody. We’re in the defense of what God has taught us about – about marriage. And it’s one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life. We gotta do better to try to dis – take that away from being anti-anybody. And – and I admit –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: We haven’t been too good –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, how do you do that?

CARDINAL DOLAN: Well, I don’t know. We’re still – we’re – we’re tryin’. We’re tryin’ our best to do it. We gotta listen to people, like the couple that you just described – that say, “We don’t feel comfortable here.”

Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me. But you got a point. Sometimes we’re not as successful or as effective as we can be in translating that warm embrace into also teaching what God has told us about the way He wants us –

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that challenge –

CARDINAL DOLAN: – to live.

Congratulations to Mr. Stephanopoulos for asking these tough questions and eliciting such a positive response.  Thank you to Cardinal Dolan for finally speaking positively about gay and lesbian Catholics and admitting that the church can do better in their regard.  Many thanks to GLAAD for making this transcript available.

This is the first time that the cardinal has made such a positive statement about God’s love for lesbian and gay people.  Such a statement is a refreshing change from the usual harsh rhetoric that the church hierarchy uses when discussing LGBT issues.  It is a significant sign of welcome and outreach.  Cardinal Dolan’s statement is nothing short of an Easter miracle.

Cardinal Dolan now has to back up these words with actions.  Later in the interview he said that church leaders “gotta listen to people,” referring to lesbian and gay persons.  If Dolan meant what he said, he should open a dialogue with lesbian and gay people, especially Catholics, to learn more about their pain and struggle , but also about their joy and faith.  New Ways Ministry stands ready to help Dolan identify people with whom he can begin to dialogue.

It is no accident that such a positive message comes with the beginning of the new papacy of Pope Francis.  He has set a new tone of humility and reconciliation in the church which did not exist under Benedict XVI.  We hope and pray that the new pope’s example will continue to inspire other church leaders to seek out those on the margins and welcome them into the fold.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Easter Sunday: Jesus Is Risen! Alleluia!

March 31, 2013

Christ_Resurrection

Easter Exultet

by James Broughton

Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.

Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.

Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.

Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.

Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way.
Walk toward clarity.

At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.

Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.

Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.

Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!

Honeymoon with Big Joy!

 


Holy Saturday: The Reality of Death

March 30, 2013

HolySaturday-JesusLaidInTheTomb-OBrien-01Holy Saturday is the day of the tomb.  Jesus died on Good Friday and resurrects on Easter Sunday, so Holy Saturday is the day in between death and new life.  Last year, on this day, I provided a meditation based on the song “Memory” from the musical Cats.   This year, for this in-between day, I offer a short meditation from Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman who hid other Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.  Her account of that time, An Interrupted Life, is a classic of spiritual and liberation literature.  The following quotation comes from that book:

“The reality of death has become a definite part of my life; my life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life, we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we can enlarge and enrich it.”

May we all experience the grace of which Etty Hillesum writes.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Two Gay Students Allowed to Attend Catholic High School Dance as a Couple

March 29, 2013

McQuaid Jesuit High SchoolTwo gay young men at an all-boys Catholic high school in Rochester, New York, will be allowed to attend a formal school dance together as a couple this spring.

RochesterHomePage. net reports that Father Edward Salmon, SJ, the president of McQuaid Jesuit High School, sent a letter to the student body’s parents informing them of his decision to allow the couple to attend the annual Junior Ball:

“I have made the decision that, if our two brothers who have asked to attend the Junior Ball together wish to do so, they will be welcomed.”

Fr. Salmon framed his decision in the context of statements from Pope Francis:

“Our new Holy Father,  Pope Francis, in the homily for his Inaugural Mass, had encouraging and inviting words: ‘Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation and to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds.’ Darkness and heavy clouds have gathered here at McQuaid recently because of misinformation, fear, misunderstanding, and even anger. That misinformation, fear,misunderstanding, and even anger came about after two of our brothers asked whether they could attend the Junior Ball together. Into the darkness of misinformation, fear,misunderstanding and anger, together with Pope Francis, I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to be men and women who bring hope to one another. I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to be men and women who look upon one another with tenderness and love. I invite and encourage each and every one of us in the McQuaid family to open up a horizon of hope,to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds.’ “

The president cited the U.S. bishops’ letter Always Our Children  and Vatican documents for support for his decision:

“I, together with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who in their Pastoral Message, Always Our Children, ‘. . . call on all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain and issues related to self-acceptance without society bringing additional prejudicial treatment.’

“I would like to let a ray of light enter into possible misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching. In that same message, Always Our Children, the Bishops are clear –‘Nothing in the Bible or in Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors.’ The Bishops continue: ‘It is also important to recognize that neither a homosexual orientation, nor a heterosexual one, leads inevitably to sexual activity. One’s total personhood is not reducible to sexual orientation or behavior.’ In that same message, the Bishops refer to a 1986 Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which emphasizes that ‘Respect for the God-given dignity of all persons means the recognition of human rights and responsibilities. The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them.’

“The Bishops continue, ‘It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358). They, as is true of every human being, need to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously. This includes friendship, [brotherhood] which is a way of loving and is essential to healthy human development. It is one of the richest possible human experiences. Friendship can and does thrive outside of sexual involvement.’ “

Concluding the letter, Father Salmon cites Pope Francis again:

“With this decision I am not contradicting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to human sexuality; I am not encouraging nor am I condoning homosexual activity just as I do not encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance. I am not contradicting the Church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage. With this decision I invite and encourage us all, as Pope Francis does, to exercise care, protection, goodness which calls for a certain tenderness ‘which is not a virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness.’ “

(You can read the entire text of Fr. Salmon’s letter at the end of the RochesterHomePage.net report or by clicking here.

WHEC.com, the NBC affiliate in Rochester reports that the school’s parents appear to be supportive of Fr. Salmon’s decision:

“. . . News10NBC managed to speak to several parents over the phone who belong to the McQuaid Parents’ Association. One parent said they are thrilled officials made the decision to write this letter. Another said they hope that issues involving homosexuality like this won’t be news one day.”

Father Salmon’s sensible and compassionate approach are a model for other Catholic school principals to use when making such decisions.  What is good about his decision is not only his sense of hospitality and inclusion, but that he de-sexualizes school dances, which is the reality for the overwhelming majority of attendees.  In doing so, he puts gay and lesbian relationships, as well as heterosexual ones, back in the category of human affection, where they properly belong.

If you support the president’s decision, it would be appropriate to send him a supportive letter or email.  His contact information:

Father Edward Salmon, SJ, President, McQuaid Jesuit High School, 1800 South Clinton Avenue, Rochester, New York, 14618

Email: esalmon@mcquaid.org

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Good Friday: Stations of the Cross and the Struggle for LGBT Equality

March 29, 2013
Station Three: Jesus Falls the First Time -- The Nazi's imprison homosexuals in concentration camps.

Station 3: Jesus Falls the First Time — The Nazis imprison homosexuals in concentration camps.

Christian artist Mary Button has created a series of 14 paintings entitled “Stations of the Cross:  the Struggle for LGBT Equality.”   The Believe Out Loud website has made the stations available through their Flickr site, and you can view them here. When you get to the site, click on each image for a full description of the particular station’s symbols and relevance.

Believe Out Loud also contains Mary Button’s artist statement about the series,  of which the following are excerpts:

“Stations of the Cross are a series of artistic representations of the Passion of Christ, depicting the story of his death from his sentencing to the laying of his body in the tomb. The fourteen images are used devotionally during the Lenten season for prayer and reflection.

Station 5: Simon the Cyrene Aids Jesus in Carrying the Cross / McCarthyism in 1950s America targets homosexuals with mass firings

Station 5: Simon the Cyrene Aids Jesus in Carrying the Cross / McCarthyism in 1950s America targets homosexuals with mass firings.

“The stations provide an opportunity for Christians to enter into the story of Christ’s suffering and experience a relationship with a God who suffers with us.

“This series of stations combine images depicting the struggle for LGBT equality through the 20th and 21st century. Each station illustrates the many ways in which the pursuit of justice for LGBT peoples is embedded in the history of the United States.”

Button describes how reading Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel, which re-tells the Gospel as if it took place in the Jim Crow South, influenced her vision:

“Of his translation of crucifixion to lynching, Jordan writes, ‘Our crosses are so shined, so polished, so respectable that to be impaled on one of them would seem to be a blessed experience. We have thus emptied the term “crucifixion” of its original content of terrific emotion, or violence, of indignity and stigma, of defeat.’

Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross -- Rita Hester, a transgender woman, is murdered in Massachusetts in 1998

Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross — Rita Hester, a transgender woman, is murdered in Massachusetts in 1998.

“Reading an account of Christ’s passion that ends not with Christ nailed to a tree in Judea, but hanging from a noose tied to a pine tree in Georgia, compelled me to begin to re-imagine, re-define, and re-contextualize the crucifixion.

“I believe that we can only begin to understand the meaning of the crucifixion when we take away our polished and shiny crosses and look for the cross in our own time, in our own landscape.

“When we look for the crucified body of Christ in the stories of people on the margins of our societies, then we are able to live the Gospel and not simply read it.”

Station 14: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb -- Many LGBT youth commit suicide in 2010, sparking a national conversation

Station 14: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb — Many LGBT youth commit suicide in 2010, sparking a national discussion.

Button concludes:

“This year, my stations of the cross take viewers on a journey through the 20th and 21st centuries struggle for LGBT equality. In every decade of the last two centuries, there are deeply troubling and painful examples of the marginalization of LGBT peoples.

“In the sacrifices of martyrs of the LGBT movement, we can come to a new understanding of the cross, and of what it means to be part of the body of Christ.”

New Ways Ministry offers these stations for your prayer and meditation this Good Friday, as we remember Christ’s passion and death.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Activists Helped Bring Marriage Equality Case to the Supreme Court

March 28, 2013
Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor

Yesterday, Bondings 2.o highlighted the role that Catholics played at the prayer service and public demonstration as the Supreme Court heard two cases involving marriage equality this week.   Today, Jamie Manson, award-winning columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, highlights an important behind-the-scenes story about Catholic involvement in one of those cases–the challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).   The plaintiff in that case is Edie Windsor, who was  married to Thea Spyer,  Toronto, Canada, in 2007.  Their marriage was recognized since 2008 by New York State, where they lived.  Yet, when Spyer passed away, Windsor received  a$363,053 estate tax bill  from the federal government which would not have been sent if the married couple were heterosexual.

What Manson highlights is the work that three Catholic gay activists, who are members of Dignity/New York, did to bring this case to the Supreme Court.  The first is Brendan Fay, who arranged for Windsor and Spyer’s wedding in Toronto.  Manson explains:

Brendan Fay

Brendan Fay

” ‘Edie called for help. It was urgent,’ Fay says. Windsor’s partner of almost four decades, Thea Spyer, had been battling multiple sclerosis since 1975, and doctors had given her only months to live. Fay reached out to Canadian Judge Harvey Brownstone of the Ontario Court of Justice, who gladly performed the ceremony.

“Fay was part of a small contingent of friends that shepherded Edie and Thea, who was confined to a motorized wheelchair, to a Toronto hotel, where they were married May 22, 2007.

” ‘There was hardly a dry eye as they exchanged words, “With this ring I thee wed … in sickness and in health, till death do us part,'” Fay remembers.”

When Fay learned of Windsor’s estate tax problem, he sought aid from two friends:

Vincent Maniscalco and Edward DeBonis

Vincent Maniscalco and Edward DeBonis

“After Mass one evening, he enlisted the help of fellow Dignity members Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco, who have been married since 2002. (Theirs was the first Catholic same-sex wedding announced in The New York Times.) DeBonis, an attorney, immediately thought of [Roberta] Kaplan [the attorney who argued Windsor's case at the Supreme Court yesterday], whom they had watched argue the 2004 marriage suit filed by 13 couples before the New York State Court of Appeals.”Robbie was compelling,” DeBonis recalls, “and she and her partner, Rachel Lavine, have been passionate about the marriage equality issue for many years.”

And Windsor attributes all her celebrity status to Fay:

” ‘Everything that has happened to make me so famous at this moment is caused by Brendan Fay,’ Windsor told the crowd a few weeks ago at a benefit concert for the St. Pat’s For All parade, an event Fay spearheaded in 2000. ‘When I first saw the brief that said Edie Windsor vs. the United States of America, I said, “No, no, blame him, not me!” she laughed.’ “

Bondings 2.o already noted the role Catholics have played in the prayer service and demonstration at the Supreme Court, as well as the fact that six of the nine justices on the Court are Catholic.  Manson’s story highlights yet another important role that Catholics have played in this story.  Fay, DeBonis, and Maniscalco are to be lauded for living their faith so boldly and generously.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Holy Thursday: Washing Feet

March 28, 2013

foot washing 2“During supper,
fully aware that God had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
‘Master, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus answered and said to him,
‘What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.’
Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’
Jesus answered him,
‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’
Simon Peter said to him,
‘Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.’

“So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me “teacher” and “master,” and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.’ “

–John 13: 1-9, 12-15


Catholics Participate in Prayer Service and Demonstration at Supreme Court

March 27, 2013
New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court:  Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court: Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two marriage equality cases.   The historic day began with an interfaith prayer service at the Church of the Reformation, a Lutheran congregation just behind the Supreme Court building.

The service, entitlted “A Prayer for Love and Justice,” featured prayers and rituals from a wide variety of faith traditions–Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Native American–were all represented as part of the service.  Catholics were represented by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Rev. Joseph Palacios, who ministers at Dignity/Washington.   The event was organized by the United for Marriage coalition.

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Rev. Joseph Palacios

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Following the prayer service, participants processed to the Supreme Court building and joined the demonstration of thousands of people there who support marriage equality.  Among those in the crowd were Jackie and Buzz Baetz, a Catholic couple from Monkton, Maryland, who displayed a sign showing Catholic support for marriage equality.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

Jackie and Buzz Baetz proclaim their message of Catholic support for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

New Ways Ministry staff also participated in the demonstration outside the court building.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage Equality Will Involve Catholics On All Sides

March 26, 2013

The Supreme Court begins oral arguments today on two cases with implications for marriage equality, one a challenge of California’s Proposition 8 and one a challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. As has been the case during state level efforts to expand marriage rights, Catholics are prominently featured on both the pro-marriage equality campaigns, the opposition, and now as six of the nine Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia are all Catholic, some more publicly about the role faith plays within their position than others.

Justice Scalia  is expected to be  at the forefront of marriage equality opposition.  He previously compared homosexuality in the legal system as equivalent to anti-bestiality and murder laws. One observer writes of Scalia in the New York Times:

“No one expects the conservative 78-year-old jurist to have a sudden equal-protection epiphany. He has made it abundantly plain that he has no use for same-sex unions; he thinks they are immoral…

“His increasingly cranky and intolerant pronouncements have become an embarrassment even to people who tend to agree with him. Justice Scalia has not merely pre-judged the issue of same-sex marriage, but has cemented the impression of an anti-gay bias. He is something of a political cheerleader for anti-gay marriage forces and the belief that there is something wrong with gay relationships.

“If Supreme Court justices were subject to the ethics code that applies to lower federal court judges, Justice Scalia would probably have to recuse himself.”

Other justices, in keeping with traditional norms around judicial impartiality, are more reticent to make their opinions known on marriage equality. Interestingly, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy are considered the two unknowns who could vote either way in a decision. Concerning their votes, a law professor from UCLA writes in The Huffington Post:

“Roberts is very firmly in the conservative camp on nearly every hot-button issue that comes before the Court. He’s voted with the right wing of the Court to strike down affirmative action plans, restrict access to abortion, deny victims of discrimination back pay and allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. Given that track record, Roberts seems likely to vote to uphold bans on gay marriage…

“Roberts must know that long before his tenure as chief justice is up in 25 years or so, any decision by the court upholding bans on gay marriage will seem retrograde and foolish. That won’t stop Scalia and Thomas, but it might stop Roberts.

“Kennedy is a Catholic appointed by President Ronald Reagan, so one might predict he’d be hostile to claims of gay marriage. Kennedy, however, voted in favor of equality in the Supreme Court’s two biggest gay rights cases of the past twenty years, Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas

“Yet, even for Kennedy, gay marriage may be a bridge too far. And Olson and Boies’ case, despite being carefully and strategically crafted to goad the Supreme Court into ruling on the constitutionality of gay marriage nationwide, has a number of escape routes for Roberts and Kennedy.”

Roberts’ cousin, Jean Podrasky, is a lesbian advocate for marriage equality who will be seated in the court as arguments are heard in these two cases, attending as a guest of the chief justice as reported by ABC News. Nationwide, Catholic support for marriage equality has emerged from supportive families as much as LGBT individuals themselves, so it remains to be seen if the cousin’s invitation is a telling sign that Roberts might decide in favor of marriage equality.

Whichever way the Supreme Court decides, the products of Catholic education and Catholic values surrounding LGBT issues will be prominently featured in coming days, even if only implicitly, as the courtroom fills with pro- and anti-marriage equality advocates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


What’s the Real Problem When Clerics Are Revealed to Be Gay?

March 25, 2013
Brian McNaught

Brian McNaught

Back in the early 1970s, Brian McNaught was one of the early gay Catholic advocates.  Having been fired from his reporter job at the Detroit archdiocesan newspaper when it was revealed that he was gay, McNaught held a hunger strike outside the chancery office in protest of the injustice.  He went on to write several books about being a gay Catholic, and he has had a successful career as a coprorate diversity educator.

McNaught returned to the Catholic press recently with a thoughtful essay in The National Catholic Reporter, reflecting on two recent stories where clerics have had a secret gay life revealed:  Cardinal Keith O’Brien in Scotland, who has been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct by four men, and Msgr. Kevin Wallin, a Connecticut priest who was arrested for dealing crystal meth as a way to pay for his drug and sex addicted behaviors.

McNaught takes a “there but for the grace of God approach” to these stories, particularly Wallin’s, noting that the real problem was not these men’s sexuality, but the fact that they had to hide and repress it:

“Had I pursued the path to the seminary, I suspect I would have been a very popular priest. I care deeply about the well-being of others. I’m funny, love people, am young at heart, am spiritual, independent, a good speaker and a minister at the core of my being. I’d also have been a closeted gay man whose guilt and fear about sex would have made me a prime candidate for acting out inappropriately — not with children, but with other men. Because I have a compulsive personality, I’d become addicted to drugs if someone introduced me to them in the context of sex. I would have had sex and taken drugs in the attempt to leave no stone unturned in my search for self-understanding and affirmation. Without the intervention of wise, strong, loving friends, I would have ended up looking in the mirror wondering in horror and shame what had happened to the sweet young man who entered the seminary because he wanted to live a life of loving service.”

With frank and healing honesty, McNaught acknowledges temptations that have seduced him, and humbly acknowledges the courage it takes to resist them:

“I chose to come out of the closet in my 20s because I couldn’t breathe. I chose to quit drinking and smoking pot in my 40s to stop making a fool of myself and to enhance the quality of my relationship with Ray. Despite my feelings of lust for attractive, well-built men and my need for affirmation of my aging body, I choose not to pursue gratification in an air-brushed reality and instead be grateful for the intimacy I share with Ray in our everyday lives. I chose a life of awareness.

“Most other gay men I know feel as I do. They’re aware of their anxiety that their families, neighbors and co-workers will judge them by the reckless behavior of other gay men. It’s not that they haven’t thought about doing everything scandalous that they read about in the paper or hear about from friends, but they know they will have to sacrifice everything good in their lives if they head down that path of sexual obsession. There is sympathy and empathy in my house and in the homes of my gay friends for the gay men whose names appear in ‘shocking’ news reports. No one feels superior to those men who got caught or who got AIDS. The most important feelings we have are those of gratitude for the circumstances that enabled wise decision-making and compassion because we know poor choices made by others often represent our shared weaknesses.”

McNaught laments that recent sex scandals means that “the sweet, innocent church of our youth can no longer recognize itself in the mirror.”  But gay priests, even addicted ones, are not to blame for this problem.  McNaught identifies what he sees as the real cause of this tragedy:

“Much of it is due to the addiction of Benedict XVI and other popes to control, secrecy and tradition. Like the lives of gay men who also made wrong choices, the Vatican is a mess. I’m grateful my spirituality is no longer impacted by the scandalous addictions of the church, and I’m compassionate knowing I have the same weaknesses that made the pope and the cardinal archbishop of Scotland behave the way they did.”

As many of us pray that our new Pope Francis will be more open to LGBT Catholics, let’s keep in mind these other victims of the Vatican’s hard-line approach to sexuality.  Church leaders are hurting not only other people, but themselves, too, when they view sexuality narrowly as sexual acts, and ignore the deep human need for relationship and love that underpins it.  One of the pope’s title is “servant to the servants of God.”  Let us hope that Francis takes this title seriously and serves his ministers who are suffering because of their stunted and repressed sexuality.

Many thanks to Brian McNaught for highlighting this issue with such honesty and compassion!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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