Progress Arrives in a Small, Quiet Way

September 23, 2012

Progress on LGBT issues is sometimes announced in bold headlines:  “Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ”  “Same-sex Marriage Law Passes,”  “First Lesbian Wins State Election,” and other such important milestones.

Sometimes progress is shown in small, quiet ways, too, however.  Such is the case in a National Catholic Reporter online column which appeared this week.  Mercy Sister Camille D’Arienzo does a bi-weekly interview, exploring how relationships, experiences, faith, and spirituality take shape in an individual’s life.  They are powerful reading due to the immediacy and simplicity of the Q and A format, but also because Sister Camille, a seasoned journalist, knows how to ask penetrating questions that get to the heart of the matter.

Michael Moran and Hiroshi Okamoto

In this week’s installment, Sister Camille interviews Michael Moran, a gay man whose life has been spent in service to others, most frequently to the poor and dispossessed.  One thing that struck me as I read it was that this is an interview with a gay man in a Catholic publication, and yet his sexual orientation was not the focus of the story.  It was simply another facet of who he was.  The interview mentions his partner in the same way that heterosexually married spouses are mentioned in such interviews.

The casual treatment of a gay person’s sexuality in a national Catholic periodical was an inspiring milestone.  It signaled an acceptance and matter-of-factness that was refreshing to read.  Progress had been made in a small, quiet way.

Reading the interview was like a foretaste of the future:  when all will be accepted in our church, and where a person’s relationship with God and acts toward others will be the hallmark of a faith-filled life, not whether the person is male or female, gay or straight.

If you’d like to read the entire interview–and I recommend that you do–you can access it by clicking here.  I offer some excerpts to give you a flavor of this inspiring life story and to illustrate how naturally orientation are treated:

Sister Camille: Although you left the Franciscans, you seem to have carried their values with you through a series of professions. Please trace that journey.

Michael Moran: I was a teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, high school principal, campus minister, administrator in agencies serving homeless persons and people living with HIV/AIDS, and a hospital chaplain. I retired in July 2010 when I was 67.

Your impressive academic record cites four universities that prepared you for each of these important works. Is there anyone who shares your life?

I have a partner with whom I am celebrating 20 years of life together. He is Japanese, a former sushi chef who is now a caregiver. He’s a real introvert who balances my off-the-wall extroversion. His calm personality balances my sometimes frenetic activity. We seem to complement one another nicely.

. . . .

What is your favorite scripture passage?

Matthew 25:35-45

Does this passage, Jesus’ blueprint of how to care for our neighbor’s needs, make a difference in your life?

It means everything. I consider it my vocation — a blueprint for how I try to live my life.

What is your image of God?

Jesus on the breadline. I draw it from a Catholic Worker lithograph by artist Fritz Eichenberg. I see God as personally connected to my life and the life of the worlds he identifies with the marginalized and rejected.

. . . .

Michael, what do you want from the church?

Openness and inclusion. More dialogue between hierarchy and the rest of us. Openness to the ordination of women and same-sex marriage; more preaching on topics of social justice; compassion and justice for immigrants. I am concerned about the move away from Vatican II. I am very dismayed by the conflict between the bishops and the LCWR. I believe the sisters are our contemporary prophets and the best hope for the church. They should never compromise their rich values. What would our church be without their dedication? We should not allow the hierarchy to hijack our church.

What would prevent that?

Greater dialogue on all sides, open ears and hearts. I believe our church is missing out on the great contributions and gifts of laypeople and could benefit from encouraging these treasures. I would ordain women and gay people and highlights the leadership of laypeople.

What causes you joy?

That so many talented, sincere Catholics have not abandoned our church, but hang in there and do what they can to reinvent it.

What gives you hope?

Every year, I attend the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress with at least 30,000 other people, many of whom are young Latinos/Latinas. To be present at the rich liturgies, the marvelous keynote address and workshops, to experience the warm camaraderie — this is an experience of church I hope for in the wider church community.

Is there something you wish I had asked?

“Why haven’t you become Episcopalian?” My roots are too deep in Catholicism. My parents would turn over in their graves and my good friends, Patrick and Mary Ellen, would feel abandoned. I still have hope that things will change in our dear church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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