Responses to Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Sunday comments keep pouring in. If nothing else, it shows how his comments struck nerves, both positively and negatively. It shows how much affirmative words from the hierarchy are needed, and it shows how important it is that the hierarchy go beyond just words to send a positive message to LGBT people.
The National Catholic Reporter, columnist Jamie Manson, says she is
“. . . getting weary of bishops and cardinals who tell me how much they love my gay and lesbian friends and I, while at the same time willfully misunderstanding us, refusing to talk to us and devaluing our relationships.”
Her analysis continues by pointing out several actions that Dolan has taken recently that emphatically do not show love for LGBT people:
- Co-signing an anti-marriage equality document with some of the most vociferous anti-gay leaders of Evangelical churches.
- Refusing to respond to a letter and petition written by Joseph Amodeo, a former member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the New York archdiocese, pleading with Dolan to meet with LGBT homeless youth, many of whom were thrown out of their homes by religious parents. Amodeo later resigned from the board, without public reaction from Dolan.
- Failing to speak out when his brother bishops and priests turn the Eucharist into a political weapon, denying communion to LGBT people and those who support marriage equality.
After reviewing similar actions and statements by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Pope Francis (when he was archbishop in Argentina), Manson provides an eloquent depiction of what true love is, which seems to echo St. Paul’s famous description in 1 Corinithians 13:
“While it may be true that Dolan, Cordileone and even the new pope are seeking a more pastoral approach to gays and lesbians, I really wish that they would stop calling it love.
“Love does not ignore letters pleading for dialogue and reconciliation.
“Love does not turn away spiritually hungry people from God’s Eucharistic table.
“Love does not use spiritually violent rhetoric against a marginalized community’s fight for justice.
“When we love another person, we genuinely desire to know her or him. When we love, we long to listen to the beloved and to learn his or her story. To love in this way, we must be authentically present to the beloved. This kind of love is risky because it demands vulnerability on the parts of both the lover and the beloved.
“If members of the hierarchy took the risk of truly listening to gay and lesbian couples, they might find, as the majority of U.S. Catholics have, that many of these couples equally embody the faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice and fruitfulness that characterize the best heterosexual relationships.
“They might open themselves up to the possibility that God is speaking new truths through the voices and lives of gay and lesbian couples and transgender persons. They might see that not only are same-sex couples entitled to equal rights and protection, they have as much potential to honor the institution of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”
Equally Blessed‘s Marianne Duddy-Burke and Mary Ellen Lopata, in an on-line New York Times op-ed, offer some suggetions to Cardinal Dolan to how he could back up his words of welcome with real actions. Among the items they suggest for the bishops are:
- Dropping opposition to immigration reform that would allow partners in same-sex couples to enter the U.S. legally
- Adopting anti-bullying programs in Catholic schools
- Changing to more pastoral tone and content when referring to LGBT people
- Dissociate the U.S. hierarchy from the National Organization for Marriage
- Abandon opposition to allowing lesbian and gay couples to adopting children.
They conclude their list with:
“Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.
“We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.”
(Equally Blessed is a coaltion of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society. The four organizations are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.)
In a similar vein, Ross Murray of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in an online Washington Post op-ed, suggests three ways for Cardinal Dolan to back up his Easter Sunday message:
“1.Cardinal Dolan needs to stop talking about LGBT people and spend more time listening to them.”
“2.If Cardinal Dolan cannot talk about LGBT people without uttering words of condemnation, he should simply stop talking about LGBT people in general.”
“3.Cardinal Dolan could turn his stated love into tangible action that would help real LGBT people in their day-to-day lives.”
“God’s love is felt, not simply stated. When Cardinal Dolan makes such blatant attacks on LGBT people, it makes his ‘I love you and God loves you’ in front of the media ring hollow. Such expressions of love need to be backed up with tangible action. Do something that demonstrates that church leaders view LGBT people as more than a threat or a curse.
“Cardinal Dolan can keep saying that he loves us and God does too, but until he turns away from the camera to actually listen to the stories of our lives, these words will have no meaning.”
Clearly, Cardinal Dolan has his work cut out for him. The challenge to him is the challenge that all Christians face: to make the Gospel incarnate in the world. With all of the commentary and suggestions and support offered to him to do something tangible, Cardinal Dolan should have an easier time deciding what to do next. The ball is in his court.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry