Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Jesus Did Not Die Just for Heterosexuals"

Sigh. More Vatican document response, this time from the gay Catholic Community in Miami. From the
Miami Herald via Yahoo! News (yes it's long...we're still working on the linking issue, folks...trust me, it'll happen).

My comments are sprinkled throughout--article text is in italics....

True to Catholic tradition, Joe Mele marched a crucifix to the altar ahead of the priest this past Sunday, rang the Sanctus bell at the right times and pressed a wine-filled chalice to the lips of the faithful during Communion, solemnly intoning the words ``the blood of Christ.''

But when asked what he thought about the Vatican, which is expected to issue an edict today barring most gay seminarians, Mele, 58, arched a bushy eyebrow and wryly asked, ``Who?''

Hard feelings toward the Vatican run strong among congregants at the weekly services held by Dignity USA, a national organization for gay and lesbian Catholics that is not recognized by the Archdiocese of Miami, nor, at a national level, by the Roman Catholic Church.

Mele is one of 40 or so members of the group's Fort Lauderdale chapter. Like them, he struggled with the Vatican's hard line against homosexuality, before reaching the heartfelt conclusion that he was entitled to practice his faith as a homosexual, regardless of what the church's highest earthly authority said.

''You have these old people, these cardinals, out of touch with the laity. The church is the people and the people are the church,'' said Richard Rogers, 68, who is heavily involved with Dignity Fort Lauderdale, and has been with the same male partner for 42 years.

''I was born a Catholic, and I will die a Catholic,'' he said. ``They're not going to chase me away from the Catholic Church.''

Um, Cardinals are not supposed to be "in touch" with the laity. They're supposed to be "in touch" with Catholic doctrine and what the Church says is right. This is not a political contest. Also, we're not trying to get gays out of the Catholic church--we're just trying to make sure the priesthood actually reflects a) the values and lifestyle appropriate for the priesthood and b) that priests who make it out of the seminaries are teaching what the Church actually believes, and not what they think/wish it believed.


For Dignity's Fort Lauderdale group at least, being both gay and faithfully Catholic means holding services in a borrowed chapel and hearing Mass from a rotating cast of sometimes underground priests.

Mary Ross Agosta, Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman, said the archdiocese is affiliated with a ministry called Courage, a support network for people who have same-sex sexual attractions but want to live ``chaste Christian lives.''

''Any sexual activity outside the sacrament of marriage is considered a sin,'' Agosta said.

The Vatican's new directive hints that chaste, formerly gay men could still become priests, but it bars from seminaries those who ''practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture.'' It also describes homosexual acts as ``grave sins.''

The edict was posted online by an Italian news agency last week, but the Vatican is expected to formally publish it today.

While observers note the Vatican is merely restating a 44-year-old stance barring gay men from the priesthood, the document is widely believed to be a response to the church's recent spate of sexual abuse scandals. Dignity members believe the directive reveals how the Vatican wrongly conflates homosexuality with pedophilia, using gays as scapegoats instead of closely examining the roots of the abuse.

''The Vatican's running scared right now, and when people are scared, they point fingers at what they don't understand,'' said Maribel Pardo, 43, a middle school teacher and Dignity member who once spent six years in a monastery. ``If you keep your vows of celibacy, it doesn't matter what your orientation is.''

Yes, Ms. Pardo, that's the point. If you keep your vows of celibacy. But that's not the problem here. A lot of them don't. And would someone make these people read Goodbye, Good Men ? It answers a lot of these ideas that there's not a problem with a gay culture in the seminaries that undermines Church teachings. And your orientation does matter if it's leading you to teach and preach things that are not in line with doctrine. Like I've said, I don't care what you are, as long as you're celibate. And I don't think this document is about that. I think it's about rooting out a problem that's been left unattended for a long time, especially in the American church.

Yet it was precisely because of their sexual orientation that Dignity members left the traditional Roman Catholic church 19 years ago, after publicly rejecting a letter issued by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that described homosexual acts as ''intrinsically evil.'' Sam Sinnett, Dignity USA's national president, said the group's mission was to reclaim Catholicism while healing many of its followers' scars. Even though many gays have fled Catholicism, the group's national membership grew by 85 percent to more than 3,600 in the past two years, he said.

So you say above that you're not going to leave the Church, but you leave it because the Church says the way you're living is wrong. Hmmm. Sounds like "cafeteria Catholicism" to me. If you joined the Catholic church looking for a rubber stamp on lifestyle issues, you joined the wrong place. And if you were born into the Catholic faith and now live or think in ways that disagree with that faith and that Church, then clearly being Catholic is not for you. so perhaps instead of forming our own Catholicism, we should find a church that better suits the way we view God and the world, hm? Because what's best for the Church is to have multiple splinter groups.


''There are people deeply wounded and hurt by the virulent language of the Vatican and other bishops,'' Sinnett said. ``Part of what we do is to help overcome the incredible damage that the institutional church has done.''

Dignity Fort Lauderdale's weekly services are held Sunday nights in a small chapel tucked behind the non-denominational Sunshine Cathedral in a quiet part of town. Crucifixes, statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary adorn the altar, along with two pictures, one of the saints Sergio and Bacchus, the other of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, embracing. Masses are said by a rotating clergy of Franciscan and Independent Orthodox Christian priests, who embrace inclusion, and an occasional priest from the archdiocese, who must work with Dignity on the sly.

Gee, perhaps these members of the Clergy are what the Vatican is talking about when it talks about priests who embrace the "gay subculture" or support the gay lifestyle/ gay agenda. And this isn't a problem? The fact that these priests, who also have other parishes (at least that's what it sounds like), who are supposed to teach and preach what the Church believes (and not what they WISH the Church believes), yet don't, isn't an issue???

The services are Catholic to a fault, yet this past Sunday, before a congregation of 17, a notable deviation from the mainstream came from Bishop Michael Hillis, who led the Mass. After reading the Gospel, Hillis, a Franciscan with the Reconciliation Catholic Church, which caters to disenfranchised Catholics, quickly launched into an attack on the Vatican.

''Many things are happening with our seminarians, and it involves all of us,'' Hillis said forcefully. ``I wish some people could get it through their thick skulls that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He did not die just for heterosexuals. He did not die just for homosexuals. He died for everyone.''

Well gee. I bet any first grader could tell you that. We (those "heterosexuals") know that Jesus didn't die just for us. He died for everyone. Lord knows no one's perfect. But the Vatican isn't saying that Jesus didn't die for gays. It's saying that perhaps active gays and men who support gay culture (like, apparently, this priest) perhaps should not be teaching doctrine with which they disagree or live to the contrary. Yet we have to be the "bad guys". And this is coming from a priest!!!!!

Later, a few congregants said they had tried out Judaism, Pentecostalism and the Baptist faith but found themselves strongly pulled back to Catholicism . Nearly all agreed they could only practice their religion by shutting out much of what the Vatican said.

'I hit bottom with my faith. I was angry that God made me the way I was, and asked `help me be straight,' '' said Mary Sullivan, 39, a Fort Lauderdale nurse. ``I had to heal that part of me that the church condemned. And I realized God made me this way, and God doesn't make junk.''

''When I walked through those doors,'' Sullivan added, ``I felt I had come home.''

OK, so you feel pulled to Catholicism , yet you don't agree with what it teaches and are going against the Vatican and Church doctrine. That's a pretty odd attraction. I can understand loving your faith--I love it everyday--but I also know that the Church teaches submission in trials. It doesn't say, "well we know you like Catholicism so we'll tweak it for you." God does not "make junk", as this woman says, but he also doesn't like it when we violate what He's asked us to do. For years, Catholics have preached "love the sinner, hate the sin." We don't dislike gays, we don't think they're going to hell, etc., etc. What I don't like is this whole idea that just because the Vatican doesn't think that it's all righty for an active gay man to be a priest, then the Church is "shutting them out". Catholic moms would tell you to "offer it up." I know that can sound trite and cold, but it's the best thing to do.

A personal example: even after my transplant (OK, probably especially after my transplant), I'm not advised to have children. My docs have made it pretty clear that, at least for me, having my own kids is out. This, as you might imagine, is a huge letdown for me, because I love kids and have always wanted a whole horde. When I was engaged, at first I thought we might use birth control; I talked to a few priests about it, and they said it would probably be OK, given my condition, and that we weren't doing it in a selfish way.

But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that that wasn't right. I wanted to follow God's law to the letter, so I read the catechism, which is pretty explicit--there are no exceptions listed for birth control use. So, after prayer, I decided that we weren't going to use it, and use NPF like I was taught to do. My fiance wasn't Catholic, so this was difficult to discuss with him, though I tried.

My fiance was understandably thrown for a loop, and this began our road to break up, I think. I told him at one point that I loved him, but I loved God more (yes, I really said that...I'm not trying to make myself sound better than I am). It was tough. Very tough. It made me quite unhappy. It has left me open to the possibility that I might not ever get married because of the way I feel about this. That's hard. This is another challenge for me. But it doesn't make me want to leave the Church, and it certainly doesn't want to make me ignore the Vatican and what the Church teaches. I have to pray about it and hope that God gives me the strength and consolation I need to be faithful. It can be hard. Very hard. I struggle with it often. But I know that being faithful will pay off, because, in the end, God is all we've got.

I wish that the members of the gay community who are so angry about this instruction could try to see what the Church is doing and pray about it. I'm sure many of them have prayed about it, in various forms. Surrender to God's will is hard. But the rewards are worth it--at least, I think so.

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