A Catholic’s Easter lament: Dogmatic, tone-deaf bishops
By JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM
Published 04:00 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2012
A painful truism of this Holy Week, Christianity’s most important days of the year: Moral leadership in America’s Catholic Church is starting to flow from lay persons in pews and priests who deal with human problems, not prelates on thrones wearing white, red and purple hats.
Just look around to events from Rome to Berlin, and from Worcester, Mass., to Seattle.
In the Archdiocese of Seattle, our bishops issued a letter saying parishes will become signature-gathering centers for Referendum 74, a ballot measure designed to roll back same-sex marriage. But the state’s marriage equality law was sponsored by a Catholic state senator and signed into law by a Catholic governor.
Archbishop Sartain and Bishop Elizondo talk about treating all persons with “respect, sensitivity and love,” but then urge support for a campaign put together by the National Organization for Marriage — an outfit that wants to “drive a wedge” between blacks and gays, “sideswipe” President Obama and make opposition to marriage equality “an identity marker” for young Latinos.
A Q-and-A, just put out by the Washington State Catholic Conference, tells the faithful: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church does teach that homosexual ACTS are intrinsically disordered, not persons.”
A question to Archbishop Sartain, who does not seem to want to take questions: How do I, as a layperson, treat my friends who are gay and lesbian?
When with a telltale, sheepish grin a friend says he/she is seriously in love, my standard refrain is along the lines, “Why you lucky dog! Have you kids set a date?” Friends take pleasure in other friends’ happiness.
What’s, then, the approved party line for gay friends in love? a) Sorry, the church says what you are doing is “disordered,” or b) I love you as a sinner but I hate your sins, or c) My bishops have written: “For all unmarried persons, chastity means that they refrain from sexual relations.”
Do purple skullcaps dull the mind? The Jesus of the Gospels preaches human decency, not dogma. Life experience teaches us that the essence of marriage is the same whether people are straight or gay. Two people affirm their love and make a commitment to each other. Lots of gay and lesbian couples are raising children: Should they be denied the right to raise those children as legally married couples?
Catholic governors in Washington, Maryland, New York and California have not submitted to church dogma, or the hierarchy’s convoluted reasoning. And a vast majority of young people — including Catholic young people — want the happiness of friends whatever their age or race or sexual preference.
The hierarchy is tone deaf in many ways and places, be it in heavy-handed attacks on contraception coverage in health insurance or cruel treatment of Catholics who are not docile and do not submit to discipline.
A small Catholic college in Massachusetts was forced during Holy Week to rescind its invitation to Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, to be this year’s graduation speaker. She was to speak as co-founder and president of the group Common Sense About Kids and Guns.
The order came from Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, whose spokesman told National Catholic Reporter that McManus acted because of Kennedy’s “positions on pro-choice versus pro-life and the sanctity of marriage.”
What a cruel, vindictive action, and what a reflection on the kind of men running the church.
“I am a lifelong Catholic and my faith is very important to me,” Kennedy said. “I am not a public official. I hold no public office, nor am I a candidate for public office. I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith.”
The bishops don’t learn. They may think of themselves a shepherds, but America’s Catholics are not sheep. They may not consult people in the pews — or meet with those, like Kennedy, that they are judging — but laypersons (and many priests) are consulting their consciences.
A key lesson: Moral authority is earned. It is not simply acquired when a bishop/cardinal/Pope is installed. The American (and Irish, and Dutch, and Belgian , etc.) hierarchy has forfeited a lot of that authority through its handling of the priest sex-abuse scandal.
The despair is mitigated by the good works and wise words from those in the pews.
As Pope Benedict XVI used a Holy Thursday sermon to tell priests to obey orders, Medina, Wash., lay Catholic Melinda Gates was speaking from conscience about contraception at a conference in Berlin.
Contraceptives are not a code for abortion, she said, nor an invitation to promiscuous sex. “We are talking about giving women the power to save their own lives and their children’s lives — and to give their families the best possible future,” said Gates, talking of the need for birth control in the developing world.
Gates discussed the instruction in faith she received from sisters in a Catholic high school: “In the tradition of great Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings. One of the teachings most of my classmates and I questioned was the one saying birth control was a sin.”
She didn’t question lessons on service, and giving back, and social justice, worthy grounding for the future co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The bishops will just have to deal with conscience-driven Catholics. In fact, they could listen and learn.
NY Catholic quits board over cardinal’s gay stance
By Verena Dobnik Associated Press / April 7, 2012
NEW YORK—The head of New York City’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faces a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church official who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.
Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of Catholic Charities after the cardinal, Timothy Dolan, failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless young people who are not heterosexual.
The conflict began when the head of an organization that helps homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender homeless young people wrote to ask Dolan to help the cause.
Dolan responded by saying he was adhering to church teachings. That prompted Amodeo to quit.
Dolan leads one of the largest dioceses in the country. He also is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.
Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.
“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.
Phone and email requests from the AP for comment from the archdiocese were not immediately answered on Saturday.
The conflict started with a letter to Dolan from Carl Siciliano, founder of the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people. He said the cardinal’s “loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people” creates “a climate where parents turn on their own children.”
“As youths find the courage and integrity to be honest about who they are at younger ages, hundreds of thousands are being turned out of their homes and forced to survive alone on the streets by parents who cannot accept having a gay child,” Siciliano wrote in his letter, sent last week.
Siciliano, who is Catholic, said parents who are strongly religious are much more likely to reject children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Of the nation’s homeless youths, as many as 40 percent are LGBT, studies show.
Siciliano received a response from the cardinal in a letter dated March 28.
“For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory,” Dolan wrote. “Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children.”
The response prompted Amodeo to quit the board, said the 24-year-old gay Catholic who still teaches religious education to elementary school children as part of a New York archdiocese program. He’ll be doing that on Easter in a parish near Manhattan’s Union Square.
Amodeo was a member of the executive committee of the junior board of the New York branch of Catholic Charities, one of the largest global networks of charities, started in New Orleans in 1727 as an orphanage.
“Every Sunday, I teach second-graders to `love thy neighbor,’ but then, when we as a church have a teachable moment, we fail,” Amodeo told the AP in a telephone interview.
He said the cardinal “failed to respond to a call for pastoral assistance, to answer the question, `What can we do together as a church and as a people for youths who are homeless?”
Dolan leads the nation’s largest archdiocese — which has 2.6 million Catholics — and is president of the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Last summer during New York’s same-sex marriage debate, the prelate warned that the proposed legislation — which later passed — was an “ominous threat” to society.