|Fr. Tony with Pope Paul VI|
When I had the good fortune of being one of the 50 attendees at the December, 2008, LGBT Blogger Summit in Washington, D.C. - the event was underwritten by Microsoft and Progressive Insurance and hosted at the offices of the Center for American Progress - one of the bloggers I met was Tony Adams, a/k/a "Father Tony." For background, Tony is a former Catholic priest who was once stationed at the Vatican. There, he got to witness first hand the hypocrisy of the Church hierarchy on the issue of homophobia. Suffice it to say, as Tony witnessed, there are MANY largely closeted, self-loathing gays at the Vatican. Sadly, many of them (much like closeted Catholic Republicans such as Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli) seem to direct their self-hatred at LGBT individuals.
What is our main offense? We have found self-acceptance and moved forward with our lives as the Creator - whoever he/she/it may be - made us to be and in the process we have refused to subscribe to ignorant writings of unknown Bronze Age authors that denigrate us and deem us deserving of death. We've found happy lives - unlike these high clerics- and worse yet, we have been role models for others in respect to throwing off the hate and misogyny marketed by the Catholic Church. Despite their own complicity in fanning the flames of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus, in the wake of the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, many of these same self-loathing clerics issued meaningless statements of "prayers and condolence" for the victims and their families. In a piece in the South Florida Gay News, Father Tony urges all of us to mark these hypocrisy filled statements back marked "return to sender." Here are some highlights:
The expressions of sympathy over Orlando sent by the Roman Catholic pope, cardinals and bishops in the form of sweet words for the victims and their families need to be returned to sender because no heap of flowers nor blazing bank of candles can glove the blood on the hands of those who daily condemn us in the name of their god.
The pope refused to mention the LGBT community in his official expression of horror at the massacre. He said, “We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence.” He will not have to look far beyond his own house to find those causes of hatred. But how will he uproot them when he cannot even bring himself to say that the specific target of the gunman was the LGBT community? I suspect his heart is filled with guilt.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley says, “There is no place in the church and in society for hate and vilification of any person or group of persons. All people are created in the image and likeness of God, blessed with the gift of human dignity that calls for our respect and love.” What he avoids mentioning is his belief that LGBT Catholics who have gay sex forfeit that God-given dignity and choose a clear and speedy road to hell. I do not think the 49 Orlando victims were celibate. Does he? In his heart, does he see their unrepentant souls in hell?
Chicago Archbishop Cupich said, “You know, 30 years ago the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter describing as deplorable the fact that some homosexual persons, as they put it, have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action […] they said that such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors whenever it occurs, so I believe it was important to raise my voice in this moment because this is what the church is asking us to do and has asked us to do for over 30 years now.”
If the directive has been in place for thirty years, his words invite us to ask the obvious. Could this slaughter have been avoided if this church had practiced what it preaches rather than effectively exclude LGBT souls despite all its rhetoric?
Cupich also calls for greater “outreach” to the LGBT community. Greater outreach? How about calling up all those Dignity chapters that were booted out of Catholic Churches and told they would have to hold their meetings elsewhere? How about apologizing for that and inviting them back? Until that happens, these official statements are just sweetly worded veneer over something rotten.
These insensitive patriarchs of Roman Catholicism have no right to jump on the bandwagon of Orlando grief in order to feel reconciled with those they continue to ostracize and persecute. To honor the victims, we must rebuff the Catholic bishops looking to be photographed with us in mourning just as they have shunned and excluded us from full celebration at their table. We should not allow the Catholic Church to enjoy its deceitful and self-serving performance unchallenged.
Locally, many Catholic parish priests stand by the open doors of their churches to receive the coffins of the victims and to recite traditional words of mercy and to sprinkle the remains with holy water, but these gestures are false. In life, the men and women in those coffins were not allowed to enjoy the consolation of the Catholic Church if they were openly and actively gay. In death, they are being used to assuage the guilt of their arrogant shepherds.
Only one Catholic bishop, the soon-to-be-retired Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, goes beyond hollow rhetoric and owns his church’s complicity in the massacre when he says, “Sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.
Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.” This is not the first time Lynch has spoken with authenticity about LGBT issues. He will be missed.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the only church to have nurtured a culture of homophobia and fear that coaxes a maniac to murder, but it is first among many. Real sympathy calls for action. Orlando is an opportunity that will be ignored by Catholic bishops whose false requiems are unacceptable.
Tony is 100% correct. All decent, moral people need to shun Catholicism until Church dogma and the constant denigration of LGBT people ceases everywhere. The same goes for every other Christian denominations that clings to selected passages in Leviticus while ignoring the many dozens of other things labeled as "abominations" in Leviticus. Passages written by unknown authors who knew NOTHING of modern science, modern medicine, mental health care advances, and a near limitless list of other types knowledge. Embracing ignorance is a choice, as is supporting institutions that daily denigrate others and inspire hatred by their actions regardless of lip service to the contrary. In contrast, being LGBT is not a choice - it is simply who we are and no more of a choice than breathing.