Gay Catholics: the Real Issues

As a gay Catholic in Minnesota, as co-ordinator of the Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, as editor of the Progressive Catholic Voice, and in several other capacities, Michael Bayly is right in the thick of things in the conflicts in the Twin Cities over Archbishop Nienstedt’s DVD on gay marriage, and the subsequent refusal of communion to some rainbow-buttoned students. At the Wild Reed, he has posted the text he prepared for a local Fox News broadcast on the issue, in which he was invited to discuss the issue with St. Thomas University professor Robert Kennedy, who supports the archbishop’s actions.

Michael points out in his post how easily the media restrict discussion to just a narrow focus which suits their current focus, but proper understanding demands a broader, contextual approach. This he set out in the analysis he prepared in advance of the broadcast. I particularly like the emphasis on the Church and its teaching as a living, evolving entity, rather than something fixed for all time at or around the Council of Trent. Even the most cursory look at Church history shows how constantly it has changed, and surely will continue to do so. As such, those who are contributing to the debates are not the problem that Archbishop and the rule-book Catholics would suggest, but part of the solution.

This is the opening of Michael’s post:

It’s important to realize that what happened at St. John’s didn’t occur within a vacuum. It’s just one of a number of recent incidences that tell us that within Catholicism the issue of homosexuality is not a settled one. [By “recent incidences” I was referring to the different expressions of the backlash to the MN Catholic bishop’s anti-gay marriage campaign. See, for instance, here, here, here, andhere.] We’re clearly still grappling with this very human reality. And that’s okay. It’s a sign of a living, growing church.

The clerical leadership of the church, however, likes to insist that it is a done deal and that all we have to do to be “good Catholics” is be quiet and obey. But the Catholic faithful, the people, have a very different opinion. Many have gay children, co-workers, and neighbors. They’ve moved beyond the type of rhetoric and stereotypes that the clerical leadership uses to describe the gay people they know and love. Also, polls show that the majority of Catholics support gay marriage. [See, for instance, here and here.]

Now, our church teaches – and history shows it – that the views of the Catholic people are an important component of the teaching process. Our voices need to be heard and respected if church teaching is to be considered authentic. [I’m referring, of course, to the Catholic doctrine of reception.] Yet there’s no official venues for such sharing and listening to take place. The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the archdiocese, refuses to publish commentaries or articles that respectfully offer alternative perspectives on, for example, the church’s teaching on homosexuality – a teaching that is not infallible, a teaching that we can and should talk about. Is it any wonder that some are compelled to challenge the archbishop as these students did at St. John’s? What other options or venues do they have?

(For the full piece, go to The Wild Reed)

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