Friday, March 13, 2009

Canceling Out Dialogue

I appreciate what Donna Freitas has to say about the recent cancellation by the Archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer, of the “gay friendly” play, Be Still and Know (based upon Alex Sanchez’s book, The God Box) . The play had been scheduled to be performed last weekend at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

As a Catholic and a huge fan of Sanchez’s work, it makes me ill to think that this play was canceled within a parish forum . . . The views of certain members of the Church hierarchy . . . do not represent the entire Church – not by a long shot.

It’s these kinds of acts – canceling a school play that is trying to grapple with the tough issue of faith and homosexuality – that shuts down the possibility of loving, open dialogue about real issues that Church members care deeply about today, most of whom want a robust opportunity for reflection on such issues within their Church.

To say that Catholics shouldn’t even be thinking about alternate, biblical interpretations of homosexuality simply smacks of fear. It makes me tired and sad, tired and sad for the kids, for the parish, for Sanchez, and for the entire community to be dealing with such a situation, especially in such close wake to Proposition 8.

But there is one bit of happy news to share: the University of San Francisco, a Catholic university, stepped in and offered the kids a place to put up their play yesterday. Of course, now bloggers are claiming it’s not really a Catholic college. I think that tells you more about the bloggers than anyone else, as do their other posts attacking high school kids in a play.

It’s too bad that these high school students had to have such a terrible, direct experience of the darker side of the Catholic faith and its hierarchy at such a young age. Luckily, the Catholic Church is a big tent that fits many of us in all our diversity.

I applaud Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and the young people who attempted to facilitate dialogue through the staging of Be Still and Know.

I think it’s a great tragedy that the Catholic hierarchy is so threatened by open dialogue about homosexuality that it bans events like this and refuses to allow certain speakers to raise the issues and questions that clearly need to be raised.

Earlier this week I attended a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So at a local Catholic institution. The only way for this film to be shown (and for Phil and Randi Reitan who feature in it, to be present to take follow-up questions) was for the whole event to be framed as an exercise in “ecumenical dialogue.” You see, many of those featured in the film, including the Reitans, are non-Catholics. We could talk about how people in other denominations understand and grapple with the issue of homosexuality but dialogue about the range of opinions that Roman Catholics have on the issue was, for all intents and purposes, off-limits.

Of course, an obligatory statement on the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality had to be made at the very beginning. I was encouraged by how flat it fell. (But, honestly, this statement could have been so much worse. At least there was no mention of Courage and its
support of “those persons who seek reorientation of their sexual attractions through prayer and therapy.”)

There were many young Catholics present, and I was heartened by their positive response to the film – and their dismissal of the perspective of those few in the crowd who felt compelled to either directly or indirectly assert the “official” Roman Catholic view that homosexuality is a disorder and homosexual relations are sinful.

It seems clear to me that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is following the way of the church’s teaching on contraception, i.e., both are examples of non-received teachings. As such, they are teachings that need to be reassessed in a spirit of honesty and openness. Of course, such a process requires dialogue, something the hierarchical church wants nothing to do with.

The younger generations, however, are open to dialogue and thus to discerning God’s presence in the lives and relationships of gay people.

Change, development, progress . . . call it what you will . . . is inevitable - and Spirit-led, in my opinion. And no matter how much dialogue the hierarchy insists on canceling, this Spirit-led development won’t be thwarted.

Image: Phil and Randi Reitan with some of the young Catholics present at the recent screening of For the Bible Tells Me So.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper
Banned but . . .
From Rome to Minneapolis, Dialogue is What’s Needed

Recommended Off-site Links:
The God Box: A Story of Redemption, Love - David W. Shelton (Skipping to the Piccolo, October 28, 2007).
Civil Discourse. In Church? - Chuck Pilon (
Progressive Catholic Voice, January 5, 2009).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I heard news of this this was indeed discouraging and dissapointing to me as well. But of course, it's something that we've, unfortunately, have had to get used to. Obviously, in order to facilitate reflection and devlopment within the Church it clearly must be realized not only on grassroots levels but within the hiearchy as well.

I know progressive thinkers are so hesitant to say that we must rely on the Bishops and Cardinals to change the Church's current stance. Indeed, we as co-equal members in the Body of Christ do have a unique role to play, enlightenment and dialogue on a grassroots role. But we must not only educate other regular individuals about homosexuality. We must evangelize to our own Bishops and other pastoral shepherds. We must show them that they must also not be afraid to proclaim this loving truth of Christ's which is fundamental in order to bring the Church into the Third Millenium. Change will not come until fearless memebers of the hiearchy, like Bishop Gumbleton, insist on proclaiming what is indeed the Truth, despite the penalties that could result...

Of course, we must continue to pray and work daily for the renewal and reform of the Catholic Church towards the true, inclusive spirit of the Second Vatican Council. A quote I saw the other day from Blessed John XXIII expressed this sentiment so eloquently yet simply, "We are not guarding a museum but cultivating a garden of life"