Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out and About - June 2009

The pleasant weather of June has meant that I’ve been spending a lot of time in not only my own garden (above and below) but the beautiful gardens of a number of friends.

For more garden photos, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Perfect Day
Mary Jo’s Lakeside Garden
In the Garden of Spirituality - Diarmuid Ó Murchú

Above: Standing at right with my friends (from left) Michael Zieghan, Molly Culligan, and Brigid McDonald at the 24th annual Bloomsday celebration at the University Club in St. Paul - June 16, 2009.

The four of us entertained those gathered with a number of songs and even some recitations! To learn more, see the previous Wild Reed post, Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (and with Kate Bush).

Right: With my friend Mary Vaughn at the 24th Annual Bloomsday celebration in St. Paul. Mary’s book, Pistol Pete’s Memoirs of Camp Pekin: A Federal Prison, has recently been published.

Notes Celebrations of Life Press:

Mary is a 77-year-old former nun, missionary, teacher, social activist, prisoner of conscience, and now author. She was arrested and sentenced to a six-month sentence at Pekin Federal Prison Camp in Illinois for peaceful protest against the School of the Americas (known as SOA or WHINSEC). While there she suffered a heart attack. Mary’s memoirs describe her experiences leading up to and during her time in prison.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Mary’s memoirs:

Sometimes in our lives, an opportunity opens to us like an epiphany. You can live only with the promise that there is fullness in living. With that, you must take the daily risk and choose life, even if it brings uncomfortable consequences.

Above: With fellow 2010 Synod study/work group members Ed Burg and Phyllis Evans - June 20, 2009.

I’m honored to be serving as the facilitator of the work/study group that’s focusing on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are fourteen people committed to being part of this particular work/study group, and there are ten other groups - each with their own focus - currently meeting on a regular basis throughout the Twin Cities.

To learn more about the rationale behind the establishment of these groups and about the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2010 Synod, see the previous Wild Reed post,
Preparing to Claim Our Place at the Table.

Above: Minnesota Senator John Marty, who was this year’s recipient of CPCSM’s Bishop Thomas Gumbleton Peace and Justice Award. Sen. Marty was presented with his award at CPCSM’s 29th Annual Community Meeting, held June 22 at St. Martin’s Table Restaurant and Bookstore.

Sen. Marty was the keynote speaker at CPCSM’s Community Meeting, and he spoke eloquently about his ongoing efforts to achieve marriage equality for all Minnesotans. To read more about what he shared, see the previous Wild Reed post, "We Can Make It Happen".

Above: Members of Dignity Twin Cities stand with theologian, poet, and author David R. Weiss (back row, third from left) and his wife Margaret (front row, left) - June 26, 2009.

For an inspiring reflection by David on his journey of coming out as an ally to LGBT people, click here.

Above: Standing at right with my friends (from left) Rick Notch and Brian Hutchins at the Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival - June 27-28, 2009.

For more photos and commentary on this year’s Gay Pride celebrations, see the previous posts: A Catholic Presence at Pride and Worldwide Gay Pride - 2009.

Above: Rev. Robert Caruso celebrates Mass in my home in St. Paul with members and friends of Cornerstone Old Catholic Community - Sunday, June 28, 2009.

Robert’s book on Old Catholicism, The Old Catholic Church: Understanding the Origin, Essence, and Theology of a Church that is Unknown and Misunderstood by Many in North America, has just been released by Apocryphile Press.

For my September 2007 interview with Robert about Old Catholicism, click here.

A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

I spent most of last weekend helping staff the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) booth at the Twin Cities LGBT Pride Festival in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

As in previous years, the CPCSM booth also played host to both the Catholic Rainbow Parents and the Progressive Catholic Voice. Two other Catholic organizations had booths this year at Pride, though they were located in another part of the park from us; and at least three parishes had literature displayed at various booths – including ours – letting visitors know that they are welcoming of all.

This year we opted for a banner that simply read: “Catholics for LGBT Equality.” This seemed especially appropriate given the current movement in society toward “marriage equality” for same-gender couples. Also, I’ve discovered over the years that displaying a banner that reads “Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities” often elicits negative responses from some festival attendees. Why? Because it sounds so official! More than once in the past, we’ve had people assume that we were from the Archdiocese and pushing the “official” line on homosexuality!

Mind you, I think it’s safe to say that any display of the word “Catholic” at a Gay Pride event will invariably be viewed with suspicion and even hostility by some. I use to take offense at this. I mean, I’d think to myself: Hey, I’ve worked through the whole Catholic and gay thing, why can’t you?

But then I realized just how deeply wounded many LGBT people have been by the church’s uninformed and insensitive teaching on sexuality. And I remind myself that not only have I been able to study theology and gain the ability to challenge in an informed and (hopefully) articulate way the teachings of the church on homosexuality, but I’ve also had the opportunity to immerse myself in numerous Catholic communities that have lovingly supported and affirmed me as a gay man. Not everyone has experienced such affirmation – either as a gay Catholic or from individuals, parishes, or organizations that are Catholic.

Having said all of this, I should also say that those of us who staff the CPCSM booth also encounter many people who express heartfelt gratitude that we, as Catholics, are present at Gay Pride. One woman even came up to me and offered the following words of encouragement: “There are more Catholics supporting you [as an out gay person] than not. You know that, don’t you?” It was a touching and affirming moment.

We definitely had a lot more young people come and visit our booth this year than in previous years - something that I find to be quite hopeful. A number of these young visitors were on summer break from college. The two young men pictured above, for instance, were home in the Twin Cities from studying at the University of Notre Dame.

They, like most of the younger visitors, were very happy to find a Catholic presence at Pride and especially excited to see the information we had about the Catholic Rainbow Parents. It’s clear that these young Catholics are looking for alternative theological thinking on the issue of homosexuality than that offered by the Vatican - thinking that actually reflects and is informed by the lived experience of LGBT people. They are also looking for positive information and insights on the issue that they can pass on to their parents – some of whom continue to struggle with the news of their child’s “coming out” as gay. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Rainbow Parents’
2005 Declaration remains a source of great hope and inspiration for many.

This post’s opening image shows a Catholic mother and her gay son at the CPCSM booth. They told me that up until the recent arrival of a new conservative young priest, their parish had been welcoming and accepting. Now, however, they’re both looking for a new faith community – one that, as they said, “focuses more on the love modeled by Jesus than on the rules of the institutional church.”

Of course, this disconnect between institutional policies/practices and the gospel message of love is what has compelled a number of local Catholics, myself included, to form the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and begin planning a “Synod of the Baptized” for September 2010.

Another visitor also noted how, with the arrival of a new priest, his parish had also become less welcoming of all. “Our numbers are down,” he said. “Young people especially have stopped coming. It’s sad.”

It was a comment we heard many times as visitor after visitor lamented the “chilling effect” taking place throughout the Archdiocese – even within those parishes that had once been openly welcoming of LGBT people and vocal about advocating for their full inclusion into the life of the church.

Another individual expressed concern at how limited and narrow the content of the official newspaper of the Archdiocese, the Catholic Spirit, had become. “It used to have much more of a range of views and perspectives,” he said. “Not anymore.” We suggested he check out the Progressive Catholic Voice as a good counter balance.

A frequently asked question – by both the young and the not-so-young – is whether or not we had any information about Catholic parishes that are truly welcoming of all. Sadly, the number of such parishes is diminishing every year. But there are still some, and we were happy to inform people of them, along with a number of Catholic communities beyond Rome, for example Cornerstone Old Catholic Community and Spirit of Hope Catholic Community.

One woman commented that the Roman expression of Catholicism has become “so far-right that it’s a detriment to the faith.” While another visitor shared the view that the Vatican’s teaching on homosexuality is “very unChristlike.”

Perhaps the most interesting visitor was a man who had attended the local chapter of Courage for a number of months last year. As most readers of The Wild Reed would know, Courage is an official apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church that purports to help people move beyond “same-sex attraction” by encouraging a life of “interior chastity in union with Christ.” The movement labels itself a “pro-chastity ministry” and equates chastity with celibacy. Although Courage acknowledges that the “inclination” of “homosexual attractions” is “psychologically understandable,” such attractions are nevertheless considered “objectively disordered” – a view that, though promulgated by the Vatican as church teaching, is widely questioned throughout the Church as the people of God.

I’ve long wanted to learn more about how this particular (and very secretive) apostolate operates locally. How many people actually attend? Where and how often do they meet? What is the focus of their meetings? Where do its leaders really stand on so-called “reparative therapy”? The former Courage guy, who is now happily accepting of himself as a gay man and in a relationship, was happy to answer my questions, and did so – to an extent. There is, after all, only so much one can discuss while staffing a booth at a busy Pride festival. He has agreed to meet with me for coffee and further conversation. I look forward to writing something about his experiences at Courage in a future Wild Reed post.

Another observation: It was great to see so many straight couples and families strolling happily around the festival – right there alongside the many gay couples walking together, hand-in-hand.

In conclusion, I have to admit that staffing a booth for two days at Gay Pride and constantly interacting and engaging with people – some of whom are hurt and/or dismissive – is very draining. (In addition, I continue to find the overt consumerism and corporate pandering of the festival to be both disturbing and discouraging.)

Yet the awareness that many gay Catholics and their allies are being encouraged, educated, and/or helped by the resources we offer – and by just our presence as self-identifying Catholics – is, in its own way, inspiring and energizing. Preparing for and being present at Gay Pride is always a lot of work, but all of us at CPCSM are adamant that it’s definitely worth it.


Following are some more images
from the 2009 Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival

CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey (left) with CPCSM treasurer Rick Notch and longtime CPCSM supporter Paul Fleege.

Above: Friends of CPCSM, Rob and Chris.

Above: Local artist Jane Evershed at work on one of her beautiful paintings.

Above: A group of young men - out and proud!

Above: The annual Gay Pride Festival in Minneapolis’ Loring Park is always popular with dog owners! All manner of breeds can be seen - from Great Danes to Chihuahuas. My favorite is the Italian Greyhound. That’s one of them pictured below with Todd.

Above and below: It’s not only dogs that you’ll see - but parrots and even pythons!

Above: Yes, it’s Adam, Steve, and Eve . . . along with that pesky serpent.

Above: There’s always plenty of music to be enjoyed at Gay Pride.

Above: Local television personality Jason Matheson and friend.

Above: A cute guy sporting a cute t-shirt!

Above: This year the CPCSM booth was situated beside Loring Lake. Accordingly, we had this beautiful view of reeds behind our booth, a view that – for obvious reasons – brought a smile to my face. (For more images of the reeds of Loring Lake, click here.)

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Dan Furmansky: “Why We Have Pride”
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Worldwide Gay Pride (2009)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
Worldwide Gay Pride (2008)
Inclusive Catholics Celebrate Gay Pride (2007)
Worldwide Gay Pride (2007)
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
A Catholic Rebellion?
The Pope’s “Scandalous” Stance on Homosexuality
How Times Have Changed
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men: A Discussion Guide
Song of Songs: The Bible’s Gay Love Poem
Beyond Courage
The Journal of James Curtis
A Catholic Bibliography on Gay Issues

Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?

David R. Weiss shares words of compassion and beauty
in response to an unknown gay friend living in fear

Friends, I have to say that the following essay by theologian, writer, and poet David R. Weiss (pictured at right) is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve had the honor of reprinting at The Wild Reed. I share it today with David’s permission and as the sixth part of my special “Gay Pride 2009” series — and I dedicate it to all of my LGBT brothers and sisters who continue to live in fear, isolated from the awareness of our loving God’s all-inclusive welcome and acceptance.

I should note that this particular piece by David was first published in 1999 in the Luther College Campus Ministry newsletter. It was subsequently published in the October 2002 issue of the Lutherans Concerned/Twin Cities newsletter.

The heart of David’s essay is his prose/poem, “Words Offered at the End of the Day to An Unknown Friend Living in Fear.” As you’ll see, this powerful prose/poem was first published in the University of Notre Dame’s Scholastic Magazine, February 21, 1997.

Finally, this essay and more of David’s eloquent writings can be found in his book, To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical Reflections on Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Wideness of God’s Welcome.


Spirituality and Coming Out

By David R. Weiss

A couple of years ago, while teaching at Luther College, I was asked to share some thoughts on “Spirituality and Coming Out” as part of Luther’s Coming Out Day recognition. This presented a bit of a challenge for me as I am an Ally, not an out GLBT person. However, I knew that even on Luther’s relatively friendly campus, the price paid for being both out and Christian could be quite high. So this is a short reflection I offered on my “coming out” as an ally for GLBT persons.

I “came out” in February 1997. By then I had already come to a fairly well-developed sense of why I affirmed the integrity of sexual orientations other than just heterosexual. Driven by more than simply tolerance, I was increasingly persuaded that God’s freedom to love, affirm, and include such persons was far bigger than any of the prejudices I grew up with. I had a number of gay and lesbian friends, and I was openly, even articulately supportive of them – behind closed doors. Not that I was in any way anti-gay in public. I was just decidedly silent.

While a graduate student at Notre Dame I read through the regular waves of debate over homosexuality in the daily student newspaper (debates carried out almost entirely by straight persons). I was disturbed by the rhetoric, but remained otherwise quiet. Notre Dame’s Catholic tradition wasn’t my own. This was not my issue. Not my cause. Bottom line: not my life. So why take the risk?

In the spring of 1996 I began teaching at Notre Dame, and very subtly my perspective began to change. The mass of Notre Dame undergraduates, previously just a sea of faces to me, suddenly and inescapably had names . . . feelings . . . and lives. Then, the following February I read a poem in Scholastic, a weekly student magazine. Entitled “Living in Fear,” it was written by an anonymous gay senior student at Notre Dame and recounted his daily four-year battle toward self-acceptance while driven by fear to remain in the closet. This time, perhaps because this wasn’t a debate but a poignant lament, I wasn’t “disturbed but quiet,” I found myself weeping and raging. Late into the night I poured myself out onto paper in a long letter of response that I titled “Words Offered at the End of the Day to An Unknown Friend Living in Fear.” In it I ransacked the Bible for every manner of image to comfort and affirm him (and there are many of these!). As I put it in the letter, “I see now that if God keeps silent in the face of your anguish, it is only because I wouldn’t lend God the use of my words.” Later on I wrote, “Against all this [the fear] that you know so well I can offer only words — but maybe this is precisely what I have not done often enough or loud enough or long enough.”

When my letter ran in the next week’s Scholastic, I was “out.” An ally. And there was no going back. I received a good number of e-mails of gratitude — but also more than a few words of derision. Coming out — even just as an Ally — has its price. But also its rewards, which leads me to my point about coming out and spirituality. I had reached a place where for me not to come out publicly as an ally of GLBT persons would have been, by my silence, to deny the very graciousness of the God who has encountered me. Instead, coming out as an ally has afforded me the chance to get on with the essential work of integrating my personal spirituality with my public commitments—the vocation of living my whole life in response to God’s grace. I know from friends that this is true for GLBT persons as well. It’s hard to hear the gospel in private if fear keeps you in the closet in public.

So I might be tempted to close with an invitation to all GLBT persons to “come out,” but I don’t think that’s my invitation to make, at least not directly. I can say, if you’re an Ally still in the closet, National Coming Out Day is for you, too. However, my direct task is to keep on “coming out” myself as an Ally, again and again, to do what I can to make the room beyond the closet a place that is safe when the closet door is opened by someone from the inside. And that’s not something I do as an “extra” or “add-on” to my spirituality; it’s the way I bear witness to the God I know.

This prose-poem appeared in the Notre Dame’s Scholastic Magazine, February 21, 1997.

Words Offered at the End of the Day
to An Unknown Friend Living in Fear

By David R. Weiss

I need to say this quietly in deference to your eloquent anguish. But I need to say it nonetheless. And I am angry, and it will be hard to keep my voice down; angry not at you but for you. And if I misread the last lines of your poem and you already know all this, that’s okay. I’m sure someone else needs to hear it.

You say, “God knows, but God loves me anyway.” Wait. Let me say it gently but firmly—unequivocally. God does not love you “anyway” — despite your being gay. God does not need to overlook the way you are to smile at the beauty of your humanity, at the earthy reflection of divine love as you are gaily—and I don’t mean just “happily” — imago Dei.

Do you hear me, my friend? I will be downright strident about this because I see now that if God keeps silent in the face of your anguish, it is only because I wouldn’t lend God the use of my words. Well, here they are.

When Hosea spoke of a day when God would have pity on “Not-pitied” and would say to “Not-my-people,” you are my people—Hosea meant you, and I hope that day is now. When Isaiah welcomed foreigners and eunuchs (ever before outcast from the presence of God) into the Temple—well, Isaiah meant to welcome you as well, and to name your praise, like their praise, as more dear to God than even that of the faithful Jews (or Christians), perhaps because your praise is brought over the objections and insults of so many of us — and yet still finds its way to God. And when Peter was treated to that heavenly picnic of assorted forbidden foods it was to remind him of Isaiah’s self-same insight, that the church dare not exclude those who come at God's own call.

When Jesus stopped to speak and sip with the Samaritan woman at the well, perhaps she, too, thought that his fellowship came to her “anyway,” despite her ethnic outcast baggage. But I tell you, my friend, and I am not scared to be flamboyant if need be: Jesus offered her living words and living water because of who she was. He relished her Samaritan beauty; he chose her for the Kingdom, and when he did, he meant for you to feel chosen, too, not despite, but because of your gayness. So, when you picture her and him standing at the well, remember that while many in the church might prefer you didn’t exist, or at least didn’t tell us who you are, Jesus is stopping to chat because you caught his eye not “anyway”—but just the way you are.

Can you hear me, yet, my friend? I am not afraid to be audacious if I have to. When Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, he said to them if any town refused to welcome them in his name, well, on judgment day those towns would fare far worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. Okay, it isn’t in the text — I admit it — but I will say it anyway because it’s true: Jesus meant to say as much to all you same-sex couples who, not unlike those disciples, come, two by two, hoping for a bit of hospitality from the church. What irony that we who have so long burdened you with the guilt of Sodom and Gomorrah find that the fire and brimstone are finally aimed our way.

And when Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head he knew that if ever a day came when churches with their omnipresent crosses of gilded gold thought that now Christ surely had a place to lay his head, he knew that you, my friend, would know better. For with your anguish every night you bear a fearful witness to us all. Until your head rests fully welcome within these walls—until then Christ keeps his weary watch outside with you, still after all these years aching and envious of foxes and birds.

I hope that you have heard, my friend. I tremble for the silent “no” that closes out — and closets in — each day, the quiet daily unmaking of yourself by fears all too well founded. Against all this that you know so well I can offer only words — but maybe this is precisely what I have not done often enough or loud enough or long enough. So, I hope, my unknown friend, that at the end of this day, and the next, and on and on, that when you crawl beneath your covers of so much more than linen you remember these words I offer in gentle but firm—unequivocal, strident, flamboyant, audacious witness: You are loved by God already now, not "anyway," but fully because of who and how you are.

And I wait with you for the day when “no” becomes “yes,” and you place yourself truthful in our midst. I wait patiently, because who am I to tell you when to step beyond the fears that we have heaped up in your way? And because who am I to think your fear is not, in part indebted to the comfort of my own silence? And I wait impatiently, because I know at least this much that God is anxious for you to share the joy God takes in the very beauty of who and how you are.

David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist doing “public theology” around issues of sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. His first book is entitled To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical Reflections on Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Wideness of God’s Welcome.

Above: David Weiss (back row, third from left) with members
Dignity Twin Cities - Friday, June 26, 2009.
David’s wife Margaret stands at left in the front row.

NOTE: In my next post I’ll share images and commentary from this past weekend’s Twin Cities Gay Pride festival.

For more of David. R. Weiss at The Wild Reed, see:
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness
Making Love, Giving Life
The Real Sodomites: Proponents of Proposition 8

For previous posts in this series, see:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except it Does: John Corvino Reflects on the Coming Out of Adam Lambert
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group

Frank Rich on why all Americans should be disappointed
by President Obama’s inaction on gay civil rights

In this fifth installment of The Wild Reed’s special Gay Pride 2009 series, I share an excerpt from an op-ed written by Frank Rich (pictured at right) and published in yesterday’s New York Times.


. . . Full gay citizenship is far from complete. “There’s a perception in Washington that you can throw little bits of partial equality to gay people and that gay people will be satisfied with that,” said Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for Milk, last year’s movie about Harvey Milk, the pioneering gay civil rights politician of the 1970s. Such “crumbs,” Black added, cannot substitute for “full and equal rights in all matters of civil law in all 50 states.”

As anger at White House missteps boiled over this month, the president abruptly staged a ceremony to offer some crumbs. The pretext was the signing of an executive memorandum bestowing benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. But some of those benefits were already in force, and the most important of them all, health care, was not included because it is forbidden by DOMA.

One gay leader invited to the Oval Office that day was Jennifer Chrisler of the Family Equality Council, an advocacy organization for gay families based in Massachusetts. She showed a photo of her 7-year-old twin sons, Tom and Tim, to Obama. The president cooed. “I told him they’re following in [the president’s daughter] Sasha’s footsteps, entering the second grade,” she recounted to me last week. “It was a very human exchange between two parents.”

Chrisler seized the moment to appeal to the president on behalf of her boys. “The worst thing you can experience as parents is to feel your children are discriminated against,” she told him. “Imagine if you have to explain every day who your parents are and that they’re as real as every family is.” Chrisler said that she and her children “want a president who will make that go away,” adding, “I believe in his heart he wants that to happen, his political mistakes notwithstanding.”

No president possesses that magic wand, but Obama’s inaction on gay civil rights is striking. So is his utterly uncharacteristic inarticulateness. The Justice Department brief defending DOMA has spoken louder for this president than any of his own words on the subject. Chrisler noted that he has given major speeches on race, on abortion and to the Muslim world. “People are waiting for that passionate speech from him on equal rights,” she said, “and the time is now.”

Action would be even better. It’s a press cliché that “gay supporters” are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be. Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of [the] Stonewall [uprising], he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places.

To read Frank Rich's op-ed in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Obama and the Big Gay Party - Joe Sudbay (AmericaBlog.com, June 29, 2009).

For previous posts in the Wild Reed’s “Gay Pride 2009” series, see:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does: John Corvino Reflects on the Coming Out of Adam Lambert
Gay Pride as a Christian Event

For more of Frank Rich at The Wild Reed, see:
Frank Rich on the “Historic Turning Point in the Demise of America’s Anti-Gay Movement”
Holding McCain Accountable to His Falsehoods
A Rich Laugh Fit for a Dame
The Gay Old Party Comes Out

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Dan Furmansky: “Why We Have Pride”
"We Can Make It Happen" - Senator John Marty on Marriage Equality in Minnesota
Separate is Not Equal

Gay Pride as a Christian Event

In this fourth installment of The Wild Reed’s special Gay Pride 2009 series of posts, I share an excerpt from a 2001 reflection by Gordon Johnson that was read as the communion meditation yesterday at the Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community in Minneapolis.


The “pride” in Gay Pride is pride in telling the truth; telling the truth about our lives and our selves. It is pride in standing up to centuries of lies and oppression and refusing to let darkness win. It means exposing and forgiving the oppression of the Christian past. It is proudly telling the truth about our relationships, our intimate love, and thus telling the truth about God.

Hmmm . . . love, truth-telling, forgiving . . . all of a sudden, Gay Pride is starting to sound like a very Christian event!

- Gordon Johnson

For previous posts in this series, see:
A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except it Does: John Corvino Reflects on the Coming Out of Adam Lambert

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
Dan Furmansky: “Why We Have Pride”

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dialogue: Seeking Common Ground, Making Holy Ground

Yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Carol Marin (pictured at right) reflected upon next month’s meeting between Pope Benedict and President Obama, and revisited the value placed on dialogue by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Marin’s insightful op-ed is reprinted in its entirety below.


Pro-choice President Obama goes to the Vatican next month to meet pro-life Pope Benedict.

“The Vatican has been seeking common ground with Obama, although some American Catholic bishops have been hostile to his administration,” the Associated Press reports.

Let’s pray that the spirit of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin fills the room and that Cardinal Bernard Law, now assigned to Rome, is nowhere in sight.

Bernardin [pictured at right] and Obama, despite a deep difference on abortion, shared much: Chicago. A commitment to dialogue. And a belief that common ground can be found even across the most fractured fault lines of faith and belief.

But it’s treacherous territory.

And what happened to Bernardin in the months before his death illuminates the land mines ahead – both inside and outside the Catholic Church.

In the summer of 1996, three months before pancreatic cancer claimed him, Bernardin quietly sent a document to his fellow bishops for review. He told them that in two weeks he would hold a news conference on its contents. But first he asked them to weigh in.

The document, “Called To Be Catholic: Church in a Time of Peril,” was the first official call for discussion among Catholics on polarizing issues including the role of women, human sexuality and abortion. And war, capital punishment and racial injustice.

Though a few colleagues such as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles lent their support, “Most bishops sat on their hands,” recalled Monsignor Ken Velo, one of Bernardin’s closest friends. “Law [pictured at left] did not say anything at all.”

Then, on Aug. 13, the day Bernardin took his report public, Law sent out his own news release to denounce it. He called it “unfortunate” and said there could be no dialogue if it contested the truth of church teachings.

A few months later, as Bernardin lay dying, Law called, hoping to see Bernardin. Velo left Bernardin’s bedside to take the call.

“He said,” Velo recalled, “ ‘I'm thinking of coming to Chicago.’ ”

Velo was blunt. He told Law that Bernardin “had a difficult time” with what Law had done. And he conveyed the dying cardinal’s disappointed words. Bernardin, referring to Law by his first name said, “I would never have done this to Bernie.”

Law, according to Velo, denied he had done anything hurtful. But we now know Law is well-practiced in the art of denial.

A pedophile scandal engulfed his diocese and the nation, forced his resignation in 2002 and sent him into exile in Rome. Amazingly, Law remains a prince of the church – and lives like one.

At Bernardin’s funeral in the winter of 1996, Law was the senior bishop on the altar, but it was Mahony whom Bernardin designated to say his mass, and Velo whom he asked to give his homily.

“There was a righteous anger in me,” acknowledged Velo. And there was anger among those in the pews that day, who burst into applause when Velo, from the pulpit, said of Bernardin: “He took initiatives. He had a hard time with people who directed lives by using rearview mirrors. He wanted people to come around the table and see, not what divides us, but what brings us together. He wanted to make common ground, holy ground.”

From the political wars in Springfield, Illinois, to the battlefields of Iraq to the bloody streets of Iran, the cry for common ground dreams out at us.

Pope Benedict’s meeting with President Obama sends an urgently needed signal. Especially since Bishop John D’Arcy, whose diocese includes Notre Dame University, boycotted Obama’s appearance at graduation in South Bend in May.

If Darcy had shown up, he and Obama could have talked. Not agreed, but opened a dialogue. The way the pope and the president will in July.

The way Cardinal Bernardin on the eve of his death believed all of us must to survive.

- Carol Marin

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dialogue is Key in Moving Beyond Theological Impasses
The Call to Be Dialogical Catholics
From Rome to Minneapolis, Dialogue is What’s Needed
Dialoguing with the Archbishop on Natural Law
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper
Canceling Out Dialogue
Is Dialogue Always Possible?
A Time to Re-Think the Basis and Repair the Damage

Recommended Off-site Links:
Civil Discourse. In Church? - Charles Pilon (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 5, 2009).
One Archdiocesan Community, Two Mindsets - Paula Ruddy (Progressive Catholic Voice, June 1, 2009).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It Shouldn't Matter. Except it Does

In this third installment of The Wild Reed’s special “Gay Pride 2009” series of posts, I share John Corvino’s thoughtful reflections on the coming out of singer Adam Lambert (pictured at right). Corvino’s piece was first published at 365gay.com earlier this month.


So, Adam Lambert comes out in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, and you’re thinking, “What’s next? Rolling Stone announces ‘Water is wet’”?

I get where you’re coming from. But there are deeper lessons to be gleaned.

First, notice how Lambert comes out — in a music magazine, with his sexuality occupying a relatively minor portion of the article. And he does so with the candid yet indirect phrasing “I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay.” The gayness is almost taken for granted — embedded in a sentence about public reaction, rather than placed front and center.

That approach reflects a larger trend in how society — and in particular, younger generations — view gayness: as a simple matter-of-fact, not something to be belabored. The contrast with Clay Aiken’s “Yes, I’m Gay” People Magazine cover is subtle but important.

And yet, second, there’s an ambivalence in the article that captures the national tone on the issue. Lambert says, “It shouldn’t matter. Except it does. It’s really confusing.”

He’s right on all three counts.

“It shouldn’t matter.” American Idol is a singing competition, and Lambert wanted to — and should — be judged on his vocal performance. His decision to wait until after Idol to answer the gay question, he claims, stemmed from his desire that his sexuality not overshadow his singing. (It may also have stemmed from a desire for votes, and I couldn’t blame him for that. It’s not as if he lied about being gay or took great pains to hide it.)

“Except it does [matter].” As Lambert himself put it in the interview, “There’s the old industry idea that you should just make sexuality a non-issue, just say your private life’s your private life, and not talk about it. But that’s bullshit, because private lives don’t exist anymore for celebrities: they just don’t.”

The music industry doesn’t just sell songs; it sells images. For better or worse, personal backstory is part of that (especially on Idol).

What’s more, gay celebrities give hope to closeted gay kids, who need to know that they’re not alone and who sometimes don’t have gay role models in their everyday lives. That’s not to say that Adam Lambert is any more representative of gay life than any other gay person. It’s just to say that his representation, such as it is, will reach more people.

“It’s really confusing.” Yes indeed. We live in a nation where, for some people, much of the time, gayness is a non-issue, and for others, virtually constantly, it’s huge. American Idol is one of those “common denominator” phenomena (say that three times fast!) where these different groups interact with each other. Often they can do so while avoiding the issue of sexuality. But not always.

And the tension here is not just between groups; it’s also internal. When Lambert says, “I’m proud of my sexuality. I embrace it. It’s just another part of me,” he unwittingly raises a question — one that opponents often hurl at us: “Why be ‘proud’ of something that’s ‘just another part’ of you?” Why take pride in a trait that you didn’t choose and is supposed to be no big deal?

Answer: because it is a big deal. It does matter. Maybe in an ideal world it wouldn’t, but we are still far from that world.

Ironically, it’s a big deal precisely because our opponents insist on making it a big deal. Thanks to them, Adam Lambert (like every gay person) has to negotiate the issue of revealing his sexuality in a way that straight people never do. I think he’s handled it admirably.

Lambert told Rolling Stone that “I’m trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader.” Fair enough. But it’s also fair to note that civil-rights change doesn’t only come from civil-rights leaders. It also comes from countless small acts of revelation by ordinary and not-so-ordinary people, including Adam Lambert.

NOTE: For the first in this special Gay Pride 2009 series, click here. For the second, click here.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
No Surprise, But an Important Event Nonetheless
“Glambert” and the New Gay Stereotype
Out Gay Actor Neil Patrick Harris: “I’m Striving to Be an Example of Normalcy”
Matthew Mitcham: Making a Splash
Openly Gay Diver Wins Olympic Gold

Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On

In this second installment of The Wild Reed’s special “Gay Pride 2009” series of posts, I share the touching and hopeful op-ed by Steven R. Kleinedler (pictured at right) from the July-August issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review. As the editors of the GLR note, this particular piece is adapted from an essay that first appeared on Americablog.com.


Last March, I came home after work and found my husband, Peter Dubuque (left), dead from an unexpected accident. We had been together for almost fifteen years. Because we live in Massachusetts, we were able to marry four-and-a-half years ago. In the aftermath of an unexpected death, the surviving spouse faces a jumble of legal responsibilities, emotional reactions, and practical considerations. At 42, I never expected to find myself planning a memorial service for the 39-year-old love of my life. I’m very fortunate to have a strong national and local network of love and support from friends and family.

In 2004, when marriage equality took effect in Massachusetts, opponents predicted social disaster. Of course, the destruction of our social fabric never materialized. What has surprised me, though, is how marriage equality in Massachusetts has quickly blended into the social landscape. Despite a few feeble and ineffective protests from the extreme Right, it has become a non-issue here. Just how far marriage equality has become a regular component of society here has been made clear to me while interacting with people I didn’t know. In decades past, authority figures were often adversarial to the queer community. Now in 2009, the EMTs, police officers, and detectives on the accident scene were extremely professional, respectful, and courteous.

Referring to Peter as my husband doesn’t raise an eyebrow or result in scorn or sarcasm, whereas referring to him as my partner ten or fifteen years ago carried the risk of bad service, indifference, or outright hostility. Customer service reps at places like banks respect terminology, whereas once we might have sheepishly referred to as “my partner.” Twelve years ago something as simple as explaining to utility companies that two people weren’t roommates but “significant others” could be construed as being “in your face.” Flash forward to the young associate at the Apple store who helped me with Peter’s iPhone. Sexual orientation was irrelevant as he expressed sincere condolences for my loss.

Over five years ago, people in my situation in Massachusetts would have faced prejudicial treatment in some of these interactions – in addition to having to deal with protracted legal issues because of not being married – because marriage equality was an unknown quantity. Coming of age at a time when AIDS felled so many so quickly, I was aware of many heart-wrenching stories in which the surviving partner was completely shut out and cast aside by next of kin. For all the wonderful things that marriage equality does for the living, it maintains our dignity in death.

The legal right to have been married that was so important to us in life has turned out to be equally important in death. I am thankful for all of the couples, lawyers, advocates, and judges who have put so much energy into this struggle over the past many years, and to those who continue to do so until the goal of federally recognized marriage equality is met.

Just since Peter died, wonderful news about marriage equality has come out of Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. I know Peter would have been overjoyed by this news, and this makes me happy. Still, these half-dozen states are only a beginning. We must stop letting those who oppose marriage equality frame the debate. The objections they raise are refuted by our experience here in Massachusetts, where this new reality has settled in and none of their fears has materialized.

Steven R. Kleinedler is supervising editor of The American Heritage Dictionary, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

NOTE: For the first in this special Gay Pride 2009 series, click here.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Dan Furmansky: “Why We Have Pride”
“We Can Make It Happen” – Senator John Marty on Marriage Equality in Minnesota
Frank Rich on the “Historic Turning Point in the Demise of America’s Anti-Gay Movement”
The Sacrament of . . . Relationships
Catholics Join in Nationwide Protests of Prop 8
Love Will Prevail
What Straights Can Learn From Gay Marriage
Love is Love
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
The Real Gay Agenda