Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shifting the Focus to the Real Issues . . . Live on Fox News!

Last Thursday evening I was a guest on Fox 9 News in the Twin Cities, sharing my perspective on Archbishop Nienstedt's recent denying of communion to students at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, MN. The students were wearing buttons with messages supportive of LGBT people. Also on the show to discuss the incident was St. Thomas University professor Robert Kennedy, who supports the archbishop's actions.

Earlier in the day I was doing my weekly Meals-on-Wheels run with my friend Ken when I received a call from Monica Meyers, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, asking me if, as executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities and convener of the recently formed initiative Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, I would be willing to be part of a Fox 9 News "debate" on the archbishop's actions. To be honest, I really didn't want to be part of such a debate. For one thing, it would be going out live, which made me kinda nervous. Also, I considered the story rather old news (a perspective shared by the folks at the chancery – so much so that they declined to be part of the debate!)

I called my friend
Brian McNeill of Dignity Twin Cities and Rainbow Sash Alliance USA and asked if he'd be willing to appear on air that night. He would have liked to but was unable to do so. I then called and spoke to a producer at Fox 9. It was clear that this person was hoping for and encouraging a feisty confrontation between Dr. Kennedy and myself – yet another reason, I thought, for not agreeing to be part of this "debate." Yet someone had to offer an informed critique of the clerical leadership's stance and actions regarding LGBT people and issues, and so I reluctantly agreed to appear.

I spent the afternoon preparing what I wanted to say. I was determined to shift the focus of the conversation away from this single incident at St. John's to the larger, underlying issue of the church's stance on homosexuality. I get so tired of the corporate media fixating on the "symptoms" and failing to focus in any depth on the underlying cause or causes.

I'm happy to report that I did indeed steer the conversation to what I and many others see as the real "cause" of the recent gay-related (or, more accurately, clerical leadership-related) fiascos we've been witnessing in the local church of the Twin Cities. The video of last Thursday's debate is yet to appear on the Fox 9 News website, and so I share today the "script" I prepared, the key points of which I conveyed on Fox 9 News.

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 bishops' anti-gay marriage campaign. See, for instance, here, here, here, and here.] 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?

I’d like to see Archbishop Nienstedt take a true leadership role and facilitate dialogue forums where all would be welcome to share their stories, where we could hear what the sciences are saying about the diversity of sexuality, and allow all of this information and experience to help shape a healthy Catholic sexual theology.

We basically need to hear less Vatican belief about sexuality and more Catholic belief – and the only way to ascertain that belief is by listening to all Catholics and honoring their lives and relationships.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Archbishop Nienstedt's "Learning Curve": A Suggested Trajectory
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
At UTS, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality


Maura said...

Way to go Michael! You smoked that UST prof debating him! His facial expressions were a give away for being dismissive and disregarding of what you had to say. Your logic made him fumble and his face showed his frustration as well.

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

Incredible! I love it!

I've certainly had enough of people trying to say that Catholicism is a "top-down" institution where the job of the faithful is to sit down, shut up, and do what they're told. We all know perfectly well that being a priest doesn't make you better or smarter or holier, so why on earth should I give everyone with a collar the benefit of the doubt that they're right and I'm wrong? That's just nonsense.

Terence Weldon said...

Congratulations, Michael, on your participation and on this sound analysis.

(I have prepared a shout-out and link to this post, which will appear later today at Queering the Church.

A B India said...

Congratulations Michael! Nice to see different voices on the issue being heard on such a large scale.

David said...

Great job with the debate!

Brian said...

I saw it too, loved it. Thanks for being a warrior in the fight against injustice.

Bob said...

I heard you were amazing. Go, Michael!

Mareczku said...

Good for you, Michael. Keep on telling these guys the truth. I wonder if a group of black students had worn rainbow pins to celebrate diversity, that the Archbishop would have denied them communion. What if a group of young people with Downs' Syndrome had worn rainbow pins or another identifying pin, would they have been denied communion?
I think the issue here is the Archbishops dislike of and disdain for gay people. A big problem is that he really doesn't want to hear what we have to say.