Friday, September 30, 2011

Out and About – September 2011

Wow! What a month September's been! There have been so many highlights and exciting developments. I open this post with an image of just one of these – the September 29 premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality, a compelling series of video vignettes featuring local lesbian and gay Catholics sharing stories of faith, family and marriage.

I had the honor of serving as executive producer for this project, and pictured with me above is the wonderful core team of people I worked with to make Catholics for Marriage Equality a reality. From left: Me, Tom White, director Mary Kay Orman, Richard Leyva, filmmaker Aleshia Mueller, Scott Dibble, Grace Fischer-Schneider, Darlene White, Janet Fischer-Schneider, Brent and Lisa Vanderlinden, and Bob DeNardo.

To view the trailer of the Catholics for Marriage Equality series, click here.

Above: On the evening of Friday, September 3, I hosted a dinner from my friends Joanne and Kathleen.

Above: Another dinner with friends – including my good friend Phil, pictured with me at left.

Above: On Saturday, September 10, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Sharon Groves (right), director of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith program. My friend Rev. Laurie Crelly (left) helped organize our meeting. Also pictured with us is Dean Schlaak, co-owner of the Wilde Roast Cafe, where Laurie, Sharon and I met to discuss how HRC and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN might best work together to defeat the proposed Minnesota state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Minnesotans will vote on this amendment in November 2012.

Above: On Sunday, September 11, I participated in a beautiful Healing of the Nations prayer service, hosted by Wisdom Ways Center of Spirituality and featuring theologian Paul Knitter.

Above: The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Second Annual Synod of the Baptized: "Making Our Voices Heard" – September 17, 2011, at the DoubleTree Hilton in Bloomington.

For the article I wrote for The Progressive Catholic Voice about this event, click here.

Above: Theologian and author Anthony Padovano, keynote speaker at Synod 2011.

Here's just a little of what Anthony shared with the close to 400 Catholics in attendance . . .

. . . The sensus fidelium is the point of convergence in Catholic life for law, reception, community, conscience, and faith.

The escalating division in the Catholic Church between what people believe and what administrators teach, between how people behave and what lawmakers require is not due solely to secularism or self-indulgence. Educated and autonomous Catholics do not accept monarchical legislation. They force a culture of dialogue on the Church by non-compliance if they have not been consulted or taken into account.

The three magisterial or teaching offices in the Church (bishops, theologians, and the People of God) are obliged by Church teaching to create a culture of dialogue between and among them. If this does not happen, the community acts accordingly. Today, bishops at large ignore university scholarship and have contempt for the sensus fidelium when it is not compliant. The response of people has been active and passive resistance to being governed in such a manner.

This crisis gives us the opportunity to act creatively and responsibly. . . .

Right: Roman Catholic Bishop Regina Nicolosi, one of three recipients of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2011 Adsum Award.

Adsum is a Latin word which means "I am present and listening." Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter's Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: Adsumus – "we are present and listening" CCCR's Adsum Award recognizes those individuals who have made an extraordinary commitment to be present and attentive to the Spirit, to be partners in re-creating the face of the church here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Notes Regina:

We in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement pray and work for a reformed priesthood in a renewed Catholic Church. We affirm the priesthood of all believers. We believe that our brother Jesus invites all to gather around the table. For me personally, the end of sexism, the inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters, the protection of our earth and continuous work for peace are important issues.

Left: The second recipient of the 2011 Adsum Award was local theologian William C. Hunt.

Says William:

We live in a seemingly God-forsaken world where one third of our sisters and brothers are so poor that they are starving to death; where preventable diseases and natural disasters claim the lives of tens of thousands each day; and where senseless wars consume precious lives and resources for destructive purposes. I envisage the Church as a caring, sharing, life-giving community in which all the baptized proclaim and embody the message of God's love in Jesus Christ and serve the world both by providing emergency relief and by working for structural change that embodies justice, peace and reconciliation. I also envision the Church as a functional family in which those called to ministry serve the baptized through word and sacrament so that that the baptized may be empowered to reach out to the world in love and service.

The third recipient of CCCR's 2011 Adsum Award, artist Ansgar Holmberg, was unable to join us on September 17. She did, however, share the following in the Synod 2011 program booklet.

As an artist and illustrator, a major thrust of my work has been inclusivity of gender, race, church, all creation. This is an "adventure" when illustrating church for religious education for children but it is possible to do in subtle ways and I delight in putting in my two cents worth.

Above: My friend Roman Catholic Womanpriest Judith McKloskey. For my August 2008 interview with Judith, click here.

Right: With my friends Margaret and Mary Beth – September 17, 2011.

Above: Standing at left with (from left) Bernie, Eileen, Mary Beth, Paula and Lonne.

I serve as co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform with Bernie and Eileen Rodel. And our friend Paula Ruddy is a true inspiration in the local church reform community and a gifted thinker and writer.

Above: Friends Mary, Dan and Jane at Synod 2011 – September 17, 2011.

Above: On the evening of Monday, September 19, 2011, over 500 people of faith gathered at Hennepin Avenue Methodist Cathedral to launch the Faith Organizing Campaign to defeat the anti-marriage constitutional amendment in November 2012. I was present as coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, and, in the second half of the program, facilitated a workshop for other Catholics who were present.

For my friend Javen Swanson's report on this inspiring event, click
here. For Andy Birkey's Minnesota Independent coverage, click here.

Above and below: On a number of occasions in September I gathered with my friends Rick, Brian, Bob and John to watch the BBC series Being Human – about a vampire, werewolf and ghost living together in a house in Bristol! It's a very entertaining show (though when it comes to things vampire, I must admit I prefer True Blood!).

Above: Bob and John. What a lovely couple!

Above: Dinner with my good friends George, Joan and Carla.

Above: My friend Bob is a priest and scholar in the Old Catholic Church. On Sunday, September 25, 2011, he and his partner John hosted a Mass in their Minneapolis home. Concelebrating with Bob was Fr. Günter Esser, a visiting Old Catholic priest from Germany.

For an introduction to Old Catholicism, click here.

Above: From left: Me, Günter, Brian, John and Bob – September 25, 2011.

Less than two hours before the September 29 premiere of the Catholics for Marriage Equality series of videos, a KSTP Eyewitness News crew interviewed a number of folks featured in the series at my home in St. Paul. Lisa Vanderlinden is pictured above being interviewed, while Janet and Grace Fischer-Schneider are pictured below.

For KSTP's coverage of the premiere, click here.

Above: Stuffing donation envelopes into programs ahead of the premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis (left) – September 29, 2011.

I'll be posting more images and commentary about this special event very soon! In the meantime, click here for links to articles and commentaries about the premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photo of the Day

Above: The premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality at the Riverview Theater, Minneapolis – September 29, 2011 (the Feast of St. Michael!). I had the honor of serving as the executive producer of this project.

More images and commentary soon!

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN
MN Catholic Bishops Critical of Video Vignettes Supporting Gay Marriage – Rose French (Star Tribune, September 29, 2011).
New Video Adds to Gay Marriage Debate Among Catholics – Lauren Radomski (KSTP, September 29, 2011).
Archdiocese Says Marriage Equality Group That "Seeks to Confuse Catholics" Must Be Avoided – Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, September 30, 2011).
Twin Cities Archdiocese Decries Catholic Gay Rights Group – Doug Belden (Pioneer Press, September 30, 2011).
MN Archdiocese: Catholics for Marriage Equality Are "Not in Good Standing with the Church" – Zack Ford (, September 30, 2011).
Archdiocese Renounces Catholics for Marriage Equality Group – Joe Kimbell (, September 30, 2011).
What is "Marriage Itself"? – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 30, 2011).
Catholics Promoting Marriage Equality: Minnesota Group Produces Powerful Video – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, October 1, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prayer: Both a Consolation and a Demand

The following is an excerpt from Robert Erlewine's article, "The Legacy of Abraham Joshua Heschel," from the Fall 2011 issue of Tikkun. I find it to be quite meaningful – and true to my experience. Perhaps you will too.


Heschel [pictured at left] often reflects upon prayer and suggests that it is both an essential component of religious life and a key element in social action. Prayer, for Heschel, is an exercise in exorcising ourselves of callousness, of recognizing our failures before God. For Heschel, prayer causes "a shift of the center of living – from self-consciousness to self-surrender." In prayer we realize God is the supreme Subject, and this demands that "humility is a reality . . . [that] humility is truth." In prayer we recognize that God is the ground of all value and that our worth, like that of all things, derives from God. Prayer decenters us and places everything under much wider horizons, breaking our egocentrism, thus both forcing and allowing us to see the world from this new perspective. Prayer allows us to recognize our own vanity, our tendency to make ideologies absolute, and the fact that we never cease to fail, even in our efforts to be good. Prayer allows us to break down the walls of our own self-righteousness and approach the world with fresh eyes, lest easy and convenient answers appear sufficient. Prayer is both a consolation and a demand. If we pray properly, so Heschel avers, we will be unable to live indifferently to what is going on around us. And what is going on around us cannot be separated from how we pray.

To read Erlewine's article in its entirety, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

The tenor of the [U.S. Catholic] bishops' warning [to President Obama] appears to signal an escalation in their battle against gay marriage, as well as a hardening of their opposition to Obama just as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway. The bishops' new hard line was welcomed by conservatives, and it comes as Obama is facing record-low opinion ratings.

The bishops' stance carries risks, however, as voters appear to be focused on the state of the economy more than gay marriage. Moreover, polls show a steady erosion of opposition to gay rights of all kinds among the U.S. population, with Catholics more open to endorsing gay relationships than many other faith groups.

– David Gibson
"Archbishop Timothy Dolan Issues Letter to Obama About Gay Marriage"
Religion News Service via The Huffington Post
September 22, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
A Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality
Tips for Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN
Catholics for Equality

Monday, September 26, 2011

Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage

Series responds to Archbishop's anti-marriage equality efforts

NOTE: The following is a media release from Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

Minneapolis—A series of five video vignettes featuring local lesbian and gay Catholics sharing stories of faith, family and marriage will premier from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at Minneapolis’ Riverview Theater, 3800 42nd Ave. South.

The series, called Catholics for Marriage Equality was produced in response to the ongoing efforts to amend the Minnesota State Constitution to ban civil marriage for same-sex couples.

“Our hope is that those who view our video series will prayerfully reflect upon the negative impact of the proposed “marriage amendment” and commit to voting against it in November 2012,” said director Mary Kay Orman.

Last fall, Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis distributed a DVD called Preserving Marriage in Minnesota to more than 400,000 Catholic households. In his DVD, Neinstedt said, “At best, so-called same-sex marriage is an untested social experiment, and at worst, it poses a dangerous risk with potentially far-reaching consequences.”

The Catholics for Marriage Equality video series brings to light another Catholic perspective on marriage between same-sex couples by inviting people to seek and discern the face of God in the lives and families of LGBT people.

A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found strong support for marriage equality among people of faith in the U.S. – including Catholics. Fifty-two percent of Catholics, for instance, favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 72 percent think gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society.

“In Catholicism, the hierarchy, theologians, and the wisdom of the laity are equally recognized as authentic sources of truth,” said Michael Bayly, coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. “A teaching cannot be considered authentic unless genuine dialogue among all three has taken place. When one considers what Catholic theologians and the Catholic people are thinking and saying about the issue of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, then, at the very least, we have to acknowledge the possibility that the Vatican’s teaching on this issue may not actually be the authentic Catholic teaching.”

Bayly went on to point out, “As is the case with the vast majority of married heterosexual Catholics practicing birth control, we know that the hierarchy’s official prohibition does not make good sense to the Catholic people because it does not fit with their lived experience. We’re seeing the same emerging around the issue of homosexuality and gay rights – including gay marriage rights.”

Though many Catholics may still be considering their views on marriage for same-sex couples, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN encourages all Catholics to vote against using the state constitution to deny civil rights to a certain group of citizens.

“Gay Catholics get married for the same reasons that anyone does: to make a lifetime commitment of love and responsibility, and to celebrate that solemn promise in front of God and their families,” Bayly said. “The defeat of the ‘marriage amendment’ won’t make gay marriage legal in Minnesota and no church will be required to change their views or practices, but its passage would be the only time that the constitution has been used to restrict and deny rights and not expand them. I don’t think anyone should be supportive of such unfairness, of such a misuse of the constitution.”

The series will also be available for purchase as a DVD from Catholics for Marriage Equality MN and will soon be posted on a special YouTube channel. A trailer can be viewed here.

UPDATE: For images and commentary on the Minneapolis premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
Sharing the Good News of Marriage Equality at the Basilica Block Party
NOM's Minnesota Battle Plan
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
"Fervently Catholic, Proudly Gay and Happily Married"
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Prayer of the Week

For the Healing of the Nations

By Fred Kaan

For the healing of the nations,
God, we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing
Of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love and action
Help us rise and pledge our word.

Lead us now, God, into freedom,
From despair your world release;
That redeemed from war and hatred,
All may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
Fear will die and hope increase.

All that kills abundant living,
Let it from the earth be banned;
Pride of status, race or schooling,
Dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice
May we hallow life's brief span.

You, creator God, have written
Your great name on humankind;
For our growing in your likeness
Bring the life of Christ to mind:
That by our response and service
Earth its destiny may find.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

Why would a Catholic university host a public conference on [the topic of homosexuality], given the apparent impasse between Catholic teaching and wider culture on LGBT issues? For one thing, Catholic universities are dedicated to seeking knowledge and reflecting on value – scientific, humanistic, moral, and spiritual – wherever these might be found, both knowledge for its own sake, and for the good of human communities. Moreover, as Pope Benedict XVI recently underscored, everyone dedicated to discovering what’s true, and to living lives of love ‘in’ truth (Caritas in Veritate) requires the good student’s habit of attentive, capacious, and responsive listening. Discovering and hewing to what’s true and valuable demands a cultivated readiness to attend, to consider, and to respond; this is, at root, what it means to obey – obedire, to take heed of, to listen. From this ministry of listening to and for truth and value, especially among vulnerable neighbors or marginalized voices, Benedict writes, nothing, not even religion, can excuse. “If in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ‘devout’ and to perform my ‘religious duties’, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely ‘proper’, but loveless.” (Deus Caritas Est #18)

– Christine Firer Hinze
"A Catholic Call to Contemplate Homosexuality"
The Washington Post
September 16, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church The Progressive Catholic Voice (March 16, 2011).
Sexual Diversity, the Catholic Church, and All That Remains Unsaid – Jamie L. Manson (National Catholic Reporter, September 14, 2011).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


A number of insightful and well-written letters-to-the-editor have recently been published in response to the September 12 Star Tribune op-ed, "Some People Can Make the Gay Go Away," by local priest James Livingston. I've added these letters to the collection of responses I first published in my September 13 post, Soft Bigotry.

Also, a lively and interesting discussion has been taking place in the comments section of my September 15 post, More on the "Soft Bigotry" of Fr. James Livingston's Recent Op-Ed. I especially want to acknowledge and thank theologian William D. Lindsey (who maintains the excellent Bilgrimage blog) for his contribution to this discussion.

This past Saturday, at its second annual Synod of the Baptized (above), the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform launched the Council of the Baptized in the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Ahead of the Synod I had an article published at The Progressive Catholic Voice entitled A Tradition Worth Returning To. Check the PCV over the next few days for a full report of Synod 2011.

Last night at the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Cathedral, over 500 people of faith gathered to launch the Faith Organizing Campaign to defeat the anti-marriage constitutional amendment in November 2012 (above). I was present as coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, and, in the second half of the program, facilitated a workshop for other Catholics who were present. For my friend Javen Swanson's report on this inspiring event, click here. For Andy Birkey's Minnesota Independent coverage, click here.

Finally, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's new website is up and running! There are still a few crinks to be ironed out (last time I checked, for instance, one couldn't sign our Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality), but at least the trailer for our video series, which premieres September 29 at the Riverview Theater, can now be viewed! So please check out! And consider sharing your thoughts about it in the comments section of this Wild Reed post. Thanks!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Testimony of Courage and Grace: "In Finding Myself, I Found God and My Voice"

There's a very beautiful and powerful op-ed in today's Star Tribune by Chad OLeary in response to what's been called the "soft bigotry" of Roman Catholic priest James Livingston's recent piece entitled "Some People Can Pray Away the Gay."

I challenge anyone to read Chad's heartfelt response and seriously suggest that actual gay people (and others who have moved past the impoverished teachings of the Vatican), experience their sexual orientation as a reality somehow separate from themselves as persons; or that such a deep and complex reality can be reduced to certain sex acts. Such a hard line distinction and juvenile fixation on "acts" is totally divorced from both the reality of people's lives and what science tells us about sexual orientation. And as Chad says, it tells us far more about the clerical caste of the church than it does about sexual orientation. I long for the day when this clerical caste gets over its own sexual hang-ups, it's own "unhealed wound," and opens itself to the beauty, wisdom, and truth of LGBT lives and relationships. Until then, we have to keep encouraging and sharing stories like Chad's. That's how the church, the people of God, will continue to grow and change in love and acceptance.

Following is Chad's op-ed in its entirety.


Trying to Pray Away the Gay
Sets One Up to Fail

By Chad OLeary

Star Tribune
September 19, 2011

I would like to thank the Star Tribune for printing the Rev. James Livingston's commentary ("Some people can make the gay go away," Sept. 12). I think that it sheds more light on the state of the Catholic Church than it does about same-sex attraction.

To say the least, I am very skeptical of Livingston's claims. I wish that he would have provided insight into the techniques he uses, solid statistics about the "successes" he sees, and the quality of life for these men and women after having graduated from such therapies.

I would respectfully suggest that the Catholic Church look within if it is serious about sexual wholeness. After growing up Catholic and attending an undergraduate and graduate school with a seminary, I can say that it is hard to build credibility when many within the ranks of church leadership are running from some question of sexuality in their life.

I would also respectfully request that the church consider what it is truly saying by offering a reparative ministry.

I was tormented as a teen because of my perceived homosexual traits. While the flying punches bruised my body, the sense of disorder presented to me by my church wounded my soul. I was told that the church loved me as long as I changed the core of who I was. This lead me to kneel on rocks while praying novenas until my knees bled, and I was even told by one priest in the confessional to drink eight ounces of holy water once per day.

Being told that I could "pray it away" set me up for what I could least afford: failure. I considered myself a failure in the eyes of God and, at the age of 14, sat with a bottle of aspirin by my bed considering ending it all.

After seven years of youth ministry within the Catholic Church, I know firsthand that there are teens on the brink of ending it all, who see themselves as disgusting anomalies for wanting to love someone of the same sex and build a family with that person. I think that perpetuating this self-loathing is the epitome of sin.

It was in seeing these kids suffer the way that I did that led me to the painful decision to leave the Catholic Church. Livingston makes it clear why I do not have a home in the Catholic Church unless, essentially, I admit that God made a mistake. I have more trust in the Holy Spirit than that.

In finding myself, I found God and my voice. I am a very proud gay man with a deep spirituality that no one can take away from me. I have a partner whom I love greatly, and God is at the center of our relationship. It took many years, but I am so glad that I couldn't pray the gay away.

And to young Catholics out there: It gets better.

Chad OLeary lives in St. Paul.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"
Soft Bigotry
More on the “Soft Bigotry” of Fr. James Livingston’s Recent Op-Ed

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

I am disappointed that leaders of the Catholic Church in Scotland have threatened the Scottish government over proposals to bring equality to marriage. Over six in ten people support same sex marriage, so to threaten politicians with the votes of 800,000 people of the Catholic faith may backfire on the Church.

– Willie Rennie
(Leader of the Liberal Democratic of Scotland)

Quoted in Simon Johnson's article

"Alex Salmond Must Resist Catholic 'Threats' Over Gay Marriage"
The Telegraph
September 14, 2011

Related Off-site Link:
Torchwood Star John Barrowman Criticizes Church Over Gay Marriage Attacks – Jessica Geen (, September 14, 2011).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More on the “Soft Bigotry” of Fr. James Livingston’s Recent Op-Ed

In commenting on my previous post on the “soft bigotry” of Fr. James Livingston’s recent Star Tribune op-ed, “Some People Can Make the Gay Go Away,” Clayton Emmer of The Weight of Glory says: “I didn't see any indication of Fr. Jim treating anybody as inherently inferior or sinful, sick, depraved, dangerous or immoral.”

Here’s my response . . .

That’s why it’s called “soft” bigotry, Clayton. There’s no overt name-calling or condemnation, but the whole argument is built on the belief that gay people are inherently inferior or, in the words of the Vatican, “intrinsically disordered.”

Yet, surprisingly, Livingston fails to clearly articulate this foundational tenet of his argument. Indeed, his op-ed is quite “soft” when it came to spelling out what the clerical caste of the Roman Catholic Church actually says about gay people and relationships. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that he’s writing for a secular newspaper. Most people (including Catholics) don’t buy into the Vatican’s take on sexuality – gay or straight.

So let’s be clear: According to the framework from which the clerical caste operates, homosexuality is understood as a damaged or defected form of heterosexuality, as a condition of moral weakness (akin to alcoholism) resulting from “the Fall.” It’s understood as a “disorder,” as an inclination to engage in morally evil acts. Archbishop Nienstedt is even on record as saying that those who encourage or support such acts are themselves cooperating in evil. That statement galvanized local Catholics. Indeed, over 300 of us gathered in protest on the steps of the Cathedral on a bitterly cold winter's day. I think the local hierarchy learned something from that. Hence Livingston’s “friendlier” and “softer” op-ed. It’s a strategy that, quite frankly, I find dishonest.

I mean, I had one person write to me saying that he was “glad to see that Livingston said it was wrong for the Vatican to call LGB people disordered”! That’s the impression he received from Livingston’s op-ed. Yet I seriously doubt that Livingston is in any way challenging “official” church teaching.

Speaking of which, the Vatican also teaches that gay people who fully embody their sexuality are engaging in immoral acts that separate them from God and endanger their very souls. They are also acts that supposedly threaten the common good.

Again, none of this is articulated by Livingston. Rather, he actually expresses gladness that Ron Bates, whose op-ed he is responding to, has come to accept himself as loved by God – an acceptance that Bates makes clear is linked to his acceptance of himself as a gay man capable of being in a loving same-sex relationship. Now, it could be argued that Livingston’s expression of gladness puts him at odds not only with Archbishop Nienstedt (after all, couldn’t being glad for someone and the life they’re living be construed as supporting and encouraging that life?) but also with the Vatican, in whose eyes it doesn’t matter if the “immoral” acts of gay people take place in a loving relationship and/or in a marriage sanctioned by the state. No, according to the Vatican, they are always and everywhere wrong.

And why is this? Because gay people have something deep within them that, according to the Vatican, is inherently inferior to what it is that God actually intends for humans when it comes to sexuality. The Vatican views this “something,” this sexual orientation, as broken and wrong. Accordingly, it's also viewed as dangerous. We know this because the clerical caste is spending millions of dollars supporting constitutional amendments and issuing politically-charged statements – ranging from Bishop Tobin’s hard-hitting stance to Livingston’s “soft” one – in a concerted effort to prevent not just Catholics but all members of society from recognizing and accepting gay people in their totality – a totality that includes sexual relationships. Such activism, together with the beliefs and presuppositions that it is built upon, is an expression of bigotry.

And that's a reality that, try as they might, members of the clerical caste cannot soften or make palatable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soft Bigotry

NOTE: Updated Tuesday, September 20, 2011.

I've come across a number of well-written responses to what's been described as the "soft bigotry" of local Roman Catholic priest James Livingston's op-ed in yesterday's Star Tribune. It was written in response to a previous op-ed in the paper – one that I highlight here.

Livingston heads the local chapter of the Courage apostolate. That fact, along with the title of his op-ed ("Some People Can Make the Gay Go Away"), probably tells you all you need to know about his perspective on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Still, for the truly horrendous details, you can go here. (But don't forget to come back and read the following responses – the first three and the last four of which are from the Star Tribune.)


It is a cold comfort that Rev. James Livingston is "glad" for Ron Bates' acceptance of himself as a gay Christian, loved and created by God, seeing how he spends most of his commentary insinuating that Bates is an immoral weakling.

It may be that some find a balance between their conflicting sexual orientation and precept of religious chastity that Livingston espouses, but it has not been the case for members of Livingston's own Courage/Faith In Action group.

As Lavender Magazine's John Townsend showed through his investigative journalism outing the Lutheran anti-gay pastor Tom Brock last year, Courage/FIA is definitely not working for many.

But if we take that gladness and Livingston's statement that "traditional marriage" was an "imprudent start" for Bates at face value, then we cannot accept the conjecture that his form of marriage is part of some "universal moral law," as Livingston is then condoning a break from that law.

It is certainly part of a religious tradition of which Livingston, Bates, myself and many others are a part, but that tradition has changed many times throughout the years, away from subjugating women and justifying slavery, and most radically when Jesus came down to Earth to absolve sinners and affirm the primacy of love.

If, in a civil society, we can get past controlling the "sex" part of sexual orientation and marriage, then we can celebrate the love between rational, consenting adults, continue to act ethically and stop casting stones willy-nilly.

– Carl Atiya Swanson

Livingston's commentary is an example of a problematic type of "soft bigotry" that many exhibit toward the LGBT community. Although he purports to show compassion to people with same-sex attraction, it is predicated on the assumption that such attraction is a dysfunction to be suppressed and corrected.

Many who oppose gay rights hide behind supposed religious truths and are unable to explain what actual harm homosexuality poses to society. It is not dissimilar to arguments used by those opposed to the civil-rights movement in the 1960s.

– Patrick Finnegan

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the Star Tribune does not have to publish every illogical, ill-conceived, bigoted and fact-free bit of insane drivel that comes its way, whether it's from a religious figure or not.

From its assertion that much same-sex attraction comes from "loneliness or lack of confidence" to its ridiculous claim that gay identity is being forced onto young people who are then imprisoned by it, Livingston's article is filled with nonsense with zero basis in reality.

If I wrote a piece describing how my magic beans cure cancer, the Star Tribune would refuse to print it, because I would have no evidence to back up my claims, and the presence of such a piece in a respected newspaper could, in fact, be dangerous, as cancer patients leave hospitals to try my beans.

Well, Star Tribune, allowing Livingston to make these false statements in your pages is similarly dangerous, and the blood of gay teen suicides and the victims of anti-gay attacks is now on your hands.

– Ben Smith

The problem with Catholic [clerical] leaders like Livingston is that they are only concerned with their own beliefs about “spiritual” health, so they ignore and deny any research about what promotes psychological health if it compromises those beliefs. Contrary to his claims, nobody knows the exact roots of their own or anybody’s sexual orientation, but psychologists understand there to be a complex mix of genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation. The medical community agrees that any attempt to deny or repress one’s sexual orientation can cause psychological harm, but it is exactly that harm that Livingston advocates through his ministry.

Perhaps that is why the last line of his article may be his most offensive: “Minnesota citizens, you can support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions.” Trying to convince someone to hate who they are so you don’t feel guilty about voting against their rights isn’t really what “friends” do.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not broken. We are not in need of repair.

In a recent op-ed, Rev. James Livingston argues that reparative therapy can be used to change peoples' sexual orientations and suggests that Minnesotans can "support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions."

In reality, many people of faith affirm the inherent human dignity of all people, including those with LGBT identities. They recognize that, instead of asking how we can change a child's identity, we should ask how we can change our world so children will be supported as they are and be free to make the best choices for their own lives as they become adults.

Every major medical and mental health organization in the country has condemned reparative therapy. Young people subjected to it are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, and shame and to commit suicide. In short, reparative therapy can kill.

The phrase "reparative" implies a need to change. Those who advocate reparative therapy seem to believe that LGBT people are somehow dangerous, and until they are "fixed," LGBT people should be excluded from civil institutions like marriage.

Rev. Livingston is wrong: true friendship means valuing friends for who they are. We cannot call ourselves friends to LGBT people if we work to deny their love, erase their identities, and exclude them from marriage.

– Rebecca Waggoner
Anti-Violence Program Director, OutFront Minnesota

Rev. Oby Ballinger
OutFront Minnesota People of Faith Roundtable

In recent years, attacks against homosexuality have become less overt. People have learned that shouting vicious things and physically attacking people are no longer effective ways to win support for the anti-gay cause, so they mask their hate in seemingly innocent statements.

As both the Rev. James Livingston (in his Sept. 12 article) and Donna M. Ferber (in her letter to the editor on Sept. 15) have done. To quote Ferber, "one may support traditional marriage and still care about those with same-sex attraction."

What is frightening is how casually homosexuality is referred to as if it were some type of condition. As a gay man, I can assure you that it is not. I can also assure you that you cannot be for gay rights or care about gay people and be against gay marriage. That's not how it works.

Just because you don't use hateful words doesn't mean you are not a bigot. I'm sure there were a lot of people in the early 1960s who said things like, "It's not that I have anything against African-Americans, I just don't think they should be able to vote."

I think we can all agree that is a bigoted statement. If you think that homosexuals do not deserve a fundamental human right, you are a bigot, even if you think that you are not. Being polite about hate is still hate.

– Alec Barniskis

I have been following the recent discussion in the paper about homosexual relationships with some interest, because of my fealty to the church, and was excited once Livingston weighed in. As I have been following the discourse, I have noticed a fundamental flaw.

The problem, as I see it, is that there really is not an argument happening here; rather, two groups of people are talking past each other and calling foul. In order for there to be any real discussion, there first must be some shared axioms and agreed-upon first principles, which I fear are not present and thus no real dialogue can commence.

Perhaps we should turn this debate to several more fundamental problems, including, but not exclusive to, what are our ethical foundations for our positions in this debate and what is our metaphysics (if any) to support these claims. Only once we have done this can a rational debate on this topic commence.

Now turning to support Livingston: We must look at his position in light of the rest of his moral claims. He cited, and justly so, that natural law is the foundation of Catholic morality.

Now, if you are going to critique him for his position, either do so on his own terms, testing for internal consistency, or argue against natural law. Neither has occurred in this forum in any concise and substantial manner. In regard to his consistency, his claims of chastity apply to all people and make no exemption.

– Michael Musielewicz

[Michael Musielewicz] complain[s] that the exchange of opinions about an Opinion article written by the Rev. James Livingston lacks a common ethical foundation and "shared axioms."

The situation is really quite simple: The Catholic Church occupies a political position on marriage that is at variance with the concept of basic human rights.

Members of the church may support this position as expressed by the letter writer, but it is incumbent on the state to remain neutral so that followers of other faith traditions have the the same access to the legal rights associated with marriage as do Catholics, Lutherans and those in other well-known denominations.

"Equal rights" is a radical concept. It means that no matter whom you are or what your gender identity, sexual preference or religious faith may be, you can participate fully in public life. Nothing metaphysical about this.

Faith communities are free to set their own standards for members, including rules for marriage within their system of beliefs. Writing these rules into a secular document such as a state constitution is oppression.

– George Hutchinson

[Michael Musielewicz] states that there has been no concise and substantial argument against what he and Livingston refer to as "natural law," which apparently militates against same-sex relationships in their minds. Setting aside whether or not such a thing as "natural law" exists, let's start with the assumption that it does exist, and on their terms.

The most relevant definitions of "natural" include "existing or formed by nature" (as opposed to artificial) and "based on the state of things in nature."

Unless I'm missing something, both heterosexual and homosexual relationships both have existed and have been the state of things in nature since our ancestors began recording history.

That homosexual relationships are not "normal" – as in "conforming to the standard or common type" – cannot be easily debated. But it seems obvious that "natural law" has by definition made room for both the homosexual and the heterosexual in our species.

And if it does so, on what basis is a minority denied the rights granted to the majority?

I understand that many heterosexual people are uncomfortable with homosexual behavior. But please recognize that this discomfort is based on a bias, albeit a culturally conditioned bias. But that does in no way make the bias "natural" nor justify the denial of rights.

– John F. Hetterick

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
When Quackery Goes Mainstream
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper
"Curing" Homosexuality
What Scientists in the UK Are Saying About Homosexuality
It's Official: APA Opposes "Reparative Therapy"
The Dreaded "Same-Sex Attracted" View of Catholicism
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
The Real Meaning of Courage
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Beyond Courage
Debunking NARTH (Part I)
Debunking NARTH (Part II)
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace