Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Patrick Hornbeck on Why Good Catholics Are Challenging Church Line on Homosexuality

Thanks to my friend Jim I've become aware of an important and well-written commentary by Patrick Hornbeck (pictured at right), an assistant professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies at Fordham University.

In his commentary, Hornbeck provides an excellent (and, at times, quite moving) summary of a recent series of conferences that have taken place on the east coast. Entitled "More Than a Monologue," this series has explored a range of issues relating to gay Catholics and their families. It has been an exploration that, as Hornbeck notes, has "brought into the light the struggles, compromises and choices about meaning and love that many Catholics experience daily."

Excerpts from Hornbeck's article, which was first published November 8 as part of CNN's Belief Blog, are reprinted below.


. . . Official Catholic teachings describe gay or lesbian orientation as “an objective disorder” and tell those who love their same-sex partners that they possess a “tendency . . . toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

Catholic bishops have been public advocates for laws banning same-sex marriage, and some have sought to prevent LGBT Catholics and their allies from fully participating in the Church’s rituals and activities

But neither formal teachings nor bishops’ statements tell the whole story.

A series of recent conferences at American colleges reveals the breadth of Catholic approaches to issues of sexual diversity.

The conferences, part of an effort called More Than a Monologue, have happened at two Catholic universities and two non-denominational divinity schools

The events conclusively show that American Catholics are hardly of one mind, nor in lockstep with their bishops, when it comes to same-sex marriage; to rights for LGBT people at home, at work, and in church; or to the ongoing campaign against anti-gay bullying in schools.

At Fordham University in New York, a Catholic school, a proud mother of a grown gay son drew a standing ovation when she told a story about discovering the effect of church teachings on her child.

Here’s that mother, Deb Word, who has founded a group Fortunate Families to help Catholic families with lesbian daughters and gay sons, in her own words:

Fast forward to a family vacation in the Gulf. There were five of us floating — Sean and his wife, Chris, and his dad and me, holding onto each other’s rafts. And I said, ‘I think this is what Heaven is like.’ And Christopher said quietly, “except I won’t be there with you.” “Son, where do you get this stuff?” “Mom, it’s your club. You know the rules.”

And if my cradle Catholic child, growing up in a loving family, got this message, then what does Catholic mean in more conservative homes? . . . And I wonder, why do I stay in a club that my son says is dangerous to his soul?”

Another panelist at the event described the freedom she feels as a result of living, within the church’s rules, as a celibate lesbian.

A third, a physician in New York City, praised the Catholic tradition for its emphasis on human dignity and social justice, but added: “I am troubled by the fact that I find greater acceptance of myself as a whole person in my professional community as a physician, than I do in the official hierarchy of the church of my family, my childhood, and my life.”

Nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage may be better known for his very public critiques of Catholic leaders than for the year he spent in a high school seminary, or for his Catholic deacon father, or for the baptism he and his husband sought for their son.

But speaking recently at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Savage described his Catholic family and upbringing, celebrating parts of his Catholic experience.

At the same time, he refused to let the church off the hook for the part he accuses it of playing in tacitly condoning the bullying of LGBT youth.

Last month, at Yale University, a Catholic layman who teaches psychiatry spoke movingly of his attempt to offer church leaders the wisdom of his scientific field, and of his bitter disappointment when his offers were met with silence.

And at Connecticut’s Fairfield University, scholars, clergy, and lay Catholics recently discussed the implications for the church of having many gay and lesbian people, both in and out of the closet, in roles as priests and ministers.

These public events have brought into the light the struggles, compromises and choices about meaning and love that many Catholics experience daily.

Poll numbers show that while many of their bishops have been stepping up their rhetoric on the issue, only one-in-three American Catholics describe opposition to same-sex marriage as “very important.” Seventy percent support legal recognition for same-sex couples.

All of us, Catholic or not, LGBT or not, owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to keep these new conversations going. Let’s not settle for only part of the story.

To read Hornbeck's commentary in its entirety and to peruse the 800+ comments it has generated, click here.

Related Off-site Link:
Five Reasons We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Catholics Support LGBT Rights – Paul Gorrell (Religion Dispatches, March 25, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Thomas Fox: "Our Gay and Lesbian Brothers and Sisters Have So Much to Teach Us"
Francis DeBarnardo: "The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
In a Right Gay Tizzy: The Catholic Hierarchy's War on Gays
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim
Persecuted "Enemies of the State"? Or Just Sore Losers?

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