Monday, January 09, 2012

What Part of Jesus' Invitation to "Be Not Afraid" Don't the Bishops Get?

One of the most interesting (and hopeful) aspects of Cardinal Francis George’s recent apology for comparing the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, is his admission that his remarks were “motivated by fear.” Specifically, the cardinal is afraid that the “Church's liberty” will somehow be compromised or threatened if civil marriage rights are extended to gay couples.

Where does such fear come from? Does Cardinal George really believe that gay couples are going to sue the church for not marrying them? Like it or not, the Roman Catholic Church is free to choose who it will and will not marry. That’s its right. A straight couple in which one or both parties is divorced cannot sue the church for not marrying them. And neither can a gay couple. This seems so clear. And yet the cardinal remains fearful. We know this because he is yet to say he will no longer work against the efforts of others to secure civil marriage rights for gay couples. Still, I’m impressed by his apology and consider it genuine.

Here in Minnesota I would very much like to see our own Archbishop Nienstedt issue an apology for his
activism against the LGBT population of the state, and for aligning with groups such as Minnesotans for Marriage which state that same-sex parents are harmful to children. As with Cardinal George, Archbishop Nienstedt’s anti-gay rhetoric and activism are rooted in fear. Yet unlike Cardinal George, Archbishop Nienstedt is yet to admit it. But it’s there. Unmistakably so.

In his recent message to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese, for instance, Nienstedt says that those who support marriage equality are out to “eliminate the need for marriage altogether,” and that November’s vote on the marriage amendment will be the “one chance . . . to make things right.” “The stakes,” he insists, “could not be higher.” Fear is a great motivator for the uninformed and the already fearful, and I think the Archbishop knows it.

Perhaps all this fear about gay people should not be surprising, given that Pope Benedict himself models it. In a recent address to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, for example, the pope said that gay marriage was one of several threats to the so-called “traditional family” that undermined “the future of humanity itself.”

Oh, really? How so? We don’t know because no explanation was offered by the pope. That’s because there is none. Consciously or unconsciously, it’s all fear-mongering with no grounding in reality.

For you see, in reality, no church will be forced to marry gay couples.

In reality, children flourish when raised within a loving family regardless of whether this family is headed by an opposite-sex couple or a same-sex couple.

In reality, humanity is blessed when the circle of inclusion and love and justice is expanded to include LGBT people.

In reality, the storm the bishops fear is of their own making.

Their fear of this storm, however, is, I believe, a genuine experience for many of them. In The Art of Being and Becoming, Sufi teacher and author Hazrat Inayat Khan observes that “fear is an outcome of long-collected, unsolved problems. . . . Fear comes from weakness in facing the consequences of one’s condition, attitude and deeds.” I contend that the majority of those who comprise the Roman Catholic clerical caste have unresolved issues around their own sexuality. This generates all sorts of unfounded fears within them which they then project out onto others.

My prayer is that all who are fearful find the strength to face their “condition, attitude and deeds,” and discern the ways in which such things are expressions of fear and thus hurtful and harmful to themselves and others. As daunting as it may seem for those seemingly entrenched in their fears, the first steps of this journey of healing and transformation can be made, as evidenced by Cardinal George’s recent acknowledgment.

I also pray that each of us hear and trustingly respond to Jesus’ invitation to “Be not afraid.”

Only then will we no longer allow fear to motivate and determine our words and actions.

Only then will we be wholly receptive to being vessels of God’s transforming Love.

And as such living vessels we will, like Jesus, be
boundary-breakers, transcenders of all forms of "authority-thinking" and joyful, not fearful, in our words and actions.

May it be so.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
What Is It That Ails You?
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Compassion, Christian Community and Homosexuality
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Keeping the Spark Alive: An Interview with Mystic Chuck Lofy
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Ant-Gay Activism

Recommended Off-site Links:
In 2012 Bishops Join Fight to Repackage Discrimination as ‘Religious Freedom’ – Sarah Posner (, January 2, 2012).
Catholic Bishops Claim Laws Allowing Gay Adoption Violate Religious Liberty – Doug Mataconis (, December 29, 2011).
Did the Pope Claim Gay Marriage as a Threat to Humanity or Didn't He? – Peter Mongomery (, January 11, 2012).

Image: Artist unknown.


Unknown said...


Your narcissism makes you think that the Bishops and Catholics are afraid of homosexuals. Most of us don't even know any homosexuals. Other than the exhibitionists on television and in the movies, most Catholics have not ever seen a live homosexual. You just aren't on our radar.

What we are afraid of is what government can do to us. And what government in some states is already doing to us.

I can foresee a time when the Catholic school system will be required to shut down if it persists in teaching the Catholic faith.

Callie said...

First of all, you do know homosexuals, whether you recognize that or not.

Secondly, I'm curious about what you think the government can do to us. What would that be? If you mean legalizing homosexual marriage, I don't see how that has anything to do with you.

I don't even know what to say about your last comment. The schools certainly won't be teaching the Catholic faith if they don't exist.

I'm just genuinely confused about your comments.

Unknown said...

The ones that I know aren't narcissists who go around trumpeting their sexual preference and forcing their opinions on others.

Try hate speech! People are losing jobs and getting kicked out of school for what they think and say!

Big Brother is not only watching, he is punishing those who don't agree with him.

This country, at the behest of a pleasure seeking minority of 2 percent demanding rights that they alone have created, is becoming one of the most repressive in the world.

The faux "right of privacy" that applies to the bedroom and the murderous abortion clinics apparently does not apply to the minds.

Anonymous said...

I grilled an article from a fear-ridden Roman Jesuit here:

He fears aggressive, exhibitionistic, jealous, promiscuous gays, but promises them a 66% chance of being able to function heterosexually with the help of therapy.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for the link, Joe. And for so ably critiquing Kiely's article.