Should These People Get Out? Readers Respond

Mom sent a copy of my last post to our dear family friend (and my high school religion teacher) Kathy Heffern. Here is her response to what I wrote:

I’m delighted to know that Christopher cares what I think. Needless to say, I am conflicted, but not about what he is saying regarding the recent statements from the synod in Rome. In fact, I agree that the tone was very cold and not terribly welcoming, and as usual patriarchal. I also think it did not contain much of a substantial change. The language, however, was edited for the English version and thus became less pastoral than the original. (What does that say about the Western church?) I could hear Christopher’s anger and perhaps tremendous disappointment underneath, and I suspect that a church he had hoped would see the light has let him down once again. He had fairly positive feelings about the church, as I recall, in high school, but was smart enough to see its sinfulness too. So despite the fact that he didn’t see the church through rose-colored glasses, he saw that it had given meaning to a strong extended family and parents who hoped for change, but continued to live out the gospel in so many ways.

My problem is his solution. I am not convinced that leaving is the answer. For years, I have wrestled with the question: how does one create change? Working for an institution that many times disappointed me (but certainly not to the degree that Christopher has experienced), I found that working from within is a bit more effective. Nothing within the church changes quickly, but the real church, all of us, can and do change our attitudes because we know and are friends with gay men and women who help to make that change. Ninety-nine percent of the church is laity whose experiences with families, like Christopher and Patrick’s, can change everything. A fairly conservative diocesan lawyer told me that once his generation began to know and relate to gay men and women because so many are open about their sexuality now especially in their own families, things have changed. It did for him in this way. I cannot begin to tell you of the priests and nuns who are very much in favor of changing church teaching.

I guess what I would say to Christopher is that there’s too much that’s great about our faith, and even our church (especially its commitment to charity and justice to the poor). And it’s up to us to demand change by shaping attitudes and hanging in there. The bishops and the hierarchy are not the whole church—the voice of the faithful is; those of us who can remain faithful, give witness to self-giving lives. (I have so often told others about Christopher and Patrick, who have given life to two precious children and to each other. If that isn’t pro-life, what is? ) We must find a nourishing faith community that can help give support to children and parents.  In turn, they could be a wonderful witness to that faith community. One of our young boys at St. Joseph Parish, parented by two gay men, was baptized at a regular Sunday Mass. The congregation was very touched and clapped like crazy! To me that’s the partial answer. Walking away isn’t going to change attitudes or the hierarchy. Lives of men like Christopher and Patrick will!

Mom and I were also trading emails back and forth for the last couple of weeks about whether the language I quoted in my post (that homosexuality was an “intrinsic disorder’) was doctrine (defined as all Church teaching in matters of faith and morals) or dogma (part of doctrine which has been divinely revealed and has been officially declared to have been revealed).  In the process, we came upon an interesting article at The Huffington Post religion blog which articulates a strong case for removing that offensive language from the Catechism (which, by the way, is merely doctrine; it seems God wasn’t the one who said we are disordered).

We would love to hear from more of our readers about what you think.  Should LGBT individuals leave the church, refusing to be members of a community that in many ways treats them with disrespect? Or, should we work from within to change an institution that nourishes and fulfills other essential human needs?

We are looking forward to continuing this discussion with all of you!