This evening I picked up part 2 of my anonymous correspondent's report on the Saturday morning talk by Bishop Tom Gumbleton. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a report out on the whole talk--in fact he still hasn't covered the most interesting part, the bit about "moving beyond" Catholic teaching. Hopefully we'll see that by tomorrow.
Well, in my last message I talked about what was to be seen at the talk by "Just Tom" Gumbleton. Now I've had time to review my notes and make a record of what was heard. I can't help but intersperse a few comments here and there as I report, but for the most part I'm just going to report what I heard. Remember, this is "Just Tom" talking….not me.
The "Topics To Go" session on "A Pastoral Reponse to Homosexuals" began several minutes late, because, as head organizer Nancy Bone stated, parking was a problem (no kidding) and there was still as steady stream of people coming walking up to the building. Mrs. Bone (I'm sure she'd rather be known as "Ms. Bone" but I don't care). Thanked everyone for coming and stated that this was the fifth talk the group had hosted. She expressed her pleasure that the group had grown so much through only an email list, word of mouth, and a few fliers here and there, and she told everyone how important donations were, as they were the only way they could rent the halls, pay speaker travel expenses, and the "small honorarium" that they offered to them.
She also alerted her fellow progressives (excuse me, open minded Catholics of an adult faith) to the next "Topics to Go" talk, which was scheduled for September 16, 2006. Jesuit Father Dirk Dunfee was going to talk about the REAL facts about the sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. I assume the location will be the same—All Souls Unitarian Universalist just northeast of the Plaza.
After some other stuff that I didn't think noteworthy, she introduced the head minister (is the term "minister" too traditional and patriarchal?) of the UU's, Rev. Some-Chick-Who's-Name-I've-Forgotten. The UU minister made a little sales pitch for her congregation (is the term "congregation" too traditional and patriarchal?) as an officially-designated "welcoming community" since the early 1990s, having recently passed the 50% mark. (Welcoming of what? Fifty Percent of what?). She wanted everyone to notice that they had two flagpoles, one with the American flag, and the other with the UN flag, a rainbow flag, and an earth flag. She also wanted everyone to know that they had banners (which were impossible to miss), including one which said "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right!" I guess her implied point was that if anyone got tired of being formally Catholic under a new bishop who was materially Catholic, they could find a cozy home there with the UU's. After giving "Just Tom" a coffee mug and reminding everyone to recycle the water bottles, she vanished.
Then came Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, to introduce "Just Tom." As he took the podium, the gray-haired lady next to me commented "You don't want anyone to know you take National Catholic Reporter any more, do you! But I don't care; my pastor takes it."
Roberts pointed out that Just Tom had recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordained priesthood, but that nobody was allowed to make a big deal about it in Detroit. He then made some quip about our own Bishop, which I didn't hear, but which everyone in the room thought was terribly funny. I went back to my recording in preparing this summary, and I still couldn't make out what he said. I'm convinced that most of the room couldn't, either; they were just seizing the opportunity to let out a big collective guffaw at a faithful bishop in front of an unfaithful one. Anyways, after praising Just Tom on his long activism in opposition to war and in his being a lone voice among the hierarchy on Gay, Lesbian issues, he invited Just Tom up to the podium to a standing ovation.
Just Tom started by complimenting the UU minister, saying he was very comfortable speaking there, and noting that he worked closely with the UU infidels near the Detroit parish, St. Leo, where he still serves as pastor. He said he would discuss the pastoral letter Always our Children, which the US Bishops' Conference developed and issued at his request some years ago. He said it was greatly needed in our Church (would Just Tom capitalize "Church") and continues to be needed in the Church and outside of it as a tool in welcoming the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered Community (he didn't want to any flavour of disordered behaviour out, eh?). He then turned, for contrast, to the recent "Doomsday Document" in which the Vatican affirmed that men with deep seated homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the seminaries, and (rather than talk about the principles and purposes of the priesthood, surprise) he talked about how it made people feel. He discussed an "open letter" written by one of his parishioners in which she, as a mother, wanted the hierarchy to know how much it "hurts to hear a child she raised and loved referred to as 'objectively disordered' by the Church" and how much pain and dispair they caused to "upright gay priests who had served the Church so steadfastly and continued to do so. This mother, Just Tom said, claimed in her letter that the only reasonable explanation for the exclusion was the implication that homosexuals were solely responsible for the clerical abuse scandal, which is not only incorrect but also spiritually harmful and an affront to girls and women who were abused.
….Hello? Nobody said abuse was solely homosexual. Nobody with any credibility has ever exaggerated the numbers beyond the "vast majority" of claims, about 80%, being homosexual contact with post-pubescent boys. Only four out of five victims of the scandal were buggered teenage altar boys. Certainly not solely homosexual.
Ahem, anyways. Back to Just Tom's parishioner's letter: This parishioner insisted that her lesbian daughter was a kind, wonderful devout person who lived life in full accordance with the "Gospel of Jesus" (must be a "deutorocanonical" gospel I haven't heard of), as did many homosexual persons. The parishioner letter went on to quote convenient portions of the new Catechism which say that orientation isn't chosen …. blah, blah, blah… we prayed for something to change, she says, and God answered her prayers by changing the parents' attitudes, not by changing the daughter's disordered inclinations. The parishioner became aware that homosexual person (or was it homosexual disorders?) are indeed a gift from God, and she now thinks that (after seeing how her daughter's lifestyle is disparaged) she has insight into the agony felt by the Blessed Mother as she watched her Son be crucified.
So we have personal experience. That's nice. How about another? Who needs principles when we can have experience!
Next Just Tom talked about his own family experience, with a brother who left his wife and four children because he decided he was gay. After talking about how poorly equipped his seminary training left him to confront the issue, and how he struggled with the issue, he relayed his mother's long-postponed question to him "Is [brother] going to hell?," to which Just Tom, (recall, a Catholic Bishop, now) responded "No, [brother's] not going the hell. God made [brother] the way he is and God loves him." Now, let's marvel here about many things, including the sin of presumption here—if we must be so careful about not judging souls of our recently departed loved ones, isn't there something seriously wrong with judging someone's soul even before he's dead?
Bishop Gumb…er…Just Tom …then talked at length about the process of getting the document Always Our Children published through the US Bishops' Conference. Of course, Just Tom is a predictable Bishop in at least one sense….his answer to any perceived problem, prudential or absolute, pastoral or political, is to convene a committee and publish a statement that no one will ever read. After dropping Cardinal Bernardin's name a few times (shudder) in describing the process by which the statement was published, Just Tom pronounced it "a step in the right direction" although it "has its weaknesses." It's a step in the right direction in that it is the first Catholic teaching document that recognizes homosexuality as something innate in a person, rather than chosen. Let's pause to ask (a) is such a statement a "teaching" document? I have to think not, and (b) innate, not chosen—is that like…say…original sin? But it has weaknesses in that its advice is obvious: parents love your children.
Through more blather which wasn't very interesting (I was distracted for a time contemplating the big abstract textile doodad that the UU's had up at the front of their auditorium). He said that if homosexual orientation was inate, it was wrong to force therapy on someone to change his orientation, and it simply didn't work—in fact it was harmful and made things worse.
So anyways, we got to the part where Just Tom started to talk about the next step in advancement of the homosexual agenda in Holy Mother Church. He said that that major step forward in the document was that it insisted that God loves every person as a unique person" and that sexual identity is a part of that uniqueness. If homosexual person are peloved of God as they are, then their rights must be insisted upon in the Church. It isn't enough, says Just Tom, to avoid injustice and oppression of homosexuals; we must accept them, and we must make every one of our churches a welcoming, "gay friendly," inclusive Church in which sodomites (er, I'm sure that's my own term in my notes, and not Just Tom's) in which homosexual persons take an active role, leading and serving the community on parish councils, as Extraordinary Ministers (yes, he said "Extraordinary" Ministers), and lectors. At this point an earnest female voice behind me chimed in so everyone in her immediate vicinity could hear "music directors".
However, Just Tom said, with some hint of the morose in his voice, the document does insist that homosexual activity is wrong. And here, Just Tom invoked Andrew Sullivan, who says it's an inherent contradiction—because as a homosexual "you can't act on who you are!" Neither, think I, am I able to act on who I am, with my disordered inclination to burn certain people at the stake! Sullivan racks his brains about the notion that homosexual activity is "always and everywhere sinful" and tries to think of anything else comparable to it in Catholic theology. Here everyone can help Mr. Sullivan out with an example…. Some bizarre statements were then made, either directly by Just Tom, or by quoting Mr. Sullivan, about comparing homosexuality to a disability, which I didn't follow (distracted again by the abstract textile doodad behind the podium), Then Just Tom said we can accept the Church's teaching about love, in the light of natural law, and we can see integrity and fidelity in the gay world, but, in the current environment, we simply can't let gay persons be who they are (we simply can't let gay persons do who they want?)
So, Just Tom asked, how do we move beyond the current state? Easy: just ask John Kerry! We use the principle of "primacy of conscience." He pointed out that the first draft of the Always our Children document included the statement, which was (he said) from Vatican II, "However, judging the sinfulness of any particular act is between God and the person." Um I'm not sure which document he's referring do, but I can't imagine that the Council fathers confused judgment of the objective sinfulness of acts with judgment of the culpability of persons. Or maybe I can imagine it. Fill me in, somebody!
…. that's all I have time for right now. We're at the halfway point in Just Tom's speech. I have to take sare of some other things, but I'll get the rest of it done soon, including the crap about "moving beyond" the evil, misogynistic Thomistic wordview and into an era where buggery is blessed. Regards!