The Pride Parade is today in Portland (OR), and an article in yesterday’s Oregonian has made me feel a bit better about the Catholic Church. At least four Catholic parishes are participating in this LGBT event, one of the parishes for the 13th consecutive year. They are doing so despite Archbishop Alexander K. Sample’s order that parish individuals could walk in the parade but members shouldn’t walk as a community with the parish’s banner.
Sample has been an archbishop for less than three months, having been promoted by the former pope from his position as bishop in Michigan. A deacon wrote about Sample: “He is being sent to Portland, Oregon, a place steeped in the secularism of the age and desperately in need of a vibrant witness of faithful Catholic and life.” A petition to elect Sample pope garnered 1,000 votes.
Regarding the Pride Parade participation, Sample’s spokesman, Bud Bunce, said that while the archdiocese respects all people, “this was not an event that St. Andrew’s parish could be in as a parish.”
A bulletin insert last Sunday at St. Andrews described the history of the parish’s welcoming ministry from its first committee meeting in 1996. Its first book at Portland Pride was in 2000, and members started marching with their banner, “Welcoming the Whole Family,” the next year. Susan Kelly, St. Andrews member since 1969, explained that the decision to be a welcoming congregation started when the identical twin daughters of a couple in the church came out in high school. “How can we reach out and get over this Christian–-not just Catholic-–attitude that if you’re gay or lesbian, you’re not part of the community?” Kelly said.
The 2006 pastoral guidelines from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops state the church must welcome homosexuals to full and active participation in the faith. St. Andrew’s bulletin insert quoted the document.
An April poll from Pew Research Center shows that 80 percent of adults say that the Catholic Church, along with Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are “unfriendly” to the LGBT community. St. Andrews carried the banner in the Pride Parade to refute this unwelcoming attitude. Jane Braunger, a parish member since the 1980s, said, “For us not to embrace this [welcoming] statement as a core commitment about openness and acceptance and living the Gospel is cowardly.”
Tom Karwaki, chair of the St. Andrews’ pastoral council, said that parishioners want to talk to the archbishop about their commitment to the Pride Parade. “We’re not acting out of disobedience,” Karwaki said. “We’re acting out of obedience to the Gospel and the mission of this parish.”
The Rev. Steve Newton, a Holy Cross priest who is pastor of St. André Bessette that is also participating in the Pride Parade, said, “The Catholic Church supports gay people, even though there is a broad difference of opinion on their lifestyle.”
Three years ago, Archbishop Timothy Dolan asked Church of St. Francis Xavier not to carry a banner in the New York pride parade after the church’s 15 years of participation. The group reluctantly complied, but the next year members carried a banner with the words “Saint Francis Xavier, come to the table.”
Parishioners and local church leaders may display more acceptance and welcoming than the those higher in the leadership hierarchy. After organizers of the Chicago Gay Pride Parade graciously changed the 2012 parade’s start time so that it wouldn’t interfere with mass at a Lakeview Catholic Church, Cardinal Francis George compared the parade to a Ku Klux Klan rally. The affected church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, is gay-friendly, home to the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, AGLO Chicago. Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, said, “To equate a movement that is about acceptance, diversity and joy to a group of men in white hoods standing on a lawn and burning a cross is very hurtful and it’s just not truthful.”
Another example of Catholic bigotry, the organization complicit in child abuse among its parish leaders, is the firing of a teacher after she became pregnant following artificial insemination. Last week, a federal jury ordered the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to pay her $170,000 after three years of litigation. The teacher said that she was unaware that artificial insemination violated church doctrine and believed the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible. The archdiocese used the argument that she was a ministerial employee who could be dismissed without government interference, based on a Supreme Court decision, but the jury did not find this as part of her role in the school.
On the highest level of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has more concern about what he calls the corruption of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican then the child molesters still within the church. He said, “In the Curia [Catholicism’s central bureaucracy] there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption. The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there. We need to see what we can do.”
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said, “structure, not sexuality, is the real issue.” In SNAP’s statement, they wrote, “The church is a monarchy. Monarchs are unaccountable. So many monarchs are corrupt. This is true in both secular and religious institutions.”
The new pope might want to be careful in his investigation; the “gay” part might be higher than he realizes.
Those at the top of the hierarchy of rigid religions such as the Catholic and evangelical Christian churches either don’t understand or don’t care how important religion can be to some people. Many LGBT individuals consider their faith like a family. The loss of that community, usually because male leaders try to force LGBT people into the inflexibility of fundamentalist religions, can be devastating for those who value their religious family.
Even worse is the loss of both religion and biological families when LGBT people declare their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. A recent survey of almost 1200 self-identified LGBT adults conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that nearly 40 percent of them have been rejected by a family member or friend because of their LGBT identity, and 29 percent have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship.
Although the average age for a perception of being different was 12 and the positive realization came at 17, those who told a family member or close friend didn’t do so until they were 20. That’s a long time for teenagers to hide an important part of themselves from the world around them. Even worse is the fact that about 50 percent of youth who confide in their parents are rejected by them, resulting in high levels of suicide and health issues.
In the public eye, the lack of accepting LGBT people has caused great numbers of problems from the simplest bureaucratic issues to birth certificates not have the correct names of parents or gender of the person to the violent brutality when LGBT people are beaten and sometimes killed.
But following the pattern of “one heart at a time,” that educates people with personal stories, Lori Duron started a blog, Raising My Rainbow, thirty months ago after she realized that her younger son (left and below) is gender nonconforming.
Subtitled “Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son,” the blog has been distilled into a book of the same title in which Duron communicates not only the frustration caused by rearing C.J. but also the joys that he brings her.
The rainbows in nature show the same sense of joy. Photography thanks to Ann Hubard. As she said, “Here is Palouse Falls celebrating Gay Pride with a fabulous rainbow.” Happy Pride Parade Day!