Has a Catholic school teacher ever been fired for … greed? gluttony? advocating war?

When asked why long-time Catholic high school teacher Ken Bencomo was fired, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had this to say:

“‘However, if a teacher or school employee makes a public display of behavior that is counter to church teaching – such as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, having a child outside of marriage – that can impact their employment status,’ said John Andrews, diocese spokesman.” [emphasis added]

KenBencome-MarriageBencomo, who is gay, married his partner in a civil-ceremony when same-sex marriage became legal in California after the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling on California’s Prop 8.

Why do institutional Church leaders always limit their understanding of “church teaching” to things related to sex?  Is this what they understand Christian life to be mainly about? Is this what they believe Jesus suffered and died for, i.e. so that gay people wouldn’t have sex and that the Church’s rules about marriage would be followed?

How many Catholic school teachers or administrators have been fired  for inadequately living up to the Gospel values of faith, hope and love? What Church workers have been disciplined for failing to do works of charity, or putting into practice the demands of social justice?  How many diocesan employees — including bishops, priests, deacons, and religious sisters and brothers — have lost their jobs because they failed in doing the corporal works of mercy of …

  • feeding the hungry?
  • giving drink to the thirsty?
  • clothing the naked?
  • sheltering the homeless?
  • visiting the sick?
  • ransoming the captive?
  • burying the dead?

My point is not that anyone should lose his/her job for failing to do these things, or otherwise inadequately putting into practice the mandates of the Gospel — because every Christian falls short in one way or another of our call to discipleship.  And yet, even if one accepts the particular “Church teaching” Mr. Bencomo is supposed to have violated, did Jesus Himself ever condemn or punish or harm anyone whom He believed to be failing in some virtue or Gospel value? For those unfamiliar with the Gospels, the answer is No. Even to the so-called “woman caught in adultery,” Jesus says, “Nor do I condemn you.”

Despite Pope Francis’ recent declaration of “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests, apparently many Church leaders feel quite well-equipped to judge and condemn their gay brothers and sisters.

Richard Rohr: Patriotism as the False Sacred

Today’s meditation from Richard Rohr probably sounds like blasphemy to millions of American fundamentalists, especially those who believe in that oh-so-not-Christian idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9) was proclaimed by the early church, as their most concise creedal statement. No one ever told me this was a political and subversive statement, until I learned a bit of Bible history. To say “Jesus is Lord!” was testing and provoking the Roman pledge of allegiance that every Roman citizen had to proclaim when they raised their hand to the imperial insignia and shouted, “Caesar is Lord!” Early Christians were quite aware that their “citizenship” was in a new universal kingdom, announced by Jesus (Philippians 3:20), and that the kingdoms of this world were not their primary loyalty systems. How did we manage to lose that? And what price have we paid for it? (More)

“The mystery of the Incarnation…..”

FeetCloseup“….is precisely the repositioning of God in the material world once and forever. Continual top-down religion often creates very passive, and even passive-dependent and passive-aggressive Christians. I know this as a Catholic priest for over 40 years. Bottom-up, or incarnational religion, offers a God we can experience for ourselves. We have nothing to fight or prove, just something to know for ourselves. This is what we are about to celebrate at Christmas.”

from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Richard Rohr on Intimacy

Reflections

“One’s biggest secrets and deepest desires are usually revealed to others, and even discovered by ourselves, in the presence of sorrow, failure, or need when we are very vulnerable and when one feels entirely safe in the arms of someone’s love….People who have avoided all intimacy normally do not know who they are at any depth—and cannot tell others who they are.”

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Nov. 14, 2012

Evidence, not Opinion: What the bishops should embrace about homosexuality

I spent this past week at a conference in San Francisco on ADHD, the annual conference of the non-profit organization where I work. The closing plenary was by a renowned neurologist, Dr. Martha Denckla from Baltimore’s Kennedy-Krieger Institute. Dr. Denckla is a true scientist, relying on the facts and what empirical data show in drawing her research conclusions.

During the Q & A after her presentation she was asked by one attendee, “What’s your opinion of [some named product making claims about alleviating ADHD symptoms]?” Without missing a beat, Dr. Denckla replied, “I prefer not to have opinions. I prefer evidence over opinions.”

Russian icon from the collection at Hillwood Museum.

Such wisdom would serve well current Church leaders who continue to bury their heads in the sand, choosing to remain blind to the incontrovertible evidence about what it means to be gay. As the US Catholic Bishops have their fall meeting in Baltimore this week and discuss (as no doubt they will) what to do in response to last week’s election, the wisdom of those words deserves repeating. The bishops (both in the US and around the world, including Rome) would do well to take a dose of humility for a change and simply listen. They should listen to the evidence of the lives of LGBT people, their families and friends, as demonstrated in the favorable votes in four states on same-sex marriage. They should put aside their opinions, based as they are on outdated and incorrect understandings of human sexuality, and they should listen to the evidence that tells us that:

  • being gay is a given, not a choice;
  • being gay for a gay person is just as ‘natural’ as being straight is for a straight person;
  • the struggle for LGBT rights — including the right to marry the person you love — is about gay people and in no way diminishes the marriages of straight people.

As the US and worldwide bishops continue to look away from the clear evidence of research and most especially the evidence of the lived experience of God’s LGBT children, they run the risk of being guilty of remaining in what moral theology calls “vincible ignorance.”  Unlike “invincible ignorance” which cannot be overcome due to one’s own efforts, vincible ignorance is that lack of knowledge for which one is morally responsible. As shepherds of God’s People, bishops have an obligation to know the people they are called to serve.

They have an obligation to listen to the stories of gay men and women who live lives of deep Christian faith and who live in faithful, committed relationships.  They need to listen to the stories of parents whose gay children have suffered bullying and abuse at the hands of others inspired, in part, by the hateful language of “disordered” and “unnatural.”  Perhaps especially they need to listen to the stories of their own lives (many bishops, no doubt, are gay themselves) as well as the stories of their family members and friends.

The lived experience of God’s People is not only a legitimate source of insight into clarifying and articulating anew the Christian message in every age; it is a required source of such insight. If we really believe that God is actively involved in the lives of His People, then it is the evidence of God’s action in human lives that deserves recognition, respect, and support.

Reflections in Flight

Nov. 6, 2012 – Election Day in America: It’s not often that I have a window seat when flying, preferring as I do the easy access and extra leg room of the aisle.  This morning, however, I was assigned a window on the first leg of my two-flight trip to San Francisco.  Leaving DC and heading for Dallas on Election Day 2012, we ascended to our cruising altitude of thirty-eight thousand feet, as the captain announced.  Others around me settled in, putting on their headsets, taking out their iPads or laptops to read a book or watch a movie. As my seatmate pulled out a pile papers and printed emails, reading over material that was clearly for work and not for pleasure, my own eyes were captivated by the beauty of the snow-capped mountains of West Virginia, the sculpted mountains of the landscape below.

Ours is indeed a beautiful country.  Although I don’t consider myself a particularly patriotic person in the “gung ho-America-right-or-wrong” sort of way, I doubt there is anyone among us who is not proud in a healthy-pride sort of way of the country in which we live.  The rancor and ugliness of political campaigns – which we all seem to agree is getting worse and not better – doesn’t show to ourselves and the world what is Best about America and, more importantly, what is Best about Americans.  In these post-election days, wouldn’t it be nice to have respite from it all and simply be thankful for the beautiful land in which we live, the many blessings in which we share, and the graced faces of God’s people who touch our lives every day.