The Holy Family: Non-Traditional Family Values

HolyFamilyIconIn the Catholic liturgical calendar, today is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Ironic, isn’t it, that this feast — in which Catholics hold up for reverence a three-person family where a man marries a woman and raises a child not his own — is used by religious leaders to condemn the dire, unforeseen consequences of allowing God’s LGBT sons and daughters the right to form their own loving, committed relationships and families. A letter from the Catholic archbishop of Birmingham (England), Bernard Longley, which is being read today in parishes throughout that diocese, is the latest example of a Catholic bishop reminding us of what peril awaits should the UK move forward with Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.

Ever since the struggle for gay rights began to focus on the right to marry the person one loves, opponents of gay rights have shifted their arguments from attacking gay people directly to seeing such demands as an “attack on the family.” By seeking the same rights to form loving, committed, marital relationships as their heterosexual brothers and sisters, gay people were accused of undermining “traditional family values” in which a wife and husband raise the offspring of their union in the “the traditional family.”

As the iconic non-traditional family, perhaps the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph should become the new poster symbol in the continuing struggle for gay rights.

UPDATE: Worth the Applause: Homily of Fr. Richard Lawrence on MD’s Question 6

UPDATE: Apparently in response to a request from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the video of Fr. Lawrence’s homily has been removed. A request to the parish and to the video owner for information about its removal have gone unanswered.

It is sad indeed not only that the archbishop would make such a request inhibiting the free discussion of ideas so that Catholics can make well-informed decisions when entering the voting booth, but also that those responsible for the video’s removal would succumb to such pressure.  Fortunately, the audio of the homily remains available on the website of St. Vincent de Paul where Fr. Lawrence serves as pastor. Homily of Fr. Richard Lawrence, October 28, 2012 (parish website).

And, in case the audio is eventually removed, a copy of the mp3 file may also be found here:  Homily of Fr. Richard Lawrence, October 28, 2012.

As any churchgoer can tell you, it’s the rare homily that is met with applause.  I don’t remember one of my own homilies ever receiving an ovation, though I suspect if it ever happens in the future, it will be out of thankfulness that I’ve stopped talking!

This homily, however, is definitely worth the applause it receives.  We need more Catholic priests and pastors to do what Fr. Richard Lawrence, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish (his parish website “bio” is worth reading!), did this past weekend in Baltimore.  With respect and balance and intellectual honesty, he does what a pastor should do when it comes to helping parishioners form their consciences in matters of public import. Unlike Archbishop Lori, whose letter he reads at the beginning, Fr. Lawrence does not tell his parishioners how to vote on Ballot Question 6: The Civil Marriage Protection Act.  Rather, he encourages them to continue to form their consciences faithfully, as best they can, and to vote accordingly.

102812 Homily from Jerome Bird on Vimeo.

Anger, Advent and Hope

Yesterday, I was a little down. This is my second “holiday season” as a single man, a relationship status not of my choosing, but is mine nonetheless. As a single man of a certain age (!), it’s not always easy constantly encountering the sights and sounds of family togetherness and happy couples holding hands, knowing that the vast majority of my own time is spent by myself and not with the person I had hoped to share life with.

I am self-aware enough to know that this was part of the reason for being down (or “low energy,” as a dear friend euphemistically describes it); and also self-loving enough to do things to get out of myself and become more engaged with others and the world. All this notwithstanding, I also began to realize how very angry I have become. Angry not only because I had little say in my now being single, but especially at the Church, that is, the institutional Church and its officials. Looking through the many Twitter feeds, blogs and news sources I follow, I felt my anger in a way I hadn’t felt before.

Oh, I know I’ve been angry at bishops and others who claim to speak for the Church for a long time. I love the Church; it is and always will be my family. But anger is a natural response when the family you love denies your full humanity, says you are “intrinsically disordered,” and uses its power to maintain your status as a second class citizen by denying you the civil rights your straight brothers and sisters have. Anger is also a natural response when such exclusionary positions are embraced precisely by those who claim to be shepherds, called to bear witness to the presence and love of Christ.

And so I prayed. I prayed last night that this Advent might help me find ways to respond to this righteous anger not by denying it or letting it rule me, but by allowing the Spirit to transform it into something good. How can I not see the reading from today’s Morning Prayer as a response to that prayer, filling me with hope?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall flames consume you.
For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.”

(Isaiah 43:1b-3a)

The “good” bishops apologizing? A nice idea, but ….

Brian Cahill’s suggestion in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) that the small number of “good guy” bishops apologize for the harm done by the church leaders to gays and lesbians is intriguing. Unfortunately, I think it misses the bigger picture, and falls way short of what these “good guys” can and should be doing.

Here’s my comment.

Mr. Cahill,

The idea of an apology from church leaders for the ways in which the official church currently treats God’s LGBT children is certainly appealing. However, the problem with your suggestion — i.e. that this small group of “the good guys” apologize for the actions of others — is that it is inconsistent with the more complete idea of “reconciliation” and misses the point that, for reconciliation to be truly meaningful, it must be personal.

If my brother steals your car or harms you in any way, I can tell you that “I’m sorry this happened” or “I regret what my brother has done; he should not have done it,” but this is not an apology in the formal sense. It’s a statement of empathy, care, and concern for the harm you have experienced at the hands of another. Only my brother can truly “apologize” for the harm HE committed (sorrow for one’s actions), only HE can make right (penance) this harm, promising not to do it again (purpose of amendment), and only YOU can forgive him. These elements are what is necessary for reconciliation to occur.

  • What these “good guys” CAN do, however, is challenge — fraternally, respecfully, lovingly — the misguided “teachings” of their fellow bishops on the various issues surrounding homosexuality.
  • What they SHOULD do is embrace their teaching responsibility and fraternally correct their brother bishops who continue to misinterpret Sacred Scripture and ignore the truths from all current sciences about sexuality and sexual orientation.
  • What they SHOULD do is help their brother bishops form their consciences so that they — the bishops, including the Holy Father, who speak harshly and disrespectfully of God’s LGBT children — may allow their hearts to be unhardened, and they may find it in themselves to apologize for the wrong they continue to do.

Now THAT would be a good day in God’s Church!

Good News from Boston

For more than a decade, the Catholic Church in Boston has more frequently been associated with priests and bishops who failed miserably in their personal and professional lives in protecting the most innocent among us.  Finally, some truly “Good News” came yesterday when St. Cecilia’s Church celebrated its “All Are Welcome” Mass to proclaim the Gospel Message that all God’s children — including those whom God created gay or lesbian — are not only a part of God’s family, but are truly welcome in the doors and at the Eucharistic Table.  I’m so very proud of my friend Fr. John Unni, pastor of St. Cecilia’s, for having the faith and the courage to stand up and proclaim what Jesus would no doubt have proclaimed.

They Should Get 5 Years

I don’t consider myself a vindictive person, and think that mercy needs to play a large role in the application of justice, but when I saw and read about this sad, tragic story, I said to myself that the two students who appear to be responsible for this young man’s death should be convicted and get the 5 year sentence that comes with the charges before them.