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.

MD Del. Emmett Burns Gets a Civics Lesson: Married Gays “won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster”

“I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist from such injurious actions.”

And just what “expressions” and “injurious actions” is Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns (who is, embarrassingly, a Democrat) referring to? It’s simply the public support that Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbedejo has expressed for marriage equality — the right of same-sex couples to be civilly married. In a letter to the Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti (see below), the delegate from Baltimore County seems to need a basic civics lesson.  Does he not understand the meaning of free speech in an open, democratic society?  Does he not get that people have the right to express their views freely, publicly, openly — without fear of reprisal from either government or employer?  How do such individuals who lack a basic understand of what Democracy is get elected to public office?

Thankfully, a fellow-NFL player responded to Del. Burns in a way that he probably can understand.  While extremely thoughtful, reasonable, and articulate in an NPR interview on the topic, Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe leaves no doubts in his written response supporting Ayanbedejo and reminding Del. Burns of some basic points of history and American Constitutional democracy.  The full letter (and reprinted below) is definitely worth a read — bitingly sarcastic, reasoned, and hilarious all at the same time —  but his final post script sums up pretty well where he’s coming from:

P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.

Now I’d just like a theologian to craft a letter like Kluwe’s to Archbishop Timothy Dolan! 🙂

Letter from MD Delegate Emmet C. Burns:

Letter from Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to Delegate Burns:

Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,

I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):

1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s “deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland”? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”? I can’t even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”).

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.

Chris Kluwe

P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.

Gay, by the Grace of God

The headline of today’s Washington Post was expected, though no less wonderful! It announces the approval of legislation in Maryland to recognize same-sex marriage (Gay marriage bill approved by Md. Senate). What’s not so wonderful is the accompanying story, For black clergy, issue is not a civil rights one.

As I read the article and its direct quotations from the story’s central character, Rev. Nathaniel Thomas, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something I had read just an hour earlier. In his daily mediation, Rev. Richard Rohr writes this:

I would like to say that the goal in general is to be serious about the word of God, serious about the scriptures. We have often substituted being literal with being serious and they are not the same! (Read that a second time, please.) I would like to make the point that in fact literalism is to not take the text seriously at all! Pure literalism in fact avoids the real impact, the real message. Literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning in a spiritual text.

The problem with Rev. Thomas’s position, and the position of so many other religious leaders — including Catholic bishops and other clergy — who oppose same-sex marriage and other civil (and religious!!!) rights for gay people on religious or biblical grounds is that they are reading the Scriptures at the lowest and least level of meaning. Notwithstanding the fact that even at this lowest level of literal meaning they misunderstand what the text is saying, they fail to see the issue of homosexuality within the context of the entire Christian message, instead of the very few scriptural passages which they repeatedly cite and take out of context.

According to the Post,

Not long ago, Thomas says, a young gay man came to him and said, “Look, I can’t help being how I am.” The minister embraced the man.

“We are all sinners,” Thomas says. “Christ never turned anyone away. People come to us all the time with issues, some with a stealing demon, some with urges and desires. But love doesn’t mean you go along to get along. I counsel them by showing them God’s word; some receive the word, and some reject it.”

Despite his attempts to “soften” his rhetoric and appear less condemning that many fellow preachers, Thomas’s words are no less offensive and off the mark. I suspect that back in 1865, many white preachers said this or something similar in response to the desires of enslaved people to be free: “But the Word of God (see Ephesians 6:5) clearly says that slaves should obey their earthy masters. So while I embrace you for who you are, I must reject your sin of wanting freedom in direct contradiction to God’s Word.” Even today’s biblical literalist would see that such a position is not only morally untenable, but that it is an abuse of Scripture to claim it supports maintaining an institution which subjugates one group of people to another and which denies them their fundamental human dignity.

I’m thankful that my own Church recognizes that one does not choose one’s sexuality. The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a choice, but is indeed part of the spectrum of human experience. (Yes, I know that recent decades have seen a shift to the righ’ on this, but declarations that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” are on theologically shaky ground when seen from a more complete Christian anthropology). This teaching is supported by theology, the life sciences, social science, and most especially the lived experience of LGBT people.

Put simply, those whom God has created gay — or straight, or blue-eyed, or left-handed, or black, or [insert any immutable human quality or trait] — are such by the Grace of God. For societies and churches and religious bodies to deny this and its implications is to put themselves above God and the wonder of His creation — a creation revealed in the beauty and mystery of every human person, even gay ones.

Are Lay Catholics Less “Catholic” than Church Leaders?

From today’s Washington Post about Maryland’s movement to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry:  “But the presence of three Catholics at the helm in Annapolis hasn’t stopped a same-sex marriage bill from wending its way through the legislature, triggering deep disappointment among church leaders as it suggests a waning of Catholic influence in this heavily Catholic state,” (emphasis added).

Some see the role of Catholic politicians in advancing Maryland’s soon-to-be enacted (hopefully!) legislation recognizing same-sex marriage as indicative of decreased “Catholic influence.” Such a conclusion would be justified if only bishops and other “official” Church leaders were seen as the bearers of that influence.  But Catholics know that the Church is more than the pope, more than bishops, more than those who hold a particular office or position. The Church is — as the Second Vatican Council taught so clearly — the People of God. From this perspective, the roles played by Catholic leaders in advancing the rights of God’s gay and lesbian children — especially when the positions those leaders take are rooted in Catholic ideas on human dignity and justice — can be seen not as a diminution but rather an expansion of influence of true Catholicism in the public square.