Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Gay Lobby

Not the gay lobby. 
The Holy Father's unscripted comments about "a current of corruption" and the existence of a "gay lobby" in the Curia of the Catholic Church have elicited no small amount of commentary these past few days. The New York Times, Rocco Palmo, John Allen, the Daily Beast, and a host of other sources contain sometimes lengthy pieces about what would otherwise seem to be a tiny quip.

Without question, there's been a rush to sensationalize the Pope's comments. When I think of "gay lobby," I tend to think of overly decorated sitting spaces, not curial officials wielding tremendous power. I don't think it surprises anyone - or, at least, it shouldn't - to learn that there are gay priests, bishops, and cardinals. And, while we should never fail to be disappointed when anyone - gay or straight, married or vowed - fails to adhere to one's vows, we know that many have stumbled during their lives. The stumbling, I suspect, most of us can understand and forgive. What many of us have a hard time accepting, however, is the hypocrisy of hearing a religious official make some sort of condemnation and then engage surreptitiously in the very behavior just condemned. This issue envelopes Catholics, such as Cardinal O'Brien, as well as other Christian leaders, such as Ted Haggard and David Loveless, all of whom have felt the sting of preaching one message and living another.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul writes, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light" (5:11-13). In a organization where appearances matter so much - the bella figura - it takes courage for Pope Francis to call out what will appear to many to be an enormously hypocritical group in the Church: men who condemning that for which they are themselves guilty.

For my money, I think Alberto Melloni has best assessed the issue, opining of Pope Francis:

"He’s right to talk about it, it breaks the mechanism in which omertà favors the use of blackmail. If no one talks about it, it’s a powerful weapon.”
“This is a question of blackmail and blackmailability, not homosexuality,” he added.
Apparently this isn't what Pope Francis meant, either.
To my mind, the takeaway from the Pope's comments is this: he's naming a reality that has had a crippling effect on the Church. A wise spiritual director once challenged the man coming to him for counsel, "I want you to think of the one thing you will never tell me." He gave a few moments for the man to mull it over and then followed up, "I will never ask what that one thing is. But now I want you to ask yourself, 'WHY will I not share this?' It is here that you must grow in freedom!"

Or, as I'd tell students frequently, "You're only as free as the darkest secrets you keep."

If the Church is going to move forward into the future as a healthy body able to share the Good News with a world desperate for it, it needs to name and claim its reality. Even where it is embarrassing or potentially scandalous, it must continue to shine the Gospel's light, the light of truth, into its darkest recesses that we grow in wholeness and holiness. Wherever darkness and hypocrisy, shadows and deceit flourish, there the light must be shown not in order to humiliate but, rather, to draw all into the light of truth and Gospel joy.

Gay or straight, married or with promises/vows of celibacy, we must have the courage to name the shadows in our lives and to allow ourselves to be defined by light rather than darkness. Whether he is calling us away from the false idol of money and the graven images we put at the center of our lives, or calling us out of the shadows where we dwell in deceit, I think the Holy Father has been courageous in naming the realities as he sees them, rather than glossing over them in the hope of preventing scandal. The scandal, to me, is not that there are priests who have failed to live up to their vows. The scandal arises when a culture of blackmail and fear arises that leads well-intentioned men and women to dwell in suffocating darkness rather than allowing them to live in freedom, truth, and love. 

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