Kleshas and Tanhas

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Gays: Not on the Radar

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A faithful and Welcoming Church. Not Pop-Culture’s way of describing the Roman Catholic Church. Especially of late. Yet, this unpopularity, bashing of the Church through the media has kept me faithful all the more. There’s no answer to your why. I just have been; it’s what I grew up with, it’s what feels comfortable. However, just like any other random believer, I somehow feel freely entitled to take the brunt end of the recent occurrences in the past year or so, even though I had no direct affiliation…

Unity Week  had me wondering; how does the Catholic college community deal with the reality of a multicultural student population (and even more diverse neighborhood; Philadelphia?) A lot of people buy into the sharp criticisms of the New York Times and many others. Even while people say (falsely) what the Church says, why not hear from someone within the Church? Who better than a strong advocate for Ad Hoc Committee for the Religious Liberty, Retired Archbishop of Brooklyn Joseph Michael Sullivan S.J.?

“This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected.” 

Through his charismatic personality and think Brooklyn accent, I witnessed a Catholic testimony firsthand. Repeatedly throughout the question-answer portion of the seminar, many people indirectly asked if he was speaking objectively for the whole Church. While he never directly answered, he did mention that Gaudium et Spes gave the green light for the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee without permission handed directly down from the Vatican. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the committee on its own. So I took that as an implication that he spoke both officially and unofficially. It wasn’t as if he was on tour, spreading this idea from the Vatican. I find that too often, both Catholics and non-Catholics want to hear the rarely-used word infallible. With that ability given only to the Bishop of Rome, people think, “Oh wait, this is a black and white concept. Let me see what the Church says…I don’t agree. Therefore, I don’t agree with the Church.”

That very mindset was what Bishop Sullivan aimed to clarify. That within the context of the gay/lesbian community in the United States. We see a passage of condemned sodomites and somehow immediately apply that to modern day gays. (I’ll come back to why I say modern in a bit.) Ad Hoc is the fluid medium that Bishop Sullivan has opened the dialogue with the gay community. Two things Bishop Sullivan addressed: a little bit of WWJD and what this dialogue currently looks like and what the retired bishops hopes it will continue to become.

Going back a little before Jesus’ time to say the Book of Leviticus, there existed the Holiness Code. Here’s a little lesson on the book of the Bible I skipped through when I read straight through Genesis and Exodus because it loses the plot of the Israelites for some time due to this law formation. Any mentioning of something similar to homosexuality was located among the teachings on Yom Kippur and blood sacrifices. More specifically, the words “a man could not lie with a man as a woman” fitted between the law that you cannot sacrifice children to a god called Molech and a law against bestiality. (Leviticus 18: 21-23.)

If anything, you can at least agree with Bishop Sullivan and me that there’s a denial of the person’s humanity in the context above. Not to deride the Jewish teachings, but homosexuality has been elevated from its position between holidays and sacrifices. We don’t celebrate the latter today very much, especially child sacrifices. This implicates that the social teachings of Leviticus were set in a different historical context and were set before a different people. (Calm down all ye literalists! This isn’t to suggest that ever teaching from Leviticus loses its validity! I’m not finished making my point.)

Furthermore, the homosexuality that was addressed in Biblical times closely revolved around prostitution. Another Jesuit at the seminar claimed that in his close reviewing of the Biblical context on homosexuality, a current work in progress, that Leviticus, formulating Jesus’ human understanding of homosexuality did not recognize the humanity of a different definition of homosexuality. That’s because it revolved around prostitution, a completely separate violation of human dignity. Yet, Jesus kicked it with the wrong crowd. Wasn’t Mary Magdalene a prostitute? So even when there’s this strong language condemning sodomites, is it really directed towards the gay couples that live prominently in our society? (as opposed to prostitution alone)

Bishop Sullivan acknowledge that homosexuality was a “discovering of one’s orientation.” Gradualism. Something our world is lacking. In its place we have this strong need to have information flashed at us. Some of it true. Some of it not true. This quickened world we live in does not allow us to make concrete relationships from which we can listen compassionately; trust comes from listening to individuals tell their story. It is therefore a necessity to listen if we are to be Christ-like, Dalai Lama-like via compassion. In order to listen, we must “know the person; better relationships [come from] knowing people,” the Bishop said. To create freedom, we need to be open. Gays cannot be pushed to secrecy in their solitude.  “A church where you’re known is a church that is hospitable.”

Bishop Sullivan’s continuation of his Ad Hoc activities included action beginning in the parishes. He thought a “bottom-up” approach is most appropriate in order to establish a dialogue with the gay community. I too agree that it starts on an individual level to make a difference in relationships.

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Written by Jack Viere

November 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

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