#261 – Dick Bernard: Honor and Respect for those of the GLBT Community
Today came an unexpected video featuring Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (There may be an annoying ad for a few seconds prior to the 2 1/2 minute clip. Just let it play through.)
The video speaks profoundly for itself.
It reminded me of a copy of a letter which came into my possession some years ago, and which I again came across recently while sorting assorted papers.
The letter was dated July 26, 1991, and was written anonymously to a prominent Catholic Pastor in a major city. The Pastor has long been dead, and the letter was found among his papers. I know the name of the Priest and his Parish, but in this post nothing which identifies either will be included. It is the content which is important. It is not known if the writer was male or female, or if the meeting suggested in the second to last sentence was ever held.
The letter is intended solely to encourage personal reflection and action to change hearts and minds and policies, too. It is from one person to another. It has application to us all.
July 26, 1991
This letter is in response to your June 16, 1991, [church bulletin column] which has left me deeply saddened. I am referring to the News Item about the Presbyterians rejecting the ordination of Gays, etc., and the fact that you found this rejection “especially encouraging” and “The ___ Plain Talk – nice sounding words that are used to hide the real nature of sodomy…alternative life style, sexual preference, and so on….”
There are many things I would wish to say about the Church – about power and authoritarianism, about narrow sexual boundaries, about celibates speaking to conjugal love. But I fear it “would fall on deaf ears”. So I shall just speak to you from my heart.
I am Gay – as are 10% of all the parishioners’ you gaze out upon on a Sunday morning (or any other day). You shake our hands and wish us “Peace”, but you do not know us because we are invisible. Gay people who belong to [our church] are not ordinarily out marching in Gay Pride parades. We do not belong to Act Up which recently came to [the church] and embarrassed you and us by their radical rabble rousing. They represent the tiniest minuscule part of the Gay Community; they do not speak for anyone but themselves, anymore than Bishop LeFebvre spoke for all Catholics.
We are lawyers and doctors and librarians and brick layers and computer operators and musicians (and, yes, we are also Priests and Religious in the broad community). We sit quietly in the pews and listen to sermons (good ones!) about loving one another and how much God loves us. In the [parish hall] we shake your hand and say how glad we are to see you (and we are!) and receive your ebullient greeting in return. But you don’t know us.
We are proud to have our own [names recognized for accomplishments] up for all to see in little bronze plaques. We belong to [this church] and are thrilled to be a part of your visionary and splendid building program. But you do not know us and do not love us in Christ.
We sing in the Choir, serve on your Boards, are Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors, are enthusiastic members of the Youth Group and support [this church] financially. But you do not know who we are. You do not know us or love us.
We do not choose to be Gay. Why on earth would anyone choose to be Gay? Why would anyone choose to be a member of a despised minority, to be isolated, maligned, rejected, hated, outcasts in our own Church or even in our own parish? No, we have not chosen to be Gay anymore than you have chosen the color of your eyes.
The Lord God made us just as we are – Gay and straight. He did not say we are “intrinsically evil” (though the official Church does). He said “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” and “I have written you on the palm of my hand and you are mine.” He did not say anywhere that He meant only straight people.
Homophobia is a horrid word. Often it is overt and blatantly ugly. But more often it can be subtle and hidden: Love the Gay person and hate his/her lifestyle. We are all of a piece, [Father], just as you are. Our actions, our loves and loving flow out of who we are, just as yours do. To compartmentalize us and say we are human beings made in the image of God, intelligent, caring, passionate – and then to say we must not ever show anyone that love, and sometimes show it physically, seems nothing short of ludicrous. it would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
Hypocrisy is ugly, too, particularly when it thunders down from the highest places in the Church. Gentle shepherds have cried out against it in anguish (the Hunthausens and Weaklands and McNeils and Currans and Callahans), but they are quickly overpowered and forced into submission and silence.
And where is Christ in all of this?
I beg you to go into the chapel in a quiet time – to sit in the very presence of Jesus Christ. Ask Him to tell you how He feels about us. he did say, “I want to gather them under my wings as a mother hen gathers the chicks and you would not.”
I honor you, [Father] as a pastor of great vision, but I weep for you and the Church when true Christ-like qualities of compassion, mercy, understanding, acceptance, and unqualified love are crushed by allegiance to the narrow boundaries of the power structure of the Church. Perhaps when you sit before the Christ, He too will be weeping.
I go on loving this Church and staying in it because it is Jesus Christ. You must not try to drive me out when it is He who invited me in.
I do not sign this (though I deplore anonymous letters) because I fear subtle retaliation. Before you go, I will come to you and tell you who I am. In the meantime, you do indeed know me, but you do not love me.”
Related post is here.