I have a LOT of feelings and opinions about the current labor laws and trends in America today.
…A LOT of feelings.
And one of the most poignant of all reflects the distress that employees of Catholic institutions face because of their support of LGBT friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers. Because of the Church’s social teaching about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other non-heterosexually-oriented or gendered identifications, not only are people attributed with those classifications at risk for job termination, but so are the people who conscientiously support those people. That’s right–because the Church demands that it’s employees discriminate against LGBT persons, employees of the Church are at risk if they refuse to discriminate against LGBT persons.
The social and legal advances for LGBT people that we’ve witnessed recently has not yet infiltrated Catholic Church doctrine. It will. But right now an old patriarchy greedily and bitterly clings to their power and pridefulness by condemning and discriminating against an “evil” that does not exist nor threatens them (or anyone). In fact, the only thing that threatens the patriarchy is that very discriminatory stance against LGBT people… because the public—as a younger, more progressive generation that is less tolerant of discrimination again LGBT people—will eventually abandon the archaic institution until nothing left exists. Yeah, I know there are throngs of Catholics in Southern Asia and in Africa still willing to wallow in the ignorance of demonization… But, let’s be honest, the West—as the dominant influence in world social trends—will still ultimately commandeer and drive the politics of mass consumption, whether it be the latest iPhone app technology or the demand for tolerance among class and minorities. I state that with all the cynicism and honesty of an American forced to live in a capitalist-consumerist society, as well as one who is a critic and reviler of capitalist-consumerist society from a Catholic-Christian ethics sensibility. (The height of irony, eh??)
Well, it is ironic. The whole demonization of homosexuality espoused by the Church is ironic and hypocritical. It is an irony I myself was not able to escape as I headed towards my intended religious life. Discrimination endured by myself—which I’ve endured my whole life—is one thing. But the discrimination against my fellow brethren was wholly another.
So the LEAST I can do on this Labor Day, is to wear a badge—so to speak—conveying my outrage, my broken heart, ma tristesse douloureuse, my grief, my disconsolation, my woe, my lamentation… at the unrelenting dis-compassion of the Church, by placing a new widget on my sidebar (which you can see to the right-hand-side of this post (and also pictured below):
When the Church—under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI and the Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—began an inquisition into the service prerogatives of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (colloquially known as the United States Nun Association), there were a lot of lay members who decided to speak against the Office pushing past this boundary of decency. The Office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith accused the LCWR of focusing too much of their efforts on the homeless and the poor, rather than taking a political-activist stance against homosexuals and against abortion. Can you imagine? The Patriarchy in the Church actually condemning the American sisters for doing works of charity… and castigating them for not persecuting minority classes? Wow.
Well, lay people didn’t take such criticism lying down. The cathedral in Seattle where I used to attend services was headed by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, and it was he who was tasked with leading the U.S. investigation and acting as liaison to the Office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Although a compassionate-enough individual, the new role assigned did not endear the Archbishop among his congregants. In fact, at virtually every surrounding church in Seattle, baskets of buttons were left in Atriums and passed out among congregants. The buttons were simply black-and-white, and consisted of five words: “I stand with the sisters.”
It was a powerful, if powerless, statement, and thousands of people wore them around Seattle… some of us even to church services. We have been taught peacefulness and justice by the very Church that used power and injustice to reject and disappoint us. We are simply using those tools we were taught to show our solidarity and disgust even in the face of our powerlessness, because our words and our solidarity—and even our powerlessness—have power in God’s eyes. Defending and standing at the right hand of the least of our brothers is the least we can do… sometimes the only thing we can do. But we must… Jesus asked as much of us.
A Prayer for LGBT Workers in the Catholic Church (from New Ways Ministries):
From age to age, you call many to serve your people by working as professionals in Catholic workplaces. In Your wisdom, you have included in that call LGBT people, whose lives and faith are a gift to our Church.
We thank you for this gift, and we remember the countless LGBT people who serve selflessly in parishes, schools, hospitals, offices, social service agencies, retreat centers. They serve those in need and they build up your reign of justice and peace.
We know that many serve despite having to be guarded about their lives. We know that many have lost their jobs because of who they are or whom they love. Unjust attitudes, policies, and behaviors motivate these wrongdoings, but we remember St. Paul’s words:
“God is not unjust; God will not forget your work and the love you have shown as you have helped God’s people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
We know that LGBT workers who serve the Church do so out of a strong love for You and for Your people. We are grieved when we have learned that many are dismissed because they chose to live lives of authenticity, integrity, and commitment. Such unjust actions by employers go against the attitude expressed about work in Your Scriptures:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
We share the pain of those who are fired and we pray that our support will be a sign of hope. We offer these words of encouragement to them and to ourselves as a reminder of Your love, even in difficult times–especially in difficult times:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
We ask for Your wisdom and guidance, Loving God, so that we can know best how to support our LGBT brothers and sisters and how to build up a church community that values and respects the many different ways that You have created love. Grant us patience and creativity as we search for ways to bring about Your justice and love in our Church institutions. Help us to remember that You keep us all in Your care, and that You will never abandon us.
For more on thoughts on LGBT workers in the Catholic Church, read this post on the New Ways Ministries blog.