How Cardinal Dolan Can Express His Love for LGBT People

Responses  to Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Sunday comments keep pouring in.   If nothing else, it shows how his comments struck nerves, both positively and negatively.  It shows how much affirmative words from the hierarchy are needed, and it shows how important it is that the hierarchy go beyond just words to send a positive message to LGBT people.

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

The National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson, says she is

“. . . getting weary of bishops and cardinals who tell me how much they love my gay and lesbian friends and I, while at the same time willfully misunderstanding us, refusing to talk to us and devaluing our relationships.”

Her analysis continues by pointing out several actions that Dolan has taken recently that emphatically do not show love for LGBT people:

  • Co-signing an anti-marriage equality document with some of the most vociferous anti-gay leaders of Evangelical churches.
  • Refusing to respond to a letter and petition written by Joseph Amodeo, a former member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the New York archdiocese, pleading with Dolan to meet with LGBT homeless youth, many of whom were thrown out of their homes by religious parents. Amodeo later resigned from the board, without public reaction from Dolan.
  • Failing to speak out when his brother bishops and priests turn the Eucharist into a political weapon, denying communion to LGBT people and those who support marriage equality.

After reviewing similar actions and statements by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Pope Francis (when he was archbishop in Argentina), Manson provides an eloquent depiction of what true love is, which seems to echo St. Paul’s famous description in 1 Corinithians 13:

“While it may be true that Dolan, Cordileone and even the new pope are seeking a more pastoral approach to gays and lesbians, I really wish that they would stop calling it love.

“Love does not ignore letters pleading for dialogue and reconciliation.

“Love does not turn away spiritually hungry people from God’s Eucharistic table.

“Love does not use spiritually violent rhetoric against a marginalized community’s fight for justice.

“When we love another person, we genuinely desire to know her or him. When we love, we long to listen to the beloved and to learn his or her story. To love in this way, we must be authentically present to the beloved. This kind of love is risky because it demands vulnerability on the parts of both the lover and the beloved.

“If members of the hierarchy took the risk of truly listening to gay and lesbian couples, they might find, as the majority of U.S. Catholics have, that many of these couples equally embody the faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice and fruitfulness that characterize the best heterosexual relationships.

“They might open themselves up to the possibility that God is speaking new truths through the voices and lives of gay and lesbian couples and transgender persons. They might see that not only are same-sex couples entitled to equal rights and protection, they have as much potential to honor the institution of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

Equally Blessed LogoEqually Blessed‘s Marianne Duddy-Burke and Mary Ellen Lopata, in an on-line New York Times op-ed, offer some suggetions to Cardinal Dolan to how he could back up his words of welcome with real actions. Among the items they suggest for the bishops are:

  • Dropping opposition to immigration reform that would allow partners in same-sex couples to enter the U.S. legally
  • Adopting anti-bullying programs in Catholic schools
  • Changing to more pastoral tone and content when referring to LGBT people
  • Dissociate the U.S. hierarchy from the National Organization for Marriage
  • Abandon opposition to allowing lesbian and gay couples to adopting children.

They conclude their list with:

“Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.

“We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.”

(Equally Blessed is a coaltion of four national Catholic organizations which work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society.  The four organizations are Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.)

glaadIn a similar vein, Ross Murray of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in an online Washington Post op-ed, suggests three ways for Cardinal Dolan to back up his Easter Sunday message:

“1.Cardinal Dolan needs to stop talking about LGBT people and spend more time listening to them.”

“2.If Cardinal Dolan cannot talk about LGBT people without uttering words of condemnation, he should simply stop talking about LGBT people in general.”

“3.Cardinal Dolan could turn his stated love into tangible action that would help real LGBT people in their day-to-day lives.”

Murray elaborates on each of these three points in his essay, and he concludes with:

“God’s love is felt, not simply stated. When Cardinal Dolan makes such blatant attacks on LGBT people, it makes his ‘I love you and God loves you’ in front of the media ring hollow. Such expressions of love need to be backed up with tangible action. Do something that demonstrates that church leaders view LGBT people as more than a threat or a curse.

“Cardinal Dolan can keep saying that he loves us and God does too, but until he turns away from the camera to actually listen to the stories of our lives, these words will have no meaning.”

Clearly, Cardinal Dolan has his work cut out for him.  The challenge to him is the challenge that all Christians face: to make the Gospel incarnate in the world.  With all of the commentary and suggestions and support offered to him to do something tangible, Cardinal Dolan should have an easier time deciding what to do next.  The ball is in his court.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

8 replies
  1. Vernon Meyer
    Vernon Meyer says:

    While I don’t want to take any of the optimision away from those who really do think we can be fully welcomed and embraced by the Roman, I want to speak in support of all the comments made by the above people. When a bishop or pope says they love us and then they turn around and say we have to be celibate and cannot fully love someone intimately and sexually, they they really do not love us. Full acceptance means that they recognize that our sexuality is more than a category, it is the full expression of our spiritual, emotional and sexual love. When the church says it loves us and then fires us for getting legally married, then it does not love us. I was a Roman Catholic priest for 31 years and as a gay man I realized that I could no longer stand in silence while my gay brother and sisters were called disordered by the hateful language of the bishops anti-marriage equality rhetoric.

  2. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    This says it all. I am a straight 57 year old woman in a 35 year monogamous marriage. None of my three children is gay. But in my teaching career, I have seen so many gay kids struggle. I have seen the horrific discrimination of gay people perpetuated by MY church. It is a disgrace. My daughters live in North Carolina. When I visit them, I attend Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem. This is the church that recently came out with the policy that they will not marry anyone until gay couples can be married, too. Bishop Dolan should visit this amazing church full of love and support for all its members and visitors. I am saddened that I had to go outside of the Catholic church to find this kind of supportive and loving church community. I still consider myself Catholic, but not the kind of Catholic who “loves” gay people while acting in the most unloving ways possible. It is wrong to stand by and let gay people be marginalized. All who love God must speak up and turn love into action. I stand with New Ways Ministry and all who seek the full membership and participation of LGBT people.

  3. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    The NYT op-ed claims that “there is no reason that all Roman Catholic clergy cannot regularly meet with LGBT Catholics and their families.”

    Actually, there’s a huge reason.

    Every year, the Roman Catholic church spends millions of parishioner dollars oppressing LGBT people, couples, and their children from all faiths.

    There has never been an independent, public audit of these expenditures by parishes, archdioceses, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Knights of Columbus, Opus Dei, Legatus, Cardinal Newman Society, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Tradition Family Property, Human Life International, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, National Organization for Marriage, and other Roman Catholic bodies.

    So long as these concealed expenditures continue, the clergy can not afford to be confronted by the very people they are oppressing.

  4. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    The Catholic hierarchy of which Dolan is one of its supreme administrators is simply taking a page from the book authored by their close friends, the Republicans, to put a happy face on evil and hurtful policies. Dolan has not had a change of heart only a change of public relations.

  5. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    Folks, let’s take a creative approach to our problem within the Roman Catholic Church. The issue is not whether homosexuality is moral or immoral. The issue is how to handle dissent in the 21st Century. I have proposed elsewhere the formation of a “Galileo Reconciliation Commission (GRC)”, not another group that can be excommunicated and set on the outside of the church no matter at what level. Clearly homosexuality is the Galileo issue of our time, probably more so than birth control although that certainly should be on the agenda of any GRC. When we have people like Randy Engel on the far right side of the issue and the seeming growing majority of pro-homosexuality this is where we have a chance to get the GRC going within the church.

    Understandably, but still regrettably, we have been involved in pre-Vatican II ecclesiology with the papal retirement and the exhilarating messages of Brother Bergoglio, plus all the “we love you” discussions about cardinals and bishops. This is not what I experienced living in Rome 1960-64, ordained a priest in ’63 and setting out to work as a “servant” to the church, giving a preferential option to the “poor” (please don’t conceive of these people in the classic “charity” sense, but as equals deserving our colaboration). The “poor” certainly is what we could consider LGBT people. And in my basic training in moral, canon law, etc. I certainly would have envisioned not only a “loving”, but an honest approach to homosexuality on an intellectual basis. There is no place for continuing another Galileo tragedy. There is no more room for “hoping”, “praying” that the Holy Spirit will move the “Pope” (totally understood in the monarchical/infallible model), or that the “hierarchy” will find a way to “love” us properly.

    We need to challenge ourselves and all those “majority” allies “around” (I avoid “up and down”) the church community to take on this greatest challenge to our love, dissenting in love. No more silence, no more shouting, no more segregation, no more “outside” the church, excommunications, firings. And certainly in response to the murders, bullying, discrimination done because of the catechetical grounding of hatred for gays. If we all were honest we’d all come out of the closet given the fabulous, incredible speed with which the society at large has come to understand, even agree with us, and simply by our moral, conscientious force, get this Galileo Reconciliation Commission idea on its feet.

    Given the Engel’s of the world and all the groups listed in the discussions here–Opus Dei, etc etc–the hierarchy is not a simple enemy. There are hordes of laypeople supporting this teaching. What needs to be done is not convince them that we are on the right side. We simply have to respectfully, lovingly impress them with this GRC moment. The reasonable, the truly spiritual folks–including people like Brother Bergoglio–who simply have to carry out the “teaching” of the church I’m sure could contemplate this structure. We shouldn’t be waiting for hierarchs who agree with us to change the “teaching”. It ain’t going to happen by individuals. Getting another “ecumenical” council is probably the end result of the GRC, but in the meantime we deserve–both sides to be relieved of the agony of our positions.

    But of course it is clear by all the discussions of late–same sex marriage/unions, papal resignations–that we’re still in the old church mode. If we believe the reality of Vat. II “teaching”–not the positions of those who have taken over the church with their excommunications of dialog instead of furthering research–then we will simply sit down with pastors, pastoral councils at every level. “We” will be bishops with lay people, with other bishops. “We” will not be enemies, “we” will not be torturers. Come on let’s get with the 21st century.

  6. JJ Marie Gufreda
    JJ Marie Gufreda says:

    Two somewhat ignored, but significant contributors to this issue are the child abuse scandals and the fact that there are large numbers of gay priests. I believe that much of the vitriol aimed at LGBT people by the church is covering those problems. If the church supports LGBT people, surely some Catholics will attack them because they relate homosexuals to the pedophilia scandal. Whether it is true or not (and several studies have claimed that there is no correlation) they will relate gay men to the scandal. The church wants the complaining and lawsuits to go away. They will not add fuel to the fire.

    Some insiders theorize that 50% of priests are gay. If the church accepts gay people, priests will eventually come out and expose the giant cover up of gay priests in the church and inside the Vatican. They will not admit that priests are gay. They have to choose whether to protect the church or love the people. How have they chosen when given the choice over the past 50 or 100 years?


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