Orthodox Catholic Offers Important Lesson for LGBT Supporters
On Bondings 2.0, we don’t often feature the writings of Catholics who identify as conservative or traditional. We do so when we think that their message is one which will possibly edify our readers.
Today, we are featuring a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by Patrick C. Beeman, a Catholic physician and writer from St. Louis who identifies as an orthodox Catholic. His essay, featured on The National Catholic Reporter website, has important lessons for both liberal and conservative Catholics.
Beeman’s essay focuses on the way some traditionalists have responded to the Supreme Court decision. He states that following the courts announcement:
“My social media feeds are littered with responses like ‘God have mercy on us all’ and ‘a crime against God and nature.’ How easy to forget that the tongue — and the compulsion to use one’s Twitter app — is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”
Beeman, who appears to support church teaching opposing marriage equality, is concerned about the style of argument that his fellow travelers employ. He is afraid that they will “only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.”
Noting that “Catholic balance” is a virtue that “lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other,” Beeman wonders why conservative Catholic opposition seems to forget this balance. He illustrates by noting the trend of criminalizing same-sex behavior around the globe:
“When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn’t it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be ‘Game over’ for many of us if that were the case.”
And he did not forget other forms of oppression and discrimination which are closer to home:
“And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth — bigotry? — which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.”
Beeman recognizes that supporting the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics does not give one license to ignore the Church’s teaching on human dignity:
“Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I’m not saying we should abandon the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. . . .
“Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.”
In the essay, Beeman, who presumably disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, seems to be in close agreement with ideas proposed by two Catholic commentators who supported the decision and who were featured on Bondings 2.0: Father Thomas Reese, SJ, and Bob Shine. I admire Beeman’s ability not to let one disagreement on LGBT issues blind him to his obligations in other areas concerning LGBT people.
More importantly, though, I admire Beeman’s tone of moderation in this essay. Though primarily addressing his fellow conservative Catholics, I think that all Catholics can learn a lesson that though we may be passionate about a topic, even a topic laden with issues and consequences of great concern, we should never let our passion get the best of us. We should always treat our opponents with respect and Christian charity, remembering that they, too, are our neighbors.
[You can read Beeman’s full essay, which was paired with one by Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, by clicking here.]
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I get that the idea this man is promoting is tolerance and balance. “In media stat virtus” (virtue lies in the middle), as the Latin saying goes. Thus, in most things, we should seek balance and avoid any kind of extremism, especially that which tends to sanctify ourselves or demonize those who disagree with us. It saddens me, however, that this point even needs to be made.
It saddens me because it is a distraction. LGBT Americans have recently won an important civil victory. Yet LGBT Catholics still have many miles to go before we know the rest of full inclusion in the life of our own Church.
I identify not as an “orthodox Catholic” or “liberal Catholic” — or any other moniker that serves to separate rather than unite. I identify simply as a Catholic who accepts with open arms, mind and heart the reality that I have been created in God’s LGBT Image and Likeness. I identify as such not in spite of but precisely because of my Catholic Christian faith. Catholic Christianity calls for radical acceptance of many things — especially the radical acceptance that the Incarnation teaches us. As Catholics, I believe it is our job in this day to help our brothers and sisters in faith understand and accept what it means to profess that Divinity became “one like us.”
I am a bishop in The Orthodox Catholic Church, which has roots in the Old Catholic Church. Our position is clearly in favor of same-gender marriage although we believe that churches are not obligated to accept SCOTUS decision. As a matter of fact, I was the original ordinant of the Rev Troy Plummer Treash and I am proud of what he did last Sunday as an MCC Pastor.
Sent from my T-Mobile 4G Android device
Cant seem to source arthur fitzmaurice letter
I checked the link and it seems to be working fine. It brings you to a page with two essays side-by-side. Arthur Fitzmaurice’s essay is the one on the right side.
“Orthodox Catholic” is how Mr. Beeman refers to himself and his compatriots in the article he wrote. I believe it is a sign of respect to identify people in the way that they identify themselves, so that is why I used that description.
Until the diversity of the human race is accepted as normal we will not love one another becsuse we will distrust the other. LGBT people are the other, a disordered human
I applaud Mr. Beeman for his very thoughtful comments. I need to keep his charity-based thinking in mind whenever I react to some craziness coming from the hierarchy.
And I applaud his observation that when “the non believer has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice something is wrong” . This requires Catholics to look into their own hearts on whether they have truly been Christ-like on ALL the issues that we face. I have always held that it is much easier to bash gay folks than speak truth to power on hotter social issues like nuclear arms, income inequality, the death penalty etc.
The one problem that I have much trouble getting past, is that the Church has never apologized for nor changed its view that we are “inherently disordered”. While I wholeheartedly welcome any efforts the institutional church would take to fight discrimination against LGBT folks in housing or employment (and that would be a huge bridge to our community and serve to change the toxic atmosphere of our discourse with the heirarcy) unless they accept us fully then their efforts could be seen only as charity to “less-than” disordered folks and not an effort for justice for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Keep in mind that, in historical perspective, a “sinister” person was, literally, a person who was left-handed by inherent genetic patterning! “Lefties” were long discriminated against — at least until relatively modern times. Since sexual orientation is every bit as inherent — from birth — as dominant-handedness, it clearly needs to be held in the same light. The minority of priests and bishops who are left-hand-dominant ought to think deeply about this empirical fact, before they “take off” with railing against same-sex romantic relationships.