At mass today throughout England and Wales, a letter was read out from the pulpit in every church decrying any move, backed by the Coalition government and Labour opposition, toward granting gay couples equal marriage rights. Under Benedict XVI, this is scarcely a surprise. But what one notices immediately in the text of the letter is the complete absence of any reference to gay people at all.
There is merely a reiteration of Catholic teaching on the sacrament of marriage. The actual occasion for this letter is unmentioned. There is on section of compassion for those outside of Catholic marital norms:
In putting before you these thoughts about why marriage is so important, we also want to recognise the experience of those who have suffered the pain of bereavement or relationship breakdown and their contribution to the Church and society. Many provide a remarkable example of courage and fidelity. Many strive to make the best out of difficult and complex situations. We hope that they are always welcomed and helped to feel valued members of our parish communities.
Is this directed at gay people? It doesn't appear so. It appears directed at widows or widowers or those whose marriages have collapsed. The Church exercizes compassion toward those incapable of living up to its stringent norms of marriage for life – but only for heterosexuals. Homosexuals remain unmentionable, silenced and removed from the world we live in and the church so many love and serve. The hierarchs cannot even say the word.
There is no more gruesome reminder of the sheer callousness of this exclusion than the story the Dish referred to recently and that is updated in the New York Times:
On Feb. 15, Mr. Fischer announced his joyful plans [to marry his longtime partner] to colleagues at a staff meeting. His colleagues applauded, he said. He did not realize that an official from the Archdiocese of St. Louis was in attendance. The next day, Mr. Fischer was informed that he was fired. Two weeks later, after news of his firing made headlines, he was terminated from his second, part-time job as music director for the Roman Catholic church where he and his partner, Charlie Robin, have worshiped for more than six years.
In the other recent case of anti-gay bias at the very altar, when a priest refused communion to a lesbian attending the funeral mass of her mother, the priest has been removed from ministry. But the reason given is not his cruelty to the lesbian daughter or indeed anything to do with his refusal of communion at all. He has been relieved of his duties for “engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.” Again the proximate cause of this is excised from the record. Any sign that the Catholic hierarchy might sympathize with gay people, defend them against hate or marginalization, or recognize their human dignity … is over the horizon.
This is a church now intent on erasing from visibility a small minority of human beings, while waging a campaign to keep them as second class citizens in their own countries and as subhuman "objectively disordered" beings in their own church. They cannot even speak our name. Because were they to see us as the human beings we are, if they had to confront the actual experienced reality of our lives, if they actually had a conversation with us, and engaged the problem rather than dismissing it as "madness", their pretense would be exposed.
The leaders of the current Catholic hierarchy are the Pharisees of our time. They are the people Jesus came to liberate us from. And he does. And he will.