Sunday, October 29, 2006

Baptism and Asbestos Wear

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are considering a pastoral statement on ministry with gay and lesbian people. It reads, in part:

The guidelines recommend baptizing the adopted children of same-sex couples, as long as the children will be raised as Catholics. It says that gay people may benefit from revealing their “tendencies” to friends, family and their priest, but should not make “general public announcements” about it in the parish.

The guidelines also say that gay men and lesbians have “no moral obligation to attempt” therapy, an apparent reference to therapy programs that claim to change gay people’s sexual orientation. It says that while “some have found therapy helpful,” there is “no scientific consensus” either on therapy or the causes of homosexuality . . .

“The bishops would like people with homosexual inclinations to really participate in the church, but they don’t want to ‘give scandal,’ ” Father Weinandy said. “If you knew a heterosexual couple were just cohabitating and not married, you wouldn’t let them be eucharistic ministers either.”

Of course, gay and lesbian people are denied access to sacramental marriage, as well as civil marriage (except for Massachusetts), so it seems unfair to compare them to cohabitating heterosexuals. It entirely begs the question of whether legal marriage is the only form in which sexual union can become a path to holiness, but that is another kettle of fish.

It sounds to me like the bishops are not of one mind, trying to simultaneously condemn and reach out to gay and lesbian Roman Catholics. It is a classic double bind: "We welcome you; we are ashamed of you. Take part in the church; remain invisible." I think I prefer to be condemned outright. This smacks of being welcomed for my money and energy, so long as I check my dignity at the door. Unfortunately, this view represents the attitude of far too many Anglican bishops too.

Warning to gay and lesbian folks: make sure you put on your asbestos wear for your baptism. You'll need it.

James Alison provides the best response to the Church's binding of the gay conscience that I have seen in print. His writing is a wonderful antidote to the ecclesial poison meted out to gay and lesbian folks. Get your prescription filled soon!

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