The Catholic Church and the “sin so grievous it cries out for vengeance.”

The Catholic Church and the “sin so grievous it cries out for vengeance.” August 8, 2012

Last week I received this email:

Hi John–I check in on your blog daily, but this is my first foray into any sort of contribution. I wonder if you might consider giving some attention to the Catholic agenda with regard to gay marriage, particularly since the Catholic Church is expending more money and energy in opposing gay marriage than any other organization. I am employed by the Catholic Church in a ministerial role, and I hear the “princes of the Church” preaching discrimination against gay people on a regular basis, often with an apocalyptic theme such as “We will fight this to the death, even if it means that our members desert us and our Church buildings crumble around us.” If you haven’t read it, the Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination (published several years back by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) is especially pertinent, because it really gives the framework for the trajectory the Catholic Church is currently taking. Thanks for reading this. Please don’t use my name or position (I know it’s easy to find me online) if you decide to pursue this topic, because I would lose my position post haste, and I have a family to support! Best wishes to you as you push the Church toward actual Christ-likeness.

In the course of our ensuing chat I asked the man if he might be willing to himself pen something on this matter, since his view from the inside would surely carry more weight than anything I might say. He responded with the below, which I present to you in its entirety:

It is gradually becoming clear to me that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is so deathly afraid of “the gays” that it will do whatever it takes to keep them from being fully engaged in the life of the Church. Here are some of the stock tactics employed by the Church toward that end:

  • Start by having a tradition which calls homosexual behavior “A sin so grievous that it cries out to Heaven for vengeance.” In this way, the masses will place the homosexual outside the boundaries of what is admissible in their society. (The phrase in quotes can be found in the Examination of Conscience, a missalette in the pews of one of our local Catholic parishes.
  • Appeal to Scripture as narrowly as possible, even though it is perfectly obvious that Scripture is not treated the same way for other moral questions. It doesn’t matter that the Scripture passages which possibly pertain to gays are sparse and obscure, or that they stand in lists of outdated customs (no shellfish, no mixing linen and cotton …), nor that they refer to prostitution, the worship of idols, or the abuse and enslavement of boys.
  • Ignore problematic Bible passages such as the homoerotic elements in the story of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. [“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” David, at 2 Samuel 1:26]
  • Appeal above all to the authority of the Church’s Tradition, and as much as possible downplay appeals to reason and experience.
  • Pretend that the Church cannot change its teaching about homosexuality because it has the fullness of all truth, and thus has never changed any of its teachings. When people point out the Copernican revolution, the Vatican’s change in position on usury, slavery, and/or the rights of women, etc., etc., simply come up with convoluted technicalities which ostensibly prove the Church’s points in such a way as to be unanswerable without degrees in canon law and Catholic moral theology. If someone is astute enough to get past these obstacles, declare that person unworthy to speak in matters of faith or doctrine. Censure and silence them if necessary.
  • Define acceptable sex and marriage in such a way as to cause even most heterosexual people in your parishes to be unable to live according to the Church’s prescriptions (no masturbation, no oral sex, no contraception, etc., etc.). Then pretend to be shocked that marriage today is in such bad repair.
  • Claim that marriage hasn’t changed in its essential nature from the beginning of time, ignoring the polygamy of the biblical patriarchs, the prostitutes in Jesus’ own lineage, the centuries of arranged marriages in Christian culture, the late entrance of the Church into any sort of involvement in the marriage rite, etc. When confronted with these facts, simply provide a rationalization which appeals to Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church, while yet again downplaying the role of reason and experience.
  • Appeal to the Natural Law—after all, only heterosexuals can biologically provide offspring together—in defense of the Church’s exclusive stance on heterosexual marriage. Ignore inconvenient “natural law tangents” such as homosexual behavior in primates, etc.
  • Pretend that human sexuality is something that can be turned on or off like a spigot, and insist that gays must keep their “spigots” in the off position. After all, priests are celibate, and therefore keep their sexuality in the off position … don’t they?
  • For as long as possible, portray gays as people who are morally and spiritually bankrupt. When it becomes clear that gays are not necessarily any more spiritually bankrupt than heterosexuals, simply state that though gays may be wonderful people, no sexual complementarity or true love is possible between two men or two women, and that therefore homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered.
  • When medicine, psychology, and the other sciences find data which empirically challenge the above position on homosexuality (i.e., that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered”), use parallel Catholic organizations such as the Catholic Medical Association to present the Church’s viewpoint as a counterweight to such scientific information.
  • Treat being gay as an addiction, similar in nature to an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Create 12-step programs such as Courage to help gay people re-channel their homosexual feelings into other endeavors. Within those programs insist that gays not be open about their sexuality (to avoid scandal), stay away from children, and refrain from intimate friendships with others like themselves. In this way they can be kept from both falling off the sexual-abstinence wagon and polluting others. Never mind that the ensuing loneliness they face will almost certainly result in addiction, depression, rejection of the Faith and its demands, or some combination thereof.
  • Purposely confuse pedophilia with being gay, and create false “slippery slope” arguments which contend that if the Church accepts homosexual behavior it will one day be forced to also accept pedophilia, incest, and bestiality.
  • Attempt to eliminate gay priests by refusing to ordain them (if their orientation becomes known during their formation) and by engaging in tactics such as putting up signs like the one in the Pontifical North American College in Rome: “Overt homosexual behavior will not be tolerated in this Seminary.” (Emphasis added—and I’m not sure the sign is still in place, because it gained some notoriety a couple of years ago.)
  • Maintain an attitude of shock and disbelief when confronted with the hurt that gays feel at the hands of the Church. Respond with your own “righteous anger” at gay people daring to be angry with a Church that is innocently offering them nothing but the love of God.
  • If some gay people won’t remain quiet about their sexuality, deny them Communion, refuse to allow them an active role in the life of the parish, and as a last resort excommunicate them from the Church. Or don’t even bother with any of that: simply treat them in such a condescending fashion that they reject the Faith altogether. Then they can fit neatly into the parable where the seed is sown in rocky soil, but withers away in the sun. Rigorously ignore all evidence that the Church itself is that rocky soil.

It would actually be a relief to me if this was an overinflated tirade on my part. The fact is that the Church is unable to: A) come up with a way to incorporate as full partners into the fabric of the Church openly gay people, or B) come up with some emotionally satisfactory, long-term solution for homosexual persons who might wish to avoid being gay.

This is a terrible position to be in for an institution that claims to possess “the fullness of all truth.” The Church no longer has the means with which to physically bully people into submission, and at the same lacks the necessary moral power of persuasion, because on this issue it is so clearly in the wrong.

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  • Crysta Lee via Facebook

    Wow. And people wonder why I don’t go to church.

  • Sometimes, I wish I just didn’t read these kind of articles. But burying my head in the sand is not a great strategy either. That hatred / prejudice can go so far, so.. deranged and far from the message of Christ. It still shocks me.

  • Anne

    Thank you for sharing this. Very succintly presented. It certainly confirms my experiences with the Catholic church.

  • I am a Pagan who respects Christ as a teacher. I cannot respect the churches that have strayed so far from his teaching.

  • Kimberly

    I am very glad to hear that I’m not the only Catholic who is ashamed and angered at how the Church is treating people. It’s absolutely reprehensible. However, and maybe I’m a fool for doing so, I’m holding out hope that the Church can grow from this and become better for it. I was fortunate enough to go to a Jesuit University that encouraged questioning and thinking. I can remember one day in my class “Roman Catholicism in the 21st Century” we were talking about what changes we might see in the Church in the next few decades. The class was taught by an octogenarian Jesuit and I figured that due to his age he would prove to be more conservative than most of us in the class. We brought up the possibility of women as priests and he said he didn’t think we’d see it in our lifetimes, but hopefully, one day it would happen. Then he said something I’ll never forget, he said that the Church would most likely accept homosexuality before women priests, and that this would be the first major positive change of the 21st century. We asked him why he thought so and he said that the Church’s teachings on marriage basically say that the couple needs to be open to the possibility of biological children. Now if you have an infertile couple and a gay couple, how are they different. Both cannot biologically have children, but as long as the infertile couple says that they are “open to a miracle” they have the Church’s blessing. Why then can’t the same be said for the gay couple?

    …so I hold onto hope.

  • cranknode

    This was very hard to read. I became Catholic after turning 40-something and years of being afraid to set foot inside a church for fear of being instantly burnt to ash. Today, I love being Catholic, and reading this brings back all those phobias that kept me from enjoying closeness to God for too long. My parish is very warm and welcoming. It’s painful to be reminded that it’s not that way for everyone. You do good work, John. Please pass along our love and support for this brave writer.

  • This is a great post, putting just about all the tactic of anti-gay crusaders in one neat list. Thanx to the anonymous author!

  • Diana A.

    What your nameless writer says about the Catholic denomination is also true for other Christian denominations, sadly enough.

  • aron

    My favorite tactic is the automatic self-excommunication.

  • Christie

    So true. 🙁

  • Jesse

    I love and still respect the Catholic Church to some degree because they do good work, but their positions on women in ministry, abortion and LGBT people are so outdated. I agree with Diana completely. I left the Catholic Church and did the Evangelical thing for a few years. It took me a long time, but I realized that I had to be authentic with myself and others, and I knew neither church wanted me around anymore unless I “changed”. I’ve been a part of the Episcopal Church for about 8 months now, and I love it!

  • Mindy

    Beautifully and clearly written. I’m grateful for the compilation, as ugly as it might be. Blessings to the anonymous writer for doing his part to fling open the musty blinds and let the light shine into the dark rooms of what is most certainly NOT Godly.

  • Amy

    That list isn’t limited to the Catholic church. Plenty of Protestant churches have the same practices/beliefs. Not that I would know from personal experience attending a church like that or anything. No, not at all.

  • TheIntellectualGerbil

    thank you for posting this.

    although i was aware of the catholic churches position (they are a lot more active in europe as they are much bigger and more powerful here than in the us) it is strange to read this and once again realize, how much the leadership of the cc must hate/be afraid of people like me to go to such length just to make our lives as hard as possible.

    i hope their stance will change one day, though i do not think i could ever return. the catholic church just did too much damage in my life. there are things i am just not enlightened enough to forgive, maybe one day but i cant see it from where i am now.

    you can only take a door being slammed in your face repeatedly for so long before you eventually turn away for good … (from religion, not spirituality mind you) …

  • Ugh!

    But how inspired and timely, John, thank you…

    Just this week I’ve engaged (clashed) on fb with a family member and with a friend, both Catholic. It gets brutal. They don’t really understand. In both cases, my written words to them were deleted, by them. In both cases I was really pulling back, and staying civil, and they were escalating. I don’t know if they were afraid of me, or if they were afraid of their own frustration… but I feel silenced. I hope there were others reading the exchange before it was deleted. Sometimes all we have is hope, in such darkness. Is it enough?

    (Sorry to be so bleak… we got into politics too. ‘Nuff said.)

    John, I read both your post here and the entire missive from the church. Ugh! I say again… My question to all those who still believe this kind of bad theology is the same as it was to the pastor who asked my partner and I to leave his church/family: how do you know you’re right? what if the Church is wrong (again!!)?

    How much harm is being done to the human race by this fight to keep us defined as immoral? UGH!!

  • Beautifully written condemnation of the “universal church” and its untenable stance. I think we should take them at their word: let them defend it until their walls crumble.

  • Yes, as you say, Kevin: “untenable” is really the only/best word for it.

  • You read that “Ministry to Homosexuals” thing? I did too. It was like watching the slickest shell-game ever played, wasn’t it? That document is despicable. It’s so … cravenly slick.

  • Yeah, one of the reasons I ran this is because, as you say, it’s such a common methodology.

  • francaise

    Il n’est pas très ouvert d’esprit. msr. shore

  • Est-il possible que vous pouvez lire l’anglais, mais ne peut pas l’écrire?

  • Matt

    Wow. I’ve never seen the many and varied ways the Church (of all kinds) hates on us just laid out like that. Major kudos to the writer.

    I’ll gladly knock down Natural Law for the Catholic Church. It is, in fact, possible for two people of the same gender to reproduce. A cis man and trans man can procreate, as well as a trans woman and cis woman (though it is, of course, trickier for both pairs). The creation of a new human being isn’t dependent on their parent’s gender, but rather the right biological requirements being in place. Not to mention many a queer person has had children before coming out, or through IVF/surrogates.

    Call me a die-hard Lutheran, but I could never trust a Church that once had such political power and interests. Or ever had “princes” among its clergy, when Jesus calls us to be last and serve.

  • Just because the Catholic Church defends it’s belief on homosexuality, doesn’t mean that they “hate” homosexuals. I know that “homophobia” is a catchy buzz word because it leave the opposition in a defensive position, but it’s weak. I support homosexuals, but the double standard that is developing is incredibly hypocritical. It our attempt to create “tolerance”, we have become incredibly “intolerant”. If you don’t like what the Catholics believe, go to another church. Simple. If you want them to respect your beliefs, start by respecting theirs.

  • Jeff Straka

    Amen, Crysta! Jesus really didn’t come to start a church, but the Empire Church doesn’t want you to know that! They also don’t want you to know that he was a Wisdom teacher (like the Buddha) and not a moralist!

  • I wish that for just ten minutes I could see the world through the eyes of the men who produced those church policies and statements. Reading their words makes me so sad. Their fear is almost palpable. How can they even hold their Bibles–never mind read and study them–and still cling so tightly to their fear and confusion? How can they have even the most basic of spiritual awareness and feel so separated from–hostile to–other humans? What is it about homosexuality that distracts them so, blinding them to all the other words in the Bible? What are the sources or causes of this spiritual and emotional disfigurement? I want to understand…!

  • … but it’s not just their wanting to live according to their beliefs… they want to force it on others… there is no tolerating that harm any more.

    When I read the text, I kept thinking of the children…

  • Jeff Blackshear via Facebook

    I’m not about to respect beliefs which dictate I am, at best, to live a complete lie so they don’t have to think about anal sex*, which seems to always be what it boils down to with the knuckle-draggers. I have no dimension beyond that.

    Tolerance is something grudgingly handed out by smug, self-satisfied prats, by the way. Not interested, thanks.

    *Except when it involves underage boys, apparently.

  • Jake: Putting “hate” in quotes as you have indicates that you’re actually quoting that word from the text of the post. But I don’t recall that word appearing anywhere in the post. Did I miss it?

  • Oz in OK

    “…doesn’t mean that they “hate” homosexuals.” Went there awfully quick, I’d say.

    I hear this all the time from Christians – ‘oh we’re not hateful’ but when I look at this list, and realize that these beliefs target ME specifically, and those I love and care for, then I say ‘Yes, it sounds pretty hateful.’

    It’s a cognitive dissonance no different than a ‘Christian’ saying ‘Well, it’s people like YOU caused God to carpet-bomb two entire cities, killing untold numbers of people… and Gay men (like YOU) should be rounded up and slaughtered like cattle by bashing you with rocks until dead… and people like YOU are automatically barred from heaven, no matter whether you call yourself a believer or not… but hey, we’re not hateful!’ …what?

    If a Christian came to me with this list and ASKED ‘Does this sound hateful to you? Would the beliefs shown in this list draw you to Christ, or push you away?’ that would be an entirely different matter… but that’s not what you’re doing.

    And in answer to the unasked questions – Yes, it sounds hateful… and such beliefs would totally push me away (and it does).

  • Don Rappe

    Some of these men believe celibacy is a virtue.

  • Don Rappe

    I don’t think many are waiting for the RC hierarchy to “respect” beliefs that differ from theirs.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m still waiting. Impatiently, it seems.

  • Elizabeth

    Hmm. I’m OK with Jesus was a Wisdom teacher and not a moralist. I’m having a REALLY hard time, as a Christian, with “Jesus really didn’t come to start a church…” So he collected disciples to carry on his teachings and died on a cross because it seemed like fun?

  • Elizabeth

    The Episcopalian Church has the liturgy and symbolism I find comforting without the discrimination that is hurtful to so many. I’ve tried many denominations (I was raised Presbyterian), but Episcopalians gave me a real spiritual home.

  • I did, I did. Great description for it! Did you catch the don’t-ask-don’t tell bit? And when it starts in about families, and kids… oh, it made me tremble.

  • I am discouraged when I hear/read such nastiness coming out of the mouth of anyone who identifies themselves as Christian. There is a large population in the Catholic church, I count myself in their number who don’t agree with the church on any number of issues. When we paint with such a wide brush we tend to miss the beauty of the full picture.

  • “Just because the Catholic Church defends it’s belief on homosexuality, doesn’t mean that they ‘hate’ homosexuals.”

    What belief would that be, again? The belief that by existing we are guilty of “a sin so grievous that it cries out to Heaven for vengeance,” the belief that we are the equivalent of people who prey on children, or the belief that our only option for existing is to forego the natural human intimacy that makes everyone else’s life worth living? Evidently that looks like hate to you, too, or you wouldn’t have used the word.

    John Shore, ftw.

  • Lisa, forgive my uncertainty… are you speaking to John or to those who are doing what the Catholic insider has explained to us is being done?

    If you are speaking to John, and saying that by sharing this information we are missing the beauty of the Catholic church, I would say this: I hope you are actively working within the Catholic church and using your voice to make changes. The highest leadership within the Institution of the Roman Catholic Church has written the missive John shared. THAT is what the Catholic church believes and holds its members to believe.

    For context: I am not a protestant. I was raised a Catholic. I no longer identify as christian of any kind. I do believe Jesus existed, and that he had something amazing and special to teach us… of which I am afraid much was lost and misunderstood.

  • Jill

    Apparently hate is worlds apart from oppression, marginalization, judgment, and shame. The church is only defensive, not hateful. So you know, we should all just get over it.

    I’ll be sure to try and remember that.

  • SuzySnowflake

    What are those abbreviations or terms you are using that you must assume people have actually heard of (cis man, cis woman)?

  • me too.

  • “Nastiness”? (Oh, wait. I’ll bet her response was to the statement below, wherein anal sex gets mentioned. When the comments are imported over here from my Facebook page, they lay out here in REVERSE order than do regular comments made here: the FB comments run bottom-to-top, in other words, instead of visa-verse. Lemme me go look.

    Yeah, that’s what happened. If you go to my FB page, you’ll see that Lisa’s comment is directly beneath Jeff Blackshear’s.)

  • K (aka Caring Heart)

    Wow, it’s happening (well I have hope of it happening…)

    Do you remember when I said in a message to you,

    “Food for thought – How can we change the mind/views of the Pope?

    Gotta think big John 🙂 ”

    Putting this out there, shines a light on what has been going on (with the help of your new friend on the inside).

    Wouldn’t that be amazing if this got read by lots and lots of people.

    Wouldn’t it be mind blowing if the church changed it’s position?!

    OK I *know* I’m a dreamer, but I’m going to hold onto that dream.

    What are they so afraid of?

  • Elizabeth

    A cis man is one with a masculine gender identity. A cis woman is one with a feminine gender identity. It means their gender identities matches their bodies. It means straight, basically.

  • Elizabeth


  • Of losing their power.

  • Karen Bunn

    “We will fight this to the death, even if it means that our members desert us and our Church buildings crumble around us.”

    Okay. Bring a lunch.

  • Steve

    I find it absurd that we have to be lectured on human sexuality by people who have no experience with it.

  • Steve

    “Find another church” would be acceptable advice if it weren’t for the high level political activities of the church, such as their funding of public referendums with millions of dollars. They are choosing to make their positions very public and are thus fair game.

  • Steve

    It took them 400 years to apologize for Galileo. This won’t be any different. And in 400 years they’ll pretend that they were never anti-gay. Hoping for a change in a few decades is wishful thinking and wholly unrealistic.

    In reality, the Catholic Church is becoming more conservative every year. Only ultra-conservative bishops become cardinals who then elect the Pope. In that system, change is nearly impossible.

  • Storm Longhauser

    @Elizabeth, a church is or can be an organization full of bureaucracy and institutional policies that lose or miss the message. As opposed to a group of individuals who share their zeal and wisdom with others by example and ministry. In his own ministry, Jesus did not form an institutional church. Perhaps the discussion we are having about the institutional bigotry of one church in particular is a good example of why he didn’t.

  • Jeff Straka

    Sorry – I should have qualified that. He didn’t come to start a patriarchal, hierarchical institution with buildings and budgets and paid staff, etc., and he certainly didn’t envision a gold-plated Vatican! I think he wanted small, inclusive, non-hierarchical contemplative communities (Sanghas). Some of the Nag Hammadi texts (that the Empire Church ordered destroyed) pointed towards this DIFFERENT Jesus and DIFFERENT “church”. Cynthia Bourgeault’s works have opened this up:

  • From the very beginning, yes, exactly that.

  • Got it. Thanks. 🙂

  • To be encouraged to “find another church” is so offensive to the one who is being told (I know from direct experience) … to me, it smacks of the similarly narrow-minded and self-centered “if you don’t like America, leave” I see on bumper stickers. A decent, mild extended family member — who says she supports my relationship — recently advised me that if I wanted to be happy I could choose to live in another state since NC recent legislation against me and my family upset me.

    To her, and to you Jake, I say “Really? You walk a mile in my shoes and then let’s see what you say.”

    I think everyone could benefit from one really big societal rejection. I’m telling you, it changed me, taught me so much. Excrutiatingly painful of course. Wish there were other ways I could have learned all that. 😉

  • Jeff Straka

    Another eye-opening book that helped me see this non-institutional Jesus is “The Existential Jesus” by John Carroll. Listen to the author explain his book here:

  • otter

    Really, how surprised should we be ? isn’t this about what you would expect from an organization rife with self -loathing, closeted, repressed gay men? Think about the destructive trail left by other sanctimonious blowhards that have later become laughingstocks for vehemently criticizing the sins they were committing themselves.

  • Jill

    This is good for me to know.

  • N

    And of being wrong.

  • N

    I hear yah. By being run out of their faith communities (“find another church”) we are often run out of our families. By being run out of our home towns (“find another state”) we are often run out of our community of friends as well.

    Still, for all that they said it ineptly, it is important to find somewhere where you don’t have to feel rejected every moment. I chose to move to a more accepting city, but you don’t have to do that. Just…make sure you have some real friends, ok? And take care of yourself.

  • same thing.

  • Sadly, not surprising. Loved the last sentence of the last bullet point: “Rigorously ignore all evidence that the Church itself is that rocky soil.”

  • Jill

    Excellent. I will be looking those up.

  • Laura Bettencourt via Facebook

    Yesterday on our local PBS radio station morning show KQED’s Forum), our new very conservative San Francisco arch bishop was interviewed. His positions were so wildly contradictory and ludicrous that I was angry and sad in turns. It’s people like this who ruin God. Rocky soil indeed. The interview audio is here:

  • I *love* exploring old ruins.

    Crumbling old churches… it’s like incentive for me because “cool ruins!”

  • Patricia L. Money via Facebook

    WOW. But not surprising.

  • THIS is the kind of thing that scares me! THIS is the kind of persecution the my partner Zach has had to endure by his own brother and sister not to mention their negative behavior towards their own mother! THIS is the reason, that after a life long Catholic, Zach’s mother has left the church! Yet this church still protects pedophiles on a regular basis! I read this with the disgust that brings tears!

  • Christine McQueen

    All of those arguments are used by just about any homophobe of any religious belief or even those of NO religious beliefs. Having been involved in this ‘debate’ for over 14 years now, none of these is ‘news’ to me.

  • Yeah, it gets so exhausting, doesn’t it? 🙁

    Somehow, though, John has a way of writing that reaches those who *don’t* know all these. I would like to think he is helping bring change. I sure do know that he (and the “community” he has created here) is helping me!

  • Susan Equality Lee via Facebook This is third party information of scientific consensus that gay is normal. I hope to use this to dialog on I am human, I am gay and I am normal, therefore you can not other me out of my humanity or my goodness.

  • Susan Equality Lee via Facebook This is third party information I hope to use for, I am a married American and you can not other me out of my civil rights.

  • Susan Equality Lee via Facebook Third party information for discussing differences in faith and asking for respect for my freedom of religion and that I can not be othered out of Christianity. And of coarse your book Unfair, to share the stories and make it more third person. Thank you for it, it is a life saver. We mistakenly have live and let live for 21 years of marriage and will now speak up by redirecting to the Ouch you are stepping on my humanity, Ouch you are stepping on my civil rights, Ouch you are stepping on my Christianity. Hopefully we can live our truth, our love and affect change. You have given me hope to open the conversation. Thanks and Blessings Susan Equality Lee

  • Thank you, N, and :::::HUGS::::: for that!

    When we moved to North Carolina, just over a year ago, we found a wonderfully accepting area in the state. Workplace, colleagues, neighbors, people we see walking down the street… all safe, non-rejecting places. Believe it or not, we have run into way less rejection here than we did in NYC where we moved from!!

    We also have a (very) few real friends. We’re still working on that one.

  • Oz in OK

    This stuff is sickening – especially when we see it play out in the lives of the people we love. Hugs to you and Zach!

  • DR

    No I really don’t (I’m Catholic by the way).

    This is like asking me to respect a father who beats his little girl with a pipe because that’s how he interprets “Spare the rod, spoil the child” in Scripture. You’re essentially saying that I need to “respect” a belief, even if that belief is abusive and causes damage because it is religious in nature. That is absolutely incorrect and as a matter of fact as a Christian, it is disobedient on my part.

  • Jill

    Keith, if there’s any warped comfort in knowing how alone you are NOT, I hope you and Zach draw strength and consolation from people and communities that CAN support you.

    I felt less like a faith traitor once I realized this, and I was respected like I’d never been before. All new experiences.

  • Diana A.

    Yep. This is true.

  • Diana A.


  • Susan in NY

    The Catholic church lost me at age nine when my mother did not take my sister and I to Sunday mass one week. The rule is that you have to go to Confession if you miss mass one week, in order to be in good standing and be able to take communion when you return.

    So, the shortest line at the Confession booths was at the harshest priest in the parish. We were in a rush, so I went there. I made up a few lies about fighting with my sister and disrespecting my mother, and then I mentioned missing mass. Father Heinz told me that I was going to go to hell if I missed mass. Can you imagine? I was nine. I was very sheltered and naive. I was horrified. I literally felt traumatized. I did not tell my mother what he said, as I thought she might be mad at me, but I fixated on the idea of going to hell for quite a while. It was not pleasant at all.

    Mind you, our church was too far away for me to go without my mother driving me. I thought, momentarily, that I perhaps could take the public bus on Sunday morning if my mother was going to skip church.

    After some time, my horror and fear turned to anger at the audacity of this angry old man telling me I was going to hell because my mother did not drive me to mass on one sunday.

    This anger has never subsided, and in fact I still feel great anger and disgust at the Catholic church and all the horrible things, both great and small, that they have perpetrated since the inception of the Church.

    I am a Congregationalist now.

  • Al

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, otter. Homophobic attitudes say more about the victimizers than the victims. Once you scrape away the surface, you can usually find someone with a deeply guarded secret. Sadly, their repression makes life difficult or miserable for those less willing or able to bury the fact of their gay sexual orientation.

  • That particular aspect of Catholic belief deserves NO respect because it is wrong, it is erroneous, it stems from erroneous interpretations and translations, it is provably historically inaccurate, it emanates from a homophobic organization of homophobic homosexuals…..all of which they very well know and are therefore stunningly hypocritical, all of which amounts to an outrageous lie perpetrated in the name of power, NOT love.

    How can that possibly be respected?

  • And the word “hate” vis-a-vis the gay issue is too thoughtlessly used. My evangelical siblings, for instance, are staunchly anti-gay for religious reasons, but they are distinctly not hateful people.

    Calling religiously motivated anti-gay christians “hateful” in general, merely causes them to become defensive.

    Yes, there ARE those that truly hate gays but it is not helpful this terribly important social discussion to carelessly label them all “hateful”.

  • PS. I’m no apologist for them. I’m just advocating a more judicious use of the word in the all important national discussion.

  • The dam is breaking. The continuing RCC controversy reminds me of a book by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong titled WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE. A past article in Huff Post by a Jesuit Priest made the point that some aspects of the RCC must die before it can change:

    Perhaps one of the most significant things about the RCC that must die is its ubiquitous use of power words. Self aggrandizing titles of Father, Mother, Lord, Excellency, Holiness (god, what a joke), Papa, sheep, flock, have the effect, perhaps the design of making the average catholic feel “less than” while making the leadership feel “more than”. The development of hubris and arrogance among the “more than” is self-fulfilling in such a power structured system. Words mean things and those words are clearly power mechanisms, designed to make the average members of the church feel like children who must be instructed and condescended to while making the Priests, Nuns and hierarchy feel like well, Fathers and Mothers and Masters. The hubris leads to blind self-righteousness, and the law-unto-themselves the hierarchy has become. The “simple, humble and poor….like Jesus” church that Rev Martin (the Jesuit Priest) hopes to see cannot happen until the words are changed. That will happen only with true Spiritual enlightenment and only then will their anti-gay attitude begin to change.

    Of course, then it would no longer be the RCC as we know it. The Roman hierarchy is caught in a trap of it’s own making.

  • Diana A.

    It’s time for the more liberal Catholics (they do exist) to pack up their check-books and take back their church –justwas like with the rest of us Christians.

  • Robert

    I am so glad that I am not a christian/catholic or a member of any organized religion. As I began reading… I realized that though the writer did a great job in outlining the issues… I also realized that none of it matter. People who “believe” that they and only they understand “god” and his “word” will never listen to any argument no matter how logical, reasonable and factual… because they simply won’t.

    I was thinking today of my ex-BF who became an ex-gay born again christian and all of my attempts to “enlighten” him. He didn’t want to be “enlighten”. He likes that he is now surrounded by a bunch of people who think exactly like him. He needs it.

    I was also thinking about his point of view and how he would think me as dogmatic as he. And… what I realized is this.

    Yes, I am as dogmatic as he. But there is a difference between his system of thought and mine.

    His system of thought, moral development, spirituality…

    (1) His system is a closed system that does not want information or facts.

    (2) He beleives his system is based on the bible, the literal word of GOD.

    (3) He is able to either ignore or deny any inconsistencies.

    (4) His is a closed system and is very resistent to change.

    (5) ALOT of people have ALOT of $$$$$$$ interests in keeping that system just the way it is.

    (6) That system has always needed an enemy and has always created one.

    My system of thought…

    (1)My system is an open system… I want more information and experiences. I want to challenge myself… and I want to understand the mind of GOD as completely as possible. This is a never ending process… GOD is eternal, ever expanding, ever creating and ever changing. GOD is diversity… they world around us proves this.

    (2)My system has evolved over time. My thinking has morphed and changed while still keeping the best… morally, ethically, spiritual… influences from all the worlds religions, sciences, philosophers, art and literature. Life is an exploration…

    (3)My system is based on human experience, the world around me… Life.

    (4) I love inconsistencies and I use them to see them as ways to uncover self-lies, delusions and illusions. I see inconsistencies as gifts from GOD. Not to be feared but as a way to grow and to be more human.

    (5) My system… my way of being in the world is open to change and development. I go by the motto… keep the best and get rid of the rest. It works for me.

    (6) My system needs no enemy. Though I see that there are people that are opposed to my way of being in the world. I am (slowly) coming to the emotional understanding that if I hate someone or shame someone… then it is I who has the hate and shame in my heart. And if someone hates and shames me… then that is what they have in their hearts. I no longer want to worry about or even fight bigots. I just want to live as decent a life possible.

    I grew up in a closed system world and I broke free from it… it took effort and courage. I feel for the people still stuck in it… and I understand that they are willing participants… not simply idiots being manipulated by unscrupulous ministers, priests and popes. And I have been aware for a very long time that some people are making LOTS of $$$$$ via this whole religious racket. But no one is being duped.

  • Storm Longhauser

    Okay, why don’t we call them spiritual terrorists? Basically their “love” is an attack on the very spirit and soul of the people they target. So why not be honest about it? Is it really fair to ask us to sugarcoat their behavior so we don’t offend people who actively oppress us? Sorry, perhaps a better defensive mechanism for them would be to recognize how hateful their actions are and change course. Blaming the victims for not being happy about the hatefulness directed at them does seem like the work of an apologist.

  • Jill

    Soul, can you help me find the right word instead?

    And does that/would that word improve the tenor of discussion and open some closed eyes or perhaps whitewash the reality of the oppressive culture that we live? I’m not being facetious—I truly don’t know.

  • KarenAtFOH

    Trop drôle! LOL! Et un grand merci à Google Translate pour m’avoir permis de participer à ce fil.

  • KarenAtFOH

    “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is still hate.

  • Blake

    I love the Catholic Church but the leadership is nuts. Over on another blog commenters are having an interesting discussion about boy scouts and how local troops and leadership are really out of touch. Apparently the leadership of the scouts is organized as a professional class who live off donations from troops. They interpret their codes & creeds in ways that makes sense to old, fat, men who haven’t been camping or around young men since they earned their bureaucratic position.

    In a similar way the Catholic Church I grew up in was very independent, community focused and strong willed. The Priests would bend the dictates from Rome or the Archbishop to fit the local community. I remember, specifically, one campaign from the top which encouraged us to proselytize more. Our Priest deadpanned his delivery of the address he had to give that Sunday in lieu of a homily and, as we gathered for the post-mass pot-luck, all we seemed to talk about how tacky proselytizing is.

    I can’t speak for other Catholic congregations (and the nature of the congregation I’m speaking of now has changing significantly since my youth) but we were defiant of leadership and independently minded. Perhaps because we were lightly persecuted in our small-town-cum-suburb by over-zealous Baptist-mega-church goers. Perhaps because we held mass in an elementary school cafeteria almost wholly without the ostentatious pretensions of Catholic ritual (no kneelers even!!). Perhaps it was the large numbers of transplants, immigrants, and protestant spouses in our congregation.

    Anyway, that church felt like a family. It felt like a place where the sacraments had meaning. A place where not only communion but confession too was truly important and personal and, somehow, fearless. Like a right of passage or a mark of pride rather than an obligation. And the priests treated it as such. No hard rules. Do it if you can. No judgment if you can’t. It’s not like we had a confessional anyway. And we did it across a table. Looking each other in the eye. It was cool in the same degree that talking to someone in a dark box through a screen is disconcerting.

    The first person I came out to, my priest in confession at my confirmation, responded with a gay affirming message. I am eternally grateful to that priest. I was a very religious young person and he saved me from my youthful inclinations and allowed me to become the man I am. And while I am no longer a Catholic nor a Christian I still hold a deep respect for the Church that was a family, a refuge, and a source of strength throughout my childhood and adolescence.

  • Matt

    Thanks, Elizabeth. I didn’t explain myself because I’ve explained it tons of times to other people already. It’s already there right at their fingertips. It’s a way to distinguish between people who have different gender histories without implying that one is more “right” or “natural” than the other.

    However, it does not mean “straight.” “Straight” refers to a sexual orientation, and a trans woman or trans man can be straight, gay, bisexual or anything else. There are cisgender gay man and cisgender gay women.

  • Hal Bichel via Facebook

    Wow – thanks for sharing this…

  • “Why then can’t the same be said for the gay couple?”

    I great, pointed, interesting, and somewhat funny question to be sure. Certainly if there was a way my wife and I could suddenly conceive children that were biologically both ours… Well, absolutely, I’m open! That would be a beautiful, wonderful miracle.

    But the first thing that came to mind was God providing miracle appearing-from-nowhere sperm. Then I pictured a sample in a box with a bow floating down on a cloud. Which isn’t to say I’m not open to that, either! 🙂

  • Randy

    “We will fight this to the death, even if it means that our members desert us and our Church buildings crumble around us.”

    Why? Why is this one issue so important to the church above all others?

  • charles

    thanks John! that was a really informative post….

  • mike moore

    I think you’re referring to Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, who got a DUI and then joked about it at his installation. Horrible man.

  • boy jesse

    i will never understand how being GLBT is somehow a ‘sinnier’ sin than, oh, let’s say… murder.

  • mike moore

    Am I the only reader who is ANGRY at the letter writer?

    The letter writer has given us an excellent breakdown and analysis of the church’s deadly and malicious intent towards gay people and shows us that this is rooted in centuries of evil, close-minded, dogmatic, thinking.

    This letter writer seems compassionate and intelligent.

    So, Letter Writer, how the fuck can you WORSHIP and WORK with such an evil institution?

    At what point will you read your own words and understand what you are condoning by your silence?

    At what point do you take responsibility for the actions of your religion and your own public support for this church?

    At what point will it dawn on you that you are part of the problem, not part of the cure?

    At what point do you believe you become culpable for actions of organizations which you support?

    Is it when your church tortures and burns women at a stake? When a crusade invades and massacres a foreign people? Is it when the church sits by and watches Jews loaded into cattle cars? Is it when your Popes tour AIDS-ravaged countries and tell people not to use condoms? Is it when your church becomes so concerned with protecting its image that protects pedophiles and moves them to other parishes … or is when your church vilifies the victims of those priests?

    Your church, quick to scream bloody murder when its freedoms are infringed, has entered the public arena and has worked to keep homosexuality criminalized. It works to force its beliefs on non-Catholics, denying their civil rights and protections. Denying them marriage.

    Do you, as a member in good standing of the Catholic Church, really believe you are in no way culpable for your church’s actions?

    And, as you well demonstrate, the church’s approach to homosexuality is not an anomaly … the Catholic Church has reined terror down on innocent people for centuries, and it will continue to do so for as long as people like you support them.

  • Jill

    Exactly. Sanity prevails!

  • Jeff Brady


    I guess you’ve never felt so strongly tied to anything that rather than cut and run you wished to stay and work to exact change from inside the organization? Sometimes that means sticking with something wrong in the hopes that you can work to turn it good. It also means that “anti” voices within the organization will be silenced asap, so of course the letter writer must protect his identity.

  • Barbara Rice

    The letter writer sticks with the Catholic Church for the same reason the rest of us stick with our religion: it’s not so easy to just up sticks and leave everything you know. The Catholic Church is hardly the only institution guilty of crimes as listed above, but we cling to our faith hoping to work from the inside for change, hoping to speak up for the oppressed and be the light for them.

  • mike moore

    Of course, I understand that change often comes from people working within an organization.

    I also understand there comes a time when you can’t sit silently in a pew and/or collect a paycheck when real evil is going on around you.

    And specifically in regards to the Catholic Church, this is not new behaviour. This church has had 2000 years to get it right … it’s time for 1 billion Catholics to say, “fuck this shit.”

  • mike moore

    I understand, but there comes a moment when an organization becomes so vile that it must be publicly denounced, especially by its own members.

  • Barbara Rice

    Not everyone is able to throw themselves on their own sword.

  • You cursed. I’m telling.

  • mike moore

    then maybe they should just quietly leave, rather than silently condone.

  • mike moore

    you’re right. I’ll to go confession asap.

  • Al

    I think the thing is, do people work to bring about change in their religious organizations or do they silently submit because they think their voice won’t make a difference? I think it must be the latter since the Catholic church (and others) act publicly as though they are speaking for the whole congregation. A church ought to be the domain of all it’s members but it really is the leadership that decides the direction an institution will go.

  • Barbara Rice

    Again, they may not be able to. My mother worked for the draft board for many years, including during Vietnam, and she was very anti-Vietnam war.

    However, she had an alcoholic husband and three children, and the federal government paid enough to keep us clothed and housed (though hardly handsomely). In the 1960s in this small town, a woman was not going to find a similar rate of pay.

    After working for local government for nearly 30 years, I understand fully why one can’t just leave a corrupt place of employment despite deep ethical differences. It’s all very well and good to shout “Jump! Save yourself!” when it’s someone else in the burning building, but it usually isn’t that easy. We’re not all Norma Rae or Erin Brockovich.

  • You know, I read the title and assumed the “sin so grievous it cries out for vengeance” was the pedophilia they’ve been perpetuating and covering up for decades. I figured that would be *self-evident* thing that would come to anyone’s mind.

    The fact that it’s NOT…what that says about how the Church leadership classifies evil is, quite frankly, a little frightening.

  • Jill

    Does cursing twice in one sentence count as one sin or two?

  • Jill

    For what it’s worth to the conversation, I left my homophobic, misogynistic religion. Good mental health decision for me, but I know it’s not a price everyone is willing and can always afford to pay. I paid a big personal price for staying in through my early twenties, and then I paid a big familial and equally personal price when I walked away.

    I’m not saying anything other than the reality that everyone has their personal stake, and not only the social justice and equality stake. Obviously nothing you don’t already know, but if it were just that easy, I think we would’ve all done it by now.

    My thought seems unfinished here, because I feel all your points as deeply, maybe in a different way, as you do. But I could say the same things about oh so many institutions. Like religion in general, like government, and yet there are reasons people stick in there to make it different. Change that may look a snail’s pace, but I’d stick my neck out and say if there hadn’t been people who’ve stayed in and modeled behaviors on how to change, there wouldn’t be so much of it.

    And for the record, I’ve blamed Christianity as a whole for much of what you stated here, but I’m glad there are people like John who’ve stuck in with it and showed me a better view. If he wasn’t here giving me something better, I’d probably still be angry.

  • Karen

    Exactly — this is an organization that is old enough to know better but never learns precisely because it was never about Spirit; it has been about power and politics. One must wonder if staying with the Church is any smarter than staying in any other false and abusive relationship. Really? What are you saving if you stay? Pointless if you ask me.

  • Maria

    Well, I guess I stand condemned with Barbara (if she is Catholic; she really never comes out and says so, though she defends us who chose that route). I am one of those who has made her way to Christ through (though some might say in spit of) the Catholic Church. But it has worked for me in bringing me to were I am today still in love with Christ and, when I succeed, all who is Christ (all of us). And I do understand it is a very imperfect institution, and I do understand the higher you go, the more evil/corruption you are bound to find (all that power does corrupt). In a way, though, to me that is the same as me being American, that is to say part of a country that has done much good and has the potential for so much more good, and yet is responsible for so much evil and corruption in this world. One might ask the same questions as to, knowing what my country is up to, why don’t you just leave it. Well, just like my church, which has done so much good and has the potential for so much more (but which also has fallen short) I see myself as being called to make whatever changes i might from within. I am always awfully sorry when I hear atrocities committed by either country or church, but I also am knowleageable about some of the good that exists, and, most importantly, the potential for good that exists, and yes that includes issues like lgbts equality and such. We have done lots of injustices both as country and as church. I have not given up on country though sometimes I despair at some of what it still does, it seems it is starting to change for the better. I know also there are those within my church still fighting for the same things although we have still got a long, long, long way to go specially when one considers the higher reaches of leadership. And in the meanwhile, I can but hope and pray, however little time I have left of that, that my church might yet learn the way. The way that so many I see from the outside (like many of you in this blog) have already found. And if you must condemn me for being who I am, so be it, though I would ask that, if you still see it fit, you might still send a prayer on my behalf to our Almighty father that he might keep me on the right road according to His will and through my/our beloved Lord Jesus.

    Meanwhile know that I pray for you all and wish you all nothing but love.


  • Jill

    Maria, can I say it is because of people like you that gives me hope in Christianity in general, and Catholics in specific? I really did have blinders on about this kind of thing for a very long time.

    You’re an amazing example of the love born of your faith, and I so thank you for sharing it here.

  • Betsy

    This issue is the last one. The big one. I teach theology to young women and am leaving at the end of the school year. I have also refused to lie for quite some time. There is no sensible theological reason to continue the Catholic assault on women, on homosexuals, or on the truth about marriage. The church usually just silences the truthsayers. But in this age, they are no longer silent.

    theology done well will create a position where such lies cannot continue, but… and it is not difficult to find theologians who use the art and intellectual rigor necessary. it is difficult to find truthsayers in the hierarchy of the church… James Alison is an extremely orthodox theologian who uses the art of theology to begin to turn the hierarchy upside down.

    the church – all of it – is dead. But as believers we recognize and expect resurrection.

  • Betsy

    Maria, you said it very well.

  • Laurie

    Mike, I’m in agreement. I left the Church years ago for similar reasons. I chose to convert to Catholicism when I got married in the late 1980’s based upon having been raised around non evangelicals and Catholics who were not extreme conservatives. I could support Vatican II and hoped the Church would continue to evolve not devolve. Had I wanted to be a bible thumping, literal interpretation evangelical, I would have NOT become Catholic. I was medically trained in a Catholic hospital and was taught by a priest and nuns that the Science, medicine and health decisions were based upon the person’s unique situation and that the Church “rules” were a framework that had to be based upon personal conscience, NOT hard as stone in regards to birth control, sexuality, etc. As the years went on and the extremism and conservative political entities got more and more control, I found I could not in good conscience support nor follow the path the Church was going. When the sexual abuse scandal and other scandals reached crescendo, we had already been pushed away. I was told by a large Catholic group that environmental pollution impacts to children, the sexual abuse coverups were a sacrifice sanctioned by God that we could not question nor fight against and that Democrats “ate” aborted fetuses, I turned LEFT.

  • mike moore

    Barbara, I’m sorry … I’m no shining example of morality … but do you even understand what you have written?

    Your mother worked to draft (FORCE) men into a war in which many of those same men lost their souls, were forever damaged, and were forced to kill Vietnamese people who’d never harmed them or their families.

    Almost 60,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam. Your Mom may have provided for your family, but in the process she helped to destroy the lives of 60,000 American families.

    She did not need to be, nor do you, a Norma Rae or Erin Brokovich.

    One can quietly walk away. But to knowingly send men off to die in a war she believed to be unjust … because of her “rate of pay” … seems inexcusable.

  • mike moore

    Laurie, your response is really heartening and thank you for it.

    Of course, now … I’m a bit of a foodie … I’ve got several horrible jokes running through my head about Democrats eating fetuses, but I’m sure any one of them would get me booted off of John’s site.

  • Jill

    There’s my Mr. Brightside that I know and love!

  • laurie

    My boys were teens at the time, we homeschooled and when they read the fwded email about that, it was so absurd, they did and still joke. The sad part was that when we discussed it with those who fwded it, a large group, they were insistent that it was unquestionable truth because it originally came from high up the hierarchy. That was our last discussion with them and the final straw.

  • mike moore

    Maria, I really appreciate your words and, for a large part, agree.

    I have worked within organizations for change. I believe in change from the inside. I believe one shouldn’t easily “cut and run.” (heaven knows, it was very tempting to take up residency outside of the US during the GW Bush years)

    With all that said, there simply comes a time when certain religions (like Catholicism,) certain rulers/governments (like George III/England,) certain political parties (I used to be a full-blooded Republican) … even certain country clubs (my parents’ former club had policies against black and Jewish members) … etc., need to be recognized as so deeply corrupted and/or morally bankrupt that change within is no longer a viable option. And at that moment, to continue to support or be silent makes one complicit.

    People say one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but what if the baby is long gone, and one is only holding dirty water?

  • mike moore

    Well said, Jill. The reason I read and love John’s blog and love so many of his readers is that John, and you, and so many of his readers, are the people causing change to occur within the Christian community and the larger public sphere.

    Here in this space, I see people working for good from within and without … and I don’t see my love of this space as being at odds with an attitude that some organizations are irredeemable.

  • mike moore

    Laurie, tell your boys that I’m working on a new meat-pie recipe for the next Democratic convention … it will soon be available through all Sweeney Todd food shops.

  • mike moore

    Killer comment, Jill … fyi, I’m coming out my cage, and I’ve been doin’ just fine. (It was only a kiss, after all)

  • mike moore

    only if you had twice the fun.

  • Barbara Rice

    I’ve heard that argument before (sending young men off to their death) – since high school, in fact. And again, it’s easy to say what someone else ought to do when you aren’t in their shoes. She made the choice she did to feed and house her family. She did not approve of the war and she felt guilty, but again – she had to make a choice: keep us fed and clothed, or not. I’m sorry you find that an inexcusable choice, but I don’t.

  • Bill

    When one equates homosexuality with pedophilia, that is one of the most hateful things you can do. It’s lies like this and others that are prime source for the psychological and often physical harm visited upon our LGBTQ young people.

    You just hate the sin? Sorry, that doesn’t work for me or any of my gay friends. That’s like saying you hate people with blue eyes, or curly hair.