Acknowledging Our Faithful Gay Priests Might be a Start – UPDATE

Over at First Things, Joshua Gonnerman brings a provocative title: Dan Savage was Right.

Relax. He doesn’t argue that Savage was right to call the bible “bullshit”, but Gonnerman does write:

Savage is of course wrong to refer to the Bible as bullshit. It is the prime document of the Christian faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and treasured by the churches throughout the ages. Only in Scripture can we encounter Christ and through him reach towards divinization, and the Scripture in which I was raised continues to provide the backbone to my own life of faith.

He is no less wrong to dismiss traditional sexual morality. On this point, Scripture and tradition always have spoken with one voice, and the churches cannot, in good conscience, reject that voice. The traditional sexual ethic is the only possible antidote to the rampant commodification of human persons in contemporary culture. As a Christian who is committed to chastity and who is also gay, I acknowledge and I accept the high claims that ethic makes on my life.

But recall Savage’s original point. It was not “the Bible is wrong;” his incendiary remarks were meant to build up the over-arching concern of Christian non-response to the gay community. He recounts a hypothetical Christian who claims, “I’m sorry, we can’t do anything about bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, in Timothy, in Romans that being gay is wrong.” Christians have appealed far too quickly to their traditional moral views to avoid offering support to gay people. Here, if nowhere else, Dan Savage has a point.

Do read the whole thing. Gonnerman is making a point that the churches have something to say to our gay brothers and sisters, but it has to be something more contructive in the saying, and more sincerely inclusive — as in the way a true family manages to include and love all of its members, no matter what — if good fruit may be brought forth:

If Christians have any interest in reaching out to the gay community, if we have any hope to speak a message which can touch their hearts as well, we absolutely must be willing to live as their family. Behind his blundering obscenity, behind his facile attempts to explain Scripture away, behind the blatant hypocrisy of his behavior toward those who disagree with him, what Dan Savage means to tell us is, “The church has far too often, and for the most wrong-headed reasons, failed to be family to gay people.”

I completely agree. And I really believe that the way to begin to do that is for our bishops and the curia to stop turning a blind eye to a simple truth, that numbered among our priests are faithful, celibate, joyful priests who are homosexual. As I wrote here:

I wonder if [the Church’s] bishops and religious leaders will, for example, have to acknowledge with loving support the numerous celibate homosexual priests who, throughout history and still today, serve her faithfully, courageously, and with great joy. Such an acknowledgment could go a long way repairing that disconnect that keeps everyone talking about tolerance while walking away from it.

It would speak to the value of the human person as he is created; it would reinforce the church’s own teaching that the homosexual inclination is not in-and-of-itself sinful; in a sex-saturated culture where “gay” has become in some minds synonymous with “promiscuous” and both heterosexual and homosexual couples see no particular value in chastity, it would present the radical counter-narrative.

Most importantly, such an acknowledgment would be call of olly-olly-oxen free for the church herself. Battered by the revelations of the past decade, poorly served by past psychological studies suggesting that child abusers could be “cured” and therefore distrustful of more recent findings that homosexuals are no more inclined to pedophilia than heterosexuals, the church has reflexively pulled the curtains over a number of her priests, and in doing so, she has hidden the idea of “acceptable otherness” from a flock that is sorely in need to see some of it.

I love our priests, and honor them, but it’s hard to argue that an unfaithful straight priest is better than a faithful gay one. I would rather see a homosexually-inclined happy, celibate priest be able to live in honesty about who he is, than learn about a hetero priest living a lie. A faithful priest is a faithful priest. A happy, joy-filled priest serves the body of Christ in a powerful way.

Allow me to anticipate the argument that the priesthood cannot be open to people the Eastern religions call “imbalanced” and our church calls “disordered.” Find me a priest who doesn’t have some sort of disorder, whether it’s an eating disorder, or an attention-seeking disorder, or a disorder of social ineptness, a hearing disorder, or even a learning disorder. Our priests are human, imperfect, faulty and sometimes broken, just like the rest of us. I think as a church we do ourselves and our dear priests a disservice by pretending that one particular disorder is not represented among them — and we do our gay brothers and sisters a disservice, too, by rendering them only partly visible.

UPDATE: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t know a single Catholic or Christian who wants this to be the way the church is understood:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers.

Read it all

Related: “Homophobic” preaching in Spain

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!


About Elizabeth Scalia