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A cold and broken Hallelujah

Lance Gallop | Wednesday, November 3, 2004

It can be said that the greatest human sorrow lies in discovering that you have been betrayed. If this is indeed true, then perhaps there is nothing comparable to discovering that you have been betrayed by your own religion. Yet, this is the accusation that I must lay down today: the Catholic Church has, through action and inaction, betrayed its gay and lesbian members – and through them all people. And far worse, the Catholic Church has betrayed the very heart of its own teachings.

I want to disabuse people of the notion that Christianity is anti-gay. This is so far from the truth that it borders on ridiculous, and those Christians who are anti-gay in the name of God seem no less than blasphemers, for Christianity contains within it the seeds of a strong pro-gay theology, the likes of which has not been seen. No, it is only Christians – and I thank God not all Christians – who are anti-gay, not Christianity.

But before you pull out your Catechism and start transcribing a Viewpoint, let me make it quite clear what I am not saying. I am not rejecting the Church’s position on sexual union, or its whole and complete role within human nature as the source of children. I could not do that and still call myself a Catholic.

Rather, I am rejecting the destructive attitudes that have arisen within the Church about the meaning of being gay, and what arises from this character. I reject them, because these attitudes of the Church have become contrary to the teachings of the Church, and of late some of her documents and actions fly in the face of the Rule of Faith and the law written on the human heart.

The prevalent mind-set has its official origin in a 1986 document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its proclaims, among other things, that being gay is an “objective disorder,” a condition from which nothing good can arise. (For what it is worth, the same Congregation has endeavored to stamp out the use of female alter servers, and considers it seriously improper to hold hands while reciting the Lord’s Prayer during Mass.) Barring pastoral documents and recent declarations – mostly about marriage – this is all that the Church formally has to say about being gay; precious little for such a complicated topic, almost nothing by its usual standards.

And this single principle, as it is commonly understood, is brazenly flawed. It leads directly to indefensible consequences that exist in violation of the Rule of Faith and the principles of the Natural Law. Namely, it encourages at best a sort of apathetic internal rejection of one’s self, and at worst it leads to unchecked self-loathing. It is implicitly a “stay-in-the-closet” closet sort of principle, and it lends justification to those who would reject a social role for gays as anything but pariahs. It makes no distinction between innocent love and post-modernistic lust or between different types of attraction. It closes the door to any sort of positive interpretation of what it means to be gay, and it denies gays their human birthright of self-love, respect and dignity.

It has been my belief for a very long time that the true principles of Christianity lay within the person of Christ, not within naked moral law, and that without understanding the humanity of Christ, the law has no value. If there is any grain of truth in what the CDF says, it is so distant from the principles found in the person of Christ that it has lost all meaning, and now is capable of provoking only hatred and lies.

And yet for the sake of the baseless attitude fed by this principle, the Church is bleeding gay and lesbian members who cannot tolerate this rejection. For the sake of a baseless attitude the Church has lost the opportunity to redefine what is means to be gay, presenting a model of a gay Catholic life that is secure, open, loving and true. Instead its model of gay life is a gray mess of discord, misunderstanding, and human coldness. And so I hold the Church accountable for it attitude and all the wrong that has come from it.

There is a universe of difference between a general revulsion with limited tolerance and a general acceptance with a few restrictions. It is my heartfelt belief that it is acceptance, not revulsion, which lies hidden within the theology of the Church and within the personhood of Christ. And while the attitude of the Church – or more precisely some of her leaders – is that of the former, the teachings of the Church point toward the later.

Within a framework of fundamental acceptance everything changes. Some of the more acidic critiques people have had over the position of gays at the University start to look embarrassing. The recognition that gay students have been seeking for years starts to look basic and undeniable. It is an attitude that pushes us all forward, bound with the principle of love that is so desperately needed.

This article is the second in the Calamus Trio, named after a collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The final part will address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender social issues. Lance Gallop is a fifth-year senior majoring in computer science, philosophy and theology. He can be contacted at lgallop@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.