US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Is the bishops' message on same-sex marriage unclear, or just unheeded?

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Last week, the New York Times reported on a gay man who lost both of his church jobs after announcing his intention to marry his long-time partner, also a Catholic. He never hid his sexuality or the fact that he had a partner, and when he told his coworkers of his plans in a meeting, they applauded. But there was a diocesan official from the St. Louis archdiocese in the room who reported back to home base what was going on, and Al Fischer, a music teacher at a Catholic school, was notified the very next day that he was being fired.

Just a month ago, another gay man was fired from his part-time music director job at a North Carolina parish for getting married to his partner of 23 years. In that instance, the parish priest offered congratulations but said simply that "he couldn't give his blessing to the marriage because of the church position on [same-sex marriage]."

In both situations, the men live and work in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized and had to travel thousands of miles for their marriage ceremonies.

Even if you're not a Catholic, there are repercussions for just expressing support for same-sex marriage as Rev. Faith Whitmore, a Methodist minister who runs Francis House in Sacramento, California discovered. After the Sacramento diocese learned that Whitmore had spoken (as an individual--not as director of the non-Roman Catholic social service agency) in support of the issue, it withdrew financial support (approx. $7,500-10,000/year).

And finally, if you hadn't heard of Barbara Johnson until now, she was denied communion at her mother's funeral because she lives with her lesbian partner. The presider even left the altar when Johnson spoke about her mother. (On a side note, ultra-conservative Catholics have "dug up" a graduate paper written by Johnson as a student in which she describes herself as a "student of Buddhism," igniting the fire behind the self-appointed keepers of Orthodoxy who seem content to equate their faith with drawing battle lines. OMG, she said the word "heteronormative." HERETIC! Sigh. Rant over.)

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of U.S. bishops that they needed to do a better job expressing the church's position on sexuality (but Andrew Sullivan writes: "they cannot even speak our name"). Given the well-covered events mentioned above, the bishops' stance seems to be coming across loud and clear. It's just falling on deaf ears, and, given the events named above, the message is hardly about love and dignity.