Who deserves respect?
BY Charles Karel Bouley II
April 07 2005 12:00 AM ET
As soon as this was finally ending and Terri was irrevocably dying, the pope’s condition worsened. When Terri died, the cameras moved from Florida to Vatican City. Suddenly CNN became the Catholic News Network. Every body function, movement, or burp of the pope was reported. Around-the-clock coverage.As when Reagan died, people were falling over themselves to go on TV and praise this fallen icon, hailing the pontiff’s love, his courage, his dedication. Talk was already swirling about making him a saint once he passed. And when he finally did, on every news channel in America a cardinal came on and said the archangel of the Lord swept through Vatican City and brought the pontiff home, where Christ had opened the door to welcome him.I wondered how people of other religions were taking it all in. We do still have a few of those, non-Christian or non-Catholic Americans.First, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God as written. Doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual, but that’s another editorial. Second, or maybe first, I’m gay. And this man, this soon-to-be saint had written and said that homosexuality is, “part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”So I am part of the new ideology of evil. According to him and his church I should not get married, ever, to the man I love. And the church loves me, the gay man, but as such I can never have sex if I want to be in the church.Sixty-two million Americans are Catholic; 230 million Americans are not. But don’t think the attitude of the leader of the 62 million doesn’t spill over onto many of the 230 million others. If it didn’t, why have three U.S. presidents viewed the pope’s body? Why will born-again Baptist George W. Bush be attending the funeral with a bevy of other non-Catholics? That’s clout. And I know, as does any gay person in America, that when you have one of the most influential religious leaders in the world categorize you as “evil” it has side effects.It’s wrong; it’s divisive; it can lead to hate crimes, prejudices, discrimination, and yes, death.The pope also compared abortion to the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis. And because of the church’s prohibition on condoms, millions in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere have died of AIDS when they didn’t have to. If this saint-on-earth would have led the charge to education and condom use, he could have saved millions of lives.The MSNBC show Connected is in the background as I write this on Wednesday, April 6, 2005. It’s hosted by Ron Reagan and an Ann Coulter wanna-be. Friar James Lloyd, a Catholic Church representative, just said about the priest abuse scandal that there is a direct correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. He said 98% of those doing the molestations were gay and the church acknowledged this correlation and as such was troubled on the subject of homosexuality.Great, we’re all child molesters. Thank you, Friar James Lloyd. Bless Ron Reagan for coming in and saying there is no evidence to support such a correlation and that in fact a majority of molesters are not gay. Thanks, Ron.Meanwhile, Friar James Lloyd, still speaking for the church on Connected, said, “God did not create gay people. Same-sex attraction is an intrinsic disorder, but with God’s help we can lift you up. Sexuality is a great gift of God to be used in a certain way—to be used in marriage. Chastity is about courage. We don’t want to change gay people; they’re children of God, but they must be chaste. No exceptions. Under no conditions can homosexuality be approved, so says the Vatican.”OK, between the pope and Friar Lloyd I get the idea. And that’s the point, I get the idea. And the idea is a dangerous one for gays and for an enlightened world. The Catholic Church is an archaic cult, with thinking caught somewhere in the 13th century. It was the earliest form of government and theater and should be retired like the monarchy in England. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the pope is a bit extreme for a “man of God,” since scripture tells us that it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of needle than a rich man to get into heaven. Wonder how Jesus would feel about the pope’s finery, about the images broadcast on giant-screen televisions throughout the world, about people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a pilgrimage to walk by John Paul II’s dead, deified body. What would Jesus do?Well, I said all these things the day he died and again and created for myself a great deal of professional grief. Again, I was off in my timing. I should have waited a week—or two. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the day’s events, a reaction rooted firmly in the fact that I am gay and that as a gay man I feel this man and his organization are trying to keep millions like me in the dark—or the dark ages.I wonder if there would have been such an outcry if those so passionately condemning me were gay. At least I could have expected some understanding. I wonder if any of them had been told that their relationships were invalid under the law, if any of them had to stand in front of a judge to just get some basic human rights, if any of them had been beaten just once for a lisp or had a gun waved in their face just once because “God doesn’t like fags like you” (yes, it’s happened to me). I wonder, if they had experienced what gay people experience, if their opinions would change. Maybe, maybe not.I wasn’t wrong for expressing an opinion. Everyone agrees with that. It’s when I said it they have a problem with. Well, what about my problem? What about the respect due to me? Did this church or this pontiff give me any? And don’t give me any watered-down catechisms about loving the gays but hating the sin. That’s a slick way of saying “We don’t accept you.” Oh dear, me, me, me.As a gay man I had every right to detest Ronald Reagan and the pope. The question is, as a talk-show host, did I have the right to say it on the day of their respective deaths? Well, yes, I have the right, but like any speech, it’s not free. And I did myself more harm than good professionally. Why? Because sometimes I simply can’t take it anymore and my anger comes out.People have spent their lives telling me how intolerant they are of my lifestyle. This intolerance is allowed; it’s accepted. A gay man dies and it’s OK to go on TV or radio that very day and talk about the scourge of AIDS or how it’s God’s retribution. No one says a thing. A man in a black outfit with a white collar goes on TV and says homosexuality is a sin punishable by burning in hellfires, and everyone’s fine with that. A pontiff writes that I and many like me are part of the ideology of evil, and then we’re supposed to wait until the dust settles to bring that up.Well, I’m sorry. For once, I’m gay first. I’ve never wanted to be. I’ve struggled not to be. I’ve tried to be the good little gay boy they want me to be and merge it with who I am, not let it dictate who I am. But twice in the past I’ve let it dictate. And twice I’ve paid a price.
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