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Father, forgive

Father, forgive


For most of the past 30 years, as the gay rights movement has

progressed and as Catholicism has undergone profound shifts, a gay Catholic has found herself with a growing conflict but not entirely a contradiction. The church never taught that gay people were somehow evil, and it told us in 1975 that the homosexual condition was not in itself sinful. A distinction was drawn between being gay and having sex that couldn't make a baby. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" was the guiding mantra. It was something with which one might in conscience disagree. But it wasn't in itself an expression of homophobia. Heterosexuals weren't allowed to have sex without intending to make babies either.

For many of us in the church, this meant that sex as part of a committed gay relationship was no more sinful than a straight married couple using contraception--which is to say that many gay Catholics were in no worse a place than most straight Catholics. Most of us learned to tune out the church hierarchy on sexual matters and to live as moral a life as we could. Once it became clear that the hierarchy was also complicit in mass child rape, its moral authority on sexual matters became even more threadbare.

But that has now changed. The Vatican under Benedict XVI has declared that even celibate gay men are unfit for the priesthood, unworthy to serve God. It has declared that gayness itself is immoral, a psychological disorder that renders even celibate homosexuals moral lepers. Do not be fooled by the spin. The only exception the Vatican makes is for those who may have had temporary same-sex desires in adolescence but have overcome them. Translation: heterosexuals who had passing same-sex urges as teenagers. Gays as such need no longer apply.

Remember that astonishing picture of Father Mychal Judge, the openly gay priest for New York City's firefighters, carried dead out of the World Trade Center--an emblem of service and holiness and courage? That man, according to Benedict, should never have been ordained.

Why? According to a papal consultant, whose Vatican newspaper article was summarized by the Catholic News Service, gay priests "tend to have few friends, to close themselves off from others in 'a clan of persons of the same type,' to resent the claims on their time made by parishioners, to encourage other gay men to enter the priesthood, and to deal with authority predominantly as a matter of 'seduction and rejection.' " Such sweeping generalizations? From a church dedicated to charity?

A real priest must, moreover, be a real man. The Vatican consultant went on to explain that a priest "must, in principle, be suitable for marriage and able to exercise fatherhood over his children. And it is under those mature conditions that he renounces exercising them in order to give himself to God in the priesthood." Get that? To be a priest, you no longer have to reject sex itself. You have to reject sex with women.

This is no longer theology. It's prejudice dressed up with pop psychology. Nor can it be Christian. Judging people by what they do, not by who they are, is the central message of the Gospels. Jesus' fundamental teaching was always: Reject labels, never generalize,

always see the marginalized as the source of salvation and hope.

What the new pope has done is therefore not simply attack the dignity of the countless gay men and women who have served God for centuries. He has attacked the church itself. May God forgive him--for he knows full well what he does.

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