There is something Catholic in the wind and it smells a bit like mutiny. It sounds like the early morning clarion call on the hushed day of battle, with a hint of frustration and a dollop of American liberty all tied up in larger issues of equality for women and minorities. It is laced with the strong conviction that the bishops no longer speak for the Catholic Church and that the voices of the bishops are no longer the voice of Jesus Christ. If yesterday's planning session is any indication, it will probably be called "Catholics for Equality" and if all goes as tentatively planned, you may look for it in a diocese near you by Pentacost Sunday (which commemorates the Spirit inflaming the hearts of the disciples and sending them into the crowd they had previously feared to proclaim boldly everything they knew to be true.)
I came from the sweet warmth of Fort Lauderdale into the nasty cold (as they say in Spanish "Un fria che cuelta") of DC to spend the entirety of a Saturday snow storm in the new DC LGBT Center at 1810 14th St NW with a cordial group of folks who are sorely discontent with the aggressive, inappropriate and hateful actions of the Catholic bishops regarding the LGBT community. We aren't here to discuss just gay marriage, folks, although our losses on those state battlefields have awakened us to the need for a united voice that will help all Catholics guide their clueless bishops back onto the path of goodness and grace. Those bishops, the supposed shepherds of the flock, have lost their way, and it is up to the sheep to repair the damage they have done.
We are twenty who have been involved with the Catholic Church and LGBTQ rights in a variety of capacities. Priests, nuns, educators, counselors, activists, advocates, reporters and community leaders, including
Phil Attey (Netroots Organizer), Joanna Blotner (Human Rights Campaign), a prominent national Catholic reporter , Frank DeBernardo (New Ways Ministry), Rev. Geoffrey Farrow, Sharon Groves (Human Rights Campaign), Charles Martel (CFME-Massachusetts), Mark Matson (Dignity USA), Peter Montgomery (People for the American Way), Matthew Myers (New Ways Ministry), Rev. Joe Palacios (CFME - Washington, DC), Ray Panas (Dignity - DC), Shiva Subbaraman (Georgetown LGBTQ Resource Center), Anne Underwood (CFME - Maine), James Walton (Doctor of Clinical Psychology), Thomas Yates (Dignity USA), and a well respected nun who has devoted many years to her LGBT ministry (NCAN). For political and practical reasons, I'm not listing all the names.
In other words, it's the A List of Catholic thorns in the sides of American Bishops.
Our discussion was wide-ranging. Who in the church is disenfranchised?
Who has power? How can we claim our faith and reclaim our church? What do straight Catholics really think about LGBT rights? What makes the gay hierarchy so homophobic? Is Catholic misogyny at the root of homophobia? Why are fear and intimidation practiced by bishops.? Is this the right time for a new organization that will amplify and unite the many voices that ask for equality in the Catholic Church?
This is the right time, and that is what will come of this session. Today we will dig deeper into the particulars of the proposed structure. There will be a steering committee, partners will be identified and invitations issued. Throughout all of today's discussions, there was a vacillation between "We will never change those bishops nor will the Catholic Church ever allow women, married and openly gay leadership" and "This is that time in the divine plan when we set straight the good and true path that will allow us to see in our lifetimes, married, women and openly gay priests, bishops, and popes. The "pips" (people in pews) are not the ones needing convincing. We, the activists, are the ones with the useless fears. We the holy rabble-rousers are the ones who needed to come together on this day to design and forge a sword big and strong enough for victory.
I have written this today to give you a hopeful glimpse into the initial workings of a small group of concerned Catholics and pro-LGBTQ leaders. You may hear nothing more about this for several months, but once it is set into motion, I do believe it will grow and succeed.
I want you to think of it this way.
You will recall the movie The Poseidon Adventure. Once the ship was flipped, the immediate survivors split into two factions. One group (led by a priest!) insisted that they should simply wait right where they were on the inverted ceiling of the ballroom until rescue came to them. A smaller group (including Shelley Winters and her trained lungs!) tried to convince them that they should climb to the top of the hull to find a way out. The group led by the priest soon drowned in the rush of seawater filling the Poseidon while the small courageous group having climbed the upside down Christmas tree managed to survive. Wish us luck!
We are just finishing lunch during which Bilerico's own Cathy Renna is speaking to the group about strong LGBT communication. Because of the high caliber and experience of folks like Cathy, this initiative will be well armed for success. We had a zillion questions for Cathy. What strategies have been recently successful? How do we reach whomever we decide to reach? How would you prioritize tasks in the four months leading up to our launch? What are the pitfalls?
Catholics for Equality is off to a good start.