Father Tony

Catholics For Equality

Filed By Father Tony | January 31, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Catholics for Equality

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!

Update: renna.JPG

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.



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How about asking the Catholics to un-wrong homosexuality? That would solve our problem. +2,000 years of being branded as wrong, sinful and deviant is enough. We're not wrong.

Then, we can all start re-branding homosexuality.

Dear Andrew W,
We have not been so branded for 2,000 years. The period of condemnation is shorter. If we go back to the earliest days, we'd be OK. And, of course we know we're not wrong. The idea is to strengthen our voice to form alliances to stop being victimized by the aggressively hateful bishops. If the whole thing were as simple as you make it, none of this would be necessary.

It is simple. Catholics officially (doctrine) make homosexuality wrong. They have for a long, long time. I agree, we are NOT wrong. What shakes my logic is why we would continue to support an institution that makes us wrong. That doesn't add up.

So, why not simply ask them to un-wrong us? If they refuse, gather up all your faith and start a new church. New Catholics. Yeah, that sounds good. Catholics that believe in equality are the New Catholics.

Please work on this. I think it may be possible. Then we can all look forward to New Lutherans, New Methodists, New Episcopalians and maybe even (hail Mary pass) New Baptists.

I'd really like to set foot in a Catholic church again. I hope this works out. It is for everyone's good.

Thank you.

If they would officially change their anti-homosexual doctrine, many people would come back.

Dear Mark,
I am hopeful that we will live to see the day when you you'll feel at home in your church. The funny thing is that the Catholic people are not so hard heartedly against gay Catholics. It's the bishops who are the hateful ones. This is so odd given the high percentage of gay in their ranks. Also, there have been some significant changes in the last few Catholic American decades that have taken the wind out of the bishops' sails. Their recent aggression is a sign of desperation.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 31, 2010 6:19 PM

Before you all leave the conference I hope you have an answer to the age old question that Vatican II initially posed:

"How many straight bishops, acting in collegial union with the Hoiy See, does it take to change an infallible light bulb?"

Many Bil can provide prizes like he often does.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | February 1, 2010 4:13 PM

I'll bite:

"How many straight bishops, acting in collegial union with the Hoiy See, does it take to change an infallible light bulb?"

Both of them.

There is an interesting irony about catholics and gay rights. In public opinion polling, the states with the highest percentage of cfpwatholics tend to also be states with more legally sanctioned gay rights. Also, in public opinion polling in these states, people tend to be more tolerant of lgbt persons in general.

You can easily guess that I find this very exciting. I perused your conference notes in the pictures. I love that you are an umbrella for existing groups, a way to channel the energy without duplication and minimal gaps. (It is a group I wish my denomination had for the four advocacy organizations within.) Catholics For Equality utilizes the resources already available, a good way for a fast start.

Those members of your audience "who are ready to act and need guidance" may provide your greatest challenge as they struggle to agree with what that means. Your conference notes will help begin to define your terms and roles and establish a timeline. How many will be willing to persevere through the slow "between" times when waiting is the best course?

Your "movable middle" simply wants to hear a way to reconcile what is in their hearts and what they hear from the pulpit: that they can welcome all and remain true to their faith. I wish you all the greatest success.

Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behavior—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law.

http://www.catholic.com/library/Homosexuality.asp

Andrew, I don't mean to nitpick, but the article you quoted was written by an organization called Courage, which is an anti-gay apostolate. The organization has Church approval, but it's documents do not. However, the document does quote troublesome citations from the Catechism (which, of course, is the authoritative statement of Catholic belief.) And I think the document also reflects the conservative Catholic understanding of homosexuality.

Courage is not a widespread organization - there are only 90 chapters in the entire US. And according to online comments I have read from Courage members or would-be members, the Courage chapters are often not well supported in their parishes. Conservative parishioners approve of the idea, but are uncomfortable with anything relating to homosexuality - they don't want to hear about it. And progressive parishioners don't buy into the mandatory celibacy argument. I've read several complaints of isolation and erasure of their struggle from members or former members.

oops... I need to make a clarification. The Courage document does have a Nihil Obstat declaring it to be officially free of doctrinal and moral error. And the local bishop granted official approval to allow the document published. But such things, while reassuring to some people, do not make the document official teaching.

Dan in Florida | January 31, 2010 10:56 PM

It wasn't until the year 342 when the Christian emperors Constantius and Constans declared same-sex marriage to be illegal.

Dan in Florida | January 31, 2010 11:32 PM

It wasn't until the year 342 when the Christian emperors Constantius and Constans declared same-sex marriage to be illegal.

It represents the official position of the Catholic Church. That's what they teach. That's what young Catholic minds inherit.

If Father Tony wants to make progress, it can only be measured in the changing of doctrine. I won't play golf at a "whites only" country club and I won't support a religious institution that makes homosexuals wrong. Fix that and we can have Church, 18 holes and a nice buffet w/ cocktails.

The problem is really about this idea of inclusiveness or acceptance. Some Churches have become "gay-friendly" and all "welcoming" for LGBT persons, but they haven't changed any damaging doctrine. Religion made us wrong. It's hard to believe friendly when we're still wrong.

Religion can be a very positive force in our lives, but I can't sit in a place that makes me wrong - I'm afraid I might burst into flames. That would ruin everything.

Rick Elliott | February 1, 2010 3:22 AM

There are already affirming Baptist congregations.

Affirming doesn't change the damning doctrine. Baptists still officially make us wrong. Welcoming us, but continuing to support the idea that we're wrong isn't real progress.

I still want "New Baptists." Baptists that put equality before dogma.

Even being a lapsed Catholic (and currently agnostic) I do wish you luck with this, as so many of my pals have deep concerns with the Catholic Church, still - not to mention the larger need to stop the Church heirarchy's anti-gay pograms. But I confess, I am indeed pessimistic, at least for now. So long as this evil current Pope is alive, you can be sure these Bishops will do nothing but his bidding. ...But have hope, eh? I hear that mad Turk is on the loose again and writing his own Gospel!

You got to meet all those cool people plus Cathy Renna? Oh, now I really wish I'd gotten an invite! Seriously though - it does look like it was a fascinating discussion.

I know your struggle with the church has had it's ups and downs, Tony, but do you still consider yourself a Catholic?

Yes Bil. Still a Catholic and mad as hell about how the bishops have trashed my church. I want it back. Not so much for me, but more for the sake of those who need it. This is what I was ordained to do. Succeed or not, I will have discharged my responsibility and can return to the beach without guilt.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | February 1, 2010 4:17 PM

I'll bite:

"How many straight bishops, acting in collegial union with the Hoiy See, does it take to change an infallible light bulb?"

Both of them.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 3, 2010 6:40 AM

Cathy, you're only half right. One of the two lightbulb-changing bishops is straight until the light is turned back off.

Fr Tony
Great news about the new intiative of Catholics for Equality! How come I was never informed about it. I call attention to my article on Misogyny and Homophobia on my website: www:johnjmcneill.com

John,
Your name was invoked with reverence literally dozens of times throughout the weekend. I've got you on my list of folks to call today. There are some things I can discuss privately with you that i think you will appreciate.

JAKE KOPMEIER | February 1, 2010 11:12 AM

This gives me such hope. Hope for my brother, a devote Catholic, that he may love, appreciate and accept his brother without being in conflict with his church. Luckily gor me he is able to go to his spiritual core dispite his church and come up with his all-inclusive love. I have long left the Curhch and am now an MCC minister. I remain deeply disappointed over the numerous betrayals of what I once considered my church.

Hey Tony. Great post.
Just a slight correction (or addition) to your Poseidon Adventure allusion:
Both teams were led by clerics. You're right that the drowned team that stayed was led by a priest, but so was Shelley Winters' team. Remember that Gene Hackman's character was a liberal "people's" priest who had a conversation (before the tidal wave hits) with the stuffy older priest about what the church should really be and represent.
Adds even more to the allusion to remember that there were cool priests on the side that makes its way out!
-Dan (Pete Montgomery's other half)

Dear Wondermachine,
I had entirely forgotten that (distracted as I was by Shelley Winters) and it does strengthen the comparison. I am encouraged by the responses herein and in private that support this initiative. It is so easy to act when you just follow what is in your heart. It shouldn't take much to convert those malicious bishops. They will find "grace" to be irresistible, for at heart, they are good gay men who have gone astray and are confused and miserable about it. I don't suspect B16 will ever change his tune, but he is rather old, and soon enough, Lucy will have some 'splainin to do, and it won't be to me....

From another Catholic:

That same month, the Archdiocese of Washington let it be known the Church would cease providing shelter to the homeless and care for the sick if the D.C. city council approved the civil law that would provide same-sex couples in committed relations the same legal benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts (despite this, the D.C. city council approved the civil law). U.S. Catholic bishops spent more than half a million dollars to defeat efforts in the state of Maine that would have ensured the same civil protections for same-sex couples in committed relationships that are enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter on marriage which began by stating that gays and lesbians should be treated with "respect" and "sensitivity," then immediately violated that statement by encouraging gays and lesbians to express their attraction to their partners in chaste "friendship," and finally went on to emphasize that no matter how strong and beautiful their love is, the sexual expression of that love is always sinful.

The ugly truth behind the legislative and theological language of these statements is that the leaders of my church teach that gay people are by their nature morally suspect and incapable of true love. This false teaching denigrates the entire gay and lesbian community as less than fully human. This teaching is used to justify violence, discrimination, and the denial of our basic rights as individuals, committed partners, and parents.

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/02/church_should_listen_to_god.html

Or,you could have just dumped the Pope and the "wrong" and headed up the street to a welcoming Episcopal church with gay, female, and married priests, and a familiar liturgy, and an inclusive and fairly democratic governing structure and lost absolutely nothing. No need for a "New" Episcopal church. It is already here. Let the old Roman church wither, as it surely will. You could have visited with Bishop Chane of Washington, who blesses same-gender unions (and has no problem with the pending gender neutral marriage law in DC). You could have attended Sunday Mass at St. Stephen and the Incarnation on 16th St. with a gay woman celebrant, and a gay senior priest (no rector - the laity runs the parish) - the first integrated church in DC, the place where a woman first celebrated the Eucharist in DC, the site of many same-gendere couple blessing, a welcoming, affirming, loving place.

Dear JC,
I guess this just cannot be stated often enough or clearly enough: we KNOW we can go down the street, but we don't want to. The Catholic Church is our church. Our tradition. Our heritage. It has been hijacked. It has been trashed. It is our right - our obligation - to take it back. It is not disposable. Only as a last resort and sadly would we give up and go down the street where, yes, there is warm welcome for all of us. While I appreciate that welcome, I am not ready to give up on my church.

I am glad that there are others of us who refuse to be kicked out. It certainly is dispiriting at times. However, I was greatly heartened when the priest at my parish congratulated me and my just wedded husband ( a California wedding when it was legal) . Our parish has many gays, and the straights of the parish have always been great with us. You are right when you say that people know in their hearts that they should be decent with gays and lesbians.
However, a big part of the Catholic culture is blind obedience to authority. This is one reason why the authorities need to be exposed as venal, corrupt, and unchristian in so many instances.
More than ever, young people have quite attending mass. I believe that a big part of this is that they know that the hierarchy is full of shit, and they are not going to blindly follow the clergy, hierarchy, or pope when their hearts so strongly tell them otherwise. This is a big loss for the church.
I also would love to see John McNeil involved with your group. He is a true moral authority and has paid the price.

Father Tony,

What is your position on intersex people?

Dear Angela,
Do you mean "How should their 'intersection' impact their position in the Catholic Church?" As you'd expect, I believe they should be treated absolutely the same as the rest of us. No difference. Time for the church to get its nose out of our bedrooms and our pants. The Catholic Church waxes poetic about the human soul but it is much more fascinated with the human crotch.

Father Tony,
After 26 years I gave up my ordination in the United Methodist Church so that I could have an open life. It was partly out of respect for myself. It was also out of respect for my Jewish partner. I know many United Methodist who think that openly gay clergy would be healthy for the church, but the church's polity makes clear that "particing homosexuals" are subject to church trial and removal. I did what was painfully healthy for me. I loved the UMC and was proud of much good that it does. I am now an Epicopal lay person and worship in a community that doesn't require any secrecy on my part.
That being said, I admire you and many like you, who are willing to keep up the good fight. Grace and peace to you my brother.

Hey Timbo,
I too gave up on ordination in the United Methodist church after a lifetime in the church and seminary education. I've found friendlier pastures elsewhere for my spiritual life. I'm lucky to edit a Gay journal that explores many of these issues (White Crane - www.gaywisdom.org). But recall many aspects of my United Methodist upbringing that lent me the courage to stand for the truth of my life.
Glad to hear you are keeping up the fight of your life in your own community.
-Dan

Dear Timbo,
Thanks for the endorsement. They say that what goes around comes around. Maybe we can apply that to this current nonsense. The bishops would have us believe that their word is eternal but I think even their echo is gone in the twinkling of an eye.

When I was younger I would make far-to-infrequent attempts to come out to my friends. They wouldn't respond favorably. I had a few beatings, and I was dismissed. They made me wrong, because that's what they were taught. By their Church.

Why would anyone continue to support and even promote an organization that makes us wrong?

I don't have a quarrel with religion, but I do with my fellow brothers and sisters that are gay and religious. If you really want to make a difference, your religion needs to change its doctrine. Religion has made all of us wrong for centuries and it is the number one cause of bigotry and hatred. Change that.

I applaud Episcopalians and Lutherans for being more inclusive and accepting, but sooner or later we have to break the chain of teaching children that we are wrong. We are NOT wrong.

I would be more encouraged Father Tony if you stood up for equality and rejected the Catholic (Christian) belief that we are wrong. Until that happens, you are asking believers to endure the very thing that has caused all our pain and suffering - the idea that we are wrong or lesser human beings. It is killing some of us.

All the rainbow flags and acceptance will not change the fundamental problem: religion continues to make us wrong.

I am personally aware of several teens that have taken their own lives in the past year because their families and their religions made them wrong. If the loss of innocent life isn't enough to stop this hateful branding of gay people, what is? If you want to do something really significant Father Tony - make it stop. Reject the idea that we are wrong.

This isn't negotiable. Were are NOT wrong. Fix that and you will save lives. That would be the Christian thing to do.

Dear AndrewW,
I think we all agree that we are not wrong. (That seems to be your primary issue.) I'm sorry that people and religions made you feel that way. I think what we are tryin to do here is clean the church of its bad attitude and fix things, you know, make em right agin.
You think it's the "Catholic (Christian) belief" that we are wrong, but it's not. It's just an unfortunate detour that now needs fixin. That is what I'm trying t do.Git back to the real Christianity, the one where you're all right and kids do not kill themselves.

Are you kidding me? It was established earlier in this thread that Catholics made homosexuality wrong as part of their beliefs and their teachings. Those beliefs and teachings have resulted in the deaths of many young people who learn from their parents and their church that they are wrong.

So, cut the bullshit. If you really want to make a difference, change the doctrine and the the Catholic teaching that we are wrong, sinful and deviant. Otherwise, you are just protecting an institution that is primarily responsible for all LGBT pain, suffering and discrimination.

This isn't a God damn "detour" and you know that - it is unacceptable and if you really want to help our community, make it stop - end the belief. Everything else is simply not enough to save any lives.

Religious people can save lives by changing religion, not by making in more tolerable. Your Church continues to condemn us and make us wrong - you're either with them - or with us.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 3, 2010 8:19 AM

"That is what I'm trying t do.Git back to the real Christianity, the one where you're all right and kids do not kill themselves."

"Get back to"? In theory, of course. But to the degree that there was ever, as a practical matter, there was ever any "real Christianity" as you describe, did it ever represent anything close to a significant segment of Church thinking and practice?

Father Tony, I have immense respect for you and you say many wise things, but it's the "we can go down the street but we don't want to" that is the problem. It's like saying "I could stop getting beaten by my husband by moving out, but I don't want to." Really? You think you're gonna make that marriage work? And the beatings are not too high a price, even if it were possible? Very disfunctional.

Dear JC,
Here's why I think your comparison doesn't work. The Catholic Church itself is not the abuser. It is the misguided bishops who are the abuser and have hijacked the church. I want the church - in its goodness - back. I want to free it from the strangle hold of the abusive bishops. That is a fundamental distinction. If I thought that the real Catholic Church was homophobic, bigoted and abusive, of course I would leave it and go down the street. The gospel message of Jesus that is at the root of Catholicism is great stuff and needs to be set loose again. Things have gotten pretty twisted around over the space of several centuries. But I think we are all set for the "prefect storm". Gay men, straight men, nuns, Catholic women all on the same side and ready to reclaim the church from a few wobbly old prelates and a very bad pope. Who will you put your money on?

Oh, the "real" Catholic Church. That explains everything.

Don't bother JC. Father Tony's club is more important than our struggle. It's even more important than the many young LGBT people who take their own lives. Loving Jesus is no excuse to support the continued Catholic teaching that we are wrong, sinful and disordered.

Another analogy would be partaking of food at a buffet knowing some of it was poisonous and then defending that action by saying most of the food is actually good for you.

Dear AndrewW,
It is clear that you have been badly hurt by the church and I can't change that and I am very sorry for you, but the way you lash out here - at a time when you should be cheering on the very folks who want to repair what was done to you - it's not healthy. It's bitter and self-defeating at this juncture. You play the victim too strongly. I think you embrace your victimhood too much. I'll fight for you anyway, but I wonder if maybe, even when the smoke clears on a church renewed, if you'd still never be happy....I'm not a psychologist. I don't know the terminology for someone who becomes comfortable with and defensive about his status as victim, but I think your attack on me has elements of that. You paint me as defending a club rather than your struggle. I don't think you are struggling at all. I also don't think my dialogue with you will help that. I am responding to you for the benefit of all others who have followed this thread.

Christianity's problem with sexuality really reaches back to Origen and the Cappadocian fathers, at least, and arguably to Paul of Tarsus. Augustine of Hippo also has much to answer for, and his influence extended to the Reformation. Good luck changing that from within.

So, instead of seeking real change with your Church, you want to call me a "victim." I'm not a victim, but the hundreds of young gay teens that take their own lives each year - because of Church teachings - are the victims. Apparently, you don't care about them.

It's not the "Bishops," Father Tony, it's the teachings, and people like you who choose to ignore that fact. If you want to make progress with your Church, change the teachings that have caused our community centuries of pain, suffering and death. Seeing a rainbow flag in a Catholic Church isn't going to save lives. Neither is your blaming the Bishops. You're still allowing (and endorsing) the continued bigoted teachings of your Church.

Dear AndrewW,
That is the essence of our disagreement:
You fault the basic teaching of the church.
I fault the teachers (bishops) and say that they have twisted the teaching of jesus.
Obviously, we won't come to any agreement on this, but if I am lucky, feel free to enjoy my success. If I don't succeed, feel free to say "I told you so" if it'll make you feel better.

Hi, Fr. Tony...

As a gay man who was born and raised Catholic and educated by the Jesuits through college, I understand and respect your devotion to the faith. And I truly admire the fervor with which you hope to change it. But how do you expect to change an institution that is essentially a dictatorship?

The Catholic Church is not a democracy. Rome and the Bishops do not have to answer to its flock. You could hold a vote tomorrow on changing its policy on gays and an overwhelming majority of Catholics could vote in favor, and the Bishops would still know that all they need do is merely rule to the contrary and their flock would still follow. They are well aware that the faithful will still worship at their altars and contribute to their collection baskets because they have no choice. Most Catholics could not fathom worshiping in another, more liberal, church, even it's it practically identical to their own (Episcopal). (And trust me, I've had this conversation/debate with my mother, who loves me unconditionally, for several years, and I lose every time; she can't give up the church no matter how hard I lobby.)

The bureaucracy of the church is a typical old boys club. Their primary interest is in maintaining power, and to maintain power they must keep other groups (gays, women) under their thumb. If they were to give equal power to gays and lesbians by recognizing them as real human beings, and to women by ordaining them, they risk losing that power. I look at that and say... how on earth can the flock expect to change the minds of their shepherds when the shepherds have no motive to do so?

Dear Ed,
You are exactly and 100% correct in your summary of the problem, but you are missing one easy, immediate and accessible tool for making those bishops "see the light". The Catholic Church has become an elaborate money machine that relies on donations from the faithful. The top financial resource for the Catholic Church is the United States. It takes a lot of money and cheap labor (nuns and priests) to run the show. So far, opposition to the bishops has been fragmented and has not made a financial impact. That is about to change. By fusing women and nuns and straight men and gay men into one voice and by illustrating that voice with the holding back of money, this group becomes powerful. There is precedent for this in the history of the church. It's not so far fetched.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

Hi Father Tony...
For the benefit of us non-Catholics, what leverage can you have against the bishops except to encourage gays and their allies not to tithe? And what are the risks? Ex-communication? (Or are some or all of you already ex-communicated?) Removal from clergy and church-based teaching jobs? Burning at the stake? (Oops, I guess that's no longer allowed, or has this Pope revived it?)

I admire defiant congregations like Spiritus Christi in Rochester NY, but I wonder how long before they are stripped of property and clergy and snuffed out. I wish your coalition well.

Tom in Daytona

Dear Tom,
There have already been retaliations. Following our DC meeting, Cardinal George reiterated his attack on New Ways Ministries whose Sister Jeannine Gramik was part of our group. There seemed to be no other reason for this sudden flare up of odium. None of us fear (much) ex-communication) but those with teaching authority in Catholic institutions could lose their status. Recent surveys indicate that the bishops do not represent the opinion of their flock in these matters. The disconnect grows larger and the authority of the bishops grows weaker. Sooner or later there will be women priests, married priests and openly gay priests. Suppression like that practiced by the bishops never lasts and never prevails.

Out of curiosity, what was the last doctrine or teaching that the "grassroots" got overturned by popular opinion?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

One of the biggest things Jesus taught and warned about was sexual immorality. We all know what is written in Deuteronomy and it is also written that some mens heart will be hardened and others will be "confused". This is homosexuality. A person can not study one part of the bible and ignore the rest. Either come out of the darkness and control your urges or walk away from the church. Homosexuality does no one any good. To push for "equality" is an outrage. Christ loves you but do you really think God will allow you into heaven when you obvisiously do not have His heart? Matthew 7:15-27