I have written fondly about my experiences at Mass in the past. In fact, I have gone to great lengths to remain open-minded about the Catholic dogma, once writing a lengthy piece about Pope John Paul's teachings on capital punishment. What the late Pope had to say about the death penalty is both enlightened and enlightening. I'm not afaid to admit that John Paul taught me a valuable and enduring lession about the value of grace and forgiveness some years back when I read his thoughts about the death penalty.
That's why It's so painful to hear the current Pope Benedict railing against gays and lesbians and the rights that gays enjoy in the European Union, where gay marriage is allowed in many places, including (very Catholic) Spain. His comment that gay marriage would "obscure the value and function of the legitimate family" in simply wrong. Not to mention ingorant and homophobic. And it's consistant with a pattern of small-mindedness the Pope repeatedly shows about other faiths and cultures.
The Vatican is hostile to moves to give gay people civil marriage rights. A 2003 Vatican document on the issue of cohabitation rights for gay couples says "those who would move from tolerance to the legitimisation of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalisation of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil."WTF?? This is the same Pope who watched his Church fall into one of the most shocking pedophilia scandals in modern history and he had the unmitigated gall to question my morality?!
I'm mad because it hurts. First of all, consider this: President Bush hates gays. He makes no bones about it. His party (the republicans) hates gays, even running for office on a "gay hating" platform. And many times they win. To top it off, I am rejected by the same church that baptised me. Shouldn't I be mad and hurt?
And what about the young kids out there who may be questioning their sexuality, much like I did when I was a teenager? How are the messages from the Church and government supposed to make them feel? I think with all the negative messages coming at me and my gay brothers and sisters, it seems likely that many gays (especially the young) will begin to question their own self-worth. Or worse.
Suicide among young gays and lesbians is a real problem. Attacks on gays are on the rise all over the world. Homophobes are empowered to act out when they feel their anti-gay behavior is acceptable in today's society. And judging by the words and deeds from the Pope and the President, we are living in a world where it's "open season" on people like me.
I am not one of those Catholics who grew up to reject the Church outright. In fact, I am grateful to my mom for insisting we go to Church every week. My parents sacrificed a lot so I could spend my primary school years at a Catholic school. I was never molested by a priest, I never had my knuckles smacked by an angry nun's ruler. Nothing like that ever happened to me. In fact, my heart remains open to the possibility that my Catholic upbringing is a big part of who I am right now.
Am I going to hell? Heck no. I hope it won't be soon, but when the day comes for me to meet my Maker, I'll be ready. Which is a lot more than I can say for those reliogous zealots who espouse hate and intorlerance in the name of God. Like the Pope.
(Image courtesy Mike Tidmus)