03 November 2008

Thanks, Your Excellency

Today, Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn had this to say about people who vote for Obama:

"Give consideration to your eternal salvation, because to vote for a person who has expressed a fanatical determination to not only support abortion as it exists now but to remove all limitations on it through the Freedom of Choice Act and to extend it without any recourse, throwing out all the efforts of the citizens over the last thirty five years to place reasonable limits on abortion -- that you, by voting for a person who has expressed his determination to do this to Planned Parenthood, to NARAL, that we are -- you make yourself a participant in the act of abortion. That's gravely wrong, and you mustn't do it because your eternal salvation is tied up with that important choice."

I abhor abortion, and I want desperately to inhabit a society where abortion is seen as unnecessary. I consider myself pro-life, although I distance myself from the abortion debate in this country, because is geared more toward cynically driving elections than actually reducing abortions and improving the lives of women in difficult circumstances.

But what Bishop Finn is saying is beyond the pale: I am a concerned voter in America, who is too young to vote on a single issue. The issues at play in this election effect the health, economic well-being, and security of millions of Americans...myself, my friends and family, my nieces and nephews.

In the past seven years, America has been beset by one catastrophe after another. In this time, our President has fought a war in Iraq, killing and displacing millions and engendering a deep hatred in a new generation of Muslims, while the real fight needed to be fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Worse, the war was planned and prosecuted in the shadows of the executive branch, without appropriate oversight from Congress. We allowed the executive branch to torture, to incarcerate indefinitely without charge, and to wiretap on citizens. We've condoned the politicization of U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice. We made a mockery of FEMA, and the Gulf Coast was permanently scarred in the process. While we were careening toward economic collapse, our President sent us checks in the mail and encouraged us to shop more. That, Your Excellency, is sin.

I want a change, a profound and dramatic change for the better. From the outset, I believe Barack Obama has made a sounder case for better change than has McCain. I totally respect those who believe differently, and I even respect and sympathize with those who vote on the single issue of abortion. They are making a choice based upon the deepest of convictions, although they have been cynically manipulated by their party to turnout in elections because of it. Nevertheless, after what we've gone through in the last several years, to suggest I am teetering on the edge of damnation because I'm voting for a party and a president that supports Roe v. Wade is galling and unconscionable. A Catholic of a bygone era might call Bishop Finn's statement a "reductio ad absurdum."

For a Catholic prelate to instruct his flock to ignore the massive and categorical errors that have taken place in our public life in the past seven years in order to attain salvation is irresponsible, and it tethers the Church too closely to cynical, partisan politics. Shame on him.

I am a Catholic. I am also an American. I am asked to step into a voting booth and make a decision. These decisions never come easily to me, because I take this process seriously and reverently. My decision is made, on balance, because I think it's what's best for the country (not just for me, or for Joe the Plumber, or unborn babies). I will not have my faith and my salvation challenged on those grounds by a bishop in a battleground state.

I love my Church, and I've been in a lovers' quarrel with my Church. I feel marginalized. I can do or say little, publicly, in my Church community for fear that I will be perpetrating "public scandal." I have abided for a decade in hopes that the Church could move to a place where I could have a reasonable conversation about grace, faith, love, sin and redemption. Instead of moving forward, my Church is regressing. A Catholic priest in California, presumably celibate, was relieved of his ministries for speaking out against Proposition 8 and sharing with his congregation that he is gay. How am I, a devout gay Christian, supposed to react? I've asked this question hundreds of times, and I've gotten hundreds of different answers, none of which are sufficient.

A common thread in many of those answers is "sit down, shut up, and pray." Yet I also know the unique blessings and burdens that God has endowed me with, and I know that I need to use them to bring light and peace into the world. That's my job. And while I do pray, I will not sit down and I will not shut up. That is not what God wants of me.

OK so that was quite a tangent, but the point is this: I've spent over a decade trying to understand my unique role in the Body of Christ as a gay Christian. I've also tried to discern my place in the Roman Catholic Church. As if that wasn't enough, some Bishop decides that if I vote for Obama, I'm going to Hell.

Your Excellency, you're NOT helping.

1 comment:

Danifesto said...

In a nutshell, this post is what many gay Christians struggle with. Add to this the sins of ignoring the poor and the needless slaughter of all those overseas and this priest is seriously in need of a, what we Baptists call, "come to Jesus" reality check!