Sacking In Seattle

The fired married and gay school administrator does not seem to be receding very quickly from the public eye or mind. dotCommonweal raised it to the top of the blog listing last evening.

A few years ago one Australian bishop noted that imitation may be a form of flattery, speaking of same-sex couples who wished to commit with permanence. He probably appeared in a few Vatican dossiers over that one. The bishops are in something of a pickle.

On one hand, they and clergy seem to look the other way for the bit the institution has discerned as sinful: the sexual life. Maybe it has something to do with what a permanent commitment says: persistence in sin. Not the sin itself. My sense is that to be consistent, the Church would need to lobby against sexual expression outside of man-woman marriage. Clearly, nobody wants to go there–criminalizing widespread sexual behavior among all ages and political parties.

On the other hand, same-sex couples work within a society that is largely run on a system of law. To knock off everything on a checklist, a non-married gay couple would have to go on several campaigns: hospitals, schools and districts, inheritance law, insurance companies, employers, landlords, to name the ones off the top of my head. No doubt there are more than just the cake decorators and banquet halls that make the news. Marriage or civil unions make sense because that’s one effort, maybe even a national movement, to replace petitioning various levels of government and various interfaces of medicine, law, education, economics, etc..

I’ve been bugging conservative or anti-gay people online for the last few years on these points. Nobody bites on sex. And most all seem to be dense, by nature or nurture, to the challenges on the other side. I perceive an inability to place one’s feet in another person’s shoes. A lack of compassion.

Supposedly “Mark Zmuda said the school’s president told him he could keep his job if he divorced his husband of five months and had a commitment ceremony.

If this is true, it is vaguely consistent with the Church’s wishful thinking that homosexuality is just a life stage, a sinful lifestyle choice, an indulgence that might, just might, with prayer, just go away. A strange kind of grace to be wishing for, but there you have it. The students don’t appear to have given up the protest just yet. They seem to think there’s something worth protesting here. Can you blame them?

So here’s the dilemma. By taking steps to be “right” and to avoid scandal with minors, the Church has itself created a moral scandal among the young. On one hand, teenagers see an effective administrator, coach, and educator. The fruits of his life, his whole life, are self-evident.

The institution, on the other hand, is willing to turn its head to temporary sexual expression it deems sinful. But not ignore a budding movement to provide benefits which range from the morally good to the morally neutral.

I don’t think this issue could be covered in a doctoral thesis. Then throw in the temperature ratcheted high by the culturewar, the Francis Effect, the state of politics locally and nationally, and the honest handwringing over setting a good example–the best possible example–for the young. And what do you do?

The outrage and protests will continue. If not in Seattle, then at the site of the next sacking. The institution continues to lose face among the young. It cannot present morality in a clear, convincing way that manages to keep a foot in mercy and compassion.

Lesbian and gay people continue to apply for jobs and get hired by the Church and its institutions. At some point you have to wonder why. If it’s worth messes like this, it must still be meaningful to serve as Christ served. Some might take that as a sign of hope. Others, I am sure, would be convinced it is part of a plot by the world billions of same-sex attracted to take over and swamp the Institution of Marriage, forcing us all to marry someone of the same sex.

I see no way out but for God’s grace. But grace doesn’t usually work through shouting, ugly choices, and the veneer of hypocrisy. And needless to say, it won’t be solved by the internet. That’s one thing I do know.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in bishops, Commentary, Ministry, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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