Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Catholic schools and kids with two mommies

I've just been reading Jimmy Aikin's blog at the Register about a controversy that has arisen with regards to the admission of children with same-sex parents to Catholic schools.
Reading through the comments, you get a pretty clear lay of the land: there are those who accept the Church's teaching on same-sex relationships, and who think that the Archbishop's decision was completely justified, and there are those who obviously do not accept the Church's teaching, and who think that it's cruel and evil discrimination. So I'm going to weigh in as a Catholic who accepts the Church's teaching on same-sex relationships/marriage/sexuality/etc. but who thinks that the decision to bar these children from Catholic schools is a little...well, Pharisaical.
If the school also kicked kids out because their parents were divorced, or cohabiting, or whatnot, then it would at least be consistent -- but the Archbishop is clear that this is not the case: "Many of our schools also accept students of other faiths and no faith, and from single parent and divorced parent families." The reality is that any opposite-sex couple, no matter how far they deviate from the Church's teachings about marriage, is given the glance-over by mainstream Catholic culture, and any same-sex couple is lambasted -- even if they are actually closer to the ideal of Catholic marriage than their opposite-sex counterparts.
That last clause might sound counter-intuitive, but lets examine this issue: let's say that you've got, on the one hand, a lesbian couple -- we'll name them Barb and Di, just for fun. Barb IDs as bi, she had a male partner before she and Di got together, and she got pregnant. She's Catholic, and she doesn't believe in abortion, so she has a child. Now she and Di have decided that they are going to get married, in accord with the laws of their state. They are monogamous and fully committed to a life-long relationship, and they are trying to raise their child, to the best of their ability, in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church. They attend Mass, and apart from their sexuality, they are faithful, practicing Catholics. (Yes, such people really do exist.) On the other hand, you have a couple -- Sue and Ted -- who got divorced three years ago. Sue has put her kid into Catholic school to please the grandparents. Neither she nor Ted believes in the Catholic faith. They don't go to Mass. Sue has had several live-in boyfriends since she and Ted split up.
Now, as far as admission to Catholic schools are concerned, Sue's kid is in, and Barb's kid is out. There's something seriously wrong with this picture. It's called a double standard.
The argument that Barb and Di are causing scandal simply doesn't wash. Anyone who is a friend of Sue's child will know about the divorce. They will know that every couple of months, Sue has a different man living in the house. There will be scandal. Every bit as much scandal as the lesbian couple is causing. But no one will say anything, because Sue's situation will be considered "private" "delicate" "none of our business," whereas Barb and Di's will make good copy for the week-end edition.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I'd really like to be your friend...but I think you're going to hell...?

The most interesting question that I had from a conservative Catholic at Notre Dame came after the talk was over (the LGBT people dominated the actual question period, which I was very glad off -- they had declined to participate in the panel discussion that followed my talk, which I understand, so I was glad that they had a chance to ask their questions and put their voices into the dialogue as well.) It also came to my husband, not me; basically, someone wanted to know how you could go about forming a relationship with someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. How do you start a conversation or even begin to like one another if they know from the outset that you disapprove of something that they hold to be so fundamental to who they are? It would seem like a death blow to a fledgling relationship.
And so it is. You can't start a friendship by saying, "look, I really disapprove of the way that you live your life, and I think it's sinful, and I'm really lovingly concerned that you are going to perish in eternal fire. I don't mean that in a mean way." You start a friendship with something that you can agree on. Most of the gay and lesbian friends that I have made were somewhat surprised when they realized that my Catholicism was actually orthodox. They assumed that it was cultural, or whatever, until we were already friends. Which is not dishonest, or tricksy, or whatever: think about it, when you make a friend with someone, anyone, how do you start off? No one, or at least no one with even remotely functional social skills, starts a friendship by trying to argue about the other person's personal life. That's just disfunctional. Later, if it becomes appropriate within the relationship, you can bring these issues up respectfully. But you have to start with the things that you agree about, the things that you like about one another, the bases for a relationship and for a genuine, concrete, personal love.