To err is human, to codify the error is institutional Catholicism. Witness Galileo.
Dugan McGinley, author of Acts of Faith, Acts of Love, speaks to the issue of sexual orientation and the institutional Catholic church. Rather than dialogue, gays have faced a monologue of condemnation from the Vatican. McGinley, yet another fine theologian in flight from staid Vatican corporate culture, points to the impossible dichotomy of Catholic teaching which broadly condemns gays under the cover of politically savvy pastoral window-dressing. The Vatican calls upon gays to " be" moral rather than calling them to a higher moral standard. McGinley won't let the Vatican "love the sinner, hate the sin" because in the end, this reasoning promotes bigotry. Sexual orientation is not about what we do, it is about who we are. Using this paradigm, whether unwittingly or premeditatedly, the institutional Catholic church continues to inspire violence and hatred against gay people.
McGinley illuminates the specific voice of gay men in Catholic contexts. He validates the issue of gender and rather than ignoring or giving short-shrift to lesbian Catholics, simply states that this group also deserves an in-depth review and analysis - and alludes to the notion that a female author may be better suited to such a project. One can't help but feel McGinley's personal connection in this book - particularly in his Acknowledgments and Preface which outline his own journey in writing. The topic of gay men in the Catholic church is close to his heart and his book resonates with genuine experiences - not the least of which is his own.
While many have described the odyssey of gay men within the Catholic church, most of the writings have focused on the autobiographical as the primary interest. McGinley selects printed autobiographies of gay Catholic men to share with his reader. However, he asks us to look beyond the power of these stories to the revelatory lessons we might extract from these acts of literary courage. In the end, McGinley is not only interested in the lived life - he is also dedicated to pondering the reflected life. Thus, we are drawn to patterns, commonalities, and logic in the lives gay men who are also Catholic - how they have survived and how they serve as prophetic voices in the Catholic church. In the name of holism, science, mental health and spiritual wellness, McGinley claims the birthright to full human identity: sexual, spiritual, active and contemplative.
It is interesting to note that this generation of gay men within Catholicism is still looking for the possibility of dialogue with the Vatican. To date, Cardinal Ratzinger and others have had none of it. Just as the sciences moved forward with Galileo leaving Vatican astrologers to the dustbin of history, the Catholic church is increasingly irrelevant on a myriad of human issues. We simply tune out Catholic rhetoric. McGinley shows that as Catholic church structure continues to disrupt one's spiritual relationship with God - whether by virtue of scandal, stubborn antiquation or premeditated campaigns against a minority group - traditional Catholicism will be discarded. Without substantive change on a variety of fronts, the Catholic church is becoming increasingly anachronistic - and for millions, it already has no pragmatic place in daily life.
Advocating lifelong celibacy as the only moral pathway for all gays, American Archbishop Charles Chaput has recently written that "homosexual activity is not just morally wrong but destructive, because it leads the person away from God and the authentic". Yet to follow Chaput's demands for lifelong gay celibacy (and anything beyond a handshake puts this vow in jeopardy) denies sexual and spiritual maturation - and arguably, salvation - for all gay people. Chaput can barely exact celibacy from his own priests within a mighty corporate structure of support. McGinley's shared autobiographies ring truest here. Most gay men have neither the "charism" nor a sustainable infrastructure for lifelong celibacy. Furthermore, because all human beings come to appreciate God's love personified through their most loving human relationships, Chaput's call to gays for lifelong abstinence from intimacy is hollow and spiritually damning.
McGinley's book also shows how the recent priest pedophile scandals have been metamorphed into an anti-gay agenda. Rather than bringing more transparency and honesty into Vatican corporate structure, these scandals have been used to justify more anti-gay hatred and violence. These crimes clearly point to a problem in church organization that apparently feeds sexual misconduct - that's the real point.
McGinley gives voice to a group of faithful gay men, a group that has faced relentless persecution by the Catholic church. As McGinley writes: "In the collision of moral and pastoral rhetoric, it seems the church is more than happy to take advantage of gay people and to use their talents as long as they do not act like full human beings." The denial of full humanity to any group of people is a Catholic tragedy. McGinley abhors the Catholic separation of spirituality and sexuality - for it is a full personal amalgam that is necessary for moral maturity. At the Eucharistic table, we should not seek refuge as disjointed furtive pieces. Rather, we pray as a whole person created by God.
No one is holding their breath for change in the Vatican - but McGinley is convinced that change is on the wing and history is with him. McGinley and other theologians will hold the Catholic church accountable for either their growing irrelevancy or eventual compelled apology regarding sexual orientation. Some may find the notion of a future apology implausible - and gays may wait for centuries like Galileo. In the meantime, God offers grace every day to all - ALL. Gay Catholics love and live their faith every day and offer their poignant witness to the Vatican.