Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Unholy, Weak Response to Homeless LGBT Youth

It’s been three months since I updated my blog and I thought Easter would be a good time to resurrect it (no pun intended).  I debated writing a post about my new job, but will hold off on that for now because of events that developed over the past week, one of the holiest periods on the Judeo-Christian calendar.  Sit back; this is a long, passionate, personal post.

During “Holy Week,” Catholics and other Christians reflect upon the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a time to seek forgiveness of one’s sins, to commit to be more Christ-like, and to celebrate the redemption of women and men through the selfless act of one Man offering up His life for the sins of the world.

However, this sacred time was marred this year by a response the previous week by New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose cold, unfeeling and “victimhood” response to a request by Carl Siciliano, the executive director of New York’s Ali Forney Center, which serves homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth, many of whom are forced out of their family’s lives and dwellings solely for being lgbt.  Many of these families consider themselves “Christian” and cite biblical admonitions against homosexuality while throwing their sons and daughters out, choosing to ignore the loving Christ who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick, gave shelter to the homeless, and offered consolation to the imprisoned and afflicted.

Dolan’s response led a very dear friend, 24-year-old Joseph Amodeo, to resign from the junior executive board of Catholic Charities.  He blogged about it on the Huffington Post, which led to calls from Associated Press, the New York Times, the WashingtonPost, and other media outlets.  For someone so young and so faithful, Joseph has made a tremendous impact in advancing the understanding of lgbt issues and pointing out the hypocrisy of Catholic leadership, which, thankfully, does not mirror the majority of followers in the pews.

This was not the only missed opportunity for the Church to remove the plank from its own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s.  A New York Times article detailed how the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), under pressure from right-wing Catholics, is ending funding for organizations that serve the poor and marginalized, including immigrants, solely for “guilt by association.”  The issue? Some of these organizations are affiliated with umbrella groups that support equal rights for lgbt Americans, among other issues.  The CCHD said they needed to "more explicitly express the ‘positions, activities and relationships’ grantees are prohibited from taking part in, such as ‘advocacy of abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, racism, as well as use of the death penalty, punitive measures toward immigrants.’ ”  It is ironic that through its defunding, the Church itself is perpetrating “punitive measures toward immigrants.” And somehow, I doubt these same right-wing Catholics are as concerned about enforcing Church teaching on the death penalty and immigration.

I withdrew from active participation in the Catholic Church after Pete and I got married on July 24, 2011, doing so because I did not want to put the pastor of my parish in a position of turning me away should another priest or parishioner object to me being a Eucharistic Minister, lector, or even an usher.  It would be OK for me to sit quietly in church and continue to drop my generous donations in the basket each week, but in all other ways, I was unwelcome and unwanted by the Church to which I devoted my life for 53 years.  Donations that would have gone to the Church this year will, instead, go to the Ali Forney Center and The Trevor Project, the latter provides intervention and support to lgbt youth considering suicide.

Sadly, the Church of the 1960s and 1970s that marched in the streets for the rights of minorities, the poor, the marginalized, has given way to a Church that is consumed with others' sexual behavior, nearly exclusively homosexuality.  And the seminary system, especially in New York, reinforces the view of priesthood as “do as I say” (though, so often not as I do), a legalistic, pharisaic power-trip inconsistent with the compassion of Jesus, the True Pastor and Good Shepherd.  If the Catholic magisterium truly wants a smaller, purer Church, it is getting its wish.

Cardinal Dolan loves to play the victim, complaining about government interference in religion.  As I have said before, the Church can’t have it both ways.  It should not interfere in government, particularly when it comes to civil marriage offering dignity, recognition and protection to gay and lesbian couples.   

One last thing…Even though I am no longer welcome in the Catholic Church, I am grateful to clergy and laypeople from other denominations – Jewish and Christian – who have reached out to Pete and me to offer us a new spiritual home.  While we are so touched by their inclusion and thoughtfulness, we have decided to remain outside of any organized religion and will continue to live our lives is a way that truly answers the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Addendum (April 9, 2012). My friend Melissa Steinbach read this post Sunday and gave me a Hudson Valley perspective: "People have no idea of the magnitude of this problem. I work as a case manager with homeless youth ages 16-21 in a transitional living program in Poughkeepsie. The statistics are astounding and some suggest that around 40% or more of homeless youth are LGBTQ. It is unbelievably sad that someone would throw away their own flesh and blood because of his or her sexual orientation. I love seeing articles and blogs like this because the word needs to get out and programs like ours need funding so all homeless youth have supportive environments regardless of their sexual orientation!"

Melissa's program is River Haven's Transitional Living Community (TLC).  It is a part of a great organization called Hudson River Housing and yes, it also deserves our financial support.


  1. Thank you for this. I found your blog through Catholics United and agree with your sentiments completely. Very well written and articulated. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your kind post, Caity. Much appreciated. We can always hope and pray for a minimum, a change of heart. Take care!