Brian Cahill warns that the Catholic Church in America is "on track to become a shrinking, increasingly irrelevant cult." The reason? The persecution of gay and lesbian Catholics—gay and lesbian school teachers in particular—by American bishops and the impact this is having on Catholic high-school students. From Cahill's piece in the National Catholic Reporter:
Catholic high school students, who can spot dishonesty and hypocrisy a mile away, are reacting with disillusion and disgust at how the church is treating some teachers in Catholic schools.... Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr upheld the firing of an assistant principal who expressed support for civil gay marriage on his blog. The chancery spokesman stated that such actions "would undermine what students are being taught in the classroom." It would appear that Cincinnati Catholic high school students are not being taught Jesus' message of love and inclusiveness or Pope Francis' words, "Who am I to judge?"
The Cincinnati [Catholic school employee] contract prohibits teachers from "public support of the homosexual lifestyle." That contract language forced a Catholic teacher who is the mother of a gay son to choose between her son and her job. She chose her son.
Schnurr's spokesman described the resulting protests as "a tempest in a teapot." But the real tempest, the real storm may be over the horizon. The real question is how many thoughtful Catholic high school students will be turned off by a church that can treat people this harshly, and how many will walk away before they are 24.
Cahill worries about Catholic high-school students so "turned off" by the homophobia, cruelty, and mean-spiritedness of church leaders—and the examples he cites are truly cruel, from a bishop in Cleveland firing a school teacher after reading her mother's obituary and learning the teacher was married to a woman, to the church offering to let a married gay Catholic teacher keep his job on the condition that he divorce his husband. "Four out of five Catholics who have left the church and haven't joined another church did so before the age of 24," Cahill writes. "One can point to an increasingly secular, materialistic culture as a factor in this exodus. But a closer look suggests that young Catholics are increasingly turned off by the attitudes and actions of some American bishops."
While Cahill, the former director of Catholic Charities in San Francisco, worries about "thoughtful Catholic high-school students" so turned off by the actions of American bishops that they abandon their church, we should be just as concerned by thoughtless Catholic high-school students—the one in five—who aren't turned off by their church's bigotry.
What about Catholic high-school students who don't react to these acts of antigay bigotry with "disillusion and disgust" but with delight and approval? What do they do when they grow up?
We may have seen an example in Philadelphia earlier this week.
Two gay men, a couple, were brutally beaten by a "well-dressed" mob in downtown Philadelphia on September 11. Both men suffered extensive facial injuries; one had to have his broken jaw wired shut. Both were repeatedly kicked in the face as they lay on the ground. The police released surveillance video of the suspects and some sleuths on Twitter quickly tracked down the alleged assailants. Andrew Sullivan recapped the appalling crime and celebrated the power of the internet to identify the fuckers who did it.
And here's something we now know about the 15 men and women who attacked two gay men walking down the street last week:
Authorities expect the suspects in a brutal attack in Center City to turn themselves into police Wednesday, a day after a reality television star shared a photo depicting the alleged assailants online—causing a social media firestorm to erupt and leading a popular satire Twitter account to uncover the identity of the suspects. The suspects, who sources tell NBC10 were classmates at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School, have yet to surrender to authorities by midday Wednesday... Members of the group—some of whom stood by while their friends punched and kicked the 27- and 28-year-old victims in the face, head and chest—began contacting investigators late Tuesday through their attorneys so they could turn themselves into police, according to multiple sources.
Here's a picture of the alleged gay-bashing mob, taken earlier in the night, at a mini-Catholic-high-school reunion they held in a restaurant near the site of the the assault:
One of this cheerful gang of alleged gay bashers isn't just a graduate of Archbishop Wood Catholic High School. He works there—or he did. JoeMyGod:
One of the suspects in last week's brutal mob gay-bashing of two gay men has been fired by the Philadelphia Catholic high school where he was a basketball coach.
Joe quotes from a statement released by the school:
Earlier today, Archbishop Wood High School became aware that some of its former students were allegedly involved in the assault of two men in Center City last week.... The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable. They are not an accurate reflection of our Catholic values or of Archbishop Wood High School.
The actions of those who took part in this attack on a gay couple aren't an "accurate reflection" of Catholic values?
Because American Catholic bishops attack gay couples all the time. They don't attack them physically, of course; bishops aren't beating up gay couples in the streets. But Catholic bishops do real violence and real harm to gay couples whenever and wherever they can: economic violence, social violence, spiritual violence. And the Catholic Church doesn't limit its attack on gay couples to the those who work in its schools; the church attacks gay couples who aren't Catholic when it fights marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. So should it come as a surprise that young Catholic adults who approve of their church's attacks on gay couples—adults who haven't abandoned the church, adults who've returned to their Catholic high schools to work—may have found a justification for doing physical violence to gay couples in their church's more abstract, arms-length acts of economic, social, and spiritual violence? I don't think so.
The Catholic Church has spent the last 30 years arguing that LGBT people who want full civil equality are attacking Catholics—that gay people, simply by existing, are doing violence to Catholics—and then they pretend to be shocked when Catholic young adults attack gay couples in the streets.
We shouldn't pretend along with them.