They came flooding in in the hours and days after my column about the way the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville treats gays and lesbians.
Probably the most emails I have gotten on any column I have written. The vast majority agreed that Catholic church policy that requires married, gay church employees to be fired is wrong.
Many of those emails identified the writer as Catholic.
Some of them raised the issue of the archdiocese’s sexual abuse scandal that over the last 16 years has seen a $25 million settlement and numerous priests hauled off in handcuffs and leg irons after the church ignored their crimes – not just sins, but crimes – and put them back into parishes where they could molest little boys and girls again.
Several writers were upset that the church allows others who violate rules of the faith to keep their jobs but takes a much harsher approach when those violations involve gay men and women.
Others brought up the fact that Jesus surrounded himself with the people on the margins of society, the lepers and the sinners and rejects and pariahs. And here, they see the church marginalizing those who have traditionally been forced to live on the fringes of our society.
“I am a practicing Catholic, went to all 12 years in a Catholic school as well as Catholic college and grad school …,” wrote Vonda Norris.
“I don’t understand. All we have to do is look at the people Christ ate with, preached to and related with — the outcasts of society, those who were not accepted,” she wrote.
You’ve all heard the story by now.
Four days before the end of school last year, the pastor and principal at Holy Spirit School, my parish, called a guidance counselor into an office and told her that a parent had reported that she was married to another woman. Then they fired her.
They were simply executing the Archdiocese of Louisville’s policy on employees that enter gay marriages. The archdiocese has shown its hostility toward gays before like when Archbishop Joseph Kurtz refused to allow Greg Bourke to be a leader in a Boy Scout troop at Our Lady of Lourdes.
“I think it’s safe to say I can count on one hand (maybe one finger) the number of columns you’ve written with which I have agreed," wrote Art Rothgerber. "But you nailed this one. I’m a practicing Catholic and completely confused and angry about Kurtz’s attitude about gay members and gay people in general.”
Some of the writers were gay and lesbian, involved in long-term relationships. Some of them married.
Just regular old, heterosexual Catholics who grew up in the faith, went to Catholic schools and perhaps learned more about compassion, acceptance and mercy than the church’s hierarchy is willing to embrace.
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“The archdiocese is not following the teachings of Jesus in firing a good woman from her job because she is married to her life partner, also a woman. Big deal,” wrote Cathy McLeod. “It makes me embarrassed to be a practicing Catholic.”
Mary P. Sheridan wrote that it pains her to see gays and lesbians treated by the church – her church – this way. “Judgment is left for God alone. We, His followers, on the other hand are directed to love one another as God has loved us. So, it would seem that this directive should be our moral compass.”
I grew up attending Mass every single week, the son of Catholics who were more devoted to the church than the church was to them.
My father sat in the pew each Sunday saying his rosary in penance, and neither he nor my mother never once took Holy Communion during my childhood. All because of what the church saw as an unforgivable act – they got married years after my mother divorced her first husband when she caught him having an affair.
The first time I ever saw my mother receive the Eucharist was at my wedding, long after my father died, when I was 37 years old.
I'm not as good of a Catholic as either of them. I miss my share of Sunday Masses, but I never once considered leaving the faith, even when I learned that prior archbishops had put me at risk as a child.
Hunter Seitz accused me of writing a “simplistic diatribe.”
He might be right.
It really is a simple problem, and it warrants a simplistic solution.
Here’s an idea. Let’s start treating the church’s gay employees like we treat everyone else.
Let’s just assume that they, like the rest of us, sin.
Sometimes repeatedly. Sometimes day in and day out.
And let's just assume that their sins aren't somehow worse than the rest of ours just because they're gay.
Treat their sins like our sins. Catholics are demanding it.
Joseph Gerth's opinion column runs on most Sundays and at various times throughout the week. He can be reached at 502-582-4702 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/josephg.