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Gays and Catholics: It's about leadership

  • Cardinal Francis George
Cardinal Francis George (Brian Cassella/Chicago…)
January 15, 2012|By Waymon Hudson, For RedEye

Ten years ago, when a "commitment ceremony" was all that was available to same-sex couples, my husband-to-be and I invited all of our relatives.

In front of more than 200 members of our extended families and friends, we stated our vows and declared our commitment to one another.

The people who attended included both sets of parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and people we never imagined would be OK with two men marrying. Yet they shed tears, hugged us and sincerely congratulated us on our love.

Even my husband's devout Catholic family told us that day: "Family comes first."

There was one glaring exception, however: my husband's aunt. When she heard we were marrying, she sent a greeting card to his parents that read: "Sorry for your loss." It was a condolence card meant for funerals.

That was a jarring gesture on what should have been a happy occasion. We tried to consider the source—an isolated, mean-spirited woman—but her words hung over the day like an unspoken cloud.

I've been reminded of that experience—the embrace from my big, new Catholic family, and the disappointment that came from the words of one person—by two recent anti-gay statements that have made headlines.

In December, Cardinal Francis George compared the Chicago Pride Parade, whose rescheduled route through Boystown was to pass in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church during Sunday Mass, to Ku Klux Klan marches against Catholicism. That was after parade organizes moved the event back to its normal time to accommodate the church. He later apologized under a barrage of outrage and threatened protests.

Then last week, Pope Benedict said during his new year address that gay marriage endangers "the future of humanity itself."

Like my experience with my husband's aunt, I'm disappointed by the statements by such prominent members of the Catholic Church's leadership, but I also recognize that they are not reflective of the progressive American flock, particularly in Boystown.

According to a 2011 study by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, American Catholics are more supportive of same-sex relationships than any other Christian tradition and Americans overall. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics support either same-sex marriage or civil unions, like we have in Illinois.

That's great news for those of us who live in Boystown, where many churches welcome the LGBT community by posting rainbow stickers or hanging rainbow flags.

When the religious leaders spout such incendiary rhetoric, we in the LGBT community, as always, consider the source—in this case, men who, according to this recent study and my own personal experiences, appear to be out of touch with their flock.

Yet in June, when we march down Belmont Avenue and past Our Lady of Mount Carmel during the Pride parade, many of us will hear echoes of Cardinal George's and Pope Benedict's statements during what should be a day to celebrate who we are and who we love.

Or, perhaps, we'll feel a sense of success—that shining a light on these hurtful statements is an opportunity to create change. After all, Cardinal George was forced to apologize for his comments about the Chicago Pride Parade not just by the LGBT community, but from our friends, neighbors and families as well.

"I have family members myself who are gay and lesbian, so it's part of our lives," he told the Chicago Tribune in his apology. "So I'm sorry for the hurt."

We saw the power of a community coming together to challenge and correct out-of-touch leadership—and that should give us something to have pride about.

WAYMON HUDSON IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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