Nov 16

Why the Archdiocese May Not Give a Fig About Gays, or You
John Ireland, 1st Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Cradling His Crowning Achievement, the Cathedral of St Paul, in His Arm, With the Original Minnesota Twins, Father Louis Hennepin and Father Lucien Galtier, at his sides.  Stained Glass window at my childhood church, St. James in St. Paul.

The ham-handed censorship of the effort by student journalists to openly discuss same-sex marriage and Catholic policy at Benilde-St. Margaret High School in St Louis Park continues to make waves: Fresh stories about the censoring of a student editorial and the suppression of a first-person essay by a gay student have appeared in the Pioneer Pressas well as on MPR and on several TV stations (The Strib seems to be missing in action). And in every one of the stories, it is the kids who seem thoughtful, responsible and brave. Maybe that’s the best anyone can expect in a world where adults act like children.

The school’s effort to explain itself is lame beyond ridicule: According to the principal, the student editorial questioning Archbishop John Nienstedt’s pre-election squandering of $1 million on a digital dump on church members of DVD’s arguing against gay marriage (did anyone have to watch it to figure out where they stand, in 2010?) was “creating a disrespectful environment.” In addition, the students were causing “confusion about the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Um, Mr. Principal, confusion aboundeth, even before the kids took notice.

But here’s the larger issue: People may wonder why the church continues to face-slap so many vulnerable members over issues like gay marriage, where the hierarchy lost its moral authority long ago. I asked this question, after a fashion, in a St Paul liquor store in 2008 when I had a run-in with a high muckety-muck in the archdiocese whom I have known for years.

Mr. Muckety-Muck was carrying two wine bottles in line behind me at the checkout counter. When we recognized each other, he leaned forward and poked my 12-pack of Summit Pilsner.

“You gonna drink all that by yourself,” he teased.

It was the same week that the Archbishop had put the kibosh on the annual Pride Week Prayer Service at St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis. So I knew how to reply to Muckety-Muck.

“No, I’m not going to drink this all myself. I’m going to take this to my Gay Pride Meet-Up. Wanna come?”

Muckety-Muck spluttered and turned red. “Oh, don’t give me any crap, Coleman,” he said. “It’s been a tough week.”

“I bet it has,” I replied. “Why do you guys even bother? You are hurting a lot of people with all this B.S., and there’s no way you can win, anyway. The people are not listening to it. You are going to lose.”

Muckety-Muck grew indignant. “We are definitely NOT going to lose,” he declared.

“It’s over, Man,” I said. “The church has lost.”

“No, we haven’t lost,” he said. “We are going to win. We have a secret weapon.”

“Really,” I said. “Wow. A ‘secret weapon’ in the war against homosexuality. What exactly is it, pray tell?”

By this time, every clerk in the liquor store was listening in. Muckety-Muck leaned closer and lowered his voice.

Beaners,” he said in a raspy whisper.

“Excuse me,” I responded, confused. “What did you say?”

Beaners,” he repeated, a bit louder this time. “You know…Mexicans!

I swear every word is true. Especially the offensive one.

I knew what Muckety-Muck meant: The Archdiocese is receiving an influx of new Catholic immigrants, Mexicans and other Latinos; Vietnamese and other Asians. It doesn’t care if it angers and alienates lifelong Catholics. The Irish and Germans and the rest are dying off, anyway. The next waves are the new immigrants who come to the Church like my ancestors did: For community, for comfort, for assistance with jobs and places to live and matchmaking and all the rest. This part of the Catholic Faith is still important and still valuable. I have a great deal of respect for the work the Church does in this field. I support it, when and how I can. But new immigrants don’t worry much about the finer points of Church teachings or the way the Church treats old-Church communities or small sexual minorities: The bottom line in this Archdiocese is that gays are safe to exclude: It’s only a small group that is offended, and those Catholics who object are being replaced.


So if the Church’s heavy-handed treatment of gay kids and gay-friendly student newspapers seems irrational, or maybe even seems close to persecution (which it often seems to me), all you have to do is remember one little word: