Who Is the Enemy?

An open letter to Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago

December 23, 2011

Dear Cardinal George,

Early this morning, my wife called to tell me of your concern that “the gay liberation movement [could] morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.” From the Chicago Tribune, I learned the context: You were worried that the revised route for the 2012 Chicago Pride Parade would prevent people from getting to church. I would be upset if a parade float blocked my entry to Mass, so I was relieved to read on and discover that the parade organizers had met with representatives from the affected parish and agreed to change the start time. One can only wish that Klan leaders would be so accommodating.

I’d like to tell you, though, why your words affected me so deeply. I attended the Frances Xavier Warde School for nine years, during which I attended countless services at Holy Name Cathedral. I’ve long forgotten the readings and sermons, but I do recall the cardinals’ hats that hung from the ceiling. For a child as religiously inclined as I was, those red hats – and all they represented – were a source of endless fascination. I was eleven years old when you were named the successor to Joseph Bernardin, and I was beside myself with excitement. I thought of cardinals as a sort of superhero force for Jesus. And what could be better than that?

I’m 26 now. Tomorrow night, I will attend Christmas Eve Mass with my mother. During the Eucharist, I will stay in my pew – not because I am openly gay, but because I am no longer Roman Catholic. In 2006, I was formally received into the Episcopal Church. Last spring, I was admitted as a postulant for Holy Orders. God willing, in a few years I will be ordained as a priest, bringing others to Christ through the church I love – just like you.

Although my adopted tradition does not have a College of Cardinals, I am doing my level best to be a superhero for Jesus. When I am able to battle through my own sloth and vanity, I try to be a compassionate presence for the needy, the sick, and those who have been wounded by the Church. Speaking of church, surely you know that Christmas Eve is the night when thousands of disenchanted adult Catholics, moved by nostalgia or family or sheer desperation, decide to give the Holy Mother Church one last chance. Many of these people left Catholicism because of its disgraceful treatment of sexual minorities. I wonder how many of them crossed midnight Mass off their calendars after seeing your recent Fox News interview, which, for some reason, you elected to grant on December 18.

You say you’re worried that the gay rights movement will keep people out of Catholic churches. I can’t see how you could possibly need any help doing that.

As a lesbian, I can shrug off your remarks with no trouble. As a fellow Christian, I am embarrassed and disappointed. But as the girl who once sat in Holy Name Cathedral, smoothing her pleated skirt and believing that you were a superhero, I am heartbroken.

“Who is the enemy?” you asked your interviewer. This Christmas, as you celebrate the birth of our blessed Savior, I hope you will pause to consider the effects of your words and actions on His holy Church. Perhaps the real enemy is closer than you think.

Yours in Christ,

Catherine

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