You don’t have to be a hate-filled person to do something truly intolerant, insensitive and bigoted. Sometimes the problem is you have been misinformed and misled.
A case in point would be the recent displaying of an unnecessarily provocative sign at Immaculate Conception Church in Westerly, declaring, “God’s Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman” and an accompanying prayer “rally” held to promote “traditional marriage.”
If the aim of the organizers (who were not made available to The Sun despite multiple requests to be interviewed) was to convince the rest of us sinners to repent and rethink our approval of same-sex marriage, then the event failed miserably.
As discussion groups on Facebook and talk around town made perfectly clear, the stunt served only to hurt many, divide others and tarnish the community’s image.
Opponents of same-sex marriage would argue that the Catholic Church does not recognize the legitimacy of marriage between same-sex couples and has said it considers “homosexual tendencies” to be “objectively disordered.” Parishioners at Immaculate Conception, the argument would go, are merely voicing the church’s official stance. But the Vatican, in its “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” also says gay men and women “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
It’s hard to see how such a public display of rejection, as the Immaculate Conception sign was, could be interpreted as anything other than disrespectful, insensitive, and lacking in compassion.
That point was not lost on Christine Lenihan, who grew up locally in the Catholic Church and protested outside of Immaculate Conception last Sunday with her fiancée, Ireal Strom.
“I grew up in Westerly, and I never want another child to grow up feeling the way I did, feeling ostracized by my own church, my own community, and thinking that depression and suicidal ideation is the way of life,” Lenihan said during an interview outside the church.
“I want the next generation to know your community loves you; we do not care who you love,” she continued. “We care what kind of person you are, the quality of your character.”
Whoever put up the sign, or had the idea to do so, might instead think of the benefits of being more tolerant and welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community. It’s a point the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest known for his acceptance of gay and lesbian Catholics, has made before.
“[B]ecause they have been so marginalized, many L.G.B.T. people often feel a natural compassion for those on the margins,” Martin has said. “Their compassion is a gift. They are often forgiving of pastors and priests who have treated them like dirt. Their forgiveness is a gift. They persevere as Catholics in the face of years of rejection. Their perseverance is a gift.”
Amen to that.