I do not believe in God, an after-life, wood nymphs, or anything else that hasn't been proven by science. It's just easier.

Fr. Geoffrey Farrow 10.05.08* (Respect Life Sunday)

As most of you know, I was appointed pastor here at the Newman Center
on April 15th of this year. When I arrived, I set out to address a
series of various projects to repair our facilities. To date, most of
these deferred maintenance items have been addressed. In the middle of
dealing with contractors, the parish finance committee, the building
department of the diocese, neighbors, etc., I received a FAX from the
bishop�s office on the 30th of June. It was the bishop�s pastoral
letter for the month of July.

This single FAX threw my whole summer, and in fact, my whole life into
a turmoil. Recently, I was speaking with some of our parishioners who
advocate for the ordination of women. In the course of our
conversation, a question arose which has haunted me: "At what point do
you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an
accomplice of injustice?"

By asking all of the pastors of the Diocese of Fresno to promote
Catholics to vote "Yes" on Proposition 8, the bishop has placed me in a
moral predicament.

In his "Pastoral," the bishop states: "Marriage is much more than
simply two persons loving each other. Marriage is naturally, socially,
and biologically, directed to bringing forth life."

Actually, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2)
Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and
life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is
important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient
for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament,
the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically
incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who
are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why
is that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of
reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage.

The objections which are raised at this point are taken from Sacred
Scripture. Scripture scholars reveal the problematic nature of
attempting to use passages from the Hebrew Scriptures as an argument
against same gender relationships. Essentially, these scriptures are
addressing the cultic practices in which sex with temple prostitutes
was part of an act of worshiping Pagan gods. With regard to the Pauline
epistles, John J. McNeill, in his book: "The Church and the
Homosexual," makes the following point: "The persons referred to in
Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are
psychologically inclined toward their own sex-since they are portrayed
as �abandoning their natural customs.�" The Pauline epistles do not
explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two
persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read
as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by
two individuals with same sex orientation is not "abandoning their
natural custom."

In 1973, as a result of a greater understanding of human psychology,
the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a
mental illness. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith (the Church�s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document
entitled: "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics."

In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated
that there are "homosexuals who are such because of some kind of
innate instinct." While these statements are hardly glowing
affirmations of gay and lesbian persons, they represent a watershed in
human perception and understanding of gay and lesbian people.

These new insights have occurred as a result of the birth and
development of the science of psychology and understanding of brain
development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The California Supreme
Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court�s
opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California�s ban on
same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the APA�s brief in
concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to
the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting
same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation,
rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

In directing the faithful to vote "Yes" on Proposition 8, the
California Bishops are not merely entering the political arena, they
are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology and the
very statements made by the Church itself that homosexuality is innate
(i.e. orientation). In doing this, they are making a statement which
has a direct, and damaging, effect on some of the people who may be
sitting in the pews next to you today. The statement made by the bishop
reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered
by individuals and their loved ones who have left the Church over this
very issue. Imagine what hearing such damaging words at Mass does to an
adolescent who has just discovered that he/she is gay/lesbian? What is
the hierarchy saying to him/her? What are they demanding from that
individual? What would it have meant to you personally to hear from the
pulpit at church that you could never date? Never fall in love,
never kiss or hold hands with another person? Never be able to marry?
How would you view yourself? How would others hearing those same words
be directed to view you? How would you view your life and your future?
How would you feel when you saw a car with a "Yes on 8" bumper sticker?
When you overheard someone in a public place use the word "faggot?"

I remember the first time I heard that word, faggot, I was hanging out
with my cousins. They all played on the football team of the Catholic
high school in our town. One of them spat out the word in the form of a
curse. I was just a kid in the 5th grade, I�d never heard the word
before, and so I asked: "What�s a faggot?" A faggot is a guy who likes
other guys, was the curt reply. Now pause. Think. What would those
words mean to someone in junior high school who discovers that he/she
is attracted to people of their same gender? The greatest fear that
he/she would have is that they would be rejected by the people they
love the most-their family. So, their solution is to try to pass as
straight, deceive, and in effect-lie. Of course, this leads ultimately
to self loathing. It should come as little surprise that gay teenagers
have elevated suicide rates. According to the Center for Disease
Control�s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (1999), 33% of gay youth will
attempt suicide.

The bishop states: "The Church has spoken out constantly that those
with a homosexual orientation must be respected with the dignity of
every child of God. Every individual is created in the image and
likeness of God and should never be subjected to prejudice or hatred."
A pious thought uttered by a cleric, robbed of any substantive
meaning, as the executioner begins his work. Only a few select people
actually read those documents. What most Catholics hear about being gay
or lesbian at their parish church is silence. A numbing silence, which
slowly and insidiously tells them, "You don�t belong here, this is not
for you, and you are not welcome." It is not the crude overt vulgarity
of some churches. But rather, it is the coldness of a maitre d� who
simply won�t seat you, or the club which has put you on a waiting list
with no intention of allowing you to join. And simply asks you to wait
in polite almost, apologetic tones.

In effect, the bishops are asking gay and lesbian people to live their
lives alone. Why? Who does this benefit? How exactly is society helped
by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love
and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating
gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? What is
accomplished by this? Worse still, is to intimidate a gay or lesbian
person into a heterosexual marriage, which is doomed from its
inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful
"theology." This "theology," which is parroted by clerics in polished
tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our
society which they claim to abhor.

When the hierarchy prohibited artificial birth control, most of the
faithful in the United States, Canada and Europe scratched their heads
in wonderment and proceeded to ignore them. There is an expression in
theology: "the voice of the people is the voice of God." If your son or
daughter is gay/lesbian let them know that you love them
unconditionally. Let them know that you are not ashamed or embarrassed
by them. Guide them as you would your other children to finding true
and abiding love. Let them know that marriage is a union of love and
life and is possible for them too.

I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to
the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on
others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to
you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few
minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow
for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause
them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or
it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally
compelled to vote "NO" on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people
of California will join with those others around the world such as
Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian
family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them,
would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral
evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights
but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, "The truth will set you
free." He didn�t promise that it would be easy or without personal
cost to speak that truth.


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18 December 2008