I’ve known Charlie Robin for many years, so I was deeply saddened to hear that the Catholic Church retaliated against Charlie’s partner, Al Fischer immediately after the pair announced that they were traveling to New York this week to get married.
Al has done exemplary work as a music teacher at St. Ann Catholic School, a St. Louis grade school. For many years, Al and Charlie have been out in the open as a committed gay couple. When they recently announced that they were getting married, though, it was too much for the St. Louis Diocese. The Administration of the St. Ann Catholic School has been, and remains, supportive of the couple, but must now hire a new music teacher for the children, even though they already had a perfectly good music teacher.
I was raised Catholic and I know a huge number of Catholics who are completely in support of gays getting married. The upper clergy are another matter, though. I’m not really angry about Al’s firing, because this is the kind of thing I expect of the Catholic Church at this point, and I’m also delighted to see how supportive the local Catholic school has been of the relationship and proposed marriage. The Clergy, on the other hand appear to be engaged in classic groupthink, combined with a willingness to elevate a personal feeling of disgust into a dominant moral principle; and this is combined with a classic reaction formation–I’ve heard from many sources (including many men who were in the Catholic seminary) that a significant proportion of Catholic clergy are, themselves, gay.
What should Catholics do in the meantime? That’s certainly not for me to say, since I don’t believe in any of the miraculous claims of the Bible. Then again, from my discussions with many Catholics, neither do many Catholics. What they do tend to believe in is coming together as a community to celebrating their community in song and ritual, as well as maintaining an admirable commitment to helping others in need through on-the-ground good works. It is in this context that the Catholic clergy displays its ugly vindictiveness. Perhaps this self-destructive decision by leadership of an ever-dwindling church will become a flashpoint for reform efforts in St. Louis, or even nationally. Decisions like the firing of Al Fischer, combined with many other salient moral lapses of the Catholic clergy, help explain why one out of every 10 people in the United States (22,725,000) is an ex-Catholic. Not that any of this will sway the Pope, whose constant vitriolic rants against gays strongly suggest to me his own frustrated gayness.
I often wonder whether and when large numbers of Catholics will start buying up abandoned Churches, and start their own churches.
Then again, this animosity toward gays goes well beyond the Catholic Church. Rick Santorum, one of the front runners for the GOP has indicated that, if elected, he would work hard to pass laws to un-marry the 130,000 gay married couples in the United States. Such are these times . . .