Since the beginning of the year, more than two dozen anti-gay hate crimes have occurred in the City of New York. This number alone has rallied not only the gay community, but also elected officials, community organizers, and faith leaders throughout New York and across the country.
In the wake of these heinous attacks that culminated with the murder of a 32-year old gay man, Mark Carson, one moral authority in a city that is home to millions of Catholics has remained eerily silent in the face of such tragedy. This silence is a testament to the passive homophobia that defines Catholic Church teaching and comments from the institution’s hierarchy regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
This silence must be shattered: Cardinal Timothy Dolan must condemn these acts of hate.
Like it or not, the reality is that Catholic teaching on the topic of homosexuality is based largely on ignorance and fear. To deny this reality is to deny the very essence of truth, because truth demands that we be willing to see what is in front of us rather than to live among falsehoods. The characterization of gay people by leaders such as Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, and Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre, have demonstrated that they have allowed fear to drive their views.
Even leaders in the Catholic Church have recognized the absence of a compassionate theology and pastoral experience toward gay people. Fr. James Martin, considered somewhat of a celebrity in Catholic circles, recently tweeted the following message, “I would love to see a Catholic leader make an unabashedly positive statement about gays and lesbian Catholics, without including a critique.” Perhaps this is why Cardinal Dolan is silent in the face of a gay man’s murder.
Since Mark Carson’s brutal murder last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has failed to issue even a minor statement regarding Mark’s death or the string of attacks that have taken place over the past few months. The absence of the Cardinal’s voice is of concern, because of the fact that these acts of violence stand in stark contradiction to Catholic social teaching and more directly the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not to mention, all of these attacks took place within a short distance from the Cardinal’s residence in Manhattan.
This silence is even more pronounced in the wake of official statements of condemnation of these hate crimes by Catholic parishes throughout Manhattan.
Parishes including the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of St. Francis Xavier, and the Church of St. Paul the Apostle have issued strong statements indicating their solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender New Yorkers by drawing reference to Catholic teachings that clearly articulate the dignity of all people without exception. Even the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative action group, came out with a statement saying, “There is no place for violence, period.”
In their statement, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi prophetically said, “To our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the staff and friars assert our solidarity with you. We strongly add our voice to the call for everyone’s right to live with dignity and freedom, especially freedom from violence of any sort.” Further, and exhibiting their courage, the parish called upon those who possess hatred toward gay people, “to turn away from any form of prejudice or hatred which impedes us from loving one another as Christ commands.”
The statements from parishes and organizations condemning the acts against a marginalized population shed an even brighter light on the silence at 1011 First Avenue and the Cardinal’s office. In the absence of a clear and unconditional condemnation of these hate crimes, Cardinal Dolan’s silence is symptomatic of the culture of silence that continues to plague the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The notion that hate crimes can unfold in a city that is home to one of the most prominent moral authorities in the United States and yet he remains steadfastly quiet is antithetical to the essence of what it means to be Christian.
In order for Cardinal Dolan to respond to the hatred and vitriol that has resulted in hate wielding its ugly head around the streets of New York City, he would have to make an “unabashedly positive statement” about gay and lesbian people. In that moment, he would have to witness the fundamental innocence that defined the essence of those who were so wrongly attacked. Perhaps most importantly, Dolan would have to take time for deep introspection regarding the role of passive homophobia in driving acts and statements of hate. In fact, to follow a theology that calls for compassion while assuming that someone is “intrinsically disordered” is in itself an intrinsically disordered theology.
The silence must stop. The Archdiocese of New York and Cardinal Timothy Dolan must issue clear condemnations of the violence that has taken place on New York’s streets directed at the gay community.
For a moral leader who is so vocal about the dignity of the human person, his silence in the wake of these hate crimes is deafening.
If Cardinal Dolan truly wants to express the message that “all are welcome,” then he must break this dangerous silence, condemn these acts of hate, and stand in solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the face of prejudice. Passive homophobia can no longer be accepted as the status quo in our churches, because conditional statements of welcome and critiques of the innate nature of the human person provide a breeding ground for intolerance.
A pastoral response to these hate crimes from the Archbishop of New York is no longer an option to be discerned, but rather a necessary step to ensure that the dignity of life is upheld.
Photo via flickr user Paul Hudson