05 November 2009

Letter from Fortunate Families Newsletter November 2009.


‘Dear Bishop … (excerpts)
1-Letter from father of gay son

…. I have … enjoyed more than 53 years of happy marriage…. It has been … an educational journey ….

… there is much in the proposed letter with which I can heartily agree. Most of all perhaps ... the disturbing trends in current culture such as the high divorce rate. My … assessment, however, differs greatly…. your analysis seems little more than a restatement of old platitudes and defunct doctrine.….

My traditional Catholic background … has served me well…. However, I have found new insight regarding marriage and human sexuality. This has resulted in some serious differences between my understanding, and our Church's teaching….

A primary concern … is the absurd focus on genital behavior. The proclivities of sexual libido … are vastly overemphasized by our culture, and by our Church…. The most important characteristic of marriage by far, is unconditional selfless love.… the essential and primary feature of a Christ-driven marriage. Everything else including procreation is ancillary.… The Church's broad obsession with biology and its selective interpretation of nature, is misguided at best, and at worst, very harmful….

I am the father of a gay son…. Church teaching on homosexuality very nearly cost me the life of that only son. As a young teenager, he had heard his unwitting father denounce him as I pronounced Church teaching on homosexuality at dinner … conversations. He heard himself described as objectively disordered and inclined to an intrinsic evil. After a protracted period of silent anguish, at age 18 while away at college, he attempted suicide. It was only through … intervention by a loving God that he survived. He told me later that God said to him: "I made you just the way you are and you are good." ….

The revelation … that my son was gay started me on a journey that continues …. I studied … homosexuality in depth. I … talked to many other parents of gay children, and to many gay people…. I learned … and my Church-formed stereotype was transformed. I gained a new understanding of human relationships….

Having a gay son has helped my marriage - immensely. His 18 year relationship with another gay man is a model of loving unity that many a heterosexual marriage could well emulate. My son is not objectively disordered. His relationship is not intrinsically evil. …it is Church teaching and understanding of human sexuality that is disordered….

When I consider my own experiences of parental and spousal love, I realize that God’s love is more than unconditional. It is unfathomable.… Yet, the Church … implies that while God created LGBT persons, they may not love another person to the fullest. … this is a completely perverse distortion of what Jesus proclaimed. It is certainly not what I have witnessed….

It is Church teaching that is producing intrinsic evil. I have heard and witnessed too many stories of verbal abuse, bullying, violence, suicide, and even murder… which stems from a culture that denigrates folks who are different from the heterosexual norm, and is fed by the self-righteous railing by too many of our religious leaders. The … words of the Magisterium cannot be offset by protestations of "treating the homosexual person with respect." Words matter. Our culture draws its own conclusions - sometimes ones that are unintended.

…. Why is the Church’s solution to marital issues simply to lay on once again heavy and fruitless burdens? Why not begin with an analysis of … contemporary marriage to determine more accurately what causal factors are involved? Contraception is certainly not the issue! Gay marriage is not the issue. I suspect your state of celibacy constricts your understanding. Please! .... Listen. The Spirit speaks to us most often through others….

… the proposed USCCB letter is not pastoral. It … will not help marriage. It is another unwitting assault on simple justice and the love that Jesus gave us. Our mutual challenge is to “Love one another,” but it seems that for some of our bishops, that challenge will require an immense courage…. to examine the possibility that Church teaching needs revision…. My own Cardinal once told me: “Tom, if I could change Church teaching, I would do it in an instant. My response was and is: “If it doesn’t start with you, then who?”

Tom Nelson, Detroit MI’

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