COMMENTARY — Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Chicago Gay Pride is a deeply spiritual event, combining a celebration of the diversity of humanity with a zest for life lived truthfully. Chicago Gay Pride is one of the largest such parades in the U.S., and it is listed on the city of Chicago’s official tourism Web site. Many, many Chicagoans are proud of their Pride Parade.
As a Chicagoan who is proud of Chicago Pride, therefore, I was very distressed to hear the Catholic Cardinal of Chicago, Francis George, make statementsto FOX Chicago Sunday, intimating that this wonderful Chicago event could become comparable to demonstrations by the Klu Klux Klan against Catholicism.
The presenting issue was that Chicago’s upcoming gay pride event had been rerouted past Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and might logistically interfere with that Sunday’s services. But Cardinal George’s response was to fear-monger against LGBTQ Chicagoans and their allies who participate in Pride. The cardinal said, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
Equally Blessed, an umbrella group of four pro-LGBTQ rights Catholic organizations, has issued a statement condemning such a comparison that has “demeaned and demoralized” Chicago’s Gay community, and doing so in a way that draws a comparison to the “murderous nightriders of the Ku Klux Klan.” A petition at change.org has called for Cardinal George to resign, and has started an online petition.
I have another idea. Today I have written a letter to Cardinal George’s office, asking him if he will be my guest and march with the Chicago Theological Seminary’s Pride group in the 2012 Chicago Gay Pride parade.
This is a serious invitation. First, I make it in full confidence that the cardinal would be welcome in the Seminary’s Pride group. The United Church of Christ, to which our school is related, has as it’s motto, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We practice what we like to call a “radical welcome” and that includes the cardinal. We have had many fine Catholic students over the years.
Second, I would like to invite the cardinal because I have become an ally of the LGBTQ community and it has been an incredible spiritual and theological journey for me. I would like to share with him a small part of how important this journey can be for Christian leaders as well as parishioners.
I have learned so much from what a spirituality of truthfulness teaches, and how it can illumine a great deal about the Christian Gospel, as well as about theology, ethics, pastoral care, and worship. Over the years of teaching and learning with gay students, faculty, and staff colleagues, both at the seminary, around the nation and indeed around the world, I have gained from their courage in facing up to a world that is hostile to their very humanity, and challenging churches that claim they are not included in God’s love and care. Despite all the hurtful and harmful religious messages, many LGBT people nevertheless come to know God’s love and affirmation for exactly who they are. As title of the biography of Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, says so well, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Know’s I’m Gay.
I have also learned that change is possible. For example, this year’s Pride Parade will now start at 12 noon, as the Chicago’s LGBT community has graciously agreed, following a meeting with representatives of Our Lady of Mount Carmel last week, to start later in order to accommodate those attending services at the church.
Change is also coming to the Catholic Church as more gay Catholics join groups working to change the church, and more straight Catholics come to know their fellow parishioners and respect them.
Cardinal George has now attempted to walk back his hurtful comments, indicating the comparison was only “parade-parade” not “people and people.” It’s a start, but it’s far from enough.
Thus, my invitation stands, because more change is needed in the Catholic church, and truly in all churches, so that the “people and people” comparison is not merely descriptive, but a positive and even spiritually enlightening one.
Join us in Chicago Theological Seminary group at Pride, 2012, Cardinal George. I promise you it will help with your ministry.
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