‘And you know Annie they were lovely, so happy and so friendly….and their colors! It really was a nice occasion.’
‘It sounds great Mags, but tell me what are they so proud of?’
‘To tell you the truth I never thought of asking them, I was just happy for them being so happy and as they were saying, so gay and free. I think a lot of them were just so happy to be Irish. I thought it was so beautiful and so innocent to hear a few of them saying how delighted they were to just be out.’
This was a little snippet I overheard the day after the recent Gay Pride Parade and it gave me a little
Later that day by horrific contrast I heard the awful news of the brutal homophobic attack on the two young men. It was savage and disgusting and nothing can justify it. I would hope that no Christian, no Catholic would be in anyway supportive or complicit in such behavior even by tacit approval. Sadly if we believe this to be the case we are fooling ourselves. Despite the same sex marriage referendum and the change in Irish law, Ireland remains a place where there is much homophobia. What must be of serious concern is the many ‘good Catholics’ who are themselves somewhat homophobic or at least see nothing much wrong with being homophobic.
It is important to be clear what we mean by homophobia. It is a form of hatred. Before it is hatred it is fear. Before it is fear it is ignorance. Ignorance in the best sense of the word, as in lacking knowledge, information or basic education. Homophobia is the hatred of people who are attracted to people of the same sex. Homophobia like any hatred has, and indeed continues to have the most terrible of consequences. These consequences range from people being excluded, to being ridiculed, to being physically and mentally damaged and sadly at times to people being seriously injured or even killed. From the point of view of those of us who are trying to live like Jesus and act according to the Gospel, hatred and specifically homophobia is always wrong.
It continues to surprise me, and perhaps the more appropriate word is ‘shock’ me when I encounter a deep ignorance in this regard, amongst what we might consider, very good Catholics. Do we realize that not only does the Church deplore and condemn all forms of homophobia, but the Church asks us to treat all homosexual persons with the dignity and respect they deserve.
So where does homophobia come from? This is too big a question for the ‘rumblings’ in that there is a long history of it and it is very ingrained in aspects of culture. Sadly it is also true that homophobia has been connected with religion. Perhaps it is more accurate to say connected with religion gone wrong, or with those who would hijack religion to use it to promote their own agenda. They belong to what I call the JSB, the ‘Jesus Said Brigade’! For the most part you will find he said no such thing, or even if they quote him reasonably accurately, they do so with no regard for context. Sometimes they are genuinely ignorant Catholics, in that they simply know no better. Sometimes they are intellectually lazy Catholics. Unfortunately, and I take no satisfaction from saying this, but sometimes it’s much worse than this. I say this because there is a group within the Church who directly or indirectly promotes homophobia. It is hard to imagine, but this group often fails to see that their stance puts them not only at odds with Church teaching, but perhaps more importantly puts them out of communion with Jesus.
Why the confusion? It seems that many think the core teaching of the Church around the beautiful gift of sexuality and most specifically its sacred nature gives them a green light for hateful discrimination. Of course many of them, in the living of their own lives, conveniently forget the same Church teaching has something to say to all of us about how we live our sexuality whether we are single, married, gay or straight. Don’t forget Jesus reserved special ire for such hypocrisy.