Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Monday, March 22, 2010

They are fallin', all around me

Robert Carter, right, with Dan McCarthy, left, Bernard Lynch and John McNeill at a gay pride march in the early 1980s.

I spent a wonderful lazy Sunday afternoon, reading and catching up on articles from the New York Times while keeping an eye on C-span for the historic Health Care Reform Bill - which, thanks be to God - finally passed.

My excitement and joy were dampened, however, to read this obituary of Fr. Robert Carter, one of the bravest Roman Catholic priests I've ever known. He died February 22nd in the Bronx at the age of 82.

It was he, along with John McNeill, who started organizations like the National Gay Task Force (later the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force), as well as DignityUSA.

That was the early 1970s - right after the Stonewall Riots in 1969 - the very beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.

Let me help put this into some perspective and quote from the obituary:
Father Carter’s coming out was a very public one. In October 1973, Dr. Howard J. Brown, a former New York City health services administrator, announced that he was gay and that he was forming a civil rights organization for homosexual men and women. . . .

. . .An article about the group in The New York Times said: “A number of homosexual and lesbian organizations were represented on the board. One member was the Rev. Robert Carter, a Jesuit priest and professor of historical theology.”

Soon afterward he was visited by a subprovincial of the Jesuit order. “It seems that they were afraid I had had a psychotic break or something,” Father Carter wrote in an unpublished memoir.

Although there were calls for his expulsion by irate “Jesuits, parents and alumni of our schools,” Father Carter continued, he was not disciplined. In those days, the church and the Jesuit order were somewhat more accepting of gay people.
Even so, it was not easy to come out as an LGBT person back in the day. It was even more difficult for a Roman Catholic - especially one who was ordained - to tell the truth about our lives and our love.

John McNeill's book was life changing for me and for many LGBT people. It was the first time anyone from the religious community spoke openly about being LGBT in a positive, life-affirming, intelligent way, which laid the foundation for a theology of sexual orientation upon which we continue to build today.

Mc Neill is quoted in the obituary as saying:
I refer to him as the heart of Dignity,” Father McNeill, the author of “The Church and the Homosexual” (Beacon, 1976), said in an interview. “I was doing all the writing, but he was on the front line, meeting with people, counseling people.”

When the Catholic authorities said Dignity could not meet on church property, Father Carter celebrated Mass in apartments all around Manhattan. He led blessing ceremonies for gay couples. He testified in support of the gay rights law proposed by Mayor Edward I. Koch before it was passed by the City Council in 1986. He urged Dignity to march in gay pride parades and marched himself, in his clerical collar
I am deeply indebted to Fr. Carter and all those men and women who took a huge risk and came out to themselves, to God, and to us when it was dangerous to do so. There is 'no greater love' than those who will lay down their lives for their friends.

Their actions helped the arc of history bend toward justice.

In his memoir, Father Carter wrote:
“Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”
Thank you, Fr. Carter. Thank you for your life, your work, and your witness.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Well done. Rest well, now. Your work on this side of Paradise is done. May the memory of your life continue to inspire the work for justice and bring us ever closer to the Realm of God.

This one's for you, and all those brave souls who took a courageous stand for justice and inspired us all
They Are Falling
By Bernice Johnson Reagon

They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
The strongest leaves on my tree

Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
The teachers of my life are moving on

Oh, death comes and rests so heavy
Death comes and rests so heavy
Death comes and rests so heavy
Your face I will never see, never see you anymore

But I'm not really gonna leave you
I'm not really gonna leave you
You're not really gonna leave me

It is your path I walk
It is your song I sing
It is your load I take on
It is your air I breathe
It is the record you set that makes me go on
It is your strength that helps me stand

You're not really gonna leave me

I have tried to sing my song right
(I will try to sing my song right)
I have tried to sing my song right
(I will try to sing this song right)
I have tried to sing my song right
Be sure to let me hear from you
May your soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory.


Anonymous said...

And what is DignityUSA? Some obscure pseudo-Catholic organization that has no traction within the RCC and whose name isn't known by so much as one in ten American Catholics.

This deceased priest's homosexual dreams have been consigned to the ashbin of Catholic history.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

"Fr. Michael" - If you don't know what DignityUSA is, I suggest you take some responsibility for your own education. It may well open your eyes. Then again, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

If I may be so bold as to add, Fr. Michael, you attitude is hardly, barely recongnizable as anything Christian. Indeed, I think your words wound the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As Fr. Carter might suggest, ten Hail Mary's and One Our Father might well be good for your soul. Otherwise, a simple, "I'm sorry" will suffice.