‘Reply to Lance Spurr’
(Melbourne Star Observer, 5th June, 1998)
by Michael Kelly
In his editorial article of the gay and lesbian newspaper, the Melbourne Star Observer, Lance (a leading member of the gay community) claims the Rainbow Sash Movement is delusional, trying to follow and belong to a "private" organisation that by its very nature is against sexual diversity. To him sash wearers are as contradictory as the term "gay Nazis".
What a tough week! We were refused Communion, rebuked by Archbishop Pell, rejected by his congregation, portrayed as crazy protesters or suffering victims by the press, abused and honoured around the nation. We then open the MSO and find Lance Spurr (5/6) supporting Pell and likening us to “Jewish Nazis”. Sometimes you just can't win.
Lances article, despite factual errors, raises important points. He thinks the Church should be left to “formulate its doctrines any way it sees fit”, and the “consciences of its members” shouldn't be “violated” by people like us. If the Church condemned black people to silence or public rejection, would Lance feel the same way? If teachers who came out as, say, “Albanian” were sacked, and Albanian students were harassed in Church schools, would that be fair enough?
It is true the Church has a “clear, definite and official policy of condemning homosexual sexuality as unnatural and ‘sinful’.
For 1900 years it had a “clear, definite and official policy” of tolerating slavery. Were those who spent their lives working against that policy, claiming it violated natural justice and the Christian Gospel, wasting their time? Plenty of people applauded Pell. Plenty of people also kept slaves.
Of course, the Church can be challenged from outside. We welcome that, strongly recommending a peaceful, non-violent “Ghandi-esque” approach. We take our stand inside the church. The least the Gay Community could say is “good on ya!”
Lance's most important question however is, why stay in the church at all?
Firstly, if all those committed to justice for gay people left the church, what a lovely time the hard right-wing would have! This would have grave repercussions for the rest of society. Think of all that power, influence, money, ritual, art, music, tradition, learning and spiritual heritage owned and used solely by bigots who reject us. This is our Church too, and we will stay in there and fight!
Secondly, the Church's charter is the liberating Gospel of Jesus. Our stance is rattling the hierarchy because we are critiquing their teaching and practice on the basis of the Gospel. Hypocrisy is being exposed from within. At the same time, we respect the courageous action for justice and human rights offered by Catholic people around the world. We want apply that to gay people.
Thirdly, gay teenagers need strong role models within the Church. May they see us standing up for them against the hierarchy's intransigence.
Fourthly, we want show gay people as proud, spiritual and dignified. This exposes the oppression and the lies. People were moved by seeing our family members facing rejection with us because of love, a love the Church proclaims but denies us. This denial is now clear to all.
Let me finish with this. A week after Pell rebuked us, the Bishop of Canberra publicly expressed his sorrow for the pain Gay people have suffered. He offered dialogue and welcomed Rainbow Sash wearers into his Cathedral, calling the congregation to do the same. They did! Still no communion, but hearts are being opened.
We will continue to wear the Rainbow Sash.
Lance Spurr is welcome to join us.
Michael B. Kelly (for the Convenors of the Rainbow Sash Movement)
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