Not America?

Fr. Neuhaus at the First Things blog offers up some thoughts about the Ted Haggard scandal, including this paragraph:

But what they do know about the gay world? Largely the sleaze that comes to the surface in public scandals. There was an op-ed in Wednesdays New York Times asserting that 70 percent of Americans personally know someone who is gay. That seems statistically improbable. Somewhere between 2 and 4 percent of American males identify themselves as gay. (The figure is much lower for women.) Most of them are congregated in cities, and in those parts of cities known to be gay-friendly. Chelsea and the West Village, along with the Castro district of San Francisco and counterparts in other larger cities, are not America. Gays live in such places precisely because they are not America.

Im not enthused about starting another Commonweal - First Things dust up and Im not one of those who sees Fr. Neuhaus as the puppetmaster of a vast right-wing Catholic conspiracy. I regularly recommend his book Death on a Friday Afternoon to our catechumens and candidates, and if there are any out there who havent read it, I recommend it to you now.But this just took my breath away. The Castro district is not America? I wonder if Fr. Neuhaus has ever read any of Richard Rodriguezs reflections on the role of Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro, where many parishioners followed the call of Christ in ministering to the sick and dying during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Those parishioners continue to do that even today while they also find ways to support those suffering from AIDS in Africa. Not America? I would say this is America at its finest.Does Fr. Neuhaus seriously believe that the Mark Foleys and Ted Haggards of the world are representative of the gay community? He should come and live out here in the Bay Area for a while. At least in my office, the gay and lesbian staff seem as caught up in suburban domesticity as their straight counterparts. There are pictures of loved onesincluding childrenon desks and our water cooler conversation revolves around similar struggles to balance work and family obligations.This is not about whether those called to teach in the nameof the Church should teach the fullness of the Churchs teaching on human sexuality. I would hold that they have an obligation to do so. But when we talk of gays living in places that are not America or suggest Americans are right to see being gay, in and of itself, as morally repugnant, then we have moved from condemning acts to condemning persons. This the Church does not teach.I often wonder why we have this need to draw a lurid portrait of the gay community in order to buttress Catholic teaching on human sexuality. Is it because we fear, deep in our hearts, that the only way that our teaching will find acceptance is if an apocalyptic vision of sexual anarchy is presented as the alternative?If that is the foundation we have built on, we have built on sand. For while we can quarrel about percentages, it seems indisputable that an ever growing number of Americans know a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor who is gay. They have come to know their lives up close and see relationships that in many ways are deeply loving and life-giving. What they see often bears little resemblance to the caricatures they once accepted. If we continue to base our teaching on such caricatures, then we should not be surprised if people come to question not merely the teaching but the teacher.

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