Friday, August 8, 2008

Reflections on World Youth Day

By Margaret and Gordon Bayly

World Youth Day activities have concluded and it’s time to reflect. In keeping with the WYD theme, may we all receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and be a Light to the World.

There are so many thoughts crowding our minds.

The increased workload for clergy, religious and pastoral assistants – the generosity of volunteers and host families – the massive organization – the joyous and prayerful behavior of the pilgrims – the great TV coverage which gave us beautiful images and kept us informed – the understanding of the general public and the disappointment with the few who felt the need to protest in a disrespectful manner.

We must admit we have always found it difficult to equate Jesus with the fine robes worn by the Pope, cardinals and bishops.

We were impressed by the Pope’s heartfelt apology to the sexual abuse victims but sorry he wasn’t able to emphasize that when confronted initially with the scandal of sexual abuse there was a lack of leadership from the highest levels of the Church (including Rome). For some victims their cases were mishandled. An opportunity for additional healing was prevented when the Pope spoke to the Church’s selected victims and excluded the Broken Rites group and Anthony and Christine Foster. What model of Church are we presenting to our young pilgrims?

On a positive note, the Church is alive and well with regard to some social justice issues. We pay tribute to the many wonderful groups and individuals who are achieving great results.

Dissent in the Church is obvious. Parishioners are expressing their views in many and varied ways.

In the past, it was accepted that we should always approach Communion with reverence – now it is dictated that we must incorporate a bow – yet another rule to adhere to. Is this really necessary? This may be viewed as a trivial matter but many are ignoring the request.

According to the Powers that Be, the Eucharist should be denied to those who practice artificial birth control, are divorced and living in defacto relationships or irregular marriage situations, due to not gaining an annulment. Yet many of these parishioners disregard this ruling and present themselves for Communion.

For clergy and religious there is always the fear of being reprimanded if they offer advice that is contrary to the hierarchy. They must encounter many hurt and confused people who feel alienated from their faith family.

The following we cannot understand: the Catholic Church can accept and ordain a married Anglican minister but will not consider reviewing celibacy issues for its own priests. Also, leadership roles for women are not open for discussion. We should always pose the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Our middle son, Michael, is Catholic, compassionate, caring, and gay. The USA is home for him. He gained his Masters in Theology from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota and is employed as an educator and events coordinator by the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). He is a wonderful advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their families.

We have come to accept that homosexuality is not a “lifestyle” that people choose; it is an “orientation” you are born with. The terminology that the Vatican uses to describe homosexuality is so distressing for us. Examples include “intrinsically evil,” and “objectively disordered.” Unfortunately, such terms fuel homophobia. Yes, it does exist!

There are many gay Catholics who desire to be accepted for who they are. We love equally, Michael and his two straight brothers. They fill us with pride and joy. Our family continues to embrace and support Michael. We have been questioned by some as to whether or not we should do this as it is contrary to Church teaching. Being “out” parents of a gay Catholic child is challenging and frustrating!

In a recent Diocesan article an Auxiliary Bishop stated “that coming to Communion is not a matter of ‘Come As You Are’ – a most misleading hymn.” To read this filled us with sadness as this hymn is a favorite of ours.

The following appeared as part of a reflection written by Michael and describes how this “misleading hymn” sustained him as he came to terms with his sexuality: “Yet, still the words of that hymn from my childhood stayed with me – like a warm, indestructible light flickering deep within. It restored my hope, and perhaps even saved my life.”

We continue to pray that those in power within the Catholic Church will consider acceptance and understanding towards those who are considered not worthy to receive the Eucharist. For some, the waiting time is over. The feeling of rejection can result in their faith journey following another path. Sadly, for others, dealing with not being welcome at the Lord’s table means a loss of faith.

Our Catholic teaching tells us there will be a Judgment Day. Preoccupation with the hereafter should not distract us from the here and now. Unfortunately some lose sight of the many good deeds and social justice issues that require attention in our daily lives.

In closing, we wish to share a quote from a dear friend, “Didn’t Jesus have some strong words for authoritarian people who were known to judge others by adherence to the letter of the law rather than by the love within their hearts?”

Gordon and Margaret Bayly are the parents of Progressive Catholic Voice editor Michael Bayly. They live in Port Macquarie, Australia, and their commentary was first published by