Gay? Don’t ask, don’t tell Grandma
Catholic Church has its own version of military policy
Recently, President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a statement that ending the unconstitutional “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military is not a priority for the administration right now. They are putting it on the back burner.
All Catholics, gay or straight, are familiar with the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. In my family, it is unspoken policy that you can go about your heathen ways as long as you don’t tell Grandma. Family members actually instructed me to lie to my grandmother about the sleeping arrangements when my boyfriend and I moved to New York together. I chose to respect the head of our family by telling her the truth, but that’s just me.
Many Catholic families have their own version of this policy, and in the Church at large, it has nothing to do with the military, but with the general Church policy on being gay. The official stance is that it’s fine to be gay, but you are not permitted to act on these feelings. Don’t bother dreaming of marriage or children. But we still respect you.
In college, I took a class called Contemporary Roman Catholicism. It was an easy way to fulfill my Religion requirement; all but two of the kids were Catholic (one curious Jew, one overzealous born-again Christian), and amongst ourselves we referred to the class as CCD Advanced.
Father K, as we’ll call him, the beloved Catholic chaplain who held Mass at our traditionally Lutheran school, went back to the basics and asked little more of us than class attendance and some memorization. It was controversy-free until we reached the inevitable gay rights and birth control class, which Father K conveniently packaged into one lesson plan.
“We’re not going to have a debate on this, although I’m sure most of you are itching at the chance to do so,” he said with a smile. “There is always room for debate, but this class is about teaching the views of the Church, and those views are that homosexuality cannot foster human life, that it is unnatural and illogical, and the Church will not change its stance on this.”
I recall exchanging exasperated glances with the venerable Miss Meghan Sweeney at the time (oh yes, we go way back). We would cram breakfast sandwiches and Gospel facts together before tests, quizzing each other on the Beatitudes and expressing skepticism where warranted.
“However,” continued Father K, as everyone’s ears perked up, “the Church demands that all people, including homosexuals, are treated with love and respect.” Oh. Well that’s nice to say. And that’s where the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy comes unofficially into play.
Because how can you respect a person while telling them that you believe at a fundamental level that their very existence is unnatural? How can you treat a person with dignity if you condemn his loving relationship as illogical? And what, exactly, is logical about most heterosexual relationships anyway? Logic doesn’t usually have much to do with it. So we can all be friendly at a superficial level as long as don’t discuss things like personal identity and family.