You have read this story before. You can count on reading it again and again.
In recent years, American newsrooms have produced a river of stories about LGBTQ Catholics who have lost their jobs in Catholic schools, parishes or other institutions. In most cases they were fired after announcing a same-sex marriage or taking part in some other public act stating their views on sexuality.
Why did they lose their jobs? There are several possible answers that need to be explored in these stories.
(1) They had signed a doctrinal covenant of some kind (usually in a school) in which they promised to affirm Catholic doctrines or, at the very least, not to openly oppose them.
(2) They faced opposition from conservative Catholics who reject their acts linked to LGBTQ issues. The opposition could be ugly, graceful or some combination of both.
(3) They worked in actual parish ministry or administration positions in which they were expected to teach or, at the very least, affirm Catholic doctrines. This would include leadership roles in worship.
Once again, let me stress that journalists do not need to agree with Catholic doctrines in order to do fair, accurate, balanced coverage of these debates. The key is whether the coverage includes accurate information that allows readers to grasp the beliefs of articulate, honest, qualified people on both sides.
This brings us to the latest New York Times jeremiad on this topic, which ran on the front page with this headline: “He Was a Gay Man on Staff at a Catholic Parish. Then the Threats Began Coming In.” Readers will be hard-pressed to find a single sentence in this story that would be affirmed as accurate or complete by pro-Catechism Catholics. There are entire paragraphs, often without attribution, that provide the talking points of liberal Catholics who want to see their church’s doctrines modernized.
The person described in the headline is Antonio Aaron Bianco, a “gay layman in charge of managing St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church” in San Diego. Right up front, readers learn — as they should — the content of these threats, as described by Bianco. Then there is this summary statement:
Located in the heart of San Diego’s largest gay neighborhood, St. John the Evangelist is one of about 300 Catholic parishes around the country that quietly welcome gay Catholics. Although the Catholic church teaches that same-sex relationships are sinful, growing pockets of the church have accepted openly gay parishioners, staff members and even priests.
But after this summer, when the church faced renewed allegations of clergy sexual abuse, some bishops and conservative Catholic media outlets immediately blamed the crisis on homosexuality. That set off a backlash, fueling a campaign to purge the church of gay clergy members and church workers.
The key word in this passage, of course, is “welcome.”