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Queer Town: Catholic Fall Out Over Proposition 8

While Mormons have been getting the headlines, the Roman Catholic Church has quietly been a major force in the "Yes on 8" campaign to ban same sex marriage in California. Whether or not Proposition 8 is defeated, it seems inevitable that church officials will face some kind of blow back from gay and lesbian Catholics come November 5, if they haven't already.

From bishops releasing an official position paper in support of the ballot measure to printing pro-Prop. 8 literature and distributing it at parishes to offering local priests legal support so they can comfortably talk about banning same sex marriage with parishioners, Catholic officials have been working hard for Proposition 8's passage. This is particularly true in Los Angeles.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, for example, who presides over the Archdiocese of Los Angeles County, which has nearly 4 million practicing Catholics in its territory, has been actively courting Latino voters through radio ads where he speaks to them in Spanish, asking for their "yes" vote.

At West Hollywood's St. Victor Church, Monsignor Jeremiah Murphy, who was appointed to head the parish by Mahony in 2000, has allowed Prop. 8 supporters to set up tables and distribute "Yes on 8" literature, according to the West Hollywood News. (St. Victor, it should be noted, is also known for its good work with the homeless, some of whom are probably homosexual.)

In Fresno, when Father Geoff Farrow came out of the closet and publicly opposed Proposition 8 a few weeks ago, he was relieved of his duties.

Add it all up, it has to make a thinking gay or lesbian Catholic wonder. Why am I still giving money to a church that prints literature in support of laws that discriminate against me? Why am I praying in a church that singles me out as a sinner? Why am I, in the end, contributing to my own second class citizenship?

I know I have asked these questions because I'm gay and Catholic. I haven't practiced in a while, but I grew up directly behind a Catholic church, attended a Catholic grade school, an all-boys Catholic prep school and a Jesuit university, and I was taught by nuns, brothers, and priests. I was baptized and confirmed, and from the time I was a kid through my senior year in high school, I attended mass almost every Sunday. That's about as Catholic as you can get. At the same, I've had feelings for men probably since I was five or six years old, when I first saw the cartoon "Speed Racer" and developed a quick and serious crush on the title character. So that's pretty darn gay, too.

Anyhow, sometimes I'll attend mass with my mother and father because they're my mother and father. I'll sit in church and listen and wish I could go to mass more often. There's something about the Catholic faith, with its emphasis on forgiveness, peace, and love, that I respect and like. And if you've ever read the Sermon on the Mount, as given by Jesus Christ himself, who was always protecting and helping the underdogs of society, that could turn you into a Christian in a second.

But then something like Proposition 8 pops up, with all of the above meanness that follows. At that point, I'm reminded why I don't attend mass anymore. Come Sunday, November 9, five days after Election Day, I wonder how many gays and lesbians will reach the same conclusion. I wonder if Proposition 8 will be the final straw.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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