After the red, white, and blue balloons and confetti dropped at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, did it really get worse when the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York City, the Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, offered a closing prayer?
While one gay Democratic partisan voiced disappointment over Dolan's benediction, gay Catholics offered mixed views on just what the cardinal signaled to the faithful.
"May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature's God and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making," prayed Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Give us the good sense not to cast aside the boundaries of righteous living you first inscribed on our hearts even before inscribing them on tablets of stone. May you mend our every flaw, confirming our soul in self-control, our liberty in law," Dolan said.
One view is that Dolan offered a subtle theological take on gays as freaks of nature, even idolaters in advocating-same-sex marriage.
Gay Catholics hear this all the time, said Charles Martel, president of the advocacy group Catholics for Marriage Equality, natural law theory used as an argument to "justify denial of civil marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples."
"The reality is that gay people, too, are part of God's nature, and therefore we are a part of the laws of nature. We need to remind Cardinal Dolan and the Church that God created gay people to be fully who we are; we are not a 'mistake,'" explained Martel over the telephone and in e-mail correspondence.
Like Martel, National Stonewall's Davis also found Cardinal Dolan's presence at and prayer offered during the Republican National Convention disquieting.
"I am beyond disappointed at the selection of Cardinal Dolan to give the benediction at the convention and NSD was among the first to lodge a complaint with the DNC when the news was announced," Davis said in email correspondence.
"Dolan has been one of the most virulent anti-LGBT leaders and has said some pretty ugly things about us. Even so, there is a broader context here. This Democratic convention is, by far, the most LGBT-inclusive convention in history. With nearly 540 official LGBT participants, the adoption of a plank endorsing the freedom to marry, and speeches by prominent LGBT Americans, there should be no doubt about where this party and this president put their loyalties," explained Davis.
Still, "Cardinal Dolan is the highest-ranking Catholic in the US, and he speaks to a combined congregation of nearly 80 million Catholics in this country. Denying him the opportunity to speak would have been an insult to millions of those Catholics and other people of faith. Right or wrong, we give religious beliefs a wide berth in America," said Davis.
Joe Murray of Chicago's Rainbow Sash Movement offered a different perspective. "The cardinal's very presence" was "of itself a political act," he emailed.
However, "What stood out to me was no mention of gay marriage or abortion his two hot-button issues. It will be interesting to see if he will use the same prayer at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next or whether he will change some words," said Murray.
"The prayer itself was kind of moderate. The issues he covered were respect for all human life, remember Jesus' example of the preferential option for the poor; and preserve all the blessings of liberty in our nation particularly freedom of religion," said Murray.
"The prayer itself [also] seemed to indicate a moderate approach, which surprised me. The Republicans invited him and he accepted knowing full well that they are kindred spirits, outspoken opponents of President Obama on matters like abortion rights, gay marriage and health insurance coverage for birth control. It would not surprise me if his prayer also surprised the GOP," explained Murray.
"That said I don't think the Cardinal saw his presence at the convention as being pastoral. He has been very blunt about saying, 'We are called to be very active, very informed and very involved in politics.'" But that was not the tone last night," Murray said.
"From a LGBT Catholic perspective I see this as indication that in the cultural wars Dolan is recognizing public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to his far right position on the cultural hot button issues, and this might be an indication that he is trying to move his position to a more moderate one. What can I say I believe in the Holy Spirit," Murray added.
Similarly, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a pro-gay group for LGBT Catholics, their friends, families, and the Church, viewed the prayer favorable light.
"Cardinal Dolan does not mention anything about LGBT issues, which I think is a good thing," explained DeBernardo. "Some people may think that his mention of natural law refers to lesbian and gay people or our society's move towards marriage equality, but I do not agree. Lesbian and gay people are well within the bounds of nature's law and the desire to live as a committed couple is a perfectly natural thing to do."
Copyright. Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.