Manifesto to the Pharisees

by: E.J. DiStefano


INTRODUCTION

Beloved brothers and sisters,

The proceeding proclamation is a reflection of my intense desire to please God. I do not know how my church leaders will respond, nor do I know what consequences lay ahead for me. I only know that I have followed my heart, and believe I have done God's will.

Only by enduring hardship in His name can we be truly Christ-like. I therefore urge all of you to resist religious tyranny, even in the face of hatred and hostility. For we are perfected through our persecutions for the sake of the spirit. May God's grace be with all of you.

Your brother in Christ,

E.J. DiStefano


"Amen, Amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you who do it...I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:16-17, 34-35
Greetings and Thanksgiving

Beloved brothers in Christ:

I, a lowly sinful servant of God, offer sincerest wishes for your well-being. It is with our hearts that we speak to God, and it is my heart that I heed as I write to you this day. I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you, most learned of men. Your scholarly status has enabled me to understand the importance of Christian humility.

At one time, I also held religious office, although not in the Catholic Church. I was a Presbyterian Deacon, and this position afforded me the opportunity to become a leader within the local ministry. I was quite impressed with myself, foolishly believing my office entitled me to lord it over my fellow Christians. It was not until my conversion to Catholicism that I was enlightened to the true depths of my own sinfulness. I realized my associations with men and women holier than I would enable me to grow spiritually. This realization enabled me to begin my studies and formation as a Christian Brother in the Franciscan Third Order (Secular) of the Catholic Church.

Your sincere efforts to lead God's children in matters of faith are a gift to us all. You are undoubtedly earnest, though seemingly misguided, in your attempts to please God, and it is with love for you all through our Lord, Jesus Christ, that I make the proceeding declaration.


II
Arrogance

Several years ago, I was a politician. Intoxicated with the pursuit of earthly power, I became an oppressor, determined to find sacrificial lambs for the sake of satisfying my own agenda. Then, tragedy reminded me of my reliance on God, and as I continue to devote my life more and more to knowing Jesus Christ, I become more convinced of the futility of our attempts to fully understand God's infinite greatness within the confines of our finite existence. These painful lessons compel me to offer this caveat: When we allow arrogance to dictate our conduct as Christians, rather it be intentional or unintentional, and believe our so-called scriptural expertise gives us the right to exclude others from God's table, we become enemies of the Cross. For it is our unwanted, unloved, and persecuted brothers and sisters in this world who are truly God's chosen ones. To turn our backs on these precious children is to turn our backs on Jesus Christ himself. As our Lord taught us:

"Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."- Matthew 25:40.

Though they may be "least" by this world's standard, the Lord exalts them according to His law. We must all reflect upon this lesson the next time we feel the urge to condemn, exclude, or limit any brother or sister's access to Jesus.


III
Persecution

For these reasons, I am obligated to express my steadfast objections to the pain and persecutions the church continues to inflict upon our homosexual brothers and sisters. I recently learned that Father Nugent's and Sister Gramick's outreach mission to God's gay and lesbian children at the New Ways Ministry was terminated.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith1 stated that "Sister Gramick and Father Robert Nugent, who have been engaged in joint gay and lesbian ministry since the early 1970's, advanced "'doctrinally unacceptable' positions ,"'regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination'." I do not disagree that homosexual acts are unacceptable within the context of religious, especially Catholic, dogma. I do question, however, whether such acts are evil in the eyes of our Lord. We can no longer assume to have the last word on divine precepts. I see nothing evil about the physical expression of sincere love between two people, regardless of their genders.

For it is only through such expression that the sexual act becomes spiritual, as God intended. As heterosexuals, we are as capable of committing sexual sin as our homosexual and bisexual brother's and sisters, and I am confident many of my homosexual brothers and sisters have conducted their sex lives in a manner much more favorable to God than I. Knowing this, I refuse to condemn the sexual behavior of others simply to ease the sting of my own sins.


IV
Humility

Who are any of us to decide whose worship God should accept? Who are any of us to question the goodness of any of God's creatures? We are all His special creations-unique, yet interdependent. We must constantly strive turn to God, and we do so by being true to ourselves. For by doing so, we are celebrating God's creative miracle.

When I consider that Jesus knowingly dined with His betrayer, I find it impossible to believe He would deny any of his children-heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual-a place at His table. Though we may not wish to admit it, Judas' betrayal of Jesus made our salvation possible. Jesus has a purpose for everybody, and none of us can fulfill these obligations unless ALL OF US are given unfettered access to God's love through Jesus Christ.

According to the Catholic News Service, 2 Cardinal Maida made the following comments about Father Nugent's and Sister Gramick's work at New Ways Ministry:

"...Such ministry can do more harm than good if it is conducted in the midst of controversy and ambiguity." When I listen to these words of the good Cardinal, I am compelled to ask myself two questions: 1) Did not our Lord's own earthly ministry create controversy and ambiguity?, and 2) Am I to assume from Cardinal Maida's words, that had he been a Pharisee during the time of Christ's earthly ministry, he would have lobbied for our Lord's arrest and subsequent execution?

It is true that the religious authorities of Jesus' time did not know the real significance of His presence on earth. We have been blessed with the gift of historical hindsight into Jesus Christ's true identity. Consequently, we have a greater responsibility to adhere to His teachings. Yet we still use our positions of authority to inflict persecution.

Our human fallibility precludes us from passing judgement upon someone else's belief system about God, and deeming that individual unworthy of God's love and compassion. For true virtue can be only be achieved when we are free to listen to our own hearts, make subsequent choices, and strive to please God accordingly. God speaks to each one of us differently. If we ignore what our hearts tell us, we ignore God. This journey is the means through which we attain a truly personal relationship with our Lord.


V
Hypocrisy

The arrogance and hypocrisy we are practicing, dear brothers, is what our Lord spoke of when he chastised the religious authorities of his time with these words:

"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter."-Matthew 23:13-14.

In the Catholic Church's New American Bible, in the editor's footnote pertaining to John 13:23, a verse that mentions "the one whom Jesus loved," this one is described as an "unnamed disciple" or "the other disciple." Obviously, the church readily admits its uncertainty regarding the identity of the disciple whom Jesus loved, and yet we do not seem prepared to consider the possibility that this disciple and Jesus were in love (For that matter, how can we be certain this disciple was not a woman?). I can only conclude it is because such an assertion threatens our finite perception of an infinite God.

Though there are many who point to the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament as evidence of the evils of homosexuality (Genesis 19:4), the biblical sources vary in their accounts of this story. According to Isaiah 1:9 and 3:9, it was a lack of social justice that caused the cities' demise. Ezekiel 16:45-51, on the other hand, describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah 23:14 saw it as the result of general immorality. Therefore, if the Scriptures, the primary source of our spiritual growth, contains divided interpretations of this story, how can any of us be so certain of its meaning?

I do not claim to know, with any degree of certainty, the beloved disciple's identity. I can say, however, that whatever the identity of this disciple, or the nature of his or her relationship with Jesus, it does not diminish my faith as a Christian. Jesus was totally human as well as totally divine, and therefore had his own human sexuality, even though he may not have acted upon it. This in no way lessens the significance of the ultimate sacrifice He made for us, and if any of you believe otherwise, my prayers are with you.

Our various scriptural interpretations are the result of our futile attempts to fully understand a mysterious God. If we are to ever fulfill Christ's intentions for one church on earth, we must focus on our common ground. This can be found in the Lord's greatest commandment:

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - Mark 12:31.

This naturally begs the question: What is love? I prefer to define love as the inspiration for selflessness. What we do, not what we say, conveys our true perception of God. If we believe God is loving and compassionate, we are loving and compassionate toward others; if we perceive God as a judgmental, punitive God, we judge others, and often seek to punish them. Selflessness is love. We need simply to meditate on the image of the Cross to understand this concept.


VII
Conclusion

In closing, I want to emphasize that my remarks are in response to the whispers of own soul, and my deep love and concern for our church, and for all of you.

If we truly intend to be one body with our Lord as the head, we must act boldly and abandon all policies that reflect an attitude of self-righteousness. We cannot create one church by engaging in pious arrogance. Jesus Christ wants us to be one family under His domain. If we are to truly be a stable, loving family, we cannot turn our back one ANY of our brothers and sisters. Just as with our own earthly families, we are obligated to make all family members feel welcome and loved for who they are at all times, regardless of our conflicts and disagreements. If we attempt to exclude anyone from God's kingdom, we will never be able to enter ourselves. If, as individuals, we believe homosexuality, or any other human behavior is sinful, then we as individuals can choose not practice that behavior. We MUST NOT, however, use these beliefs to judge and persecute our brothers and sisters. How can any of us have a personal relationship with God, if we are not permitted too so on our own terms?

We must have more faith in our brothers' and sisters' ability to make the right choices, and what are the "right" choices? -those that create peace in our hearts. For it is in those moments that we receive God's affirmation. We need not seek approval from outside sources. We need simply to listen to the whispers from deep within ourselves.

Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we took care of our own glass houses, stopped throwing stones, and loved each other for who we are-unique creations of the living God.

My love for our Lord Jesus Christ compels me to pray for all of you. I have often heard it said that we should hate the sin, but love the sinner. It is with this in mind that I again express my love for you, and hope that you, in turn, find it in your hearts to love me, a fellow sinner.

I leave you with the following words of our Lord, Jesus Christ:

"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37

God's grace and mercy be with you.

Your brother in Christ,

E.J. DiStefano



EPILOGUE

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

[Colossians 3:12-17]


Copyright ©2000 by the author
All rights reserved


What's your opinion? We want to know!! Send a letter to the editor, write to the author of this article by clicking on their name at the top of the article, or fill out our reader survey!!

Back To The Table of Contents


Books:

Building Bridges : Gay & Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church

Robert Nugent, Jeannine Gramick

Voices of Hope : A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay & Lesbian Issues

Jeannine Gramick (Editor)


Want more books?
Visit the Whosoever Bookstore


Websites:

New Ways Ministry

Lesbian and Gay Catholic Handbook


Also In This Issue:

I Have a Plan for You

The Song of Songs Through Gay Eyes






Whosoever logo