There is an expression we use to distinguish an event that changes the momentum of our situation for the better. We say we “turned a corner.” Sometimes we recognize the change as it happens, like the anxious parents of a child running a 103 fever when the nurse announces “99.5”. But more often we don’t realize that a change has occurred until we look back in time and recognize that, yes, my life “turned a corner” when I met my wife, or, thank goodness my dad got that good paying union job that allowed my family to “turn the corner”. I’m guessing a lot of lives “turn a corner” when long closeted people come out.
Watching the Chick-Fil-A debate this week, I realized that while we were busy with the day-to-day battles, like DOMA and DADT, the larger struggle for gay equality has “turned a corner”. The argument from the Christian Right used to be “Gay people are not good human beings.” But by coming out in ever-larger numbers, so that virtually everyone now knows someone who is LGBT, the gay community has prevailed in the battle of popular opinion. For the great American center, no bible thumper is going to tell them their nephew, or their co-worker, or cute little Doogie Howser all grown up isn’t a good person.
Now that such a large segment of the public-at-large has decided gay people can indeed be good friends, good neighbors, and good sons and daughters, the big picture discussion has changed. Instead of asking “Can gay people be good human beings?” the argument now is more often “Can people who discriminate against gays be good human beings?”. While it is heartening to be on offense for a change, it is a more difficult argument to counter, especially when it is made by religious sources, who insist they are God’s primary arbiter of right and wrong. That is why, when one such zealot shows himself for what he is, it is important that we point him out, and hold a spotlight on him, so that his followers can see the emperor – or in this case the monsignor – has no vestments.
Marriage equality is the law in Massachusetts. There is no “legal discrimination” loophole so many states write into their half-baked “equality” laws, which allow those with “religious objections” to opt out of respecting the rights of anyone LGBT. Yet, while demonstrating he was aware of the law, Catholic Monsignor Thomas Sullivan decided he would willingly break it, instruct others to also break it, and then covered up his deed by blaming and disparaging his victims. Unfortunately for Monsignor Sullivan, an incriminating email he wrote detailing his plan has miraculously come to light, and the monsignor has been figuratively, (it is important to point that out when discussing Massachusetts Catholic clergy,) caught with his pants down.
A gay couple, James Fairbanks and Alain Beret, (Business partners? Life Partners? Married? In Massachusetts it legally makes no difference.) made Monsignor Sullivan an offer of a million dollars for an old 44-room mansion, one of many white elephant properties the Catholics accumulated in their heyday, which they would now like to unload. Fairbanks and Beret hoped to turn the mansion into a banquet hall, creating renovation jobs and catering jobs and wait staff jobs for the community. They made a formal offer, put down a deposit, paid for an inspection, and were negotiating over a sprinkler system and how many acres would be included in the sale when Monsignor Sullivan announced the deal was off.
It was at this point that the monsignor told his first public big fat liar’s lie. Monsignor Sullivan could have made up any excuse, blamed himself, blamed his superiors, blamed the voice of Jesus whispering in his ear, or even stood on principle and told the truth, “We’re not selling to gay people” and accepted the consequences like an honorable man. Instead, Monsignor Sullivan chose to “bear false witness” and disparage Fairbanks and Beret by announcing the deal fell through because the partners could not come up with the financing. Sullivan’s excuse was not only false witness; it was nasty, mean-spirited, unchristian false witness that could damage the reputations of businessmen who were negotiating in good faith.
Monsignor Sullivan, hiding behind the assumption men of the cloth are honorable, trustworthy people, may have gotten away with bearing his vindictive false witness, except, it appears God stepped in. When the Monsignor’s broker sent a letter to the prospective buyers withdrawing the property from the market, the email Monsignor Sullivan had written giving the broker instructions was included, I’m assuming, being the Church and all, God’s will must have stuck that email to the letter. Here is part of Sullivan’s email I think God must have wanted us to see:
“I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop. Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”
Monsignor Sullivan may as well have signed a confession:
- He admits his reason to refuse the sale is discriminatory: the prospect of same-sex weddings.
- He admits he knows he is breaking the law, when he instructs his broker to “find the language” rather than “tell the truth”.
- He admits the Bishop is complicit in the decision to break the law.
- He instructs the broker to lie and break state housing laws outlawing discrimination, a crime which, by the way, could end up with the broker losing his license and his livelihood.
Alain Beret has said, “For the sake of my dignity, I am not walking away.” Good to see someone in this drama has the courage of his convictions. I look forward to what I hope will be Fairbanks and Beret’s very public and embarrassing lawsuit, ending with an admission, an apology and a seven-figure damage award paid by Monsignor Sullivan and the Catholic Church.
For us today, it appears the next big-picture challenge of the gay agenda will be overcoming the idea that it is possible to discriminate against gays still be good people. If the way to turn that corner is to demonstrate those doing the discrimination, like ethically challenged Monsignor Sullivan, are not honorable people, let the personal scrutiny begin. Today the character of Monsignor Thomas Sullivan and his ilk are under a microscope, and On Our Radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
Radar Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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