Teri Orr: Love is love
December 27, 2013
It seems like such a classic case of foreshadowing. Of maybe a few folks, now being forced to take stock, of how they tried to run a good man out of town because he was, basically, too good. The new Pope would forgive all the mistakes, because well, he’s proving to be a real man of God. But he would also shine a light on the good man, who worked here, mostly thanklessly, for 16 years.
Not so many years ago, maybe six or so, Father Bob decided, kinda on his own terms with Christ, that shutting anyone out of the Catholic Church who wanted to worship was wrong-headed. If you came into the church, loving humans and loving God, that should be enough. If you loved same-sex humans, the issue was the same — all humans should respect and love one another. He started holding masses for the LBGT community and it almost cost him his job. Mean-spirited, self-righteous folks contacted Rome, yes, Rome about the Catholic priest from Park City, Utah, who embraced the idea of serving all of his flock. A parishioner, who had lived in town less than a year, contacted The Salt Lake Tribune and told them there was a story here. Reporters came to town and asked Bob a bunch of questions, including about his own preferences and Father Bob confessed he lived a celibate life but he had determined he was, in fact, a gay man. It became a front page, over-the-fold story, with a full color photo that "outed" Father Bob.
More fuss ensued. A few years passed and Father Bob took a sabbatical from priesting to travel the world and go on a kind of spiritual walkabout. He walked The Camino in Spain and spent time in parts of Europe and New Zealand (or was it Australia). He visited with friends in the States. Then he came back to Utah to be reassigned. He is now serving in a church in Cedar City. But he purchased a home here, in Park City, where he visits often and plans to retire after this final tour of duty.
Today all that fuss sounds so archaic and so silly. If the new Pope in Rome says who is he to judge who comes to worship… seems like Bob was ahead of the curve… and the story.
And this week, when a federal judge decided the federal law trumped state law and same-sex couples were entitled to the same rights of promised bliss as the opposite-sex folks, right here in Utah, well all hell didn’t break loose but the temperature here in hell was officially 32 degrees and frozen over. Pigs flew. And the people rejoiced. Cried and sighed and hugged and some quietly celebrated after decades of quietly loving one another, and they all stood up and married in joyous fashion and it all seemed like the kind of Christmas miracle, George Bailey never could have imagined.
Sometimes you can have a moment, after you hit, say, 50 and you think, I never thought I’d live long enough to see… and then ZAP! You DO live long enough and you rub your eyes and shake your head and laugh and sigh and pinch yourself and say, oh my. Aren’t I lucky I lived long enough to see THAT happen.
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Equal rights are simple in theory and simple in action. But the getting there is the messy stuff. You have to think of the lynchings and hate crimes and discrimination of every rainbow stripe that occur in the name of fear, of someone being different, being The Other, and you can be overcome with sadness. The disowned children, the uninvited guests, the whispered-about employees who "couldn’t be trusted" to serve their country. And it all seems as silly as who can drink from a single water fountain, or ride in the front of the bus, or just sit and order lunch at the lunch counter.
We live in a time when decades, hell centuries, of strongly, wrongly held beliefs, are crashing in, and down and around us. And boy it feels good. Women can vote and drive in most of the world now. Polio is nearly eradicated from the planet. A black man is president of the United States, just a few short years, really, after segregation was made illegal. And double water fountains for whites and blacks removed.
"Love is love" was the phrase bantered about all week and it seems so obvious. But so did: all people should be able to vote, drive, own cattle, and property. And when loving all people becomes so easy, you forget why we disliked the skinny ones or the tall ones or ones who wore funny clothes. Being equal in the eyes of a loving god, means we have to re-examine the beliefs our parents gave us. A Pope who sleeps in a modest apartment and has left the Popemobile in the garage for a more utilitarian vehicle and who has been spotted in a simple black cossack, sneaking out of the Vatican at night and serving the homeless meals, well, it is all a time of great hope and joy.
I’m not a Catholic, nor really comfortable with any banner under heaven, waving. But you have to pay attention to the radical rapid shifts on the planet, and feel the wave of hope that is swelling. And you can say it is the essence of the Dali Lama or know it is the refrain to one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, but in the end, the question we have to ask ourselves, the basis of my personal religion is "But are you kind?" It isn’t much and it is everything to consider this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.