This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Colleen Simon is the sort of person the Catholic Church should be proud of and thankful for. Kind, selfless, forgiving, and eager to fulfill God’s will by answering His call to serve, Simon’s worked tirelessly to make life easier for those who depend on the food pantry at St. Francis Xavier Church. She’s Lutheran, but she’s made a difference by embracing the Catholic Church’s commitment to charity, and she’s touched countless lives through her passion and kindness of spirit. In short, she’s the epitome of someone leading a Christ-like life, treating the Gospel as more than just a collection of good ideas, and following what she feels is a call to serve those in need. She’s the personification of what Jesus meant when he said, “Faith without works is nothing.” To say the world needs more people like her would be an understatement. There’s just one little problem….
Simon’s been married to another woman since 2012.
Because of that, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has deemed Simon unworthy of continuing to serve those dependent on her food pantry. According to Catholic doctrine, loving someone of the same gender is a sin, which can’t be tolerated in one like Simon whose role was pastoral in nature. No matter how much good she did or how well she lived and represented the tenets of the Gospel, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, her sexuality and choice of life partner made her a liability and an embarrassment. Except that she was neither.
Loving another woman doesn’t mean Simon is a sinful person. Even Pope Francis famously said, “Who am I to judge?” last year when asked about his views on homosexuality. The Pope’s comments didn’t change official Church doctrine, but they do reflect recognition that one’s choice of life partner makes one no more or less worthy in the eyes of the Lord. Unfortunately, his sentiments aren’t shared by those farther down the canonical food chain…which means Simons’ firing was less about Church doctrine than the prejudice of an individual priest determined to expose her “sin” and make an example of her.
Simon’s story illustrates the Church’s refusal to recognize that some members of their flock are born homosexual. That a person’s sexuality is merely one aspect of the whole person seems to be lost on the Church’s sclerotic hierarchy, who confuse their fear and prejudice with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given her passion and commitment to serving others, the Church should be trying to figure out how to clone her. Instead, they’ve tossed her aside and deemed her unworthy of continuing the service she loved.
The ironic part of this story is that Simon’s spouse, the Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, represents a denomination accepting of those who happen to live and love differently. The Catholic Church, in its infinite wisdom and inflexibility, has rejected someone who’s devoted her heart and soul to living the teachings of Jesus Christ. In doing so, they’ve done themselves and those she served a grave disservice…and they’ve failed to live up to what Christ taught about love, tolerance, and acceptance.
The important part of this story isn’t who or how Simon chooses to love. It’s that she does love, and that this love has been reflected in all aspects of her life. Love is love…except when its determined not to be by a celibate male steeped in an 18th century view of sex and sexuality.