On August 19, 2020, Cincinnati Reds Broadcaster Thom Brennaman uttered an ill-conceived and ill-advised homophobic slur as the broadcast returned to air. Thinking his mic was still dead, he spoke a word that was full of hatred and bigotry towards those who experience same sex attraction, a population in the Church and in society that already has a strong perception of not fitting in and marginalization. As Mr. Brennamen acknowledged later in the broadcast, this momentary and solitary word could likely cost him his career and livelihood.
This is tragic on all sides. Tragic for the population within our community who felt slighted and maligned by his statement. Tragic for him and his family.
A day later as I write this, I see two aspects of a Catholic Christian response to this situation: a deep respect and compassion for those who experience same sex attraction and secondly a need to forgive Mr. Brennamen for this action.
In the three paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that treat the topic of homosexuality, paragraphs 2357-2359, the journey and experience of these individuals is rightly called forth. As rightly noted, ‘the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.’ They are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters; and are among us. It is a distinct honor for me to serve as the local chaplain for Courage, International, here in Cincinnati where I have the honor and privilege to meet with several of these brothers and sisters on a weekly basis to hear how the Spirit is alive and active in their lives and how they have willingly and joyfully embraced the cross of Jesus Christ through this experience. No, it is not easy for them, yet they find support and fellowship through this experience.
Through Courage, several of the members talk of being ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ for the first time within the Church; finally breaking that strong sense of isolation that the devil so often uses to keep us apart from God.
Rightly, the Catechism calls forth that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ which is where Mr. Brennamen, sadly, stepped into error and likely caused further pain to a community that already knows pain and isolation.
As I write this, I think, once again, of John Bradford’s powerful statement, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ Mr. Brennamen was given much, and as such, much was expected. He was expected to be above slurs such as the one uttered on this fateful broadcast. And he is likely to suffer much due to this indiscretion, rightly or wrongly.
Yet, we have a call to forgive him, for we recognize that we are all sinners in need of redemption and conversion. Luckily, most of us do not sin in such a dramatic and public way; but we all still do sin, if even just in the quiet recesses of the heart. As we reach out to forgive him for this transgression, so also do we ask God to forgive our own transgressions. Certainly, above all else, we should pray for him and his family; as we should pray for all those who experience a marginalization due to the sins of others.
Will Mr. Brennamen broadcast another game for the Reds? Only time will tell. Should he broadcast another game for the Reds? Only God will know for sure.
Might we all learn from this experience to check our own expectations and biases that we can grow closer to every brother and sister in Christ.
To learn more about Courage, International, visit www.couragerc.org.