Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Light Presbyterians-using a death for their agenda

I don’t take the Sacramento Bee so I didn’t see the article until I read the More Light Presbyterians web site. Their title is Beyond 10-A: The Wellbeing of LGBT Persons In Our Church. The Bee’s title is Memories of a gay man's suicide loom over Fremont Presbyterian Church. I didn’t know Thomas Paniccia except to notice his nice smile when he greeted me and others. At first when I saw him I often saw him with one of Pastor Baird’s sons. At first I thought he was the Pastor's son. I didn’t know he was struggling with his sexuality either. I do remember when he committed suicide.

Here are my thoughts about the Bee's news article and More Light Presbyterian’s site and statements:

The Sacramento Bee:

The author of the article, Jennifer Garza, mentions several times that Paniccia left a three page letter behind, and that both Pastor Baird and David Larson received copies. There is speculation by both Baird and Larson about why he committed suicide. Evidently Paniccia did not say in the letter, or they would have said so, so it cannot be truthfully stated as a fact that he committed suicide because of his sexual struggles. In fact, the article points out that he asked that no one be blamed.

The article also states that his name was raised during Fremont’s debate about leaving the denomination. I attended all but one forum [they were not debates except right before we voted] but did not hear his name. So if the name was raised during that time it could not have been often.

What I do appreciate about the Bee article is that it gave the whole story and did not insist that Paniccia committed suicide because of his sexual problems. Instead they told both sides of the story. But not More Light Presbyterians.

More Light Presbyterians:

I have little to say about them. My first reaction was anger. How could they take the self inflicted death of a man (who is now, undoubtedly home in safe keeping in the care of our Lord) and use it to push their own agenda. They write:
We grieve with our sisters and brothers within Fremont Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, CA who have come to understand that they lost one of their own to suicide because he was not encouraged to be the person God had created him to be.
Believe me he was encouraged to be the person God created him to be; someone loved and cared for by the Lord. We all know so little about what is going on in the mind of someone who commits suicide. How dare strangers use the death of someone they did not know at all to promote their own selfish cause.


Anonymous said...

I disagree Mrs. Larson, but the facts here point to the MLP's being correct. Also, I am sure he wanted no one to be blamed. I felt that way when I tried to kill myself when I was in my teens.

And yes, I attempted to end my own life because of what I heard from the pulpit of a pastor I dearly loved, and amazingly, in hindsight, would not at that time have wanted blamed. So no, his writing that in his note does not surprise me at all. The sense of failure, shame, and self hatred were so strong, I understand.

I decided to make my passing look like an accident. No note. I figured that way there were be no blame, and none of the shame I knew even as an adolescent followed families with gay members at that time.

Happily, I failed, though the attempt was very sincere ( a cousin found me, face down in the pool ).

If one child or adolescent like me, or the dead young man before he took his life, or just one parishioner at a gay intolerant church reads the article and has the realization that gay people are not 'damaged' or 'abominable', or a change of heart occurs and it stops someone from using the very cruel language about gay people many of my ohhhh so religious relatives did, then a good thing will have have happened indeed.

I wish I had seen such an article...although I of course wish no such articles ever had to be written. But, I work as a volunteer with gay youth at the local GLBT youth center, and with the youth at my congregation, and sadly, such articles still need to be written, and by many youth and their families, loved ones and congregations, read.

Thank you for the opportunity to post.

I thought the perspective of someone who really tried to end his life for the reasons the MLP described might be of value.

I ask one thing. I am a member of the PCUSA. It is a denomination that recognizes the gifts for ministry of many GLBT people, and I feel safe, welcomed, and loved by God there, and thankful for the gifts of salvation, and community and love, as as the gay man I am. For that, I am more thankful to God in his Mercy and Grace than words can express.

Again Mrs. Larson, thank you for the opportunity to post.


Anonymous said...

I meant to say "add" not "ask" one thing. I am sorry if the mistake made it difficult to understand.


Viola Larson said...

Your experience does not make the news story of Thomas point to sexuality as the cause of his death. There is no proof at all just conjecture.

You were found in time. We are all grateful. I stand by my posting the MLP is using this story for their own purposes and that is not right.

Jeff Winter said...

The gay community will spin a lot of stories to fit their worldview....especially the subject of bullying

Mary E said...

I am sorry to hear of your loss. It also saddens me to see others who have no clue as to what is happening exploit what happened to this young man. Political spin-doctors have nothing on these people.

With no note being left, people can only speculate why he did what he did. I wish MLP and the bee would not make things up or at least admit this is their opinion.

Viola Larson said...

Mary E.
The death occurred in 2008-I believe. That is why it is so maddening that it is in the Bee now. And he did leave a three page letter which no one has stated that it told why. As you say it is pure speculation.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Larson, the old saying "where there is smoke, there is fire" has been around for a long time for a reason.

Also, there is a reason major newpapers don't print stories that they do not have the ability to back up. Libel laws. As one good friend of mine who works at a paper told me, "don't assume we print all we know, but we know not to print what we can't back up in court. It's not worth it."

I highly doubt the SacBee would be that foolish, and I have not heard of any libel suits arrising from the printing of these articles.

Mr. Winter, you have my deepest, deepest pity.

Thank you again for the opportunity to post Mrs. Larson.


Viola Larson said...

Jeff Winter is a friend, do not insult people on my comment section again or you may not comment here.

I know that bullying is a problem, but it is a problem for all children. I wrote about this in a posting. Some of my children were horribly bullied at school. It would be helpful if those who write about the subject from a gay and lesbian perspective would include all children in that subject. It is not unique to the GLBT community.

Anonymous said...

The truth shall set you free...
That does not mean we enjoy reading it.
In any case, I wrote nothing untrue, my tone was polite, and I said nothing that one will not hear on the floor of the average presbytery.

Indeed, I have heard many of those points in the floor of my Presbytery.

I am truly surprised that my post was not published.

Chas Jay said...

I lost a brother as well as my best friend to suicide. The pain from their decisions lingers with me every day of my life, which is common for those that have lost loved ones to suicided. With that said, Michael Adee is bullying the church by blaming them for a suicide. The first thing counselors for the survivors after the suicide of a loved one state is that "No one is to blame for a suicide but the person who actually took their own life." Using the tragedy of suicide to blame the church or those that disagree with Michael and his friends, is the very worst kind of bullying.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you for having the courage to share that. I have lost a friend in the same way and no one knows that better than the person who has lost friends and family to suicide.