“What’s a Gay Catholic to Do?” is the heading to a sad but honest reflection by Fr James Martin SJ at the America blog. Fr Martin notes the dilemma that we face, listing just five things that the church tells us we may not do, that are not a problem for those who are not lesbian, gay or transsexual. These will be familiar to my queer readers, so there is no need to elaborate at any length: I present here just a summary:
- Enjoy Romantic Love
- Adopt a child
- Enter a seminary
- Work for the church and be open
Asking his readers to “imagine” that they are gay no difficulty in that, here), he observes that this presents a real pastoral problem for the church – one which he does not attempt to answer. He is content just to raise the question, a useful enough exercise in itself.
This picture, of the Judas kiss, rather symbolises to me what the institutional church is doing to us. They repeatedly tell us we are welcome and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity – but then insist that we are “disordered” and must be deprived of the full participation in the church we should reasonably expect. Worse, by providing a spurious religious justification for discrimination, they give tacit support to popular prejudice, leading not only to the denial of civic rights, but also to active homophobia, childhood bullying, violence, and even death.
What I found especially depressing on fr Martin’s blog was the completely unsympathetic, ignorant responses that are so prominent in the comments that followed. My colleague Bill Lindsey has waged a valiant effort to bring some sense to the discussion (in fairness, there are also some other thoughtful responses, but not enough).
Here’s just part of one of Bill’s contributions:
Those of us who are gay and trying to maintain some ties to the church have a great deal vested in seeking to understand, unravel, and deal with attitudes and beliefs that seem simply incomprehensible at times.
What perplexes me is why everything seems to hang today – at least in the minds of some Catholics (and of some other Christians) – on seeing that gay human beings know we are identified as sinners in a way that goes far beyond the identification of any other social subset as sinners.
That’s a fascinating psychological phenomenon, it seems to me – and a fascinating theological phenomenon.
And when one notes that those impelled by this need to target gay folks as sinners in some unique way, and to keep gay human beings in our place at all cost, also happen to be frequently heterosexual males, then one has to ask what it is in the male psyche nowadays that wants to hang so much significance on demeaning gay people and keeping gay people in their demeaned places.
And then my own response:
Fr Martin’s piece represents a real issue for gay Catholics. Many of us have concluded that there simply is no possible resolution, and have simply left the church in anger, and now describe themselves as ”in recovery”, which is sad. Just this morning, I found a new blog with the revealing title ”Catholics Suck”, written by one such self-described recovering Catholic. Many in the Church of course, are delighted to see them go, and indeed encourage us to do so. But this is shortsighted. If gay Catholics did indeed all leave, the church would find itself even more short of priests than it is at present, and also short of musicians, liturgists and other key roles. Many gay Catholics take on important support roles in parishes all around the world. There are almost certainly many more in every congregation than the other members would ever suspect, but unfortunately they feel constrained, for the reasons quoted by Fr Martin, to remain discreetly closeted in church even if they are out and proud elsewhere.
It is also regrettable how so many ordinary Catholics, like many of the comments above, simply parrot the standard and unjustifiable Vatican line. The simple facts are that homoerotic orientation is not unnatural, as shown by biology, psychology, anthropology and zoology, and so arguments from ”natural law” are invalid. Modern Scripture scholars and theologians are arguing that the traditional teachings are based on misunderstandings, misinterpretations or mistranslations, and need to be revised, in the light of the findings of science and the church’s own teaching on the importance of reason, and new findings from scholarship and science. The only thing disordered about ”homosexuality” is the Vatican teaching.
Finally, for those who insist we have an obligation to meekly follow church teaching on sexual ethics, try telling that to those married couples practising contraception, or young couples expressing love in sex before marriage, or those recovering from the heartbreak of divorce and seeking comfort with new loving partners, or young people (and older) compensating for the absence of any sexual partners with a little solitary masturbation.
It has been reliably estimated that probably 95% of Catholics are in dissent or contravention of church teaching on at least one of the above. The fact that the so-called, self-selecting ”leaders” and too many of their followers are vocal in their hostility to one group of dissidents, while ignoring all other contraventions, is simply inexcusable.
Why not go to Fr Martin’s blog, and have a say yourself?