“No Longer Aliens…… but Part of God’s Househousehold” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Historically, LGBT Christians have been treated as aliens in the Church, unwelcome and often positively rejected. That is now changing in all denominations, as some adjust their rules on ordination and marriage, others are embarking on serious study and listening processes, and even the Catholic Church is adjusting its tone and language.

We’ve not yet reached full inclusion, but we’re on the way. This passage from Ephesians (from today’s Mass for Tuesday of Week 30) reminds us that full inclusion is how it should be: we “are citizens like all the saints”.

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2:19-22).

Pope Francis’ Catholicism: Are Those Rainbow Pigments?

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

During the question and answer session with the Schoenstatt pilgrims held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on Saturday, Pope Francis spoke particularly about the problems facing marriage in the modern world. For LGBT Catholics, it’s important once again to note that amongst these difficulties, Francis did not include any reference to same – sex marriage or other unions. On the contrary, he included observations that should encourage gay Catholics, notably this reminder that the Church is constantly reforming itself:

Asked about reform of the Church, the Pope said people describe him as a revolutionary but went on to point out that the Church has always been that way and is constantly reforming itself. He stressed that the first revolution or way of renewing the Church is through inner holiness and that counts far more than more external ways such as reforming the Curia and the Vatican bank. Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of having a freedom of spirit and warned against closing ourselves up in a mass of rules and regulations, thus becoming a caricature of the doctors of law.

via Vatican Radio.

and also his observations on the importance of “human bonds that bind us together”, and of “solidarity”. Logically, these must include bonds and solidarity with all who are marginalized – including sexual and gender minorities:.

The theme of our throw-away society was also touched on again by the Pope in another reply when he said our present-day culture is one that destroys the human bonds that bind us together. And in this context, he continued, one word that is at risk of dying in our society is ‘solidarity’ and this is also a symptom of our inability to forge alliances. Pope Francis also warned about the Devil, stressing that he exists and that his first weapon is disunity.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Wikipedia gay marriage map USA, October 22 2013:

Samesex_marriage_in_USA, October 2013

By my count, that’s 14 states (plus DC) that had marriage equality one year ago.

Wikipedia gay marriage map USA, October 22 2014:

Note that the bright scarlet has changed it’s meaning. In the map above, it refers to states with a constitutional ban on gay marriage, but not on civil unions. Below, it refers to states that have not yet introduced legal recognition for gay marriage, but will be forced to do so by precedent in their relevant circuit courts of appeal. The current map shows only eight states (dark red) which still have state constitutional bans in full force, unaffected by court decisions. The others all have court judgements, stayed on appeal, which strike down the bans, or require some form of recognition same – sex marriage (e.g on death certificates, or from out of state)

 

Samesex_marriage_in_USA, October 2014

For Gay Catholics, Nothing Has Changed – Everything Is Changing.

The familiar phrase, “La plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” is usually interpreted as “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. For lesbian and gay Catholics in the wake of the synod, this formulation could equally be reversed: “the more things stay the same, the more they change”,

In the entire proposed final “Relatio” of the synod, only on paragraph dealt specifically with homosexual people – and narrowly failed to secure the two thirds majority support required for approval.

The pastoral care of people of homosexual orientation

55 Some families live the experience of having within them people of homosexual orientation. In this regard, we have questioned with regard to pastoral care what is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”  Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. “In this regard there should be avoided every sign of unjust discrimination”

There are two parts to this, dealing in turn with gay marriage, and with the need for respect. Both are established principles, deeply embedded in Vatican teaching. The section on gay marriage is found in paragraph 4 of the 2003 CDF “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons“, the words about respect and sensitivity are found in both the Catechism and the CDF 1986 “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”. There’s clearly nothing new in either of these. As established teaching, the paragraph should surely have deserved unanimous support, but could not muster even two thirds. Why not?

Synod’s Gross Distortion of International Pressure & Gay Marriage.

There only two paragraphs In the synod’s final “Relatio” referring specifically to homosexuality. The second of these, which was approved by the comfortable margin of 159 to 21, states (in a modified Google translation):

56 It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies make financial aid to poor countries conditional on the introduction of laws that establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

If this had any connection with reality on the ground, I would find this completely unexceptional I am a firm supporter of the principle of equal marriage in civil law. I am also an African, and deeply conscious of how well- intentioned Western attempts to influence African governments are perceived (all too often, quite justly) as neo-colonial interference. Such efforts can easily backfire, with serious unintended consequences. For that reason, I agree with the bishops that Western attempts to manipulate foreign aid to force gay marriage on African countries is unacceptable – if such pressure existed, or was even under discussion. It is not. In this matter, the bishops are tilting at windmills, a figment of their fevered collective imagination. The tragedy is that in their terror of the imagined threat of gay marriage, they are ignoring a serious reality, which even an African Archbishop at the synod. acknowledged is a real problem – the criminalization of gay people.

There just is not a single government, multilateral agency, or NGO that has ever suggested that aid should be tied to the introduction of gay marriage, or any other legal recognition of same – sex unions. What has been proposed is quite different: using aid to oppose the criminalization of homosexuality, and the victimization of gay people.

Archbishop Kaigama said the Church’s position against criminalisation has been misrepresented in the media:

“We would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, imprisoned or punished….so when the media takes our story they should balance it….we try to share our point of view (but) we don’t punish them. The government may want to punish them but we don’t, in fact we will work to tell the government to stop punishing those who have different orientations.”

- Vatican Radio

I’ve noted before that Archbishop Kaigama’s protestations that the Church’s alleged “misrepresentation in the media” would be more credible if he could demonstrate any actual record of having opposed the criminalization legislation, or other grievous harms against gay and lesbian people in Africa. It is disgraceful that the synod has ignored one real problem, by itself grossly misrepresenting the nature of Western concerns about criminalization and persecution of gay people.

Two (or Three) Steps Forward, One Back Is Still Progress.

Much of the gay/ progressive commentary on the final synod statement has expressed “disappointment” that it omitted the language of welcome that had been included in the interim report released after the first week. A post by Frank DeBenardo at Bondings 2.0 is headlined (in part) “Synod Final Report Disappoints….“. Similarly, a press release by the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council expresses similar disappointment at what has been left out.

Seen in context however, this disappointment should be regarded as only relative. Instead of comparing where we are today with where we were on Monday, we should be giving thanks for how far we’ve come, from where we were before the Synod began. The interim report got such a strong reception on Monday precisely because it was so very much more supportive than anybody had been expecting. The fact that the same language did not make into the final report therefore, should have surprised nobody – especially when a substantial number of the voting participants were bishops from Africa, joining with the better known Western conservatives such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and the like.

Far more significant than the ultimate omission of the explicit words of support and welcome for lesbian and gay Catholics, should be recognition of just how close the synod came to including them – and how much offensive language that has previously been routine, was also left out.

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