In response to my concluding posting about Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God, Jayden Cameron left a valuable comment, noting that he, too, has wondered about the dearth of voices in "official" Catholic theology articulating the faith experiences of LGBT persons. Jayden is perturbed that Johnson mentions gay folks at only a single point in her book.
The heart of his argument in the following statement is, it seems to me, this: "Since the book contains an implicit criticism of official Church teaching for overlooking God's presence among so many marginalized, to write an entire book and omit mentioning a significant marginalized group is to commit the very failing the book itself is critiquing." That assertion is set within the context of the following statement:
This oversight is so strange in an otherwise very inspiring book (more to me than just beautiful words, she succeeded in conjuring for me the living, dynamic sense of the Presence of the Divine working on the margins among the oppressed), that I wanted to send her a message/query. I even went to her personal page at Fordham University to see if there was an email address. That led me to a list of all the faculty and their particular areas of interest/research/expertise. None of them mention anything remotely connected to sexual ethics and gay persons, though there are several professors of Christian ethics - focusing on abortion mainly. I'm still determined to send a message to Ms. Johnson, perhaps to the publisher, pointing out this strange omission in a book that celebrates the diversity of God's many manifestations among the marginalized and oppressed, among non Christians, and even with and among 'secularists' with no particular religious affiliation at all, but who are deeply, spiritually connected to the earth and its preservation. She's covered them all, and done so in a truly inspiring fashion, in fact her vision is breathtaking in it's scope, all but one. Since the book contains an implicit criticism of official Church teaching for overlooking God's presence among so many marginalized, to write an entire book and omit mentioning a significant marginalized group is to commit the very failing the book itself is critiquing. This is what it means to celebrate that 'God is truly with us' on the life journey, all of us, of all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and genders. So it is very strange and leads me to wonder if it was intentional, and I would like an answer to that question. I don't think this should be left unchallenged and I'm determined to get a message through to her.
As I've noted several times, Elizabeth Johnson is actually one of the very few speakers at the Catholic Theological Society of America that I ever heard, in the years I went to CTSA meetings, speak about gay folks. She did so in a keynote address I once heard.
In my view, the more or less complete silence Jayden is pointing to in his comment is characteristic not merely of Elizabeth Johnson's wonderful book: it's a problem running throughout the entire Catholic theological academy in the U.S. What Jayden finds when he looks at the qualifications and interests of Johnson's Fordham colleagues would be replicated in Catholic theology departments throughout the U.S., if one did a department-by-department survey: "None of them mention anything remotely connected to sexual ethics and gay persons," even when they teach ethics.
This is, of course, not accidental. The previous papal regime and the current one have made it well-nigh impossible for anyone doing Catholic theology to focus on issues of sexual ethics--and, in particular, the issue of homosexuality--without becoming the kind of lightning rod that Margaret Farley has now become. Catholic theology departments are full of folks who are deliberately silent about LGBT people and LGBT issues, in order to assure their safety. They are also rather comfortably situated within a heterosexist institution in which power and privilege are accorded primarily to those presumed to be heterosexual, and in which gay and lesbian people have long been punished for making themselves known.
As I said in my concluding comments about Quest for the Living God, the important theology Johnson surveys loses quite a bit of its power when it is unable to see a targeted minority right in its midst, which is being made invisible here and now--here and now, when raising one's voice to decry oppression matters and would make a difference. I remain stymied by the inability or refusal of Catholic theologians to notice and speak out about the oppression of their gay brothers and sisters since so much that is significant in the theology Johnson surveys, which is now foundational for Catholic theology, militates against such silence:
Political theology offers important analysis of the mechanisms that reduce people to subhuman status while well-intentioned bystanders do nothing, as it reflects on the Holocaust and its implications for Christian faith.
Liberation theology has developed an important category--the category of non-persons--to discuss the way in which oppressive social and economic structures erode human worth, and has expanded the notion of poverty to include all categories of socioeconomic marginalization that deprive some groups of human beings of worth.
Feminist theology has done groundbreaking work regarding the central need to claim one's authentic self in the face of oppressive structures that obliterate the selves of women in order to continue male domination.
All of these themes have clear pertinence to the experience of LGBT people, and LGBT theologians and thinkers have quickly recognized their significance for the LGBT community, and have begun to employ these themes in their reflections about the experience of the gay community. The question that continues to arise as gay folks see and use critically important theological themes of analysis surveyed in Johnson's book is why Catholic theology in general refuses to do so--why it continues to treat LGBT folks as not there, as beneath notice, as the one oppressed community in the world that can be safely ignored as we chant the litany of the oppressed.
Jayden has also repeated the preceding comment in a good posting at his Gay Mystic site.