Monday, November 11, 2013

From the Slough of Despond: Or How the Message of the Catholic Bishops Finally Sinks In

Dear Folks, 

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you will probably have divined that I sometimes go through periods of despondency during which I stop blogging for a while. I've been in one of those sloughs of despond in recent days.

The downheartedness is directly related to the Vatican questionnaire we've discussed here of late. The more that discussion has unfolded, the more apparent it becomes to me that I have very little to say in response to the questions the Vatican is raising that will make any meaningful difference to anyone at all.

My voice quite simply doesn't count for much. If my church, its pastoral leaders and many of its chief lay opinion makers have dinned any message into my head as a gay Catholic for many years now, it's that I just don't count. I don't make a difference. The Catholic community is better off without my contribution and without my observations.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have already made this message of not counting very apparent to all lay Catholics in the U.S. by their unwillingness to offer the Catholic laity a means by which to respond to the Vatican survey. In the case of lay Catholics who are gay, they underscored the message that we don't count last week--not at all--in the most gruesome way possible by going on record to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

If I have anything at all to say to the top pastoral leaders of my church in response to the questions the Vatican has recently asked lay Catholics, it's this: my experience as a gay Catholic has been a long, painful tutelage in learning that my life, my human nature, my insights and thoughts, my contributions, the love I have to offer--not a bit of this counts.

Not for the Catholic community. Not for its pastoral leaders. Not for its opinion makers and the arbiters of official Catholic conversations. Not for the many right-wing Catholics who have been permitted by the church's top leaders in recent years to represent themselves as the purest and best exemplars of the Catholic tradition.

For these folks, I might as well not have lived. That's the exceptionally hard message I've heard the leaders of my church giving me for years now, and it's the message the U.S. Catholic bishops chose to present to me all over again last week when they decided to oppose legislation that would protect me and others like me from unjust discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in healthcare, etc.

This is where I find myself as a new week begins. I did want to post something about the amazing thing that Illinois Representative Naomi Jakobsson did last week today, because I think what Rep. Jakobsson did deserves to be celebrated and remembered.

Whether I will post more as the week goes on, I'm not sure. I don't have much spirit in me right now, to be perfectly frank. I'm tired.

For a footnote to this posting, please see this subsequent posting.

The graphic: William Blake's depiction of the slough of despond described by John Bunyan in his classic work The Pilgrim's Progress (1678).

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