Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Synod, LGBT Catholics, and Women: Meh

I'd like to tell you that the synod in Rome (or whatever we choose to call it or however we decide to define it) means something to me. To be honest, it doesn't. Or, to be more accurate, it means about as much to me as does any gathering of the top leaders of the Catholic church, or any document that emanates from those top leaders.

There are those folks — there are those men — and then there are the rest of us. There are the rest of us, stuck in the real world, without the luxury of nattering away about whether it's merciful and decent or not at all merciful and decent to refuse to feed folks, to turn some "unworthy" folks away from a table that advertises itself as a table of bread for all, bread for the world.

In the real world in which I myself happen to live, those top leaders — those men — long since delivered their verdict: I and my human life do not count for them. I and my human particularity are not welcome in their "merciful" church with a table advertised as a table full of bread for all.

It's hard to get more no-count than to have one's job taken away from one with no stated reason for this brutal action, to have one's vocation decisively shattered, to be excluded from economic life and healthcare coverage. When the institution doing this to some human beings is the very same institution whose leaders are nattering away about how its table is full of bread for all and how its mission is to spread mercy and heal the wounds of the world, it's, well, a bit hard to listen respectfully.*

It's a bit hard to listen at all.

The message that's clear to me is that whatever those men in Rome and their media parsers and cheerleaders decide to do at the end of their synod (or whatever it's to be called and however it's to be defined), that decision will have next to nothing to do with me and my real life.

Which continues to be lived in the real world . . . . In a real world in which those men shattered my vocation and that of my then partner, my now husband, very decisively two decades ago, took our daily bread from our mouths, removed us from healthcare coverage, all while preaching mercy and advertising a table replete with bread for the world . . . .

And in which those same men have continued to do the very same to one LGBT employee of Catholic institutions after another right to the present, to one LGBT minister in Catholic churches after another right to the present . . . . While, as theologian Jorge A. Aquino has just pointed out, the liberal defenders of the Catholic institution and of Pope Francis are every bit as much part of the problem for LGBT human beings and women as are his right-wing detractors, since the liberals, too, have long since read us out of their equations, and out of the discourse of liberation.

Liberation is for someone else. It's for those really poor people, not for women and LGBT folks. As Aquino writes,

. . . [M]any on the left have tacitly exonerated the pope for consistently failing to train the same prophetic energy on Catholic exclusions based on gender and non-heteronormative sexualities. Queer and feminist Catholics, as well as those familiar with latter-day debates among liberation theologians in Latin America, cite these lacunae as proof that Francis's vision of liberation, while moving constructively forward on some fronts, remains partial, limited, stunted. The non-debate over Roman Catholicism’s views on gender and sexuality has been most deafening at this month’s Synod on the Family. 
The controversy over Francis's meeting with Davis brings these issues into relief. Even if we accept that the meeting cannot be read as a papal endorsement of Kim Davis and her politics, it's still clear that Francis and Davis are in substantial agreement: Both are committed to limiting the equal standing of LGBTQ Christians, in Church and in society, because homosexuality is supposedly unnatural. In the face of that fact, the no-holds-barred defense of Francis among left-Catholics has the effect of squelching a much-needed debate on the limited liberation proffered by his papacy on questions of gender equality, sexuality, and the family.

So that what can any of those men in Rome and the many liberal Catholics who take them seriously in the Catholic media and Catholic academy possibly say at this point in history about mercy and healing that will mean anything at all to many of us who live in the real world, in which the credibility of religious truth claims is always and ultimately tested?

*For a subsequent posting providing links to statements I have made here telling the story to which this paragraph alludes, see here.

The graphic is from the Facebook feed of Women's Ordination Worldwide yesterday. I'm grateful for my Facebook friend Jane Pelletier for sharing it with me.

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