Conferences (when they're good) become thinking spaces for me. At many thought-provoking, energizing meetings like the one we attended this weekend on embracing LGBTQ diversity in the black church, I find myself jotting notes in the margins of my program — notes about seemingly unrelated discussions in which I'm involved which, to my way of thinking, relate intently to the conversations I'm hearing at the conference I'm attending.
When I read the following citation in a program handout this weekend, from the National Committee of Negro Churchmen on 31 July 1966, how could I not jot in the margins, ""If God is male, then the male is God" (Mary Daly):
[T]he power of white men and the conscience of black men have both been corrupted. The power of white men is corrupted because it meets little meaningful resistance to temper it and keep white men from aping God (in Gayraud S. Wilmore and James H. Cone, Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979 [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979).
As you might imagine, since I spent much of the preceding week reading and thinking about the papal exhortation on the family Amoris Laetitia, that document was on my mind as I listened to discussions of this and other documents dealing with the black churches' approach to queer human beings. It did not escape my notice that, at this conference, a number of influential national black church leaders were having this important conversation — a conversation more or less entirely absent from the Catholic church, where Pope Francis could hardly bring himself even to mention or acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people in his exhortation on the family, and where the African bishops threatened to torpedo the synod on the family if European participants dared so much as to mention LGBTQ human beings.
As I listened and thought about what I was hearing at last weekend's conference, I realized I have some lingering questions about Amoris Laetitia, which have only become sharper as the major "liberal" Catholic journals in the U.S. now begin to log in with editorial statements (e.g., here and here) encouraging American Catholics to applaud and support this papal exhortation — even though it is almost entirely silent about the existence of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters. And even though what it does deign to say about this slice of the human community is demeaning and mean-spirited . . . .
I read Amoris Laetitia to be saying that the holiness of heterosexual people must be purchased at the price of people not made heterosexual by God, who are almost invisible in this document, and, to the extent that they are even mentioned at all, are attacked. And now we're being told by defenders of the document who represent the best of American Catholicism, its academic and journalistic elite, that, well, this is unfortunately a sad price that just has to be paid by queer Catholics for the liberation of heterosexual ones. This price just has to be paid once again by queer Catholics in order to permit straight ones to sort out questions about the family — which ipso facto and q.e.d. concern straight human beings.
LGBTQ Catholics must continue to take a slap upside the head, when it comes to questions about divorce and communion or about contraceptive use — questions that affect heterosexual couples. Queer Catholics must unfortunately continue to be the scapegoat, as the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church negotiate delicate questions about whether straight Catholics who don't play by all the rules are holy enough to take communion.
LGBTQ Catholics, please be content to be treated as invisible just this one more time, so that we can work out these questions about real and important moral issues. About real and important human lives (in contrast to those that are otherwise) . . . .
We may get around to you and your concerns — we may acknowledge your human existence and the pain you insist on telling us you feel at being excluded from the conversation — one of these days. Meanwhile, we have real and important work to do about meaningful questions — about the family and its place in the scheme of things.
This is, of course, the loud and clear message that "liberal" Catholics are now giving their fellow Catholics who are LGBTQ as they praise Amoris Laetitia — noting as they do so that isn't it too bad the document doesn't do more for queer human beings, but what can one do, given church teaching.
It's a message that many of us who are LGBTQ and have had connections to the Catholic church no longer choose to hear, since it is insulting.
Absolutely unChristian and absolutely uncatholic.
As I thought about all of these matters at a conference this weekend in which some church leaders (not Catholic ones!) did choose to acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people and their claim upon the church, I formulated some questions for the "liberal" Catholic intelligentsia in the U.S., as its academic and journalistic leaders heap praise on the new papal document. Here they are:
1. Why must someone always pay a proce for holiness — for someone else's holiness?
2. What kind of person ends up, throughout history, paying a price for other folks' holiness?
3. What links these scapegoat people together across time and across their particlarities?
4. Is it holiness when it must be bought at the price of others' misery?
5. What kind of holiness is purchased at such a cost?
6. What does it say about the moral foundations of a Christian community when its best and brightest want to argue that pretending a sector of the human community is invisible is a morally defensible approach to anything at all?
7. As Donald Trump soars to the top of the presidential primaries in 2016, in what way does this "moral" alternative offered by U.S. Catholicism's best and brightest really differ from what Trump is doing and saying about targeted, demeaned others?
Information about the YouTube video — the Freedom Singers singing the old Negro spiritual "I Woke Up This Morning" — is here. We sang this spiritual at the conference I attended at New Millennium Baptist church this past weekend, and it remains in my mind and heart now.