Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sifting Through More Commentary on Amoris Laetitia: "There Is Almost Complete Silence on Homosexuality" in Amoris Laetitia

Though I have not yet read the exhortation on family just published by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, (except in excerpts provided in commentary I've been reading — some of them generous in length), I want to offer you a few links to more commentary I've run across that seems to me worth considering. You can find at various websites gatherings of links to wider commentary, much of it "insider" commentary — either insider commentary from known and trusted voices within the Catholic LGBTQ community (I'm not one of those), or known and trusted voices within the larger Catholic community (ditto). See, e.g., the list of links compiled by Michael Bayly at his Wild Reed site, by Bob Shine at Bondings 2.0, and by National Catholic Reporter.

Probably because I am not an insider and my voice is persistently treated as if I have nothing of importance to say either within the Catholic community as a whole or within the slice of LGBTQ Catholics who still look to the church's pastoral leaders for affirmation and pore over their statements looking for the tiniest slivers of hope to be found in them, I tend to seek out commentary about these church documents that comes from an outsider perspective. To my way of thinking, the insider commentary is stuck so far up in the bowels of the institution that it often fails to see huge disconnects between church rhetoric and everyday life — and this does no one any real service at all when we're talking about things like family, marriage, women, queer human beings, etc.

There's also the huge irony — an insupportable one, if you think much about it — of how so much of the insider commentary focuses on the need to listen carefully to those on the margins, to include everyone's voice, etc. . . . and then those making these assertions turn around and gladly and glibly exclude voices they consider "angry" or off-kilter, not even acknowledging that they're engaging in such censorship on such grounds. Creating hermetically sealed spaces in which to talk about welcoming and listening to everyone — a very typically Catholic approach to doing business that claims to be catholic, it seems . . . .

So, with all that as preface, here's a sprinkling of commentary (some, but far from all, "outsider" pieces) I'd like to point out to you, which you may miss if you're combing the "approved" and "official" lists in Catholic or LGBTQ Catholic publications and blog sites:

1. Several of the preceding links do point to Dignity's statement about Amoris Laetitia, which I think is very much worth considering. Dignity writes,

Pope Francis' long-anticipated response to two sessions of a world-wide Synod on the Family, an Apostolic Exhortation entitled "Amoris Laetitia" (The Joy of Love), is a tremendous disappointment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics and their families, says DignityUSA, a leading organization of Catholics committed to LGBT equality. 
"In this document, Pope Francis has continued the characterization of LGBT people as unable to fully reflect the fullness of God’s plan for humanity," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director. "We had hoped for much more, and many, many people are profoundly disappointed today."
"While in many areas, the Pope urges respect for individual conscience, and pastoral flexibility, when it comes to same-sex relationships and gender identity questions, Francis simply reiterates the long-standing teachings of the Church. There is no flexibility. He says same-sex relationships are in no way equal to marriage between a man and a woman, and that gender must be respected as created. The document also talks about the situation of families 'whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy for either parents or children.' There is no recognition that embracing and affirming LGBT family members can bring grace and wholeness to a family," said Duddy-Burke. 
DignityUSA also expressed frustration that while Amoris Laetitia calls for respect for the dignity of all people regardless of sexual orientation, and the avoidance of "unjust discrimination," there is no strong call for an end to anti-LGBT violence, for Church officials to avoid inflammatory statements against the LGBT community, or for a clear statement that LGBT people and supporters are welcome to participate in the Church’s sacramental life and ministries. "While the Pope acknowledges the Church has been too rigid in other areas, there is no repentance when it comes to LGBT people. We need to see changes in teaching and practice before we can move forward," said Duddy-Burke.

2. Equally Blessed echoes the Dignity statement:

While the Pope acknowledges the complicated issues facing Catholics on the margins, including divorced and remarried Catholics and Catholics who identify as LGBTQI, and he urges respect for individual consciences, he ultimately reinforces existing harmful church teaching that characterizes LGBTQI people as unable to reflect the fullness of God's plan for humanity.

3. Writing on Facebook on the eve of the publication of Amoris Laetitia, Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry stresses the critical importance of hearing everyone as LGBTQ lives and dignity are discussed, and, in particular, of listening carefully to the least among us:

Whatever is in Amoris Laetitia tomorrow morning, there will still be millions of LGBT people suffering under the church's violence across the world. We must keep their stories and their dignity and their wounds at the forefront of our minds as we read. It is to those least in our society, whom God loves most, that we are most accountable.

(I'm grateful to Michael Bayly in the link provided above for pointing to Bob Shine's statement.)

That stress on listening to the voices of those on the margins — to the real voices of real LGBTQ people — as the church issues proclamations about LGBTQ lives is also strongly apparent in the statement of Francis DeBernardo (also of New Ways Ministry) to which I pointed you yesterday. I wonder if readers can point me to any concrete spaces for such interchange and dialogue in the Catholic church in the U.S.? Do any of you know of real places in which the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. are actually soliciting the stories and voices of queer Catholics, as they make pastoral decisions about queer lives?

Do you know of open, welcoming dialogue spaces, for that matter, within Catholic LGBTQ organizations, which make a real effort to reach out and listen to the voices of people who are not already insiders (people living in the right places with the right pedigrees, who aren't likely to be perceived as too different to be heard)? I'm curious about where these dialogue spaces — about which we talk over and over as if they actually do exist in the American Catholic church — really exist. Maybe I'm simply so far on the margins, stuck away in my little nowhere place in a nowhere part of the country, that I know nothing about them. I'll be grateful for information.

4. And then, beyond the boundaries of the insider groups, there's Charles Pierce at Esquire, asking, 

Do the Pope's latest words on marriage and homosexuality go far enough? Not for me.

5. Also in the journalistic sector (beyond the boundaries of Catholic journalism), there are Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein of New York Times noting that "the rare harsh passage in what is otherwise a fatherly letter to the church" is the tiny section in which Francis addresses LGBTQ human beings.

And isn't that interesting? The church has good news to offer to everyone — well, except to LGBTQ people, who are hardly even mentioned, and then in a way that journalists (who are not insiders, it has to be noted) characterize as "harsh"? Why is it that so many of us in the LGBTQ community are intent now on finding the tiniest nugget of pretend-kindness in Catholic leaders' approach to us, and in silencing (often by ignoring them) the critical voices within the LGBTQ Catholic community that refuse to engage in the game of pretending?

6. And finally, there's Massimo Faggioli at Commonweal stating bluntly,

There is almost complete silence on homosexuality [in Amoris Laetitia]; only paragraphs 250 and 251 in Chapter 6 address it, and only with what amounts to a restatement from the Catechism . . . .

Faggioli then cites the section of the document that more or less restates what the Catechism itself already says about respect for people regardless of their sexual orientation and blah blah blah. The same thing Catholic leaders have been saying for years now, in other words, as they fire queer employees of Catholic institutions right and left, as they write fulsome letters of thanks to state legislatures passing draconian laws targeting members of the LGBTQ community, as Catholic institutions apply for "right-to-discriminate" exemptions allowing them to receive federal funds while engaging in overt discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Many commentators are now pointing to that very section of Francis's exhortation as a new breakthrough to demonstrate how he and his papacy are all about newfound respect for the LGBTQ community. If anyone knows of a news release telling me that the firings of LGBTQ Catholics have now stopped, or that bishops praising state legislatures fomenting anti-LGBTQ hate laws have been reprimanded, or that Catholic colleges and universities applying for "right-to-discriminate" exemptions allowing them to receive federal funding while engaging in discrimination against the LGBTQ community are being shunned by their sister Catholic institutions of higher learning, I'd appreciate knowing about this.

Otherwise, I don't see that I have much choice except to say, making myself an irritant to many people of ponderous importance, that the pretty words are oh so nice sounding, but they appear to mean as little today, after Amoris Laetitia has been published, as they have meant in all the years that the Catechism has been telling Catholics to treat LGBTQ people with respect and consideration — while the firings go on and on, while no dialogue spaces are created within the Catholic institution to hear LGBTQ testimony, while bishops praise anti-LGBTQ hate laws, etc. 

And when not even the official LGBTQ Catholic organizations afford such respect and consideration to the many voices they refuse to include in their conversations about issues like respect and consideration and inclusion and welcome, what do any of these nice-sounding words really mean, when all is said and done?

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