Three statements from religious news sites today that should be read and discussed side by side, I think:
Father Thomas Reese at National Catholic Reporter:
If people do not feel welcomed [by Catholic parishes], they may turn away or not show up.
Brian Harper at National Catholic Reporter commenting on what he began to realize about the experience of his gay friends after he went to Mass last year after Christmas with one of those friends, and the priest attacked gay people in his homily:
[H]ow many of us know how LGBTQIA Catholics and non-Catholics alike feel? Not just about hot button issues, but how they feel as they go about their days, enduring slights at work, during their free time, or, God forbid, at church? . . .
Before we respond by drafting new mission statements or developing better tools for evangelization, we might ask those who are skeptical of Catholicism why they feel the way they do, or whether they hear the same things we do when they go to Mass. It might be a fruitless endeavor, one that fails to convince anyone that Catholicism is ultimately about love. But maybe this is one of those instances that calls not for others' conversion so much as our own.
David Gushee at Religion News Service noting that he was attacked by anti-gay* Christians after he wrote an article describing the ever-diminishing "middle ground" in Christian churches regarding LGBT equality — a description based on experiences that include the following:
[I have now] [e]ven more opportunities to experience the pain of LGBT people as they continue to tell me their stories of religious-rooted contempt and exclusion and exclusion in home, church, and school. Those seeking me out to tell me such stories run in the thousands by now. I should also note the stories of parents who describe to me their grief at the suicide of their LGBT children. As more Americans take these kinds of stories seriously, sympathy for LGBT people grows, and sympathy for religion that makes them suffer declines.
1. Catholic parishes (and Christian churches in general) should make people welcome and should practice the virtue of hospitality.
2. Catholic parishes (and Christian churches) often do not, in fact, welcome everyone and do not, in fact, practice the virtue of hospitality.
3. Vis-a-vis gay* people, the only way Catholic parishes (and Christian churches in general) can really know what gay* people experience in their connection to parishes/churches is to ask those gay* people about their experiences.
4. But at a pastoral level, the Catholic community in the U.S. has made absolutely no effort at all to create safe listening spaces in which the first-hand testimony of gay* people is invited and heard with respect.
5. And so, while it's very nice, the talk about welcome and hospitality is meaningless as long as gay* people can continue walking into a Catholic parish and hear a homily attacking them, or can pick up a newspaper and read another story about yet another gay* employee of a Catholic institution being fired.
6. This nice talk is absolutely meaningless when the Catholic journals promoting it continue to give a high profile to writers who attack "identity politics" and who insist that the first-hand testimony of those shoved to the margins of church and society is narcissistic and that it postures as morally superior discourse that tries to shut necessary conversations down with such posturing.
7. When Catholic journals keep giving a high profile to writers making such claims, while they do not solicit the input of gay* people and allow our first-hand testimony to receive a respectful hearing, what are they really saying to us who are gay* about how welcome we are in the Catholic community?
* Gay = LGBTQI.