Saturday, August 7, 2010

Serious Catholics of Great Faith, Responsibility, and Standing: The Challenge (and Gift) of Gay Catholics to the American Catholic Conversation

As a gloss on my posting yesterday about the continuing loud silence of many American Catholics of the center in the face of the oppression of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters:

If we expect to be taken seriously as Catholics, if we expect our claims about the meaning of Catholicism to be taken seriously in the public square, we must begin making every voice count.  And, in particular, those from the margins.

We must begin to recognize that the voices of our brothers and sisters who occupy the margins of our society are every bit as much the voices of "serious Catholics of great faith and responsibility," capable of "standing in the community," as the voices of the rich and powerful. 

We must stop treating entire groups of human beings, of fellow Catholics, as if they are simply not there, when we allocate power and define who is responsible and has standing in the community.  We cannot convincingly proclaim our Catholic values to the world at large when we ourselves continue to behave in eminently unCatholic ways, by talking around many of our brothers and sisters because their presence in our midst is inconvenient.

And because it problematizes our claims about the meaning of serious Catholicism full of great faith and responsibility.

Our Catholic understanding of community and solidarity rests on the insight that making any human being invisible is one of the cruelest, least morally defensible acts in which we can engage.  Excluding people from community--from the table at which the conversations that define our Catholic identity take place--excludes them from life itself.  Invisibilizing people and making invidious comparisons between "serious" Catholics of great faith, responsibility, and standing in the community (who happen to be rich or powerful), and less serious and responsible Catholics of lesser standing (who happen to be devoid of wealth of power): this is not merely an unfortunate moral lapse on the part of those committed to serious Catholicism.

It undercuts the entire meaning of what Catholicism is all about. 

We cannot and will not be taken seriously when we challenge the public at large to listen carefully to our claims about the meaning of serious Catholicism, if we continue treating some of our brothers and sisters as though they are not there.  As though their voices don't count.  As though the important conversations that define who we are ought to be undertaken by more serious, responsible Catholics of real standing.

The treatment of gay and lesbian Catholics by serious Catholics of great faith and responsibility who have standing in our community--in particular, by the intellectual gatekeepers of the American Catholic conversation--radically calls into question all the claims those Catholics wish to make at this point in our cultural history about the meaning of the Catholic enterprise.