Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lutherans Modeling Different Attitude towards Gays: Listen, Learn, Include (Can Catholics Learn?)

Dennis Coday featured the following quote yesterday in his "Quote for the Day" column at National Catholic Reporter.  It's from a Rite of Reception used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 18 September to welcome three openly lesbian pastors to the ELCA roster of official clergy: 

We have fallen short in honoring all people of God and being an instrument for that grace. We have disciplined, censured and expelled when we should have listened, learned and included.

This is the long and the short of what I have wanted to say about coverage of the papal visit to Britain by influential Catholic journalists and the journals for which they write, which depends on censuring and expelling gay Catholics from the Catholic flock in order to emphasize the unity of Catholics standing six deep to cheer for the pope.  If I have pique about this censure and expulsion (and I do), it comes from the pain we who are gay and Catholic, and who know that the Spirit calls us to accept who God has made us to be with gratitude and joy, experience as we find ourselves used as pawns in macho games played by Catholic journalists and Catholic journals to defend the indefensible.

We Catholics stand to learn much from our brothers and sisters of the Reformed traditions.  One of the most pernicious effects of the macho line drawing, the incessant macho sports metaphors, and the macho Catholics-vs.-the-secularists-(and-the-gays) game playing is that it blinds us to our own faults.

It causes us to imagine that a set of politically driven positions on everything under the sun--from condom use to gay adoption to women's rights and stem-cell research--defines Catholic authenticity.  Rather than how we live and act as Catholics, how we demonstrate and sacramentalize God's open-armed welcome of every human being to the divine embrace.  And it causes us to close our minds as we march manfully into battle, and to overlook how much we still have to learn about the world, the church, and God, before we identify our own tiny definition of Catholicism with the entirety of the tradition.

Listen, learn, include: that's what the Catholic tradition is, at its best.  What it should be about.  And this does not come through in the false, spin-doctored accounts of the papal visit that censure and expel gay Catholics (and supporters of women's ordination, and those who have experienced abuse at the hands of clergy), to score political points in macho political games about how many people screamed how loudly as the popemobile passed by.

If we expect to be taken seriously when we define Catholicism, we have to learn to stop the disciplining, censuring, and expelling.  And start welcoming, for a change.

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