Sunday, October 25, 2015

Synod's Final Word to LGBT People: Lord Help Us! Those People Imagine They Should Be Welcome?! And Fa-mi-ly?!

As I reminded you yesterday, while the synod in Rome was underway, top Catholic leaders — some of them speaking on the floor of the synod itself — were freely permitted to characterize a portion of the human community, the LGBT portion, as "smoke of Satan," as a demonic threat needing to be exorcised from the church and its gatherings, as Nazis, as fascists seeking to impose an anti-Christian dictatorship in the world, as the antithesis of fa-mi-ly. Or, as Cardinal Arinze put the latter point, "Lord help us! Is that what you understand by family? This synod is on the fa-mi-ly."

And, in essence, Arinze is right on the money in summarizing the position taken regarding these human beings, this portion of the human community, in the synod's final document:

Lord help us! How can we possibly allow those people to imagine they're welcome in our church? How can we possibly allow those people to think they're fa-mi-ly?

As Reuters reports (this particular Reuters article is from Al-Jazeera America yesterday), 

The outcome of the gathering, over which the pope presided, marked a victory for conservatives on homosexual issues and for progressives on the thorny issue of remarriage. . . .  
During the synod, some bishops said the Church should introduce welcoming and inclusive language regarding homosexuals, such as calling them "brothers, sisters and colleagues" in the document. 
But Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna told reporters many of the 270 bishops felt homosexuality was still "too delicate a theme" in their countries. During the meeting, African bishops were particularly adamant in their opposition to welcoming language toward homosexuals, saying it would only confuse the faithful. 
At a preliminary meeting a year ago, conservative clerics made sure an interim report deleted a passage they thought was too welcoming to gays.

Lord help us! Welcoming to the gays? What will they propose next, these folks enshrouded by the smoke of Satan?! Welcome to lepers?!

Here's Father Thomas Reese at National Catholic Reporter on the synod's final approach to LGBT human beings:

Finally, on the other controversial topic, homosexuals, the synod said they are part of our families and quoted church documents saying they should be "respected in their dignity and received with respect, with care to avoid 'every type of unjust discrimination.'" The synod did not progress beyond where the American bishops were in 1997 in the pastoral message, "Always Our Children."

In the eyes of Catholic pastors and their liberal defenders, we who are gay remain stuck in 1997: after all these years and all those astonishing cultural changes that have radically changed our situations, we're still "homosexuals." 

We're still a problem to be solved, those people against whom orthodoxy and real family are defined, those clamorous, troublesome others demanding welcome in a church that remains a comfortable club for straight people (hence the willingness to address questions about divorce and remarriage while holding the line against the gays, since questions about divorce and remarriage involve real people and real family).

We're still waiting. Still being spoken for and spoken at. Still not permitted to speak in our own voices or even to define ourselves.

Still "homosexuals."

David Gibson's report at Religion News Service:

The final document did not offer any of the openings to gay and lesbian Catholics that had been raised during a preceding synod last October. It spoke only about respecting the dignity of people whatever their "tendencies" and rejecting "unjust discrimination."
The document, as expected, also reiterated the church's opposition to gay marriage and reaffirmed that marriage for Catholics is a lifelong sacramental union between one man and one woman. 
Progressives said there was such fierce opposition on welcoming language to gays by some churchmen, especially from Africa, from Eastern Europe and from some of the nine American prelates at the synod, that they decided not to press the issue and face defeat — or the prospect of a recommendation that would bar any future opening.

Lord help us! Welcoming language?! For those people? In our church?

Whom will they want to welcome next — lepers?

And so it goes, as liberal Catholics celebrate this text as some kind of breakthrough. As Father Reese notes from the outset of his article, his own previous pessimism about the synod outcome was misplaced. He should have trusted the Spirit, as he says.

Or as Todd Flowerday says in the Commonweal thread responding to Grant Gallicho's wrap-up of his synod reports, even if we care about the "issues" Crystal Watson raises in the same thread — and they include the inability of Catholic pastors even to say the word "welcome" to LGBT human beings — we should be satisfied with the final report. 

It's going to take time, Todd Flowerday says. It's going to take more talk. It's going to take "peaceable encounters."

Though, as Thomas Reese himself admits, from 1997 until 2015, as the culture around us has changed with alacrity vis-a-vis these "issues," the Catholic church has not budged an inch. Not. One. Inch. No amount of talktalktalk has changed a single thing. No room has been made, in all those years, in Club Catholic for LGBT Catholics to give first-hand testimonies of our own lives, using our own language, speaking for ourselves rather than being spoken for and spoken at.

While human lives are being lived, and people make the best decisions available to them about finding humane places to live those lives, and humane religious communities in which to live them . . . . Why would any self-respecting LGBT human being continue to put up with this malicious, hateful game, with a game being played by Catholic "pastoral" leaders with their human lives, while "liberal" Catholics whose own lives are not on the line in this game encourage us to see this malicious game-playing as a kind of progress?

As Steve and I told each other yesterday, it's time for us to respond positively to the invitations we've had from a number of friends in churches around us who really do care about us, and to seek some kind of community for worship and fellowship that really values us and our human lives, in this final period of our lives. We met one of those friends walking her dog in the park yesterday, and she reminded us that the Episcopal church on whose parish board she sits will host the marriage ceremony of our doctor and his partner of many years in December. 

She reiterated how welcome we would both be — how valued we'd be — if we did decide to respond to her invitation to come to her church with her and her husband, who recently gave us their tickets for a shrimp boil at the parish when they found they couldn't use those tickets.

When we compare all of this with the . . . nothing . . . we're offered by the Catholic community, why on earth would we not decide, if church is to have any part in our lives in these final years of our life journey, to go where we're welcome and valued? And to turn our backs decisively on a community that has told us over and over again, while its best and brightest applaud, that we just don't count?

When people are hungry and the table over here is heaped with food and bids them eat, while the table over there, also heaped with food, has a sign marked "Our food is not for the likes of you," where would they choose to turn, do you think?

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