Monday, June 27, 2016

Pope Francis: Gay People Should Be Respected, Accompanied Pastorally, and Apologized to by the Church

I have house guests for a number of days, and haven't been able to find much time to blog. I did happen to be online last evening, however, scrolling through Twitter, when news broke of Pope Francis's statement aboard his flight from Armenia to Rome that the church is obliged to tell gay people it's sorry for abusing them. According to Reuters, the pope said the following:

[Gay people] should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally. 
I think that the Church not only should apologise … to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by (being forced to) work. It must apologise for having blessed so many weapons.

At Bondings 2.0 this morning, Bob Shine has a good run-down of a number of responses to the papal statement. This follows good commentary at Bondings yesterday evening by Francis DeBernardo.The latter statement concludes,

Pope Francis' comments did not come out of a vacuum, but out of the decades of work that Catholics have been doing to remind Church leaders that the Church was too often complicit in the social prejudice and physical harm that LGBT people experience.  The prayers, witness, work, and ministry of so many dedicated Catholics has finally risen to the top of the hierarchy and is starting to be heard and enacted. 
For some LGBT people who have been so wounded and bruised by Catholic leaders' negative messages, the pope's statement may seem like too little, too late.  While indeed we have waited a long time for an opening like this, I think it is important to rejoice at this step forward. We must work and pray to make sure that the next steps take place much quicker.   Among those next steps are more dialogue between Church leaders and LGBT people.  Equally needed is a serious re-evaluation of the hierarchy's disapproval of committed sexual relationships of lesbian, bisexual, and gay couples, as well as re-thinking the denigrating language Church leaders often use to describe transgender identities. 
New Ways Ministry thanks Pope Francis for his example of Christian humility, and we encourage him to continue to pave the way for even greater changes for LGBT people and the Catholic Church.

Twitter pointed me to Joshua McElwee's report on the papal statement at National Catholic Reporter, where NCR moderators were evidently not present during the weekend, and a hate fest quickly developed — astonishing, fulsome hatred pouring out from one mouth after another, which brought to mind biblical images of dogs lapping up vomit. The people who gathered quickly at NCR following the publication of this report to spread anti-LGBTQ hatred and to attack Muslims and Pope Francis were like feral pack dogs energized by the "work" they were doing together to foment hatred.

The thread will, I suspect, be weeded out when NCR moderators get to work today. In the meanwhile, what a snapshot it provides of the quite serious problem many Christian churches — and notably the Catholic church — have on their hands today with the anti-LGBTQ hatred that has latched onto their faith communities at this point in time, and is sapping the vitality of those faith communities.

At the head of this posting, I cite Father Jim Martin's tweet about asking LGBTQ people how we feel and what we think about our treatment at the hands of many Christian communities including the Catholic community. I do so because, to me, it continues to seem imperative that any faith communities really serious about addressing the kind of hatred that pours forth when a Christian leader makes even a mild statement about accepting and loving LGBTQ people is not effectively going to stanch the flow of hatred until faith communities move beyond nice talk to effective action to address this hatred — which is a pronounced feature of some Christian communities at this point in history.

I haven't seen any movement at all in the direction of establishing such structures for dialogue within the American Catholic church — structures allowing Catholics throughout Catholic institutions to hear the first-hand testimony of LGBTQ human beings about what Catholic institutions have done and keep doing to us. As I've also said repeatedly here in the past, I don't think that even the "official" organizations promoting pastoral outreach to LGBTQ people within the Catholic church have succeeded in encouraging open, wide dialogue between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic community.

Those organizations reflect a narrow slice of Catholics who have managed to hang on, to remain institutionally affiliated in some way, while many of us have been effectively purged from the Catholic flock in the past several decades by brutally cruel and unjust treatment that has taken place in corners of the institution that afforded us no pastoral options at all, or provided no support or defenders for us at all. Those institutionally affiliated LGBTQ Catholics can remain so affiliated in many cases because many of them live in places in which some Catholic institutions offer at least a modicum of pastoral outreach to the LGBTQ community.

Many LGBTQ Catholics (and former Catholics) do not live in the kind of elite urban areas that foster such pastoral outreach of Catholic institutions to a few LGBTQ people. Our voices and lives should count, too, but are very often treated by even the "official" Catholic groups promoting a new approach to the LGBTQ community as not worth hearing. 

It will be interesting to see what happens now. After what recently occurred in Orlando and the torrent of anti-LGBTQ hate speech that poured forth in some sectors of the Christian world following that event, the vile comments that can be found this morning in response to Joshua McElwee's NCR report on the papal statements should be eye-opening for the U.S. Catholic community.

It has a quite serious problem on its hands. It has done almost nothing at all at an institutional level to respond to that problem. And it cannot do so effectively until it decides to ask some LGBTQ people what our experience with the church has been — and to ask widely, beyond the structures of the "official" Catholic-plus-LGBTQ organizations, I'd maintain.

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