Monday, March 5, 2018

Catholic-LGBTQ Dialogue: "Catholic Theology Today Has Much Listening to Do" — But Where? When? How?

[T]heologians need to pay attention to what is going on in queer Catholic communities. They need to listen closely and respect the long histories of struggle that continue inside and outside the academy and public debate. If they do listen, they will find that reflections on queer experiences call the Church to dialogue that goes far beyond the bounds of traditional Catholic teaching. . . . Ultimately, listening to queer voices will challenge theologians to move beyond Building a Bridge to the mountains and valleys of queer experience.  
~ Jason Steidl
Catholic theology today has much listening to do. 
~ Robert Shine

With respect, where? When? How?

I'm growing old, and have heard the call for "listening" for years now — the call for theologians and church leaders to listen to those on the margins of church and society, and, in particular, to queer human beings.

Who is making it possible for such listening to occur? Who is creating the conditions for fruitful encounter and dialogue between the Catholic community and the queer community? As both articles I've linked above suggest, Catholic academies are not doing that — not on the whole, by any means.

Catholic bishops and Catholic parishes are not doing that. If they were, the call for listening would not keep returning year after year after year, like the proverbial bad penny, as yet another LGBTQ employee of a Catholic institution is booted from a job or a ministerial position.

Jason Steidl's good point about listening that goes "beyond the bounds of traditional Catholic teaching": that's listening that has to respect and include a large swathe of alienated Catholics who no longer find a great deal of intraecclesial Catholic rhetoric viable — because our experience with the church precludes our hearing this rhetoric with any respectful assent. It has unmasked itself for many of us as anti-salvific and even demonic.

Who will listen to to those of us who inhabit these spaces of alienation, where our numbers constantly burgeon? Who will invite us to the table of dialogue? Who will reach out to us, when we do not live in the kind of places (geographic ones, ecclesial ones) in which Catholic groups working for inclusion of queer people in the church live, where they listen to only a tiny segment of the Catholic community — and a tiny segment of the Catholic (and former Catholic) queer community?

I am fully aware that, by asking these questions repeatedly, I irritate people within the Catholic community working on the bridge-building project. But I think these are necessary questions to ask. They're necessary questions to ask if we're ever to move this returning-bad-penny conversation about the need to listen beyond nice rhetoric to grimy reality — the only kind of reality in which any salvific enterprise that is at all meaningful is ever rooted.

(Perhaps especially necessary for me to ask as I face a spot of oral surgery tomorrow to which I'm not looking forward.)

The graphic: Ivan Meštrović's sculpture of the archangel Gabriel, at the Brooklyn Museum, which has kindly made photos available for online sharing through a Creative Commons license.

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