Monday, October 29, 2018

Liz Dodd on the Damage That Youth Synod's Game-Playing with LGBTQ Lives Does to Those Lives and to the Church Itself

Liz Dodd on the damage that the youth synod's game-playing with LGBTQ lives does to those lives and to the church itself, in "Synod's decision to drop 'LGBT' from its final document is a missed opportunity for the Church":

The Synod's decision to drop the acronym LGBT from its final document represents a missed opportunity for the Church; a chance to build bridges with young gay people, to demonstrate a keenness to love and listen, that was sacrificed to a reflexive obsession with preserving the status quo. 
Instead of "LGBT" the synod on young people, which concluded this weekend, chose to use loaded language to describe sexuality, like "sexual inclination" and "homosexuality". We know this because "LGBT" appeared in the working document - for the first time in Vatican history. It was controversial: Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Philippines said he had "a hunch" the phrase would stay in; shortly afterwards German Cardinal Marx told a press conference that the acronym would not be used because: "We must not allow ourselves to be influenced by ideological pressure, nor to use formulas that can be exploited." 
But this is not an ideological issue: it is, above all, a question of politeness. Referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people using the language they use themselves isn’t a theological endorsement, it's good manners - which is why it is used in the style guide of every national newspaper in this country, including The Tablet’s. Instead of making this small concession, the synod chose to use outmoded language that clings, neurotically, to the Catechism's description of people with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies” and says that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." 
Gay people object to the word "homosexual" because it is evocative of the highly medicalised language once used to diagnose being LGBT as a disease - the charity GLAAD has more guidance about this. The phrase "sexual inclination" is as bad as "tendency": "inclination" reduces the romantic love experienced by gay people, love of the same force and magnitude as a Shakespeare sonnet or a Donne poem, to something slightly above the craving for a digestive biscuit. 
The Synod "believes it is reductive to define a person's identity solely on the basis of their 'sexual orientation.'" The criticism that gay people reduce their identity to something other than Christ is somehow never levelled at people who identify as mothers, young people, celibates - or even Catholics. The Church's problem will not be solved by gay people being "less gay". The Church does an excellent job of telling gay people what it thinks they are not, or ever could be - husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, 'ordered' - so it's no surprise that gay Catholics are often left to define themselves by one of the few things the Church says they are.

And, of course, it has to be emphasized: all of this in the context of a statement that stresses the need to listen to, welcome, and accompany people on their spiritual journeys….

Cardinal Marx's attempt to reduce to an "ideological" demand the request of queer human beings that we be seen by the church, called by our names by the church, is especially offensive. It's downright ugly — as if people's rightful claims to be treated as human beings who deserve to be included in conversations defining their very humanity are somehow an "ideological" assault on the gospel or Catholic truth.

What can any Catholic truth focusing on the redemptive task of the church even mean — in the real world — when real human lives are treated in this game-playing way? When LGBTQ people are used as convenient political footballs by a privileged, hermetically sealed clerical club rife with secrets regarding its own "sexual inclinations" and "sexual tendencies"? 

Equally shameful is the way in which the top leaders of the Catholic church play women's rights, women's humanity, against LGBTQ rights and humanity, as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive, as if affirming women (in nice rhetorical terms that never mean anything concrete, because all ecclesial power continues to reside in male clerical hands, and anyone with half a brain knows this) is a way of giving yet another slap in the face to the LGBTQ community — though most of us have long known that homophobia is rooted in misogyny, and that we in the queer community have a strong obligation to stand with women in their struggle for rights and autonomy, if we know what's good for both women and for us.

You simply cannot talk — not credibly so — about wanting to redeem people, to listen to people, to welcome people, to accompany people, and behave this way. I look at the face of Cardinal Marx in news reports from this synod and I do not see a welcoming face that beckons me on any kind of meaningful Christ-centered spiritual journey.

Sorry — I just don't.

The graphic: Fritz von Uhde's "Der Gang nach Emmaus" (1891), from the Galerie Neue Meister in Dresden, Germany; this photo has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

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