I began last week all set to write about something entirely different. But then, something happened that made everything else seem so trivial to me.
Before I tell you what that one thing was, or is, let me share two things with you. The first is that I usually find myself writing when I need to make sense of my feelings or to understand my reaction to something that moved me. It’s a kind of therapy that I’ve engaged in for many years. And this post is one of those times.
The second thing that I want to share with you is I am a practicing Catholic – a “cradle Catholic” – born into the faith. I cherish my faith, my parish, and my Catholic community. While I often write on spiritual issues, I have not spoken much about my Catholicism. Until now…
On Monday, Pope Francis signed off on a Vatican decree originating with the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the body responsible for proclaiming and defending the Catholic faith.
This most recent degree reaffirms the old church teaching and bars priests from blessing same sex unions. It goes further, calling such unions “a sin”. And Pope Francis agreed.
I have been attempting to reconcile my thinking with this pronouncement, but I am struggling. This decision wounds me so personally and profoundly that it frightens me.
I should say that this is not the first nor only time I have questioned the proclamations or decisions of my church. In choosing to bar holy women from the priesthood, it seeks to deprive its members of the enormous gifts this body of worshippers (significantly greater than half the total) could share. Still I reel from the horrific manner in which the church dealt with the sexual abuse crisis.
And now, here we are again.
Often when I am faced with discernment, I ask myself “What would Jesus do?” In this case, would he turn his back on our LGBTQ brothers and sisters? Would he condemn, exclude, banish?
I accept the fact that my experience with the LGBTQ community may be fairly limited. But those I know I can only admire – as couples, as parents, as individuals. To a person, they are faithful, God centered, loving, generous and engaged , and yes, spiritual souls.
I expected more from Francis, who has often spoken tenderly about gays having a place in our Church, going so far as to call for law makers to initiate legislation in favor of same sex civil unions. He has invited advocates of gay rights to the Vatican. I, like so many others, had remained hopeful that change would come.
It was Francis who inspired that hope.
But now, at a time when our entire world is writhing from the effects of hate, greed, power and pride, my church has chosen to further the divisiveness. In these times, I would expect that we could turn to our places of worship for refuge and strength. Not so for everyone, I’m afraid. Doesn’t our God tell us not to sit in judgment of another? In each of these cases mentioned above, I see only exclusion and judgement – no solace, no forgiveness, no empathy, no acceptance.
While my church has chosen to block gay individuals from participating fully in its abundant riches, I am so very grateful for the many Catholic parishes and organizations joining with other faith groups to immediately issue clear statements of enduring support…opening their arms for their LGBTQ members. I pray more do the same.
For now, I know this… My Church is not this decree…My Church is literally all those who uniting in welcoming and fully embracing all who seek its comfort…all our brothers and sisters, no matter their nationality, sex, color or whom they chose to love. My Church is all-inclusive – refusing to discriminate.
And so, I continue to embrace My Church – choosing what I can accept of its teachings, celebrating in its many familiar, inspirational and comforting rituals, and grateful, always, for all the gifts it bestows upon me.
My Church, that which I hold so dear, lives within me.
Please share your thoughts on this important issue with all of us by using the comment space at the bottom of this post.