April 11, 2013
Last night, many LGBTQ parishioners of my parish met with our parish priest, who had extended an invitation to us to meet for casual conversation. After opening with a prayer written by Kittredge Cherry, he let us know that he had wanted to bring us together after the letter that Cardinal George had asked parishes to make available in all churches statewide, condemning gay marriage. While he was forced to make the letter available, he also addressed the issue at the end of each Mass that weekend, and stated his disagreement with the Cardinal, and his personal full acceptance and support of gay marriage — to which he received a standing ovation at the Mass I attended. Honestly, I was so personally moved by his support, as well as his taking a stand against an authority and speaking truth to power, that I choked back a few tears that morning.
So as we met last night, we went around the room introducing ourselves, talking about our time in the parish, and sharing stories of how we have been supported within our parish community, as well as the great pain and anger we have felt as a result of actions and words by the Cardinal and the hierarchy in general. Straight members of the parish council were present to listen, and let us know how enriched the community feels by our presence. Some talked about the difficulty of raising children in an accepting community, while questions from the larger church loom. Some questioned what the repercussions would be when gay marriage becomes legal in the state — and if gay members of the parish would lose jobs or ministry positions as a result of marriages, or be ordered to forgo Communion, as has happened recently in Michigan.
When I spoke, I admitted that I had a foot and a half out the door. When I came to my church about 11 years ago — married and with two young children, I couldn't have foreseen that in just a couple of years, I would be divorcing and coming to terms with my sexuality — and embraced warmly by my Catholic parish, and even encouraged to continue on in ministry positions. But when I joined...I felt called into the parish specifically because of what I was witnessing — women preaching from the pulpit — a place that was willing to challenge the patriarchy. I felt called to be a part of that. As "downtown" cracked down on us, as the rhetoric against gay marriage, and children raised by gay parents has turned nastier and nastier, I have tried to stay within my parish "bubble," but it gets harder to ignore. When it was revealed that millions of dollars were being used from the parish plates to fund the political machine combating gay marriage initiatives in many state elections — I cut off all financial support of my church.
I have always seen my role in the Catholic church of one of "witnessing" for change. I am the change that is sought — the woman who ministers and lesbian who defies their pronouncements of being "disordered." I have practically become a bible scholar in the last decade trying to peel back the layers of falsehoods and misguided teaching. When the Cardinal says that it is "impossible" for a gay couple to be married because a sacred union of body, mind and soul cannot exist, I can confidently say that this is absolutely false, and scripturally unsupported.
I have come to a point in my life, where I am somewhat fatigued with fighting. I cannot dwell in anger and feel the constant pulse to "prove" my worthiness to a church that is deaf to my experience. While I always work hard to move past anger and only act with love, I would not be human if the constant attacks did not wound me. And that is my true concern — and where I want to focus. We talked about the pain present in the room — in the larger LGBTQ community and what these men of power have done to the spiritual lives of so many. My focus, and I believe the focus of our parish, should be on addressing and healing that — both among the faithful and those too wounded to approach "church."
Amazingly, the priest agreed — that it was time for healing, and for push back. He vowed to us that he would not agree to any orders that hurt others, no matter what was personally on the line for him. This was not something he would have agreed to only a few years ago, so I saw this a huge sign of personal growth for him, and a way for us to move forward with some important healing work in the community.
This was only the start of an important conversation. We are living on the edge of history, the forefront of great change, and in that respect, we are the flag-bearers for a future that has not yet been revealed. I hope that one day our children will look back and say, "remember when you had to do xyz, because the church was so anti-gay?" Yes...that is the day I will hope for.