|This message was posted
on my email list
in May 2005. It expresses very clearly what the Catholic hierarchy is doing
"I have struggled for some years to remain a Catholic in spite of the pronouncements from the Vatican against gay people. I have recently however come to accept that the church will never accept gay people, and I no longer torture myself hoping that the church ever will! You see, as a gay man I believe in things like gay marriage, equal rights before the law and an equal standing in the Church alongside straights! As a friend pointed out not so long ago, the church will bless two straights in their love for each other, will also bless a house, car, fishing fleet, cats, dogs, birds etc, but two men who want to commit to each other and have the blessing of the church, well the church just spits on us!This message made me angry. Not with its author, not at all; but with the hierarchy of the Church who are systematically abusing and persecuting gay Catholics, whether lay folk or clerics. They say that they "love the sinner" and simply have to condemn "the sin" because it is "contrary to nature". This is a lie. They simply choose to believe this, for no good reason. In doing so, they show that they do not know the meaning of love: but are motivated by hatred and fear. If they were motivated by love, they would seek to understand. They would listen to what we have to say before - or at least as well as - proclaiming what passes in their blighted minds for truth. The effect of their teaching and the "pastoral care" that they offer is to alienate and marginalize gayfolk, and to repel them from the One True Fold of the Catholic Church.
"I grew up catholic and I haven't been to church in over a year. I have been searching for a Gay-positive religious group for a while. I have not found one that I feel at home in. I wanted to ask others how they handle going to mass knowing that the church does not accept GLBT people? I used to find a lot of help and solace when I would go to Mass. I have tried to go years ago and I just felt like when I would go there that I was living a lie. How do others go to mass and not feel like an outsider or like they are in the closet again?"Our Blessed Lord fraternized with the outcasts of His society: collaborators with the Roman power and whores. He attracted them, even though they knew themselves to be in the wrong. More importantly He spoke and mixed with them. No Catholic hierarch would even consider fraternizing with me or any other gay man or le5bian: except on the basis that we first declare that we hate ourselves just as thoroughly as they hate us. This is a blasphemous inversion of the pattern and likeness of Our Lord, who would stop at nothing to reclaim a single sheep that was lost, and never made any such demands of self-hatred of anyone.
"Although I'm not the best or most educated Christian, I consider myself a Christian and love God but I'm always being told what a sinner I am for being gay. I can't help being gay! I'm just so sick of being told what a bad person I am. I think a lot about suicide because of it." [A lay correspondent]We see Popes, Cardinals and Bishops kissing the Koran, praying with witch-doctors and currying the favour of almost every possible heretical and schismatic group: except those associated with the Old Roman Rite of Mass. Yet we are derided and denounced and condemned and demonized and vilified. More importantly, we are instructed to think of ourselves as "intrinsically disordered" and to condemn ourselves to sad lives of loneliness and self-hatred. This is wickedness and the work of the "father of lies".
"I am angry that this Pope [Benedict XVI], who I had hoped would refrain from the regular and outdated yet still infuriating condemnation of homosexual relationships; supposedly said, in connexion with the referendum on artificial insemination, that homosexual relationships are a trivialization of the body.I do not demand that the hierarchy puts aside its present convictions before talking with gay Catholics. In fact I make no demands whatsoever! I do not ask that we be treated with a minimum of Christian charity. I do not even ask that we be treated with the same respect that is today routinely shown towards infidels and heretics. After all, these groups have a Pontifical Council devoted to them, and I do not ask that a Pontifical Council for Homosexuals should be established!
All that I ask is that the hierarchy makes a little space for us, and listens to what we have to say with a modicum of civility and politeness. Let us be thought to be madmen, heretics, deviants and perverts; even as the cause of all the ills of the world: but we should be allowed the possibility of explaining ourselves and defending ourselves against these charges! This as a question of Natural Justice, in accordance with the requirements of the Natural Law. After all, there is the possibility that the charges are false; and if so the hierarchy is going to have to explain before the Throne of Judgement why; when we asked for bread, we were given a stone and when we asked for fish we were given a serpent. Personally, I would not relish having to make such an account.
The following text is typical of the attitude of the hierarchy:
"[Those].... practising or promoting homosexuals .... often begin with an attack against critics of homosexuality, i.e. 'your infantile response.' The appeal to their experience to justify actions in accord with their feelings is common as well: 'If you'd just listen to us! Do you know any gay people?' etc. They don't want dialogue; they just want to present their side of the story. Remember, you're dealing with an adolescent psycho-sexual development here, so don't expect logic .... You'll find the same in arguments of those who are influenced by lust. Homosexuality, for the most part, is a homophobia, a fear of members of the same sex - of relating to them, of competition, of risk, of failure - which led to an escape and avoidance of proper relationships and interaction in youth. Thus, in adolescence, many with same-sex attractions (SSA) unconsciously began to sexualize the gender identity which they did not attain with the resultant SSA. One cannot live in conflict, so a solution is to claim a 'gay identity' and insist others accept this. This puts the problem on others, and offers further avoidance of the steps necessary to mature as a man or woman." [Fr Perozich]This is truly amazing, and most definitely an "infantile response" to the real situation! If only people like this would "just listen to us", which they never do! Frequently they either know no gay people or know only self-hating gay people. All that gay folk want is dialogue; which involves being allowed "to present their side of the story", which the hierarchy can never countenance. We are quite clear what the other side of the story is, as we now have quite a few official documents and even more off-the-cuff remarks to go on! There is no evidence that senior members of the hierarchy have ever read a single thoughtful pro-gay theological or ethical text and little evidence that they have ever met with anyone who could adequately represent the issues to them.
"I have some of your leanings but I can't accept genital sex between non-married persons since it's a grave sin. Our Lady of Fatima said that most people go to hell because of sins of the flesh .... this is tragic .... whether you are a homosexual or a heterosexual. God doesn't want you to go there so please pray. I too love men .... please pray for me." [A lay correspondent]It is unbelievably insulting to be accused of "adolescent psycho-sexual development"! It seems to me that very many heterosexuals that I meet - including some in their senior years - could be more adequately so described than the typical gay man or le5bian. Usually, gayfolk have had to do an awful lot more work to integrate their sexual identity with the rest of their personality; simply because there are no conventional packages to lazily opt into.
The character of my website is the only needful response to Fr Perozich's accusation that gayfolk are illogical in their own defence and in their rebuttal of the official teaching of the hierarchy.
His theory that "homosexuals" fear(ed) members of the same sex (in their youth) is so silly as to be unworthy of any response at all. To suggest that Alexander the Great or Oscar Wilde were not competitive or were risk adverse is silly, and any attempt to establish a link between such personality traits (which I certainly observe in many heterosexuals) and "homosexuality" is bound to fail.
|As far as the issues
raised by my correspondent are concerned:
It is then to be expected that God will show an individual a special way to HimSelves that He has prepared just for that person.
|Another priest friend wrote in reply to the original
"My old organ teacher (gay) used to talk to me about the virtue of prudence and discretion. That's the way it is going to be in the future, whether we like it or not. One just adopts a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. It might sound hypocritical, but it's the way to survive. The more gay people campaign to get equal consideration, the more the 'Victorian' reaction[aries] will strike back. Gays have lived good loving relationships for centuries, and in the Christian era, there were times when it wasn't too frowned upon, if it was kept discreet. In other periods, you would get hauled up before the Inquisition and burned at the stake!
|I include some other messages
that I have received on this theme. It seems to me that they show that
the only significant effect of the Church's official teaching is to cause
gayfolk to come to either hate themselves or reject the Church.
"I'm 24 years old and have accepted my homosexuality since 1998. I also have been raised a Roman Catholic and have had my ups and downs in the last 5 years.
"I am very much drawn to the Catholic faith, especially the liturgy, the Eucharist and other mystical aspects.
"Being both gay and Catholic in my corner of the Diocese of North Carolina is not the most ideal situation. The gay-friendly parishes are embarrassingly casual, to the point that one wonders whether Mass has truly been said. There is one parish in the diocese where the pastor has an indult to celebrate the Tridentine Mass every Sunday, and it is a parish thoroughly devoted to the present and most recent Pontiffs and all their pontifications. I can't exactly call myself traditionalist in that sense, as it is something I've yet to experience. What I have experienced most of my life in the Church, and continue to experience, is the kind of Mass so lacking in devotion and a sense of holy awe that I escaped to the Episcopal (Anglican) communion for a while, where at least the liturgy was somewhat more inspiring. But, of course, I came to accept that the Eucharist was watered down in that barely meaningful, protestant way. I had no choice, I felt, but to return to the banal liturgies where at least our Lord was truly present in the Sacred Mysteries.
"I keep moving farther and farther from the religion I have been in love with. I cannot stay where I am looked upon as not a whole person. I hear from other gay Catholics I have know for years and their faith in their church is fading. Their feelings are shaken by the doors of the church closing on them fast. I for one think the term "gay Catholics" is an oxymoron. I want to be a part of something where I can help make a difference in peoples lives. I want to worship my God with others who share my belief I am not evil, sick, or not worthy of being a full member of God's community."
Well I feel that the time has finally come to leave the church for good. I cannot support anymore a church that treats gay men the way the R.C church does. To put this in very simple terms, if we as gay men are not good enough to serve as priests, then we are also not good enough to be in the pews putting money in the plate, or volunteering our time and efforts! I will now find my own way to God, and continue to practice charity, love, compassion, forgivness etc.
"It is most certainly the concern of all of us, when, in opportunistic alliance with powerful, wealthy evangelical Protestant forces in the USA, the Roman hierarchy declares the active suppression of homosexuals to be a noble ancient venerable Catholic tradition, and more or less agrees that homophobia is a virtue.
After so many centuries, isn't the world at last utterly disgusted with all this clericalizing, obscurantist, pseudo-traditionalist hierarcholatry? The voices of thoughtful layfolk have never been heard; when we express interest in what is going on, we are told, "It is none of your concern, so go away." These hierarchs dread transparency, and shun accountability. And yet they claim to be the principal ministers of the God who loves humanity."
"I feel abandoned by our Mother the Church, who no longer exists. To me She seems to have become a wicked step mother. I find it sad that the Church which once was known as the haven for gay people, has now become - alongside islam, fundamental protestantism and communism - one of the greatest instigators and perpetuators of homophobia.
"I believe - and it's been confirmed by my experience - that I have a call to the priesthood. So, I do not want to leave the priesthood. I have to make a decision as to whether I will speak out. So far, I have been forbidden by my bishop to speak out. I'm going to have to decide if my conscience takes precedence over my promise of obedience. Catholic tradition teaches us that the conscience is final arbiter of what's to be done in a person's moral life. I can say though that it's been an extremely painful time since the sexual abuse crisis to be implicitly blamed for this and told people like me should never enter and to know individuals, friends of mine, who live celibate and holy lives that will probably leave because of this. It's been devastating."
"If we aren't called to marriage (with a woman); we can't be priests or - I assume by extension - consecrated brothers; we can't express physical love with a man; and can't be 'turned loose' on unsuspecting children: where exactly is our place? In the vestibule with the pamphlets? Scrubbing the front steps or polishing father's shoe's? I thought the Catechism of the Catholic Church says we are to be welcomed and allowed to give what talents and blessings we have be given to the work of the church? We aren't to be discriminated against or mistreated. What!
"What are we doing? Nothing is getting better, and it seems it is and will be getting worse. This to me is a distraction to what is the main factor. Our spirituality. All this negativity about the issues of the Catholic church is taking away the joy in recovering my quest for a more meaningful spiritual life. Which was beginning a few years back, then had the door slammed on me by the Catholic church... I wonder why we continue to pursue something we will never achieve with this church anymore.
I was a Roman Catholic for the first 21 years of my life, and have been Orthodox for the last 31 years. I believe egregious injustices were committed against me in the events concurrent with and subsequent to the breakdown of my marriage, leading eventually to my removal from the priesthood. I may never recuperate fully in this lifetime, on an emotional and spiritual plane, nor might I ever understand the reasons for what happened. The pain of not being a priest anymore is always with me, especially when I am at the liturgy. There are some liturgies where I start to weep.
I confessed that I went to the gay bars in Bangkok, took pleasure in watching the shows there, and committed sins against the Holy Virtue of Purity with people from those bars.
It is not mine to judge these actions; but you should perhaps "go easy on yourself" if you otherwise feel because of circumstances that you have no other outlet for your sexuality. Not everyone is called to sexual continence, and if this is not a charism that you have received attempting to force it on yourself is contrary to justice and a violation of your nature. On the other hand, unrestrained sexual licence is not a symptom of a healthy sexuality, I would say.Because it is quite a big sin.
I must confess, it's actually been several years since i've attended the Latin Mass. Mostly because, for a long time, the spirituality I was searching for had absolutely nothing to do with what kind of Mass I attended, if I attended Mass at all. I was born and raised in Arkansas by very nominal Protestant parents. I wasn't really raised with any sort of appreciation for religion but somehow was drawn on a journey towards the Catholic Church when I was around 11 or 12 years old. By the time I was 16, my parents (much to their disappointment) realized that this was not just a phase I was going through and it wasn't going away, so they let me begin the initiation classes. It was during this time that I was introduced to the Traditional Latin Mass and I found that I enjoyed it much more than the Novus Ordo. I started attending every chance I got and by the time I was confirmed, had decided that I wanted to attend only the TLM.
|I’m sure all of us know people
who couldn’t handle the homophobia of the Church, and left. They now belong
to other religious organizations, Christian or otherwise, or practice no
faith at all. I’ve had those types say to me, "How can you possibly be
Christian considering how they have treated gays?" A very good question.
When someone is being abused by his or her spouse, most would say there
comes a time when it’s time to break off the relationship. The Church often
abuses us for being trans, bi, or gay, but we keep on taking it. So, just
wondering, why do we stay in the Church? I’m just curious to hear people’s
For me, I’d say that unfortunately the main reason might be fear. The possibility of being damned by cutting oneself off from the Bride of Christ (how any human being, whether they wear a mitre or not, can know who’s going to hell is beyond me). Secondly, I feel that although I have long ago quit believing in the Church’s infallibility, I would feel lost if I totally cut my ties with it. I’d miss the liturgy more than anything. Thirdly, Christianity’s in my roots. To cut myself off would mean forsaking the faith my ancestors held for centuries. That weighs heavily on me. Those are my top 3 reasons for staying.
Of course, the list of reasons to leave may be much longer: condemnation, self-righteousness and lack of holiness on the part of fellow Catholics/Christians, bad experiences, and so on.
For those of us who stay, how do we stand up for ourselves? After all, we are placing ourselves in a schoolyard full of bullies. Do we write letters of protest to our hierarchy, stating why we believe they are wrong on human sexuality? Do we protest to our priests? Is there a dignified way to do this, as opposed to the method of, say, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence? Should we be willing to speak out about our sexual orientation/gender identity with parishioners (heaven knows we hear plenty about their relationships)?
I talked to my priest a couple weeks ago, and I got the response I figured I’d get. Repent (of being a homo), or pay the price. And while I do pray, and struggle with my faith, I don’t feel accepted in the Church, or like I even belong in the Church, frankly. Yes, the holy mysteries (sacraments) and the liturgy are there. We can never get them anywhere else. Is that reason enough to keep going? Maybe.
As I said before, my faith makes me feel connected to the past, my ancestors, my late grandma who was a devout Christian... isn’t one of the hallmarks of being a Catholic the fact that we are part of the communion of saints? That’s what I’m getting at. I don’t want to lose those connections. At the same time, I have a personal faith, a faith that’s mine to own, to work on, to struggle with, to practice or deny. God compels no one.
I feel utterly discouraged. For me, the Church has ceased to represent a place of love and acceptance. Oh, they may love me if I pretend to be a good little heterosexual, if I never question anything handed down by the Church Fathers (at least one of whom advocated death penalty for gays), and deny myself all pleasure, joy, and the chance to find love. But do I feel loved for who I am? Not in the church. I wish I could be more optimistic. I’m being honest.
|Whilst the opposition of the Vatican
and of the majority of Bishops to divorce - a real threat to marriage -
is for several decades now totally unvoiced (for fear of being accused
of taking away the citizens' freedom and thus seeming meddling and anachronistic)
, whilst the opposition of the Vatican and the majority of Bishops to abortion
is weak, mostly pro-forma and not supported by money donations, yet the
Vatican's, and many Bishops' opposition to the rights and freedoms of gay
people is for the past couple decades most vociferous, continuous, rabid
and supported by money donations and political pressure? WHY? to me it
seems that the words of Shakespeare here apply: Methinks that thou protestest
Yes, they would not have us executed, but will not allow that right of gay people to life and liberty to be internationally recognised, lest some christians somehwere be pressurised into not-discriminating against gay people, lest - God forbid - some countries be pressurised into ''recognisigg same-sex unions as marriage"! There is that sneaky double-talk again: as if the Vatican had ever declared itself in favour of legal recognition for same-sex unions. What is the Vatican really afraid of? The answer lies in the book ''A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality' ' by Gareth Moore OP.
Some of you may have known Benjamin O’Sullivan, a Benedictine
monk of Ampleforth Abbey who killed himself early in 1996. As far as I
can tell, Benjamin was set up by a reporter from the News of the World,
and the only thing which prevented his death from being a murder was that
Benjamin himself consented to the voice of the lynch mob and became the
hand that put him to death. I felt that his death was brought about because
this extremely attractive, apparently self-confident, effervescent young
man had been unable to stand up as an ordinary gay man to the voice of
the lynch mob. And the reason he had been unable to stand up to them was
because he was bound in his conscience. Shortly after his ordination he
had expressed a fear to me that he wasn't really a priest, because if they
had known surely they wouldn't have ordained him. That hardly anyone who
knew Benjamin well can have failed to know that he was gay is of course
not relevant: the person caught in the trap looks at the world through
fear-coloured spectacles, and fear darkens rather than illumines what it
projects. But this gives a hint of what I mean by a bound conscience: the
sort of person who can't stand up and be what they are, who can't trust
in the goodness
I realized, after this, that given that our hierarchs were not going to do anything, in fact, probably are not able to do anything, paralysed themselves so often by the same bound conscience which afflicted Benjamin, that I had to write something which would contribute to the unbinding of the gay conscience, try to find the other-given authority to be able to say In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand and be. And the result of my failure to do that in a systematic way is the book called Faith beyond Resentment: fragments catholic and gay which I think some of you have read. All I could do in that book was come up with some sign posts to my sense that if the Jesus of the Gospels really is alive and in our midst, and if he really is what Gods self-disclosure to us looks like, then unbinding the gay conscience is very much the sort of thing that he finds himself doing here and now. He is Gods pastoring of the sheep whom the shepherds have abandoned, and it does make sense to work out what that looks like.
If the question, then, is not what would Jesus do, but what is Jesus doing (and I take it that the latter is the authentically Catholic question, presupposing the Real Presence of Jesus in an ongoing project, rather than a textual presence in a receding past), then it makes sense to spend a little time reflecting on the power of the One who unbinds our conscience. Let me say first that in an ideal world, Peter would realize that he had been given the power to bind and loose specifically so as to be able to open heaven to the gentiles. He would pronounce those words God has shown me that I should not call any human profane or impure, and gay people would find themselves with unbound conscience as brothers and sisters in the Church on the same footing as everyone else, that is to say, as sons and daughters and heirs.
But in fact, it seems to me that we find ourselves in a strange moment in that story from Acts 10. We find ourselves in the tiny gap after Peter has preached to us about Jesus, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, after we have believed that message, and so realize that Jesus is Good News for us, and after the Holy Spirit has come down upon us, so that we are beginning to live the life of loved children and are able to speak well of God. But we find ourselves in the tiny space before Peter has found it in him to declare Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. If you want a reality check on this, then consider what the current teaching of the Vatican Congregations is: the homosexual inclination, though not itself a sin, constitutes a tendency towards behaviour that is intrinsically evil, and therefore must be considered objectively disordered. If you read that phrase in the light of the passage from Acts which I have just recalled, you can see quite clearly that it is a piece of backsliding.
Where Peter said God has shown me that I should not call any human profane or unclean his modern minions say While it is true that gay people are not profane or unclean, they must in fact be considered to be so. So, we find ourselves living at a time of Petrine backsliding from the Gospel, and yet beginning to be aware that the reception of the Good News, and our own unbinding does not come from Peter, but from God, and that Peter later on gets to understand and confirm this. This is a perfectly understandable biblical pattern which we can inhabit while we wait for Peter.
Now what I would like to do today is start to examine the binding and the unbinding. What does it look like? I suppose the first step is to look at what being bound means. A bound conscience is one which cannot go this way or that, forward or backwards, is paralysed, scandalized. In that sense it is a form of living death, and those afflicted by it are living dead, and many of us are or have been such people.
Let me give some examples of what I mean. We are familiar with the notion of a double-bind or a Catch 22 situation. A bound conscience is a sense of being formed by a double-bind or a series of double binds. For instance:
What I would like to suggest is that in all these cases we are dealing with a self that has been formed by being given contradictory desires without being given any ability to discern where they might appropriately be applied. In other words, two instructions are received as on the same level as each other, pointing in two different directions at once, and the result is paralysis. This is what "skandalon" refers to in the New Testament: scandal, or stumbling block. Someone who is scandalized is someone who is paralysed into an inability to move. And the undoing of skandala , which means the unbinding of double binds that do not allow people to be, is what the Gospel is supposed to be about.
I want to make it quite clear that we are dealing with something very basic and central to the Gospel here. It is perfectly possible to present the Gospel in such a way that it is a sort of double-bind. Any sort of presentation of the Christian faith which says I love you but I do not love you, or I don't love you as you are, but if you become someone different I will love you is in fact preaching a double-bind, a stumbling block, a pathway to paralysis.
Lets imagine the conversation between a false god and the self:
Now I put it to you as a question: is the teaching of the Vatican Congregations which I quoted to you before compatible with the Gospel, or is it compatible with the bad Irish joke? I'll quote it for you again: the homosexual inclination, though not itself a sin, constitutes a tendency towards behaviour that is intrinsically evil, and therefore must be considered objectively disordered.
To me at least it is clear. This teaching is interposing itself between the regard of Christ and our own sense of being in a way which tends to pervert the simple regard of one who loves us as we are, and as loved we will find ourselves becoming someone different. It is teaching us instead that God will only love us if we start from somewhere else. That is to say, the teaching is in the technical sense a skandalon, a stumbling block, something which compounds a double-bind rather than undoing it.
It is because I think that the teaching is incompatible
with the Gospel
A dimension of this which I have brought out more or less
strongly, and which may not be obvious when people talk about conscience,
is the importance of understanding that our conscience is always related
to and formed by what is other than us, prior to us, outside us. It is
not as though there is a real private voice somewhere inside us which gives
us infallible deliverances which are right. On the contrary, what constitutes
our inside is a more or less well-managed conversation between different
voices which have called us into being one way or another, through parents,
education, Church, politicians, and which often
No, both the being given a self and a sense of self through language, and the unbinding of the conscience are always the work of someone else, outside us, and the most important thing is to which other are we listening? Who is the other who can unbind our conscience, who can induct us into desiring without double-binds?
I rather suspect that this helps to bring out part of the impression which Jesus left on those to whom He spoke, and is therefore rather the impression that He leaves when He speaks to us: for He taught them as one who had authority, not as the scribes; for "my sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me".
Speaking with authority means speaking from within
I would like to dwell a little more on the effects on us of this regard, the one which looks at us and says I love you, and as you discover yourself loved you will find yourself becoming something else. I want to say something apparently rather banal here, but I think it is rather important.
I think that we would be wise to send the word love to the laundry and use the word like instead. I say this for the following reason. You have probably met people, as I have, who tell us that they love gay people, and that is why they are so keen to change us. In other words their love does not include the word like. It means something like: I feel that in obedience to God's love for sinners I must stop you being who you are. But in fact the word like is rather more difficult to twist into a lie than the word love, because we know when someone likes us. We can tell because they enjoy being with us, alongside us, want to share our time and company. Well, what I would like to suggest is that
if our understanding of love does not include liking,
Well, it seems to me that the doctrine of the incarnation of Our Lord, the image of God coming among us as the likeness of humans, is a strong statement that the divine regard is one of liking us, here and now, as we are. Glad to be with us. And this means that the one who looks at us with love is not just looking at us with a penetrating and inscrutable gaze of utter otherness, but is looking at us with the delight of one who enjoys our company, who wants to be one with us, to share in something with us.
Sure, as we learn to relax into that being loved we are going to find that we are quite different from what we thought we were, and that our patterns of desire will become quite different, which is what it means to find that the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us in and through the reformation of our desire. But the regard does not first knock down so as then to build up, as we so often imagine it, rather as though Jesus was a sergeant-major whose job it is to give hell to the recruits and make them feel awful so that later, after they've lost their identities, they'll start to feel good new identities as soldiers, and then they'll discover he has a heart of gold.
No, our faith is that the eyes of God that are in Christ, and thus the divine regard through which we can receive new being, are eyes that like us, from alongside, at the same level as us. Which means, do not control us, do not try to know better than us who we are, but want to participate in a discovery with us of who we are to become. And that means that there is no plot to lose. There is only an adventure of trusting in the goodness of the one who loves us and seeing what we would really like to do. Our Lord put it this way:
"For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’"The key feature of this parable is that it is the imagination of the servants as to what their master is like which is the determining factor of their conscience and thus the wellspring of their activity. The first two servants clearly imagined their master being away as an opportunity to do something delightful. Because they trusted that their master was the sort of daring fellow who would do rash and crazy things for which there was no script, would dare, would experiment, would risk losing things and so would end up multiplying things greatly. In other words, they perceived their masters regard for them as one of liking them enough to be daring them and encouraging them to be adventurous, and so, imagining and trusting that abundance would multiply, they indeed multiplied abundance. The third servant revealed exactly what regard he had laboured under: his imagination of who the master is comes out in his own words:
"Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground."He acted according to his imagination. And his imagination was one of a double bind, perfectly captured in the phrase reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow. His perception of the other was of one who did not like him and thus had put an impossible burden on him, and so all he had done was simply sulk. He had been bound, the living dead, moving neither forward nor backward. It is no wonder that in Luke's version, the master says Out of your own mouth I will condemn you your wicked servant, because it is in fact the servants own perception that has bound him.
Now I put it to you that the Eucharistic presence of Jesus in our midst is the way God constantly reminds us, calls us into mind, of his regard, one of liking us, encouraging us to be daring with him, during the time of the absence of the master, and that our having our conscience unbound means our becoming able to trust in the regard of one who likes us and so is delighted that we will come up with crazy new daring schemes which didn't seem to be part of the programme at all. And it is according to our conscience that we will act. If our conscience accepts the regard of, and wants to be like, someone who likes us, who is daring, creative, innovative, effervescent, unafraid, risk-taking and so on, then we will find ourselves behaving like that, being able to stand up and take the rap, delighting in finding ways of getting people off the hook, never taking no for an answer, refusing to believe that something is impossible for God; and that is who we will become.
Someone of unbound conscience can dare to get it wrong, because they don't have to get it right. If you have to get it right, that means that you don't dare to get it wrong, which means that you are afraid of what will happen to you if you do get it wrong.
But the Catholic and Christian understanding of conscience is that because we know that we are liked we can get it wrong, and it doesn't matter, because we are not frightened of punishment, but able to learn from our mistakes. In fact, if we can't dare to be wrong, then we can't truly get it right, because our being right will be a form of protection against what is other than us, what is unknown, exciting, big and causing us to be bigger-minded, magnanimous.
A good conscience is not a feeling of self-satisfaction
at having got it right;
This is the excitement of being a son or daughter who is on an adventure, not the contractual precision of a slave who has to get something right because he has no sense of being on the inside of the project of whoever is in charge, and merely senses the other as arbitrary and capricious, as someone who will glower at what is not perfect.
Well, what does it mean to you that God does not merely love us gay people in a clinical, arms-length sense, but likes us, enjoys our company, wants to be in on the adventure with us, see where we can take the adventure of being human? Is it not true that the mere phrase "I like you" gives permission to be, is creative of space, suggests I'm curious to accompany you, means delight? And if that is the case,
why don't we dare to imagine that God does actually
want us to be free and happy,
that our desire for a loving partner, or to build a crazy community project full of eccentric queens making a difference to society and Church, is something which could well lead to fulfilment, a fulfilment much bigger than we could imagine.
Just because Peter hasn't yet got it, doesn't mean that
the Spirit can be stopped from unbinding our desire. Just because our hierarchs
seem unable to dare even to offer us the sort of eucharistic space which
is our baptismal new-birthright doesn't mean that our consciences need
be bowed down by, bound by, all that heaviness of decline management,
that defensive bureaucratic inability to negotiate as adults with adults.
For that heaviness and that inability says something about them, and
Consciences are unbound for a doing and a becoming, and that, I think is where we find ourselves now: given that the only judgement we will receive will be that of freedom, what do we want to dare to do, starting now?
What would it be fun to present our master with on his return?
One final point. I think we are very privileged to be gay and le5bian Catholics at this time, and this is in part because of the growing sense that we are in on the inner dynamic of the project which is the sharing of the Good News about God with the world. I want to point out that one of the features of the texts of the apostolic witnesses in the New Testament is that they are marked to a very strong degree by the notion of a sort of coming out, a leaving behind something which while theoretically good in itself, had turned into a trap. Sometimes this is presented in a moralistic way as people leaving something bad to join something good.
Well, I think it is much closer to the mark to see it as people leaving something apparently good: whether the Law or the decencies of Roman civil religion, and instead becoming free. Paul is keen that the freedom not turn into licentiousness, but he is much, much more keen that people don't go back into "goodness" with its bound consciences and its comforting dependency on group approval.
Which of the following two propositions do you think is closer to the witness of the New Testament?
And indeed, how could we feel what was so unavailable
to language that we could scarcely dare to say that we wanted it for ourselves,
let alone imagine that it was a healthy and normal thing to want or to
feel? I'm thinking of those little boy feelings - the love, the passion,
the knowing that you wanted to be with someone forever that I first encountered
aged eight or nine. And then I' thinking of the sheer panic that engulfed
me thereafter. My awareness, as a nine-year old, that I was completely
lost and alone in a dangerous and hostile world in which the thing which
I most wanted - the love of another boy and to be with him forever - was
not only impossible, but utterly reprobate and an abomination. Agreeing
that my love was dangerous and should be controlled and hidden seemed at
the time far less painful than the realisation of the
It seems ridiculous to think that a small child can really
be vulnerable to such huge feelings. Yet my sense is that I picked up quite
clearly at that age the hugeness and dangerousness of the abyss over which
I was about to be unmoored. That from then on I sensed that I was really
and truly alone, would never really "make it" as a person, with a career,
a partner and any stability. And, in a way that is only now seeming to
come to an end, I have lived that out since then, with a sense of my life
How easy it is for the adult world to kidnap a small child
in his own soul and take him into a country that is toxic to him and get
him to agree that it is good, all for the best,
Yet even now, when I can put words to these things, I feel ambivalent about doing so, partly from shame, and partly from a belief that this is making too much of a fuss - it's self-indulgent, that one oughtn't to talk about pain, and in any case, since everyone has such pain, then it's really nothing special. The reason for the ambivalence is that, to this day, I'm not sure whether this is right. I'm not sure whether that pain, which only now begins to seem talkable about, is just what everybody has, or whether there was something akin to torture in being a gay kid who learned that his feelings were an abomination. There don't seem to be any sure points of comparison from which to triangulate my position on the "normal human feeling" charts.
If you are told your feelings are wrong, and you cannot
trust them, then you are indeed radically unmoored. For who is to guarantee
that any point of comparison you find is the right point of comparison?
If it seems to validate your feeling, might it not be just some evil influence?
And yet, in the absence of your own feelings, it is not as though you have
any other feelings, other than a shame at the growing realisation that
you are not able to respond appropriately to all the markers which prompt
In any case, please excuse my long background build-up to my point: the pain seems much closer to the surface now, much more able to be talked about. Which means it can be felt. Whereas I had imagined that one "felt" things and then could talk about them, it actually seems to me to be closer to the mark, closer to a fact of observation, that it's when they start to be talked about, that then they can be felt. Socialised talking makes the feeling possible. And as they can be felt, so they can be sympathised with easily by healthy people of all walks and stripes.
And that' what I'e noticed over these last months: how the fact that the pain not only can be talked about, but that it seems obvious to talk about it, and other people, who aren't gay at all, clearly regard it as normal and sane to talk about it. All that feels like something of a seismic shift, a quantum leap into a field of ordinariness, of being part of ordinary human discourse, that I wasn't used to before. A sense of being recognised into the normal human world.
I suspect that the pain is going to increase. Or at least, the awareness of the pain. Because for anyone who loves the Church, the realisation that we have been submitted to a lie, our lives hugely affected by a lie, is a big deal. A really huge deal. I don't want to go on about this much... but I suspect that it is going to be more and more common for us to find ourselves, while loyal and loving Catholics, thrilled to be in the Church, and clearly delighted by the way that Jesus reveals himself to us through the Church, able to talk about ways in which we are coming up spluttering and coughing, as if emerging from an acute dose of poison gas, or from being held underwater for a long time.
The fact is that lies are not innocent, nor mendacity
a trivial matter. Lies poison and kill. And without being in any way victimary
in our self-understanding, we need to