Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Gotta give it up.

Bathing Bishops, Fernando Botero

"Scold them because they are hurt?"

When I was little I was told I was a bastard because my parents weren't married in the Church.  My mother was divorced from her first husband, and remarried my dad in a civil ceremony.  It wasn't outsiders who called me names - it was family members, my parents, my brother and sister from my mother's first marriage, cousins, and so on.  Today no one would ever do that.

Of course they didn't call me that all of the time - they only did that when they wanted to hurt me, when they were upset with me for some reason, or wanted to taunt me for being so 'pious'.

My point in mentioning this is that early on I learned how to live with that kind of stuff - strange as it may seem.  I accepted it and offered it up, I suppose.  Yet it did not define me.  It may have may have affected me to some degree, discouraged me perhaps.  For instance I wanted to be a priest in grade school but I was told - not without a note of contempt - that I couldn't because my parent's marital arrangement was a canonical impediment.  Oddly enough, it didn't discourage me and even as a kid I knew there were dispensations possible.  Did the contempt from the school sisters hurt?  A little bit - but kids from an abusive home are resilient.

In retrospect the nuns seemed to me to be a little like 'gate-keepers' at such times, laying down the law, enforcing the rules - one might even say, laying heavy burdens hard to carry, without nary an encouraging word to guide.  In effect, blocking entrance to God's house, as it were, especially to those trying to enter.

I think of that in relationship to the difficulties some religious people put in the way of those folks who identify as gay - or gay-Catholics.  I fully understand the language the Church prefers and uses in teaching regarding persons who are same sex attracted, or identify as gay.  It's appropriate for the classroom and in spiritual direction of course.  Yet many in the Church use the 'vernacular' expressions of sexual identity, 'gay' in every situation.  Though some religious people and same sex attracted individuals insist they cannot use the term, ordinary usage has been adapted to use the term, 'gay'.  The Pope says gay.

Don't be yourself?

Gay people are called to chastity.   We go to the ends of the earth to make one convert - that is, we keep talking about how  gay people are welcome, how they are called to holiness, but we are getting to the point where we almost contradict ourselves telling them they can't come in to the Church if they say they are gay.  That may not be exactly what we tell them - but that is how it's perceived.  'You can't be gay and Catholic' is a sort of mantra I keep coming across online.  For many gay people, it's dishonest.  (And same sex attraction is not the same thing as being bi-polar either.)

About a month ago, I came across something Pat Archbold wrote about his kids.  The youngest was having trouble fitting in at school, the older brother advised the younger something like this: "It was like that for me at first too, then I learned - 'don't be yourself' - and it all worked out."  I actually liked the older kid's advice - I did that when I was a kid too.  That said, what I think Patrick's son may have meant was closer to this: "Behavior does not always have to mirror feelings."  [For a fuller explanation of that quote, go here.]

Nevertheless, the culture almost demands that we be ourselves and let everything hang out, as it were.  You gotta be honest, be who you are, etc..  Though it isn't necessary to discuss sexual attraction or identity - it is pretty much a cultural expectation these days.  If you are same sex attracted, are tempted to having sex with the same sex, or engage in sex with the same sex, the expectation is you are gay.  Coming out is another cultural expectation, which I consider a violation of privacy and a sort of branding.  (Especially for children and youth who experience transitory same sex attraction.)  The pressure to come out as gay has led to accepting gay as an identity, hence the confusion surrounding Catholic teaching.  No one is required to reveal their sexual proclivities/temptation to anyone.  Despite the lack of propriety, people coming out identify as gay.

I think what I'm trying to say is, if someone identifies as gay, it is what it is.  We can't tell him he can't be Catholic and gay.  He can.  His reality may not fit our objective reality - and I don't mean that in a relativistic sense, but we can't keep placing obstacles - language/terminology - in his way either.

"Jesus welcomes [all]. But not only does He welcome, He goes out to see people just as" ... they are.

I lack the skills needed to express my thoughts on these issue, and I have no authority to 'teach' anyone on the matter.  Nevertheless I think something is off in our emphasis.  I keep going back to what Pope Francis often says about letting people into the Church rather than always slapping them in the face doctrinal terminology.  Once again today, commenting on the Gospel of the healing of the man at the pool Bethesda, the Pope said, "the Church always keeps its doors open!"
"A man - a woman – who feels sick in the soul, sad, who made many mistakes in life, at a certain time feels that the waters are moving - the Holy Spirit is moving something - or they hear a word or ... 'Ah, I want to go!' ... And they gather up their courage and go. And how many times in Christian communities today will they find closed doors! 'But you cannot, no, you cannot [come in]. You have sinned and you cannot [come in]. If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but that’s it – that’s all you can do.’ So, what the Holy Spirit creates in the hearts of people, those Christians with their ‘doctors of the law’ mentality, destroy ".
Jesus welcomes [all]. But not only does He welcome, He goes out to see people just as He went out to find this man. And if people are hurt, what does Jesus do? Scold them because they are hurt? No, He comes and He carries them on His shoulders. And this is called mercy. And when God rebukes his people - 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice!' – He’s talking about this. "
"Who are you,” the Pope continues, “ who shut the door of your heart to a man, a woman, who wants to improve, to return within the people of God - because the Holy Spirit has stirred his or her heart?" - Pope Francis

Yeah.  So.  I gotta give it up.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Jesus, I trust in you.


  1. Thanks for linking to my "feelings" post, Terry. It got me listening to Debbie Boone again. BTW -- You light up my life. Really!

    1. Thanks Mary Ann - LOL! Anyway - that piece from Von Hildebrandt is excellent. I may steal the whole quote for a post.

    2. Go for it! I love Trojan Horse in the City of God. I'm a little more than halfway through it and keep coming on things that say, "Blog me!" Von Hildebrand is amazing! That book could have been written yesterday! And it's much easier to read than Transformation in Christ which I put on hold until I finish it.

  2. My parents weren't married by the Church either--not because they had been previously married but because a lot of people in Cuba viewed church weddings as something only rich people did (and they weren't). A notary public was all the expense my parents were willing to go to in order to marry each other. I had not realized my parents were not legally married in the eyes of the Church until I was in eighth grade and we were studying the Baltimore catechism with my least favorite nun ever, Sr. Philip Marie, S.S.J. (the humiliation mistress). I would not have let her know of my family situation for anything. Hell knows what cruelties might have ensued. I'm so sorry, Terry, that your parents' marital status was known and that you endured hardship because of it. Thank God I was able to keep my "bastard" status a tightly held secret. Now I don't care, except that I must pray for the eternal rest of my parents' souls for, oh, so many reasons.

    1. I had 2 sisters who weren't 'nice' - Haha! Sr. Hiltrude and Sr. Vivian. Hiltrude had a good heart however, Vivian - I'm doubtful she had one at all. My dad was often in trouble with the law, and we were charity cases at school - so the nuns knew our family's story very well. I'm grateful I was able to go to Catholic school at all, so I can't be too critical. I don't hate them at all, I have tried to imagine what was wrong that they acted that way, but I can't quite figure it out. M. Angelica had similar experiences when she was in school, so I've always been consoled knowing someone like her had been mistreated.

      We'll figure it out in heaven.

      Less than ten years later the nuns were in secular clothes, moving into their own apartments - which tells me something was wrong with their religious life before the reforms were implemented.

  3. "Gay people are called to chastity."

    Sounds as if they were called to celibacy and abstinence.

    Three obvious (though one perhaps disputed) counterexamples:

    1) Josh Weed, gay, but managed to marry (though, on the bad side, he's still a shrink);
    2) Oscar Wilde was obviously called to stay faithful to his wife and not to have the affair he had and which he was punished for;
    3) disputed : Calvin may have been branded in 1534 for an act of sodomy with leniating circumstances (if no such were there, it would have been death penalty) and certainly when challenged in Geneva said he was not very much for marriage, so, he may have been gay (which might have explained his considering human nature as "totally corrupt" too) and yet he married Ydelette de Bure and had children with her.

    In other words, if these words, often repeated along Vatican II hierarchy, mean what they sound like to me, they are a heresy where even Calvin wasn't Calvinistic enough to consider himself predestined to forego marriage.

    1. They sound like that to me too - a bit tainted by heresy.


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