13 October 2014

Gratified, But Not Convinced, By The Latest From The Vatican

"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home."

So far, sounds good, doesn't it?  The source of that quote might come as a bit of a surprise:  a relatio from the Vatican.

Given that the current Pope has said things like "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?", one could be forgiven for believing that the Roman Catholic church--in which I grew up--might become a more welcoming place for LGBT people.

What is commonly forgotten is that the Pope's quote was taken somewhat out of context:  He was not talking about according loving same-sex couples or people who live by the gender of their spirit the same respect within the Roman Catholic church as cisgender heterosexual couples.  Rather, he was responding to a question about gay priests who remain celibate.  The relatio quoted at the beginning of this post was talking about the same issue, and other gay people who wish to serve the church while remaining celibate.

All of those conservative Catholic groups who fear their church is losing its grip on its "traditional" values have nothing to fear.  As the National Catholic Reporter tells us, more actual and suspected LGBT people have been fired, not had their contracts renewed or simply were pushed out of their jobs in other ways,  by Catholic institutions this year--with two and a half months to go--than in any year since 2008. 

Moreover, five major American dioceses (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Honolulu and Oakland (CA)) have revised teacher contracts with "morality clauses" that ban teachers from supporting same-sex relationships in their personal or professional lives.  I'm not a  lawyer, but I suspect that such clauses could be interpreted to mean that a teacher could be fired for accepting a gay couple's invitation to dinner at their home.

Now, to be fair, I don't mean to denigrate individual Catholics.  Many--including my mother and my closest friend--have shown me kindness when other people--including someone with a PhD in Gender Studies--didn't.  Also, I have entered Roman Catholic church buildings and encountered people who greeted me warmly or simply didn't notice me. 

However, for all of the good PR the current Pope is giving the Church, I don't expect that it will welcome LGBT people as equal members, let alone as priests or nuns, during my lifetime.  That is the reason why, after realizing how much of a spiritual journey my gender transition was for me, I have joined an Episcopal congregation, where one of the priests asked me to teach Sunday school.

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