Rock & a Hard Place

I’ll admit that I find it incomprehensible to remain part of a Church that didn’t want me as a member or that felt I was “less than.” When I found out at a young age that I wouldn’t be “allowed” to be a priest, I washed my hands of the Church, and while I still consider myself culturally Catholic*, I’m also an agnostic and don’t miss mass. & I was always allergic to the incense, so I don’t miss that either. But I do still go to Saint Patrick’s to light candles in my grandmother’s memory, and I like to think she’d be quite pleased knowing that she – even from the grave – gets me into a church at all. I still read The Lives of the Saints, and I love the peace I can achieve, easily, when I’m sitting in a Church between masses. The quiet, the art, the ritual, the iconography: all these things make me feel at home.

But queer folks often don’t feel at home if they actually believe in their faith and want to be committed members of a faith-based community. One of my fellow Catholics has joined the UU but I think misses something of the aesthetics of Catholicism (one of the few things, imho, the Catholic Church did right. If you don’t feel a sense of awe entering Saint Patrick’s, I’d be very surprised).

One of the things I see Betty struggle with is how the faith she was raised in might condemn her for who she is, and she’s the one who brought this article to my attention.

I applaud the way these folks have stuck to a faith they believe in, that they feel comfortable in, and have not backed down or compromised their beliefs. But at the same time I find it quite baffling: if literal and conservative interpretation of the Bible yields the label of “sinner” for any gay or lesbian, yet you know you didn’t choose to be gay, why stay? Jesus’ advice, that those who are without sin cast the first stone, might be the key. Because we are all sinners, aren’t we? In one way or another, we are. The man who casts homosexuals out of his church or makes them feel uncomfortable has masturbated once in his life, at least. Or maybe he’s gambled, or coveted his neighbor’s wife, or over-eaten, or blasphemed, or doubted, or lied, or eaten shellfish. There are plenty of ways to sin – especially if one’s going to be strict about Old Testament restrictions – other than having sex with someone of your own gender, and I find the current Christian obsession with homosexuality as the sin that inspires Christians to act in decidedly un-Christian ways quite baffling. I still don’t remember anything in the Bible that says human beings should be judging each other’s sinfulness; last I checked, a sinner’s sins are between him and his God.

As someone raised Catholic I can’t help but find it tragic; after all, one of the huge reasons the Protestant religions happened was because the Church on Earth was interfering in the way a sinner might know his God, so for me, this current revival of people thinking they know the mind of God is a little bit of (the worst of) history repeating itself.

* By “cultural Catholic” I mean someone raised Catholic who was a descendent of a certain generation of Immigrants, who may not practice their faith but who think along its lines or honor certain Catholic traditions, ethics, and values, like the ones of Pope John XXIII. I could use the term “Catholic diaspora” here, too.