An introduction to the articles on GLBT and lay empowerment.
On Thin Ice is an attempt to seed a conversation between gay and lesbian Catholics and their spiritual peers, the laymen and women beside them in the pews. We need to talk. We need to talk right now. We need to begin dialogues of mutual understanding and support for each other as well as to work together to help prepare our congregations to become more responsive to the inclusive signs of our times.
Inclusiveness in spirituality means much more than just overcoming the negative stereotypes that brand gay, lesbian persons as defective heterosexuals. Catholic gay and lesbian persons also join their lay peers in trying to overcome their second class status in a hierarchical religious structure often dominated by the same sort of heavy handed religious professionals that once vexed John and Jesus including Scribe, Pharisee, Sadducee, Priest and Levite. Surely the tide in America and the rest of the First World has turned with regard to putting blind faith in Catholic Church Authority ever since the worldwide clerical sexual abuse scandals have become known. But that alone is not nearly the same things as experiencing real lay empowerment in the matters of the spirit.
Our spiritual ripening as mature laypersons can be supported and encouraged by taking note of the examples given by the “laity” in the New Testament. Again and again we find that the Good News was not incarnated in the convents, libraries and sanctuaries of the Religion of Jesus’ parents, but outdoors by the Jordan River and on the road as well as in the homes of the lay people who were Jesus’ good friends.
As we shall see the Gospel unfolded as a lay event in Israel, far from the official prayers, sacrifices and priestly traditions of the Temple; far away as a matter of fact from anything that Mary or Joseph or Elizabeth or Zachariah would have thought to call “Religion.”
Odd Ones Out
One of the understandable and deep-seated spiritual disabilities that Catholic gays and lesbians often experience in their Church is the feeling of being different from their pew-mates and unlike them in outlook. I think one way to realize how alike we also can be is to acknowledge the gifts that Gays and Lesbians most often bring with them into the community.
“Coming out,” for example, means learning to discover true self-understanding by accepting something unique about oneself, differing from the norm. It can teach a person about social justice activism on a visceral, personal level. The experience of “coming out” bespeaks a morality grounded in an honesty and courage that are distinct from the entrenched expectations of the homophobic perennial wisdom.
In On Thin Ice chapters we repeatedly encounter a Gospel Jesus who is always moving beyond the strict traditions of the cozy religious reality of his folks. Like many a feral Catholic of today, Jesus simply ignored what were considered to be some of the most important religious sentiments of his parent’s Religion, including a taboo against associating with Gentiles, the use of animal blood sacrifices, and the strict observance of Mosaic Law. Jesus just ignored them and lived, as do we in many cases. He ignored what had been up until then the most standard religious practices of his tradition. Instead he concentrated on what mattered the most to him: healing, reconciliation and the inclusion of the outcast within the Reign of God.
Like many persons of today, Jesus had no precedents in history for the “new truth” he was proclaiming. He had no authoritative credentials to support his abandonment of these stalwart Jewish traditions, nothing to back up his claim that God was his Father, except the power of his forgiveness, love, healing and inclusion.
To get us started on the right track let’s imagine that we have been asked to summarize in a single image the whole of the Gospel. What image could we use? I think I would pick the last known act of Jesus, when on his own cross he promises the thief crucified beside him, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.”
What I can’t help but notice in this story is how Jesus requires nothing of the man in return for his gift. Nor does he feel obliged to forgive his sins, or baptize him before assuring him of a welcome to the eternal banquet.
So too we gay, lesbian, straight, and in-between persons, worthy and unworthy all at the same-time, as we no doubt are, nonetheless we are invited along with Dismas the thief to share the good fortune of whatever eternity is with our brothers and sisters at the table of everlasting life. Come as you are.
So please pass the salsa and let’s talk.
ON THIN ICE