Sunday, April 18, 2010

Theology of Fallibility Part III

How LBGT Should React to the Fallibility of the Hierarchy

The day I read in the New York Times that the Vatican under Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had made the decision to bar all gays, even celibate gays, from the priesthood, my immediate reaction as an ordained gay priest was great sadness for the Church I love, then rage at the injustice of it all, and then painful awareness of all those good and holy gay men in the priesthood who will feel betrayed and abandoned by their mother Church. I then entered into prayer and asked the indwelling Holy Spirit to help me discern what this is all about!

First, the Spirit assured me that this decision has nothing to do with God or the teaching of Jesus Christ. Notice the total absence of any sense of love and compassion for all the suffering this will cause gay Catholics in general and, especially, gay priests. The hierarchy is aware that the child abuse crisis and its cover up by hierarchs has seriously undermined their authority and power. This purge is a political move by the sinful human church to try to repair the damage done to their power and prestige by scapegoating the gay members of the clergy. They are ignoring all the expert advice from professional psychologists and psychiatrists that gayness was not the cause of the child abuse crisis. By this move they are trying to avoid their responibility for the crisis and the need to reform the Church. The Holy Spirit is still ultimately in charge of the Church and the Spirit will call the shots on how the Church will evolve and be transformed! Our task is to prayerfully discern what the Holy Spirit is about in this moment of crisis and support the transformation of the Church coming from God's Spirit.

We gay Catholics in Dignity were full of the hope and enthusiasm of Vatican II which had redefined the Church as "the People of God"! Our naive hope that the Church would change semed confirmed a few years later when my book, The Church and the Homosexual, which seriously challenged traditional Church teaching, was given an imprimi potest by the saintly General of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupé, and I was granted permission to publish. This was an action for which Arrupé paid heavily later by being dishonorably deposed as General by Pope John Paul II. the same man who gave all sorts of honors to the pedophile Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Now, more than 35 years later, although the Holy Spirit has abundantly blessed Dignity's ministry by bringing the message of God's love to my gay brothers and sisters, I am sorry to have to report that in terms of dialogue with the hierarchy, it has been mostly downhill ever since.

The Church has adamantly refused our offer of respectful dialogue and refuses to hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the hierarchy through the experience of faithful Catholic gays and lesbians. A series of homophobic documents have been issued from Rome, documents that for the most part ignored all the serious research into homosexuality done by reputable professionals. The recent and most egregious document reads: "The homosexual inclination, though not in itself a sin, must be considered objective disordered". This would only be true if we assumed that all humans are created by God heterosexual. We know that this is factually untrue. We gay and lesbian Catholics, who know that we were created with a homosexual orientation by God, see this statement as a blaphemy against God by claiming that God created humans who are intrinsically ordered to evil. The shriller the Vatican becomes in its homophobia the more it loses the trust and respect of the faithful and it diminishes its authority and hastens the reformation of thr Church.

Jesus gave us a marvelous example of how to deal with scapegoating in the story of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark 5. The Gerasene community had picked one troubled individual and decided to make him their scapegoat, driving him out of town. The demoniac accepted their judgment on him, interiorizing self-hatred, tearing off his clothing, breaking the chains that bound him, howling and gashing himself with sharp stones.

As soon as Jesus entered his presence, he became aware of God's love and that he himself was not evil but worthy of God's love and compassion. Jesus by his love drove out the demons of self-hatred and self-destruction. They entered into a herd of pigs and their destructive evil was immediately manifest by the fact that the pigs rushed down the hillside and threw themselves off a cliff into the sea. The people of the village came out and found the former demoniac and their scapegoat "sitting peacefully, fully clothed and in his right mind".

The people of the village became frightened because they had lost their scapegoat and begged Jesus to leave. The former demoniac asked Jesus to take him with him, but Jesus refused and instead told him: "Go home to your people and tell them all the good things the Lord has done to you. Give witness to God's love for you!" So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And the people were amazed!

There is a striking parallel here with us LGBT Catholics. We are being scapegoated by our Church to avoid dealing with its own sins. Many of us in the past interiorized the Church's homophobia, resulting in self-hatred and self-destructiveness. But Jesus' Spirit at some point touched our hearts and freed us from all self-rejection by giving us a clear, undeniable experience that God loves us in our gayness. Our ministry, then, like the former demoniac is to witness to our people all the great things that God in his/her mercy has done for us. Our first task, then, is to prayerfully call in the Holy Spirit to give such an overwhelming experience of God's love that we are healed of all self-hatred and self-rejection and thus rendered immune to the persecution of the institutional church.

We gay and lesbian Catholics must not let our enemies outside ourselves define who we are. We must let the Spirit of love dwelling in our hearts define who we are. And then give witness to the entire people of God to all the great things the Lord has done for us.

The Theology of Fallibility Part IV will deal with the coming transformation of the Church into the Church of the Holy Spirit.


  1. John, this is a wonderful, theologically astute and spiritually moving statement. I have just blogged about it at my Bilgrimage blog at

    Thank you for all you have done over the years, at great cost and with great courage and love, to give a voice to those of us who are LGBT and Catholic.

  2. Hi John. I am very impressed with your writings and great wisdom.

    "We gay and lesbian Catholics must not let our enemies outside ourselves define who we are. We must let the Spirit of love dwelling in our hearts define who we are. And then give witness to the entire people of God to all the great things the Lord has done for us."

    The women also "must not let our enemies (misogynist, fascists, the ignorant, those who want to control us & type-cast us as lesser beings), outside ourselves define who we are."

    Anyone who "defines" another human being to his/her own beliefs or narrow specifications is denying the role of God's intention and God's creation, as well as the denial of the Holy Spirit's action within persons whom God chooses.