Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Better Late Than Never

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I’ll be the first to admit that I can be pretty tardy in responding to comments left on The Wild Reed.

At times, this tardiness is to do with the fact that I’m way too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. I just can’t slap together any old response! I feel that as much care and thought needs to go into them as into the various posts that comprise the main part of this blog. As a result, unless I feel I can devote the time and energy required, I often don’t respond to comments left by others.

I did, however, finally respond to a comment left by “Dan” to a commentary I posted on The Wild Reed in March of this year. But there’s a bit of a story concerning why I decided to finally respond, so please bear with me!

When this same post of mine was republished as a commentary in the Spring 2007 issue of
CPCSM’s Rainbow Spirit journal, I gave it the title, “Come As You Are.” And it was this title (along with the overall message of my commentary) that served as both the name and theme of a recent retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics that took place at Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center (pictured below), just outside of Stillwater, Minnesota.


“Remembering and Celebrating Our Spirit-led Journeys as Catholic LGBT People” was the name I gave to the part of this retreat that I had the honor of facilitating. Specifically, I facilitated a discussion on our journeys as LGBT Catholics, and the whole idea of journeying as a metaphor for the spiritual life.

The opening reflection I used spoke of transcendence having to do with the different and clearer perspective gained as a result of “claiming and proclaiming” our “inner reality of sacredness brought to consciousness by delving deep within and engaging our true self – that part of us most infused with God.”

Indeed, the whole retreat sought to provide opportunities for this “delving deep within,” this engaging with our deeper selves and with God. And the hope was that through this engagement with self, God, and each other, we would come to a greater awareness and appreciation of God’s loving presence in our lives and relationships as LGBT people. And indeed, I felt that those participating in the retreat experienced this “greater awareness and appreciation.”


Because the theme of the retreat was inspired by my commentary, “Come As You Are,” I felt it important to share Dan’s response to this particular piece of writing – one that at The Wild Reed was originally published as “Trusting God’s Generous Invitation.”

Here’s part of what Dan had to say:

You state that you disagree that this “deep longing” is disordered and that the Vatican is wrong for condemning homosexual intimacy. I’m sure that you, as do I, have many other interior desires that you do not act upon because you believe them to be wrong. Why is this desire singled out as good, in contradiction to traditional Christian teaching? How do you tell the good from the bad?

The call to repentance implies the existence of certain habits that must be rejected as incompatible with following Jesus. Again I ask, how do you tell the good habits from the bad ones?

Do you really think Jesus taught “just come as you are” and don’t worry about changing how you live? Where is that in the gospels? Are there NO ways of living that Jesus would disapprove of?

Following are the four questions I devised to help facilitate discussion at the retreat around Dan’s response to my commentary:

1. These are valid questions that Dan raises. How would you respond to them?

2. What do Dan’s comments and questions tell you about his understanding of God and the Church?

3. How are they different from your understanding? How do you account for this difference?

4. How do you generally respond to the Dans of the Church? How should we respond as LGBT persons of faith? Is dialogue possible?

In preparing these questions I soon realized that I needed to respond to Dan, and so wrote the following, posted it on The Wild Reed and, days later, shared it with those in attendance at the retreat:


Hi Dan,

Thanks for stopping by The Wild Reed and sharing your perspective.

You asked: “How do you tell the good [teachings] from the bad?”

First, I wouldn’t use the term “bad,” but rather “inadequate.” These inadequate (or poorly thought through) teachings don’t lead to either individual or communal flourishing. In other words, for the vast majority of LGBT people, these teachings don’t lead to that “fullness of life” talked about by our brother Jesus.

Gay people who accept who they are, view their sexuality as a sacred gift, and share this gift with another through a loving relationship, flourish as people. And healthy, happy, and flourishing people contribute to a healthy, happy, and flourishing church and society. The Church’s teaching fails to reflect this truth.

Thus these teachings are inadequate as they fail to draw on people’s lived experience of God in their lives and relationships. They also fail to draw from the findings of science – including the social sciences. Because of this failure these teachings do not inspire or give hope. How could they when they’re so inadequately formulated and expressed? LGBT folks (and others) instinctively sense this about these particular teachings and, as a result, dissent from them, trusting instead their experiences of God’s love discerned in their lives and relationships. Such dissent is an act of integrity. Such trust is an act of faith.

You ask: “How do you tell the good habits from the bad ones?”

Again, it’s all about what they lead to. And to ascertain the truth about this, you have to be prepared to talk and listen to those who are actually engaging in what you’re terming “habits.” In formulating and developing its teachings on homosexuality, the Vatican has closed itself off from the Spirit by its refusal to listen to the experiences and wisdom of science and of LGBT people themselves.

You ask: “Are there NO ways of living that Jesus would disapprove of?”

Of course there are, and they’re to do with acting in ways that dehumanize and objectify one self and others. In the realm of human sexuality, anyone – gay or straight – is capable of such “ways of living” (not that I’d call them really “living”!) Yet at the same time both gay and straight people can choose to live and love through their sexualities in life-giving, caring, and respectful ways. Such ways led to lives and relationships of awareness, compassion, integrity, and wholeness. They also lead to that individual and communal flourishing, that fullness of life, I spoke of earlier.

Peace,

Michael


Photography of the natural beauty around the Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center by Michael Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
The Many Forms of Courage

1 comment:

Ray from MN said...

Michael:

1. "In other words, for the vast majority of LGBT people, these teachings don’t lead to that “fullness of life” talked about by our brother Jesus."

Is this "brother Jesus" you refer to the same one that most Catholics believe to be "My Lord and My God?"

2. "Gay people who accept who they are, view their sexuality as a sacred gift, and share this gift with another through a loving relationship, flourish as people."

Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.

3. "Thus these teachings are inadequate as they fail to draw on people’s lived experience of God in their lives and relationships."

Does "lived experience of God" trump historical faith, tradition, reason and the teachings of the Church?" Does that change throughout life? Is my God the same as yours if we have different experiences?

4. "They also fail to draw from the findings of science – including the social sciences."

The "social sciences", something of which I am somewhat conversant, are the biggest fraud devised by man. "Social scientists" want so badly to be respected as real scientists that they have constructed this body of knowledge containing all kinds of algebraic formulae that purport to explain human behavior. The problem is that virtually none of the factors in those equations are mathematically quantifiable.

I recall when the U of MN's School of Public Affairs began to require differential calculus as a condition for admittance. I hope that is no longer the case.

And, the study of society is indeed a valid subject for higher education. But it is not a science.

4. "You ask: “How do you tell the good habits from the bad ones?”

Again, it’s all about what they lead to."

Does it matter what they lead to, or are all habits valuable. If so, where does it say that?


5. "Yet at the same time both gay and straight people can choose to live and love through their sexualities in life-giving, caring, and respectful ways."

Is it only possible to "live and love through their sexualities?"

Is it not possible that "lives and relationships of awareness, compassion, integrity, and wholeness", based on faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ as He taught us and through His Church that He gave us a more valid way to live? "They also lead to that individual and communal flourishing, that fullness of life, [you] spoke of earlier."


Thank you for posting this, Michael. I've had a difficult time understanding how you can still consider yourself to be a Catholic by believing and living as you do.

One wonders why you want to be a Catholic if you disagree with so much of its teachings.

I fear that some of you are out to destroy the Church.

Ray
Stella Borealis
Minneapolis