The November-December 2007 issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review features an insightful interview with Ian McKellen, one of the greatest actors of our times.
The part of the interview that I especially appreciated was when McKellen talked about his experience of coming out as gay. Here’s what he said:
When I first came out – as anyone who has had to go through that journey will testify – life improved. You gain as a person your proper self-confidence. You’re being honest and you’re standing up as yourself and for yourself. For an actor, to have that confidence is an immense bonus. On top of that I freed up my emotions, or at least my ability to express emotions without being circumspect, without lying, without this disguise. Acting is about telling the truth rather than lying. I improved as an actor. Maybe that’s why my career went positively in every direction and flourished and continues to do so.
I resonate with McKellen’s experience of “improving” and “flourishing” as a result of coming out, and believe that this is the experience of the vast majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
What a pity such experience, such insight, such truth has been denied by the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, some Catholics are fond of saying, “Well, it’s not me personally saying that homosexual acts are wrong, it’s the tradition.” That kind of response is a cop-out, of course, as it involves refusing to see that “the tradition” is inseparable from our openness to the sacred discerned in and through human experience.
Once we separate these two realities, however, all manner of weird thinking results: “Our teachings are the will of God! They are set in stone!” What!? And that stone just fell from the sky? As you can imagine, such thinking closes the door on any possibility of informed questioning, dialogue, and/or development of ideas. Mind you, one thing such thinking does do is absolve people from taking responsibility for the choices and decisions they make, both individually and collectively, and for the decisions that have been made on their behalf and in their name by so-called authorities - past and present.
Yet, when you think about it, is it any wonder that the tradition has said the same thing about the relationships of gay people? How can it say anything other if those who wield power within it continually refuse to take into account the experiences, insights, and truth of gay people’s lives and relationships?
Thus the claim of an unchanging and unchangeable tradition becomes self-fulfilling – not because of the will of God, but because of the stubbornness and pride of men. And since we’re talking about the Roman Catholic Church, I literally mean men (which, of course, is another part of the problem).
Yet in this Advent season, this season of hope, I’m nurturing the courage to stay hopeful.
I’m hopeful that God’s loving and guiding presence in the lives of LGBT people will and is slowly being heard, acknowledged, and accepted by more and more Catholics. The hierarchical Church’s position and language on this matter has become so extreme and lacking in common sense and compassion, that many people - gay and straight - are simply tuning it out, while others are letting their feelings be known.
For these reasons, and others, I remain hopeful – hopeful that the institutional Church will “come out” of its closet of denial and hubris and experience a beautiful renewal, a flourishing. And that folks like you and I will do our bit to encourage and facilitate such a long overdue coming out.
That’s my prayer for the Church this Advent. And I invite you to join with me in it.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
The Many Forms of Courage
And Love is Lord of All