In the wake of the shooting in Orlando last week, I have been wondering what a heterosexual Catholic woman in academia is supposed to say. It is obvious from the timing of this post, I put off publishing a blog, and the one I am sharing now has been through numerous drafts.
Just a short while ago, I came across an article written by Paul Reid-Bowen, a male scholar of religion who asks the question of whether one can be a man, and still write about feminism from a position of advocacy and commitment. He acknowledges that as a man in a patriarchal culture, his sexual difference is problematic for feminism. If this were not the case, feminism would not need to exist in the first place. Reid-Bowen insists, therefore, that, “if any man is comfortable with feminism, something is amiss.”
As a Catholic woman, it hurts to think about how my church’s position of “Hate the sin, love the sinner” bears responsibility for feelings of homophobia and widespread discrimination against LGBTQ persons. While the church condemns violence against LGBTQ persons, a theology that defines the sacrament of marriage as solely “the union between a man and a woman” and considers homosexual inclinations to be “intrinsically disordered” does nothing to challenge the undeserved dominant position that heterosexual persons enjoy in our church or in society. With this theology, a same-sex couple can never have their union affirmed as sacramental, and being in a same-sex relationship is rendered “sinful,” for no other reason than that it defies the traditional male-female gender binary. It is no wonder that a Catholic child who does not fit neatly into traditional gender stereotypes might grow up feeling frightened and ashamed, and at risk for depression and even suicide. A lot of Catholics are afraid to publicly commit to a theology that embraces LGBTQ persons as the “image of God,” rather than persons with a disorder that needs correction, or to publicly support the availability of the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples who love each other. We fear not only condemnation from fellow Catholics and from clergy in positions of power, but we also fear having to come face to face with our own responsibility for events like Orlando. We fear being “radical.”
I do not feel I have the right to say exactly what the Catholic Church needs to do to support the LGBTQ community right now. But I must say that I think that a shift in theology and Church teaching would be a step in the direction, precisely because the full affirmation of LGBTQ persons and relationships would be “radical.” In other words, when entering a position of advocacy for and commitment to the LGBTQ community, heterosexual Catholics and those in positions of power in the church are supposed to feel challenged and uncomfortable, or else “something is amiss.”
Finally, I speak of the need for a new theology not to be “politically correct,” but because this is what I believe is required for Catholic Christians to be disciples of Jesus in today’s world. I can no longer believe in God who is displeased with God’s own creatures solely for being who they are. In the words of Edward Schillebeeckx, “it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who enslaves human beings.”