The Church is so Gay

There’s a biography called Peter Maurin: Gay Believer, which didn’t intend to out the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, but in retrospect, it was a more accurate title than could have been known at the time. Around the time this video came out of a Chicago nun throwing out the first pitch at a White Sox game, complete with ball pop off the arm, I started reflecting on just how gay is our Church.

The summer I lived at Peter Maurin Farm, in upstate New York, I also did some landscaping for Dorothy Day’s goddaughter, who lived in the next town. I asked her why she joined the Church as an adult. “Because there was a place for women,” she said, without hesitation. I glanced up, making sure she wasn’t being sarcastic. “Say more,” I said, unsteadily. “As a protestant, the best a woman could do, at that time especially, was be a pastor’s wife. But Catholic women ran things: hospitals, schools, organizations. I knew so many fierce nuns. I didn’t want to get married and it was okay to be Catholic and be unmarried, as a nun or not.” I began thinking about all the butch nuns I’ve known (my rectress in college wore leather, rode a motorcycle, and played guitar), and effeminate priests I’ve known (so much church decorating and self-grooming!) I started wondering if we could just be honest about it. Can we reclaim The Church: A Safe Space for Queers?

I’m grateful for this blog post, suggested by H. Lillian Vogel in our workshop, which claims the “intrinsic, indelible, permanent identity as Catholic,” in officially coming out as queer and Catholic this month. I have yet to do that, even as I’ve been married for three years, was dating my wife for six years previously, and have continued attending mass throughout.

I am just starting to understand that I am living out Catechism #2358, that I am “called to fulfill God’s will in [my] life,” through being a bisexual Catholic married to a Lutheran woman, and that I am being invited to “unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties [I] may encounter from [my] condition,” including loss of employment and opportunity and friendship and family. I never thought I would be deriving life and hope from this part of the Catechism, which I’ve always found distasteful. Where are bones the driest? Here. And yet even here, we can breathe life over them. To do so requires telling the truth of our gay Church. It’s not enough anymore to have the Church as a place to hide one’s sexuality, to live it out in ways that are reserved for the ordained and consecrated; we must all embrace it, even when it leads to marriage and family. For the first time, I’m seeing the “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” of #2358 as Marie Elizabeth Avers translates it, as “valued, loved, and worthy of dignity.” This transforms it from appearing condescending and othering into being included and upheld.

3 thoughts on “The Church is so Gay

  1. Dear Sheila,

    Healing covenant love where we know ourselves “valued, loved, and worthy of dignity” shows up in such surprising ways. Grab it. Hold it. Trust it.

    “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what God is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:16 – Translation from The Message) Do you recognize that it is Christ’s own Spirit within you bringing you to this place?

    I was asked this week what image of God I am praying with. It is the wounded, resurrected Christ still incarnate but utterly transformed beyond limit or boundary who embraces all that is and all we are. To encounter this Jesus is to be invited into mystery. You might appreciate Richard’s Rohr’s new book (2019), The Universal Christ.

  2. Dear Sheila,

    First of all, congratulations on your coming out as Catholic and queer! There is no such thing as liberation and truth-telling that is entirely private – when you dare to name your true identity, you make all of us more free and whole.

    As I sit with your title, “the Church is so gay,” I am drawn to a play on words. “Gay” as non-heterosexual, and also “gay” as joyful, delighted, full of life – the opposite of those dry, dry bones! In embracing a “gay Church” do I, do you, do we collectively become more “gay” – happier, freer, more authentically joyful? How might you – alone and joining with others – breathe new life marked by respect, compassion, sensitivity…and joy?

    I’m grateful the blog post Lillian shared resonated – I hope you can connect with other queer Catholic/Christian spaces like New Ways ministry, Q Spirit, etc which continue to nurture and encourage you. Thank you for showing up so courageously here.

  3. This is so beautiful.

    I’m loving this queer reading of the catechism–the deconstructing and reconstructing for a wider experience of church. I hear hope here in your challenge for the church to do better.

    What sustains your spirit? I hope you continue to compose more queer readings of the catechism, scripture, theology, etc.

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