On the Occasion of the Pope Coming to Town

Many interesting things come over our transom…this from the esteemed John J. McNeill, on the arrival of Joseph "God’s Rottweiller" Ratzinger (wasn’t this guy on Cheers?) on our shores (traveling under his nom de power "Pope Benedict XVI"):

Toward a Theology of Fallibility

Ratzinger_2When Pope Benedict comes to Ground Zero in New York City he will be greeted byMychaljudgepieta_2 a giant banner with a painting of Michael Judge, the Gay Franciscan priest, whose life is recorded in the documentary, Saint of 9/11. That banner signifies the ambiguous state of many Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics toward the Pope. We share the respect and love of the Catholic community for the Vicar of Christ and wish him well. At the same time we are profoundly aware of how wrong he is in his understanding and judgment on Gayness as “intrinsic disorder”. We are deeply conscious that we cannot accept and live out his teaching on homosexuality without destroying our mental and spiritual health. What is bad psychology has to be bad theology. We find ourselves in the same position as children of a homophobic parent, who, while still loving their parent, must separate off and take distance from that parent’s homophobia, if they are to live happy and healthy lives.

We Roman Catholic Gays have found it necessary to undergo the same maturing process in our spiritual lives that Jesus asked his disciples to undergo at the last supper. “I shall ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” (John 14: 16-17) Jesus stressed the point that it was necessary that he should go away in order for the Spirit to come. “Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I am telling you the truth; it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go. I will send him to you….However, when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth.” (John 16: 6-13)

Why could the Spirit of Truth only come after Jesus’ death? Because as long as Jesus remained alive and present, his disciples had their center of authority outside themselves and were not totally responsible for their actions. They were striving to meet the expectations of a provident leader. They had not yet become fully creative and responsible adults. But after Jesus’ death, his Spirit became what Paul saw as the source of the “Glorious Freedom of the Children of God”. “The proof that you are sons and daughters is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba’, Father; and it is this that makes you a son or daughter, you are not a slave anymore’. Pagans were not free but slaves in relation to their gods because they related to their gods in a spirit of fear. John tells us “Perfect love cast out all fear. It is equally true that perfect fear casts out all love.” Christians are free because their God is a God of love who had adopted them into his family. “All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons or daughters of God, for what you have received was not the spirit of slavery, to bring you back into fear, you have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:14-17)

With the death of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles received a challenge as well as an opportunity to mature. As Paul expressed it, “…until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect human, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.” (Eph. 4:13). The apostles had to give up the security of a provident leader; they had to begin to find out what God wanted from them from within themselves and their own experience.

In like manner, in our spiritual life, we Roman Catholic Gay people must pass from a passive, dependent role to an active, creative one. For our survival we have a special need to become mature, self-motivated, autonomous people, no longer dependent on outside homophobic sources for a sense of our identity and well-being. We must not let our enemies outside ourselves define us; we must let the Spirit of love that dwells within our hearts define us. As the Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel expressed it: “Our God dwells within us and the only way we can become one with that God is to become one with our authentic self”.

It is this understanding of the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit that gives me great consolation during these times when the Catholic Church reacts to its Gay members in ignorance and even downright hostility. We Gays should be grateful to God for creating a humanly fallible Church. We are intensely aware that if our parents had been infallible we could never have matured and become autonomous and responsible adults. God blessed us with finite and fallible parents. It was precisely when and where our parents proved fallible that we were challenged to take distance from their authority, make our own choices and be fully responsible for them.

In a similar way, as Gay Roman Catholics we are dependent on the human fallibility of religious authorities in order to develop an adult freedom of conscience. I believe that we are witnessing the coming into being of what I call the Church of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. After forty years of ministry with Lesbian and Gay persons, as both priest and psychotherapist, I am convinced that a unique spirituality, special and vibrant, is springing up in the Christian Gay community. It is spirituality totally compatible with a life of Gay sexual love and intimacy. As scripture says “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Mark 12:18) Gays are leading the way to form a spiritual community based on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s special presence in the Gay Christian community and the unique graces which are enabling Lesbians and Gays to build a mature, autonomous spiritual life are not just gifts meant for the Gay Christian community alone. When God pours out special blessings on one segment of the community, those blessings are meant to flow out and be shared by the human community at large.

Brendan_faye The Church of the Holy Spirit will be a Church in which all are equal, no hierarchy, no clergy as a separate caste, no domination of men over women. Leadership in the Church of the Holy Spirit will be based on careful listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying through the people of God. A recent event makes me believe that God is working overtime to bring about the transformation of the Catholic Church into the Church of the Holy Spirit. President Lech Kaczynski of Poland in a March 17 televised speech to the nation, echoing the Vatican position, warned that the adoption of the European Lisbon Treaty would compel Poland to recognize same-sex marriages, which he linked to the end of “moral order”. To make his point the president used footage of the 2003 wedding of Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton in Canada. As a result of that speech a media frenzy moved Brendan and Tom out of obscurity and they became world famous. Brendan and Tom are devout Gay Roman Catholics who see their marriage as a sacred bond blessed by God. The Holy Spirit is ultimately in charge of the Church and will transform it so that it becomes one with the realm of God. We who are Gay and Catholic pray daily that the hierarchy will hear what the Spirit is saying through the people of God and cooperate with the Spirit’s transformation of the Church.

John J. McNeill John J. McNeill, author of The Church and The Homosexual, Taking A Chance on God, Freedom, Glorious Freedom, and Both Feet Planted Firmly in Midair. The Reverend McNeill can be reached at jjmcneill@aol.com

One thought on “On the Occasion of the Pope Coming to Town”

  1. Father Mychal Judge was considered a living saint by many even prior to his heroic death on 9/11. His extraordinary works of compassion have been compared to Mother Teresa (see http://SaintMychalJudge.blogspot.com )

    But ironically, Mychal would be barred from the priesthood today because he was openly gay, though celibate. He often asked, “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love ?!”

    We have no illusions that this pope is going to change. Rather, we are bearing witness to two truths — that God created and loves gay people, and that the pope does not speak for the whole Church, the Ecclesia, on these matters.

    Indeed, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the pope’s views and support either civil unions or full marriage rights, according to numerous surveys.

    As Fr. Mychal also said, “Don’t let the (institutional) church get in the way of your relationship with God.”

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