This op-ed piece appeared in the Edmonton (Canada) Journal last week, written by transgender activist Marni Panas:
My Ukrainian Catholic faith has been a significant cornerstone in the life of me and my family, but I had been pulling away from my faith over the past few years, mostly out of fear I would not feel welcome expressing my authentic self.
I am a transgender woman. Weeks before I came out last year to the rest of the world, I met the bishop — at his invitation — for another in a long line of very important conversations. I later talked to our priest. From my personal journal dated Jan. 29, 2014, this is how part of that conversation went.
“Will we still be welcome to practise our faith as we always have in the church?” I asked.
The bishop replied: “My answer is an overwhelming yes. As a church, we need to be welcoming to all. We are taught to show kindness and compassion for each other. The church is not a ‘what,’ but a ‘who.’ As humans, we don’t always get it right. You may experience some resistance and negativity, whether in church or anywhere in your life, for many reasons besides even being transgender — as I’m sure you already very well know. But you should feel welcome in your church. You are welcome.”
Asked if I would be denied Holy Communion, he responded with this quote from Pope Francis, of whom he’s obviously a huge fan: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, it is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” It is not intended to be a reward for the perfect, and no person is, but it is a means to bring us closer to God.
In the Ukrainian church, the funeral is very gender-specific. When I asked how I will be referred to during my burial, I was told: “Well, after March 21, you will be Marni and we will call you a she.”
Finally, it was his turn to ask a question. “How can we, the church, support you and your family?”
I didn’t have an answer as I honestly didn’t expect the question. I paused, then cried. When I could, I said: “By you even asking the question, you are already supporting me in a most meaningful way.”
LifeSite News, meantime, adds this:
When LifeSiteNews contacted Bishop Motiuk to ask if Panas’ words about their meeting were accurate, his secretary Olga Nakonechny responded that because the conversation between the bishop and Panas was confidential, he “will not give any comments about the article.”
Panas also wrote that his parish priest has been supportive of his transitioning as well. Father Janko Herbut, pastor of Exaltation of the Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Parish where Panas attends services, did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ request for comment.
But a Ukrainian Catholic priest in the Edmonton Eparchy told LifeSiteNews under condition of anonymity that it is an “outright lie” that Fr. Janko Herbut supports Panas and his transition.
Photo: Twitter/Marni Panas