Small Synod Notes: Not All Gay This Time. (But Mostly Gay.)

Small Synod Notes: Not All Gay This Time. (But Mostly Gay.) October 20, 2014

* Obviously I’m disappointed that the language of sacrificial love and welcome couldn’t get a 2/3 vote.

* More disappointing, though, is that neither “side” sought to imagine vocations–a fruitful, sacrificially loving future–for gay people within the Catholic Church and in accordance with Her teaching. That’s just not anywhere in any document from the bishops. It’s the most important question and it’s still a blank.

(Do I want bishops to sit around imagining my life? Not necessarily. But I want them to know that loving–not refraining from expressing our love the wrong way–is the most important element of a gay Christian’s life.)

* You know who did a really good job of presenting Catholic doctrine with creativity and compassion? The Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Take a minute to order yourself a copy of Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.

* For a brief shining moment I felt real bad about how cynical I was about bishops in my book. “‘Asymptotically approaching empathy at the speed of a dying snail’–was that necessary?”

LOL. Ah well. We’re promised very little from our Church hierarchy and, to paraphrase Rocky Horror, we shall receive it–in abundance!

* The Synod as a whole is, I think, exposing some of the difficulties with trying to replace the papal-celebrity cult with a genuinely “first among equals” understanding of the papacy. I believe “synodality” or “first among equals” is the right understanding of papal authority, to the limited extent that I understand any of these issues; and also it’s super important for (as we pray) eventual reconciliation with the Orthodox. But the phrase is a contradiction in terms, and we’re seeing that contradiction on display as bishops tussle and mouth off to the press… and when they “lose” reminding us that the whole thing will eventually be resolved by Papa anyway, if it ever gets resolved this side of the general resurrection.

I don’t mind the mess (though see below for a caveat). Fightin’ and fussin’ is the normal way Christian doctrine gets worked out, and at least nobody’s gotten punched yet. But, perhaps especially in a 24-hr-news-cycle, globalized culture in which Rome is still the universal cynosure, synodality means more mouths against more mics, and that inevitably causes confusion. Then, to resolve the chaos, we end up relying on and shoring up the authority of the Pope.

Fr James Martin discusses this issue nicely in the first, third, and final points here.

* On a personal note. I’ve been unusually emotional at Mass the past couple of weeks. Some of that is probably my book coming out, just the usual author anxieties and halfhearted attempts at gratitude. Some of it is the slow-release change sobriety brings, as I asymptotically approach self-awareness at the speed of a dying snail: I’m still learning to as they say “feel my feelings” instead of coping with them.

And some of it is that I’ve been doing a lot of Gay Catholic Whatnot stuff, so I’ve been hearing about all the fear and longing and pain people bring to church with them. I’m increasingly aware of how important the Church as the Bride of Christ is in my own spirituality (more on this very soon) and how much that love of the Bride protects me emotionally when hierarchs are callous. But it’s easier for me to maintain that love because my experiences of Catholic communities have been basically positive and welcoming. That is luck on my part, and not particularly common luck. It’s awful to hear from people who are sincerely seeking to live as children of the Church, but who receive constant suspicion and rejection because of their sexuality or gender presentation.

So. When you talk about the Synod, please keep in mind that these aren’t “issues” for many of us, but intensely painful lived experience. I know if you’re reading this you probably already try to do that, but I think the 24-hr-news-cycle culture can get all of us overexcited. I know I’ve found myself babbling about theological abstractions of which I had no personal experience, but which smacked right down on bruises of my interlocutors. Don’t be that guy.

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