A Catholic's Response to Pope Benedict XVI's Comments Regarding Marriage Equality

When Christ ministered to the Samaritan woman, he met her at the well, spoke with her, and listened to her. While the Canaanite woman begged at his feet, Christ listened and bore witness to her great faith. In reflecting on these two stories from the Gospel, I do not think it is a coincidence that Christ listened as a key element of his ministry.

It is in observing this that I find the Holy Father's recent comments regarding marriage equality so difficult to digest. His comments and those of Lucetta Scaraffia in her recent editorial for L'Osservatore Romano, lack the compassion and respect for human identity that is evident in the teachings of the Church. In writing this article, I am not asking the Holy Father or others to accept marriage equality. However, I am asking that when you speak about me, you do so with understanding and with respect for my humanity and dignity.

It is important for the Church's leaders to remember that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are not beings to be merely discarded with words, but rather have been and continue to be great contributors to the advancement of the human story.

This morning when I read Pope Benedict XVI's comments from his Friday address where he condemned efforts to achieve marriage equality, I couldn't help but reflect on my experience of watching Franz Joseph Haydn's Creation performed at Carnegie Hall that same evening. In his monumental work, Haydn reminds us of the harmony and peace that was evident upon the formation of the world. Haydn's masterwork calls to mind the absolute beauty of creation and of all that has been created in God's own image.

In considering this, it became clear to me that Pope Benedict XVI is not to blame for his comments regarding marriage equality. In fact, through his comments it is clear that the Pope has likely never met a committed same-sex couple. It is equally likely that the Pope has never spoken with the accomplished, graduated, married son or daughter of someone who has been raised by two fathers or mothers. Further, it seems rather evident that the Holy Father has never spoken with the parents of an LGBT child who has taken his or her life, because they felt as if hope itself had ceased.

With all due respect to the Holy Father and to Ms. Scaraffia, I will not allow hope to cease in either my own life or that of the LGBT community. Contrary to Ms. Scaraffia's derogatory use of the word "utopia," I embrace an image of Utopia that bears witness to the beautiful and error-free creative force of God. I long for and desire to stand among a utopian reality that allows peace, harmony, justice, and equality to prevail.

As a Catholic, I believe that this desire comes forth from my great love for Christ and my hope to live as Christlike as possible.

It is this image of Utopia that I reflected on the other night at a theater in New York City. Watching the most recent production of Bare, I was not quite sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the profound witness that the musical offers for Catholics and all people of faith seeking to understand the struggle that goes on in the heart and mind of LGBT young people. The musical explores the love that emerges between two teenage boys at a Catholic boarding school.

In a truly emotional exploration of love, forgiveness, and redemption, the story provides true insight into the meaning of love and faith. In one of the most powerful scenes, Peter cries out to the man he loved who took his life...

That the world should not forsake you
That the world should love you well
You and I were meant to be
I wish I could have made you see
That in you God was very pleased...

The love that was evident between Peter and Jason in Bare is not an anomaly, is not ugly, and is not different. Rather, their love is beautiful and transcends the limits placed on same-sex relationships by the Pope and Ms. Scaraffia with their respective comments.

To argue that same-sex relationships somehow "threaten" humanity is in itself a great injustice against those created in the imago dei.

Gay people are not, in the words of the Pope, seeking to destroy the "essence of the human creature," but rather we are seeking to help humanity witness the fullness and diversity of creation.

As Christmas approaches and we prepare for the Feast of the Nativity, the time has come for the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to meet with LGBT people. We can no longer accept a monologue on an issue that demands a dialogue. LGBT people of faith and the whole of humanity deserve an embodied theology on human identity that listens to and discerns the stories of LGBT people. It is impossible to have a theology that claims its foundation in truth without accepting the truth of the lived experience -- a reality that even Christ recognized in his earthly ministry.

We must embark, as a Church and as a global people, on an ascent to truth so as to come to witness the fullness of God's creative force and the beauty that it contains. In fact, I would agree with these words from the Pope's remarks yesterday: "When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God." We can no longer force LGBT people to deny their God-given identity, instead we must guarantee the absolute dignity of all people. If we fail to witness the Christ who is within LGBT people, there may come a day when we are no longer able to see the face of God; on that day, all hope will cease.

Photo via Flickr user redroofmontreal, Creative Commons

Comments (8)

I read this absolutely astounded by the clarity of thought and discovery of realization you've expressed here. The concept of "symbiosis" came to mind, as you expressed the need for acceptance of all of God's creations, regardless of their sexual orientation. I am in total awe of the insight that you've obviously been given, which could only be directly from the Lord our God. I agree with you, totally, here. I am not Catholic, but I have understood and absorbed every word you've said. Thank you for sharing this. I hope more and more people will take the time to read these timely words of faith and love for all of God's children. God bless and keep you always!

My dear Holiness, I consider myself to be a very loyal follower of our lord, but I must respond to your continuing misleading of the church to it's followers. You have the nerve to say we are immoral and are sinners - what do you call your priest that molest and re-molest children - heroes? You my sir are misleading the church and you should be repenting and asking for forgiveness from the lord for trying to ruin good people's names and families..you are wrong in doing this and maybe the church needs to question itself before criticizing it's followers.

Holy Father? Please!
The start of Catholicism's problems begins with placing the Pope on this elevated platform whereby he is perceived as somehow other than his flock. He isn't as is so plainly born out in his disregard for the consequences his prejudicial comments might have for the gay and lesbian members of the Catholic community.
It really is time for true believers to either reform the Catholic church or for them to leave that Church in the dustbin of history.

This is beautiful. So many of our Catholic leaders need to read this. This is the Catholic Church that I was raised in.

Thank you, Joseph, for your heartfelt words of Good News.

As a straight ally (Episcopal flavor) I do not understand why you are NOT advocating for marriage equality, however--before the law as well as before God. If what you say is true--and I believe it is--then there is no reason why a committed marriage between two people should not be blessed by the church as well as sanctioned by the state.

Thank you again for your words of gentle prophecy.

Stop elevating this man...he perpetuate hatred to LGBT persons, forbids woman leadership roles w/in the church. He hides, and shuffles pediphiles, throughout the world only to continue abusing young people. His Bishops are lame and do not speak for the people they are supposed to serve and they Do Not represent Christ nor is the pope a vicar as he would not be able to wear the same sandles that Jesus wore...enough is enough! speak loud and proud and make our voices heard. allies, LGBT and anyone who feels discriminated by the unholy rc church should stop attending and stop tithing...when it hurts the pocketbook we will see changes....if not, we will make change!

We, as church, are being purified.The words of an elderly pope, good man as he may be, were formed in another time another world. What is remarkable is that the church is preparing another generation, with an openness that was not possible.I am 63 years old and a priest. I have seen the world move from "The love that dear not speak it's name" to Gay Marriage by popular vote.It is true that the Church always lags and struggles. Determining the will of God is never easy. I believe we are getting there., I have hope

Is there such a thing as good old fashioned 'temptation' ?

If so what is it ?
was'nt Jesus tempted and francis de sales gave us the method for combatting it.....

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