December 05, 2005

the human element

Michelle, Nathan & I discussed having a "blog day" today here at SRS around a common theme … the recent Vatican statement on gay seminarians and priests. I had grand visions of doing some serious research and pondering and coming up with a brilliantly logical piece that would shed some light on the justice issues involved. Instead, I find myself too close to the human elements at play.

As I was thinking about this post, I watched a TV drama. One of the characters was a young man who is struggling with his own sexual identity and with his relationship with his mother. Turns out his mother told him he was going to hell if he was gay, and so she sent him away to a camp to make him not be gay. To the teenager, this amounted to his mother telling him she did not love him as God created him. And so he was determined not to love her. An unhealthy scenario all around.

This fictional story is all too real I think in families across the globe. And in the drama of the recent Vatican statement, I think we are seeing it play out in the family that is our institutional Church.

I have been privileged to know a number of wonderful priests in my 33 years. And I suspect that a few of them, some of the brightest and most pastoral, are gay. Celibate, but gay. Working through my own vocation discernment process to become a Sister, I am in awe of the strength, courage, trust and faith it takes for anyone to answer Jesus' call. Come. Follow me. And I will make you fishers of people.

Thinking back to the fictional scenario between mother and son, how much harder would it be to continue to answer that call when it seems the Church is telling you in word and deed that it doesn't love you. That God made you "intrinsically disordered." That you are called to chastity, regardless of any vocational call. Ok you think, I will live chastely and I will also take the risk to answer this call to follow Jesus and serve God's people. Years go by. You embrace chastity and obedience. Day in and day out you serve Christ in others. And then the Vatican essentially tells you, thanks but no thanks. No recognition of sacrifice and service. Instead, the Vatican wants to make sure no others like you get in the door. You can stay, if you're quiet and behave, but we don't want any more of your kind. It probably feels a bit like the boy's mother telling him he's going to hell because he's gay.

Were I a priest, gay or straight, I'd probably be doing some serious thinking these days. "Should I stay or should I go" would be the soundtrack running through my head. I admire those who can stay. Who can be a witness. Who can continue to answer Jesus' call. But I also respect those who come to the prayerful conclusion that enough is enough and look for other ways to minister.

Back to the family analogy. It's not just the mother and the son. Vatican and priest. We are part of the picture too. We're not off the hook. After all, we are the body of Christ, the church. We can and should prayerfully consider this situation. Read the scriptures. Read the church position. Read the catechism. Reflect on our lived realities as God's people. Do what we can to foster open and honest dialogue in our own circles. Most importantly, I think we need to make a special effort to show our love and appreciation to our priests, gay or straight. It's easy to take them for granted at times, but is that any way to be a family?