Stand in solidarity with and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in our quest for inclusion and justice, knowing that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table respecting the dignity of every human person
– 2013 Congregational Chapter
The 2013 Congregational Chapter commitment quoted above is what we have come to see manifest in the life of Catholic social teaching in action. In thinking deeply about what it means to be an ally and walk alongside folks in the LGBTQ + community, I am reminded of the vast healing a welcoming space can offer – a table to sit at completely bringing our whole selves as we are in our tragic brokenness and exceptional beauty. When we honor the dignity of the human person it is also to simultaneously experience a paradox of differences, while celebrating our oneness in that, knowing that this is how Jesus welcomed everyone to the table.
For many of us who experience the privilege of living our lives without the concerns of code-switching or leaving important parts of our identities unaccompanied, as supportive allies who make the commitment to stand in solidarity we must first address the divisive dichotomy LGBTQ+ Catholics face. Parker Breza, recent graduate of Benilde-St. Margaret’s school, said in an interview with National Catholic Reporter …
“When we’re in those Catholic churches and Catholic parishes, we’re not able to be our LGBTQ selves, and then when we’re in those LGBTQ spaces, we’re not able to be LGBTQ people of faith”.
Am I Catholic at school and only LGBTQ+ after hours? Is my teacher a safe person to tell? Why is my identity always up for debate in Religion class? This is the reality many of the youth expressed to be a consistent struggle. What continues to move me most is the longing the youth expressed to authentically embody both identities while still actively participating in the life of their church. This radiant flame was the burning center piece on the table I watched being set before me as the youth held a feast for everyone.
On May 16th, the LGBTQ+ Catholic Student Coalition hosted the first ever LGBTQ + Catholic Youth Summit. The event was hosted with the intent of creating a space in which LGBTQ+ individuals and people of faith could talk openly about their experience in an affirming faith community. Parker along with several high school students facilitated the day with a keynote address and various workshops on how to create safe spaces and understanding Catholic social teaching.
As the day commenced with a Catholic mass at the Edina Community Lutheran Church, these words permeated the room in a melodic song …
“God, we gather as your people to raise our song above, and we dare to claim the promise of Your love. Though the day may not yet be here, we trust it soon will be, when your children will be free. O, may our hearts and minds be opened, fling the church doors open wide. May there be room enough for everyone inside. For in God there is a welcome, in God we all belong. May that welcome be our song.”
Anchoring me in the significance of the day, this anthem supported a safe space in which we can all belong in the spirit of a welcoming and loving community.
Originally slated to be held at Christ the King, the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit would’ve taken place with doors wide open in a Catholic parish. Upon the chancery’s request, the event was moved to another location. In the National Catholic Reporter article linked above, Archbishop John Nienstedt is quoted having said,
“There are many venues in our free society to voice opposition to Church teachings regarding contentious social issues. But, the parishes of the Archdiocese are not the proper place where these specific activities are to be sponsored. We want all people, especially the young, to be valued, and Catholic social teaching is very clear that it is wrong for anyone to persecute or discriminate against another of God’s children for any reason.”
When I read the Archbishop’s statement above, I was enthused to learn he believes Catholic social teaching is an ethical model of solidarity. I think rather what is missing is this physical space that emphasizes the dignity of the human person to come as they are. From simply listening, I do know that for our Catholic LGBTQ+ community it is the unification of their segregated identities in their houses of worship. If our faith community is not a place in which we can respectfully debate, celebrate and wrestle with understanding our differences, then we consequently forfeit the sacred meaning of oneness. We should not be content breaking bread with the knowledge that our neighbor is not even invited to the table. I believe that leaves so many of us empty and aching for the fullness we know our church does offer; though the day may yet not be here.
“I need to make sure that other people don’t have to feel the same way I have—shut out by the church and isolated and alienated – because I know that the words of Jesus and the words of Scripture are wholeheartedly behind the idea of love, compassion and acceptance of all individuals and specifically for marginalized and disenfranchised groups, like the LGBTQ community”.
Parker’s words above couldn’t better summarize this image of a space we are working towards building.
This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate