What You Can’t Do

America blog In All Things has a good interview with a longtime Catholic blogger Eve Tushnet. Is she one of the few still blogging? Maybe. She seems to keep up a good pace at Patheos after having trailed off from three-plus posts a day in 2002 to about a post a day before her original blog moved a decade later. I always thought she was one of the better writers from the Right, even if I didn’t always get her ideological stand on some things.

Anyway, she takes the Church to task on a valuable point:

I mean, it often is unwelcoming, right? The first thing to say is that a lot of the criticism the Catholic Church receives for treatment of her gay members is true.

But depending on where the person is coming from, we can talk about more positive stuff too. I think a lot of people have only heard some church leaders give a list of things you can’t do if you’re gay and offer some weak explanations of why you can’t do them. That leaves the question of “what can I do as a gay Christian” completely blank.

I think the institution correctly and incorrectly has fault laid at its feet here.

Correct in that some people, by virtue of their personal categories, are not explicitly welcomed in parishes. That varies from place to place. College students are welcomed at my parish, for example. But not welcomed in every regular parish. Sometimes it’s a negativa thing. People aren’t welcomed because they’re unmarried, they have kids, they are young or old, they are of a different ethnic background than the flock–things like that.

Incorrect in that each individual is responsible for her or his own discernment, and then moving on it. I’m not sure every SSA Catholic has a mission to other SSA people. Most probably sing, teach, administrate, visit, console, bake, type, webhost, feed, and do other things. I’m a skeptic on the thought that just because, for example, one of our students is Indonesian she will be the natural person to lead the Catholic Indonesian student group. Maybe her gifts lie in other areas, and she would prefer to serve as a lector or a catechist or on service trips.

But correct in that the institutional church, including parish administration, is altogether too used to dealing with people in shalt-nots. If you’re not married you can’t have sex. If you’re female you can’t be a priest. If you’re a lay person you can’t anoint the sick. If you’re a deacon you can’t hear confessions. If you support LCWR, you can’t be a faithful Catholic.

What is really required is to end the statement of these distinctions, even if they are ontologically true. Why? Because for believers to be most fulfilled, what is required is the guidance and direction to suggest to people that they could be and do something. And that something is tailored to the individual gifts and graces that spring from a faithful life in Christ. That’s hard. But that’s all.

If you think it’s all wrong, the shalt-nots and the lumping people into groups, the only solution I see is to work against the stream where you are. It’s not a matter of conquering the bad, but just move against it where you find yourself sitting, standing, talking, and otherwise engaged in church things.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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