Through wounds, healing
Date: May 21 2002. SMH
Gay Catholics exist. In many ways, the gay and lesbian Catholics who
attended Mass in St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday wearing rainbow sashes
were simply making visible this hidden reality.
Just as clearly, Archbishop George Pell's refusal of communion makes
visible the hidden, sanctified oppression gay people face throughout
Gay people are active in every area of the church, increasingly with the
tacit support of their superiors and their communities, who are learning
that the old condemnations and stereotypes are based on prejudice and
The powerbrokers of the church remain intransigent, however, so
everything is kept discreet.
The hierarchy can continue to teach that homosexuals are objectively
disordered and oriented towards intrinsic evil, denounce their
lovemaking as grave depravity, and lobby governments to limit their
At the same time, the church benefits from their gifts, hard work and
commitment and depends on their silence.
This silence is becoming harder to police, as modern societies affirm
their gay citizens, and modern psychology, anthropology and biology
confirm that same-sex attraction is a natural part of the full spectrum
of human sexual diversity. Instead of opening the church to this good
news, the leaders appear fearful and confused.
Catholic sexual teaching is like a rambling, cracking old building, and
its foundations lie in a quagmire of ancient fear, misogyny, rejection
of the body and denial of pleasure. The structure is so unsound that a
threat to any part of it is perceived as a threat to the whole.
Therefore contraception must be repeatedly denounced, women kept away
from the altar, remarried people excluded and gay people silenced or
sacked. The shakier things get, and the more absurd and unjust they
become, the more fiercely the bishops stamp their crosiers.
They, too, are trapped in the deceptions and contradictions.
Yet change lies ahead, and it will not be denied.
Whatever may be the causes and the outcomes of the tragic sex-abuse
crisis shaking Catholicism, what is undeniable is that our church
desperately needs a conversation that has never taken place.
We need to engage in a radically honest, searching discussion around the
full spectrum of human sexual desire, expression and diversity.
It's time to let in some fresh air, commonsense, transparency and joy.
Gay people will have a crucial contribution to make, as will all whose
voices have been silenced, for among the marginalised the Spirit moves
with unexpected grace.
I have seen this grace in the lives of gay and lesbian people in our
attempts to build lives and communities out of the ashes of
condemnation, in our honest exploration of touch, intimacy and pleasure,
in our heroic care for the sick among us, in our unmasking of the
sanctified status quo.
Grace, too, is revealing that all our wounds have been wounds to the
body of Christ. Through those wounds, I dare to believe, healing may one
day flow into our faltering, heartbreaking church.
• Michael Kelly is the national spokesman for the Rainbow Sash