“We, the women and men of the church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.” Pope Francis
Welcome words of love and acceptance.
Not so the words and actions of Cardinal Tim Dolan who shut of the doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the faces of LGBT Catholics and their supporters on Sunday, May 5.
Leading a silent—but eloquent—protest in New York in response to the Cardinal’s recent likening of LGBT Catholics to “dirty hands” that needed to be washed clean, Joseph Amodeo describes what happened when the group tried to quietly enter the Cathedral with symbolically charcoal-blackened palms:
We were greeted by four police cars, a captain, and eight uniformed officers. We were informed by the NYPD’s LGBT liaison that the Archdiocese was prohibiting us from entering the Cathedral, because of our dirty hands. When we tried to enter the Cathedral, security advised us that we could not enter. The representative for the Cathedral said that we could only enter the church if we washed our hands. I truly believe that Christ would have welcomed and embraced us. Instead, we stood vigil in front of the Cathedral for an hour. The Archdiocese’s response further reinforces the feeling of spiritual homelessness that many LGBT Catholics and their friends feel.
There was no word on whether the Cardinal refused others with truly dirty hands entry to the church. Whether the NYPD was called in to bar entry to every Wall Street banker, every politician and every businessman or woman whose hands are stained with the blood and suffering of those who have been sent off to fight illegal wars, been put out of their homes through dishonest mortgage and re-financing practices, been made to work under exploitative labor practices, been denied help to feed their families. Are we to conclude that “whited sepulchers” are more welcome in the church than people whose God-given sexuality makes some clerics act in ways that Jesus would have denounced?
Spiritual Homelessness and Estrangement
How, if the church is a love story, and if each of us is a “link in this chain of love,” is this kind of rejection possible? How long will Pope Francis let this managing of the church as if it were a fiefdom, this posting of guards at the gate, continue?
Why, if we are indeed all links in this chain of love, are women and LGBT Catholics made to feel like the weakest links; unworthy of equality and respect in the church?
What about these passages from the Gospels do the Bishops not understand?
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. – Matthew 23:13
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. – Luke 11: 37-41
Offer a Weather Ball
The world that multi-cultural Zen priest, mediator and community organizer from Hawaii, Puanani Burgess envisions as she talks about “Building the Beloved Community” is filled with stories of her children and grandchildren, her husband and other family members and neighbors from her beloved rural Wai`anae. We hear about little Poha who remained disappointingly unmoved by the cows and horses and other sights and sounds of his neighborhood as his grandmother walked him around, pointing them out– until she bent down and realized that at his level, he was not seeing much beyond the long grass. Lifted up on her shoulders, he squealed in delight at the world now visible to him.
Seeing what others see. Feeling what they feel. That too was the lesson of the “weather ball.” This is a small squeezable ball that Puanani offers anyone who comes looking for advice or wanting to talk. “Tell me what the weather is like inside you,” she asks, before they even begin talking about the issue at hand.
Cardinal Dolan. Bishops. Pope Francis: Offer women a weather ball. Offer LGBT Catholics a weather ball. Ask what the weather is like inside us, where our deepest hopes and fears, our longings and our love resides. And ask of each of us, as the very wise and attentive Puanani Burgess asks: what is your gift? Because we come bearing many, ready to share. Why would a church that is a love story, a chain of love, belittle us or turn us away?
“Special” but not Equal?
Before Pope Francis tells women once again that they are “special” or reaffirms the actions taken to investigate women religious, he might try following the example of Poha’s grandmother. The Pope has named a new advisory panel to help him with some much needed spring-cleaning of the Vatican. That’s the good news. The bad news is the panel is entirely drawn from the very group whose activities need to be cleaned up.
The panel made up of eight cardinals—all men, of course—will pronounce on women’s reproductive rights and obligations among other things without the benefit of counsel from any women in their midst. They will tell women how they should behave, what they should think and how they should discern the lessons of faith and keep serving a church that regards them as “special”—just not equal.
All this without once asking women to tell them what the weather is like inside their hearts and minds and the core of their being.
Without asking us what gifts we bring.
Dawn Morais Webster was born in Kerala. She is the mother of two young adults, and wife of a man with Quaker and Episcopalian roots. She was raised Catholic in largely Muslim, cosmopolitan Malaysia and had her schooling with Franciscan nuns who remain an inspiration. Her blog at http://freecatholic808 is a small voice–but she believes she is part of a much larger community of faith-filled dissenters. Hawaii has been her home for more than a decade. The islands’ mindfulness of its past and the wisdom of those who have gone before, as well as its attention to place and people, help the soul to sing.