Sep17, CLE1.0

The last 2 weeks have been a painful time for Catholics in the CLE with the issuing of Diocese’s “Parish & School Policy on Issues of Sexuality and Gender Identity”. I was out of town on a retreat all week with limited phone and internet access, which probably was a good thing, since who knows what dumb stuff I might have done if I were here. I’m not happy about the situation either, but this is not the place for me to express how I feel. That may come later in CLE2.0. I don’t know at this point. I’m wandering and wondering too. We can’t pretend there is no hurting or anger happening here around us. How many have actually read the policy, or are  reacting to the publicized reactions of others? I don’t know.

Since the majority of folks on all sides affected by this are Catholic in one way or another, or Catholic-related, we need to deal with this from our Catholic roots and beliefs. We believe God is with us in everything. As a friend says, “God protects us from nothing, and sustains us in everything”. A worthwhile question is what is Jesus calling me/us to do in all this, a matter that impacts severely what likes to call itself his church? Certainly not insults, threats, rants, and that sort of thing. We might get some insight in today’s Scriptures and liturgy. In one of the Eucharist Prayers at Mass we pray, “Blessed indeed is your Son, present in our midst when we are gathered by his love, and when, as once for the disciples, so now for us, he opens the Scriptures and breaks the bread”. The Responsorial Psalm Verse for todays’s Mass says, “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion”. The Gospel Story ends with, “unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart”. Among our basic beliefs is that each of us on all sides of this issue is created in God’s image and reflects God in a way that no one else can. God loves each of us equally and uniquely. We need to look at this personally, not at what others are doing or not doing, but at ourselves, what we are doing or not doing, how we are thinking and feeling, where we are being led. We might try to learn why the policy was enacted. What is the goal of the folks who put it together? This is important, and we need to do it all in a prayerful and open manner.

Also, Pope Francis is trying to move the church to a synodal way of being church, where we all listen to each other. This means we take the time and effort to present our views and feelings in a spirit of trust in the Holy Spirit, and an openness to learning. Dialogue is essential. It’s easier to talk about somebody than with somebody. In that same Eucharistic Prayer we pray,  “Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labor and are burdened. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at his command. And may your Church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope”. Is this happening here? I don ’t know. I hope so. Many questions.

Forgiving does not mean overlooking the pain the policy has generated. Something this impactful needs to be responded to, but being rooted in prayer for openness, and with forgiveness and charity, without blaming. With all the pain and anger it is obvious that some sort of action needs to be taken. Chris Quinn of wrote yesterday “A masterclass in civil discourse by Cleveland Catholics”. This is good to hear and encouraging to keep going in the same attitude. All responses need to be somehow organized and rooted in the tenets of Catholic belief, as well as being respectful. How can I/we be kind, merciful, slow to anger, compassionate, while still expressing how I/we feel?

As an institution the Church can be self-serving and self-protecting. Jesus welcomed and reached out to everyone who was remotely open to him. The institution, however has over the centuries come up with many exclusionary rules, the kind that Jesus opposed in the religious institution of his day. Do we really need them? How many of these rules are  really of God and how many serve only to maintain good order in the institution and keep the people in line? Is that what is going on here? If we try to live by the Psalm verse and the Gospel Story, we have to move in the direction of forgiving the institution and the people who put this policy together. Jesus does not call us to angry recriminations. 

We might want to look at our pwn personal reactions and feelings. Common ones are anger and hurt. For many of us anger is power, while hurting is weakness. Why am I angry? Is it because for any number of reasons I don’t like what the policy said? “They can’t do this to me, I’ll show them!!!”. Do I/we feel hurt in some way? Why do we hurt? Do we see ourselves as victims? But we are not victims. Each of us on all sides is the presence of Christ in this situation. A worthwhile question: what is Jesus saying to me in this situation? Do I hurt because my children or those important to be are being hurt? Because my child might be journeying in a direction I don’t understand or like and I don’t know what to do or how to handle it? Or because people I know and love seem to be threatened, labeled, declared unwelcome? Did Jesus mean it when he lived his Father’s love and care with everybody he met? Why are some parts of the church who believe he founded them are rule-focused on keeping out persons who don’t fit established approved patterns?

Whatever we choose to do or not do needs to be based on prayer and openness to the Spirit guiding us and helping us know what we are called to do as disciples of Jesus in this moment. We need to remember that we are all good people trying to make the best of life that is often difficult and confusing, even unfair. None of us has all the answers, and in the the Spirit Jesus sends, we need to listen to and respect each other, and not hit each other over the head with laws and name calling, something which really can hurt. There is enough hurt, we don’t need to bring more. Just sayin . . .