I was raised a Catholic by a mother who converted to Catholicism from being a Southern Baptist and a father who had always been a Catholic. I remember leaving elementary school every Wednesday to go to our parish school, St. Bernards, for religious education. The Catholic school kids were always walking home while we walk to their classrooms.
I remember my First Holy Communion, the whole thing, like it was yesterday, especially the photo in front of the crucifix outside the church. I also remember Confirmation, dressed in my red robe. I remember the Bishop slapping my face, which was to symbolize strength to face adversity, and was abolished after the Second Vatican Council because it didn’t help convey the true nature of the Sacrament, and is the assistance of the Holy Spirit to live affirmatively the Christian vocation in every circumstance of life.
I respectfully walked away from the Church for a number of years but when I returned I did so with a gusto. Full tilt! I attended prayer groups weekly, attend mass as often during the week as I could and never missed a Sunday. This was soon to be the beginning of a journey that lead me to me to Philadelphia and to be a LGBTQ rights advocate.
I spent many, many years in formation for the Priesthood, but God in his wisdom intervened, three months before ordination. I didn’t understand at the time that it was God’s intervention but I do now.
Today I am a Catholic in exile, waiting for the day I am welcomed back to the church I not just grew up in but grew to love.
So this week when the Vatican released a draft report from the synod of Bishops offering what seemed to be a more welcoming tone, writing that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and that some gay couples provide each other “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners,” I did a happy dance. The draft report was earth shaking. But the celebration didn’t last that long.
Yesterday, after an outcry from conservative bishops, the Vatican is now pulling back the welcome mat by changing some of the language in the original draft but only in the English translation form the original Italian.
According to the AP:
The first English version asked if the church was capable of “welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities.” The new version asks if the church is “capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing … them … a place of fellowship in our communities.”
The first version said homosexual unions can often constitute a “precious support in the life of the partners.” The new one says gay unions often constitute “valuable support in the life of these persons.”
Other changes were made in other sections of the text, but without significantly altering the meaning or tone.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said English-speaking bishops had requested the changes on the grounds that the first translation was hasty and error-ridden.
The Bishops are playing semantics with our lives and are terrified with the direction this Pope is leading the Church, who if you are Catholic, means he is being divinely guided by the Holy Spirit to lead.
The Roman Catholic Church is still not welcoming of LGBTQ peoples, but the majority of Catholics are.
The Church is being called to change and with that I believe it will. Perhaps not in my lifetime but it will surely change and Pope Francis knows this and with the grace of God he is leading this dysfunctional, damaged Church into a new era. One where LGBTQ individuals are welcomed and guaranteed fraternal space in the Church and see that our relationships constitute a precious support in the life of the partners.
I believe that the Pope is trying to swing the bow around and right the ship. Trust me regardless of your faith or religion this man needs our prayers for his strength, perseverance, and protection, for there are far too many of us in exile waiting to go home.