Benedict XVI’s unexpected abdication as Pope and Bishop of Rome doesn’t mean much for LGBTQ civil and human rights. His successor won’t change the Catholic Church’s official position toward LGBTQ people and families.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, for example, a top tier contender to be the next Pope, has defended anti-gay laws or proposed legislation in African nations because they’re based on culture and tradition. In the off chance he is elected and maintains homophobic rhetoric harsher than his predecessor, it will not bode well for the Church. Even Catholic conservatives will wince at such extreme comments.
Historically, leaders of organized religion have been suspicious of change, even if it includes social justice. Change disrupts the status-quo and such disruption can alter an existing power structure. Religious leaders supported or were indifferent to slavery and serfdom. Many opposed giving women the right to vote. Colonialism was wrongly justified in the name of God and civilizing the inhabitants.
Jesus, a practicing Jew, was crucified more than 2000 years ago because he called on people to love more, judge less and do a better job looking out for one another. By his example and the growing number of admirers, he threatened the high priests who were politically entrenched, lived comfortably and enjoyed the widespread respect such power brings. Jesus ignored them to pursue his ministry.
Although religious institutions are reluctant to change, LGBTQ people, and many straight people of faith, still have choices. They can choose like Jesus, not to be dependent on the approval or affirmation of religious leaders and hierarchies.
Church leaders are out of touch. Traditional church worship is leaving many unfulfilled. Hence, people regardless of politics, party affiliation, or self-identified religion, no longer find the current organizational structures around faith relevant, yet they still hunger for something spiritual or faith-based. There needs to be a new way to share and explore sacred teachings and timeless wisdom, often misused and misunderstood by those in positions of religious authority.
Conservative and progressive Christian churches are closing. Membership continues to drop in many North American Christian denominations. Some have argued society is moving toward a post-Christian period. This is incorrect. People are tired of phony religious hierarchies, not the overall Christian faith.
In my travels, I recommend to straight and LGBTQ families to designate at least one day a month to hold a communal meal in their homes with friends, family and acquaintances. It is informal, yet structured and reverential, which may include Eucharist. A communal chalice for wine or grape juice and the blessing of a small loaf of bread everyone shares during the meal are among the many options. Sacred readings whether poems, prayers, or scriptural verses can be added.
The most important part of any mass or liturgy is the Eucharist supper. The Lord’s Table doesn’t belong to religious leaders of any denomination. It belongs to Jesus, who welcomed everyone to it for love, fellowship and community. It’s what occurred in the early church before there were priests. Women sometimes led these suppers.
Roman Emperor Constantine politicized Christianity by making it the state religion. In doing so, he enabled priests to become princes of the church more concerned about status and ceremony than putting the teachings of Jesus into practice. LGBTQ Christians have options to empower themselves as Catholics. The spiritual life is very personal and comes from within, not from men with titles.
*Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. He recently authored “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis – Learn to Live and Work Ethically,” and is founder of www.CorporateChaplaincy.biz.