If you are LGBTQI and Catholic, you hold incredible power.
That’s the message of Christopher Pett, DignityUSA’s president, in “The Ultimate Rebels: Queer Catholics,” a recent op-ed on Advocate.com, the leading U.S. LGBT news magazine website. In Pett’s words:
“If you are an LGBTQI Catholic, you are a movement.”
Pett explains that the reason he can make such a bold statement because:
“Whether you know it or not, just by being fully and openly LGBTQ or I and Catholic, you are part of a long and vital effort to effect change in the largest, most powerful institution on the planet. Each of us is a movement.”
“Each time you embrace your sexual orientation or gender identity and your Catholic faith, you challenge the church’s stance that there is an inherent conflict between these aspects of your selfhood.
“Each day that you live in loving relationship, in a respectful, sexually intimate relationship, you are resisting the power of this institution.
“Each time you offer your Catholic family members, friends, colleagues, and fellow worshippers the opportunity to embrace your true self, you hasten the day when the false dogma too long promulgated by the Vatican and church officials across the globe finally crumbles.”
Pett, of course, is right. Individual people have a lot of power, especially if they are standing up for an issue of justice. Because they may feel alone or isolated in their justice work, they may not recognize the power they have, sometimes even feeling that they are not doing any good at all. While that perception is understandable, it is wrong. I’m reminded of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous quote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Real change in an institution has always come from the grassroots. The movement for justice rarely comes from the top levels of an organization which is usually concerned more about self-preservation than about change.
I’ve been involved in the LGBT Catholic movement for almost 30 years, and my heroes have always been the people at the grassroots who are making changes in their parishes, schools, communities, and families. Their witness as LGBTQI Catholic people and allies is doing an amazing amount of good, changing hearts and minds. Although change at the top of the Catholic Church is small and slow, change in the pews is happening rapidly because of the personal witness of countless LGBTQI Catholics, who, by their simple presence make themselves bridges between the Catholic and LGBTQI communities. And then there are all the pastoral ministers, parents, teachers, family members, and friends who also perform bridge-building roles by their solidarity with LGBTQI Catholics.
I feel privileged and blessed to be in the position that I am where I can see so much good happening in the Catholic Church in regard to LGBTQI people. I get to meet and see people in the pews and at middle-management levels in the Church who are paving new roads of dialogue and advocacy. Unfortunately, those same people don’t have the same opportunity to see how many others are doing good work, and so they feel alone and isolated. But, they are not. They are actually very powerfully effective.
No person is an island. No one individual or even a group can bring about the change that is needed for LGBTQI justice and equality to thrive in the Catholic Church. But the combined efforts of so many individuals and groups, are, in fact a strong wind blowing in the Church. Like the wind, the movement is mostly invisible, but it is evident by the amazing change that it causes in the world. That change is real, important, and cannot be undone. That change is the hand of God slowly sculpting the church the reflects God’s reign.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 29, 2018