“Sadly, when it comes to the issue of gender and sex-based oppression, the Church has yet to fully heed the cry of the poor.”
That was the message that Miguel Diaz offered to participants who gathered for an international assembly sponsored by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and DignityUSA earlier this summer in Chicago. Bondings 2.0 earlier reported on another talk, given by Father Bryan Massingale, at the same event. In this post, we summarize Diaz’ talk and also the presentation given by theologian Mary Hunt at DignityUSA’s 50th anniversary conference which followed the international gathering. The texts of Diaz’ talk and Hunt’s presentation were only recently posted online.
Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and professor at Loyola University Chicago, began his address by noting the development of liberation and contextual theologies, and, more specifically, the idea of a preferential option for the poor much emphasized by Pope Francis. But, Diaz pointed out, the voices of oppressed sexual and gender minorities have largely remained unaswered.
Diaz discussed that how we understand God and how God understands us are important factors in the discussion of sexuality. He concludesd with five suggestions for helping the church move forward and fully heed the cry of the poor. First is education as a necessary means not only of legal reform, but of social change. Second is the need to “build communal solidarity” with diverse groups in the church and in civil society, all aimed at advancing LGBTQ human rights. The third suggestion is to do this work of building solidarity in an ecumenical context, and the fourth is to do likewise an inter-religious contexts. The final solution is to engage leadership, in and outside of the church, who are invested in making people of faith part of human rights work. Diaz concluded with a theological reflection:
“While we wait for our dream to be realized, we will continue to witness to what our black Catholic brothers and sisters in the U.S. have characterized as an ‘uncommon faithfulness.’ Our uncommon faithfulness stems from our firm belief that in spite of the sexism and heterosexism that we have endured—all tied to the abuse of power—we remain proud, queer, and Catholic members of Christ’s body. As members of this universal body, we will continue to stand for the dignity of all LGBTQ+ persons worldwide. And we will continue to reject all forms of tribalism that privilege the experience of some baptized members of Christ’s body over that of others so that the Church can grow in its Spirit-led mission to become more truly ‘catholic,’ that is, inclusive of every people, tribe, and nation (Acts 2: 1-11).”
Mary Hunt, a theologian and the co-founder of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), examined three movements–past, present, and future–about Dignity’s gift to the world. Of the organization’s life to this point, Hunt said:
“Over fifty years, we can trace an unmistakable trajectory toward justice despite Dignity’s up and down history in relation to the institutional Roman Catholic Church. . .I daresay we have succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings. Speaking our collective truth, insisting on it has made us those who in some ecumenical coalitions are seen as ‘the Catholics.’ Our work is influencing opinion and public policy as good people seek common sense in the midst of madness. That Dignity is hosting this third meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics is proof that we are not alone, that we are part of an international Catholic Church, and it looks like the people in this room. Thanks be to God.”
Hunt turned to the present situation in which Dignity finds itself amid severe crises and scandals in the church. She comments of Dignity’s members now:
“The implosion of the institution means that we really are church now in ways we never anticipated. Be careful what you pray for as the old adage goes. We are the people to whom some look as those who try in fidelity to carry the weight of the Gospel. . .We and the nuns, and our colleagues in church reform and women-church groups, become more visible as the institutional church shrinks and shrivels because of its leaders’ brazen lies and brutal behavior toward one another and toward the rest of us. The frank fact is that many Catholics have jumped ship for good reason and are not looking back. Still, their babies get sick, their parents die, they lose their jobs, want to get married, and they have the many other life experiences that previous generations dealt with in their faith communities.”
In her conclusion, Hunt contemplated imaginatively of what Dignity might look like in 2069 for its one hundredth anniversary. Acknowledging folks present in Chicago would have little control over how future generations act, she remarked, “Still, I dream that our Dignity descendants and their endlessly varied friends might take our humble gift of speaking truth and use it to set the cosmos free to love abundantly.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 15, 2019