Today’s reflection is by Michaelangelo Allocca, whose brief bio can be found by clicking here.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.
As LGBTQ Catholics, we spend a lot of time wondering and praying about, “Just what is our role in this Church we love so much, to which so many of us give so much, and which nevertheless seems to go out of its way to constantly remind us that it will never really accept, never mind welcome, our presence?”
The good news (for me, anyway) is that today’s scriptures suggest a rather surprising analogy: we are like Peter and his fellow apostles in the first years of the Church.
How did I arrive at this parallel? It began with Peter’s observation in today’s reading from Acts, that “we are being examined today about a good deed.”
The “good deed” Peter means was described in the previous chapter of Acts: in the name of Jesus, he healed a beggar byrestoring his ability to walk. Since the Jerusalem religious authorities had already ordered the apostles to stop preaching about Jesus and performing miracles in his name, they had been hauled into court as a result, and this is where we find them in today’s reading.
So Peter is saying, “we’ve performed a miracle; you’re not contesting the fact of the miracle we performed. (A few verses later, members of the Sanhedrin “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign was done through them, and we cannot deny it.”) Instead, you want to punish us because you don’t like the way we performed it — in the name of Jesus.”
This attack on Peter precisely fits the way the guardians of orthodoxy had behaved towards Jesus himself. Look at any gospel story where he heals somebody, and the Pharisees, scribes, elders, etc, attack him for doing it on the Sabbath, or for “casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons.” They do not explicitly deny (they can’t, since there are too many witnesses) the miracle performed, and yet they still insist it cannot have really been performed, because it violates their rule-book.
That’s when I noticed how well it also describes us LGBTQ Catholics, and how we are treated by today’s analogs of the gatekeepers who opposed Jesus and the apostles. What miracles do we perform? We choose to form stable, committed loving relationships and raise children in them, defying the homophobic stereotypes of hedonism and promiscuity. More infuriatingly miraculous, we want this Church to both baptize and welcome these children, and to bless these relationships. Another miracle is that some of us live openly in the gender God with which God has blessed us. Further, we have the audacity to remain in the Church of our baptism despite its every effort to make us feel unwelcome. But just like the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees, the Church responds all too frequently, “No, that can’t be a real miracle: you’re not doing it our way.”
If you want to relieve the frustration caused by our treatment, continue reading the chapter of Acts that follows today’s reading. As the apostles continue living out their gospel commission, and the religious authorities continue opposing them, one member of the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel is bold enough to ask them to give it a little more thought. In Acts 5:34-39, he explains to his colleagues that if they are right in thinking that Jesus was an impostor and that the apostles have no authority if they follow him, then the movement will wither and disappear of its own accord, as with the case of two recent pseudo-Messiahs he describes.
But if the Sanhedrin are wrong and the apostles are right, Gamaliel tells his colleagues they may discover that they are “fighting against God himself.” (5:39) His colleagues were convinced and released the apostles. Defenders of orthodoxy and power do not allow for even the possibility that they might be wrong, so even though the persecution was not permanently abandoned, it is still impressive that Gamaliel even managed to make his colleagues pause.
After processing the initial grief, amazement, anger, and assorted other feelings provoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ruling against blessings for same-sex couples, something else really got my attention: we have our apostles and our Sanhedrin, but we may also have our Gamaliels. As a lifelong Catholic who has paid attention to matters of the Church for decades, I can recall many acts or statements from the Vatican that were not well received by many of the faithful. I cannot, however, recall one which was so quickly answered with so much open skepticism or even outright rejection, including by some bishops and archbishops, as this one received. (For some examples, see Bondings 2.0’s previous reporting on reactions by clicking here.)
As in the time of the apostles, the gatekeepers have been told plainly that if they continue on their course, they may find they are fighting God himself. In the name of Jesus and for the good of all God’s children, let us pray that they listen.
—Michaelangelo Allocca, April 25, 2021