Gatekeepers Should Consider If They Are Fighting Against God

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

12 replies
  1. DON SIEGAL
    DON SIEGAL says:

    Gatekeepers

    In reading the lections for today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, this group of words from the gospel jumped out to me: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16 NRSV).

    Who do you believe that those sheep may be?

    Reply
    • Michaelangelo Allocca
      Michaelangelo Allocca says:

      I suspect, and many scripture scholars agree, that this and similar statements in John’s gospel are Jesus stating his intention to bring his message not only to his fellow Jews, but also to (following the order illustrated in Acts) the Samaritans, and then to Gentiles.

      Reply
  2. James G.
    James G. says:

    Those gatekeepers are guarding a treasure and will continue fighting us until the day it disappears. That treasure, in their view, is the church teaching on gay sex found in paragraphs 23557, 2358, and 2359 of the Catholic Catechism. That is where our love as physically expressed is denounced as “grave depravity,” is said to be “contrary to natural law,” and “closed to the gift of life.” It is where we ourselves are called “intrinsically disordered and said to suffer from a “condition,” and where we are “called to chastity.”

    As long as that language is there, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its army of conservative bishops will claim that they are defending the “church’s teaching.” They are right about that. They are defending what the church teaches, and doing that is in their job description. The fact that the teaching agrees with their personal prejudices is beside the point.

    As long as those words about us are in that Catechism, there will be no Rome-approved blessings, no marriages, and no real acceptance. We will continue to be patronized as “persons called to fulfill God’s will” by living lives devoid of sexual acts because “under no circumstances can they be approved” (2358), even when those acts proceed from deep love. Don’t waste time and energy fighting the bishops. Focus on expunging that language from the teachings of the Church. Only then will the “gatekeepers” leave us alone.

    Reply
  3. Sally Bell Biggs
    Sally Bell Biggs says:

    The dad who raised me was a Presbyterian minister and I was at the church several times a week.
    As an adult, I cannot be a part of organized religion, because I have a knowing in my soul, that God is nothing but everything of love, light and acceptance. I can not and will not relate to judgment from human beings, nor religious organizations.
    I am so sorry you can never feel fully welcomed in your favorite house of worship.
    My house of worship is nature, and simply loving others.
    ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

    Reply

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