Today’s scriptural reflection is from Michael Sennett, who is the Director of Communications at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill, MA. A 2018 graduate of Saint Xavier University, Michael is a trans man and enjoys hearing testimonies of queer spirituality. He actively pursues opportunities to serve and minister to his peers. In the future, Michael hopes to obtain a degree in theology.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.
Various degrees of relationality are displayed in today’s Gospel: the bond between Apostles, God’s connection to humans, and the rapport with hostile crowds. Relationships—with our families, friends, neighbors, God, significant others, even enemies—are fundamental in following Christ. And relationships require a certain level of vulnerability and trust.
Praying with this scripture presents a challenge for me. Instead of brimming with peace, rage surges throughout my body. Becoming aware of my clenched teeth and rapid pulse, I struggle to identify why my response was so intense. Finally, clarity hits me. In the Gospel, the evangelist Mark’s recounts how Jesus sent the Apostles out two by two to preach the Good News. But this account leaves me feeling naked because many people in the Catholic Church exploit the vulnerability of LGBTQ+ people and approach our relationships with utter abhorrence.
Recalling the ban on blessing same-gender couples released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) back in March is but one of the countless instances of affliction imposed on the LGBTQ+ community by the Catholic hierarchy. Although this was far from the first, or last, time queer relationships were invalidated, the statement induced a great deal of pain. Like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, LGBTQ+ Catholics are in a vulnerable position. Despite our trust in Jesus, we encounter a Church that does not always welcome or value us.
Folks were quick to point out the language in the document was nothing new—that the message has long been the position of the Church. Truthfully though, the language was not what troubled me. The sheer rejection and lack of compassion from Catholic leadership weighed as heavily as an anchor on my heart and mind. Why must they continue to assert exclusion? Just when our previous wounds are scabbing over enough to let our guard down, they inflict us again, bearing a striking resemblance to the cycle of abuse.
It is not only members of the hierarchy which harm, however. Clergy and even lay Catholics undervalue the importance of queer romance and sex. For example, a June 2021 America magazine article entitled “The church has models of non-sexual same-sex love. Why don’t more gay Catholics know about them?” hit me hard. The idea that LGBTQ+ people simply need friends is erroneous. Friendships are important. LGBTQ+ Catholics who practice celibacy are valid in their identities. But queer Catholics should not simply be resigned to platonic relationships if that is not their calling from God. LGBTQ+ Catholics deserve to experience the fullness of relationships just as their cisgender, heterosexual neighbors do. Church teaching needs to reflect this truth.
Embarrassingly, the possibility of marriage in the Catholic Church was a hope I held onto. This belief, perhaps naïve, sustained my hope for my future on the days I thought my existence should end. In the wake of the Vatican’s out of touch letter, New Ways Ministry and America were two of the sources that published responses from and for queer Catholics. Hearing other LGBTQ+ voices was comforting and aided in my coming to terms with the reality of the CDF document. In addition, affirming theologians, laity, women religious, and priests echoed their commitment to LGBTQ+ justice. Some clergy even publicly stated they would continue to bless queer unions. Pastoral responses such as these are powerfully effective in driving the demons away.
Jesus recognizes the vulnerability of his Apostles not as a sign of weakness, but as a testament to God’s love. LGBTQ+ Catholics encounter immense hostility, yet we remain faithful servants to the very Church that rejects us time and time again. Unwelcome and unheard, we courageously shake the dust off our feet in testimony against our enemies, in the hope for a better future of queer affirmation. Ordinary time calls us to extraordinary discipleship. In this, queer Catholics can lead the way.
—Michael Sennett, July 11, 2021