Queerness Must Be “Essential Component of the Synodal Journey,” Argues Gay Theologian

Ish Ruiz

A gay theologian has argued that queerness and queer theology must be “an essential component of the synodal journey” ahead of the Synod on Synodality’s first global assembly this October.

Ish Ruiz, a teaching fellow in theology at Emory University, made his argument on the “Go, Rebuild My House” blog, an outlet hosted by Sacred Heart University, Connecticut. References to queer theology are usually specific to LGBTQ+ issues, but Ruiz also contends:

“[Q]ueer theology seeks to disrupt, to challenge, to transgress dominant oppressive norms. . .Is there a place for such a destabilizing transgressive project in a synodal Church that, as Pope Francis envisions, emphasizes unity and togetherness in the journey as a People of God? Would queer theology present an antithesis to that synodal vision?

“In response, I argue that queerness should be an essential component of the synodal journey.”

Queerness, to Ruiz, actually helps transform a problem in the church where reforms run up against intransigent church leaders’ dated thinking. Instead queer theology asks questions like “What religious norms do we subscribe to and how was the knowledge that sustains them produced?” and “Who is oppressed by those norms?” He continues:

“To make my proposal more concrete—though well intentioned, synodality could fall prey to a bishop who, while singing praises for the synodal journey, continues to fiercely cling to ‘old wine’ ideas of gender and sexuality that ultimately oppress the LGBTQ+ Catholics that synodality hopes to welcome (as evidenced in the majority of synod continental reports throughout the world). Thus, synodality becomes ineffective and self-defeating. Assuming that this bishop is rational and well intentioned (generous as that may be in some cases), it’s obvious that he may not have opened himself up to challenge on matters of sexual normativity. Perhaps he cannot even imagine that such norms can be credibly challenged. Therefore, a genuine spirit of synodality, for this bishop, would make use of a queer methodology that challenges any previously unnoticed oppressive norms still operating underneath the surface of his synodal path.”

Ruiz’s intersecting of queerness and the church is not unidirectional. Indeed, queer theology needs synodality because “synodality helps queerness stay close to the ground and connected to the historical experiences of people.” He rightly notes that, “Challenging norms for the sake of challenging norms is dangerous” because “queer project that loses sight of human experiences, historical oppression, the importance of community and a justice-oriented vision of the future could cause serious harm.”

Ruiz ends on a hopeful note by citing Pope Francis’ letter to the new head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), Cardinal-designate Victor Manuel Fernandez, in which the pope criticized the dicastery’s previous, oppressive methods. Ruiz concludes:

“I am cautiously optimistic that such vision would help the DDF open itself up to the movement of the Spirit manifested in queer transgressions rather than seek to rigidly preserve established norms that clearly threaten the dignity of many queer Catholics. Catholic leaders, and the Church as a whole, could significantly benefit from the insights and the challenges presented by queer Catholic theology.”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 28, 2023

4 replies
  1. Lou Csabay
    Lou Csabay says:

    I object to the use of “queer” in any reference to me as a gay man. The ridiculous concept of “turning the term against the oppressor” by using it to describe elements of our LGBTQ+ community is not only offensive but dangerous. Would one adopt the “N” word to describe an element of black culture? The term not only sets us apart in a negative manner from the greater society, it invites a greater alienation for youth and those who otherwise strive to be accepted and welcome.

  2. Thomas Deely
    Thomas Deely says:

    Instead of quoting what I have often said in my comments here I cite and experience I had in Santo Domingo back in the 80ties when I worked with our candidates for Redemptorist religious life/and/or priesthood. Friends of ours, Colombians who were teachers at the Javierana University in Bogotá gave us all a short conference on growth and human relations. What most stuck with me was what they said about the IMPORTANCE OF LIVING DILEMMAS. Nowadays many both within the LGBTQ communities and our allies live dilemmas. This is so very important for any kind of human growth. a dilemma as I´ve come to understand it is a situation that arises for you and me…for US before which what we´ve have learned and taught to believe cannot deal with the NEW INFORMATION that dilemmas bring us. So we can do two things. 1st We can either ignore or reject the new information or we can accept it, and in this happy case…WE GROW. If not, as sadly happens with many in today´s world we simply lock into our old positions,ignore any new information or questions. Then, sadly, we don´t grow. LONG LIVE DILEMMAS!!


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