Letter to a young gay Catholic

/ 9 March 2008

James Alison has written an enormously moving and thoughtful, faith-filled and whole, letter as a gay Catholic to a young gay Catholic. In doing so he gives eloquent voice to how I feel as a Catholic woman. Some excerpts follow, but the whole letter is a rare gift!

Like all cowards, when I was faced with the privilege of taking part in this communication my first reaction was to run away. For a privilege is a responsibility. And there is something particularly awesome about this privilege, since there is only One who can address you as “You” in such a way as to call your “I” into being without displacing you or bullying you. And that is Our Lord himself. And he won that ability by going through death so as to be able to speak you and me into being and give us both an “I” not run by death and its fear. There is nothing cheap about being able to talk to another as “you” in such a way that it calls into being.

When the teaching officials of our Church remember themselves – which is usually when they are on the defensive – they point out that what they call the “magisterium” can never be a substitute for conscience, but can only be a voice alongside your own, at the same level as your own, as subject to the breath of Our Lord as your own. A voice prompting you, counselling you, helping you to form your conscience, and never one drowning you out so that you take on its voice instead of going through the hard work of allowing yourself to be given your own.

. . .

What are you to do? You are still loyally at work, loving the project for which you were originally sent out. But communications have become seriously patchy. You can hear on the Radio the official pronouncements of the agency. You can read between the lines the ‘real’ meaning of what is being said, but you do not exist, you have no line of communication back to HQ, you are a no one. So, do you allow your anger and resentment at your treatment by the agency to cause you to give up working on the project for which you were originally called and trained? Or do you so love the project that you are prepared to love the agency which now hates you, confident that eventually, things will work out? Loving the agency when it loves you is easy enough, but loving it even through the time when it disowns you? Now there is the finger of God!

This is where I would urge you, as I urge myself, often with a fainting spirit, to see the privilege of what we have. Yes, there is a communication black-out with an HQ which can only talk about a “they” and never address “you”; yes, they either don’t know of our existence, or need plausible deniability for their own sakes, but meanwhile here, deep in enemy territory we can carry on building not just a wee little corner of something defensive, but the Catholic Church itself – the full thing, the whole whack. And curiously, with less interference from busybodies than would be the case if the lines of communication were up. So, do we dare to have our love stretched by building without approval, as we wait longingly for the day when some Berlin Wall comes down, and communication is restored? Can you take responsibility for that? Can you persevere?

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for the link.