Category Archives: queerying catholicism

que siga viviendo la guadalupana

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que siga viviendo la guadalupana

(Title translation:  May la Guadalupana continue to live on)

In honor of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, la morenita del Tepeyac, I wanted to share a reflection I wrote 3 years ago that continues to speak to me today…may it provide new insights as it did for me today.  ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

As a person with both indigenous and Spanish roots, my encounter with Lupita, this dark haired and brown skinned woman, has been transformative, healing, and wholizing as it was the first time that the divine manifested herself in an image that was and is like me.

Through the story of La Guadalupana, honor and affirmation have been brought to my raices and my lucha. She appears as a marginalized person—she appears as one of the people. For a long time I struggled with the story of Juan Diego and La Virgen de Guadalupe due to the idea that its only importance in history was the conversion of the indigenous people—a belief system brought and imposed by the Spanish and other Europeans. However, as I grappled with the image, the story, its place in history, its place in my faith journey, I came to understand that what happened in Mejico more than 500 years ago was a moment in which the sacred, the mysterious, the divine came near—a moment in which G-d revealed G-dself in a way that Juan Diego and later myself could understand, embrace, and identify with. On that day, my messiness, my identity, who I am as a person who lives a lucha beyond the norm, was also lifted up.

Not only is the tilma on which the image of Mary is preserved and revered an important part of the story, but also the messenger Juan Diego, a simple indigenous farmer on an errand early in the morning, who was chosen to share a prophetic message to the church and to the world: G-d is with us in the struggle. He, like La Guadalupana herself, is a reminder that the call to holiness is not limited to any one group but is an invitation and challenge open to all people, period.

La Virgen is a source of hope and healing in a world that is divided by ethnic, religious, racial, and genderized “us vs them.” She is a reminder that the divine belongs to all people of all colors, sizes, genders, races, belief systems. The story we commemorate today lifts up women and all those on the margin. By remembering Guadalupe, we also re-member the dignity and worth of all people on the fringes of church and society.

Through this story and image, I came to know un DIOS with many names, faces, and bodies—a G-d of and in la lucha … un DIOS who is different and unico…who is spicy, colorful, quirky, and transcends gender norms…who understands Spanglish, who likes black beans and rice with a fried egg and banana, who can dance salsa and cumbia…who founds joy at widening the circle of familia, who enjoys a good rant about social justice issues, who finds time to laugh and be silly…a G-d who inhabits those in-between spaces of identity and expression.

A prayer for today (from Yale Divinity Latin@ Association’s 2009 Chapel Service honoring La Guadalupana and all women):

Santos DIOS,  Bless us as we gather together today to celebrate Mary of Nazareth, the mujer from the barrio. Lift up our hearts today as we remember her manifestation to the indigenous man Juan Diego of Mejico in 1531, and the special relationship she continues to have with the peoples of the Americas.  In honoring her, we honor and lift up all women who are in la lucha In this space, we gather to remember profetizas Latina who like Maria de Nazaret took charge of their lives, lived out a daily yes by embracing the messiness of GOD’s unfolding revolutionary plan with all its joy and frustration.  In our commemorating of La morenita del Tipeyac, we commemorate the dwelling and expression of GOD in all people, black, brown, red, yellow, white … all colors, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities.  United with La Guadalupana and all blessed women in la lucha,  Maternally guide our hearts and prayers to live a prophetic life…to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, lives, in our lucha. Amen.

The artwork is not my own but gathered through various internet searches attempting to find  diverse representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe…many come from chicana artists like Alma Lopez and Yolanda Lopez, some are a little scandalous, some redefine tradition, all of them queery.   Each artist infuses into the image a new way of relating to Guadalupe and a new way Guadalupe can relate to us. Enjoy…

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are queer relationships compatible with church teaching?

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are queer relationships compatible with church teaching?

Second post for Queering Catholicism

According to the catechism, sexuality in relationship is defined and guided by the following:

Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament…Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such…The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure: The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit…Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment…The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family…The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity. (2360-2363)

There are several scholars who believe that the full expression of same-sex love and pleasure within a personal, mutual relationship is entirely compatible with the Church’s teaching of marriage and sexuality. Many argue that sexuality is a gift from God and when expressed in a personal, mutual relationship it is therefore natural and accepted. Hence, TQBLG individuals believe that their sexuality is “created, sustained, and blessed by God” (Yip, 1997b, p. 172). If God is love, why would God be less present in the love of a queer couple than a heterosexual couple?   Many queer couples firmly believe that achieving a Christian partnership based on Christian values is achievable—their relationships are based on mutual love, mutual sharing, faithfulness, mutual commitment to pleasure…mutuality in its various forms and expressions.

On a personal note, my beloved and I have accepted the teaching of the Church and embodied it in our relationship. Our relationship (and those of countless others) is based on the idea of sexuality that the Catechism expresses. We believe in and live by “intimate and chaste union”; we practice and strive for self-giving to each other by caring for the other when sick and supporting each other’s adventures (such as working 3 jobs to support the other while in divinity school); we experience pleasure and enjoyment through our bodies by affirming each other’s beauty, balding, flat-footedness, and pudginess; and have transmitted life by affirming, celebrating, and challenging each other’s lives and personhood in fullness (even when we may not agree with each other)—our relationship has been life-giving to us and to those we welcome into our casa. By the Church’s standards, Jason and I are being faithful to the church’s teaching in every sense of fidelity and fecundity.   Our coming together may not be able to produce children, but we can transmit life by pro-creating love and laughter through the formation of a family, be it how we treat and include our families of origin in our lives, the family formed through our inner sanctum of friends, extending the Body of Christ by how we treat those we engage with in the world, and through whatever means we decide to have children (which is a whole set of other entries!).

Christian members of the TQBLG community have been able to manage faith and sexual identity signifying their ability to not only survive but thrive, live, and celebrate in a social, religious environment that many times does not accept or support them. Though many are amazed, queer Catholics are finding ways to be who they are and find their place in the Church. Pope Benedict XV said that there was to be no distinction among Catholics—we are all Catholics, period! One cannot be sure whether or not he had queer Catholics in mind, but many TQBLG individuals are proud of their Catholic faith and through their experiences are opening doors so that all people can celebrate and commune as one body. May TQBLG Catholics are faithful people to their Catholic heritage striving “to live [our] lives in accordance to the Gospel, who discuss the sermon over brunch after mass, and who write their checks at the Offertory…. [They] also respond ‘Lord hear our prayer’ when the general intercessions plead for greater respect for life, because [they] know first hand what it means to experience disrespect for life” (Stoltz, 1998, p.11).

how to query church teaching

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how to query church teaching

The next two posts will be part of a series called “Queering Catholicism” which are based on a paper I wrote while in Divinity School.  I look forward to sharing these reflections and to the conversations they spark here on the blog and elsewhere.   Viva la revolucion!

The intersection of sexuality and church teaching as a Latin@ trans-person of faith in a poly-amorous relationship with the Catholic Church is not an easy or succinct issue to address and grapple with. The Church’s treatment of sexuality is multi-layered and complex. From the marginalization of women’s voices based on biblical exegesis, to procreation as the fruit that quasi-redeems sexual desire according to both Augustine and Aquinas, to imposed chastity on those who identify as homosexual, to Augustine’s perceived self-hate of the body and its sinfulness, to Paul VI’s pro-life and pro-marriage exertions in Humanae Vitae, to the rediscovery of the body as holy in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, to progressive approaches by scholars such as Margaret Farley—sex, sexuality, sexual ethics, and gender are controversial, confusing, convoluted, and often taboo subjects that the Church has dealt with in a very black and white manner with no room for color or variation.

For the purposes of this series of entries and my sanity, I will narrow the scope of sexuality-related teachings focusing on the Church’s treatment of homosexuality. As Margaret Farley notes in her book Just Love, “it is by no means accurate to say that Christians have always judged homosexuality negatively…the historical studies of scholars like [John] Boswell have uncovered a much less univocal teaching and understanding through the centuries” (p. 277).   There are 2000 years of theological, doctrinal, and ethical discourses to sort through; these entries will primarily look at the summation and compilation of this heritage as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (book of official Church teachings).

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2357-2359)

 

Nowhere in this passage does it command Catholics to ridicule, reject, discriminate, harass, physically attack, and persecute TQBLG individuals or their supporters. Though the Church does not accept this violent malice or treatment, there is still on the official level a “very negative evaluation of homosexual relationships” (Moore, 2003, p. 12). Catholic communities tell their queer members that the intimate sexual relationships they have or seek are “aberrant, contrary to the will of God as expressed in Scriptures and tradition, to be struggled against, a source of danger rather than a potential element of that genuine human happiness which heterosexual Christians may find in marriage” (Moore, 2003, p. 12). Some argue that these sentiments highlight the Church’s prejudice and bias for they single out TQBLG individuals for stigmatization and censure, but tolerate other sins (Yip, 1997, p. 119). Who decides what is sinful and what is not?

The official Church teaching takes two different directions, expressing compassion while also stating objective disorder. The Church recognizes the humanity of the individual person but does not let them be fully human (Stahel, 1993, p. 8). It basically takes the philosophy of “hate the sin, love the sinner” but rephrases it to state “accept the condition and not the conditioned.” It has been my experience that my fellow Catholics are willing to accept homosexuality as an abstract concept but will not tolerate expressions of it, such as wearing a rainbow, much less know what to do with bisexuality, poly-amory, or transgender. Comparisons have been made between queer individuals and individuals with disabilities/differently-abled, in that the Church recognizes that both are involuntary. However, “the acts of a [mentally handicap] person are morally blameless insofar as they are produced by their handicap …. But with gay people, the condition is like a handicap, but its expression is an intrinsic moral evil (Stahel, 1993, p. 9). To an extent the Church is contradicting itself by advocating compassion but promoting discrimination and repression of a “condition” that it admits not fully understanding.

Despite contradictions and resulting tribulations of Church teaching and practice, many TQBLG activists and their allies are seeking ways to reconcile church teaching with inclusive approach to sexuality and sexual ethics. Theologians (both religious and lay) are wrestling with creating spaces for the theological, biblical, liturgical, social, and ethical renegotiations of sexual identity/expression and religious identity. Through this reconciliation, many TQBLG individuals believe that their sexuality and its expression is part of the natural design God created.

Though I believe that there is a bridge between by Catholic and sexual identities, there is a soul-wrenching disconnect when it comes to the Communion Table. Despite the inclusivity of several Catholic communities created through theological counter-narratives, I do not feel that my personhood in its wholeness and holiness is welcome at the Communion table.   I am mindful that is not possible to truly live by every teaching put forth in the Catechism. Because I am knowingly and willingly not living or expressing what the Church teaches (disobeying her), I feel like I am no longer in communion with the Church and therefore should not partake in Communion (out of respect and a love-hate relationship with her).   Who am I is othered and fractured by the Church’s rhetoric on sexuality and gender; in order to receive I feel a pressure to deny my desires which are an integral part of who I am as a wholly and just sexual being.

There are many who would disagree with me on my personal practice, I believe it reflects the complicated and messy work of intersecting religion and sexuality. I am mindful that in progressive Catholic circles, I am invited to the open table but part of me is not ready even for that—perhaps it comes from the little conservative nun who lives inside who is not truly ready for alternative yet equal expressions of liturgized and ritualized breaking of bread.  As one of many activist-scholars engaged in this issue of faithful yet critical deconstruction and reinterpretation of Church doctrine, it has taken hitting many bumps on the road to arrive at a place where I am not guilty (as Augustine and many Church Fathers would advocate I should feel for giving into desire) of embracing being a Catholic, sexual being. The journey of building the bridge between sexuality and faith is a continuous one—I am a being in process who can proudly proclaim and rant that I may not be the norm but the ability to love beyond the norm is not a mistake or disorder but another piece in the divine scheme of things.

featured image found at:  http://heysonnie.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/god-made-me-queer/