A Time for This is Now
I’m a Catholic mom with a dear friend, Sarah, who’s also a Catholic mom. We both feel called to speak up on the recent statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, approved by our Pope, as it is darkness posing as light. Sarah penned the attached article/letter and shared it with me, unsure of what to do with it. As a professional PR person, I offered to try pitching it out to outlets and journalists who may be interested. I encourage you to take a read and consider running it; I fully recognize it may need to be edited for length. Let me know if you’d like to connect with Sarah, need a headshot or short bio, or anything else. An excerpt below.
“I don’t know if my own children are gay or heterosexual, but regardless, I proactively bless them and their future relationships now, as worthy of God’s loving grace. And as a mother, as a parent, I will proactively protect them from seeds of shame, and I will proactively protect them
from inheriting – and further perpetuating – the evil of religiously justified labeling, shaming, and discrimination.
And you with power, though wounded and with your own hurts, must self-examine and ensure you are not striking out of your own pain. You with the power, to stand on a pulpit and speak hurtful words, must listen to prophets who call us not to throw stones at our vulnerable nor to act as God. You, with power, must stop abusing it.”
Peace be with you.
Stefanie Santos McLeese
A Time for This is Now
By Sarah Probst Miller, DVM
I am no theologian. I am not a priest. I am not pope. I am a mother. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a human. I am a child. And as I examine my own conscience, I acknowledge that the words recently spoken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved by our Pope are darkness posing as light. Seeded words that could kill. Seeded words that are killing. Seeded words, labeling relationships between loving people as a “sin.” Pronouncing judgment. Seeded stones.
And all I want to say is, “How dare you? How dare you play God? Self-righteous men, throwing stones of judgment at God’s children, how dare you do this with your words?”
Family. Family is a word I have used to describe my parish community, a community we loved, a community we have left. “Families can be a gift, but families can also be dysfunctional,” a friend of mine said wisely once. She added, “And in their woundedness, even abusive.” As a veterinarian I know, when approaching something hurt, wounded animals can be dangerous. Hurt animals strike; they are desperate.
I didn’t first think of our church as a wounded, desperate animal when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated “the church cannot bless sin” in regard to our LGTBQ+ brothers and sisters. Rather, I only thought of Jesus in the temple turning over tables, a vision that settled deep into my head and my heart. I had a dream before I wrote the Pope a letter this week. In my dream, I, a woman, a mother, became Jesus, yet was myself. Enraged, I turned over the table set up by our Vatican and proclaimed aloud, “Get this out of my Father’s house! Get this out!”
Such as a wounded, desperate animal strikes, so does a healthy, fierce mother when her young are in danger. Sows protect their piglets. Mares protect their foals. Hens push the stray egg back under their feathers and peck outreaching hands. This is natural. And so protectively in anger, I follow the call of disobedience my conscience says is true. As a mother I will protect our young from this wounded animal striking; I must.
And you with power, though wounded and with your own hurts, must self-examine and ensure you are not striking out of your own pain. You with the power, to stand on a pulpit and speak hurtful words, must listen to prophets who call us not to throw stones at our vulnerable nor to act as God. You, with power, must stop abusing it.
I don’t know if my own children are gay or heterosexual, but regardless, I proactively bless them and their future relationships now, as worthy of God’s loving grace. And as a mother, as a parent, I will proactively protect them from seeds of shame and I will proactively protect them from inheriting – and further perpetuating – the evil of religiously justified labeling, shaming, and discrimination.
Earlier this year, prior to this pronouncement, I – a mother, a sister, a daughter, a cousin – spoke with my former pastor, Monsignor, about my deep concern with how the Catholic church labeled homosexual behavior as a “sin” and “intrinsically disordered.” He wanted to “help us understand” and equated being homosexual with the crime of pedophilia. My husband and I stared at him speechless in horror. Our spiritual leader was equating a relationship between two loving consenting adults as equivalent to the crime of a grown adult taking advantage of a child. How sick and wounded and self-righteous are you to come to that conclusion? Horror seized me. Horror seized me when I saw in his eyes that he believed this to be true. “You must not have been educated properly,” he told me as I sat first in shocked silence and then disagreed. Horror. A shepherd said this. My pastor said this. A man posing as a shepherd. A man teaching my daughter Confirmation.
In order to avoid putting my own children in danger, I am animal enough to instinctively protect my precious young like any fox would, like a lioness would, like a swallow does. We had to protect our children. Heartbroken to leave our fellow parishioners of 13 years, we needed to move on.
When this same Monsignor heard the announcement by the CDF, he righteously decided his homily last Sunday needed to be about the subject. We weren’t there. We had already advanced to a different parish with a priest known to openly welcome and accept LGTBQ+ people for the beautiful selves they are. But last Sunday a very concerned friend messaged me mid-day. She said, “I was deeply disturbed today about what Monsignor said in his homily about our LGTBQ+ brothers and sisters. He made me feel so angry and confused and shook my faith in the church. I have many gay friends in loving relationships, whom I love unconditionally, and I really struggled with what he was saying.” This is what these statements approved by the CDF and Vatican have done. They have further weaponized people like Monsignor to harm. They have weaponized people like Monsignor to plant seeds disguised as love that could kill.
But I did not hear his words that morning in person; I was at a parish that welcomes our LGTBQ+ brothers and sisters without words of condemnation. However, I struggled in my decision to attend mass there as well. If I went, would I be complicit in this darkness posing as light? I thought about it all week. Mulled. As a family we talked. My 13-year-old daughter asked, “Surely we are done with this religion, right? How can we be a part of an organization that says this sort of hateful stuff?”
In the end, I had my kids do online church and I did go alone to the Mass down the road, not Monsignor’s, our new parish, with my mask a rainbow. That is what I decided. I can only go if I show outward support. I can no longer say, “I am Catholic,” and stop. I must say, “I am Catholic and I disagree with this latest pronouncement and will disobey the Vatican on this issue. I do not believe the loving relationships of my fellow brothers and sisters and daughters and sons in Christ make them sinners. I am Catholic yet I faithfully dissent against these self-righteous, judgmental words by church leaders.” Even with these additions, I am not sure how to say I am Catholic and not feel shame. And shame on me for not doing this sooner.
When I go to Mass, I sometimes unconsciously sway as if I am holding a baby. My oldest is almost 16 years old, my middle almost 14, and my youngest is 9 but I still do this. In my rainbow mask this past Sunday, I swayed and sang and wept. I buried a stillborn child in 2009, our third. The tissue we shared, flesh that was supposed to give life and nurture, the umbilical cord . . . instead of feeding and nurturing my child, it wrapped around his ankle and he died, killed by something between us that was us.
My oldest daughter, who was then four, wanted to name her dead brother Suzy Boozy or Rainbow. Rainbow seemed more appropriate and a lovely promise. A song I used to know well still sings in my head as I remember, “A rainbow makes a promise that life is here to stay. Promise that there is more to life than what there is today . . .” I swayed in Mass this past Sunday and wept. After we lost Rainbow – who we eventually, more officially, named Matthew Probst Miller – I carried great shame. How could my body do this? How could my body not just give life? How could my body also kill?
I swayed and wept in my rainbow mask and felt that same shame come back. How could my church body do this? How could the church body speak these words? I swayed and felt shame, that something that feels like a part of me could do this and proclaim words that could kill…that could plant seeds of shame in a fellow brother or sister . . . that could plant seeds of shame in the one out of ten LGTBQ children sitting there listening.
“How can we be a part of this?” my daughter asks. And I as a mother know the church is not universally safe for developing children, not safe for my children. And I mourn this. I mourn this wounded hurting church. How dare you call her Mother, Fathers? How dare you? Pigs protect their young. Why not you?
Then as a veterinarian, I do know. Well, except if they are in pain . . . a mother pig, a sow in pain sometimes tries to hurt or eat her young. Sometimes only sedatives will help. Sometimes darkness and quiet, time alone, and then gradually feeling the piglets nursing her, nudging her udder, feeling in the quiet that the piglets are there . . . seeking nourishment, needing milk . . . helps her not strikeout.
And later that Sunday night, prompted by my friend still at our old parish, I watched Monsignor’s homily and in his homily, he spoke of being careful . . . for if you were “not sharp” you could be convinced that a relationship between two people of the same sex was ok by our western culture. He then cited the OCF statement which Pope Francis apparently approved, restating that homosexual behaviors are a sin. He went on to say, if we know of people “suffering” from same-sex attraction that we should “help them.” He called out to “follow Jesus.” He asked parishioners to “follow the commandments.” He assured my former parishioners and the children sitting there that he understood the confusion and that he will plan to “unpack this subject further” in more homilies on this subject this spring and summer. Horror seized me as I watched the video of his homily on Facebook. He is weaponized. Sitting there I felt my anger rise and I closed my eyes and again raged through the temple looking for this table to turn. I do this and open my eyes and look around me, a mother.
Does he know Jesus said nothing, zero, about LGTBQ+ behaviors being sinful? Instead, Jesus brought us the great law of love and asked those of us who have not sinned to be the first to throw a stone. Follow Jesus. Yes, I will follow Jesus. Following Jesus, I chose not to throw stones. I chose not to throw stones at our sisters and brothers. I chose not to throw stones at the most vulnerable. I chose to welcome and love and leave any sort of judgment to God. I chose not to call love a sin. Statistics (see Trevor Project) show words of condemnation like these can kill. Yes, we should follow the commandments and not kill others with words.
Deep breath. I deep-breath and remind myself, a woman who has held her dead baby, that from brokenness comes growth. . . . Is there any hope, I breathe and ask? I deep-breathe and pray for the wounded, for the broken. I pray may we acknowledge that which is broken and birth sacred ground, onto which we can plant seeds of hope, not seeds that kill. Weeping, I pray leaders to listen to today’s prophets and by this listening listen their soul and our souls further on our journey together . . . to create a space where not only all are welcome, but also space where stones are not disguised as love and thrown at love.
Maybe it is not sufficient to wear a rainbow mask and obsessively order rainbow cross earrings, a rainbow flower necklace, and a rainbow rosary from Etsy to be able to be an LGTBQ+ ally and still Catholic . . . . And so, I also create and write and produce a video to try to help people see what they are doing…. strangling others with what should give life. I write to try to reach those wounding with judgmental words our fellow beautiful brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. I will write and produce this video with the hope that those in power rescind words and instead look inside at their torn blind hearts, and dialogue, and speak in the name of life. Thou shall not kill. Stop throwing stones. I pray we listen and love and see God.
What is your wound, church animal? Look inside and be brave enough to use the greatest gift of being human and choose to heal your mind and spirit so you can stop killing others. A time for this is now.