On Persevering in Spite of Rejection: A Follow-Up Post

About a week ago, Bondings 2.0 reported that Queering The Church blogger Terence Weldon had been dismissed from a volunteer job with CAFOD, the Catholic relief and development agency run by the bishops of England and Wales, because his blog was considered to be “campaigning against church teaching.”  Weldon’s reaction to this rejection, understandably, was to question whether he should continue as a member of the Catholic Church.

After a period of discernment, Weldon has responded with a decision to persevere and remain in the church.  In a blog post this week, he explained:

“The reason for Cafod rejecting me as a schools volunteer, was my public profile as an (allegedly) campaigner against Church teaching – specifically, sexual teaching. But part of my motivation in wanting to become actively involved with Cafod in the first place, had been a sense that it was becoming time to back off the constant obsession with matters of sexuality and sexual ethics, and to become more involved, and outspoken, on the far more important elements of Church teaching with which I, and Cafod, emphatically agree – matters of social justice, the preferential option for the poor, and the like.

“Because these are indeed pf fundamental importance in Catholic teaching, and the sexual issues relatively minor, it did not take me too long to conclude once again, that there really is no place for me to be, other than in the Catholic Church. This is where I belong, and this is where I shall stay.

“But if, as I have found, I have been effectively prevented from broadening my focus away from “campaigning” on the sexual matters – the obvious lesson is that on the contrary, I must continue to do so, with redoubled effort and effectiveness.

“The Church is stuck with me, whether they like it or not. This stone which the builders rejected, will indeed become a cornerstone.”

I am glad that Weldon has made a decision, and glad that he has decided to stay. The decision to stay or go is one that every LGBT Catholic faces from time to time, sometimes when they experience personal rejection or at other times when they hear of a hurtful statement or policy issued by a church leader.  Such moments can be very painful. Different people respond in various way, and I respect all those who examine their consciences prayerfully in these matters, regardless of the what their final decision may be.

I think that one of the reasons that such moments are so painful is because many faithful LGBT Catholics see that their divergence from church teaching is not something opposed to their Catholicism, but something which actually springs from their Catholicism.  For many, the arrival at a place where they can affirm their sexuality and committed relationships comes from a deep spiritual journey filled with much soul-searching and anguish.  They see the affirmation of their ability to love as a gift from God, not as offensive to God.

Weldon reflected in this way in another blog post commenting on the CAFOD rejection:

“It has never been my intention, or my practice, to ‘campaign’ against Church teaching. That would imply I had some hope of achieving change, which I know is way beyond my capacity. Right from my opening posts, I have instead made it clear that my primary purpose is much simpler – to draw gay and lesbian Catholics (and other Christians) back into the life and sacramental practice of the church, without compromising on their personal sexual or gender integrity.

“Necessarily, that requires at times criticizing some elements of Catholic teaching or practice – but always in a wider context. Sexual matters occupy a relatively low level in the overall hierarchy of Church teaching, and while I am critical of some elements of these (not by any means all), it is always within the greater structure of broader principles of teaching – on equality and inclusion, on justice, on respect and dignity, and on freedom of conscience.

“So I find it depressing to be told, as I was recently, that I am not acceptable as a schools volunteer for Cafod, because I am allegedly ‘campaigning’ against Church teaching. In my own mind, all I am doing is attempting to draw LGBT people back into the Church – and doing so by presenting alternative elements of Church teaching, and the Gospels, that are less familiar than the well – known offensive bits.”

LGBT people have many spiritual gifts to offer the church community.  As I reflect on this incident, I realize that one of their greatest gifts is perseverance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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13 Responses to On Persevering in Spite of Rejection: A Follow-Up Post

  1. jono113 says:

    On the other hand, I found it impossible to continue as a member of the Roman church without compromising my integrity. I have been received in the Episcopal church where such compromises are not required.

  2. Terence says:

    One of my favourite quotations on this subject is “To those who persevere, failure is only temporary”.

    It was interesting for me, that this period of emotional turbulence coincided with the run-up to South Africa’s general election: I’ve often drawn analogies between the history of the fall of apartheid, and the present state of the Catholic Church, and see ever more.
    In the present context, the most relevant is that I’m old enough to remember when apartheid was growing ever stronger, and opposition by White liberals (represented by the Progressive Party of Helen Suzman) attracted barely 4% of votes in the 1970 general election – my first. The prospect of change seemed remote. By the late 1980’s, Black resistance had become massive, with extensive violence, strikes and military resistance the order of the day. Change was starting to seem inevitable, but looked to be violent, with White South Africans facing a poor future. Then suddenly, everything changed. Multiracial democracy arrived relatively peacefully, with a strong constitution (that remarkably, was the first in the world to introduce explicit protection for lesbian and gay rights).
    It’s not all been plain sailing. Especially after the end of Mandela’s presidency, there’ve been major problems with corruption, the benefits are still not getting through sufficiently to the poorest, racial divisions and some mistrust remain. But democracy endures. The Democratic Alliance, the successor to Helen Suzman’s progressives, now run (very successfully) a major province and the country’s second city , have consolidated their position as the official opposition (even in the Black population, estimates are that they drew more votes than any other opposition party) – and are likely to give the ANC a serious challenge for control of three or four major metropoles, including Johannesburg and Pretoria, in local elections in two years’ time.
    As you guys in the US of A have witnessed in recent years iro of gay marriage, the arc of history bends, and it bends towards justice: even in South Africa, even for the queers, and even in the Church.

    • jono113 says:

      The changes cited in South Africa and the U.S. regarding gay marriage were made possible because of changing life experiences among many persons and the possibility of voting for change. Life experience counts for little in establishing doctrinal teaching in the Roman Church and there is no possibility of voting in the Roman church. Change can only come from within the hierarchy; one can hope for change but is powerless to do anything more.

      • Terence says:

        I disagree that life experience counts for little in the Church. Yes, change in the end can only be introduced by the bishops – but there is plenty of evidence that individual bishops can indeed by influenced by listening to the life experiences of those they meet.

  3. […] Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo has published a piece called “On Persevering in Spite of Rejection: a follow-up post“. The “follow-up” in this case, refers to my own thoughts here, after I wrote a […]

  4. Yes he made a good decision for himself but I hope his presence will affect Church teaching in the long run.

  5. What a great message from this man! May all of us have his courage and perseverance. We Are The Church!

  6. Larry says:

    I applaud Terry Weldon for his activity for the LGBT community and his very thoughtful conclusion to remain in the Church to foment change from within. However, when I was making this same decision, the issue came down to my own spiritual journey and whether the Catholic Church was helping me or hurting me in that process. After looking back at all the official pronouncements of the hierarchy, especially the “intrinsically disordered” bomb from Cardinal Ratzinger, it was clear to me that I was spending too much time fighting my own church and feeling like the disordered person that they pronounced I was. I have now become an Episcopalian, a church that nourishes me on my spiritual journey. So now I tell LGBT folks who ask me that question that you can march into hell for a heavenly cause by staying RC but not at the cost of your soul.

  7. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    I keep you in prayer. In some cultures, silence on what is said is not agreement. For me, remaining in the RCC is not agreement with all the institutional mandates. I am proud to be part of the history of dissenting voices for the Church. Yes, some were met with violence (physical, emotional, spiritual), but in honor of their integrity of conscience, I stay. If they spoke up, regardless of the consequences, how can I not do the same. Isn’t that what Jesus did? (Hey, I can’t be burned at the stake. Right? I hope?)

  8. Terence says:

    Thanks to all who have expressed support or understanding here. In response, I’d just like to add one point, to make my position on change in Church teaching crystal clear:

    Yes, of course I hope that in some way what I am doing can help to nudge along the change in teaching, that I believe will come eventually- and I hope and pray, sooner rather than later. It’s just that to turn around a vessel as large as the institutional Church, the tiny nudge I can realistically offer is not my primary concern. Instead, I am more interested in offering assistance and encouragement to the real people who are troubled unnecessarily by the apparent conflict between faith and sexuality.

  9. Minnesota Jeff says:

    In 2013, I re-entered the church after some years away. A child in my family was diagnosed with cancer and I found my comfort in praying in Catholic churches, before the tabernacle and icons and statues. I struggled greatly with whether or not to come back to a church that most days appears to be my worst enemy. I go to mass knowing many in the pews may have voted against my rights as a gay man; I also try to remember more than I realize would support me. I’m not supposed to receive communion as an “active” homosexual, but I do. When I pray the Stations of the Cross or the mysteries of the Rosary, I see a man who was hated, bullied and ostracized, like so many of us. I don’t see the pompous God of Cardinal Dolan or the “orthodox” Catholics in those images–I see a God who embraces me without question, as I am, who gave me the ability to feel love and passion and called that good. I’m not comparing our suffering to Christ’s exactly, but I am saying that familiar as we are with rejection and public scorn, we may have a closeness with Him that many “traditional” straight Catholics never will.

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