When we’ve been reporting about LGBT people and supporters being fired from jobs at Catholic institutions over the past two-and-a-half years, most of the cases have involved school teachers, and, to a lesser extent, parish music ministers. Nicholas Coppola, a volunteer at his parish, was the sole exception where someone not employed by the church was told that his participation was no longer welcome because he had legally married his longtime boyfriend.
This week, across the Atlantic, another case has emerged where a volunteer has been dismissed because of his support of LGBT equality. In England, Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering The Church, one of the oldest and best respected Catholic LGBT blogs, has gone public with the fact that he has recently been let go from a volunteer position with CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), the overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. You can read the entire story of his experience here.
The reason given for his dismissal was that he has been “campaigning against Church teaching.” Weldon, who has been blogging since 2008, sees the situation differently. He describes his ministry of blogging in this way:
“For years, I have felt strongly that this passage from Luke 4:18, based on a similar one in Isaiah, amounts to Christ’s opening mission statement, at the start of his ministry:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’
“By extension, I have written previously, this must include bringing good news to the queer, who also are oppressed, often by the Church itself.”
He also describes his reactions to the charge of “campaigning against Church teaching.”
“My initial response was to say that of course I understood his position and that of Cafod, forced on them by the rules of higher authority, and agreed that there remained the possibility of working simply within the local parish, where I am well known and accepted, and even find strong support for my activism.
“However, the more I reflected on this later, after he had left, the more I found myself angry – not at him or at Cafod, but at the Church itself, which is so intolerant of any internal dissent or disagreement.”
Since the incident of his dismissal came near the time of Holy Week, Weldon put this whole situation in the context of two lines from the Good Friday Scriptures:
“He was despised, rejected…”(Isaiah 53:3)
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.: (Psalm 118:22)
Understandably, Weldon feels this rejection very powerfully, and it has caused him to question his membership in the church:
“And so, feeling intensely, ‘despised, rejected,” I began to wonder again, as I have done from time to time before, whether my critics on both sides are not perhaps, correct. Do I in fact have a place in the Catholic Church – or should I make a move to another, one which allows for full participation in decision taking and regulation by laity alongside that of clergy, one that takes seriously the concept of a church for all the faithful that was promised for Catholics by Vatican II, but never implemented?”
While we stand with him in solidarity over this terrible injustice accorded him, we also encourage him, if it is not too harmful to him, to persevere. It is not easy to be despised and rejected, but our hope and promise has to come from the second line of Scripture he quotes: rejection will lead to becoming the cornerstone.
LGBT people have much to give to the church spiritually. Their courage to be who they are and their ability to tell the truth are gifts that can benefit the entire Catholic community. Those are the powerful positive gifts. But the experience of rejection and being despised can also be a gifted experience and can lead to an important role in the church.
Whatever Terence Weldon decides, we stand with him. His testimony and service these many years have been beautiful gifts to the church. We pray that he discerns the way that God is calling him at this painful time.
Do you have any words of wisdom for Terence? You can post them in the “Comments” section of this post or you can respond on his blog.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry