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