Saint of 9/11: Remembering Fr. Mychal Judge as a Gay Priest

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Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which took the lives of 2,996 people. Catholics remember in a special way the life of victim No. 1, Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM.

Judge, frequently referred to as the “Saint of 9/11,” was not only a chaplain for the New York Fire Department and a beloved (and busy) pastoral minister.He was a gay priest. This last identity is sometimes ignored or even left out intentionally when he is remembered, but it should not be.

As we pray for the victims of 9/11, for those persons who inflicted such pain, and for peace in our world today, we would do well to consider Judge in his fullness, for the lessons he taught and the witness he provides for our church even now. Focusing on his death could obscure his life, as a 2011 feature article in New York Magazine cautioned:

“As it happens, the unembellished story of Mychal Judge’s death is just as moving — and an even more telling tribute to the chaplain, as well as to the men he served.”

Part of his busy life included ministry to LGBT people who were on the margins of the church and of society in the 1980s and 1990s.  The same article quoted above explained:

“Back in the early eighties, Judge was one of the first members of the clergy to minister to young gay men with AIDS, doing their funeral Masses and consoling their partners and family members. He opened the doors of St. Francis of Assisi Church when Dignity, a gay Catholic organization, needed a home for its AIDS ministry, and he later ran an AIDS program at St. Francis. [In 1999], he marched in the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, which his friend Brendan Fay, a gay activist, organized in Queens.”

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Firefighters carrying Judge’s body from the World Trade Center rubble

Fay said that in Judge “there was a core of sadness or vulnerability in him” that made him a good minister because he “was very in touch with human vulnerability.” The priest had an apartness from it all, though, which helped him minister, too, said Fay:

” ‘He recognized the tension between the worlds he lived in. . .He’d be honored by these members of the far right, and yet at the same time he felt he had to constrain himself. There was a certain sadness about that.’ “

Judge never came out publicly, especially to the firefighters at Engine 1-Ladder 24, near his residence. But he came out selectively to many people, including gay advocates, New York City officials, and the Catholics to whom he ministered. Franciscan Fr. Brian Carroll told New York Magazine:

” ‘Mike taught me how to come out as a young man. . .And how to see sexuality as an important part of who I am. He took away the shame. For some people, sexuality is a part of their shame. Or homelessness is a part of their shame. Or addiction is a part of their shame. Mychal helped people embrace all the shame parts of themselves and turn them into something good.’ “

Judge still struggled with the church, even while he himself was quite peaceful about his sexuality, writing once from the Marian shrine at Lourdes that he felt as if he was in a “different kind of church.” Many of his brother Franciscans were surprised when it became public after his death that Judge was a gay man.

 

But Judge’s sexual orientation, for him, was an integrated part of his being and even a gift. An autobiography of the priest, written by Michael Ford, quotes Judge as saying, “Look at who we are as gay people at this moment in history, being a gift for the church, being agents of change in both church and society.”

Popular devotion to the “Saint of 9/11” is growing, as a fast-growing  website about the priest’s legacy attests. There are documentaries and biographies, including Brendan Fay’s film, “Remembering Mychal,” which was shown at World Youth Day in Poland this past July and has been screened at parishes, too. His burial site in New Jersey has become a place of pilgrimage for many people. The cause for Judge’s formal canonization is gaining steam,reported The Record, but it also has little backing from the Archdiocese of New York or the Franciscan community.

Today’s Gospel, part of the same readings proclaimed the Sunday after September 11th, 2001, includes the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. They are readings about going out to the margins to find people, and about rushing out to welcome those who have come home. This Gospel seems particularly fitting for Fr. Mychal Judge, a gay man who, in his priestly ministry, rushed to the margins and welcomed home the many people he served in so many ways. Fr. Michael Duffy, OFM, concluded the homily at Judge’s funeral with the following words (you can listen to the audio version at NPR by clicking here):

“And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.”

Fr. Mychal Judge was, and is, a gift for Catholics. Gay men in the priesthood still have to deal with structural homophobia, and disputes about priests who have come out as gay are not infrequent. Judge’s life reveals how wrong it is to reject or repress gay priests. His life is a witness to the broader truth that there are many gay priests who lead holy lives of humble service. That is why, in remembering him and learning the lessons he teaches, we must never forget that his sexual orientation was a fertile source for his ministry and his love. We must always honor the fullness of Fr. Mychal Judge’s person–the full person that God created him to be.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Article

National Catholic Reporter, “The joys of Mychal Judge, fallen 9/11 chaplain”

LGBT Irish-Americans Finally Fully Welcomed to NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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Members of the Lavender & Green Alliance at last Sunday’s St. Pat’s For All Parade

 

When the St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off in New York City tomorrow, it will finally be an inclusive celebration of Irish heritage with all LGBT marchers fully welcomed for the first time.

The Lavender & Green Alliance has been invited to march by parade organizers, reported the Washington Blade. The Alliance, which since 2000 has hosted an alternative event in Queens called the St. Pat’s For All Parade, was celebrating the welcome, said founder and chair Brendan Fay. He told the Blade the parade will be “a great day for hospitality and inclusion,” adding:

” ‘History will be made for the first time on March 17. . .I think it’s conveying a message about equality and what I call cultural hospitality. There’s an overall feeling of excitement and just really great and joyful expectation. . .I’ve really come to appreciate how important cultural gatherings and parades are in our lives and communities.’ “

Inviting the Lavender & Green Alliance hopefully ends decades of controversy between LGBT advocates who sought to march openly and conservative Catholic opponents, but attaining such inclusion was not certain and did not come easily. Last year’s welcome of OUT@NBC Universal, the parade’s first openly LGBT contingent, was criticized by many because few marchers were of Irish descent. Comments last June by parade chair John Dunleavy raised the possibility that LGBT groups might be excluded yet another year. Thankfully, parade organizers have welcomed LGBT Irish-Americans under their own banner, about which Emmaia Gelman of the group Irish Queers commented to The Villager:

” ‘The demand to end the exclusion from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has always been for Irish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers to participate in the parade behind their own banner. . .We’re really pleased that’s going to happen. It’s been a long 25 years. . .It’s really a great thing that it’s over.”

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Brendan Fay, left, being interviewed

Fay of the Lavender & Green Alliance, who is Catholic, said the “persistent determination” of the Irish community, and not just LGBT people, helped make this welcome possible. So too did financial pressures from sponsors like Guinness and boycotts by local politicians. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending his two-year boycott of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, telling a crowd last Sunday:

” ‘The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a New York City tradition but for years, Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride. . .Finally they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.’ “

Some advocates, however, do not want the history surrounding this parade too quickly displaced in the name of progress. John Francis Mulligan of Irish Queers wrote in the Washington Blade:

“But this lockstep ‘moving forward’ is like reconciliation without the truth part. It erases history. It erases the power of people to create change collectively. It diminishes the history of the courage and grit of people that push back, stand up and speak out. Even when it has affected us by losing our families, safety, housing, jobs and friendships. The history of the anti-gay NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade is important. This bigotry was a coagulation of very powerful forces: the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the Police Department, the mayor’s office, the courts and the religious right. . .

“Some of the many Irish values I cherish are to be contrary, to stand up for what is right, and to not be afraid when everyone else is walking down the road to stop and walk the other way. . .It may have taken us 25 years of struggle to walk up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day but we prevailed. Let’s celebrate, give fair dues, remember the history and continue the work.”

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Members of the Lavender & Green Alliance in an earlier, undated photo

Danny Dromm, a gay Irish member of the New York City Council, recalled the struggle, too, reported the Irish Times. During remarks earlier this week at the Irish Consulate, he said:

 

“‘ For all the people who were arrested and who protested, and to my own family who wrote letters against what I am doing here today, today is a day of reconciliation and healing for us all.’ “

Tomorrow’s festivities in New York City are certainly worth celebrating, just as those who made this day possible are remembered. The parade’s inclusion reflects the deep shifts in society and in cultures which have happened around gender and sexuality that are worth celebrating, too. Boston saw a similar victory during last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and New York City’s St. Pat’s For All Parade is set to continue in Queens in addition to this main parade–all positive developments towards full LGBT equality.

On a final note, the parade’s inclusion of LGBT marchers also more accurately ties it to Ireland. Dignity/New York’s spokesperson, Jeff Stone, explained to the Blade how inclusive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. rightly relate to the equality victories made in Ireland:

“Eventually the older, more conservative members who were against [LGBT marchers] either left or died or whatever and I understand that Barbara Jones, the consul general of Ireland in New York, tried to urge the committee to let them march. That’s also in line with what’s happening in Ireland, especially now with the pro-same-sex marriage vote. The people of that country have clearly spoken.”

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day through this parade has been a high-point for Irish Americans, and indeed New Yorkers of all backgrounds, since the late 18th-century. The parade is celebrating its 255th year tomorrow. As Bondings 2.0 previously noted, these celebrations will be even better now that LGBT people are welcomed in the spirit of Catholicism’s long tradition of social justice — and perhaps most pertinent here–the Irish charism of unbounded and warm hospitality.

To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the controversies surrounding St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

Gay Author Turns Down Catholic School Which Tried to Silence His Identity

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William Kostakis with his book, The Sidekick

An Australian Catholic high school has asked an an author who had been invited to the school to refrain from speaking about his latest novel, which contains a gay character, after the writer came out as a gay man.

De La Salle College, a high school located in the Sydney suburb of Revesby, had invited William Kostakis to speak about his new book, The Sidekicks, in March and in June. But Kostakis withdrew from the engagements after being asked in a staff member’s email to him, that he be silent about his new book, The Sidekicks, which has a gay character in it. According to News.Com.Au, the school leader’s email stated that the institution had:

” ‘. . .a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. . .We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.’ ”

The school had successfully hosted Kostakis when a previous book of his, The First Third, was published.  Kostakis writes for a teen-age audience.

The school was also concerned about a blog post  Kostakis wrote recently in which he acknoledged his sexual orientation and discussed a former boyfriend’s cancer diagnosis.

The author posted the staff member’s email on his blog, as well as part of his response to the school’s request:

“Coming out publicly was difficult. I feared I would have to choose between doing what I love/earn a living from – engaging kids to read and be truthful in their writing – and not having to hide my partners from colleagues as ‘friends’. I had hoped, having spoken at some Catholic schools, those schools would be comfortable with my revelation knowing what I bring to my presentations and workshops. And that my sexuality, while it informs who I am, is not the subject of my presentations.

“Professionally, it would probably be wise to still present in June, your students were a lovely audience, I have to stick up for my 16 year old self, and say this is personal. . .The First Third was acceptable, but now I have a blog post saying I like men, The Sidekicks is not.

“And that is not something I will accept for the promise of a pay cheque.”

Kostakis mentioned, too, that he is grateful that his high school teachers were courageous enough to have students read diverse literature, even if some people were uncomfortable with those choices, because it made him, a closeted gay student, feel safe. He concluded that he hopes teachers at De La Salle College would have courage to do the same.

The book in question, The Sidekicks, is a novel for young adults that is “mostly a book about the fear of closets, and why teenagers in real life have to stay in the closet,” said Kostakis. The only sexual activity in the book is a kiss, which is far less than his earlier work, The First Third, that the De La Salle official asked him to speak about instead.

This incident occurs as St. Joseph’s College, the nation’s only Catholic high school which chose to participate in Australia’s Safe Schools Program, an anti-bullying effort, faces intensifying criticism from conservatives to withdraw from the program.  Additionally,  Australians are weighing a potential plebiscite this year on marriage equality.

But politics should never dictate students’ well-being. It seems a visit from William Kostakis to discuss his books and his career would have benefited all students at De La Salle College, as it had previously, and particularly those who might be LGBT in and not yet out. It is sad that Kostakis’ coming out was treated as grounds for trying to silence him, rather than as a teachable moment.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

New Show, “The Real O’Neals,” Features Gay Child in Catholic Family

BEBE WOOD, MATT SHIVELY, NOAH GALVIN, JAY R. FERGUSON, MARTHA PLIMPTON
The cast of “The Real O’Neals”

“The Real O’Neals,” ABC’s latest comedy series which premiered last week, features a gay child coming of age in a Catholic family as a prominent storyline.

Entertainment Weekly called the show, which airs Tuesday nights, “a sometimes sentimental, sometimes silly half-hour about a family trying out honesty — and, as a result, acceptance” by . It features an Irish Catholic family in Chicago that is seemingly perfect, but struggles imperfectly with life’s realities like the parents’ impending divorce.

“The Real O’Neals” is loosely based upon the adolescence of columnist and LGBT advocate Dan Savage, who serves as an executive producer for the show. The foremost plot line is the coming out of youngest son Kenny and his pious mother’s ambivalent reaction, reported the Chicago Sun Times. Martha Plimpton, who plays mother Eileen, commented on the particular storyline:

” ‘One of my favorite things about our writers is how they are exploring this boy’s coming-out and experiences as a young gay man. It is all about how universal they are. The experience of puberty, or falling in love for the first time, or finding a date for the prom, or knowing what you like, or knowing who strikes your fancy. . .The fact that he’s a young gay kid experiencing all these normal rites of passage really delights me.’ “

Plimpton expressed hope that the show can use humor to address challenging contemporary issues such as LGBT family members, providing a forum for discussion of topics that may be uncomfortable for some. She highlighted the tragic reality that many LGBT youth are still rejected by their families and far too many to experience homelessness as a result, concluding:

” ‘We have a responsibility — as citizens, but also as people making this show — to respect that reality and offer people a way to talk about this and acknowledge their fears and weaknesses in a way that is loving.’ “

Plimpton’s character, though, is not necessarily an affirming figure for her gay son, paralleling Savage’s own mother with whom he was close but who struggled with his coming out “because of her faith and her fear for the fate of his immortal soul.” Plimpton told Bustle that rather than mocking Catholicism, the show laughs at failures and weaknesses as a way to advance love and acceptance.She said religious parents’ resistance can be “buffered by the love of your child.”  It is worth noting that four of the show’s eight writers are Catholic.

Conservative groups failed in an attempt to have the show cancelled when its broadcast was announced last spring. What may sink the show are critics’ mixed reviews, which have suggested that the show’s treatment of homosexuality is dated. For instance, The New York Times’ review stated:

“[The show] wants desperately to be the brash new sitcom that talks forthrightly about subjects that had been taboo. And a decade or two ago it might have been. Now, though, it’s just the guest who arrives late to the party, blundering in loudly and clumsily. . .Yes, there are still plenty of closeted teenagers and plenty of parents as clueless as the two O’Neals, but in 2016 that no longer seems like an occasion for lowbrow laughs.”

More positively, Slate’s review lauded “The Real O’Neals” for advancing representations of gay people on television and explained:

“If you want to measure how far TV representations of queer people have come since Will & Grace’s attractive gay leads spent entire seasons without any romantic action, please note that on ABC’s new sitcom The Real O’Neals, only six episodes elapse between 16-year-old Kenny O’Neal’s coming out and his first gay date. . .And before the season is over, Kenny will have his first gay kiss and go to prom with a boy.”

The Atlantic’s review was hopeful, too, that this comedy, which deals with darker issues in a sitcom’s typical “bouncy, upbeat style,” would fulfill its potential. The Washington Post said Catholicism is not the “butt of the joke,” but a device to reveal “an endearing story about a family that loves and supports one another.”

I watched the first two episodes, and from those shows, I think that charges that “The Real O’Neals” is anti-Catholic are unsubstantiated. There were jokes about bingo nights and contraception, but these came across less as offensive and more as just tired.

There is potential for the show to engage Kenny’s sexual identity in meaningful ways. It has not happened yet as the show’s treatment of this issue is too exaggerated and not clever.

The realities of Catholic families with LGBT members are sacred and complex, and there is certainly humor to be found in the struggles and in the celebrations such families experience. Whether “The Real O’Neals” can capture these realities or will stick to tired stereotypes remains to be seen.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

NEWS NOTES: March 3, 2016

computer_key_Quotation_MarksHere are some news items that you might find of interest:

1) A U.S. Marine was convicted of killing Jennifer Laude, a trans woman in the Philippines killed in 2014.  Joseph Scott Pemberton, received lessened charges due to a successful “trans panic” defense. Laude’s murder drew international attention, in part because of Catholic leaders spoke out strongly against the crime. The local bishop provided Laude a funeral respectful of her gender identity, and top religious leaders publicly advocated for justice in what they acknowledged was an anti-trans hate crime.

2) Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, a conservative U.S. prelate who is now the new Vatican nuncio to Switzerland, has said bishops were “only making themselves unpopular” by opposing marriage equality. While stating that the church could never change its teaching, Gullickson said this reality “doesn’t mean that one hates those who are of a different opinion,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

3) Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, eulogized David Bowie in The Tablet. Ravasi, who tweeted Bowie lyrics when news of the musician’s death broke, said Bowie, made “the souls of all those with a restless conscience vibrate.”

4) Laurie Goodstein’s  New York Times July 2015 story about how LGBT Catholics to Pope Francis was nominated for a GLAAD Award for “Outstanding Newspaper Article.” Her piece featured quotations Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, Deb Word of Fortunate Families, Lui Masuo of Call to Action, and Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA.

5) The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Ireland folded a fund committee in Galway which incited controversy last year after granting €45,000 to Amach! LGBT Galway, a resource center in the city, reported The Irish Times.

6)  Gary Meier,  an openly gay Catholic priest, published an open letter on The Huffington Post to gay men in the Catholic priesthood after the question of gay priests rose to prominence via an article last month in The Washington Post. Meier said he lived in the same “culture of silence and shame” that gay priests may currently exist in, but called on them to come out despite the fear and risks. You can read his letter here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Lesbian Women Tell Their Stories of Faith by “Living True”

Living True: Lesbian Women Share Stories of Faith is a collection of the faith journeys of 21 lesbian women who identify as Catholic.  The collection, gathered between 2008 and 2011, was edited by Sister Margaret O’Gorman, a Franciscan Sister of Mercy and minister to LGBT persons, and Anne Peper Perkins, a married lesbian Catholic woman and retired university professor.

Living True is a book of stories.  In O’Gorman’s words, these are

“[n]ot just coming-out stories, although there are a number of them included in the following pages, but stories about spirituality: how lesbian and bisexual women find faith and live it: how God guides our lives; how we find our identity; and how much we contribute as couple, family, neighbors, and members of our parishes.  It is about what makes our lives, our faith, and our spirituality flourish.  It is about how we nourish our spirituality and how our faith community helps us on our journey.”

In January 2008, O’Gorman gathered a group of lesbian and bisexual women for monthly meetings.  Perkins was in the original group.  The women all had some association, current or not, with Roman Catholicism.  The initial group numbered about 20 women, ranging in age from 30s to 60s.  Some women had been Catholic nuns; some were in committed relationships, with or without children (and grandchildren); a few had been in heterosexual marriages previously.  A number had been or were currently connected to the same parish in St. Louis.

O’Gorman, along with facilitator Sharon Orlet, led a process by which the women shared and wrote their stories. As Perkins’ described the process:

“Marge and Sharon asked us to begin writing our stories and suggested that we bring our first drafts to the group for encouragement and helpful criticism.  We were given a number of questions to use as a starting point, questions like, ‘How is my spirituality flourishing?’ and ‘Who helps me on my journey?’  There was a good deal of laughter – and some tears – and an increasing sense of closeness in the group.”

About half of the essays in the book come from this group, which met for approximately a year.  The remaining essays came from women who did not participate in the group process.

The idea for the book developed out of O’Gorman’s desire to give voice to the lived experiences of lesbian women.  O’Gorman had participated in a New Ways Ministry (NWM) “Next Steps” workshop in 2008, at which the participants were challenged to develop a mission, goals and objectives for their LGBT ministry.  After Living True was published, O’Gorman reported back to NWM that the book is the final product of her mission and goals developed at that workshop.

The faith stories in Living True are organized into sections reflecting five emotional states: “Awakening,” “Healing,” “Trusting,” “Appreciating,” and “Celebrating.” Each section is identified by an image of a female couple and an apt quotation.  The sections are framed by O’Gorman’s “Recollections” and “Reflections,” which provide “both the general atmosphere of [the] meetings and the emotional and spiritual content of the stories themselves.”

The book opens with an introduction by O’Gorman and Perkins. Marie Lynette Adalpa offered prayer beseeching the Good Shepherd to send “shepherds here on earth who, like you, know us, feed us, care for us, and invite us to your table.”  In an Afterword, O’Gorman reflects on the women who initially responded to the project but “who could not, would not, or did not write.”  The book concludes with an Appendix of suggestions about how the reader can support lesbian, bisexual and transgender women.

One person you will meet in this collection is Dorothy, whose foundational experience of God’s presence when she was a young nun sustained her through her decision not to take final vows, her gradual awareness that she is a lesbian, and the painful rejection by her own father.  Through her experiences, Dorothy came to believe deeply that she is loved by God and belongs to God.  She concluded her essay:

“In this gift of Life, I continually circle back to the beginnings, the promise that no matter what, God is and will be with me, with us all.  Jesus told Nicodemus that the Spirit is like the wind – one has no idea where it comes from or where it is going, but one feels it nonetheless.  Surely, my life is a work-in-progress carried by the Spirit’s breeze.  Surely, the power and intimacy of a thirty-three-year loving relationship continues to reveal the sweetness and mercy of God to me.  Surely, tears and joys will continue to be a gifted part of my life, your life.  For certain, I have begun to experience the blessing of a sort of freedom that feels like pure grace.  Always, a sense of gratitude continues to spread throughout each day.  No doubt we belong – our whole Earth family – to a God beyond all names or imagination.  How I hope that you, the reader, profoundly experience this beautiful mystery.”

Dorothy’s story and the other stories in Living True are meant to be read reflectively.  They can be spiritual nourishment for the reader willing to enter into them.  Lesbian readers will find common ground with these women and their experiences.  Non-lesbian readers, too, will be enriched by the Christian witness revealed in these stories.  I heartily recommend Living True to all our readers.  You can order a copy through amazon.com by clicking here.

–Cynthia Nordone, New Ways Ministry

 

 

Vatican Marks David Bowie’s Passing By Praising Him

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David Bowie

Even the Vatican has marked singer David Bowie’s passing, praising the artist whose life and career perpetually challenged sexual and gender norms, and who, at varying points in his life, identified as gay and bisexual..

Among the first to honor Bowie was Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture who tweeted lyrics from the musicians 1969 song “Space Oddity”:

“Ground Control to Major Tom/Commencing countdown, engines on/Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”

L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, published an obituary complimenting Bowie. The New York Times reported:

“The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has eulogized David Bowie as a singular musician, ‘never banal,’ who grew artistically over five decades thanks to his interest in art, film and theater.

“The paper, which frequently weighs in on pop culture, noted the ‘ambiguous image’ Bowie cultivated early on in his career and blamed it on his aim to attract media attention.

“But it said that aside from such ‘excesses,’ Bowie’s legacy ‘is one of a sort of personal sobriety, expressed even in his dry, almost thread-like body.’ “

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Tweet by Cardinal Ravasi

This is kind, if unexpected, praise from the Vatican for Bowie, who challenged gender norms. Zack Ford of Think Progress explained:

“This confusion was apparent in his own sexuality, which never seemed to fit neatly into any particular label. First he was gay. Then he was bisexual. Then coming out as bisexual was the ‘biggest mistake I ever made,’ because he didn’t ever feel that he was a ‘real bisexual.’ He admitted to having same-sex sexual interactions, ‘but frankly, it wasn’t enjoyable.’ In terms of sex and relationships, his own description of himself as ‘promiscuous’ may have been the most accurate of them all, but it reflected, as in the other aspects of his life and career, defiance of convention.”

Commenting further on Bowie’s significance for LGBT communities, a columnist with The Daily Beast wrote:

“In his refusal to label himself, there didn’t appear to be a cowardice, but rather an honesty and maturity around how unfixed, at least for him, the notion of sexuality was. That proved to be its own liberation, or at least freeing, moment for so many of every kind of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Vatican’s praise for David Bowie has generated global headlines, fueled by the dissonance created in bringing together rigid Catholic officials and the unconfined seeker that was David Bowie. That the Vatican’s newspaper was so affirming is a positive sign for LGBT issues in the church, likely another outcome from Pope Francis’ improved engagement with the world and demand for all people to be respected and valued.

I think Cardinal Ravasi and those behind the L’Osservatore Romano article are touching a deeper truth that connects Pope Francis, David Bowie, and all of us in between: the path to holiness is the journey towards authenticity. To paraphrase the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “To be a saint is to be yourself.”

The world benefited from Bowie’s art, just as Catholics benefits from the many LGBT people who, in their own journeys to authenticity, help break down harmful gender and sexual norms in the church. We are all richer for the carefully tended fruits which then emerge.

David Gibson of Religion News Service headlined a column, “Saint David Bowie?” Perhaps we can just remove the question mark and simply say, “Saint David Bowie.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry