offering a place of welcome and affirmation
Updated: Dec 28, 2022
On November 7, 2022, the Denver Post reported on the Roman Archdiocese of Denver's directing its Catholic schools to deny the lived experiences of transgender youths and same-sex parents in a document entitled “Guidance for Issues Concerning the Human Person and Sexual Identity.” Members of St. Paul Catholic Community of Faith and our ECC Rocky Mountain Region were outraged and felt an official response was warranted. As our Bishop Kae Madden said in an interview on Denver7 News, we are heart-broken that a population traditionally marginalized is being turned away by a segment of Christ's Church. See the story here.
In a letter to the editors of the Denver Post composed on our behalf, our pastor Fr. Don Sutton wrote:
Your article published on November 7 describing the Roman Archdiocese of Denver’s "Guidance" on transgender students and gay parents is a sad commentary on their inability to accept contemporary science and incorporate its findings into their teaching. Galileo died in 1642; on 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and officially conceded that the Earth was not stationary. 350 years! At that pace, their acceptance of same sex orientation as a biological given and not a choice will happen about the year 2350 or so.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of love, compassion and inclusivity. It teaches that each of us is a child of God and made in God’s image. The language of this "Guidance" is mean spirited and following its directives could lead to great harm for children and for their gay parents and families.
After addressing His disciples as 'little children' Jesus tells them in John 13:34 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' It is hard to reconcile the language of this guidance with His fundamental injunction.
There are many Christian traditions (including many which are catholic) which respect, support and welcome all people; I pray that those hurt and excluded by the "Guidance" will seek such a church home.
Framing the challenge from another perspective, our regional Vicar of Ecumenical Engagement, Fr. Michael Nicosia, writes:
The Archdiocese of Denver and the authors they cite assume in absolutist terms the mind of our Creator and the diverse complexity of the human person, both of which are and always will be sacred mystery. To coin and weaponize phrases like "gender ideology" is to disregard the lived experience of persons. This is no ideology; it is the reality of queer lives.
Reliance on an antiquated Christian anthropology based upon Natural Law theory and biblical literalism led the tradition to a mistaken assertion that there are moral and even physical absolutes. Evidenced in their “Guidance,” such certitude not only purports to narrowly define mystery, but denies the diversity within Catholic theological thought.
We hear from many quarters a literal reference to "male and female He created them," leading some to assert that God denies transgender realities. Such certitude is hubris in the face of Mystery; beneath it is fear, fear of anything that threatens a binary concept of gender or an understanding of sex as solely procreative in its intent (minimizing other ways of being generative - our broader calling), not to mention the fear of all things sexual. The best of Christian theology (I thought mainstream, but evidently at the challenging edges) asserts that all is Mystery unfolding, and that as co-creators with God we are part of that process - of which transgender individuals are a visible sacrament.
Indeed, the process of becoming one's authentic self is a sacred charge given each of us by God.
Bishop Kae reminds us of the prayer Fr. Michael composed for our Regional PrideFest fliers:
Whole and Holy
We give you thanks, O God, for since the dawn of creation you have sent your Spirit, showering her gifts upon the full spectrum of humanity, uniting them with understanding, to hear a message of justice and peace. Through her inspiration the young saw visions, the old dreamed dreams, and your truth was revealed.
You challenged Peter with a vision: a sheet lowered from the heavens, filled with animals that Jewish Law had labeled profane. Your voice told him, “kill and eat,” but Peter objected: “No, Lord; far be it from me to eat anything that is unclean!” Your response to him touches deep into our souls: “Who are you to call anything that I have made, ‘unclean?’”
The vision spoke of the dignity of every human person, and led to a more inclusive church in Peter’s day. We cling to this same vision, for it acknowledges us as your beloved creations. It is no illusion, but your Spirit moving in our midst, testifying that the whole of our being, including our sexuality, was created good, in your divine and hallowed image.
You, O God, have created us whole and holy, and continue to mold us into a people empowered to offer you love and thanks and service and praise. Sanctify us completely, and preserve the whole of our being — spirit, soul, and body — blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.