Open Letter to Pope Francis: A Father Clarifies
Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for championing the oppressed; you help create level ground on which they regain footing and dignity. As the synod recognizes this ‘wound of marginalization,’ I too envision a Church that advocates for ‘radical inclusion’ of persons veiled by ‘the traditions of men’, including women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ+-identified.
In exchanging bad traditions for godly ones, we can clarify the core dignity that God ascribes to every person. Our service can summon what is true and beautiful about the Imago Dei in another; we also help identify what veils that image. Accordingly, we must approach justice for the LGBTQ+-identified differently than our common commitment to overcoming sexism and racism in the Church. A good father clarifies how Jesus liberates persons from sexual identity disorders; He frees women and ethnic minority groups for full representation in this one Body.
Easy to say, hard to do. My family recognizes its subtle racism. It helps to live on the fault-line in our town (Kansas City) of ‘redlining’—a despicable practice in which white developers corralled African Americans into set neighborhoods and refused them access to buy property in other parts of town. That was a century ago but one avenue a block from our home still runs like a wound through our town, dividing black from white. We have taught our kids to desegregate in their hearts and to live that truth in fellowship with non-white Christians, while serving persons under the low ceiling of marginalization.
Overcoming sexism seems easier. My wife excels at home and in the workplace, so my kids have never doubted the feminine genius. If anything, my incompetence in a host of areas tilts them toward the superiority of woman. What wrecks us is the gap between what we experience at home and ministry (Living Waters requires male and female leadership in accord with the Imago Dei), and what we see to be the dearth of female leadership in the Catholic Church.
Evangelicals with Pentecostal flare do a better job allowing women to impart their gifts in church life. Sure, let fathers be fathers—but we need to hear from women so we can grow through her—to attune to how she sees, suffers, and understands reality. How can we represent God’s image in our Church if only men have mics?
Now the call to radically include ‘sexual diversity.’ That is a misnomer, I think. There is only one human nature expressed in duality--man and woman. Because the road to sexual wholeness is hazardous, everyone needs clarity and compassion to become better expressions of our sexual gift. We embrace persons whose journey has been frustrated by a host of obstacles, including misnaming themselves according to that disorder, e.g., LGBTQ+-identification.
I taught my children to properly recognize the man or woman waiting to emerge out of the confusion. They had a lot of practice: these were their Godparents and surrogate aunts and uncles who came out of ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ or ‘bi’ identification. My family became part of the fellowship where they discovered chaste sexuality and clear identity.
Radical inclusion means radical sight for who he or she is at core. That never includes assuming a social construct that resists the truth of one’s original dignity. Our inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons is also an invitation for them to forego such identification and to live from the Source.
Obviously, this differs from helping women cast off misogyny and ethnic minorities their oppressors. God made her in His image, as clearly as He made every tribe and tongue to represent Him in their unique ethnos. He didn’t make anyone LGBTQ+, just male and female in His image.
We fathers need to clarify the wound of marginalization and keep it clean so people can heal. We wash it with the truth of God’s design for humanity. May we cooperate with Jesus who lifts whatever shrouds human dignity, including the rainbow veil.