A Merciful Response from Queer Catholics to “The Joy of Love”

March 9, 2016

About a month ago I had been reflecting on the parable of “The Sheep and the Goats” from Matthew 25:31-46. I came to realize that the sin of the goats was not in what they did, but what they did not do. I, as a gay man in college, was quick to see how the “sinful” lack of action from my Church, its hierarchy and teachings have marginalized, victimized and abused LGBTQ+ people worldwide. This particular passage came to mind again after
reading excerpts about LGBTQ+ people from “The Joy of Love.” In my reflection, an interior voice repeatedly said: mercy, mercy.

Over the past few days, I’ve been stuck asking myself, “What do either have to do with mercy?” Like many Catholics, I am disappointed in how the pope continues to define same-gender relationship in terms that reduce us to “persons who experience same-sex attraction” which denies the emotional and romantic intimacy present in our relationships (Amoris Laetitia, 250). Additionally, paragraphs 56 and 285 about gender identity deny the very existence and dignity of genderqueer and transgender people. Why then is my mind ringing mercy, mercy? After days of introspection I realized that this is the Holy Year of Mercy, but that still did not answer my question.

So, I re-read the passage from Matthew noticing what characters I identified within the passage. Am I a goat, a sheep, one of the angels listening, or even the King? I realized I had been placing myself as the King, as God. I had been the one separating Catholics into “sheep” and “goats.” While I have been able to see sinful inaction in the Church, I am not God. This does not change how I interpret the passage, but it does change how I respond
to it. LGBTQ+ Catholics are not called to condemn. Rather, we are called to be merciful to the goats in our lives.

But mercy is not easy to give. Mercy is given even to those who cause us pain but do not seek repentance. Mercy is giving love where little is found. For Catholic LGBTQ+ people, it is hard to read “The Joy of Love” joyfully. Yet, this instance is an opportunity to remember the message of this Holy Year of Mercy, to remember that we are called to be merciful even to our Church and to Pope Francis. While we hoped that “The Joy of Love” would bring change in Church teachings, our voices are called to bring that change through mercy, not reprimand alone.

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