The way Tony Abbott purports to represent family values. In particular, Catholic family values. I am so weary of this face of Catholicism – this mean-spirited, uncharitable, hard-man version.
But in a bigger sense I am so heartbroken by the way the millions of moderate, social justice-minded Catholics – the ones who do the real, actual work the Church is supposed to do… like caring for people, being compassionate, looking after the weak and the less fortunate – have been ignored, disenfranchised.
Pushed aside by the power elite.
There have always been two Catholic churches – those who try to practice the basic message of Jesus , “love thy neighbour as thyself” – and those who are there for other reasons. The “Career Catholics” as I like to call them.
I’m not a practicing Catholic because, as a Gay person, I can’t be. Unless I choose not to act on my sexuality.
So I can either be exiled from the sacraments of the Church or exiled from love.
That is the deal the Catholic church offers LGBTI* people. I’m afraid I can’t accept that.
It’s not that I don’t want the Church. The Church doesn’t want me.
I am culturally Catholic. God knows I’m certainly damaged enough to merit full membership!
I went to Mass on Sundays and to a convent school and was simultaneously terrorised with the fire and brimstone stuff and imbued with the core value that you have a responsibility to look out for those less fortunate.
Over the years I have done my best to ditch the former whilst hanging on to the latter. For two years in my youth I worked in a women’s refuge, one of those years voluntarily. Until I realised I was better at making people laugh than being a social worker type.
Many of my lapsed Catholic friends have wound up working in social welfare – as legal aid lawyers, nurses, doctors, counsellors. Many of them are LGBTI.
My old Mum turned to me the other day and said, in her lilting Scottish brogue, “I do not understand how people can turn on their own. I just do not understand that.”
She was talking about families who reject their Gay siblings, children, parents. Families that follow the letter of Christianity, but not its spirit.
My mother is as much Irish as she is Scottish and she is Catholic down to the marrow and more. Her people have been Catholic for long centuries. They have suffered famines and wars and religious persecution. And if there is one thing she can spot a mile away it is unfairness. She is nearly 89.
And the injustices perpetrated against LGBTI people offend her to the core of her Catholic being.
When I did my big public “Coming Out” live on TV last year, my whole family were there – that is the way my family shows love.
Because they love me, they want me to have the same rights, human dignity and respect that they have.
I have known so many wonderful priests, nuns and laypeople in my lifetime. And many of them are appalled and frustrated by the Church’s rigid and unhealthy attitudes on all matters sexual, both Gay and straight.
I recently met with the marvellous Episcopalian Bishop, Gene Robinson. Many Christian groups were present. Conspicuous by their absence – the Catholics. Some things are just not up for discussion, even. Severely frowned upon, in fact.
But this is not about me banging the drum for my own issue.
It’s about how all the wrong people have had power in the Church for too long. Which has led to abuses, cover ups, secrets and lies. People who challenge the Powers That Be are shoved aside, gagged, subtly threatened.
Many Catholics feel that living by the strict edicts of the Church is untenable, so they make their own deal, they fudge it. They divorce, they practice contraception, they are Gay and they have abortions. They just shut up about it.
But it is hard to feel fully congruent when you are forced to hide such an important part of yourself – I should know.
Far more serious than that. How can you have a proper, honest conversation with your children about all of this stuff within the framework of your faith if all public conversation is effectively gagged?
How can you love and raise your kids, educate them and guide them when your priest is officially forbidden to talk to you about such matters?
When I think of all of those Catholic families out there, struggling on their own in isolation and silence it makes me so sad. And mad.
Church doctrine is not determined by Papal infallibility alone. There is another little- known and somewhat inconvenient theological doctrine which is just as powerful – that of the collective spiritual wisdom of the people who comprise the Church. It is called the “sensus fidelium”- the sense of the faithful as conferred by the Holy Spirit.
It is time the people trusted this wisdom and started insisting it be reflected in the way the Church conducts itself.
These are the kind of Catholic family values I would love to see.
Maybe then I would be welcome in the Church of my childhood and my ancestors. Maybe then I could return to the fold.
The new Pope gives me hope. But the rest is up to us. There is a different kind of Catholic family out there. And they need to make their voices heard.
As an out and proud lesbian, I wonder what place there is for me in the Catholic Church?
When my mother dies, will I be able to take communion with the official blessing of the Church?
My mother would love that.
And as a good, culturally Catholic lesbian daughter, I’d love it too.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans/Transgender, Intersex.
*Magda Szubanski has been a flickering nuisance on the TV for 3 decades. Mostly known for role of Mrs Hoggett in Babe, Sharon in Kath and Kim. Magda “Came Out” last year on the Project and is now a full time professional Lesbian. She only took the job because the hours are good. For all that is the magnificence of Magda, go here. Or you can follow the woman on Twitter: @MagdaSzubanski.