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From Shame… to Pride

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As another Pride month begins, I’d like to thank Pope Francis for reminding us all why a need for a Pride month still exists.

The pope made headlines this past week when closed-door conversations of his meeting with leading bishops were leaked to media.

In those conversations, Francis was alleged to have used an Italian anti-gay slur.

Within 24 hours, the Vatican released a formal apology that said in part, “[H]e apologizes to those who felt offended.”

To me, what’s more bothersome is the entire context of the conversation.

The conversation was regarding the capacity of gay men to be Catholic priests.

The subject itself has been a lightning rod for two decades since the release of the text “Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.”

Yes. That title is quite a mouthful.

Essentially, the teaching boils down to “Gay Men Need Not Apply.”

Sidebar: There’s an entirely different reflection to be written about how the Catholic Church’s stance on the priesthood practically guarantees an extinction of that order within a generation or two. That’s because, in boiled-down terms:

  • It joins “Women Need Not Apply…”
  • And “Married Men* Need Not Apply.”

    The asterisk involves the rare circumstances of ministers from Protestant traditions converting.

At any rate, this entire discussion shows the magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church – basically the pope and bishops) has yet to move beyond a same-sex orientation as being flawed.

It’s nowhere near the point of acknowledging the love that we can feel for ourselves and one another as being a gift. And, in that sense, the Church has a lot of catching up to do with the world.

Admittedly, there’s still a great deal of the world that struggles with this idea of queerness (for lack of another single, all-inclusive word) as gift. Some countries continue to list “homosexuality” as a crime punishable by death. (In fairness, the Pope has decried that.)

And Catholicism is not the only faith tradition that struggles with discerning the values the LGBTQ+ community brings from its very presence.

For me, a 60-something white male who came out to myself as an 18-year-old in college, Pride month gives me an opportunity to reflect not only on where our world is and needs to go, but also on where I’ve been and what yet I need to do.

contributing author chuck small

I wrote recently that I returned to therapy in the wake of both my mother’s death and the deaths of several friends. At least two of those friends, both gay men I met through my Catholic ministry, died by suicide.

Their deaths struck me at many levels.

As a friend, I felt grief for their losses, sorrow for their husbands and families, and guilt that I did not have an inkling of their suffering.

And as someone who learned in two professions – journalism and school counseling – how to distinguish my feelings from those whose stories I became privy to hearing, I became adept at compartmentalizing.

Compartmentalizing isn’t necessarily bad.

But it’s time to seek help when you realize that your lack of integration is weighing on you. In other words, when you recognize shame more readily than you recognize pride. Therapy is helping me uncover those old, tucked-away stories of shame, of not fitting in, of being denigrated, erased, ignored, humiliated.

It’s not fun. But it is life-affirming.

Because what I’m finding is, even in the years when I didn’t or couldn’t acknowledge the difference that I felt, I knew deep inside that this was part of who I was.

And, in accordance with my faith, this was whom God made me to be. All these years later, that truth resonates.

Pride month will exist so long as churches, and governments, and misguided celebrities, politicians or others who claim to speak for others, try to shame us.

Whether it’s hate, fear or basic misunderstanding, it’s rooted in literal ignorance of what it means to claim our personhood – who we are and whom we love.

So, yes, celebrate Pride.

Better yet:

Live with Pride.

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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Phylum of Alexandria
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June 4, 2024 8:19 am

Beautifully said, Chuck.

When I was in high school, a fellow student was wondering why, since we have Black Pride movements, can’t there also be White Pride? Why is one good and the other bad?

Sentiment like this has since become a popular mainstay of right wing grievance narratives in the US.

I didn’t have the words then, but now I would say to my peer exactly what you wrote here. Pride movements are necessary to combat systematic degradation, to help dehumanized people feel their humanity.

I guess Tucker Carlson would argue that white people are themselves now a dehumanized people. And I don’t doubt that there are some flecks of truth there for certain subgroups, like poor rural whites.

But Tucker’s words are empty, and he knows it. The real root of his anger lies in his perceived entitlements not working out as he intended.

Beyond Tucker and other cynical leaders, I think we can be sympathetic with such frustrations from everyday people, because grace and understanding are only rarely bad things (e.g., when they veer into complacency and enabling).

But there’s a world of difference between wounded pride and someone trying to cultivate a sense of self worth.

Hopefully every queer or otherized person can eventually learn to find that worth shining from within.

Happy Pride!

mt58
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mt58
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June 4, 2024 8:52 am

“[H]e apologizes to those who felt offended.”

I’ll be sure to proactively note that I was offended, for his convenience. The Vatican should issue an interpolation royalty payment to whomever ever invented the non-apology-apology.

As a former Catholic-twice-weekly Mass attendee, Folk Mass leader, Eucharistic minister, the CYO Dance “Band Wrangler”, and whatever you call the person who does the readings at Mass before the Gospel, I believe that the dicta of organized religion is responsible for much of the world’s terror, violence, inhumanity, and trouble.

But I cop to often being a master of oversimplification. Somebody please explain why I’m wrong. 

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 4, 2024 9:56 am
Reply to  mt58

Our inner bee deserves great praise as well as great blame:

https://tnocs.com/politics-in-mind-chapter-3-profoundly-buzzed/

lovethisconcept
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June 4, 2024 4:40 pm
Reply to  mt58

I wouldn’t say that you are wrong, but the terrible dichotomy here is that while you are completely right about the terrible things inflicted on the world through organized religion, anti-religious regimes, have also got a terrible record for terror, violence, inhumanity, and trouble. The problem, it seems to me, is that when people have a chance at power, however it is obtained, it is almost always misused. We’re just not very good at it.

On the other hand, faith of all types has had a positive influence on the lives of innumerable people throughout history. Faith-based groups have fed people, led social justice movements, provided safe shelter for the marginalized, and otherwise enriched the lives of the faithful and those they care for. Faith provides a sense of purpose and meaning to the lives of countless individuals.

It’s not really organized religion that is the problem. It’s organized people, gathering into small or large groups, and “othering” those from other groups.

That’s why this small tribe where we can discuss our different opinions and know that they will all be respected, has become such a touchstone in the lives of all of us TNOCS’ers.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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June 4, 2024 9:53 am

This is lovely and insightful, Chuck. I’m proud of you no matter what month it is.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 4, 2024 3:11 pm

Eloquent, timely and thoughtful. We need more Chuck’s in charge promoting understanding over grandstanding.

lovethisconcept
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June 4, 2024 4:44 pm

So happy for you, Chuck. One of my dear friends is a minister in my denomination, which only very recently recognized ordination of LGBTQ individuals. He sent me a picture from the first Pride festival that he has ever been able to attend without fear of being recognized and “outed” to the powers that be. I have seldom seen a bigger smile.

cappiethedog
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cappiethedog
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June 5, 2024 3:59 am

“Some countries continue to list ‘homosexuality’ as a crime punishable by death.”

Uganda.

To get back to Tucker Carlson, he deemed the recent ruling on the former president as being of “third world” quality.

That is a projection.

Dobbs is cited by Uganda’s constitutional courts to uphold their terrifying laws.

I read the story in Mother Jones.

I previously mentioned a connection between the United States and Uganda in an earlier post, but I got that info from obscure online sites. My gut told me it was a real story. Mother Jones has some journalistic cred.

Uganda.

President Yoweri Museveni has been described by some as a dictator.

It takes a lot to shock me these days.

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