OPINION: It’s time for Catholic Teaching to come into the 21st Century

By Michael Wode | March 6, 2022 5:10pm

Photo courtesy of Michael Wode.

The problem with the opinion piece, “We have come too far,” is not that it’s technically wrong, it’s that it is technically right – at least according to the Catholic church’s beliefs. If you go to the Catechism (this is like the big book of Catholic beliefs) it clearly lays out what the Church believes and provides evidence for those beliefs. It plainly lays out that being gay is part of who you are and cannot be changed, but that sex is reserved for procreation first and foremost and, therefore, any sexual acts that do not promote procreation are both wrong and against the natural order.

Can the Catechism be changed and updated with new and emerging information and scholarship? Absolutely. The Catholic church used to teach that capital punishment was allowed, albeit in extreme circumstances, but now teaches that it should never be allowed due to new scientific evidence and advancements in incarceration to protect the most violent from society.

Biblical scholars all over the world study, examine, and debate the points in the Catechism every day. These are not just people’s opinions, but rigorous scholarship that seeks to advance the understanding of God and our humanity through examining the original texts, using science with fields that range from anthropology to genetic research. I am not a religious scholar, but I can say this. These beliefs in the Catechism are not set in stone and can be changed and updated with all the new and emergent information in the 20th and 21st century.

I was raised Catholic and grew up knowing that this is what the Catholic church believes. Some of my best friends to this day still hold these beliefs. I am sure that students at UP have had relationships with people at UP who hold these beliefs and maybe even have been mentored by them and left having positive experiences (this is not a defense of the beliefs held). These beliefs try to come from a place of love, and if you didn’t grow up Catholic, that might be very confusing. But these beliefs the Church holds are misguided, dangerous, miss the bigger picture of Jesus’s teachings, and are simply just bad theology.

I have heard comments about how UP should shed its Catholic identity because it doesn’t act Catholic. To that, I would say the school should absolutely embrace its Catholicity, which places high value on intellectualism, science and research. What’s not Catholic is the failure to identify emergent evidence around human sexuality, gender, identity, intersectionality, etc. as real scholarship.

It seems arrogant (and invalidating of people’s experiences) to say that we are created in the image and likeness of God, but we define what that is based on what a particular group of people says is the natural order. If everyone comes from God, then isn’t the natural order just the way we are?

Catholicism is made up of a diverse group of people (we are a big tent religion, after all) with theologically sound opinions that run the gamut. It’s time the Church started using this diversity instead of ignoring it. UP has big decisions to make moving forward as to what kind of place we want to be. We can hold firm to these problematic teachings which ultimately undermine the community we strive to create, or we can look at them with a critical eye, recognize they are problematic and help push Catholic teaching forward.

For the queer students at UP, I want you to know there are many Catholics who have used a critical eye and challenge these teachings everyday. We see you, your inherent beauty, your queerness as a unique part of you that is a gift from God, never a punishment. I know this doesn’t erase any trauma you have may experienced from being queer in a religious space. I know UP can do better, the Catholic Church can do better, and I hope people start to see that.

Addendum – This didn’t quite fit in my above words, but it’s important to remember that there are gay Christians who don’t fit into a place and desperately want to. If that’s you, look into the Q Christian Fellowship. Email me if you have more questions.

Michael Wode is the Hall Director of Tyson and Haggerty Hall. He can be reached at wode@up.edu.

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