On December 21, 2016, just in time for Christmas, Out At St Paul, the LGBT ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of New York, posted a link to an article on their Facebook page by lesbian feminist artist and author Angela Yarber. Yarber is the pastor for Preaching and Worship at Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She is the author of several books including: “Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church” and “Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book.” Earlier this year, on October 5, 2016, Out At St Paul posted another article by Yarber to their Facebook page, this one was titled: “Painting Perpetua & Felicity: Patron Saints Of Same-Sex Couples.” In a 2013 interview, Yarber said:
“I hope and dream of the day when women, LGBTQ persons, and the Feminine Divine are an integral part of the church and church leadership. I hope that, one day, our visions of the divine and of what it looks like to be a church leader are equal and inclusive. I hope that, one day, people will not giggle or become angry when God is referred to as ‘She.’”
“…when I experience sexist, classist, and heterosexist microaggressions within my own congregations, communities, and denomination, I often consider leaving! But I return to the notion: ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’ I think of the women and LGBTQ persons who have never looked into the pulpit and seen anyone like them preaching behind it…I feel a responsibility to stay and create pathways for other women and LGBTQ persons to find affirmation, liberation, and justice.”
In every nativity scene, we see images of a so-called “holy family” that likely doesn’t look very much like the family’s most queer folk create: a straight, cisgender couple, and a baby. This family is lauded by the Church as the quintessential iteration of what family should look like. When our families don’t look anything like this, it’s easy to see how celebrating the birth of Jesus is fraught with emotional and spiritual hardship.
There is good news, though. We can subvert this narrative of traditional family by queering the story.
I’d contend that Truth’s words queered traditional understandings of Mary. She was responsible for birthing Jesus, for ushering Emanuel into the world. Man had nothing to do with it. If we take this a step further, borrowing from feminist theology and boldly claiming that God is a She, then we queer the Christmas narrative even further. Mary and She Who Is (God) brought Jesus into the world. Jesus had two moms!
So, I’d contend that Mary’s very being, her family, and the entirety of Christmas is actually quite queer.
St Paul the Apostle Church and Out At St Paul has a long history of radical Catholic dissidence: on September 23, 2016, Out At St Paul commemorated the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court decision with two featured “guests:” Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, the Director of Latina/o and Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, and Margie Winters, a Catholic school teacher who was fired after it was discovered that she is married to another woman. Lisbeth Melendez Rivera works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a far-left “gay” advocacy group which calls for changes in Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality; on December 15, 2016, “gay” priest James Alison spoke at St. Paul the Apostle Church; Alison once said: “…the Church cannot say of the homosexual inclination that it is a desire which is in itself intrinsically evil, since to say this would be to fall into the heresy of claiming that there is some part of being human which is essentially depraved.” In 2015, Out at St. Paul, in cooperation with The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, released the short documentary film “Owning Our Faith.” The film features interviews with several men and women who disagree with various aspects of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality; they include: a self-professed Catholic lesbian, a “married” gay male couple, and a transsexual.
Some quotes from “Owning Our Faith:”
“If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change.”
“I think what’s interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is ‘gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is ‘you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can’t live that life.’ And so that inherently is discriminatory.”
“My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me. It was a journey…I think a lot of people think of this as just a physical journey, they just look at the physical aspects of transition, but it’s an emotional one, it’s a spiritual one.”
The Development Team for “Owning Our Faith” included two Paulist priests: Fr. Gilbert Martinez, Pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish (Paulist Order mother church), and Fr. Mark-David Janus, President of the Paulist Press, the publishing arm of the order.
Postscript: Much of the false theology expressed here has its roots in the tortured mind of John J. McNeill, S.J. While the Vatican repeatedly attempted to silence McNeill, because gay affirmative parishes often went unchecked, and LGBT ministries were allowed to endure, McNeill remained throughout his life an influential thinker in the world of “gay” Catholicism. McNeill once wrote:
Although Martha and Mary are referred to as “sisters” and Lazarus is referred to as their “brother”, we should note that frequently in the Bible the words sister and brother are used not to designate a biological relationship but to recognize a deep committed love relationship. That leaves open the possibility that Jesus’ family of choice was possibly a gay family; that Martha and Mary were lesbians and Lazarus was a gay man.
Unfortunately, his books are continually studied in gay-affirmative parishes and LGBT ministries, including: The Missionaries of the Precious Blood who described McNeill as “a very holy and beloved LGBT man, an outspoken advocate for LGBT people. He worked to provide recognition of God’s love for and the inherent birth right of LGBT as children of God and blessed by God in their life and love;” in 2014, the Gay Straight Catholic Alliance at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in New York studied McNeill’s book “Taking a Chance on God;” as did the Open Hearts LGBT Ministry at Saint Patrick – Saint Anthony Church in Hartford in 2016.
The strange phenomenon of imagining “gay” Saints has also appeared in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: