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What do we want our relationships to be?

  • 07 August 2023
I’ve been thinking a bit this week about a question posed by a young, gay Catholic. It’s been ten years since Pope Francis uttered his memorable line ‘who am I to judge?’ in response to a question about gay priests. American Jesuit Ty Wahlbrink reflected on the anniversary in a post this week, and shared the story of a young man named Mark (not his real name) whose relationship with the Church had changed following the pope’s remarks.

Earlier in his life, when Mark first disclosed his orientation to a priest, he’d been asked what he desired his relationship with the Church to look like. He’d told the priest that he wanted to be his whole self and to be Catholic. For Mark, then, the Pope’s words opened a door to the idea that the Church really could be his home. ‘I always wanted to bring my entire self to the Lord so that he could guide me on the path to holiness’, he said. ‘At last, I sense that I could offer my entire being to our God.’

At the end of the piece, the writer asks Mark what he’s seeking from the Church a decade later. He returns to that moment with a priest. The Church, he says, should ‘ask itself what it wants its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community to be’.

There are a couple of things that strike in considering that question. The first is that we do have a choice in how we respond to people on the margins of our community (whether LGBTQ+ people on the margins of Church, or as another relevant example, First Nations people on the margins of Australian society). We can choose the path of love or the path of indifference. If we choose the path of love, we then have to ask what love demands of us. The responses we choose will shape all of our relationships, and ultimately the entire life of our community.

The second thing that strikes me in the question, though, is that if we are going to make a loving choice it will only be the first step. Indifferent relationships can be easy, it’s basically ‘live and let live’. Loving relationships, however, demand more. They ask us to reach out, to become vulnerable, and to risk and receive hurt (along with risking and receiving joy). Asking ourselves ‘what do we want our relationships to be’ means also asking ‘how