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The benefit of discontent

If you are at all involved in queer Catholic Twitter, you know that last week was a riot. Cause célèbre was an unexpected shout-out from Pope Francis:

Pope Francis told a group of parents of L.G.B.T. children yesterday that “God loves your children as they are” and “the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God.” — America Magazine

My timeline was flooded, and understandably so: the Catholic Church hasn’t profiled itself as a boundary-pushing institution on very many occassions. My most vivid recollection of the Church’s stance on sexual matters is JP II blaming the child abuse horror on the gays.

Since I became involved in queer Catholic collective Vine & Fig, I have learnt something about myself and that is that I am very privileged. While many of my queer Catholic siblings fight daily battles for their identities and experiences with the people in their homes and lives, I’m only a single Pride Week removed from walking into Sunday Mass in a three-piece rainbow suit and a pink yarmulke.

Because of this privileged confidence, I appreciate the shout-out, but I have no need for it. I know that:

God “endorsed” LGBTQ+ people when he created us. — Matt Nightingale

Still, to most affirming queer Catholics everywhere, Pope Francis’ message was a godsend.

But.

Pope Francis certainly is not the first religious person to say that we queer individuals are children of God. Many affirming religious institutions, organizations, and individuals paved the way for him.

There’s something here that requires our close attention.

Welcoming-yet-staunchly-anti-queer congregations, Christians evangelizing ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ rhetoric, and conversion ‘therapy’ programmes have been saying that we are loved by God for decades. Their message doesn’t ever usher in the paradigm shift we hope for. Much rather, it invites queer people to be vulnerable, and then once we are, things take a turn for the worse.

‘Queer people are children of God’ can be a godsend, and it can be a dog whistle. A poetic way of saying ‘oh it’s okay to be queer, it’s just very wrong to do it’, without having to take full responsibility for the origin and ramifications of your anti-queerness. After all, if your conviction is that queerness is a character flaw and not a glorious attribute inextricably connected to the soul, then technically you’re not lying. It’s a simple ‘Queer people are children of God, they just need to be saved’, if you want it to be.

This particular form of anti-queerness has the potential to be much more damaging than the odd ‘hey you, dyke!’ I may receive in the streets of Amsterdam. It reels us in and makes us believe we are safe. It is reminiscent of the dad in Get Out, who would’ve voted for Obama a third time but who also performs horror procedures on Black humans in his basement. It’s reminiscent of the friendly, middle-aged, Austrian trumpet player who has a nazi shrine for a basement in Im Keller.

‘The church loves our children as they are’ unsettles me, because I have been on the receiving end of an anti-queerness (and a racism, for that matter) that is very friendly and welcoming at face value. Its eventual uncanniness is terrifying. I want to know what’s in the basement. And as you know: with every good story, there’s always a basement.