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Progressive Catholicism is not Inclusive Enough

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

By Dom Dalmasso

It has been said that there are structures of exclusion in the Church which alienate some of our fellow human beings in an unjust way. This can certainly be the case in some instances (which I've personally encountered) and we should work assiduously to remedy this. However, the phrasing in common use more recently is “structures which alienate certain communities.” By this, those who use the phrase specifically mean the "LGBTQIA+ community." The level of misunderstanding which surrounds this question among lay people is not unexpected. But that it exists also among prelates in high positions of authority in the Church is deeply disconcerting.

The Church has always taught that the primordial "cell" of society is the family, and that the individual person emerges from this, and that he/she enters into a further covenantal communion to form another "cell;" these "cells" then build up society. It is precisely the family which grounds the dignity of the individual who emerges from it. The reason this is the case is because the dignity of the individual stems from his personhood; and personhood is inextricably linked to value, to love. A person is always either a father, a mother, a son, or a daughter.

On the other hand, the Church has rejected the belief that the fundamental building block of society is the autonomous individual, who, by nature, subsequently enters into contractual relationships of mutual agreement with other individuals. This kind of anthropology undergirds the individualistic consumerism of our economy and the collectivism of our identity politics. Behind the secular doctrine of "group identities" stands the androgenous Übermensch who does not receive his very being from a communion of persons, but who determines his very being through the discovery of shared experiences with other individuals. This anthropology stems from the practical atheism of both our economy and our politics, an atheism which obliterates both the common good we ought to tend toward and the personal dignity of the individual tending toward it. In other words, the eclipse of God is the disintegration of man. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “When God is forgotten, [...] the creature itself grows unintelligible.” [1] True identity is not predicated on a collective. True identity is predicated on personhood, which, as we have seen, is what grounds dignity.

Discernment is a good thing, but if it is a call to rethink the above-mentioned principles, then we might as well be honest and say that the Church’s claims are inherently falsifiable. If elements which are fundamental to the very identity of the Church and her faith can be called into question by certain individuals, then those calling them into question have a more fundamental basis for doing so; one that is antecedent to the Catholic faith, and therefore one that is essentially non-Catholic. Now, our secular world is saying just this: Catholicism is one conviction among others in a supposedly neutral sphere where such things can indeed be called into question. In other words, for all practical purposes, Catholicism isn’t actually true. If one calls into question these fundamental principles, practically speaking, they do not believe in the Catholic faith, even if they were to subsequently conclude that they are reasonable.

And so, the secular world “discerns” these things. But to be Catholic, if one means it, is to discern these things in light of the Church’s principles, not to discern the veracity of the principles themselves! What is it that the secular world is discerning when it comes to the topic of this blog post? The question is misleading. It has already discerned. The secular world has discerned that the Church’s anthropology — which is one of genuine love and freedom — is unacceptable, that it is hateful, bigoted, and unjust. The Church’s response, however, is not to fight for a supposed right to exclude, but to deny that people belong to these culturally constructed identities in the first place. Instead, the Church fights against the bigoted attack secularism has launched on the person and his genuine freedom. The Church offers an authentic inclusion, one which secularism is unable to concoct or imagine. The Church’s inclusion (through evangelization and metanoia) unmasks the prejudice and bigotry of this Übermensch anthropology.

And so, the inevitable question is: "what is this 'radical inclusion' which we are called to facilitate?" Without further clarification from those calling for it, it feels an awful lot like the radical exclusion from authentic freedom which this secular anthropology is shoving down our throats. The freedom found in the spousal meaning of the body, be it in a state of celibacy or matrimony, is of the same order as the even greater freedom found in the communion one enters into with the Lord through the reception of the Eucharist. What does Saint Paul mean when he says, “for all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (1 Cor 11:29)? [2] Paul's statement, at a very fundamental level, is not a statement of exclusion, but rather a statement on the nature of authentic inclusion. As Paul says, this judgment is a self-judgment. It is a realization of the contradiction which stands in the way of a powerful and profound freedom! The kerygma is not a message of burdensome constraints; in fact, it is the opposite: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).

The LGBTQIA+ ideology posits, ironically, a truly “person-phobic cultural identity” which is nothing more than an ideological construction. The LGBTQIA+ ideology posits an anthropology that is hateful, and which sells a lie to persons with incommensurate dignity under the guise of freedom, acceptance, love, and inclusion. These are platitudes. It is the Church, here, which offers freedom, acceptance, love, and inclusion. If it were not so, then Joseph Ratzinger’s words ring true: “A Christianity that believes it has no other function than to be completely in tune with the spirit of the times has nothing to say and no meaning to offer.” [3] The Church stands athwart LGBTQIA+ ideology precisely because it has a more profound meaning to offer. To say this is a pastoral question and not a doctrinal one is to make the same mistake the traditionalists make with the Second Vatican Council: doctrine is essentially missionary and pastoral, and its pastoral application sheds further light on doctrinal truth. This is how the Church can truly be pastoral: in reminding her children that they are not gay or lesbian or trans, but that they are persons like everybody else. Not a different species.

We must not be uncomfortable with calling foul here. Doing so is an act of fidelity to Christ, to the Magisterium, to the Church, and to all those who experience same sex attraction. We do not compromise ourselves or our Catholic institutions if we simply accept that, at best, this is a profound misunderstanding by some individuals, or, at worst, a two-faced lie by others. What we should say to our beloved brothers and sisters, for whom we ought to be prepared to lay down our lives at the slightest necessity, is: "there are no such thing as 'LGBTQIA+ identities,' and you are — and always will be — one of us. We are partisans of a much more profound inclusion, not of a shallow compromise which discriminates against you, and which disrespects your real identity and your profound dignity. If you experience sexual attractions toward members of your own gender, or any other experience whatsoever, please let the Church include you into the freedom of the Civitas Dei. Let us discover together the spousal meaning of our bodies and thereby enter into communion with our Creator without reserve. Metanoia is not hatred; it is the discovery of the unfailing love which is offered to all of us without exception. There is nothing the Church wants more than to include each and every person. You are not 'different,' you belong to us, and we belong to you, as we are God’s beloved children, and part of the same glorious family. Do not let the bigoted ideology of secularism lie to you."

__________________________________________________________________________________ [1] Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), §36. [2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1865). [3] Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 57.

Dom Dalmasso is a 2023 graduate from Holy Apostles College and Seminary with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and philosophy. He was a Benedictine monk from early 2011 to late 2012 at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma and was an active-duty United States Marine from August 2014 to August 2018. He runs the YouTube Show / Podcast The Logos Project, and is the editor-in-chief of The Ecclesia Blog. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Dogmatic Theology at Holy Apostles.

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