Sexuality and Spirituality a liberal catholic voice

I have been sorting, discerning, praying, listening, raging, and aching.  Though my previous posts have been celebrating marriage equality my church as not been in the same place.

We catholics are being told what to think, and how to behave. I am aching. So I have been thinking a a lot about sexuality and spirituality, sexuality and the church, sex and the church, and my GLBTQ brothers and sisters. 

In fact, I recently had a chance to put together a presentation on the topic of spirituality and sexuality. This is what I came up with.

My relationship with God- is not my relationship with the church.
I am a catholic…but the church’s teachings on Sex are not part of my sexuality or sexual identity…

Other parts of church teaching DO impact my sexuality. Things like:

The scriptures…
That we don’t interpret it literally that so much of it is about relationships- the good, bad and ugly.

The teachings on social justice…
On human dignity.

The teachings on care for the poor and vulnerable- because our sexual selves are often our vulnerable selves…

Those are the teachings of my church that impact my sexuality.

Catholic sexuality is not just about all the "no"s that the church teaches about sexual activity.

Before the marriage equality law was passed in Washington State, I was going to talk about how, sex is all over the church.

There are phalluses everywhere.
Go into a church- any old church-but especially ornate ones-
and look for anything the shape of a penis they are everywhere.
Erotic images are all over our church (go look at that cross again- examine his abdomen!)

There are phalluses
In candles,
Wood carvings
The edges of pews
Jesus’ abdomen.
Altar art.
Seriously everywhere.

Keep looking though and you’ll often find
the curves of labia.
The point of a clitoris in the middle.
You’ll find them in the same places you’ll find the phallus.

You’ll find wetness.
You’ll find smells.
You’ll find dark corners.
And lovely sexual allusions.

Our churches are covered in sex.
Our religious holidays and symbols---all about sexuality and fertility.

The Easter vigil- the greatest celebration of the church involves plunging an Easter candle- a symbol of new life into the wetness of the baptismal font---the wax drips into the water and makes a big sexual mess. Then we baptize people into it…new life.

Yes! Get it? Sex. Then we welcome new people with water.
Sounds a bit like—procreation.

Oh the Catholic Church is full of sexuality and spirituality merging…
At its best they are inseparable.

And Catholics aren’t new at this- in fact-
What is new is that we are newly scandalized by this…
We used to be scandalized by sacraments or trinity…

In fact, We have quite the history of – sexually wild saints!
Saints imagining putting their penis into Christ’s wounds
Or Jesus’ passionate intercourse with various saints in prayer.

We have women leaders having women lovers.
We have saints condoning illegal- weddings-
We have men loving men.

We’ve got women saints with beards,
We have transgendered saints.
Cross-dressing saints
Ambiguously gay saints,
we’ve got women love and men love and all the mix.

So why then- is the church so often a big no-
After all- there are a lot of yes’s in our tradition.

But these days. These days at Seattle U we are landing in the NO.
This is where the conflict of the past weeks is finding itself-

The church teaching- is a teaching from the head not from the heart.
Not stemming from desire or lust, or sexuality.
Our official Catholic Church teaching is not about personal experience, or our crazy saints, or our erotic art.

All the "no"s---

The no on birth control, abortion, ordination of women, premarital sex, and gay marriage are rooted –this is a key word- in bad science.

Medieval. Or worse yet Ancient Greek science.
Thomas Aquinas
Theologian 1200’s wrote a lot.
And by a lot I mean prolifically. And his teaching impacted Catholic thought on sex and gender.

He thought that semen was a person.
Not half of a person.
Not genetic material for a person but a person.

So put that semen into a woman and that person will be nourished by a woman and will develop into a bigger person.
So if you believe that Semen equals people.
(Not parts of people. Not potential for people. But semen=a person with full personhood )


You are going to go out of your way to protect semen.
Condoms- stop people from getting nourishment from women.
Anal sex= stop being from growing.
Birth control- stop people from growing.
You get it. Don’t kill people.

So those are the roots. Bad science.

But now in ourchurch we aren’t talking the roots.
We are talking the fruit.

The fruit of all this bad science is bad stinkin’ rotten fruit
We now have a church which is ignoring science.
Ignoring experience.
And clinging to power. Clinging to fear.
And ultimately not trusting the Holy Spirit.

Not trusting God alive in the world.

In baptism I, and all baptized as children were anointed at “Priest prophet and King.”
In confirmation my baptism was sealed- confirmed.
In Eucharist- I am made more deeply into the body of Christ.

All of this should mean that I am capable- in the context of community, tradition, and scripture able to discern….God’s voice.

It should…
But inherently, the church hierarchy does not trust the Holy Spirit.
 Does not trust the sacraments of Baptism confirmation and Eucharist to do what they claim to do.

So instead of empowering me to bring forward what I and my community have discerned
 I am TOLD (not asked) TOLD what to do and how to think.

Without dialogue.
Without science.
Without sharing experience. Or story.

The church still treating me, and all catholic adults, as a children when it comes to sex…
and where are the tools to help people discern????

There are teachings that should be considered for their merit…
lets take the church’s teachings on birth control…

The church says no- unless you want to monitor your cycle, figure out when you are fertile and then abstain when you don’t want to conceive a child…

Now sex can be most enjoyable when you are fertile, -so that is brutal
And at best sex is anxiety provoking when having a child would lead to economic hardship,
and many women aren’t even regular-
And if you have a partner who doesn’t care about your cycle- it ain’t gonna work.
so there are some innate problems built into this system…but some innate goods too.

Like the idea that partners need to communicate about their bodies…
and that they respect each others choices.
And that no one person is responsible for the birth control in the relationship
That they have conversations about sex before the heat of the moment….

Some of that stuff seems pretty great to me.
But some of it- really problematic.

But I don’t feel invited into a conversation to discuss the dynamics.
I don’t feel like the church authorities are trusting me to make decisions.

They are trusting me to follow the rules. Or to shut my mouth.
So instead of giving us, as Catholics talking points, instead of giving us the wisdom of history or tradition.
Instead of giving us tools for exegesis…

We are told what to believe and how to believe it.

This isn’t different for gay marriage.
A lot of the dynamics are quite the same.
The church hierarchy is afraid.
Afraid of change.

And, afraid of individuals
Afraid of dialogue.
Afraid of talking points.

Because we are afraid that all of our GLBTQ Catholics might carry a wisdom.
Carry a request to listen to contemporary science.
Carry stories that are worth hearing.
Carry interpretation that might change us.

And the church hierarchy- and many Catholics are deeply afraid of that change.

But I believe it is not out of just their sexuality that they will call the church to change—
But will call because they are baptized priest, prophet and king.

And, the holy spirit, in her great work has been moving and acting and living in them.

The church authorities are scared.
So so so scared of change.
I want to be angry at them.
I am. I am enraged.
But some part of me feels sorry for the sick twisted people who are so afraid.
So afraid of change.
Of difference.

You don’t have to feel sorry for them.
I’m only there some of the time.

Finally, I want to say, to any GLBTQ Catholics in this room.
I don’t beg you to stay in the church – many days I am on the edge myself.
I don’t plea with you to continue in this abusive relationship.

I urge you to share the story of how the Holy Spirit is part of your life and your sexual identity.
This church needs your story- not just the hierarchy- I’m not sure they’ll listen.

But I do.
Other GLBTQ folks do.
My hometown, full of folks as conservative as any bishop, does.

Some of Catholics have covered our ears.
But others have simply never had the chance to hear.

And I remind you. That every time the Holy Spirit shoes up in scripture she/he says:
This church doesn’t need anymore fear.
We need more love. More honesty.

You are priest. Prophet and King. Courtesy of your baptism.


  1. Rachel - my husband is an iconographer, and the abdomen thing is a myth. It is an abdomen with muscular delineation, just that. Jesus with a six pack, if you will.

    There is enough hysteria about this representation of the Crucifix. Let's stop spreading this myth.

  2. I'm sorry you don't see it that way. I actually think it is important to see the shape of the penis in some abdomens. I think that is communicates a tremendous amount about cultural symbols of power and authority. Sorry Paula, I am not going to fix it- - -


Post a Comment

Popular Posts