A truly welcoming church

Today I received a phone call from a very disgruntled Roman Catholic who proceeded to make me aware that I was a horrible Bishop for calling out his bigotry, misogyny, and abuse of other people. I admit, I was not as charitable as I should have been, but my humanity took over as I worked to protect the most vulnerable in our midst from attacks and abuse.

Catholic Social teachings have always taught the inherent dignity of all human beings. The Roman Catholic Diocese of New Zealand sums this teaching up best, “The Catholic social teaching principle of human dignity is about understanding that each of us is made in God’s image. Every person has an innate human dignity no one can take away. Human dignity is given freely to all human beings; whether saint or sinner, imprisoned or freed, powerful or marginalised. Christ died for all, so all can have fullness of life and therefore every human life is considered sacred.”

Yet, so many people forget this teaching and allow themselves to be the sole arbiter of who is worthy of God’s love, human respect, and even personhood. While they fight for the lives of fetus’, they deny LGBTQIA+ individuals jobs or housing in the name of their faith. While they protest at abortion clinics, they vote to take away programs to feed and house those children. While they yell in our faces that every person deserves life, they rally behind people hell-bent on protecting guns over children’s lives.

I am far from a perfect Bishop. I am far from a perfect human being. And Lord knows I am far from perfect as a friend or family member. While I may not be charitable in the face of abuse and denigration, I will not sit silently by while others are stripped of their inherent human dignity. I will work to protect them from abuse, marginalization, denigration, and bigotry.

Christ calls us to help and protect those most vulnerable in our communities. In his letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburg Pennsylvania, Bishop David A. Zubik writes,

When do we “welcome all as Christ?”

  • when they call on the telephone;
  • when they visit the parish website;
  • when they seek us out on social media;
  • when they send an email;
  • when they write a letter;
  • when they knock on the door;
  • when they are looking for a parking spot before Mass;
  • when they are leaving the parking lot;
  • when they sit in “our” pew;
  • when they want to become involved in “our” ministry or work “our” booth at the parish picnic;
  • when they have different experiences and ideas about parish life;
  • when they are suffering or sick;
  • when they are grieving;
  • when they are afflicted or affected by addiction;
  • when they are hungry or homeless;
  • when they are lost or lonely;
  • when they are loud or messy;
  • when they are straight or LGBTQ;
  • when they are “Christ in His most distressing forms” (a phrase used by Saint Teresa of Calcutta when encountering particularly difficult folks).”

Bishop Zubik even welcomes those many feel to be “heretics” to the church, “Our own welcome to each other—to the communities of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others who gathered in the Cathedral—was a sign of hope for peace in our day.” These are messages that are lost on many of the faithful today.

While I may not be perfect, Jesus is. And Jesus welcomes everyone regardless of who they are, who they love, or what horrible, life changing situations they may have been in. And Jesus welcomes them without preconditions. We should welcome them too.

Here at Saint Francis Parish and Outreach, we will not turn away the LGBTQIA+ community, the poor or homeless, women who have had abortions, the divorced, the abused, the marginalized, and those seeking the Divine in all its expressions. We will be a truly welcoming church for all people.