WIT is delighted to bring you the following guest post from Rosa Manriquez, IHM. We are particularly grateful for her unique perspective and powerful witness.
Rosa is a mother and grandmother, a member of the Immaculate Heart Community, a Roman Catholic deacon and a candidate for priestly ordination through Roman Catholic Womenpriests. She is a member of MountainTop, a multi-faith movement for justice sponsored by Auburn Theological Seminary. Rosa is a member of the Vision Board of Call to Action and also a speaker for A La Familia, a project of the Human Rights Campaign that promotes the inclusion of the LGBT community within the Latino community.
Who decides if I am a good person, or a good Catholic Christian? According to my understanding of the Primacy of Conscience, that is determined by my conscience as formed by the Holy Spirit. My well-formed conscience is the voice of God directing my life. No layperson, religious, priest, bishop, cardinal or pope determines this. I answer to God.
Concerning religious liberty I want to share a story from an incident in my life. I may have shared it before. Early in my career working as a recreation professional for the City of Los Angeles, I had the privilege of working with a dedicated volunteer. He was unemployed and was readily available to help out at my park. In October I was putting up a banner to advertise Halloween. I asked him to please help me by climbing a ladder to post it. He stated he couldn’t do that. I figured he might be afraid of heights (like me) or gotten injured on a ladder, hence the unemployed state. No matter, I asked him to help organize the box of Halloween decorations. He gently shared that he couldn’t do this because he was a Jehovah’s Witness. This is why he was unemployed. He had a good paying job with Northrup Grumman (I hope that’s right) and quit when he converted because they made weapons. He did not proselytize. He did not seek publicity or pats on the back for his action or sympathy. He was a man of integrity and I prayed for him regularly to find a job.
Why are those who leaked the story so eager to relate all the gory, ambiguous details? This reminds me of the high school gossips or the office instigator who get their cheap thrills from watching conflict and pain. I feel more indignity at the manipulators in the media and Vatican than from the incident itself. My pain is no one’s entertainment!
Concerning the story itself, this doesn’t change my impression of my brother, Francis. From the beginning I shared that he is not changing any institutional teachings, but he is changing the focus. He is telling us to be primarily pastoral. This is important. When we sit with the other and commit to witnessing their humanity as Jesus did throughout his ministry, we are opening the window for the Holy Spirit. And this can be very messy. He is still looking at the other through the lens of his experience which is fraught with homophobia and sexism. I don’t state this as a criticism. It is what it is. He is as human as any of us. But he is attempting to change the Catholic emphasis from primarily doctrinal to pastoral. You bet I pray for him.
Did he meet with Kim Davis? I don’t particularly care. Did he meet with a variety of members of the LGBTQI community? I don’t think so. In Philadelphia all I saw was the highly orchestrated good Catholic gays put on display at the World Meeting of Families. Did that sound bitter? It is. I hurt very much concerning the snub felt by my family. But I’ll get over it because I’m not going away. There are some very fear-filled and power-hungry agents in the RCC. When I took my confirmation vows, I promised my life to the good of the church. I meant it. I am witnessing to God’s unconditional love of all Creation. I’m not going anywhere.
If I had the opportunity to speak to Francis, I would invite him to an unpublicized stay with my family. It would be the opportunity to sit at our table without the censoring from the manipulators. Instead of speaking about our pain first, I would engage him in a conversation about the recent canonization of Junipero Serra and the pain that has inflicted on the Church. If the topic of religious liberty came up, I would share the story of my volunteer. I would also point out that it is unseemly to compare a civil servant with job security in this free nation to the Middle Eastern Christians who are required by theocratic fundamentalists to convert to Islam or die. The separation of church and state is a safeguard against the establishment of a brutal theocracy. I would also ask for his prayers and assure him of my prayers for all my brothers and sisters, for the Roman Catholic Church and for him.
It’s hard work being Catholic.
I just read this post at 6:25 am in Swansea, UK. Thank you for this blessing to begin my day. Now to prayer.
I enjoyed this blog very much, Ms. Rosa. And I especially enjoyed your opening thoughts about the Jehovah’s Witness gentleman. Being raised in the atmosphere of the very conservative, fundamental, exclusive sect of brethren known as “Plymouth Brethren,” I was always instructed to avoid Catholics and Jehovah’s Witness’. However, since God has very patiently pursued me with His unconditional love through my journey of denial through acceptance to embracing the truth of how He created me as a lesbian, I now realize that it is His unconditional love placed within us that He wants us to acknowledge in each other.
You have so eloquently expressed EXACTLY what my thoughts were about Kim Davis. I had absolutely no problem with her LIVING as she believes. Where the problem was that made my heart so sad before God was that she forced what she believed on her coworkers, and it became an item of contention. If I am not mistaken, when Jesus was here, the character of what He usually did in those situations was to walk away from them. If He was here today, somehow I just cannot picture Him waiting for press coverage with a microphone and cameras!