...are the ones that make the biggest difference

1.04.2006

Co-workers never cease to amaze...

I took my latest copy of Touchstone to work with me last night. We've got quite a few open beds at the moment, due to a dip in the number of people who go in for surgery around the holidays (many of our patients are people who had complications after a procedure) so things are a little slow and there is time to do some reading. I was put on the lower ward with one nurse (normally there are 2) and at one point she picked up the magazine and briefly thumbed through it. This issue is on abortion and family, so she asked me what my views are. I told her and the conversation quickly turned into a wide-ranging discussion of faith, Catholicism, the role of women in the church, church history and then into the ethics of modern healthcare, the impact patient care protocols have both on the patient and on the caregiver, as well as a smattering of other topics. What intrigued me is not that we had this lengthy, in-depth conversation over such matters, but that we were in such agreement on so many issues. See, this woman is a lesbian who has been in a relationship with another woman for over 10 years and she sees nothing wrong with that.

Actually, that's not entirely accurate. She's about 55, full Italian and went to Catholic school for her entire pre-college education. She believes in God, she believes in the Church, she believes the Church can and should make moral pronouncements and respects the Catholic Church's steadfastness on its position regarding the immorality of homosexual conduct. She lives with this amazing tension between submission and rebellion, between loving the Church - for its message of hope, for what its given her, for the beauty of its worship - and hating it, largely because of the failings of its members and what individuals within it have done to her personally (she said something about her child getting molested, but this came in the middle of an exchange about the priest-abuse scandal so I wasn't sure if she was using it rhetorically). She seems to be balancing precariously between spirit & emotion, soul & heart. It was fascinating to hear her talk about living in this in-between place and she openly acknowledges that she may be risking her salvation through her defiance. "But," she said, "at leat I'd be with [my partner] in hell and I think that would make it ok." Leaving aside the obvious theological problems with that statement - ain't nobody going to make hell ok - I can't quite decide whether that is ultimately selfish (I'm going to do what I want right now) or selfless (I'm going to love no matter what the cost). Probably both.

2 comments:

The Scrivener said...

When I lived in Seattle, one of the most humble and compassionate people I knew was a gay, Catholic coworker. He honestly loved Christ and he honestly loved the church, despite his full awareness of his church's stance on his lifestyle. How he lived within that tension or worked to resolve it in his life, I don't know. But I think of him often.

The Scrivener said...

Point of clarification: my friend was an older man (late 50s) and had been living with his partner for a good 15 years. Not that this changes anything in the way the Roman Catholic Church viewed his lifestyle, but perhaps it altered his own perception of it.