I’m thinking about leadership in the in the Roman Catholic Church because of a few recent articles. In my academic life, I taught that there are those who have earned leadership and those who merely fulfill appointed roles. Maybe the absence of national political leadership makes us more aware of who our real leaders are.
Michael Sean Winters in National Catholic Reporter takes on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who will meet in a couple of weeks. The agenda appears to be excessively bureaucratic, but I would argue with Winters to the extent that inspired leadership could make any of the topics – from racism to sainthood for Nick Black Elk – come alive. We will be watching to see if any genuine leaders emerge.
Similarly, this very week Mary Hunt, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Jamie Manson and other Catholics join in “Rolling the Stone Away: Generations of Love and Justice,” an ecumenical conference in St. Louis to address the lived experience of LGBTIQA people, past, present, and future. In a manifesto in the NCR, these three women proclaim “We need wisdom from many Catholic perspectives, not limiting ‘Catholic’ to institutional church teaching on matters on which the vast majority of Catholics have left the hierarchy behind.” They sum up the issues and the attitude called for:
We respectfully but insistently ask clerics to please be quiet, listen and learn about some of the issues our children face: the many ways there are to be transgender; how to live in a nonbinary world; how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases; how to date and partner safely and with pleasure; what it means to unexpectedly fall in love with someone of the same sex or to be in love with someone whose gender identity changes; what it means to be asexual; how to cope with the insidious violence too often encountered in intimate relationships.
These wise women note that they have been prevented from speaking in Catholic institutions. They are leaders. Many of those men in roles are not. I am reminded of the late, great Fats Domino: “Ain’t That a Shame.”