Truth, identity and Edith Stein
Kathleen Healy | Monday, February 15, 2010
Many thanks to those who organized the Edith Stein Conference last week for their dedication to exploring religious, cultural and sexual identity. However, I would invite the planners next year to give voice to the experience of faithful Catholics who do not identify as heterosexual.
The Conference hosted Melinda Selmys, who lived as a lesbian for over seven years before “converting” to both Catholicism and heterosexuality. Selmys’ story was a nuanced one; she did not claim to be ex-gay and she questioned the morality of the University’s current non-discrimination policy. However, if the conference desires to reflect upon homosexuality and Catholicism, planners may want to consider allowing someone to speak who actually identifies as homosexual, which they failed to do with both Selmys and in the two men chosen for the panel discussion.
In privileging Selmys’ voice, a subtle message was sent that homosexual identity is illegitimate and anti-Catholic. For those struggling to integrate body and soul (a theme of the conference), that message can actually do more violence than any ill-conceived cartoon ever could. In protest to Selmys as a speaker, students gathered at McKenna Hall to recite “queer poetry.” While some called security for them to be taken away, Selmys’ husband stood and listened to the poetry preachers and applauded them.
I hope that Conference organizers in the future follow his example and give space to listen to the voices of LGBTQ Catholics. Such dialogue could form a complimentary relationship that would give everyone deeper insight into the incredible beauty of humanity created in the image of God, and the boundless love we receive from such a Creator. At the conference, Dolores Hart, OSB remarked, “It is the love of truth that led Edith Stein to the truth of Love.” The Conference developed out of a love of truth, and I hope in the future it will voice the truth of the experience of homosexual Catholics. While such dialogue takes courage on both parts, there is nothing to fear because as Catholics we know the outcome, which is the truth of Love.