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Same-sex civil unions and my radical hope

| Friday, October 23, 2020

In her virtual Hesburgh Lecture at Notre Dame two weeks ago, Dr. Angela Davis asked the question: “How can we educate ourselves so we have the capacity to think beyond what exists in the present?” Dr. Davis suggests that this radical hope for what is possible in the future is what grounds us in the present.

This morning, I caught a glimpse of this future that I had never even imagined to be possible within my own lifetime. Earlier today, a new documentary shows that Pope Francis, for the first time in his papacy, has declared support for same-sex civil unions, citing that gay couples, too, deserve legal protection for their relationships. Francis is the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and the first to publicly endorse same-sex civil unions.

In the United States in 2020, the support of same-sex civil unions (which is different from marriage) is far from a radical view. But for the Catholic Church — my Church and my home, this is a big deal: a big and necessary step in the Church’s long journey toward equality for all God’s children and their loved ones.

I saw the news while sitting in Duncan Student Center, going about my morning as a busy doctoral student of theology. I don’t often cry in public, but this morning, I simply let my tears flow down my (masked) face out of excitement, awe and sorrow. During my undergraduate years at Notre Dame, I would walk by the Basilica, where I worshipped every Sunday, with the somber realization that I, as a queer Catholic, would not be able to marry a same-sex partner in the same sanctuary where I had received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, in the same Church that had taught me the meaning of love and justice, of mercy and grace.

This still remains true today: The Catholic Church is far from expanding sacramental marriage to same-sex couples. Ecclesial homophobia, transphobia and heteronormativity in our theological imagination still loom large in Catholic spaces. But for the first time, I saw signs of a Church that is growing ever closer to its mission of being the embodiment of God’s all-encompassing love. For that, I am grateful.

Sacramental marriage, something unimaginable in the present moment for queer individuals in the Catholic Church like myself, will always be my radical hope. On the path toward building this impossible future, it is moments like today’s news that ground me. Notre Dame, through its very motto and mission, has taught me much about the meaning and the costliness of hope. And in that same spirit, I  — a queer Catholic student of theology — continue to live in the hope of a future that, deep down, I believe is possible.


Flora Tang

Doctoral Student in Theology and Peace Studies

Oct. 21


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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