“I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those who would rather see people like me gone”, a Swiss lesbian Catholic theologian has said.
– “In many places being out is anything but safe”
“In many places being out is anything but safe, the specific discriminations lesbians endure are seldom acknowledged”, Zurich-based theologian Susanne Birke wrote in an open letter for Lesbian Visibility Day last April 26, as New Ways Ministry reports.
“Our needs are often not addressed and taken care of when laws are changed to include homosexuals. Lesbian organisations do not get the same funding”, denounced the theologian, who identifies as a “woman-loving female”, which she said “is an expression to refer to the affective-sexual orientation of a woman over the cis / trans-gender identity by the woman who feels attraction”.
– “This is what I am”
As for the situation for lesbians and women-loving women in the Catholic Church, “things look even worse”, Birke admitted, though she added she “can see the wind of change”.
Far from being “impossible, crazy or simply stupid”, being “a woman-loving female Roman Catholic theologian working for my Church” is simply “what I am”, Birke proclaimed.
Various factors have aligned for the theologian to make easier her continuity in the Church, she admitted.
Not least of all the fact that she lives in a diocese that she called “open” to LGBTIQ+ ministry – the diocese of Basel – which has what Birke described as a “continually active” Rainbow Pastoral working group.
Not only that, but Birke said the organisation she works for “was supportive and stood by me” even though there have been “complaints” over her working on feminist theology, women’s rights and LGBTIQ+ outreach in the Church.
But “most of all I can do, what I do, because there are many people here at grassroots level who want their Church to be inclusive and some are also willing to risk something to make this come true”, Birke explained.
Not that it’s been easy, though.
Birke denounced not only that if she were to live in a registered partnership she “could never do what I do now”, but also that “many of my colleagues live in fear, because even though we work for inclusion at parish level, we [the Church] are far away from accepting LGBTIQ+ when it comes to staff”.
– “No matter what happens I’ll remain part of the ‘resurrection movement'”
Birke admitted that “in a way it feels crazy, working for a Church, who not only discriminates against me because of my genitals, but also because of whom I love”.
But she added:
“I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those, who would rather see people like me gone.
“I met many wonderful human beings all around the world, doing great work in many ways. This means more to me than the discrimination I experience.
“And last, but not least: no matter, what will happen, I will remain part of the ‘resurrection movement’ that started 2000 years ago”.
– “May the Holy One bless you with Her love”
Despite the fact that Birke said the discrimination she suffered particularly as a young Church-employed theologian “is better now”, she said “there still is a lot of work to do”.
On the bright side though, she added, “the reform movement in Switzerland is extraordinarily strong and there are strong women’s organisations and networks too”, and “the Swiss Catholic Women’s League is the biggest Roman Catholic organisation here and supports marriage equality“.
Birke voiced her hope that the voices of all those working for inclusion in the Church “will become stronger and be listened to more in the future”.
The theologian closed her open letter for Lesbian Visibility Day with an “encouragement”: “Do not let anybody stop you from combining something in the core of your being, because others think it is impossible. You might be here to open new doors!”
“May the Holy One bless you, guide and protect you with Her love”, Birke concluded.
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