Mark Dowd’s impressive new book, “Queer and Catholic” is subtitled “a life of contradictions”. However, as the book itself demonstrates, there is no inherent contradiction between being queer and Catholic. Mark’s life has been steeped in Catholicism, from childhood in a deeply Catholic family, through education, to professional life as a broadcaster specialising in religion, to his current activities. At the same time, he has always known he was gay – from the age of eight, before he knew the word or what it meant – and at least from university, he has always been open about his orientation. This is a life fully gay, fully and deeply Catholic. The title however is not “Gay and Catholic”, but “Queer and Catholic”. This is significant. In its original meaning before it became a pejorative, or was later appropriated by queer theory, the word meant simply “strange”. There is something very strange indeed in the Vatican horror of homosexuality.
The only contradiction that exists between being queer and Catholic, as Mark himself states in his introduction, is within the church itself, where he states that the church is so anti-gay, because it is so gay. This is an internal contradiction that the church will in time be forced to resolve. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that even now, important leaders of the church, from Pope Francis himself, through senior cardinals and professional theologians, to lay Catholics in the pews, know that things must change. Pastoral practice in many dioceses and parishes is already vastly better than it was a few decades ago, even to serious discussions taking place about blessing same-sex unions. Changes in pastoral practice will eventually and inevitably lead to changes also in underlying theology.