Gavin DCosta

The doctrine of the Trinity shapes the life and practice of the church, even though, of course, such a doctrine is the product of the very church whose life it shapes. Hence, we should not be surprised to find within the doctrine much that tells us about the shapers of this dazzling truth, and about their societies. But we will also glean a sense of the truth that compelled and drove Christians into formulating such a doctrine. How much depends on getting the Trinity right? Most Christian churches would say "everything," as it is a matter of truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Otherwise, idolatry might live at the heart of Christian worship. Since all practice depends on the shape of God, the life of the church would be severely dysfunctional if its God were not the true God. In queering the Trinity I will focus on one single practice - the admission of only men to the ministerial priesthood - within the largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, as it is defended in the theology of one of the Church's most influential modern theologians, Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88).11 will suggest that this practice of exclusive male ordination is as heretical as the doctrine of God that sustains it. I am not going to argue the case for the ordination of women to the priesthood based on any secular notion of equal rights for women, because that argument is irrelevant; for it is on trinitarian, biblical, and historical-practice grounds that the exclusion is defended.2 And to those who might say, "but what has the Trinity to do with women priests?" the answer is simple: "everything" - as we shall see. Julia Kristeva, the French feminist psychoanalytical philosopher, recognizes the subtle and complex interrelationships between the Trinity and every aspect of religious practice. Formulating the matter in Lacanian terms she writes: "The Trinity itself, that crown jewel of theological speculation, evokes, beyond its specific content and by virtue of the very logic of its articulation, the intricate intertwining of the three aspects of psychic life: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real" (Kristeva 1987b: 43). One might equate Kristeva's "real" with the immanent God who is unknowable and unrepresentable, the symbolic with the economic revelation of God and the consequent structure of the church in history, and the imaginary with the ecclesial unconscious.

The forging of Christian doctrine requires human language to speak of the divine. On the one hand there is the constant danger that we might project onto the divine attributes of our human society and its structures. Feuerbach, Freud, and Marx saw this in profound and different ways, but failed to think this through beyond the idea of projection. On the other hand, and in reaction to such critiques, there are some negative theologians so wary that our language about God is saturated with anthropocentricism that they argue it is best to say nothing at all about the divine; the apophatic is privileged. In response to this dilemma there is a curious form of revelatory positivism where it is claimed that we must simply trust that the divine words are found untarnished in the Bible and accept these words as "God's Word/s." The whole question of mediation is bypassed. However, this positivist view has an interesting element within it: the incarnation of God in human flesh in the person of Jesus does mean that human beings have the ability to reflect on the divine, but only analogically. In one of its forms, this incarnational path was developed as the way of analogy. There are other trajectories, but this is the one I shall be examining.

Thomas Aquinas puts the matter of analogy succinctly: "concerning God we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him" (Summa Contra Gentiles 1.30; cited in Catholic Church 1994: 18). This laid the foundation for the teaching of the maior dissimilitudo, whereby it is held that any similarity between God and creation is known only within the infinitely greater difference between the two: "between creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude" (Fourth Lateran Council, Denzinger and Schonmetzer 1965: 806; cited in Catholic Church 1994: 18). This safeguarded against anthropocentricism, but allowed that language might have a carefully qualified, regulative function to play in response to the divine mystery. Failure to recognize the analogical quality of language about God was a sure recipe for heresy: to predicate of God that which belongs to creation, to forget the greater difference. This view of analogy leads me to queer theory.

In introducing queer theory, the sociologist Steven Seidman writes: "[s]exuality is perhaps the last human dimension that many of us refuse to grant is socially created, historically variable, and therefore deeply political. However, this is changing" (Seidman 1996: 2). Seidman contends that this denaturalizing of sex has been generated by disciplines such as psychoanalysis, feminism, post-structuralism and sociology, which have allowed us to see the socially constructed nature of reality, and thereby question it. Seidman never once mentions theology, and this is true of many queer theorists, although methodologically I believe that certain types of theology might properly be called queer; that is, they are capable of overturning idols, showing how human constructions so easily masquerade as "God-given reality" or - in its secular trope - as "natural." Such queer theologies are concerned to unmask allegedly revelatory or natural idolatry not so that personal capitalism may flourish (that you can do what you like if you have the power and resources to do it) but to herald in a new order, the "kingdom of God" or, more simply, a church where women priests can properly represent Christ and Mary. Of course theologians are not able to make this critique from any foundationalist standpoint, replicating the problem that queer theory aims to unmask, but from within a complex tradition which they must both criticize and learn from. Hence this chapter is planted in the heart of Roman Catholic theology, in my own ecclesial communion.

Clearly, this type of queer theology is different from secular queer theory in a number of ways. First, it is particularly concerned with the question of God language, and not purely in a deconstructive manner, but in the belief that in the forging and practice of God-language lies our salvation (see Nussbaum 1999; and for a careful theological analysis Coakley 2002: 153-67). Second, its accountability is primarily to ecclesial communities, acknowledging the different contours that these have, and not to the academy or specific ideological theories or particular political groupings. This would require considerable unpacking, but my point is that in varied senses theology is an ecclesial practice while queer theorizing is not.3 Third, the aims of certain queer theorists have been overtly ideological: to "liberate" gay men or lesbian women or bisexuals or transgendered persons. My concern is different: to make space for God within our (eucharistic) language, so that we might listen, see, smell, touch, taste, and worship. While this worship may actually lead to the liberation of gay men and lesbian women it is not undertaken for this reason per se, for it is not possible to know what "liberation" might be apart from the language of the Christian tradition, even if it is within this same tradition that gays and lesbians have been - and still are - shamefully persecuted.

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