By Bishoy Dawood
Lady Gaga has always inspired and stood up for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people through her pop music, especially in songs such as Born This Way and Alejandro. Those two songs in particular contain video images and lyrics that critique the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality. For example, in Alejandro, there is a scene where Lady Gaga is dressed as a nun, lying on a bed and consuming a rosary, which can be interpreted to be a critique of Catholic teaching on homosexuals bearing a cross and the difficulty of swallowing the teaching on life-long celibacy. On the other hand, the song Born This Way includes a new mythology that challenges the creation myth held by the Judeo-Christian tradition, where Gaga sings about a tolerant worldview towards people who are born with different sexual orientations and gender identities.
On 9 May 2016, however, the Internet saw and reacted in surprise to a picture posted by Lady Gaga with Fr. Duffell, a Roman Catholic priest from New York, as she pulled out a Bible from a hat. Her own comment on the picture was as follows: “Thank you Father Duffell for a beautiful homily as always and lunch at my pop’s restaurant. I was so moved today when you said.. ‘The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.’”
With Lady Gaga creating a safe space through her pop art for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and then introducing them to the merciful and welcoming space of the Catholic Church, she serves as a minister and apostle of mercy for her followers.
Like a magical surprise pulled out from a hat, Lady Gaga showed the world, and especially her “little monsters” who were initiated and welcomely received into her safe “House of Gaga,” that she appreciated, and was moved by, the Catholic Church’s message of Eucharistic inclusion. For lesbian, gay, bi and trans people who follow Lady Gaga, this would mean a transformation of their perceptions about the Church, which perhaps drove them away as monsters; yet, now they can see that it is safe to be members of a merciful Church that feeds humanity with the divine and mystical food of the sacraments.
Following Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Church as a hospital and a place of encountering the mercy of God, the traditional Catholic sacramental theology that are about inclusion and the reception of grace (instead of achievement for reward) have been re-emphasized in the Pope’s work and preaching in the 2016 Extraordinary Year of Mercy. With Lady Gaga creating a safe space through her pop art for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and then introducing them to the merciful and welcoming space of the Catholic Church, she serves as a minister and apostle of mercy for her followers. God, who is in all things, can certainly work through pop artists, their music, and their Instagram photos, to bring people throughout the world into his compassionate divine embrace.
As lesbian, gay, bi and trans Catholic people at All Inclusive Ministries, we know and experience this merciful and inclusive sacramental grace of God in our Masses, our communal activities, and our friendships. That divine mercy and inclusion moved Lady Gaga, and so her actions and words inspire and motivate us in our ministry as well.
This June, the month of Pride, may it be a celebration of our pride in being “born this way” and our pride in being “born again” in the Body of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.