Dr Joseph Gentilini is a gay Catholic who has discerned for himself what he sees as a “ministry” to serve the Church by writing to all the US bishops about his experience as a gay man, and how it contradicts the foundation on which rests the Catholic argument in opposition. I wrote earlier this week on the merits of this example, and how we would do well to follow his example.
Dr Gentilini has shared with me a reflection from his journal which shows precisely how this is indeed a ministry, and has generously allowed me to publish these most personal thoughts.
Last night they had Benediction before Compline with incense, etc. – old theology in a way but it still resonates with me. As I did many times during this retreat, both in the early hours of the day before Matins and also throughout the day when the spirit moved me, I just told God: “I want you. For all eternity I want you.
At one point in the retreat, I imagined a conversation with God over the ministry I have to write the American Catholic bishops and sharing my story. Several persons have told me that this is truly a ministry that God has called me to. So…I imagined a conversation with God and asked him why he gave me this ministry.
The “answer” I imagined was this:
I suffered a lot growing up as gay in a society and Church that denigrated my sexual orientation and called me a major sinner. I suffered humiliation and rejection by those who were part of my own family and my years in the Catholic School system. And yet, today I am at peace with who I am as a gay man.
I suffered the years I spent in conversion or reparative therapy as I did everything the psychologist suggested I do. For awhile I took medication to block any physical ejaculation. I dated women and tried to make “positive associations.” I tortured myself trying to make myself someone I was not and I became suicidal, keeping the means to do so in my top dresser drawer. And yet today, I am at peace with who I am as a gay man.
I was promiscuous during many of those years, separating my sexual expressions from any emotional interaction. It was only after I met Michael at a gay Christian conference that they were met. And yet even then, I spent the next 7 years trying to find a relationship without success, and I continued to be fairly promiscuous. And yet today, I am in an intimate and faithful relationship of almost 29 years with Leo. Many persons coming out of the background I did have not been able to enjoy such a relationship.
During those many years, I tried to find God’s will in my life, even to the point I “tortured” myself in reparative therapy because I believed God wanted me to be heterosexual. For a brief 1.5 years I actively tried to kill any faith in a God, at least the Christian God whom I found so demanding and silent. And yet, today I am at peace with God, a person I have experienced as full of mercy, love, and acceptance. God loves me as the gay person he created.
I have stayed in the institutional Catholic Church even though I “see” much in the church which is not reflective of Jesus’ radical message of love and acceptance. Because I have experienced the gift of forgiveness from God for myself, I have been able to forgive others who have hurt me. This includes those leaders in my Church who have voiced their view that my sexual orientation is “objectively disordered” and my sexual expressions with my partner Leo as “intrinsically evil.” Because of this, I am now free to write my story to the Bishops, not demanding anything of them. I only ask that they begin listening to my life experiences and those of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters. There is power and humility in such a stance. If I leave the institutional church, I give up my witness to them of how God has touched my life in relationship with God and with Leo.
Who else would God send?
I told God this weekend that I accept his request of me and will be more intentional and disciplined in writing them all, more quickly than I have done.
- “Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion (queering-the-church.com)
- How to Right the Bishops (my-queer-spirituality.blogspot.com)
- Gay Altar Server: Tolerance & Reconciliation? (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
- “Catholics For Equality” on Gay Bullycide (queering-the-church.com)
- Kate Childs Graham on Making American Catholicism a Welcoming and Safe Space for Gay Persons (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Pray, Don’t Pay, Disobey: The Catholic Revolution Has Begun. (queering-the-church.com)