We all know that the official stance of the Church is hostile to us and our relationships. We all know that there are instances where this institutional opposition translates into personal animus on the ground, and in the political arena. We are wrong, though, when we then assume that this will always be the case. Coming out is never easy, but it is easier today than it was when I was young, and the increased visibility has greatly eased the political task. Coming out in Church is even more difficult, but is not impossible. Ordinary Catholics in the pews are usually far more supportive than the institutional statements might lead us to expect. This inspiring example (published on Opposing Views) tells how a young man, just 18, was forced to face the entire assembled parish over sexuality. The result was not what you might expect – but was more authentically Catholic. This is Joseph’s key observation:
although doctrine may assert a particular teaching, Catholics see beyond the falsehood of such and to the truth of the very core of humanity.
Gay and Catholic: Questions of Identity
When I was 18 years old, I was teaching religious education at a Catholic Church near my hometown in Ulster County, NY. At the same time, I was fighting for a gay-straight alliance at my high school. During the process of forming the GSA, a parent of a child at my parish challenged my ability to teach Catholic doctrine. In response, the parish priest ordered an open meeting of the entire parish community to allow for those opposed to my teaching to bring their complaints in front the greater community.
On the night in which the disputation was take place, I arrived with my father to a church filled with well over a hundred people. The priest arose to the lectern and reiterated the purpose of the meeting. When he offered the podium to the congregation, one-by-one each member rose to the lectern and to my own surprise offered words of support and affirmation for who I was as an individual. Does that make gay Catholic sound like an oxymoron or rather does it add to the recognition that although doctrine may assert a particular teaching, Catholics see beyond the falsehood of such and to the truth of the very core of humanity.
Now 22 years old, being a gay Catholic has thus far made for rather interesting dates. My faith, coupled with my undergraduate degree in religious studies, has caused more than one date to include a statement similar to “The whole Catholic thing sort of freaks me out.” Quite honestly, I’m confused as to why it’s so difficult for others to understand how someone could be gay and Catholic.
Often time people will ask “How can you be Catholic when your church perceives you as an abomination?” In response, I wonder, “How can gay Americans choose to live in the United States when our country denies us equal rights?” Is the answer to always just get up and leave; is it not easier to just never sit in the pew rather than to sit in the pew and challenge the institution that denies my humanity? As a gay Catholic, I am not beholden to doctrine or dogma that denies my validity, but rather I am beholden to my belief in a Creator that loves all humanity for who we are as individuals.
Gay Catholics, and all members of the human race, have an obligation to bring our religious and secular leaders to witness the necessity for compassion. I will not wrongly presume that the Pope will come out tomorrow in support of gay marriage, but I am confident that as one gay Catholic amongst many, we each play a fundamental role in showing not only other Catholics, but also the community at large, that we are here and proud. Coming out Catholic should not be the end to a date, but rather a point in the passing of conversation.
- Call to Action: progressive Catholics hold a convention (opentabernacle.wordpress.com)
- Pray, Don’t Pay, Disobey: The Catholic Revolution Has Begun. (queertheology.blogspot.com)
- Call to Action: progressive Catholics hold a convention (theliberalspirit.com)