How do you write or speak about the ways in which you’ve felt dismissed or rejected by the Church, while resisting the strong temptation to overdramatize your situation, to simply condemn the actions of others, and to play the imaginary innocent victim? I believe that an important part of growing up is claiming your own moral agency, often through resisting the urge to turn yourself into someone else’s victim.
But I also believe that being gay and Catholic is unnecessarily difficult in a number of ways. I’ve experienced some of these difficulties, and I would like to briefly share a few of them. Some of these stories give a glimpse into what it’s like to exist in communities that are “not ready” for your experiences, to tithe in a Church that wouldn’t employ you, and to aim for relationship where many encourage isolation. If you’ve experienced these things, know you’re not alone. If you’ve done these things, know that you can do differently in the future. If you struggle with these questions, know that I’m with you. I recognize that they aren’t easy.
A few years ago, I was invited to give a talk at a Catholic parish. After thinking about the originally-proposed topic, I offered to speak on Catholicism and homosexuality. I shared with the organizer talks that I had given in the past on welcoming those who identify as members of the LGB community, while upholding and promoting the Church’s teachings on sexuality. The organizer recognized that this was an important topic but said that the parish “wasn’t there yet.” The community wasn’t ready for this complex issue. What I heard: the parish wasn’t ready for my story, for me. I gave the originally-proposed talk.
Around the same time, I was offered a prestigious position working for the Church. In the spirit of full disclosure, I shared with some stakeholders my sexuality and my public work on homosexuality and Catholicism. I made clear that all of my work aimed at promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church in their entirety. But after further consideration, they rescinded the offer, saying that the current tensions between the Church and the LGB community would make my work unnecessarily complicated, both for myself and for the Church. Another–straight–Catholic got the job.
In college, I started to develop romantic feelings for a close male friend. When the friend brought up these feelings to a priest he knew, the priest advised him simply to break off our friendship. In many ways, the priest’s fears about where that friendship could go were reasonable, and I wonder if my few failures to cultivate chaste friendships left him feeling vindicated. But regardless, that priest had no interest in hearing from me, a young Catholic struggling to find integration.
The stories I’ve shared here only touch the surface of the struggles many of my gay Catholic friends have faced. My experiences of discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion in the Church are minor compared to the stories of many gay Catholics, even friends who promote and uphold the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
Being Catholic can be ridiculously hard for LGB people. But I still believe that being a gay Catholic is better for me than being a gay non-Catholic. And regardless of whether Catholics see a place for me in the Church, I’m not leaving.
(More reflections on these experiences here.)