Fatherless in a Church of Fathers

“So, something that you should know about me… is that I’m gay… or same-sex-attracted, ummm, whatever you want to call it…”

Father looked at me. We’d been chatting for about twenty minutes in the coffee shop, as a follow-up to my request to explore possibly doing spiritual direction together. He said, “You don’t need to share that with people as soon as you meet them. Why do you feel the need to bring that up immediately when you first get to know someone? If you develop a relationship and get to know people, then over time you can share more and more about yourself. But not everyone needs to know that…”

I wanted to cut in and say that I didn’t share that immediately with everyone (even if I do write about it), that I thought it was relevant for someone I’m thinking about doing spiritual direction with, that this was something I’d want to talk about. But he kept talking and then changed the subject. Later he brought up the question of vocation, and where I saw myself.

“Well, for right now I’m focusing on my house as my vocation primarily. I think… For me, I need to think about vocation in kind of unique ways.”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “Why do you think that’s the case?” He sounded genuinely curious.

“I think because of… my sexuality… since I won’t be getting married, I need to think about friendships and community in special ways.”

“Be careful with that,” he said. “When we think of ourselves as special, that is pride…”

. . . . .

Later on, my counselor asked me why I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my sexuality with the priests at my parish, and I shared that story.

“So if you don’t feel that you can get support at the parish, why do you stay there?”

“Well… I feel like I can support the parish,” I said. “I don’t know any other openly gay people there, but I know there are a number of other gay people. And I think, ‘If I’m not there for them to be able to talk to, who will they have?’ I actually recently had another gay person from the parish reach out to me to talk, because he doesn’t feel like he can really talk about it to anyone else.”

“But you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone in the parish without being shut down or dismissed?”

“Well… I have friends at the parish I can talk to,” I said. “I just don’t feel like I can really talk about it with the parish leadership. Like, we’d talked about the time I was asked to give a talk there and I offered to give it on Catholicism and homosexuality, and the organizer said, ‘We’re not there yet.’ To me, that sounded like the parish wasn’t ready for me. Which is hard. But I like being there, because I know there are other people there that they aren’t ready for, and I want to be there for them.”

“So you can be a support for them,” she said.

“Yeah.”

“Chris, usually when people are looking for a church community, they’re looking for a place where they can be a support. But they also want a place where they can be supported. Because that’s what a family does. It’s a place where you can both support and be supported.”

“Oh…” I said. The family analogy reminded me of one of my tendencies. “So in this circumstance, I’m kind of parenting again.”

She smiled. “Yes.”

I now remember. I wasn’t looking for a child. I was looking for a family. I was looking for a father.

 


As an update, I should say that I have since settled happily into a parish where I can speak with my pastor about the various aspects of my complicated life. Such pastors, I have found, are not common. But they can be found, if you are willing to look, and to suffer some rejection by some along the way. I recommend taking a “dating” approach to choosing a parish: sit down with the pastor, explain who you are and what you are looking for, spend time discerning whether you and the parish are “compatible,” and commit to a decision.

 


Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops. 

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