Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Being gay in the Church today

This article is directly related to yesterday’s column on “Celibacy and Integrity” and is dedicated to a fellow blogger who is trying to discern if he wants to remain in the Catholic priesthood. It is controversial and I would especially like to invite any gay members of the clergy who want to provide a more positive perspective on this issue to share their comments.

It is hard to be a gay man in the Roman Catholic priesthood today. The Church used to be the perfect refuge for gay men from traditional Catholic families, a haven from the pressure to find a wife and start a family. You could live comfortably among your own gender and be respected and never suspected, for your choice. Not anymore. In recent years, in addition to the tired and hurtful catechetical teaching that homosexuality is “gravely disordered”, we have:

  • the “witch hunt” against gays in the seminaries, reinforcing the feeling that the Church does not want men of your sexual orientation in its ranks. Gay prospective seminarians have to offer much more proof than straights that they are able to meet the demands of celibacy, because, unfortunately and erroneously, homosexuality has been equated in the popular mind with pedophilia.

  • the increasing conflict between the Church and the gay community over civil marriage and unions, domestic partnership, adoption of children by gay couples, and other public policy questions. It must be hard to wear the collar of an institution that is working steadily against the interests of those who share your sexual orientation. You have to keep silent to keep your job and those in the gay community who know the “real” you are calling on you to “out” yourself and stand in solidarity with them. Maybe you are one of those few remaining gays who believe that marriage should be a “straights only” proposition but it’s hard for a caring person (and you became a priest because you ARE a caring person) to deny other people the right to form stable homes and families. The time has come to get off the fence and answer the question: “Which side are you on?”

  • the historic persecution of ministries such as New Ways and Dignity USA that are designed to provide positive pastoral help and comfort to gay individuals within the Church.

I could tell from your blog that you love the traditional Mass, the vestments, the music and pageantry that so characterize the “high” Catholic Church. However, your gift of language placed you in a community that is far removed from all of that. Church was no longer about glorious Masses but about the suffering "masses yearning to breathe free" – suffering masses who, at the same time, are more prejudiced against people like you than the majority community. You have had to silently endure their anti-homosexual comments or try to formulate an answer sufficiently calm and vague so as not to blow your cover. And as long as you have the gift and they have the need, that is where you will be called to serve for the foreseeable future.

You care for these immigrant people of God and it must be hard to watch our Catholic leaders refuse to support a bill that would help them bring their families together because that bill grants the same reunification privileges to same-sex partners. The Church would rather slam the door on people like you than embrace and help the people you care for and serve. How can anyone live with that?

This is not about sex or romantic relationships. It’s about whether or not any gay person with integrity can continue to serve in an institution that is causing so much pain to the brothers and sisters who share your sexual orientation and who are also made in the image and likeness of God.

People are angry at Padre Alberto because he showed another way. By leaving, getting married, and joining the Episcopalians, he made a statement: “I refuse to go on living a double life. I want to be free to live openly and with integrity before my God, to be who I am.” He left the closet and the world did not come to an end. In that brief flash of daylight from the open door, other men saw a way out and a world beyond.

I don’t know where you will come out, brother. I miss your blog, which is now closed to the general public. All I can do is pray for you, that you will find a path that allows you to live as a Catholic gay man with integrity, at peace with yourself and with God.

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