Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Gay? Christian? Why is the very idea that people can be both, so confusing to so many— particularly the leadership of the Catholic Church? A bit of disclosure here. I was born and raised Roman Catholic, and remember vowing never to leave. I stayed for years after realizing I was gay, hoping to effect some change. After all, a Church isn’t some buildings or nameless, faceless entity. It’s people. And, darn it! I was committed to changing people’s hearts, one person at a time if necessary.

Well, in retrospect I did not leave the Catholic Church. It left me.

Let me share with you a letter I sent to my priest in May of 2005. (I’ve removed identifying details.)

Dear Monsignor (Name),

It is with great regret that I write today to withdraw from (Name) Parish. I’ve been struggling for a long time trying to reconcile my identity as a Roman Catholic with my identity as a gay person. I have decided that I can no longer subject myself to internalized self-hatred that only festers and grows when one is constantly barraged with negative words and attitudes. I realized this yesterday when it was announced that the new pope would be former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I knew deep in my heart at that moment that there would be no movement away from statements like the following from a Directive prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (Ratzinger) in July 2003 and signed off on by Pope John Paul II:

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family ... Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Where they already exist, work towards repealing them. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development,'' it said.

Perhaps I had naively clung to the hope that a new “administration” at the Vatican would signal positive changes regarding such hateful positions. It will not. I realized yesterday that my continued faithfulness to the Catholic Church makes no sense. I’ve missed Mass many times in the past year, partly because I’ve been volunteering with a hospice program to care for a dying woman so her daughter could go to her own church to receive spiritual nourishment, but partly I’ve missed because I’ve been so angry.

Angry at this Church--what I'd always thought was MY CHURCH--which has basically damned me and my partner Susanne and any children we may one day raise. Where is the spiritual nourishment for us?

If I were an infant and helpless I would of course stay with an abusive parent because I wouldn’t have the comprehension, resources, maturity or freedom to leave. I look at leaving the Catholic Church at this time as a step away remaining a helpless infant. Sadly if I didn’t have an abusive “parent” in this Church I’d never want nor need to leave.

My biggest regret is withdrawing the money that we donate each month to the ministry of (Name) Church. Susanne and I will join another church and donate to their charitable works. Susanne is not Catholic but has supported me through this painful struggle like only a loving spouse could. Perhaps there is a reason I attended a Lutheran college for 4 years? Maybe God knew that one day I’d have to draw a line and begin my own personal “protest” as a Protestant.

My faith in God our heavenly father, Jesus his beloved son and my savior and the power of the Holy Spirit are unwavering. As always my desire is to love and serve God in all that I say and do. My intentions are pure, my pain real. I don’t know if the sudden withdrawal of financial support by me (and others?) will send any sort of message to the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, but clearly we must put our money where our mouths are.

The money that has been automatically sent from our bank to (Name) Church on the first of every month has been cancelled. On a personal note Monsignor (Name), I want to tell you how much I appreciate your kind words and support over this past year. You are a blessing to so many who hunger for love and acceptance. I pray that God will continue to bless you and everyone at (Name) Church. Sincerely and sadly. -Monica

Violence against our children? Give me a break! Perhaps the Catholic Church could spend more time and energy focusing on true violence to children, like the violence that occurs in abusive homes and in families where crippling poverty and hunger are every day realities. I have never regretted for one minute sending that note.

In the spring of 2006 Susanne and I joined a welcoming and affirming ELCA Lutheran Church called Luther Place and it has been wonderful. Meanwhile, just last month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following statement called: "Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care."

You can read it for yourself. I’m still shaking my head. This paragraph in particular really burned me up.

“For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.”
Do you think blogs count as general public self-disclosure? Do you really think having a person deny their true self and identity is healthy? Did the Catholic Church completely forget their own teaching of Primacy of Conscience? Once again, I'm just shaking my head. -Monica

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