Speakers reflect on experiences as gay Catholics
Selena Ponio | Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Monday night, blogger Matthew Franklin Jones spoke about a place where he often experienced isolation and a lack of love and acceptance: his church.
Jones, a contributor to the blog “Spiritual Friendship,” spoke Monday night at “Gay and Catholic,” a conversation hosted by the Gender Relations Center (GRC), about how he grew up in Portland, Oregon, as a gay teenager in a conservative Baptist community and how to this day he continues to live out a celibate life as a Protestant.
“It just was not talked about, and when it was it was in very hushed tones, in broad condemning statements of all gay people — very ‘us versus them’ statements,” Jones said.
Jones said the stereotypical negative sentiments that were blindly thrown over the entire population of gay people eventually succeeded in making him homophobic himself at one stage in his life. He said much of what affected him was his church’s decision to silence any conversation regarding matters of homosexuality.
“The world is already having this conversation and when the church is silent on it … then that just simply removes the church from the conversation,” Jones said. “It actually removes what should be a voice of compassion and mercy.”
Jones said he attempted to live into futures that he knew he did not want.
“I always walked into this cold dark, lonely apartment and thought that was the totality of the reality that awaited me,” Jones said. “When we talk to people who even refuse to acknowledge the history of suffering we have nowhere to go, because you’ve just basically erased a whole people and a whole history.”
When his church found out about his sexual orientation, Jones said, they banned him from working with kids or speaking on stage in front of the public. He said although this seemed harsh, his story was not rare.
“They had these very definitive lines of what it meant for me to be in the good graces of this church,” Jones said. “Because the church is comprised of humans, we have also contributed to injustices and we can’t ignore that. We need to ask how to make amends in that regard.”
Eve Tushnet, author of “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith,” spoke about her contrasting experience growing up as a lesbian in a secular Jewish household and her eventual conversion to Catholicism.
Tushnet said she came into the Catholic Church in 1998 and did not know any other gay people following the Church’s teaching with sexual ethics at that time.
“I was so focused on living out the Church’s sexual morality as a kind of checklist, of things you’re not supposed to do, but I didn’t think at all about what my future would look like,” Tushnet said.
There is a danger in society’s emphasis on romantic love as the highest and most successful form of companionship, she said.
“Society teaches that marriage is the thing that rescues us from the terror of loneliness, marriage is the thing that when we cry out in the dark someone will answer us,” Tushnet said. “The way that we escape isolation through romantic love is very deeply embedded into our culture.”
Tushnet said that negative stigmas usually associated with living a life of celibacy can be debunked through the realization that celibacy is not synonymous with loneliness.
“A big thing I’ve learned is to find ways that you’re not living in isolation … that you’re living with your family or your family of choice,” Tushnet said. “One of your home communities would be your Church.”
Both Tushnet and Jones said celibacy was not a restricting lifestyle, but rather a choice that gave them the “freedom to constrain” themselves to other vocations, such as serving their communities.
“Celibacy is in some ways an expression of trust that there is more than this life,” Tushnet said.