Gay and Catholic
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 13, 2018
As a gay man, being told by my Catholic faith that I cannot love is a heartbreaking experience. It’s like having legs and being told that I cannot walk. I respect and love my faith — it is the lens through which I view the world — and my first instinct is to adhere to its teachings. But to obey that particular command would be to deny an essential part of myself, to curtail my most fundamental drive as a relational creature. And so, I’m left with a choice: either disobey my faith and — in the eyes of the Church — embrace a life of sin; or deny my sexuality and struggle through life alone.
The gauzy language of the Church makes this latter choice seem easier than it is: “Ah, but gay Christians are not alone! They can engage in chaste friendship, and that’s more than enough to quench the longings of the soul. It’s a sacrifice, of course, but that’s what the faith demands of us.”
This prescription of abstinence and chaste friendship for gay people satisfies those who need not abide by it. They, the heterosexual members of the flock, share beds with their spouses and preside over households full of children. Knowing that the choice to deny their sexuality is one they will never have to make, they are content to insist that others do so. They fit neatly into the male-female model of love, and thus never need entertain the possibility that other forms of holy love might exist.
The daunting challenge in being gay and Catholic is to determine what God wills for your life, where you’re called to go as you follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. The Church has its answer, of course, but accepting that sentence of life-long solitude is like taking a breath underwater: it goes against your deepest instincts. Alternatively, many in the LGBT community have felt, perhaps justifiably, more inclined towards the opposite course of action: leave the Church behind, never look back at the institution that would see you oppressed.
The person who seeks to be truly gay and Catholic — not willing to let either identity exclude the other — is thus left in limbo. They pursue relationships that their Church will never recognize as love and then attend mass on Sundays. They could certainly convert, perhaps joining the Episcopalians and gaining the ability to be married in a church someday. But they cannot, no matter how hard they try, shake the feeling of comfort that comes in celebrating mass together with people who speak the language of the Roman Catholic Church. In a bitter irony, they feel deeply at home in a religion that condemns their desire to love and be loved as “intrinsically disordered.”
We who live the tension between gay and Catholic hope that someday our Church will change. But we recognize that “the Church thinks in centuries” and — despite increasing popular support for gay rights — that change is not likely soon to arrive. Until it comes, we must continually navigate the paradox of being gay and Catholic, praying to God each day for the strength to remain in His Church.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.