This morning, I meditated on Jesus being brought in front of Pilate and the religious leaders and accused of all sorts of things He hadn’t done and of being someone He wasn’t. I asked Him to help me feel what He felt as His Heart encountered the darkness; while all those He came to set free and those He had drawn close to Himself abandoned Him.
As I started to enter into this scene and imagine His pain, I began to think of the words “homosexual people” our Holy Father Francis used and the pain this brought me. I am not comparing my pain to our Lord’s, but I can at least put myself in His shoes when it comes to feeling abandoned by those whom I should feel closest to and most supported by.
When I returned to the Catholic Church nearly ten years ago, it was after leaving behind the gay identity assigned to me that I willingly lived for most of my life. I found great comfort in the Church’s language that reminded me and others who had lived the gay or lesbian identity that we are not defined by our desires and feelings but by our Father in Heaven, who through Baptism adopted us and who calls us His children and nothing more.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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This loving truth brought me to see the roots of my attractions. It helped me understand them as something that, when properly viewed, did not put me in a box or limit me in any way. The truth that I am a child of God freed me and allowed me to pursue the great holiness Jesus invites us all to. Soon after this realization, I started attending Courage meetings, and I reclaimed my true identity. (Courage is the apostolate in the Catholic Church for people who experience same-sex attraction but are striving to follow the teachings of the Church.)
Living my true identity as a son of God and nothing more has always been challenging, but the challenge usually comes from the world and those in it who have not yet been freed from the mindset of desire equals identity. That was the case when I first came back, but I quickly realized this worldly mindset had infiltrated the Church that had brought me to freedom.
First, I heard it from some Catholic lay people: “Who are a bunch of celibate men to tell us anything about our sexuality?” Then I heard it from a Religious brother: “The Church should change her teachings. Gays should be allowed to marry.” Next, it came from a priest: “Homosexuality is the way God created part of the human race.” Then, from a bishop: “Homosexuals have a right to church and blessing.” And now, from Pope Francis: “Being homosexual is not a crime…God loves us as we are.” These words are a great darkness to the light I have been given through the Church—who now, in her false compassion, seeks to put me back in the same prison from which she previously helped free me.
The problem with these statements from Pope Francis, religious or clerics, and laity is the reference to people as “homosexuals” or “gays.” By using these words, you are taking away from others the freedom that the language used by the Courage apostolate gave me. The apostolate teaches that referring to us this way or thinking of ourselves this way “minimizes” us. It takes one aspect of us and makes it our identity.
And they do this with a part of us, our sexuality, which is easily influenced by many factors, such as early childhood trauma, including exposure to sexuality at a very early age and difficulty in relationships with same-sex peers and family members. In their effort to bring freedom to those of us who identify or have been identified this way, they reinforce a kind of bondage.
To be seen by others or to see ourselves as anything but sons and daughters of God is to have a shackle put on our leg with a weight attached. The weight of this identity keeps us from moving forward and growing in our relationship with Christ and His Church. It leaves us engaging in behavior that darkens our intellect and keeps us from the grace Jesus wants to shower each of us, His brothers and sisters, with. Those who are supposed to help free us are, in their misguided compassion, keeping us from the freedom found in the only identity that matters and is true: our identity as sons and daughters of God.
I write this open letter to religious, priests, bishops, and, most importantly, our Holy Father because I am suffering because of their words and actions. I feel abandoned and left behind by those whom I should feel closest to; those who should be surrounding me with their support as the world around me accuses me of self-hatred and tries to make me someone I am not.
I need the love and support of those who are called to be closest to Christ and who are supposed to lead His sheep to green pastures where we can feed and flourish. Instead, I and my brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction are being fed the “comforting” poison of the world by the Church.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Please, help us to our greatness by speaking the truth we all need to hear in love.
[Photo Credit: Vatican Media]