Celebrating 35 Years of Ministry in the LGBT Catholic Community!
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June 2, 2011
One need only flip through some of today’s cable news channels to witness how some of our society’s most sensitive public policy matters are overly simplified in black-and-white terms, in which only the most strident voices seem to get heard. Of those many hotly debated issues, the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continue to make headlines.
What you would probably be surprised to learn is that Catholics are among those who increasingly are reaching out pastorally to the LGBT community. A recent study released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Catholics believe that job discrimination against gay and lesbian people should be outlawed. By almost 2 to 1, Catholics believe that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children.
The views of Catholics about the LGBT community have been evolving for years. Catholic teachings compel us to work toward the elimination of unjust structures and to treat people with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. My own understanding of this community has also evolved over the course of four decades of ministry.
Given that Catholics represent approximately one-quarter of the U. S. population, the changing attitudes of Catholics toward greater degrees of LGBT equality most likely will be a significant influence in the public square. Across the country there are increasing numbers of parishes that welcome LGBT parishioners and their families to active participation in the church. Catholic colleges and universities are in dialogue with their LGBT students, and Catholic retreat houses provide retreats specifically for LGBT Catholics.
Catholics and other religious people who support LGBT rights do so because of their experience of engagement with members of the LGBT community. They are not rebels in their churches, but people who have taken spiritual messages of inclusiveness and welcoming to heart. They are taking the church’s teaching on social justice and applying it to pastoral practice in engaging the LGBT community.
We see these teachings play out as Catholics across the country engage in prayerful and meaningful dialogues about understanding and embracing the LGBT community. This dialogue is happening amongst faithful families, in student groups on the campuses of Catholic universities, and within church congregations. This dialogue is admittedly difficult, at times, but important.
More than a decade ago, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a graceful message, “Always Our Children,” which reminded us, “For St. Paul love is the greatest of spiritual gifts. St. John considers love to be the most certain sign of God’s presence.” For most Catholics, there can be no statement that better summarizes an attitude of welcoming of our LGBT brothers and sisters than those of Jesus, “love one another as I have loved you.”
Bishop Joseph Sullivan is the retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.
Joseph Sullivan: Catholics are reaching out to the LGBT community
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