A young, conservative Catholic woman recently wrote about how she opened her eyes to the world of LGBT reality, without leaving her faith, and, perhaps, even strengthening it. Her story is an instructive one about the ways other Catholics, particularly bishops, can learn something about the LGBT community. It’s not about our hearts, our minds, our souls. It’s all about our imagination.
In an article on the website Ms. In the Biz, Kristyne Fetsic traces her development on LGBT issues by working as a writer and producer on the television show EastSiders, a show which centers on a gay couple and airs on cable’s LOGO channel, which primarily airs LGBT content. She begins by describing her upbringing:
“I was born in Cleveland, OH to parents who were both wonderfully Catholic and wonderfully Ohioan. Both live no more than a 30 minute car ride away from their childhood homes. I spent 13 years attending Catholic school, 4 years volunteering, and at times running, the Catholic community at my college, and 24 and a half years never missing a Sunday mass. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m 24 and a half years old and have been attending weekly mass into my adult life.) I was, and to some still am, the good little Midwestern Catholic girl.”
Fetsic knew gay and lesbian people in college, but she says that because her religious ideals promoted a negative view of homosexuality, she ended up in what she called an “agnostic” attitude towards LGBT issues, neither affiriming nor condemning them. When she was offered the opportunity to work for EastSiders, she ran into a dilemma:
“My father always encouraged me to stay true to my values no matter what opportunities presented themselves. He has this dream of me changing the raunchy ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ Hollywood into something society can believe in and trust again. Like the good old days. My father’s voice was a constant resident in my thoughts, but I had loosened up a lot from my strict moral mentality since moving to LA a year prior so I saw little harm in accepting the position. However, I was still in my ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, because I still don’t know how I feel about LGBT issues’ phase.”
Working on the show helped Fetsic see the normality and humanity of lesbian and gay people. She surprised herself by finding that she could identify with one episode which featured a lesbian couple:
“During an average, ordinary shoot day, I had an epiphany. I had recently gone through a breakup when production of the show began and it all of a sudden struck me how strongly I related to the story of the show. I specifically remember shooting the conversation between Cal and Kathy in the first episode and thinking ‘I know exactly how Cal feels.’ It was through the story of EastSiders that I found how I felt about the LGBT community. If God is love, and if a person is compelled and inspired to love another person (no matter what genders are involved) then that’s God working in this world and that is a beautiful thing.”
This transformation moment is key. Fetsic saw not just the humanity of this lesbian couple, but, she also saw a bit of herself in them. She was able to imagine being in that situation, and that made her realize that their lives were not very different from hers.
In one of his best-loved and most powerful novels, The Power and the Glory, the Catholic author Graham Greene wrote about how important imagination is to learning to love someone. He observed:
“When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity — that was a quality God’s image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.”
If we want a better church, a better world, we must first come to see that we are all connected as brothers and sisters, regardless of any personal quality that may differentiate us. We all have the image of God in us.
Fetsic sums up this idea in her closing paragraph:
“What inspires me to be confident in what I’ve learned and how I see the world to be is Jesus’ core message: Love God above all else and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ I know I have no right to judge my neighbor, no right to condemn my neighbor, but every right and every responsibility to love them.”
Now what if we all lived that teaching? Imagine!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry