As we celebrate the Octave of Easter–the eight days of rejoicing at the Resurrection that began on Easter Sunday, it might add to our prayers to reflect on a recent coming out story written by a young gay Catholic for his college newspaper.
John Ferrannini, co-Editor-in-Chief at The State Hornet, the student publication at Sacramento State University, used the occasion of the Paschal Season to describe his reconciliation of his faith with his sexuality. In ” ‘Coming out’ as a gay Catholic,” he writes:
“The church has beautiful things to teach about human sexuality — the symbol of the complete giving of oneself to the other. Without a moral guide on this journey, I certainly did some things I regret. I felt as though my choice was between a lonely repression or exciting but lonely promiscuity.
“But I refuse to believe that. And I realized that when, at Sunday mass again for the first time in a few months, I heard Jesus ask his father from the cross in the gospel reading ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
“. . . . He was so removed from his father that he asked why he had been abandoned, betrayed, scoffed at, beaten and left for dead.”
“But as Easter Sunday reveals, Jesus wasn’t really forsaken, because God never abandons his children. Jesus came, after all, to seek out and be with those rejected and derided by the society of his day — and ours.”
Ferrannini described the struggle and tension that he felt as he grew up as a gay teen:
“The religion is based on love, incarnate in the person of Jesus. Yet my love remains designated by the church an “objective disorder.”
“And so when I realized I was gay as a later teenager, I spent a lot of time asking why it had to be me, why this cross was the one I’d been chosen to bear.
“I asked myself what childhood trauma I must’ve gone through that made me this way.”
Despite the obstacles that Catholicism seemed to put in his way, he still found a pull towards the faith, but also began to trust his own experience:
“What attracted me to Catholicism was the certainty of knowing the absolute truth. Christ assured St. Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against the church, that when the pope spoke doctrine we are bound to obey as though God himself were saying it.
“I was, as many are, content to accept Catholic teaching about homosexuality. But what got under my skin was the fact so many otherwise devout Catholics threw away so many teachings — particularly those championed by Pope Francis — because they were too ‘liberal.’ “
” . . . And in the meantime, the LGBT people I knew and worked with didn’t seem ‘objectively disordered.’ “
Ferrannini describes his acceptance of his sexual orientation, his temporary break from the church, and participation in activities that he did not find fulfilling. And then the Easter moment described above seemed to break through for him, providing him with insight to be able to live creatively, not destructively, in the tension between faith and sexuality.
He offers an insight that would be important for many church and LGBT leaders to heed:
“. . . I learned that the awkward relationship between the church and the LGBT community hurts both.”
So true. each group could benefit greatly by the gifts and insights that the other has. From the time of St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, the Christian tradition has always grown from the personal experiences that individuals of faith undergone. The Church tests those experiences against its values and tradition to see if they are congruent with the faith. As more LGBT people like Ferrannini continue to testify to the goodness and holiness they experience in the discovery of their sexuality or gender identity, the more opportunity the Church has to see the value that such people bring to the growth of the faith.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 20, 2017