In December, Bondings 2.0 invited readers to share the stories of their relationship with the Catholic Church by writing on the theme of “Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed.” We “borrowed” this topic from a feature that Commonweal magazine published recently. We felt it was important for LGBTQ people to share their own stories, so we made the invitation to our readers.
We asked contributors to keep their contributions under 500 words, and also asked how they would like to be identified in terms of name and gender/sexual identity. Anonymity was offered as an option.
We received many responses, and we will be posting a selection of them them over the next few months on Sundays (barring any important breaking news). Many thanks to all the contributors.
Name: Mark Clark
Identity: LGBTQ person, Dignity/Washington, D.C. Member; New Ways Ministry Volunteer
Why I came and why I stay: Most of my spiritual environment was formed while I was a 24/7 Catholic, by which I mean that my 9-member household was thoroughly Catholic: all the boys altar boys, all the girls aspiring to crown the Blessed Mother in the May procession, mother a daily communicant, father an usher and Holy Name Society member, everyone a K-12 (or more) Catholic school attendee.
So by the time I figured out I am gay, Catholicism was as much a part of me as my sexual orientation, probably more. With the help of Dignity, New Ways Ministry, and assorted other enlightened Catholics, not least my beloved siblings, I got comfortable with the notion that being a practicing gay Catholic is not only acceptable but a sacred choice to be cherished. I find nourishment in the sacraments, beauty in the rituals, enlightenment in the Scriptures and spoken reflections, and great comfort in the warm relationships of my worshiping community.
Name: Lorie M. and Valerie K.
Identity: Same-sex married couple, devout Catholics, California
Why we Stay: Although we were both born cradle Catholics, there was a time of wandering, questioning and church-hopping for Lorie. All roads led her back to the Catholic Church as she took on volunteer activities as a lay person in her local parish. One of those ministries allowed her to cross paths with Valerie, whose devotion to the Eucharist, the souls in purgatory, and the Blessed Mother intrigued Lorie. In addition, Valerie was an out lesbian, while Lorie was not. Our spiritual friendship blossomed into love and a commitment that has spanned 28 years.
We stay in the church because of our love of the Eucharist. Jesus is central to our relationship and the reason that unites us. The Eucharist is not a mere symbol, but the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is our reason for staying.
Name: Kyle Christopher Garcia
Identity: LGBT Catholic, Church of St. Paul The Apostle, Brooklyn, New York
Why I Stay: As November 8th, 2016 approached, many Americans vowed “If Trump is elected, I’m moving to Canada!” We know that after Election Day very few people stayed true to that claim. Why is that? As an Asian LGBTQ Catholic, I knew a thing or two about using my existence as a model for change.
I love God, and God loves me. Despite the many things with which I disagree about how the Catholic Church is run, I know that things aren’t going to change if I leave. Jesus doesn’t want his people to leave the church because some men haven’t been held accountable for their crimes. God doesn’t want his people to leave the church because some others choose to interpret the Bible as disapproving of those in our LGBTQ family.
I stay because I know God loves all, and that he wants us to fight for equality and acceptance. I have found an affirming Catholic parish with a thriving congregation of warm and loving people. Go out and find one in your area, financially support the ones that exist, or share of these affirming parishes with your local church. I have seen so many people come back to the church after seeing what is possible in the 21st Century. Go to church and exist. Be out and proud and share God’s love through your heart and acceptance. Someone once said “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
—New Ways Ministry, January 13, 2019