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, location. 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.
Why I Left, Why I Stay: ‘Jesus Had Been In My Heart All Along’
I was brought up in a very conservative Catholic family in one of the most conservative cities in Mexico. I left the Church when I came out at 14 in the year 2000 because, in the way I had been educated, it was impossible to reconcile being a homosexual and a Catholic simultaneously. My parents –distinguished leaders within the Catholic community in our city– claimed that I had no dignity because I had a homosexual orientation. A large part of my local community and my family ostracized me. Given that I did note experience Christianity from those who claimed to be righteous ones, I chose what was to me the evident path.
I came back because, even though I had left the Church, Jesus never left me, despite the fact that I had denied him. Once I had enough freedom not to feel restrained by a certain society’s mindset, I could reconcile the idea of being a Catholic homosexual, which is fundamentally not an oxymoron. This freedom allowed my spirit to realize that Jesus had been in my heart all along, and so the right thing to do became clear, little by little.
My return to church has not been an immediate process, but rather a lengthy one. I did not wake up one day thinking: “Oh! Of course, I have to go to Mass, confess, and pretend nothing ever happened! All of the Church’s teachings and doings are unequivocally God’s command.” No Paul of Tarsus, I did not hear any voice, I did not see any light. And, like St. Ignatius, I did not have a powerful conversion after one year in exile. It took me about five years from the time I started attending Mass again until the time I took communion. And it is still and ongoing process. But I know deep inside that any struggle between my heart and my mind will be reconciled through prayer and practice. I might not understand some things now, but whenever the time is right the Holy Spirit will open my ears, my eyes, and my heart. And I also know that God loves me no matter what!
In the end, religious experience is far bigger than sexual orientation. And Catholicism has a lot more to offer than just rejection or acceptance of homosexuals. The Church is composed by humans and, hence, prone to error. Just think of some of the horrors perpetrated by some of the members of the clerical hierarchy. Those mistakes span from sexual issues to economic, political, spiritual ones, among others. It is up to all of us to keep the Church on the right track, and that requires hard work because we believe in the teachings of our Savior, who needlessly humbled himself for others, and we should follow His example.
I have a calling as a lay man, and I will respond both in prayer and in action. I am not going anywhere else, I am here to stay!
—Carlos, February 3, 2019