WHY I LEFT and WHY I STAY: Failure of Justice and Interior Peace

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 have been posting a selection of them them over the last few months on Sundays.

However, because our Sunday Lenten reflection series has started, the “Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed” series will be moved to Saturdays during Lent.

To read all the previous posts in this series, click here, or click on “Why We Came. Why We Left. Why We Stayed” in the Categories section of the right-hand column of this page. Many thanks to all the contributors!

WHY I LEFT : Failure to Treat LGBTQ People with Justice

Name: Joe McCauley

Identified:  LGBT person, member of St Michael’s Episcopal Church, Lexington, Kentucky

I grew up Roman Catholic in the 1950s, and I realized that I liked guys during the 7th grade at a RC school. I intuited that this wasn’t okay, even though I had never heard of even the concept of gay.

I went off to seminary at age 13 so no one would question why I didn’t date girls. After nine years in seminary, and for reasons irrelevant to this discussion, I left seminary and stopped going to church, even though I continued to identify as a Roman Catholic.

In the 1970s and 80s, I was distressed at the treatment of Archbishop Ray Hunthausen and similar goings on in Roman Catholicism. In 1990 I felt a strong urge to resume church affiliation, but I knew I couldn’t return to a Roman parish and joined the Episcopal Church, which I had good reason to believe might accept me as I am, even though I was still deeply closeted at the time.

With the advice of an “out” fellow parishioner, who later became a priest, I came out. I spent some years waiting for the other shoe to drop when I would find out I wasn’t as welcome as I had assumed, but said shoe never dropped.

Since the 1990s, the Episcopal Church has grown in its acceptance of LGBTQ+ people so that today we are equal in every way to straight Episcopalians. The Roman Catholic Church continues to deny marriage to LGBT folks, ordains them reluctantly or, in many dioceses not knowingly, and its official stance is basically “We should be nice to them, but they are intrinsically disordered and sinful. We won’t bless their marriages or knowingly admit them to Holy Orders.”

My belief is that the Roman Catholic Church fails in every respect to treat its queer members with justice and I don’t see any possibility of that changing. For all these reasons, I left the Church of Rome and I won’t be back.


WHY I STAY: Interior Peace, Freedom from Anxiety

Name: John Montague

Identified:  Gay member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Toronto Canada

To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!

Like many older Catholic gay guys, I am incredibly fortunate. I was born into a poor Catholic family of Irish descent in Toronto, the month after two atomic bombs devastated Japan. Growing up in St. Dunstan’s Parish, our pastor was a simple kind man who had a reputation for holiness, but he didn’t have a clue about sex. Since the age of eight, I have known I was attracted to my own gender. My parents were confused, and my father never accepted me. Perhaps this explains why, for the past seventeen years, I have facilitated a Day of Reflection for Catholic parents of LGBT children.

The world has changed considerably for gay people since the 1950s, and me along with it. Probably my biggest change is discovering why God made me. I’ve often asked myself: “What is the purpose of my life?” Oh, I remember the Baltimore Catechism answer: “God made you to love and serve Him, and be happy with Him in heaven.” Ya, right, but there have to be some particulars as to how. Discerning my vocation has taken half a century. I have accepted God’s gifts of discernment, prophecy, and counselling. I have witnessed other families pain and confusion. In the early 1990s I joined a Catholic spiritual support team for people affected by HIV and AIDS. I took communion to dying gay men, and introduced them to compassionate priests who conducted their funerals.

I stay in the Catholic Church because through the Eucharist I experience greater interior peace and freedom from anxiety. Through good times and bad, God has sent companions on my journey. One of the most helpful was my now deceased spiritual director, Father John Veltri SJ. He was both a father and a brother to me. He enfleshed the living gospel, not piety, not phony, but an example of faithfulness in difficulties. Some of us smiled at the irony that he was buried on Halloween.

Thank you also to Jesuit Father John McNeill who preached retreats here to us gay men in the late 1980s. He encouraged us not to be trapped by homophobic confessors, and said unless we knew the priest’s understanding of gay sexuality, going in the confessional could be psychological suicide. This was very helpful. He encouraged us not to let the Church get in the way of our relationship with God. Thank you to all those who have helped me understand that Jesus didn’t promise us happiness, but he promised us peace. Be proud. Shalom.

–New Ways Ministry, April 13, 2019

1 reply
  1. Max Price
    Max Price says:

    Thank you For two great, honest stories of the faith journeys of two gay men. One, Joe McCauley, leaves the Roman Catholic Church to become North American Episcopalian / Anglican because of the radical injustice and the unsound teaching at the root of it all in Roman Catholicism. Could yet be me, except that I’d have to accept the fact that the more conservative churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion, are just as obscurantist, if not worse, than the Roman Catholic Church.

    The other writer, John Montague, is as it happens a member of my own Jesuit-run Roman Catholic parish in Toronto. He has been able over the years to help many in the local gay community, as have I in times past and places far away, as a monk and priest.
    Yet, yet … his parish and mine hosts a lively ministry to gays, but never mentions what it calls its ‘All Inclusive Ministry’ to its straight parishioners in a parish bulletin or end of Mass notice. I don’t know why this wider invisibility is imposed on this excellent work. Maybe it stems from some kind of fear of arousing latent homophobia in the wider parish community, or because of a restriction by the local Archbishop, or a ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude required of the leaders of the ministry as a condition of their continued recognition. It’s inconsistent with its aims, and somewhat alienating whatever the reason.

    Still, sitting anonymously in the pews at Mass on Sunday, I find a peace, a belonging, just like my fellow parishioner John, (whom I have never knowingly met). But these blessings co-exist with a nagging call somehow to challenge the parish to become truly all inclusive, and the wider church to change its destructive teaching and lift the long, deep shadow it casts over so many lives. It’s a shadow that enters deep into souls triggering spasms of shame, violence, self- harm and untimely death.
    There’s something of both of John and Joe’s journeys in mine, as in so many I’ve read in this series. I’m an old man now. I guess I’ll just have to keep travelling and not fret too much about stops on the way.


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