How LGBTQ Stories Help the People of God Navigate Today’s Troubled Church

Mary M. Doyle Roche

One truth about LGBTQ ministry is that it is not solely about LGBTQ people, but about serving the entire People of God. Many Catholics affirm that doing such work has taught them a great deal by experiencing the gifts and wisdom that LGBTQ people offer to the whole Church. Many of those gifts abound because of the process of coming out, as people come to affirm their sexual orientation and/or gender identity for themselves and share it with others.

Mary M. Doyle Roche, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, recently reflected on what LGBTQ people, in their decisions to come out or not, have taught her about what it means to be Catholic in an age of sexual abuse and corruption. She asked in Commonweal whether “the language of staying or leaving, of being inside or outside the church, is failing to capture the experiences of many people who live with these tensions.” Doyle Roche continued:

“In almost every aspect of my life as a theologian and ethicist, spouse and parent, friend and colleague, I have been challenged to think beyond binary categories to imagine new ways of understanding our identities, relationships, and responsibilities. Feminist theologians have long been disrupting dualisms that enable patriarchy: body/mind, spirit/flesh, sacred/profane, private/public. Queer theorists have pressed further to challenge essentializing categories that serve heteronormativity: male/female, masculine/feminine, and gay/straight. But it’s been the time I’ve spent thinking and praying with LGBTQ young people that has prompted me to explore another dichotomy: in/out. Are you in the closet or out? Have you disclosed your gender identity or sexual orientation? The answer is rarely a simple yes or no. People come out to different people at different times and in different spaces. LGBTQ young people also challenge the simple claim that being ‘out’ is morally superior or necessarily truer to self. Living safely and well is much more complicated than that. So too is navigating membership in the church.”

Doyle Roche’s piece is a reminder that LGBTQ people’s gifts and wisdom are still sorely needed in the Catholic Church to help everyone navigate a challenging ecclesial landscape. This reality is why Bondings 2.0 has launched a new submission series following our Spring 2019 series, “Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed.” The new series focuses on coming out, which is often a holy process that involves prayer, reflection, and spiritual conversations with others.

We are inviting readers to consider the following verse from Scripture story of Lazarus’ resurrection, “Lazarus, come out! . . . Unbind him, let him go free” (John 11: 43-44). Then consider their own coming out experience as LGBTQ people or as allies. Did the process involve a spiritual dimension for you?  Did it change your relationship with God?  Were there individuals or communities who were significant aids in the process for you?  What a GREAT way to celebrate Pride Month by reflecting on your coming out process!

To help prompt your reflection on this story, you may want to look at New Ways Ministry’s reflection questions on the Lazarus story which are a part of our “Journeys: Scripture Reflection Series for LGBTQ Persons and Allies” by clicking here.

We will feature highlights from these reader submissions here on the blog.  To submit your story, please fill out the form below by July 1, 2019. Please try to keep them to under 800 words.

Submissions may be edited for content and length, and not all submissions may be published. Contact [email protected] with any questions.

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Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 11, 2019

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