Letter to a Young Gay Catholic Advocate

Dominic Conover

In August, Bondings 2.0 reported about Dominic Conover, a former student at Roncalli High School, Indianapolis, who was threatened by administrators after he publicly criticized the school for terminating two lesbian employees. Conover, who is openly gay, wrote an essay in The Advocate about his efforts to support fired guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald and the repercussions he faced. Conover graduated from Roncalli earlier this year, but has continued to speak out. [For all Bondings 2.0 posts about Dominic Conover, click here.]

His witness inspired a priest who is a Bondings 2.0 subscriber to pen a letter to Conover, thanking him for his witness.  The priest sent the letter to New Ways Ministry asking us to forward the correspondence to Dominic, which we did.  We were so impressed with the letter that we asked for and received permission from the writer to post it here for others to read.  He asked that he be identified simply as “A California priest.”

The text of this affirming letter shows the power of the Catholic ideas which are inspiring Dominic, and thousands of other young Catholics, to protest the injustices they see their church inflicting on LGBTQ people and their supporters.  May their numbers increase!

August 2019

Mr. Conover:

I read with great admiration about your stand on behalf of Ms. Fitzgerald and the LGBTQAI+ Community.

You stand in the shadow of prophets, such as, Dorothy Day, Frs. Daniel Berrigan and James Martin, Sister Monica David, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen and many other Catholics who recognized injustice and spoke up about it,stirring the conscious of a nation and a church that ignored the disenfranchised and voiceless. Every once and a while, a voice rises above the din of resistance.

Growing up in the Catholic educational system grounded you in the rich Tradition of a Church called to be prophetic. Yet, not all Prophets are welcomed or their message desirable because they speak truth to power. The prophetic voices mentioned previously were not welcomed messengers of God. Some were imprisoned while others were sanctioned by the church they served because they spoke truth to power. I’m reminded of King David, in the Hebrew scriptures, a young man chosen to replace King Saul. David risked his life to speak truth to King Saul. David risked much for his prophetic role; he was pursued by Saul with threats of death and young David was relationally abandoned by the King. Yet David prevailed, God’s justice prevailed! I don’t presume to guess your future. What price you will pay for speaking out against injustice but from the article I read you have a compassionate heart and will not remain silent when you see people being hurt by people or institutions. This, in my opinion, is testimony to your true inner self. I encourage you to remain faithfully and confidently true to yourself. Trust your voice!

Humanity is flawed and imperfect, including the leadership of the institutional church. We talk a good talk, but fail to “walk the talk” of a God who welcomes all regardless of how they are living their lives. Our God is compassionate and kind, binding the wounds of people suffering from indifference, prejudice and harsh judgements.  As a Roman Catholic priest, I apologize that you were placed in an untenable position. The decision you had to make between “walking” for your graduation or continuing to be the voice of the voiceless was unfair and way outside the bounds of the church’s teaching on the freedom of conscience. You deserve an apology from the teachers and administration of Roncalli High and the Archbishop.

I find it ironic that your school is named for one of the finest Popes of the 20th century: St John XXIII, a Pope who listened to the needs of the voiceless and opened the doors of the Church and its “windows to the world” regardless of religion/spirituality, cultural heritage, gender or gender orientation. He did much to move the church forward. He challenged the Church to be a church that reads the sign of the times and steps, sometimes hesitantly, into the future.  You are the future of the church, a pilgrim church, that must look and move forward without forgetting to apologize for its past mistakes.

If you have any doubt about the decisions you have made or make in your future, try not to doubt that our God Loves you unconditionally; God is proud of who you are! There are, always, contrary voices at work to silent the prophets, but they have and will fail because God’s Loving-kindness is for all.

You and people like David Hogg [an American gun control activist and student who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018] remind me that no matter the challenges your generation will encounter, you will rise to the clarion call for justice and mercy.

Be assured you have a God who will companion you as you step into your unfolding story, may your journey be rich in growth, becoming the man you are meant to be.

Respectfully Yours,

A California Priest

For more information about Catholic employment disputes concerning LGBTQ issues, please see New Ways Ministry’s Employment Non-Discrimination resource page

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 3, 2019

6 replies
  1. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    What a great letter. This young man was placed under unnecessary pressure and this letter is a balm. It is too bad the priest felt the need to remain anonymous but that’s the world of religious politics.

    Reply
  2. New York Priest
    New York Priest says:

    Dear California Priest,
    Thank you for an admirable Letter to a Young Gay Catholic Advocate!

    I am an “Out, Straight, Celibate, Priest and Religious who is a friend of LGBT Persons and their Families” but need to strategically choose when and where to make public comments…

    It is good to know that you are out there on the west coast. There are many more clergy and lay Catholics scattered around the country and beyond, including some bishops and cardinals, who understand the call of the Gospel to invite All to the Table of the Lord. Like you, we all need to find the right times and places to speak up about the obscenities which are being hurled at some of our brothers and sisters because of who they are and because of the fear and radical misunderstanding of their tormentors. Some of these brothers and sisters of ours, from my experience I should say, “Many of our LGBT+ fellow Christians”, are excellent models of prayerful, charitable, virtuous living as disciples of Christ.

    Their tormentors would do well to update their study of Scripture to discern the context and the intention of the inspired writers they quote out of context, and likewise to catch up on the discoveries of science in relation to sexual identity. Without such study the repetition of the condemnation of Galileo is unavoidable but this time it tends toward a massive scale of victims.

    May our compassionate God who chose to be one with us in Jesus our Christ guide and support us in continuing his mission of bringing Divine Life to All.

    Fraternally,
    A Straight New York Priest

    Reply

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