A powerful spiritual transformation occurred when a Catholic mother from South Korea learned that her son was gay. Her story is part of a small but growing movement in the country towards LGBTQ equality.
According to The Korean Herald, Hong Jung-seun initially thought her son’s sexual orientation was a punishment for something she did wrong. Her feelings were preoccupied “on what her son’s sexuality would mean for his life — and for her life — in a society where sexual minorities are often denied, discriminated against and hated.”
However, through prayer and discernment, Jung-seun discovered that God was teaching her how to love and embrace her child, and the wider LGBTQ community.
Jung-seun’s moving reflections demonstrate how her son’s truth has influenced her Catholic faith, dismantled her fears surrounding homosexuality, and changed her outlook on LGBTQ identities:
“‘Without him coming out, I would have lived and died without breaking my prejudices, unable to wholeheartedly sympathize with the socially marginalized,’ she said. ‘My views have been broadened and my world has been enriched. I learned the meaning of gratitude.'”
Jung-seun’s spiritual awakening to the beauty of LGBTQ people through her son’s journey was so transformative that she now leads a local community group in Seoul, South Korea for parents of sexual minorities. Jung-seun has created a supportive space for parents whose children have recently come out to their families, children who are very much in need of acceptance, love, and compassion. Jung-seun also co-authored a book entitled Coming Out Story, which she wrote with other parents of LGBT children.
Although homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, harassment, prejudice, and discrimination against the LGBTQ community is pervasive. The Korean Herald reported that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2019 report found that Korea was fourth from the bottom of member nations in terms of LGBTQ inclusivity. Jung-seun is therefore working towards building a more inclusive environment where “sexual minorities can thrive and find happiness as they are.” In furtherance of this goal, she is also advocating for anti-discrimination provisions to help protect the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth.
She is not alone as a Catholic seeking such protections. South Korea’s president, Jae-in Moon, who is Catholic, has condemned the persecution of LGBTQ people. He previously opposed homosexuality when running for office in 2017, reported UPI. But in 2019, Moon told a gathering religious leaders that anti-LGBTQ discrimination was unacceptable, even while saying that developing a national consensus on same-gender marriage rights was the priority over any non-discrimination laws. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, who heads the country’s episcopal conference, responded to Moon at the time by saying there was a difference between “respecting the human rights of sexual minorities” and “recognizing them.”
Elsewhere, the Catholic Human Rights Committee of Korea awarded its 2020 Catholic Human Rights Award to PFLAG Korea, a move celebrated by the Asia-Pacific Rainbow Catholics Network on their Facebook page.
Jung-seun’s journey as a Catholic mother likely resonates with many parents. Some religious people believe that having an LGBTQ child was the result of parental sin or wrongdoing. Of course, we know from science that this perspective is incorrect. It is also harmful and destructive because it denigrates one’s child – a creature of God – for who they are and who they love.
To allow God’s loving grace to challenge our prejudices and our patterns of thinking, especially if they prevent us from loving our children, is an act of redemption. Sexuality, like our other faculties, is a true gift from God, and as parents, we are called to nurture that gift for our children, our family, and our wider community. LGBTQ children, like all children, long to be loved and supported by their parents and families as they discover who they are. Jung-seun’s transformation is a courageous model of what Catholic parents can do to confront their biases related to LGBTQ identity and create a loving space for all LGBTQ children.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, February 1, 2019