“Life is good.”
That is what Aaron Bianco recently told The San Diego Union Tribune in a recent interview with the gay Catholic pastoral minister and theology lecturer. Life may not have been looking so good, though, just a few years back.
It has been nearly three years since Bianco was forced to resign from his position at a southern California parish due to constant and dangerous anti-gay harassment. Bianco, who served as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, was subjected to everything from homophobic notes on his car and slashed tires to death threats and arson attempts on the church itself. All of this harassment was simply because he was a married gay man. But the final straw, as Bondings 2.0 reported in October 2018, was an anti-gay slur painted on a church wall following a break-in. The incident was investigated by the FBI as a hate crime.
Upon leaving his ministry, Bianco promised the congregation at his last Mass at St. John, where the LGBTQ ministry still continues: “I will never stop speaking for an inclusive church.” And he has continued to live out that vocation, even evangelizing along the way.
As an adjunct theology instructor at the University of San Diego, he teaches courses on Catholicism and “Jesus and justice.” Bianco lays out the church’s teaching and then encourages students to tackle the difficult questions: “We have great discussions about what does it mean for them to be Catholic.”
A bonus for the professor is: “When I have students at the end of the semester who send me a message and say, ‘Hey Bianco, I’m actually thinking maybe I will get confirmed.’ Then something has gone right, and that’s what’s important to me.”
Bianco also remains steadfastly Catholic. “I truly believe that the fulfillment of the truth is found in the Catholic Church,” he told the Union Tribune. “[W]hen I go to communion, I truly believe I’m receiving Jesus. I’m not going to allow someone to take that away from me. It is my home.”
Bianco had spent time in seminary in Rome for several years before dropping out following the Vatican’s declaration that gay men should not be priests.
Remembering the difficult days of harassment, Bianco focuses on the way love vastly overcame the hate perpetrated by a few. He received numerous letters of support, explaining, “that’s the church I know and that’s the church I belong to. And so those who are consumed with hate, it burns in them like a wildfire and I refuse to allow that fire to come near me.”
Bianco has a mantra: “I’m not going to allow anyone to take my peace from me.” This mantra fuels his ministry and steadfast insistence on remaining inside the Catholic Church working for change rather than “screaming at the closed doors,” as a bishop once advised him. As for his opponents’ charge that he has an extreme agenda, it is true that Bianco’s work can be considered radical. “The only agenda I had was to bring people to Christ,” he professes. “I know that sounds kind of hokey, but that’s why I started this work. I do believe that everyone is welcome.”
—Angela Howard McParland, New Ways Ministry, July 17, 2021