What is life like if you or someone in your family is gay or lesbian in their sexual orientation?
…and what can your parish family do to make a difference?
What is Life Like?
“The continual message from the church is that homosexuality is so, so dreadful. Our gay son just hasn’t stood a chance.”
“My brother is gay; the church has been very intolerant of him.”
At one diocesan family listening day participants listened to the hurt experienced by a family as a result of prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality.
“Mr D discovered some years ago that his son was gay. He tried to talk to a fellow parishioner about his concern, but quickly realized from the extremely hostile, disparaging remarks made that this was not a good idea. The parish priest reacted in a similarly prejudiced way. Mr D’s wife chose to ignore the situation. Mr D feels angry, frustrated and totally rejected by the church. He now knows to follow his wife’s lead and keep quiet. There seems nowhere to turn. In his mind there is little hope for the future.”
“If we are to reach out to all, we must dare to hold out our hands. …We must respond to people who are gay or lesbian. They should not feel marginalized.”
“As a group that has suffered more than its share of oppression and contempt, the homosexual community has a particular claim on the concern of the church.”
– Catholic Social Welfare Commission, 1979
Challenges for Parishes
Being welcomed and participating in their local faith community is the foundation of spiritual support that the Church offers to baptized persons with a homosexual inclination and their families. Parishes can take a number of steps to ensure that individuals and families feel welcome:
• Be aware of how marginalized some families facing these challenges feel within the Church. Form links with other parishes to share information and build networks of mutual support. Try to establish or promote support groups for parents and family members.
• Try not to assume that everyone is heterosexual; reflect this in language and conversation. When speaking publicly, use the words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” in honest and accurate ways. Avoid stereotyping and condemning. Do not presume that all homosexual persons are sexually active.
• Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful; a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain.
• Establish what appropriate local help and support services are available and make contact information easily accessible on notice boards and in leaflets.
• Enable the parish to be informed about Church teachings and Catholic writing on the subject. Keep copies of documents in the parish library.
• Check the local school policies on bullying and equality – children sometimes use the word ‘gay’ as a term of abuse.
Outreach and Ministry to Homosexual Persons – Diocese of Westminster, February 2007
Cherishing Life – Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, London: CTS, 2004
Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. USCCB 1997
A Note Concerning the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People. Cardinal Basil Hume 1997
Fortunate Families – a Catholic Family, Friends & Allies Ministry, supports LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers by facilitating respectful conversation and sharing personal stories within dioceses, parishes and communities, especially with bishops, pastors and Church leadership.
Listening Parents – Fortunate Families: Listening Parents are Catholic parents of LGBT+daughters and sons who have graciously offered their hearts and ears to listen to and share their personal experience with other parents.
Bondings 2.0 Posts on Family Life
Bondings 2.0 Posts on the Holy Family
2013 – What Makes a Family Holy
Other Bondings 2.0 posts
World Meeting of Families (2015 and 2018)
Prayer and Liturgy Opportunities
It’s always important to provide information about opportunities in the local area for moral and spiritual support for homosexual Catholics and their families.
Homilies and bidding prayers are excellent opportunities to demonstrate awareness and compassion and express appreciation for the gifts that homosexual Catholics bring to their faith community.
God of intimacy, you surround us with friends and family to cherish and to challenge. May we so give and receive caring in the details of our lives that we also remain faithful to your greater demands, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
– Janet Morley
Gracious God, you made us in your own image, and in the life and death of Jesus, your Firstborn, revealed your infinite love for all God’s family. Help us to cherish the gift of sexuality and use our talents to affirm one another in the building of your reign. Amen.