“HOME WITHIN A HOME”–An LGBT Catholic’s journey to an Episcopal Parish

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I have two amazing cousins who have been together as a couple for many years, and in the last several were finally allowed to make their union as two LGBT males legal and public—I am proud to have them in my diverse family, and have written this especially for them, but the sentiments are for any out there who are wondering what my views are regarding same-sex marriage. I am for it. It is equally for those who believe I have left the traditions of my Catholic Faith by joining an extremely wonderful Episcopal parish recently—I have not. In short, I am a gay-affirming Catholic Christian who has found a home within a home. And glad I have.

Hey, my cousins and comrades 🙂 

I wanted to share something with both of you, as people I deeply love and care about and who deserve to hear this from me directly. Lately I migrated from Roman Catholic to an affirming Episcopal parish where I can live my life out more freely as an LGBTQ person. Strange to have been “out” for 15 years, then eventually drawn back into Catholicism again after many years away, and during that time endeavoring to live out the many beautiful traditions of the Faith, ultimately realizing that many of the otherwise beautiful and powerful customs there have at the same time held me back from that other side of myself which is equally a part of who I am as a gay man. I feel like I am nearing 62 and just starting over in so many ways, this certainly being one of them. But that is the case it seems.
My journey, unlike many, has always been public, whether by blogging, Facebook, or other social media, and for that very reason I wish to share this leg of that journey in an equally public way. That openness has no doubt at times confused and even exasperated others, some who think I am too conservative overall and others who no doubt think the opposite. I am never going to please everyone, and I do not here attempt to, but I believe I owe a deep apology to you personally as a result. I realize my self-conflicting views were not in the end being true to myself, and likely very unclear to my LGBTQ sisters and brothers on more than one occasion. For that I am truly sorry.
For the record I have always believed in the rights of all, certainly including (though not limited to) my own LGBTQ community, but honestly felt that the redefinition of marriage was not the only way for us to have or achieve equality. I still find it messy at times due to the very real conflicts between two groups of people who are both important to me, that is to my community of Faith as a Catholic Christian and my equally important community of being part of a sexual minority who has been deeply oppressed by the other. That conflict is still very real, and will require yet much dialogue and even legal measures to protect both sides. The battle is far from over.
The bottom line however is that I can no longer quietly stand by and watch people I care about, myself included, be hurt or devastated by even well-meaning Christian people who would shove us all back into the closet or worse. In saying this I am in no way impugning my very dear Roman Catholic friends and family, who are very good people overall and who hopefully will understand my evolution as time goes on, and at very least who still care about me in any case. And thankfully that is most people I know. I mean primarily the overall institution of the Church, the hierarchy as well as others, who have hurt our community over and over with no signs of stopping anytime soon. I will no longer sit back quietly about that injustice, for that is what it is.
I am deeply sorry for any offense that my seemingly contradictory views have caused to either side, but particularly to my LGBTQ loved ones. I hope to spend the rest of my life making up for my own publicly confusing statements on the topic. And, also for the record, I am very, very glad that there is marriage equality. One day I may even meet someone yet who I can share my life with, and I want to truthfully be able to say to that person that I stand fully with my LGBTQ sisters and brothers on the matter and always have. No questions, no compromise.

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I recently came across a statement, not mine, but from a Facebook group of Anglo-Catholics who, like me, believe in the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church and probably 95% of the traditions I have become graced by over the last 12 years since my return to Catholicism. While not original to me it reflects my understanding of the Faith very closely, and I currently would see myself as both Episcopal/Anglican and Catholic in my faith journey going forward—and only the richer for it.

The statement follows, and is “borrowed” from a FB group by the name of the Anglo-Catholic Resistance:
“We are a group of churchmen, clergy and laity, who, in love and zeal for God’s Church, and in charity for our neighbors, strive to bring about the increase and perpetuation of the Faith.
We affirm the historic doctrines of the English Church, as are encompassed in the Catechism and the Lambeth Quadrilateral. In particular, we affirm the truth of the three historic Creeds of the Church.
We affirm nothing less than the literal, bodily death and literal, bodily resurrection of Christ.
We hold that the Sacraments are central to the right and proper worship of Almighty God.
We believe the consecrated Bread and Cup to be the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and therefore strive to treat the Mass with the utmost dignity and reverence according to the traditions of the Church.
We hold that no person ought to be denied admission to Holy Communion except that he or she has not been duly baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We hold, likewise, that there is no reason not to admit to Holy Orders or extend the rights of Holy Matrimony to all persons so called, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.
We believe the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, and continually ask her intercession and the intercession of all the faithful departed upon us and upon the Church.
We affirm head-covering by laywomen in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to be a vocation rather than a mandate.
We hope for a revival within the Church of love for tradition in liturgy and doctrine, proper formation of both clergy and laity, and zeal for the Gospel.
Ultimately, our hope is in Christ, who died and rose again that we might one day also rise triumphant with all the Saints on the Last Day and enter into His presence where death shall be no more.”

I would only add that I see my current self as a “progressive Anglo-Catholic Christian” who has chosen freely to hang my hat and be part of  St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, MN, and am finding, at least thus far, that we meet each other’s needs phenomenally. As to the above Statement of Faith, I find that it too meets my overall needs for purposes of this blog, but in the wonderful Episcopal Church tradition I find myself a part of, reserve my right as a believer to investigate, question, and occasionally change my mind on some individual points as listed here or elsewhere. That is called freedom of conscience, and is a very Catholic idea, by the way.  In that light, below is a further explanation I recently posted on my FB page and add here as well–

I would clarify that I am not “exactly” Anglo-Catholic but my beliefs are closely aligned with many of those who are. I love and connect with the 2000 year tradition of the Church, as well as the earliest 3 Creeds (Apostle’s, Athanasian and Nicene) and see Sacred Scripture (Bible), particularly the 66 books accepted by virtually all Christians, but also the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books, as the final rule of faith and practice for believers. I also see the Bible and tradition, as well as prayerful human reason, working together to provide the 3 main ways (3 legged stool) in which God has revealed, and continues to reveal, Christianity to us. I also highly respect the leadership of the Church, beginning but not ending with Pope Francis, as “first among equals.” Finally, I believe in the freedom of an informed conscience within the individual believer, which in reality most if not all Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians each accept on one level or another. In short I am a baptized and believing member of the Church Universal. To me that is what Catholic Christianity is all about.

 

 

 

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NOTORIOUS? That would be me–

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Bishop Robert Morlino

 

http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2017/10/22/bishop-morlino-on-funerals-involving-a-notorious-homosexual-union/

 

TO FRIENDS, FAMILY AND OTHERS READING THIS–Yet another American bishop has gone “ISIS” on the LGBT community by now suggesting that even the names of the loved ones of a dead parishioner be stricken from the funeral notices and funeral cards and not be acknowledged, as well as even supporters of all things “gay.” Hmmm I wonder if wearing pink counts, Bishop? Just asking. For the public record I am not struggling over this. I have for years though. The struggle is done. PLEASE resist the temptation to write me publicly or privately in an effort to reform me or woo me back. I am nearing 62, in my right mind, and my decision is based upon much study, tears, thoughts, prayer and dialogue with those who both agree and disagree with my position as stated in this post.

Whatever you may think of it please know this. I will always be a Catholic Christian in my heart and am not “leaving the Church.” However I will not be worshipping within Rome going forward, at least in the foreseeable future. I simply cannot do so in good conscience. I am very aware that this will deeply upset some of you and I am sincerely sorry for that, as there are many Catholics of good will out there, many who are close to me and even on this FB page or blog. This is not about any of you, believe me. It is not even about those who may disagree vehemently with me on this or other major issues. Some of you will note I went through something similar to this in the past (around 4-6 years ago to be exact), but this time there is one major difference–I am not initiating this, nor acting or reacting from anger or hurt, although I have to admit some of both here. But that is not my main motivation. I have realized that the anger I have often confessed towards the Church and even God which I have fought with over the years is in trying to retro-fit my most deeply held convictions, which are those of justice, respect, and genuinely reaching out to others in a Christ like manner whether one agrees or not with the other, into a rigid religious system who officially states this as her position but allows bishops to make such demands as Morlino does upon their local clergy and faithful. This is in my opinion twisted and broken.

I believe this is utterly wrong and I am not able to support it, nor will I do so going forward. Truth be told I am not wanted by Rome, nor are some of the precious people I love most in this world, and I am simply accepting that unfortunate fact and moving forward to a faith community where I will be–and already am. Archbishops Paprocki, Salvatore Cordileone, Nienstedt, formerly of MN and far too many others who practice bigotry in the name of God, just to name a few. Father Donald Calloway, who has written extensively on the Divine Mercy after nearly losing his life to in-depth drug addiction and stating that he has pretty much committed “every sin there is” during his journey towards Christ, publicly stated a few years ago on his FB page that seeing two men kiss would cause him to “spiritually vomit.” His reaction towards my then-suggestion that he consider reaching out more gently to those with that particular struggle was to block me immediately from his page. So much for mercy, Divine or otherwise. That bigotedness in the name of religion is what ISIS does and why the comparison. The Church does what she often does too well here–kills her wounded. So consider me to be “notorious.” For that is what Morlino has called “my kind.”

You may think I’m wrong about LGBTQI. So, now what?

I have always deeply admired Susan Cottrell. This article is written by her husband Robert. If you do not know their story, you owe it to yourselves to read more on their page. It took the death of a gay son, one who, like them, loved Christ and His Word, to bring them to an understanding of those in such situations. As the article suggests, one does not need to fully subscribe to their understanding of theology in order to appreciate their hearts for God and others. Well worth reading. 

 

Source: You may think I’m wrong about LGBTQI. So, now what?

The LGBT community and three possible pastoral approaches as Catholics

I am a part of the LGBT community. And it is a part of me. It does not define me, and is not all I am or think about. But to suggest it is not part of me is to be intellectually and otherwise dishonest.

Having said the above, I am, first and foremost, a Catholic Christian with a commitment to seeking towards chastity and a pure heart. Some of you reading this have already challenged my reference to myself as part of this group, but I am. And so is every same-sex attracted person, whether active sexually or not, and whether they choose to identify as such with other LGBT persons.

To me that is lesson one here. In the recent book by Father James Martin, SJ, “Building a Bridge,” he suggests that we begin to eliminate from our vocabulary the term SSA (same sex attraction) and that it, among other things, can cause an unnecessary rift with those we are part of if that happens to be our orientation. At first I challenged that idea, and strongly. In further thought, however, I think he is right. The reason many of us have used SSA rather than LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is precisely to differentiate or distance ourselves from what many call the “gay identity.” Instead I fear it is causing more confusion than it could ever be worth.  For starters how many people do you know (outside of the more traditional Catholic world that is) who even know what SSA means? Probably none. We thus are distancing from the very people we say we are attempting to reach out to.

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To be clear, SSA is not an improper term by any means, and I would not criticize any who continue to use it. But, like so much of “Christianese,” it does not clearly identify the topic at hand, which is homosexuality, without an easily distracting sidebar chat that can derail the entire conversation if we are not careful. The purpose many of us have used it in the past is to emphasize that being SSA or LGBT does not need to define us, as I suggested in the very first sentence of this essay. That is valid. But very often that same sidebar causes it to do exactly that. I have personally found it far easier to simply say I am gay or LGBT but “celibate for religious reasons.” People get that, even if they disagree, and one can then move forward in what is already most likely a very sensitive discussion overall.

The above point, however important, only lays the groundwork for the actual pastoral approaches in question though.  I would like to deal with each of them briefly and then allow both myself and the reader to digest the idea that the Church can reach out far better to the LGBT community than we have done, both collectively and individually, in the past. I would suggest three valid paths to the topic, both doctrinally and in approach.  I would mention here, in using the term “pastoral,” I am not limiting my terminology to priests or ministers. We are all “pastors” at times to those we know and love.

First is what I would call the “Courage” approach. Within the Church, and approved by the Vatican, is a vibrant ministry to those who struggle with homosexuality. I link to the Courage website here, and have suggested to more than one person, including me, to utilize their fine services.  I can say nothing against it nor is that my intent today. https://couragerc.org.

As an important aside, it is crucial to note that Courage does not reach all however. For some, the struggle is in making peace with themselves and their sexuality in order to even accept the possibility of a celibate life. For others, there is an in-between or middle path that sees ways for us to have in-depth and possibly even legal commitments which do not involve sexual activity but allow for the love which so many of us crave, and as perpetually single people in the Church do not tend to find easily. For yet others, it may involve a very honest but fundamental disagreement with Church teaching on the topic. Each of the three groups mentioned are made up of real Catholics and real humans. All deserve consideration.

In any case, Courage believes strongly in using the term SSA for the reasons I have mentioned already, among others. Having had at least some association with them over the last several years, I would observe that, while none of the three paths here are easy, this one can be very good for some and extremely painful for others. I have spoken to people who have wept after slipping from the very best intents and viewing pornography, for instance. You might say, and in many cases I would agree, that this would indeed be a good reason to weep. But…

I have also known those same people to be literally threatened with hellfire during what is already a difficult and humbling time of confession with their priest, and I do not see that as the answer most often. Imagine being a person of 21 years and having been told by the Church you love and the Christ you wish to follow that you will never, under any circumstances, be allowed to express your sexuality to any other human in this lifetime. Further imagine that one day you turn on your computer to do school or other work and quite unexpectedly you are sent a link to some, in this case, gay porn.  What would you do? If you are hormonally within the norm, you will most likely view that porn, particularly if you are in other areas already denying yourself from being sexually active. Then you go to confession and the priest tells you, in no uncertain terms, that had you died that day or night you would have gone straight to hell and burned for eternity due to that one act. It might just cause you to never enter a confessional again.

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church does delineate this as an objectively serious sin, and I am not here to argue that point, more often that not you likely were not fully rejecting God but simply tripped up temporarily. For a sin to be serious or mortal, we as Catholics are taught that it must be serious, we must know it is such, and we must freely choose to do it anyway.  Most people at their hormonal heights, alone on a lonely night, denying themselves as mentioned from direct sexual contact, would not fit the last of the three listed here.  A priest who does not realize this when someone is weeping in the confessional is simply not getting it.

Back to Courage–while much hope is offered, there are more than a few within that group who live in constant fear and misery due to their lapses such as the above. And that can actually lead to a form of sexual binging and purging, which then becomes a habit and finally a total oppression within even the most sincere individuals.  Please note I am not here suggesting to bypass Courage. I am simply saying one needs to know what they are likely to face and deal with if they choose that route however. I believe Jesus calls it “counting the cost.”

Second would be the “spiritual friendship” approach. This would be Christians, primarily Catholic but others as well, who accept and even embrace their LGBT side and identify as such but who nevertheless choose celibacy. At one point I challenged this idea too–I do not anymore. Some in those circles choose partners, even having life commitment ceremonies, but choose to not become sexual with that person. The pitfall of course is to live under the same roof with someone you are attracted to and love deeply and to avoid ever having sex or anything close to it. How far can a person go? Is kissing okay? Is emotional “marriage” okay? What if one or the other chooses to eventually marry sacramentally to a person of the opposite sex? How devastating could that be for the partner left behind? Again there are blessings and pitfalls in this approach. But it at least has some refreshing honesty. A website to learn more of the thoughts and ideas behind this concept would be https://spiritualfriendship.org.

Finally what about those who are within the Church but are not at the place where they can choose to give up full sexuality and possibly even marry those of their own gender biologically? The Church as we speak is having many conflicting ideas and discussions in regards to the place of such people in the Church, as to whether they are allowed to receive Holy Communion or even have a Christian funeral.  This struggle to me is the most heartbreaking–and in fact the one that the vast majority of LGBT Christians, whether Catholic or other, find themselves dealing with.

A high-profile priest who in the past worked closely with Courage has suggested publicly that it would be allowable to have such couples in one’s home, for example at Thanksgiving or other holidays, but never to refer to them as a “couple.” Really? People who are committed to one another, who share a home and bed, and who are faithful to one person rather than being promiscuous, but we are told that the “truly Catholic” approach is to pretend none of that is the case and to make the partner of one’s beloved son or daughter feel slighted due to what the Church terms as an irregular relationship? I cannot believe that this type of thinking still goes on. But it does and regularly.

Let me use a slightly different example from my own life many years ago. A friend of mine (straight) was dating a woman, and they suddenly broke up. A couple of short weeks later his former girlfriend arrived on the scene and he decided rather suddenly to marry her. Then, he asked me to be best man at the ceremony. I prayed on it, and finally decided that the best approach was to speak to him privately about my concerns. I did so, and then agreed to accept the supreme honor of standing up for him, and have never regretted doing so. It has been years since we have been in contact, but I am pretty sure from all indications that this marriage was a lasting one. And, even if it had not been, I had clearly shared my suggestions regarding waiting so I knew he could never say I had not done so. We remained wonderful friends, even after their first child was born, and that simply would not have happened if I had pushed him away at that moment.  There are no easy answers in such scenarios, whether gay or straight, but turning from him and his bride-to-be would not have prevented that marriage from occurring. It would however have estranged us, possibly forever. Supporting him did not mean agreeing with him. Nor does it with same-sex couples. They belong in our homes and Thanksgiving tables, as well as our parishes.

How this fits with same sex marriages is simple–I do not agree with the priest from Courage who suggested that we distance ourselves from loved ones who choose another path.  Expressing initial concern is one thing, but I believe that being there for them in that crucial hour could make all of the difference later on in regards to them coming back to the Church or not.  Again I probably have horrified a few readers by this view, but to me that is the far more pastoral approach.  And, by the way, it is no longer “so-called same sex marriage.” Legally it is marriage, whether one agrees with the concept or not. In the same vein Bruce Jenner is now legally a woman and her name is Kaitlyn. If you cannot acknowledge that or must make light of it, as so many Catholics and other Christians are absolutely fond of doing, you do neither her nor your cause any service. I am not sure what we are attempting to prove by calling someone else’s sexual identity by other names than they prefer. We do not have to agree with them. But pretending their perception or legal identity does not exist, or for that matter spending time fighting to reverse the law, whether one fought for it or against it at the time, is a waste in my view, and a good way to turn away some very good LGBT people from the very place they should feel most welcome–the house of God. A great place to learn more about Catholics on this particular path would be https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com. I would say succinctly that this site is not endorsed by the Church. But it is an excellent resource  to become educated on the feelings and concerns of those you may at times disagree with and yet who have struggles more similar to yours than you may expect.

I am sure this post brings more questions than answers to many of you.  And there is much more I could add to the three approaches discussed here.  But the Church does not need to choose between defending her doctrine and accepting those who do not. To me that is the bottom line here. And I think it is a crucial one for the day we live in.

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Priest Bans Gay Man from Singing at Grandmother’s Funeral

Originally posted on Bondings 2.0:  I see many things differently than New Ways Ministry in that I accept the traditional teaching of the Church on homosexuality and same-sex attraction. However coming from that background and world I also recognize that the very real ostracizing of actively or not LGBT Catholics is not the way to reach out to people who may be at different places in the journey than I or some others happen to be. 12 years ago I came back to Rome after many years away, and during those many years I was in every way an LGBT activist for 15 of those years. Even after returning to the Church I have at times had to sort and re-sort my understanding of where I fit in, particularly in regards to those particular issues which hit me at a very personal level. I would dare to say that I might have never returned if I had encountered a priest such as the one in this article at the beginning crucial stage of that return. Here is a young man who was raised Catholic, still identifies as such, and had a loving gift of song for his grandmother. To deny him the opportunity to sing in his home parish for her funeral is unbelievable to me, especially without at very least a phone call or in person conversation to discuss the matter. My heart aches for Connor–and for our Church, when we think that denying people the opportunity to grieve is part of our “ministry” to them. Thank you New Ways Ministry for sharing this important piece.

Bondings 2.0
When Connor Hakes’ grandmother died, he wanted to honor her with a song at the funeral. But because he is a gay man, the parish priest denied Hakes’ request to sing, adding more pain to an already painful time.
Connor Hakes
Hakes’ family are longtime parishioners at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur, Indiana. Generations of the family, including his grandmother, were part of the community there, and Hakes had even sung at the church before, reported WANE.
But Fr. Bob Lengerich, pastor, banned Hakes from singing at the parish until the “present situation” was resolved, though he did not, in the letter explain what the “present situation” is.  One of the issues mentioned in the letter that would ban people from liturgical roles was “openly participating in unchaste same-sex relationships.”
Father Lengerich made his thoughts known in a letter to the grieving grandson. The letter also…
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A Question of Language: ‘Same-Sex Attraction’ vs. ‘Gay or Lesbian’

I respect the work of New Ways Ministry. I do not always find myself on the same theological page as them. I agree though with the idea that we are more than our sexuality and are people of dignity in the eyes of God, whatever our orientation. And that is not the center of our lives. He is.

Bondings 2.0

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently featured an interview with Fr. Philip Bochanski, the new director of Courage, a ministry which promotes celibacy as the only path for gay and lesbian Catholics.  The article states that the priest reported that “the organization feels supported by Pope Francis’ encouragement to accompany those ‘with same-sex attraction’ on their spiritual journeys.”  Bochanski is quoted as saying that Francis’ language of accompaniment, “is very useful for us. It recognizes the approach we take.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski

It is noteworthy that Courage is taking direction in their pastoral work from Pope Francis, who is seen by many as having initiated on new openness on LGBT issues in the Church.  But, as the NCR article points out, the leadership of Courage does not follow Pope Francis when it comes to language about LGBT issues. The reporter stated:

“[The Courage] approach includes using a language that some might…

View original post 827 more words