I want to talk about something that is pretty uncomfortable for many Catholics: homosexuality. Before I begin, I want to be clear about the purpose of this article: it’s not an apologetics piece. The purpose of this article is to instead emphasize what we should be doing as ambassadors of Christ. I also recommend you view the YCW’s disclaimer at the bottom of the home page.
I’ll be blunt, folks—when they write the history books a hundred years from now, Catholics will be painted as the villains in the battle for equality. We’ll be comparable to the white Southerners who screamed at black school children, or the South Africans who enforced apartheid. That sucks. I’ve felt the pain of that watching friends post things on Facebook about “the fight for equality,” and I’ve felt it sitting in class where even my teacher says he finds it ridiculous that people feel they must defend marriage. It hurts knowing that we’re struggling to stand by our religion which preaches love, knowing that others insist that we preach hatred.
So what do we do, in the face of these hardships?
We continue to love.
The difficulties we face should not—must not—keep us from loving our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered brothers and sisters, as well as their allies. Too often, my friends, we look at people in the LGBT community as untouchables—the one group we could never associate ourselves with. By and large, of course, this is not done out of hatred or fear, but uncertainty. After all, don’t they hate us? Won’t they fight us and calls us bigots and homophobes and backwards? We stay where we are comfortable, where we don’t have to face difficult conversations.
It’s time to get uncomfortable. Feeling awkward gives us so many chances to embrace the practice of being humble. The LGBT movement is here to stay, and we must respond, armed only with open hearts, smiles, truth, and love. It won’t be easy, of course, because Christ is asking us to radically love those who may scorn and mock us. But take heart, friends, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). It’s time to confront our fears, take a deep breath, and plunge ourselves into places we’d rather not go. Let’s put on the awkward pants.
Thinking back on my own experiences and conversations (as well as the countless online debates I’ve witnessed…yuck), I’ve noticed that there are several fears that typically occur which keep us from loving our LGBT brothers and sisters. Think about which ones you’ve experienced, and think about how best to confront them. I’ll give you a headstart…
1. The fear of “condoning”
I’m terribly ashamed to admit that this one was a biggie for me. I’ve found a great group of Catholic young adults in my city, and I’ve been trying to share it with every Catholic I meet. However, I got stuck when a new acquaintance-hopefully-future-friend of mine who is gay mentioned that he grew up Catholic. Suddenly, I found myself inexplicably torn between inviting him and not mentioning the group. I was surprised and frustrated with myself, so I went to a friend with my dilemma. Amazingly, she understood, and described that she has sometimes felt that Catholics fear associating with the LGBT community for fear of condoning behavior the Church deems sinful. But, really—would inviting this new friend of mine to take a bus a few neighborhoods north, eat dinner, and meet new people really condone anything besides fellowship? No. My friend encouraged me to invite the guy to the YA dinner
So, in short:
DON’T: Exclude someone or stay silent on something for fear you’ll give the impression that you “condone” same-sex marriage or a homosexual lifestyle.
2. Fear of obligation to speak.
This was another struggle for me. I used to avoid anything that had to do with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, because I knew that if I was armed with this knowledge, it would be my duty to defend the faith when it was attacked. I didn’t want that negative attention, and I was afraid I’d be sucked into an argument I couldn’t win. How many times have we heard kids in class bring up abortion or other sensitive issues, and we think, ‘Cripe, if I only knew a very more facts and was prepared, I would join in their conversation.’
But guys, we have Truth Himself on our side (John 14:6). We don’t need statistics or dogmas created and written by men. Sure, it can be hard to wrap our brains around the genius of our Church fathers and popes, but their writings are so worth wrestling with because even though we have the Truth, others relate to the numerics more readily. Talk it out with a friend, ask twelve priests the same question, and read, read, read. You need to be armed with this knowledge, because the world is aching to hear the truth.
DON’T: Hide from any scrap of information the Church has about homosexuality.
3. Fear of offending.
This one gets brought up a lot. The LGBT community has a LOT of vocabulary, and we’re not sure how to approach difficult conversations for fear of upsetting someone; as a result, we stay silent, and hearts remain unchanged. This is why research is critical! There’s plenty of information on LGBT issues, labels, and problems, and we cannot remain ignorant of these things. When asked how best to avoid offending, LGBT folks often give a simple answer: just ask. Ask how they identify, and if it confuses you, ask for clarification. That’s not condoning, because this is something we can’t argue—how that individual feels. We can never get inside their heads and hearts and determine what exactly is going on; that privilege remains with God alone. Our conversations could go much smoother and much more charitably if we understand our LGBT brothers and sisters more, so go learn something.
DON’T: Stay silent because you don’t understand something.
This is our problem. The people of the LGBT movement, those struggling with their desires, those who support same-sex marriage—they are our brothers and sisters, and we are their keepers. Look around at your youth group, campus ministry, or Catholic circle of friends—how many LGBT are there? This is our problem. Jesus never had a sit-here-and-let-them-come-to-us policy. God is asking us, right now, to go out and be examples of His love.
We’re facing hard times, friends; I’d never deny that. But when you look at hard times the Church has gone through, you’ll find great saints. What did they do when faced by people who hated them? Who called them backwards and evil? They loved. They acted like fools who smiled in the faces of those who spit at them. We must be like Blessed Miguel Pro, martyr of the Mexican Revolution who threw his arms around the officer who led him to his execution, promising forgiveness. We must imitate these saints and be the lights of the darkness that surrounds us all. We are missionaries by nature of our Baptism, and we all have Christ on our sides. We must always, always, always turn to love, because everyone is meant for heaven. Let’s take as many souls with us as we can.
Check out this site for a list of terms and defitions for the LGBT community: International+LGBT
Check out this Church friendly site for a better understanding of transgender: The Basics of Understanding Transgrender
And if you've got even more time, read this article on Andrea Quintero, a homeless, transgendered woman in Rome who was given a Catholic funeral.