Confessions of a Millennial Gay Catholic: Why I Stay
I have been thinking of this type of article for a while now, an article à la Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City but probably less scandalous and definitely much less sexually driven! I hope that with these confessions that I can shine some light on what it means to be a millennial Catholic and a gay Catholic. That being said, everyone’s experience is unique and different, so these are all from my own lived experience.
This particular post was inspired by Fr James Martin, SJ of America. I was going through Instagram as usual and normally skip videos because they can be long or not that interesting. This time I saw a subtitle that said: ‘Many people asked, “Why stay Catholic?”’, and I thought that this was a very important question to pose, especially at this fraught time with the coming to light of further sexual abuse.
And consequently, it was a question with which I have been grappling for some time now; my honours thesis even revolved around this question and that of belonging in the Church.
To dive right in, I stay because it is as much a part of me as my arms. Now, this is not a very theological reason to stay. If I borrow some notes from Fr Martin, SJ, I can say that I stay because I am baptised. I am part of this Church, and the Church is part of me.
I belong as much to the Body of Christ as Pope Francis or any other Catholic. The basis for this belonging is my baptism, which welcomes me as equally into God’s family as it does any other person who is baptised — and that includes Protestants as well. But just because I have received all the sacraments possible to me at this point does not mean that I should stay. Even my own reason is not a sufficient answer, but it gets closer to the point.
My immersion in Catholicism has been from the beginning of my life. It is hard to escape it when you were born one week prior to Christmas on Gaudete Sunday. From being born on the Third Sunday of Advent, I was then baptised as a full member of the Roman Catholic Church.
Many of my childhood memories revolve around attending Mass with my family and friends. I have spent my entire education career enrolled in Catholic institutions. All of these have formed me in ways that have opened the world unto me. And this openness has allowed me to have a critical mind about what is occurring in our world as well as inside of our Church.
In opening me to the world, my faith has grounded me in deeply held values and morals. It is because of this grounding that I stay. When we turn to scripture, we read that Christ changed Simon’s name to Peter because it was upon this rock (Peter) He would construct his Church.
As someone who speaks French, this makes more sense than in English! Just as Peter is the pierre on which our Church is built, my faith the is rock on which my life and beliefs are built. Even when the world seems to be conspiring against everything I believe, I still find solace in my faith and passages from scripture.
When I worked on my thesis, I was confronted with some big questions as a gay Catholic that I needed to work through both in an academic sense as well as a personal sense. From the outset of my thesis, I knew the Catholic that I did not want to be and somewhat the Catholic that I wanted to be.
In saying that, with the currently witch hunt of gay priests and gay Catholics that people such as Archbishop Viganò, it makes it harder to be a Catholic.
Again, it comes back to scripture and the personal relationship with God. With the commandment to love one another coming from the saviour himself, there is not much wiggle room on what should be the founding principle in our lives. I remember seeing in my Christian Ethics classroom in high school a WWJD sticker.
And it is exactly the question to ask oneself when one asks why one stays. What would Jesus do when He saw gays? He said that they had more faith than the Jews! (Roman centurion story, and his words are used in every Mass when we say that we are not worthy for God to come under our roof …).
To come back to my thesis, one of the central lines I repeated throughout was the ‘continuation of the faith’. This is more important today than when I wrote it earlier this year. The continuation of the faith is up to everyone; the time is to open the Church up for criticism and for vulnerability. We must become the Church of the poor and the humble.
Now is not the time to put homosexuality and paedophilia together in the same sentence because, and I speak with some authority on this as a gay man, that the majority of the men out there are heterosexual.
Gays are not predisposed to paedophilia. Period. For the faith, and for the greater glory of God, we cannot afford to have a civil war occur between the different wings of the Church. If we want to convince people to stay, we cannot fight with each other.
I stay because my faith is the rock upon which I have built my life. Love one another, a simple line that I try and live out daily, but it is a challenge somedays.
This call, this commandment is why I stay beyond my belief in God and in the salvation that is promised one day when I am called home to God’s house. Until then, I am not worthy that He should enter under my roof unless He says the word to heal my soul.