Understanding the subtext of LGBTQ “welcome”

It is becoming quite clear that the welcome required by people who claim false sexual identities for themselves is not as much welcome as it is a kind of blinking contest, a game of “chicken.”

(Photo: us.fotolia.com/Emmoth)

There is a head-scratching pretense at work currently in some corners of Catholic and secular media—and even some media focal points such as the .

It’s apparently newsworthy that the Catholic Church has finally, at long last, taken the first baby-steps toward actually welcoming the “LGBTQ Community.” And it’s all the buzz that we need to “build a bridge” between the Church and “LGBT people” (What happened to the “Q”? Unjust discrimination?)

But no one seems to be asking the crucial question: Is it really true?

Well, I’m afraid the answer is yes, it’s true. And, no, it’s not.

To unravel this apparent contradiction, we actually have to look at the subtext that exists under this notion of “LGBTQ welcome” and the three different ways that someone who lives with same-sex attraction can experience “welcome” within the Catholic Church.

There seem to be only three choices a person with same-sex attraction can make regarding how they may be welcomed in their own local parish, in real, concrete circumstances:

  1. A person can choose to enter a parish community as a person and not as a “straight person” or “gay person” or “transgender person,” etc. That is, one can actually choose not to reveal anything about their sexual thoughts, feelings, and attractions to their parish. Audible gasps of shock notwithstanding, this is actually how the vast majority of Catholics join parishes and are welcomed.
  2. A person can choose to enter a parish community as a person while also reaching out privately to pastoral staff to ask about resources and support for living with same-sex attraction. This person will be welcomed into the parish just like everyone else, but will have the added support and welcome of, God willing, a local Courage apostolate chapter that can provide even more welcome and support, specific to carrying the crosses of same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, and associated chastity challenges.
  3. A person can first “come out” as “LGBTQIAPK”—or, if you prefer, “LGBTTQQIAAP.” You might wish to look this up after finishing this article, in case the preferred acronym changed while you were reading. Then, whether you’re already in a parish or want to enter one, you can ensure that as many people as possible know you are “out” and assess whether you are being welcomed unreservedly anyway, just like those who make the first two choices.

[A caution: Note the crucial distinction being made above between using prudence and discretion to share one’s personal struggles with same-sex attraction issues with pastors, counselors, close friends, and family members (as in no. 2) and the socially-driven phenomenon of “coming out” (as in no. 3). They’re two very different things and should not be conflated.]

But here’s the thing—people who make the third choice are not really asking a parish to welcome just them. They are looking for a parish to welcome their “out-ness” as well. If there is any resistance to welcoming their false sexual identity (remember: the Church teaches there are only two true sexual identities—man and woman), that resistance will be counted as UN-welcoming.

This subtext is also assuredly not directly about the issue of chastity and what behaviors are or are not occurring with any particular “out” individual. Rather, it’s a subtext that is squarely and solely about identity. Even so, unless and until a particular parish rolls out a red-carpet welcome mat for the “out” Catholic, the accusation will be that homosexual behaviors are being singled out for double-standard treatment when compared to all other forms of unchastity among members of the parish.

Other accusations of bias also accrue to parishes and clergy that choose not to affirm “out-ness” explicitly and unreservedly. There must be latent “homophobia” at work in the community. Unaffirmed “out-ness” is attempted erasure of queer folk, we’re told. Not letting people “name themselves” as LGBTQ is disrespectful and insulting. So is not overtly identifying people by their false sexual identities in major life events (are their civil “marriages” to same-sex spouses mentioned in the parish bulletin?) and even in death (did enough bishops use the term “LGBT” when publicly praying for the victims of the Orlando night club massacre?). And firing employees of Catholic institutions because they publicly give scandal by “marrying” someone of the same sex is called unjustly discriminatory. Why? Because, you know, the Church only fires “gay” people and no one else, and “out-ness” is to be accepted at all costs.

In this light, it becomes clear that the welcome required by people who claim false sexual identities for themselves is not as much welcome as it is a kind of blinking contest, a game of “chicken.” Parishes—and clerics, especially bishops—who try to engage “LGBT people” or the “LGBT community” with welcome on “LGBT” terms find themselves face to face with a demand to treat false sexual identities as though they were completely normal and non-controversial from the Catholic perspective. The Church—parishes, clergy, and people in the pews—are all required to acquiesce in big and small ways.

For example, it was national news when a bishop personally “welcomed” an “LGBT pilgrimage” to his cathedral and permitted the pilgrims to celebrate Mass there, no questions asked (the group brought their own priest for Mass, apparently). Communion was distributed and received; a “gay deacon” wept for joy. That’s big.

But what about the small stuff, like when you see a same-sex couple at Mass in your parish, and they kiss on the lips at the sign of peace? Is it “unwelcoming” to even feel uncomfortable about that? What about when a same-sex-“married” man helps distribute Holy Communion? Should that be normalized so they feel welcome? Or, what about when a same-sex-“married” couple shows up as dual “godmothers” at a Baptism, or when another couple wants their child baptized and wants the bulletin announcement to read “daughter of Mr. and Mr. Smith”? Won’t it be unwelcoming to refuse their request? Oh, and just as an afterthought—what about Catholic schools?

Before you think that perhaps this really is the proverbial slippery slope, I’ve got some additional bad news. The “slope” collapsed on us a few decades ago. We’re really all just swimming in the most toxic “slippery soup” we could imagine, culturally and socially.

And we really need the Barque of Peter to start tossing us a few life preservers.

It’s going to be up to individual lay Catholics, as well as clergy, to learn to understand the real subtext of this ideologically driven call to be “welcoming.” We really need to stand fast and get familiar with the real facts.

Don’t be caught off guard by accusations of un-welcome from those currently jazzed up about bridges and what-not. Remind folks of the three choices for welcome outlined above. Remind folks that the Church has been binding the wounds of lepers and washing the feet of sinners for 2,000 years. It already knows how to welcome the wounded and penitent.

Parish communities already know how to embrace its new members, regardless of the cross they may carry. Apostolates already exist for the sake of helping those with same-sex attraction and other chastity issues—the Courage apostolate has reached out and welcomed people for four decades, while assiduously avoiding the trap of normalizing false sexual identities. Regional chapters, annual conferences, truth-rich resources all already exist for those needing this kind of welcome in the Church.

Even so, the “slippery soup” remains. There are too many—not too few—Catholic parishes and even diocesan-approved Catholic agencies out there who are all too willing to foment that false vision of the human person that insists that this sexual pseudo-identity is really “who I am.” There is all too much clamor surrounding the falsely compassionate, merely sentimental forms of welcoming associated with embracing “out-ness” first and persons only second.

The real battle in the Church right now isn’t about sex. It’s about sexuality.

Since the Church rightly teaches that: 1) there is only one thing called “sexuality,” and it’s ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman, and 2) there are only two sexual “identities”—man and woman (everything else is ideology, not reality), I’m going to say something mean.

Let’s not be so welcoming of “out-ness.” In fact, let’s go so far as to crucify false sexual ideologies on the Cross of Jesus Christ, where they belong. To borrow from Pope Francis (he didn’t just say “who am I to judge”), haven’t we been “colonized” enough?

Here’s a not-mean reminder, though. People living with same-sex attraction and other identity issues are real. They exist, they’re our brothers and sisters, and they need both welcome and support from us, from our families, from our parishes, and from the reality-based Courage apostolate.

They just need real spiritual salve from us, not ideological poison. Everyone reading this can find a way, some way, some time, to raise the banner of genuine welcome for those yet on the margins of Christian charity and community. We can welcome them “in” without welcoming the “out.”

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About Jim Russell 10 Articles
Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body and sexuality. He can be reached by email at dearjimrussell@gmail.com.


  1. I live in the archdiocese of Boston. Sadly in my town, the pastor “welcomed” an activist gay couple and their adopted children, and refers to them in the bulletin and in church as the ___-___ family (last two names of the men hyphenated). There is even a plaque in the church basement (now a cafe) honoring this hypenated family for a major donation. While I feel greatly for the children, I am sorry the “welcome” they receive at the parish includes the insistence by teachers and staff “your family is just like any other family!”

  2. The author seems not to recognize that the reason opposite sex attracted people don’t have to “come out” at their parishes is because the presumption of peoples’ sexual orientation is almost always that they are, indeed, opposite sex attracted. When married gays and lesbians j (as opposed to “married” opposite sex attracted couples) join parishes, they do so with great anxiety about whether or not they will be accepted not just by the pastoral staff but by the parish in general. Finally, anyone who has ever spent time with active members of “Courage” will resoundingly contest the author’s assertion that it is the least bit “reality-based.” It’s founder, the late Fr. Harvey, could not sit still for five minutes to explain the rationale of the group’s organizing principals or rates of success at turning out happy, well adjusted gay and lesbian people. To his credit, he admitted trying to turn gays and lesbians into opposite sex attracted people was futile, but as to why or how a life time of avoiding romantic intimacy was of some benefit to either gays and lesbians, in particular, or societies, in general, he never managed to come up with an answer. I doubt his successor has had any better luck.

    • I’ve spent lots of time, for years, with active members of Courage.

      And I resoundingly contest *your* assertion, as well as your unfounded characterization of the apostolate’s founder, Fr. Harvey.

      By God’s grace, the apostolate is going, and growing, ever stronger.

  3. In my previous profession, Gays held more positions than normally expected in society in general. Like everyone else, they manifested a complete range of personalities and behaviors. It would appear that the time has come to invoke the KISS principle regarding the relationship of the Church to this matter, the same as any other temptation and proclivity to a sin. EVERYONE is welcome in the Church and the same rules apply to all. The thief must give up the behavior of stealing, those in invalid marriages must regularize them or be celibate, the same with others in illicit relationships, all sinners repent, etc. If the conditions are not met, they are required to be reconciled as with all penitents and refrain from the occasions of sin. Needles to say, the regularizing or ignoring the sin is out of the question. The Church is here to serve all without fear or favor but to honestly represent God on earth.

  4. In Christianity, the teachings of God are non-negotiable. Do we falter, yes, do we sin, yes and when we do we pray and ask for HIS forgiveness, HIS mercy, HIS strength and offer our meager penance and repent to correct our behavior. We do not ask God to change the rules because it just doesn’t work for us. I am at a loss as to why someone would not just go somewhere they feel comfortable, and feel accepted for who you are. Why come into an environment you know full well same-sex relations is not spiritually condoned by the Church nor by God. Christianity moves in love, I can love you without embracing what you feel is non-negotiable. Also, if I truly love you I am bound by that love to share what is truth and light as led by the Spirit of God. That is non-negotiable. Please don’t come in and lecture the Church that if she truly operates in love she must change teachings, scripture and doctrine from thousands of years to include something contradictory to the teachings of God. I could list all the relevant scriptures, but someone who has chosen to live in same-sex relationships have already read and determined they don’t really mean what it says.

  5. The question, usually unanswered, us whether you are welcoming the sin or the sinner. It should never be the sin.

  6. Just to clarify, I’m saying all are welcome in the name of love! And all who come should also come in the name of love as well. It’s ultimately about our desire to join with God for eternity. The Catholic Church desires to guide you on your journey. She shows us the path and God tells us how. Everyone knows who the Catholic Church is and about her teachings before they walk across the threshhold. If your desire is not to seek the presence of God for eternity but for the Church to justify and condone what is fleeting on Earth, then you really should seek another institution.

  7. While I realize the SSA issue and debate is “hot” right now in the Church and the argument for this is “necessity” given the cultural changes occurring, I DO struggle w/ the notion that we are NOT treating other similarly situation persons struggling w/ chastity w/ the same “vigor” (gays argue “venom”). What is the Church’s apostolate for “living in sin”? What is the Church’s apostolate for those contemplating divorce? Truly these lifestyle choices are far more common in the Church by %.
    When I log into this site and others (like the Register) I am not reading article after article day after day on those much LARGER and prevalent issues in the Church. Some here may say “Amen” we need to … but the point I am making is this. I have indeed come to believe the Church is not as compassionate and merciful regarding SSA but that homosexuality repels particularly conservative Catholics who are simply in an UPROAR. I believe our culture and Church has effectively “accepted” these others situations as “reality” … and does speak out (maybe not enough to the liking of many here) … BUT … I am concerned there is a grave imbalance in approach. We need to STOP targeting gays and start focusing on the beauty of human sexuality in marriage b/n man and woman and on chastity in all life circumstances. Articles like this do NOTHING to change the minds of those who seek to “normalize” the behavior. They conversion experience will only come by learning more of the virtue. IMHO.

    • Transcendent
      It’s not about targeting “gays” it’s about protecting and preserving the sanctity of the Church and it IS about chastity. That’s what this article and all the others regarding gays are saying “that all are welcome.” It’s more about a wordly agenda forcing the Church to say sin is no longer sin just because morality no longer exists outside of the Church. Perhaps you shouldn’t zero in on the “gay” articles, because I read several of these sites (like National Catholic Register) and find an endless source of worldly issues being addressed. Many, many articles regarding saints, people serving people, respect for life at all stages, miracles, the list goes on. The Church is being attacked on numerous issues. And the world cheers. I myself am a divorced and remarried Catholic. For 19 years I attended mass but did not receive the Eucharist. Why I didn’t seek annulment is complicated. After 19 years I finally did. My point is that I love and respect the Church and God. I don’t go around telling God he needs to get with the times because morality no longer exists. GOD IS THE TIMES. GOD is so far ahead of the times He is infinite. It is no secret that the LGBTQ has it’s own hate agenda mocking the Church, screaming “bigot”, holding vulgar parades, forcing Christian business to participate in their nuptials knowing it is against their beliefs solely for the purpose of ruining them. THEN laughing and cheering all the way to the bank leaving a family in ruin. When the truth of the matter is there are an abundance if gay proprietors who would love to have their business. Again all gay people are welcome to attend mass and if abstaining from same-sex relations also receive the Eucharist. But no one gay or otherwise has the right to force the Church to say God got it wrong so we’re gonna fix it.

  8. If the onus here is to “Love the sinner and hate the sin!”, then I agree with Deacon Russell. It is not the individual’s “out-ness” but the individual that matters. I do not hire someone because he or she is Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist. I hire an individual because of what skills and experience he or she brings to the table, religious affiliation notwithstanding. Healthy dialogue on the human perspective is one thing. Proselytizing is another. It is the latter, rather than the former, that causes more harm. I returned to the Catholic Church (following a 21 year absence), not to be accepted for my SSA, but to worship the God of my Father’s as a repentant sinner. Nothing more. Nothing less. I do not require the approval or disapproval of my brothers and sisters. Rather, I seek the love and guidance of my Savior that manifests itself through them. Sometimes love has to hurt to be effective. The focus should never ever be on me, but on Jesus. As an employer, I would not fire a staff member simply because his or her lifestyle or religion does not conform to or is not agreeable to me. All are welcome in my home as long as it is understood that it is “my” home and certain rules do apply. The same is true for the Catholic Church. One does not survive for 2000 years simply because one “bends” to the will of people or does what is “popular.” One survives 2000 years because he or she, in this case the institution (human error notwithstanding), stands on principle, tradition, and teaching. Everyone is welcome in the Catholic Church to experience Jesus and be saved, just leave the baggage at the door and make the experience about Jesus, not you. “Ad Jesum per Mariam!”

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