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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”