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‘The most welcoming place’: How the Church can reach out to the LGBT community

The Church, says Daniel Mattson, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says ‘I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.’”

Author and speaker Daniel Mattson (CNA photo)

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Daniel Mattson is accustomed to talking about same-sex attraction.

He’s written a book on the subject, and he speaks to audiences often about his experience as a Catholic striving to follow the Church’s teaching about chastity. In a recent interview with CNA, Mattson offered some lessons the Church can learn about engagement with the LGBT community.

The first of these, he told CNA May 23, is having “the confidence that what the Church has is truly good news for the LGBT community.”

“That is what is lacking, and I just wish that we would not be afraid of it,” he said, encouraging Catholics to be open in talking about Church teaching.

The goal is not to proselytize, he said but to explain the truth and beauty of Church teaching on the issue – “not what you think it is, but what it really is,” he said.

Mattson mentioned the Gospel scene when in Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman caught in adultery.

“We cannot be more compassionate than Jesus,” he said, explaining that he often identifies with the woman in the story, who, though broken, meets Jesus and is invited to something more for her life.

The Church, Mattson said, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says ‘I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.’” And part of sinning no more, he said, is an invitation “to a richer life.”

“I want to get the Church excited to talk about this,” Mattson said.

Mattson is the author of the 2017 book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay,” which describes his experience with same-sex attraction and his decision to live according to Catholic moral teaching.

Visiting Rome for the launch of the Italian-language version of his book, Mattson gave a speech May 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, during which he offered his testimony, sharing that he was raised in a Christian family, his experiences being bullied as a child, and the experience of sexual confusion during his childhood and teenage years.

He also spoke about an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God over his same-sex feelings, prompting him to leave his faith later in life, and live out his same-sex desires in partnerships. Mattson said doing so only made him feel unhappy and lonely, and said it wasn’t until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment, by living out her teachings.

In his comments to CNA after, Mattson said personal witness is the key to reaching out to people experiencing same-sex attraction.

In this sense, he said, the Church needs to give more visibility to the people with same-sex attraction who have opted to live celibate lives. He pointed to Courage International, an organization that counsels individuals with same-sex attraction who chose to live according to Church teaching.

“We’re just sitting over here quietly abiding by every word of the Catholic Church and finding it to be the recipe for happiness, and we don’t get much attention,” Mattson said.

The people who have tried living the LGBT lifestyle and “found it empty,” he said, “want to share what we found with the LGBT community and invite them into the full community of the family of God.”

Mattson said that while he has been called “crazy” or “internally homophobic” for speaking out, “I just have to laugh that off.”

Mattson said those who describe Catholicism as “homophobic” usually imply that the Church is somehow a “hateful place” with no room for people with same-sex attraction.

However, “the opposite is exactly the case for me. I have never felt more welcomed in my life than in the arms of Holy Mother Church.”

“It’s the most welcoming place,” he said, “and it’s sad if people want to use the language of the world to say that, to use that word and say that the Church doesn’t have a place or that it isn’t welcoming. For me, it’s been the exact opposite.”

When asked by a priest in the audience how pastors ought to react to people who come to them and confide having same-sex attraction and feelings, Mattson stressed the importance of creating “an environment that is safe,” since many of these people already carry many wounds.

The fact that a person feels they can open up to begin with is a positive sign, he said, explaining that most people with same-sex attraction are afraid that “they will be treated with disgust” if they open up about it, so knowing they have a safe space to talk is key.

Mattson also mentioned Pope Francis, telling CNA Pope Francis has been clear about the Church’s teaching, and explaining his belief that Francis’ message is often manipulated by the media “to serve their own agenda.”

Mattson said he always remembers the pope’s comments on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said that he is “a son of the Church.”

“If you really look at what he’s said, he’s been very clear about same-sex marriage over the years, he’s been very clear that chastity is an important virtue,” he added.

“He’s said he’s a son of the Church and I’m confident in that,” Mattson said, and voiced his hope that one day he would be able to meet the pope and tell him “how the Church has been a mother to me and has guided me to happiness and freedom.”

Mattson also expressed support for the view that sexuality doesn’t define a person’s life, and stressed that using labels such as “gay” or “straight” reduce a person to their sexuality, since in the end everyone is ultimately a child of God.

“The truth is that my sexual identity is (that of) a man, just like Adam, just like Abraham, David, just like every other man that has walked the face of the earth, I’m not a different sort of sexual person than they were,” he told journalists.

“The Church’s teaching is that you are identified as a beloved son of God, that has been the experience for me.”

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  1. This guy and Fr. James Martin should get together for a debate, a friendly debate. Don’t call it a debate, call it a conversation or an exchange of ideas. I bet Fr. Martin would never agree to it. Would be so informative and eye-opening, though, maybe even productive and beneficial for the Church.

  2. This man, and men like Joseph Sciambra, and the good priests and people of the Courage apostolate are the bravest of all in confronting the lie of the sex revolution.

    If there ever was a debate btw him and Martin, the Jesuits would just stage a pre-emptive strike at a press conference at Georgetown or Fordham and declare him “crazy” and a “self-hating homophobe.”

  3. What is Gospel proselytism, originally a synonym for the Gospel missionary activity “to go and make disciples of all nations”….and so it is rightly said to look like this, the “welcoming message of Christ that says ‘I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.’” Why have we demonized the Beloved’s command and Mission to be Gospel proselytizers who go and preach to bring repentance and entrance into the Father’s Kingdom from every land, nation, people, race, tribe until He returns?? Who are we to second guess the Beloved? If the Beloved commands that we be Gospel proselytizers I AM with Him! Let’s not demonize the Word, blessings!!

  4. In an otherwise good piece, it is undermined to a large degree by the use of “LGBT” community, which assumes from the get go there is a legitimate thing as being “gay” and “transgender” and all that such an identification entails. We need to be very careful about the language we use. I do see, however, the story is from CNA, which I don’t completely trust.

    • Would you rather they use the term “sodomites”? I agree with what you’re saying and get your point. But here are the alternative terms to choose from, as far as I can determine:

      1) Sodomites
      2) Homosexuals
      3) Homosexual persons
      4) Persons with homosexual tendencies
      5) Same-sex attracted people

      But those exclude the T in LGBT, so you have to add one of the following:

      1) People confused about their sexual identity
      2) People who wish to be a different sex than they are
      3) People who have physically or chemically mutilated their bodies’ sexual characteristics

      You get the point. The acronym “LGBT” is handy shorthand when column space is restricted or when repeated references to a lengthy, more accurate description such as above would be cumbersome to read.

      • That seems to be a straw man. You should use lgbt because of space? How about SSA (for same sex attracted.) And the whole point is there really is no such thing as transgendered and this is a fabricated term and notion. So to even use the term or an acronym for it in any way furthers the lie. That is very reason why many people use “lgbt.” This also applies to the fact that the word gender has deliberately been used to replace sex. Language is a great part of the battle and we must seek not to use the false words/concepts at every opportunity.

  5. When will the ‘reach out’ be made to the traditional family of working class, traditional, orthodox, God fearing, non-contracepting families who do their very best to attend Holy Mass and obey the laws of God and the Church?
    It will never happen. Those days are long gone.
    Those who are as I described are equivalent to the residents of fly-over country. This pope and his lieutenants don’t give a damn about us. In fact, he views us as the enemy, his enemy.
    The USCCB feels the same way. It is the Catholic intellectual Left-elites who call the shots for the time being.
    Fortunately, time is not on their side.

    • You are despairing. I attend a parish where we are celebrated. Our bishop celebrates us. He has brought in orthodox priests from Spain and elsewhere to help bring orthodoxy back to the diocese. He recently mandated that all tabernacles be moved to the center of the sanctuary by this Advent. It is a beautiful thing to behold, really. There are many bishops who are quietly defying the rhetoric of the powers that be.

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