To be gay and Catholic is to be mired in a web of what seem like contradictions. The church condemns “homosexual acts,” yet as much as 58 percent of the priests may be gay themselves, according to a 2000 estimate.
The religion is based on love, incarnate in the person of Jesus. Yet my love remains designated by the church an “objective disorder.”
And so when I realized I was gay as a later teenager, I spent a lot of time asking why it had to be me, why this cross was the one I’d been chosen to bear.
I asked myself what childhood trauma I must’ve gone through that made me this way. Either way, I figured, if these feelings didn’t go away, celibacy wasn’t that much of a price to pay for eternal life.
And people already called me “Father John” in jest, so maybe the priesthood was the right career path.
What attracted me to Catholicism was the certainty of knowing the absolute truth. Christ assured St. Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against the church, that when the pope spoke doctrine we are bound to obey as though God himself were saying it.
I was, as many are, content to accept Catholic teaching about homosexuality. But what got under my skin was the fact so many otherwise devout Catholics threw away so many teachings — particularly those championed by Pope Francis — because they were too “liberal.”
Throughout 2016 I watched the spread of sentiments that sounded more like they came out of the mouth of Milo Yiannopoulos than from the Prince of Peace.
And in the meantime, the LGBT people I knew and worked with didn’t seem “objectively disordered.”
And so, exhausted with the hypocrisy of “alt-right” ideology masquerading as Catholic, being gay didn’t seem like a big deal anymore and I cracked. I came out. I stopped going to mass (after all, I was living in sin anyway).
I realized there wasn’t any childhood trauma or psychological damage, and as gay people we have nothing to apologize for.
It was exciting, of course, and my life for a while became an endless party of trying new things.
But I learned that the awkward relationship between the church and the LGBT community hurts both.
The church has beautiful things to teach about human sexuality — the symbol of the complete giving of oneself to the other. Without a moral guide on this journey, I certainly did some things I regret. I felt as though my choice was between a lonely repression or exciting but lonely promiscuity.
But I refuse to believe that. And I realized that when, at Sunday mass again for the first time in a few months, I heard Jesus ask his father from the cross in the gospel reading “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus entered into every form of human dysfunction and sin during his passion. He was so removed from his father that he asked why he had been abandoned, betrayed, scoffed at, beaten and left for dead.
But as Easter Sunday reveals, Jesus wasn’t really forsaken, because God never abandons his children. Jesus came, after all, to seek out and be with those rejected and derided by the society of his day — and ours.
Catholicism taught me that love requires sacrifice. My love for people of the same sex will put me in some uncomfortable situations as a Catholic, and maybe trying to keep from going too far with my newly discovered sexuality will put me in awkward situations as a gay man.
But if love is your guiding principle, you can’t go wrong.
And if life is about expanding the possibility for love, then what seems like a contradiction — gay and Catholic — isn’t really one after all.