How parishes can welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics

L.G.B.T. Catholics

One of the more recent challenges for Catholic parishes is how to welcome L.G.B.T. parishioners, as well as families with L.G.B.T. members.

But that challenge is also where grace abounds because L.G.B.T. Catholics have felt excluded from the church for so long that any experience of welcome can be life-changing—a healing moment that can inspire them to go to Mass again, return them to the faith and even help them to believe in God again.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard the most appalling stories from L.G.B.T. Catholics who have been made to feel unwelcome in parishes.

A 30-year-old autistic gay man who came out to his family and was not in any sort of relationship told me that a pastoral associate said he could no longer receive Communion in church.

Why?

Because even saying he was gay was a scandal.

Cruelty doesn’t end at the doors of the church

Last year a woman contacted me to ask if I knew any “compassionate priests” in her archdiocese.

Why?

She was a nurse in a hospice where a Catholic patient was dying. But the local parish priest assigned to the hospice was refusing to anoint him—because he was gay.

Is it surprising that most L.G.B.T. Catholics feel like lepers in the church?

The same is true for families.

The mother of a gay teen told me her son had decided to come back to church after years of feeling the church hated him.

After much discussion, he decided to return on Easter Sunday.

The mother was overjoyed.

When Mass began she was so excited to have her son beside her.

But after the priest proclaimed the story of Christ’s Resurrection, guess what he preached on?

The evils of homosexuality.

The son stood up and walked out of the church.

And the mother sat in the pew and cried.

Stories of grace

Last year, a university student told me that the first person to whom he came out was a priest.

The first thing the priest said was, “God loves you, and the church accepts you.”

The young man told me, “That literally saved my life.”

Indeed, we should rejoice that more and more Catholic parishes are places where L.G.B.T. Catholics feel at home, thanks to both the parish staff and more formalized programs.

My own Jesuit community in New York is next to a church called St. Paul the Apostle, which has one of the most active L.G.B.T. outreach programs in the world.

The ministry is called Out at St. Paul and sponsors retreats, Bible study groups, speaking engagements and social events for the parish’s large L.G.B.T. community.

At every 5:15 p.m. Sunday Mass, when the time comes for parish announcements, an L.G.B.T. person gets up in the pulpit to say, “Hi! I’m Jason or Xorje or Marianne, and I’m a member at Out at St. Paul.

“If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, we want you to feel welcome.

“Here are some events coming up this week.” And I just learned that two members of that group are entering religious orders this year.

Sadly, much of the spiritual life of L.G.B.T. Catholics and their families depends on where they happen to live. Continue reading

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