A Marquette University grad’s poignant note to President Barack Obama about his hopes as a gay man and a Catholic have garnered him an invitation to join the president when Pope Francis comes to the White House on Sept. 23.
Aaron Ledesma, 23, who has been chronicling his return to the church in a blog titled The Gay Catholic, first thought he was being punked when he answered a call from a blocked number on Aug. 13.
It was the White House tendering its invitation.
“I broke down crying as soon as I hung up the phone,” said Ledesma, who graduated from Marquette in 2014 and now works as communications manager at the national headquarters of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, in Richmond, Va. “It was that moment of realizing how far I’d come, and seeing that all of those years — when I thought things were tough or I felt scared — that it was all leading me to this point.”
Pope Francis will visit the White House later this month on his first visit to the United States, a three-city tour that will culminate with a Mass in Philadelphia that is expected to draw more than 1 million people.
Like many Catholics, Ledesma was deeply moved by Francis’ now famous response in 2013 to a reporter’s question about gay clergy: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
“When Pope Francis said that…I thought, you know, if every Catholic practiced that, I’d have nothing to fear. I’d have nothing to worry about,” Ledesma said.
…In addition to Pope Francis, Ledesma credits his mother, Patti McNeil — his rock, his hero, he calls her — with bringing him back to the church.
I read some of Ledesma’s blog, which offers us his perspective:
Some Catholics believe that there are only two choices when being gay:
Live a life of celibacy OR Live in sin & go to hell.
I realize that some Catholics urging the LGBTQ community to be celibate are doing it out of love and concern, and then there are others who hide behind their religion as a justification for their bigotry.
For the ones who are truly concerned with my soul and my relationship with God, this is how I try to explain it:
There are heterosexual, married, Catholic couples who use contraception. They don’t plan on stopping the use of contraception, and don’t really believe they are sinning. How do they reconcile that choice with God and their faith?
There are heterosexual Catholics who have gotten a divorce and remarried legally without getting an annulment from the Church.They still receive communion. They don’t plan on pursuing an annulment and don’t really believe what they’re doing is wrong. How do they reconcile that choice with God and their faith?
There are heterosexual couples, even married ones, who have sex for pleasure only. Some watch porn and give little thought to the gift of intimacy. How do they reconcile those choices with God and their faith?
Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Family photo