Tonight I am so sad.
A friend, a Catholic who is gay, tweeted about a mutual friend of ours who has decided to leave the Catholic Church because they were so tired of the homophobic harassment. This was a person who was living chastely according to the rules of the Church, but it wasn’t enough for their detractors, and now they’ve left.
My heart was broken by that tweet. And it was further broken by the dirty, nasty, ugly, libelous things that fellow Catholics were saying in response:
If you don’t happen to be LGBTQ and Catholic, let me assure you, this kind of thing happens all the time. We are relentlessly hated, whether we follow the rules or not.
I have always been bisexual. I have been Catholic for all but a month of my life– I was baptized exactly a month after I was born. So my Catholicism and my bisexuality have both been a part of me for as long as I can remember. My bisexuality is one of the filters that affects how I see people. My Catholicism informs what I know about people and their dignity and tells me how I ought to treat them. I am monogamous with my husband, and he’s the only person I’ve ever had relations with. I think that both men and women are beautiful, and that’s correct of me. I consider it a gift from God to be able to see people’s beauty regardless of their sex. I suppose that if I were straight, I would only be able to see men as beautiful, and that would be a shame. Sometimes, I see a man or woman who not only looks beautiful but sexy. Sometimes I’m tempted to sexually objectify that sexy-looking person, so I pray for the strength not to do that and I go back to loving them as a whole person instead of wanting to use them as an object. I suppose that my gay friends are only ever tempted to objectify members of the same sex. I suppose that, if I were straight, I would only ever be tempted to sexually objectify men and would have perfectly respectful relationships with all women– unless, of course, that’s not how it works.
There are all different ways to objectify, use and exploit people, you see, and all of them are sins. The Catholic Church is very clear on this point. You can exploit people sexually and that’s a sin. You can do it financially and that’s a sin too. You can do it by stirring a mob into a frenzy for political ends, and what that mob does is at least partly your responsibility.
You can also objectify, use and exploit people by scapegoating them, refusing to see any good in them, naming them the cause of everything that’s wrong with society. Heap all of society’s ills on one group of people and punish them for everything. Accuse them of corrupting the youth. Imagine their sinister “agenda” behind every rock and teach others to do so. Blame them when the crops don’t grow or the rains don’t come or when there’s a plague. Then hurt them, hurt them, hurt them with all the zeal and glee you can conjure up and call it the loving will of God. That’s an easy and gravely sinful way to objectify a human being. It’s something that’s been done to LGBTQ people for time immemorial.
People tell me that they’re “speaking the truth in love” when they tell LGBTQ people that we are disgusting, sinful, dirty, untrustworthy, that we mustn’t be listened to on any topic, that we have to be kept away from children. If you look at my comment box and the trolls that follow me online, you’ll see fervent Catholics claiming that LGBTQ people have somehow forfeited their intrinsic God-given dignity, something not even murderers do. They’re only saying that because they love us and want us to go to Heaven, of course.
Here’s a truth you can speak in love: God loves you. He loves you so much that He thought creation would not be complete without one of you. You are unique, beautiful, infinitely loveable, called to be a hero and a great saint. I thank God for you, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Is that hard to say?
Why does it only come naturally to say “God loves you, but…?”
Can you imagine what it would be like if every single time somebody said “God loves you” to you, they followed up with a list of your sins and shortcomings, and the reasons you were a bad person?
Can you imagine if that particular sin YOU are tempted to commit, made people hate you that much? If your struggle with greed or gluttony or a different kind of lust made people launch campaigns to protect their children from your “agenda?”
I have been told many times, “Why do you identify yourself as bisexual? Identify yourself only as ‘child of God.’ Our only true identity is ‘child of God,’ and that’s enough.” So I’m told that the only identity a person ought to have is “child of God,” and that they ought to recognize no difference between the children of God. That makes a certain amount of sense to me. In Christ there is no woman or man, servant or free, Jew or Greek. Yet, if my trans friends don’t want to call themselves by a gendered pronoun, these same people would be scandalized and say it was sin. What is the reason for that?
Long before I came out of the closet, when they legalized gay marriage in the United States, I watched my Catholic friends freak out. I watched then post the most offensive, dirty, cruel memes all over social media, portraying my LGBTQ friends as gorillas and demons. I was disgusted by their cruelty. I posted a status on Facebook apologizing on behalf of my fellow Catholics for their lack of charity. I told my gay friends I loved them and that the Church didn’t think they were monsters or demons. I said that if they wanted to talk to me about what the Church actually taught, we could get together for drinks sometime and talk about it. One of the good Catholic housewives of Steubenville, a friend of mine, was furious with me and bawled me out online for “encouraging sin.” I said that I wasn’t encouraging sin, because the Church doesn’t teach that attractions are sin. She teaches that certain types of sexual activity are sin. You can be gay your whole life and not sin sexually. You can be straight your whole life and sin sexually every day. She was still offended. She was adamant that the only way to talk to LGBTQ people was to remind them constantly that everything they did was a sin. She was disgusted by me for showing love.
After that, whenever she saw me in LaBelle, she’d make a grand show of deliberately looking away. Once, when she was driving her big Catholic sixteen passenger van past my house, I watched her turn her whole head to the side even though she was at the wheel of a vehicle the size of a bus. Once, at Mass, when I was standing in the foyer, she turned her head to the side to look away from me as she passed by, and crashed into a table full of pamphlets.
That was back when she still thought I was straight. I wonder how much further she’d take it now. But I don’t dare go to that parish anymore.
I remain in communion with the Catholic Church because Christ first loved me. He loved me when the Father knit me in my mother’s womb. He loved me when I was a bullied geeky child in grammar school who fiercely loved the handsome boy in the next class and my female best friend, both of them passionately, both of them chastely, without knowing any difference between love and love. He loved me when I came out to my mother and she said “You’re not, because if you were, I’d shoot you and put us both out of our misery,” so I went back in the closet and tried to make the feelings go away. He loves me now. He loves me always even unto death, death on a cross, and by His grace I try to love Him back in the same way. I fail to do so and again and again I repent, and again and again Christ loves me.
I do not remain in the Catholic Church because I am impressed by the charity of her members. You guys are, by and large, not a good advertisement for the Faith.
I am broken and devastated that your hate has driven a child of God away from the Church. I want you to think about your sharp tongue, your calumny and your rash judgement. I want you to repent of your sin, and to do better. And if you don’t like me telling you that, maybe you’d better consider what it’s like to have your sins shouted at you relentlessly every day for years.
I also want to tell you another truth: Christ loves you. He loves you so much that He thought creation would not be complete without one of you. You are unique, beautiful, infinitely loveable, called to be a hero and a great saint. I thank God for you, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. No buts about it.
It’s easy to say that.
All people are loveable and you ought to love all of them, and demonstrate the love of God to them however you can. I don’t think I’m just saying that because I’m bisexual. But if I am, then I know that my bisexuality is revealing a truth to me, and you should listen.
I am deeply sad at the scandalous behavior of my fellow Catholics.
I am deeply sad that my friends are hurt.
I pray the Holy Ghost makes us all to burn with perfect love.
We can do so much better, and we ought.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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