When the Church Hates You

When the Church Hates You May 27, 2023


I both love and loathe it when an old post of mine gets new attention.

Today, it was a post I wrote on queer Catholics: “To Those Who Gloat when LGBTQ People Leave the Church.” I tweeted it along with a long string of my favorite work on Twitter, and for some reason it caught on. People were retweeting and quote tweeting. My page views went way up and stayed there. I was flattered. But then I scrolled down and read the comments.

The tweets underneath were a combination of sympathetic and brutal. I said a lot of “thank yous” and I also did a lot of blocking.

For some reason, one reply cut especially deep:

I don’t understand why they shouldn’t leave the Church. They’d feel so much more at home with the Episcopalian or some other liberal church. It just seems to me that everyone, including them, would be better off if they did leave.”

I don’t know why that was the last straw.

Well, maybe I do. It reminds me of my family.

I remember my own mother, my earthly mother, glaring at me in that certain way and intoning “of all the children I ever had, you hurt me the most.” She said that quite a bit. She used to explain to me how each of my siblings had suffered horribly because I was so eccentric and difficult. She lamented the money my medical emergencies cost her. I remember her driving me to Franciscan University for the very first time, berating me for every aspect of my personality and exclaiming “I just hope this school can do something for you, because we give up.” I remember asking why we couldn’t just be friends and her responding “It’s hard to be friends with someone who sucks the life out of you.” I remember coming back for that first Christmas break, and being told how nice and quiet it had been while I was gone, and how she wished she could send me to stay with my grandparents in Maryland for Christmas.

She was not consistent with this, just to be fair. Sometimes she insisted she wanted me around. Sometimes she was affectionate and kind. But when she didn’t want me, she let me know. She meant for it to hurt, and it hurt.

And my siblings would join in, and I’d want to die.

Do you have any idea how it feels to be rejected by a family?

The Catholic Church is our mother. That’s how I’ve always been taught to think about her: as a mother to whom we owe docility. She’s the mother of all of our souls, and all the believers are our brothers and sisters. But if you’re a queer Catholic, she doesn’t love you. She constantly tells you, through your brothers and sisters in Christ, that the family would be better if you weren’t around.
I know full well that those of my readers who aren’t Catholic are probably yelling at their phones and computers “then leave!” but it’s not that simple either. Because we were raised from infancy to believe that this is our only ticket to salvation. Jump off the Barque of Peter and you drown. To leave her is to leave Jesus, your only hope. You will burn for eternity if you leave.
But if you don’t leave, you’re hurting everyone. You’re making the Church dangerous and they’ll let you know how they feel about it. You can’t marry anyone you love, but you can’t join the Religious life either because your “deep seated homosexual tendencies” make you a danger. If you do  have children, they’ll want the children taken away because you’re unclean. If you don’t have children and long for them, they’ll accuse you of just wanting them because of your pride. You’re sure not welcome to help teach catechism or come to the doughnut social. You will have to endure sermons about how intrinsically disordered you are and how your “agenda” is destroying the human race. You’ll be told the sex abuse scandal is your fault, even when male priests abuse women and girls. You’ll be told that the high divorce rates and the number of teen suicides are somehow your fault. And on it will go.
You have to stay Catholic or you’ll rot in the pit of hell. But it’s hell for you and for everyone else if you stay.
The Catechism has nice things to say about how LGBTQ people are “to be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” but that’s not what happens. What happens is, we’re treated like a disease.
And that hurts like hell.

I’m saying this to you in writing, so you can’t hear my voice breaking.

I’ve been informed that my honesty about deconstructing my Catholicism is a shtick I’m performing to tease traditional and orthodox Catholics, but it’s the most serious and difficult thing I’ve ever done.
For over a year now, I’ve been desperately searching for a way to make peace with my mother, the Catholic Church. For my entire life, I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to stay in the Church. I’ve repressed everything I was told to repress. I’ve married a man. I’ve had a child and tried to have more. I’ve gone to Mass when I was too sick to stand up, just in case my excuse wasn’t good enough. I’ve fasted on Good Friday even when it made me sick. I’ve confessed my sins to a genuine sexual predator and said however Hail Marys he told me to say. I’ve gotten deliverance prayer from an old priest with a saintly reputation, who murmured the prayers of exorcism in my ear with his arms around my shoulders and gave me a kiss on the forehead when he was finished. I tried so hard to be part of this family, and this family hates me.
I haven’t been able to go to confession or Mass without severe panic attacks since Christmas. I don’t know when that will change.
I still love the Gospel and I love Jesus, but I am having more and more trouble believing the Jesus of the Catholic Church could have any love for me.
Now here it is Pentecost, and I’m at a loss. I’m going to try and go to an Episcopal liturgy in the morning– not because a troll told me to, NOT because I’m flouncing out of the Church and becoming an apostate, not because I think their church is a nice quiet refuge from all the drama in mine. I’m not that silly. Just because I’d like to try and pray and listen to the Gospel in a pretty building on Sunday, and I am not physically capable of doing that in a Church that hates me right now. I don’t even know if I’m capable of doing it in another church. I’ll probably panic and run out halfway through. But if Jesus would like to speak to me in a church, he knows where to find me.
I don’t know why all these thoughts are pouring out of me because of one stuffshirt troll.
Well, it’s been a bit more than just one troll.
Anyway, that’s where I am tonight.

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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