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By Michael Barwick

When I decided to become a Roman Catholic, many of my friends were genuinely concerned. I was repeatedly asked:
– How can you become Catholic when you are gay?
– Doesn’t the Roman Catholic Church teach that you can’t be gay and be a Christian, let alone be Catholic?
– The Church will never accept you — why are you setting yourself up for rejection?

The strongest negative reaction I got was from my friends who were cradle Catholics, many of whom had been devoted to Catholicism, who had left the Church because they had been hurt by remarks made in some homily or in statements made by those with authority in the Church.

My friends were concerned because, like many people today, they didn’t know what the Catholic Church actually teaches about lesbian and gay issues and because they misunderstand what exactly is “the Church.”

Let’s start with the latter point because there is an awful lot of people who think the hierarchy is “the Church.” The Church is not the hierarchy; it is the body of Christ, which is made up of the people of God, and that includes every Roman Catholic, the laity and those who have taken holy orders.

The strongest negative reaction I got was from my friends who were cradle Catholics, many of whom had been devoted to Catholicism, who had left the Church because they had been hurt by remarks made in some homily or in statements made by those with authority in the Church.

Then there is the question of Church teaching. One of the most fundamental points of doctrine is that among lesbian, gay, or straight Catholics, God picks no favourites — God loves all human beings equally. And it is not an ordinary love: it is a divine love that sees all of what you are and loves you unconditionally.

Human beings are made according to God’s very image: this is our fundamental nature. When we act from that divine place, God fully knows it and celebrates it. When we make room in our lives for God, God has another special way of reaching into our lives and into the world to make it a better place. It may come as a surprise to some, but church doctrine states that lesbian and gay people have not chosen their orientation, that they have a role to play in the Church, and that they should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Being gay is an important dimension of who I am and my faith supports and enhances it. How could I not be gay and Catholic?

In terms of being rejected, what my friends did not know is that there are already lesbian and gay Catholics participating fully in church life. Becoming Roman Catholic brought me into a community unlike any other I had ever experienced. Within a short period of time, I connected to groups of lesbian and gay Catholics working through their faith to do good in the Church through various ministries and good in the world through the example of their lives.

In the classes leading up to my baptism and confirmation, I learned that Roman Catholicism is a deeply spiritual path with a rich tradition to draw on. A veritable divine banquet is set out for all who are willing to attend. In the final analysis, I realized that all I had to do was choose my place at the table and feast on the aspects of the tradition I felt drawn to. Letting God into my life through Roman Catholicism has brought me to greater inner peace; true community; increased love, compassion and empathy for others; and a flourishing in my life experience. Wouldn’t you want to experience more of these divine gifts of the Spirit in your life? Being gay is an important dimension of who I am and my faith supports and enhances it. How could I not be gay and Catholic?


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