Coming Out and Faith: A Catholic Queer Woman Latches on to Hope

This month LGBT Americans observed National Coming Out Day, which serves as a call to be out and proud and a recognition that showcasing your identity is an empowering act that can also help change anti-LGBT attitudes. But one’s religious beliefs can sometimes complicate coming out. The Advocate has interviewed people from a variety of faiths about how their religion affected their coming-out and vice versa. In the first in this series, we speak to a graduate student at a Roman Catholic college.

By Trudy Ring

Elizabeth Sextro realizes the Roman Catholic Church probably won’t change its teachings on homosexuality in her lifetime — but that doesn’t keep the 20-something theology graduate student from identifying both as a queer woman and a faithful Catholic.

Reconciling these two identities was “definitely a difficult process,” says Sextro, who’s working on a master’s degree in theological studies at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Nevertheless, she says, “it’s who I am.”

Sextro, a self-described “cradle Catholic” originally from St. Louis, came out as queer in 2012, when she was an undergraduate at Loyola University in Chicago. “Coming out at college was really easy,” she says. “I had a lot of supportive friends.”

She was able to resolve any conflict between her queer and Catholic identities, she says, through her studies and through talking with those supportive friends who had been through similar experiences.

It also helped that Loyola, like Boston College, is run by the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order known for scholarship and progressive ideology. She studied queer theology, which rejects the idea that LGBT people are abnormal or disordered, as the Catholic Church has long held, and she had a faculty mentor, a straight layman, who encouraged her.

Coming out to her parents was more problematic. They aren’t quite at a place of acceptance even now, she says, but they have advanced to the point that she can bring her female partner home. “We still have work to do,” Sextro says of her family relationship.

There is certainly still work to do in the church, where, she says, the faithful are far ahead of the hierarchy. “I see gay people everywhere” when she attends Catholic services, says Sextro, who divides her time between a couple of congregations in Boston.

The church deems same-sex relationships sinful, and it expects Catholics with same-sex attractions to avoid acting on them. The catechism — a summary of church doctrine — holds that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” Pope Francis, while more conciliatory toward LGBT people than his predecessors were, has held to traditional doctrine. But many in the church are rejecting anti-LGBT teachings and recognizing that the language in the catechism is harmful, Sextro notes.

“It’s going to be baby steps from here on out,” she says of the process of changing the church. It may even have women priests before it discards anti-LGBT doctrine. “It’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but hopefully it will,” says Sextro, who expects to finish her master’s degree in the spring, then aims to eventually get a Ph.D. and teach at the university level.

One of the main reasons she stays in the church, she said, is to help that change along. “I stay because there is more work to be done in the church and because I feel committed and responsible as an aspiring theologian myself to offer a critical perspective to the Catholic Church,” she says. “That’s not to say that I have not considered leaving — I certainly have. That would be a heck of a lot easier. But I borrow from one of my professors at the [School of Theology and Ministry] in saying this: If you are looking for a perfect church in this life, you will be looking forever. No church is perfect, and I stay because I can offer something to the church as a queer woman and theologian that may bring the church a little bit closer to working toward justice. I wouldn’t stay if I didn’t have hope.”

For LGBT Catholics to be out and proud can contribute to change, she says, but she recognizes that coming out is an individual decision. “Coming out is really difficult,” she says. “No one should feel pressure to come out in order to advance a certain cause.”

Part of being a person of faith, she adds, is “putting trust in something outside of yourself” and realizing that some things are out of your control. That approach is also helpful when thinking about progress in the church — knowing she can make a contribution, but she can’t make it all happen, she says. And then there is what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers — that perches in the soul … and never stops.”

“I’ve really latched on to hope,” Sextro says. “And I think hope is huge.”

Complete Article HERE!


Inside the ‘glass closet’ of a gay Catholic teacher

By Alex Ryan

Being both gay and Catholic leads to a somewhat fraught existence. On one hand, we have our Catholic peers who, frequently, have trouble empathising with what it means to be ‘intrinsically disordered’. On the other, we have our queer friends who are, understandably, sceptical of our allegiance to an organisation that has a deep history of discrimination towards people like us.

This existence is further complicated for those of us who choose to partake in ministry that sees us employed by the Church.

I am a gay man and, also, a religion teacher in a Catholic school. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if my teaching days are numbered, particularly given Archbishop Denis Hart’s comments (reported, but since clarified) about Catholic organisations firing gay staff.

It’s the great unspoken rule of Church organisations that gay people must fly under the radar. A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is implied, but all of us are acutely aware we work in one of the few jobs not protected by anti-discrimination laws. This black cloud hangs over our every public action because, for some reason, teachers’ lives are something our communities feel entitled to know and talk about.

Whether it’s our social media posts, or even just holding our partner’s hand in public, we must carefully curate our outward appearance so as to not technically break Church rules, even if many of us live in a ‘glass closet’. Though we know it is unlikely we will be fired, we also know the potential is there if the wrong student or parent catches whiff of our supposedly un-Christian behaviour.

Last year I got my first long-term boyfriend since becoming a teacher. This was an exciting time for me, as it was part of embracing my queer identity. But what should have been a joyous occasion led to a great deal of anxiety. I had to explain to a man I cared about that, even though I wasn’t ashamed of him, I couldn’t risk listing him as my partner on Facebook. I was lucky that he was understanding, though it still hurt to explain it to him.

You may think this isn’t a big deal, but I would challenge the average person to go weeks, months, and years without mentioning any aspect of their love life to any coworker. The stress of hiding a major part of life is not insignificant; one wrong move and our livelihood is on the line. This is not to mention that, with the personal scrutiny school administration positions face, our career advancement opportunities in Catholic schools are limited.

People ask: ‘Why don’t you just move into the state system?’ It’s a fair question. But my answer is simple: I just don’t want to. I love working in a place where my faith is ingrained in the everyday routine; a place where Catholicism’s history and tradition are taught, explored and questioned.

Ever since I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to teach religion. Though it’s not my job to convert students, like in the old catechetical model of Catholic schools, I hope students can at least leave my classroom with an appreciation of how faith contributes to our world. I’m gay, but I’m also Catholic.

LGBTIQ+ people have a lot to contribute to our Catholic schools. To deny our students access to amazing teachers is surely a greater assault to ‘decency’ than what these teachers are doing in the privacy of their own homes. This, of course, leads to the question that many queer Catholics have about the institutional Church: Why is the same level of scrutiny not applied to our heterosexual colleagues?

I know a great many Church employees who live in open defiance of its teachings. People who are divorced, remarried without annulment, married outside the Church, cohabiting before marriage, have children out of marriage, or are engaging in premarital sex. I have also worked with many people who don’t even identify as Catholic. Surely if we are using adherence to Catholic belief as our yardstick for employability, then people who openly reject papal authority (e.g. Protestants), or reject belief in the Holy Trinity (eg. non-Christians) would fall short of the mark.

I’m not, of course, advocating that people in these groups should be excluded from employment in Catholic institutions — on the contrary. Rather, this is just to illustrate that to single out gay Catholic employees is to arbitrarily discriminate against an already vulnerable group. That, surely, would be a plank in the Church’s eye far bigger than the speck in mine.

Complete Article HERE!


Website to help children of Catholic priests contacted by women from around world

Issue of priests having children is ongoing says Coping International founder

Peter Murphy, son of late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey was 17 when his story was made public.

By Patsy McGarry

A self-help website set up in Ireland to assist children of Catholic priests has been contacted by women of all ages from around the world, ranging from a Boston lady in her late 80s to the mother of a three-year-old child in the Philippines.

“It proves that this is an issue that is not just confined to the past. It is ongoing,” said Vincent Doyle (34) founder of www.copinginternational.com which is funded byArchbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Mr Doyle told The Irish Times on Tuesday that, since mid-August, 1,062 individuals had logged on to the website which has had 8,000 separate visits and 38, 000 hits from 53 countries.

Mr Doyle’s father, Co Longford priest Fr John J Doyle, died in 1995. On confirming that the priest was his father in 2011, he assumed the surname.

An article posted on the website in 2015 claims confidentiality agreements made by mothers of children fathered by priests were “a form of blackmail against the mother and the child.” Written by well-known US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle, it says “there is no valid reason for such agreements or contracts under any circumstances.”

In a 2015 response to Fr Doyle’s observations, Ireland’s Catholic bishops said a confidentiality agreement was possible “if the parties enter it freely with the primary purpose of protecting the best interests of the child.”

Such agreement would be “unjust” if “undue pressure is brought to bear on the mother” or if used “primarily to protect the reputation of the priest or the institutional Church by creating a veil of secrecy,” they said.

In an open letter endorsing the work of Coping International, Archbishop Martin said it was there “to help, free of charge, any child of a priest who wishes to come forward.”

Peter Murphy, son of the late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey, told the Boston Globe recently that disclosure in 1992 of who his father was meant instant celebrity. He was 17–years–old then and living with his mother Annie Murphy in Connecticut in the US.

In a Spotlight article about Coping International Mr Murphy said: “I talked to an Irish (reporter) in the morning and went to school and thought, ‘OK, that will be it.’ But when I came home, I’d say there were more than 100 reporters slathering round our condo complex,” he told the Globe.

The Irish reporter he spoke to was Conor O’Clery, then Washington Correspondent of this newspaper.

Complete Article HERE!


Romanian bishop involved in sex tape scandal resigns


A Romanian bishop who was seen on video engaging in sexual acts with a male student resigned Friday, the Romanian Orthodox Church said.

The patriarchy said the Bishop of Husi, Corneliu Barladeanu, 51, had decided to step down “for the peace and good of the church.” He maintains his innocence and has not made any public comment.

The statement was issued at the end of a two-day Holy Synod where a sex scandal was discussed for the first time in its 92-year history.

There has been public furor in Romania over Barladeanu and another scandal involving a priest who had sex with a male student as believers are demanding more accountability from the church.

Outrage was heightened as the two cases involved homosexual acts. The church, however, insisted the bishop would have been similarly chastised if the alleged sexual misdemeanors involved a woman.

Bishop Corneliu Barladeanu

Barladeanu will no longer hold an official position, but he will remain a monk. Orthodox bishops are monks.

The statement said the resignation was the best outcome, because an investigation would last months and would “prolong the situation of uncertainty of the bishopry of Husi” in northeast Romania.

But church critic and political analyst Stelian Tanase said the church to which more than 85 percent of Romanians belong should have issued a stronger statement. “I think that the Synod should have come out with a strong decision to condemn such shameful practices for servants of the church…. Instead they preferred a cover up. ”

The church also blamed “an aggressive campaign of some media outlets aimed against the Romanian Orthodox Church, often with the complicity of some errant priests.”

It added that “all believers … should respect the discipline of the church and permanently renew their spiritual lives.”

Complete Article HERE!


St Bride’s RC Church praised for issuing strong public message on homosexuality

Catholic church in Cambuslang praised for issuing strong public message on homosexuality

By Aftab Ali

A Catholic church in Cambuslang has earned the admiration of thousands after issuing a strong public statement on its stance on homosexuality.

St Bride’s Roman Catholic Church in the town’s Greenlees Road took to its social media page on Sunday afternoon to insist that “all gay Catholics are accepted and welcomed in this parish.”

Endorsed by the head of the parish, Father Morton, the statement added: “Every single human person is loved by God and created to love by Him; this is a fundamental belief of our faith. No one is ever excluded from God’s love or his concern or his care or his plan for them.

St Bride’s Roman Catholic Church

“In God’s house, all are welcome and are the blessed and loved children of God. There should be no place in our language or our attitude which allows for prejudice or exclusion.”

Reaching out to anyone who is gay and wishes to speak with Father Morton, St Bride’s has urged them to head along for a talk.

“We must do everything we can to redress the harm that has been done in the past by the negative stance we seem to have taken up. We must join with others who are seeking to build a more inclusive society,” the statement added.

Father Morton’s message comes just two months after he issued a similar one in which he acknowledged how gay people feel “excluded” from the Catholic Church.

He added at the time: “We wish to emphasise in the strongest terms that we are a welcoming and inclusive parish.”

Yesterday’s message has gone down a storm on social media and is continuing to gather praise and positive reactions both at home and further afield.

“Fr Morton is such an amazing man. Lucky parish to have such a wonderful priest,” said one follower, while another added: “What a courageous statement. Hopefully others will follow this Christian lead. Time to stop burying our heads in the sand. Well done Fr Morton.”

The statement comes as religious leaders in Glasgow spearhead gay rights in the UK.

Just last week, St Mary’s Cathedral in the west end of the city became the first in Britain to confirm it has started taking bookings for same-sex weddings following a decision earlier this year in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod.

The Provost of the cathedral, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, said: “I want to live in a world where same-sex couples can feel safe walking down the street, hand in hand, and in which they can feel joy walking hand in hand down the aisle of a church too.”

Complete Article HERE!