In referring to my own faith journey, I have often referred to the value that I have derived from my time exploring Ignatian spirituality, in a Jesuit parish, and in the Jesuit – sponsored lay movement, the Christian Life Community (CLC). It has given me a firm conviction that there simply is no contradiction between a life of integrity as an openly gay man, and my Catholic faith. This conviction, developed over many years, was based initially on extensive Ignatian prayer, spiritual direction, and an extraordinarily intense, genuinely mystical, Ignatian directed retreat.
In my earliest encounter with the Jesuits and sexuality, I was told by a parish priest that “faith” is not a matter of the intellect, but of experience. Based on that definition, I have the faith. Conversely, one definition of theology, is “faith seeking understanding”. I have the faith – what I have been doing these past dozen years or so, has been a search for understanding. All that I have learned, from explorations of the bible, of LGBT and church history, social anthropology, natural science, and theology, has left me more convinced than ever, that this is indeed so. “Gay Catholic” is not an oxymoron, but for those of us with a natural same – sex affectional orientation, a simple statement of personal integrity and honesty.
The notable Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner has written that it is possible for each of us to experience what he calls a “personal encounter with God”. Once experienced, he notes, nothing can stand between us and that experience: not the Church, not the Bible itself. It is my firm belief that in the retreat I referred to earlier, I was blessed with just such an experience – thus reinforcing even further my deep conviction that for gay Catholics, coming out and accepting that sexuality as part of our “sexual identity” is no more than adherence to an important Catechism command. And so, I strongly advise anyone still struggling to reconcile sexuality and Catholic faith, to explore the riches of Ignatian spirituality.
There is no need to do this alone. My own experience was immeasurably helped by membership of a Jesuit parish, and a particularly strong CLC group, but there are other routes. The Jesuits have a well – deserved reputation as a gay – friendly order of priests, for which the evidence is clear. Of the explicitly gay welcoming parishes worldwide, a high proportion are Jesuit led. In many countries, there are Jesuit priests who run spiritual retreats, specifically tailored to LGBT needs and concerns. One final indicator of the value of Jesuit support, is found in the program for the “Ways of Love” conference, to held in Rome this October, as part of the foundation meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Of the 10 headline speakers for this conference, three are Jesuit priests, and two are religious women in orders shaped by the Ignatian tradition.
One of these, works directly with the CLC community. In a notable article earlier this year, he describes how openly acknowledging their sexuality, enabled a gay CLC group not merely to find acceptance by other CLC groups and the national CLC community, but also to break down prejudice, and even develop straight allies.
Read his full article in Spanish, or below, in an English translation, courtesy of Gionata.
(“Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam”).
Writing in La Tacera (Spanish), the Jesuit priest Father Pedro Labrín says that it is hight time that the Catholic Church faced simple reality: the church is “full of homosexuals”, giving an example of inclusion and acceptance from his work with the Christian Life Community (CLC)
In October last year, in the same month the Synod of the Bishops made known a document where is was said that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities” to offer and they should be accepted (without compromising the catholic doctrine on the family), the Chilean priest Pedro Labrín travelled to Rome together with members of the Sexual Diversity Pastoral Community (PADIS+).
‘We are catholic and gay’ read some of the signs they displayed on Saint Peter’s Square. Minutes later, Fr. Labrín showed Pope Francis a photo of the pastoral community he accompanies since 2010 when a group of homosexuals approached him, asking to be part of the CLC, the association of catholic lay believers linked to the Jesuits. ‘I admire them for their endurance, above all for not having left [the Church] as many did ‘.
How was the integration of the homosexuals into the community?
It never ceases to amaze me to watch the conversion of the members of the CLC, especially those of the adult section. Some have been members for over 40 years and you could think there might be an adverse attitude and the truth is that we have had no resistance in the CLC.
And from the outside?
That is harder. Sexuality conceals fears and anxieties. Some people react based on prejudice, based on the stigma of horror, based on [conceptions like] the ‘poor thing’ or the feeling that this pot cannot be uncovered because it might pervert the educational models and the family. These are irrationalities that we have inherited culturally.
Did it break prejudice inside the CLC?
It did. It broke and continues breaking it. A wise choice by PADIS+ is having uninstalled the triple x imagery we have of homosexuality and make us understand them as human beings that are absolutely normal. Thus, the irrational fear loses its foundations and trust grows. I am convinced that the inclusion of sexual diversity in the Church causes people to be more mature, more aware of themselves, happier and less complicated, ie, better human beings.
The priest tells us that last year they held for the first time the Dinner of Inclusion. ‘It was the first time in history that the CLC building was decorated for a formal dinner and there were homosexual and heterosexual families sitting together and sharing. It was an image of the Kingdom of Heaven not to be forgotten.’
What have been the benefits for heterosexuals when including homosexuals?
Many realised the responsibility we all have for upholding a historic injustice of thousands of years and for committing to a change. It is impressive how the people I know have become agents of change in the most various realities since knowing them – from changing the vocabulary within the family to interrupting a parents’ meeting because they see a discriminatory attitude. The effect is mobilising.
How would you like the Church to include homosexuals?
I would like that Padis+ was not necessary and that it was not necessary either settling responsibilities within the Church according to the sexual orientation. That it was not an issue.
But, how is real inclusion achieved if the Church has its own boundaries as per the catholic doctrine on matters like marriage or family?
I want to talk about the limits. Let us take of our sunglasses: the Church is full of homosexuals. They are in the Church because they are in the country and in the world. Us making them invisible do not make them disappear. The definition of the Christian is not pursuant to the law but to a person that is Jesus Christ. Our rule is Jesus.
Will there be homosexual marriage in the Church?
That path is a longer one due to other theological dimensions to be solved, but recognition of the sexual diversity, yes, there must be. Recognising the enormous social, human and spiritual capital and giving them the space they deserve.
English translation by Gionata