Staying Catholic in Boston

The Boston Globe continues its coverage of the fallout from the canceled "All Are Welcome" Mass at a parish in the city. The latest article talks to Catholics who are gay and lesbian and who choose to remain in the church, rather than leave for greener pastures in other denominations. 

The article interviews a few guys who say that they are able to stay Catholic in spite of the hostility they encounter from the Vatican and some members of the hierarchy by focusing on their local parish community, and the sense of welcome they find there (this sense of church as relationship is the focus of a piece I wrote for The Huffington Post last week). 


What I find even more interesting are the comments from a young woman who converted to Catholicism in her 20s, even though she knew that the institutional church was hostile to her sexual orientation:

Not all gay Catholics have grown up in the church. Kelly Stewart, 23, converted to Catholicism on Easter last year. She was drawn to the faith by the church’s record on social justice and the work of Catholic activist Dorothy Day. The Catholics she knew personally were “positive and affirming’’ toward her and other gay people, she said.

But church teachings on homosexuality complicated the decision to convert, said Stewart, who studied at Middlebury College in Vermont and lives in Maryland.

She said she worried “that by choosing to be a member of an institution that has some antigay policies and supports antigay legislation,’’ she would be giving tacit support to those positions.

But she came to see “discrepancies between what Catholics believe and what the church teaches,’’ and she learned about Catholic reform movements working to change church doctrine.

“It seemed like a good way [to participate] and not feel I was consenting to teachings that I feel are harmful to gay people,’’ she said.


Michael J. O'Loughlin 

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Katherine Jordan
7 years 6 months ago
Very interesting! I converted on Easter last year as well, and am also a lesbian. (I am also in my 20's).  I was drawn to the Church because no where else could I find such a rich tradition that could fully quench my thirst for Truth and meaning. The struggle with the teaching on homosexuality is a challenge that I am willing to face everyday because I know that God wants me to be Catholic.
Bill Freeman
7 years 6 months ago
The Roman Catholic Church does not have the corner on all things catholic.  The American National Catholic Church, a Church with a rich Catholic tradition and a progressive and truth-filled spirit, is a place where gays and lesbians are fully welcomed (everyday) including as ordained ministers.  Check out the Church website here:

Read the Church's statement on the cancellation of the ''All are Welcome'' mass:

Eugene Pagano
7 years 6 months ago
One of the persons interviewed in the article said ''I had to stop paying attention to Rome.  It's like family.''  Another interviewee said there were ''discrepancies between what Catholics believe and what the church teaches'' and that she has learned about Catholic reform movements working to change church doctrine.

Some of the usual commentators on this blog (and other Roman Catholic spokespersons such as diocesan newspaper columnist George Weigel) would call them ''cafeteria Catholics.''  I have paid attention to what Rome and its American bishops say — including Archbishop Dolan's lunatic comparison of same-gender marriage in my home state of New York to Chinese and North Korean totalitarianism — and rejected it.  The Roman Catholic family relationship is an abusive one for someone "born that way".  "Holy mother Church's'' parental rights must be terminated.  I am now attending an Episcopal church and intend to seek reception into that church after the appropriate preparation (Episcopalian counterpart to RCIA.
Anne Chapman
7 years 6 months ago
What I find interesting in ''conversion'' stories is that there are two groups - widely separated. A few are very conservative, ''true believers'' that are sure to dot every''i'' and cross every 't'' of the Catechism - every precept of the church, they buy into every teaching and scold all those 90% cradle Catholics who are frequenters of the ''cafeteria.''  They have found the ''truth'' and as long as they do what the hierarchy of the Catholic church tells them to do, and believe what the same leadership tells them to believe, and follow all the ''precepts'' of the church, they have paid their fire insurance and feel sure they need not worry about hell fire.

What is more mystifying to me is the other group - those who embrace Catholicsim not because of its teachings, but in spite of them. They seem attracted to externals also - not the black-and-white rigidity that afflicts those who believe that the RCC is the ''one, true church'' but the externals that are more sensuous - the beauty of traditions, music, etc.  When asked, they disagree with a majority of the church's ''hot button'' issues, with the leadership, etc.  As Bill Freeman notes, Anglicanism has all that, plus it doesn't ask its members to deny their consciences and ''leave their brains at the door'' as many put it about Catholicism, and it is open to listening to what the Holy Spirit might be whispering in the wind.

So, what is the Catholic church? The convert posters here disagree violently with at least one major teaching of the church - and yet they decide to become Catholic, contributing their time, talent and treasure to supporting a church that does everything in its power to condemn them in the most hateful terms at times, and refuse them their rights and dignity as children of God.

People become Catholic and stay Catholic because the family is local - the parish - so why do we continue to support the leadership in their mansions and silk robes and lifestyles that say nothing of fishermen and carpenters but speak instead of kings and empire?  Is the RCC as it is run today truly the successor of Jesus and the apostles? Is the gospel simply words to them? It seems so - they certainly do not provide a living example of the Gospel - quite the opposite in fact.  Did the hierarchy long ago lose its way, embracing instead the false riches of the world - power, prestige, possessions?  They are not ''the'' church - but, sadly those who are ''the'' church passively continue to support this group who have so sadly betrayed their roles.

Thomas Piatak
7 years 6 months ago
I was going to pass over this post in silence, but criticizing the Church for seeking "the false riches of the world, power, prestige, possessions" in the context of the debate over homosexuality cannot be ignored.  The Church does not get "prestige" from reiterating Christian teaching on sexual morality today.  Far from it.  Instead, She is attacked, sometimes viciously, for being the only major institution in the West daring to oppose the demands of the sexual revolution.  If the Church really sought the "false riches of the world," she would embrace contraception, fornication, divorce, and homosexuality. 

This criticism is especially rich coming from an apologist for Anglicanism, a religion that was born from a willingness to satisfy the lusts of Henry VIII, both for Anne Boleyn and for power, and that ever since has consistently subordinated itself to the demands of the world,  down to today's embrace of the sexual revolution.
Stephen SCHEWE
7 years 6 months ago
The late Bishop Untener said back in the late 90s that we're in a period of "road construction" in understanding how we live our faith. For those of us now working in the lane occupied by the Episcopalians, we can assent that Henry VIII's church isn't perfect, and witness to the warm inclusiveness and love we've found in the Episcopal Church today.  With all the focus on our differences, I like to remember we'll all traveling in the same direction on the road - towards God.

Untener, by the way, had a solution to the perception that Bishops like to live in nice digs.  He lived in a succession of spare rooms in the parishes of the diocese during the period he was the Bishop of Saginaw, never occupying the official residence.

Tell stories about the great church leaders you've known, and pray that the rising generation of Bishops will become so inspired.
Martin Gallagher
7 years 6 months ago
Welcome, Scout!
Alessandro Bresba
7 years 6 months ago

thanks for bringing attention to this article.  I find that very often the rhetoric surrounding homosexuality and the church is one of antagonism, of an us versus them mentality.  This article is a great reminder that being gay - and even being in a gay relationship - does not equate with being against the church.  Straights and gays are together in this pilgrimage, praying, worshiping and sharing in the sacramental life.  I think in the media and in the blogosphere we often forget that the catholicity of the Catholic Church means it incorporates many more people and views and struggles than we can easily comprehend.
Liam Richardson
7 years 6 months ago
a/k/a "What are *you* doing in *my* neighborhood?"

Plus ca change....

Conservative commentators over at the First Things blogs complain regularly about non-conservatives who comment over there.  

On the other hand, people who think getting their talking points across day after day is a form of evangelization and witness (regardless of the belief system) are at risk of rationalizing a species of pride. This is especially true if they never concede a point.


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