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James Martin, S.J.March 07, 2018
(Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash)

Over the last few months, I have heard from many L.G.B.T. Catholics who are struggling with their faith and their place in the church. The most common questions concern coming out, that is, sharing the reality of their orientation or identity with family and friends. For many people, young and old, coming out can be frightening, especially if they feel that their church, or God, is somehow against them. But even after people are out, they may still struggle, both with their faith and with the church.  

So here are five important things to keep in mind.

First, God loves you. I know that is basic and maybe even obvious, but especially for L.G.B.T. people who don’t feel loved or accepted by others, it’s an important insight. God created you and God loves you.  

Now, you might ask, “How can I know that?” Well, to begin with, that’s one of the most fundamental messages of both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is the story of God’s covenant, God’s unshakable bond, with the people of Israel. God loves them—loves us—no matter what. And the New Testament is about God showing us love in Jesus. Jesus’ whole life was about loving people and letting them know that God loved them. Simply put, as the First Letter of John says, “God is love.”  

And in addition to what’s written in the Bible, think of all the people in your life who love you, accept you and want the best for you. That’s God’s love working through them. How else would God work? That’s God loving you. 

Now, sometimes L.G.B.T. people think, “Well, people are O.K. with me if I’m in the closet, but if I come out, no one will love me.” It’s true that in many places L.G.B.T. people are rejected for a variety of reasons: fear, ignorance, prejudice. Sadly, sometimes that rejection is even based on religious beliefs. One study of homeless L.G.B.T. youth in the United States said that the primary reason they felt forced to leave home was their parents’ religious beliefs. But the people who really love you will accept you as you really are. Even if it may take some of them time to discover that love. 

If it does seem that no one loves or accepts you now, then try looking within. For example, I’m sure that you have a desire to live a rich and full life. Where do you think that desire comes from? From God. That’s God’s voice inviting you to greater freedom. God wants that for you because God cares for you.  

So don’t listen to people who say that God hates you, rejects you or condemns you, simply for being L.G.B.T. That’s false, and it doesn’t deserve one moment of your attention. Center yourself instead on God’s compassionate love for you and look for signs of it outside and inside.

Second, God created you. If you’re L.G.B.T., this is another important insight. Every reputable psychiatrist, psychologist and biologist will tell you that not only don’t you choose to be born male or female, you also don’t choose to be born with heterosexual or homosexual. So don’t let people make you feel guilty about who you are. It’s like being born left-handed or right-handed.  

God wants you to know yourself and accept that amazing gift that you are. As Psalm 139 says, you were “knit together in your mother’s womb” and you are “wonderfully made.” You’re a wonderful person, a unique creation. So remember: God created you, knows you and loves you.  

Third, God is on your side. There’s a wonderful verse in the Book of Jeremiah that says: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘Plans for your welfare, and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’”  

In other words, God has good things in mind for you and is on your side. Sometimes it may feel like you’re in your life alone. But the God who created you also wants the best for you. And God is going to work to help make that happen. So if you’re feeling that life is tough now, remember that you’re not alone in your boat, rowing all by yourself. There’s someone in the boat with you, rowing in the same direction.

Fourth, Jesus cares about you. The Gospels show us that during Jesus’ public ministry, he reached out specifically to people who felt ignored, rejected or marginalized. Over and over, Jesus goes first to the people who feel left out. He talks to tax collectors, who were considered out of bounds in those days. He talks to a Samaritan woman when that was simply not done. And he talks to a Roman centurion, who’s not part of Jewish society. Moreover, Jesus goes to people were poor and sick and talks to them, listens to them, comforts them and heals them. Jesus always sides with those who feel on the outside.  

So where is Jesus today? Well, if you’re feeling like an outsider, he is especially with you. What’s more, Jesus himself was an outsider many times, as people often rejected him. So he knows what you’re going through, too. Remember that Jesus cares for you with a special love.

Also, remember that things can get better. One of the most important messages of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is that there is always the hope of something new, even if you cannot see it right now. Just think of the disciples on Good Friday after Jesus’ crucifixion. They thought that things were over and done. Nothing could change. But what happened just a few days later on Easter shows us that things can always change. That’s one of the meanings of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: Love is stronger than hate. Hope is stronger than despair.  And suffering is never, ever, the last word. Things can get better.

Finally, the church is your home. Look, you are baptized. That means that you are just as much a part of the church as the pope, your local bishop, your parish priest or me. At your baptism, Jesus himself called you to be a member of the church. So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or try to take that sacramental grace away from you.  

To that end, it’s important to find a parish that feels welcoming and affirming of who you are. If you’re looking, you might check out New Ways Ministry’s list of L.G.B.T.-friendly parishes online.  

But even after trying, many L.G.B.T. Catholics can’t find any local parishes that are welcoming. So they feel unwelcome in their own church. And I have heard many stories of priests and other church officials who have said callous, offensive or even abusive things to L.G.B.T. people. As in any human organization, there are people who say and do callous and even mean things. But it’s the same in any profession, and it doesn’t mean that you have to leave the church. I often say to people, “If you had an encounter with a bad doctor, would you never see another doctor again?” Still, I know it’s hard.  

So what if you can’t find a welcoming parish? Then look for a spiritual home that is welcoming and that affirms that God loves you. But never stop looking for a welcoming Catholic parish, and never doubt your place in the church, even if others can’t see it. Remember: You’re baptized.  

And remember that you are important to the church, especially as the church comes to know L.G.B.T. people more and more and is invited to reflect on their experiences. God created you with special gifts and then called you into the church for a reason. In other words, the church needs you.

Now, I’m sorry I can’t answer all the questions from L.G.B.T. Catholics struggling with their faith and with the church or all questions about L.G.B.T. issues, but I hope that these few reflections help you and, most of all, remind you of God’s love for you. Because, guess what?  God loves you.

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Mike Brooks
6 years 2 months ago

Six: Remember that same-sex acts are sinful. Pray for the strength to resist acting on your same-sex attraction and adopting a homosexual identity. Confess your sin when you are unable to resist temptation, and take communion. And know that resisting temptation and confession is a way of showing God that you love Him.

Bill Niermeyer
6 years 2 months ago

Mike Brooks the same is true regarding heterosexuals so that #6 of yours is extremely helpful to them. But I doubt many hetereosexuals would be so quick to remind their brothers and sisters in the faith that their opposite-sex acts are sinful.

Patty Bennett
6 years 2 months ago

There is a necessary distinction to be made. Yes, God loves us--all of us. We ought to love God enough to want to avoid offending Him. There are some actions which are always sinful. Homosexual activity is one of those actions. Normal sexual activity between a husband and wife is consistent with cooperating in procreation and is life-giving love. Homosexual activity is not. While we love those who suffer from same-sex attraction, their predominant temptation is not their identity. We love the sinner--we all ARE sinners--but loving someone means willing what is best for them. Mortal sin is not best for anyone, nor are the diseases that disproportionately affect those afflicted with same-sex attraction. Yes, God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to want us to stay that way.

Daniel Shazzar
6 years 2 months ago

Precisely! Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reminds us that all unrepentant sexual immorality (not just homosexual behavior) is sin & will have its consequence. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor. Idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6) Paul also taught that correction with gentleness is absolutely required so that God may perhaps grant repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Unfortunately, many of our spiritual leaders today hesitate to speak the truth in love.

Nora Bolcon
6 years 2 months ago

What? Did you just say all sex is sinful. That is false.

I think what all strait and LGBT are missing is that it is less the individual sexual act and more the heart behind the acts that God or Christ taught matters most. So if LGBT decide they want the same kind of marriages that straight couples have, then they need to be equally willing to commit their whole lives to that one other soul mate.

God made animals that start out as one sex and then turn into the opposite sex half way thru their lives. Gender is not a hang up for God, the creator. It is a hang up for man.

Richard Bell
6 years 2 months ago

Mike Brooks's Six brings home the Church's great sin in refusing to celebrate same-sex marriages, for homosexual conduct as such is no more (or less) sinful than heterosexual conduct as such; it is precisely sexual relations outside marriage that are adultery or fornication contrary to God's moral law, the Seventh Commandment. (Yes, I know what you conservatives will say in defense of the Church. Bear in mind that the Church marries couples who cannot procreate -- who do not even have all necessary procreative organs -- and does so without scruple.)

Pancho Mulongeni
6 years 2 months ago

The Pope has opened the door for us to act in accordance with our best judgement and our relationship with God. I find it hard to understand why there is such an obsession with the sins of LGBT persons. What about heterosexual couples where beating and rape of women in marriage is rife? On womens' day, this must be the focus.

Nora Bolcon
6 years 2 months ago

Thank you Pancho. You are absolutely correct. We have very skewed priorities. Our treatment of both women and LGBT in our churches is both immoral and sinful. We continually degrade the humanity of both groups. I would happily worship next to the Gay couple in mass over the guy who is filthy rich and abusive to his workers, or the bigot or neo-Nazi or sexist bully.

Tim O'Leary
6 years 2 months ago

Fr. Martin – I know your advice is heartfelt and sincere. But, as a physician, I frequently come across advice that is heartfelt and well-meaning, but is incomplete or unhealthy for the person. And, I fear that some of your advice is misleading in places, when it comes to the fullness of truth, and the whole Gospel, as taught by the Catholic Church.

I completely agree that God surely loves every human being, more than any human can conceive, and that Jesus cares about every person, and that suffering is never, ever, the last word. Our Lord understands us and He knows us far more than we know ourselves. You say: “But the people who really love you will accept you as you really are.” Right, but how does Christ see one as they really are. That is the key question for believing Christians.

Our Lord does not define anyone by their strengths or weaknesses, desires and deficits, but by who we truly are. When the Pharisees tested him (Mt 19:4), Jesus answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female.” (MT 19:4), affirming Genesis 1:27 “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” So, I think it unwise at best to contradict that, based on the advice of a modern psychiatrist. Even less did Jesus consider defining us by some modern politically amalgamated acronym, that changes by the day. We must accept those words of Jesus, and contemplate what they mean for us on our own journey of faith.

Pancho Mulongeni
6 years 2 months ago

As a physician, how many LGBT people have you met that have self-harmed because the world refuses to accept them? Oh, I forgot, they probably did not tell you, because you clearly are so stringent in your beliefs.

Tim O'Leary
6 years 2 months ago

Pancho - no one outside a political situation describes themselves with the LGBT acronym. It is an amalgamated acronym, a coalition cobbled together for political convenience, and regularly expanded to increase grievance power (LGBTQ is a minimum now among the au courant) . Choice is denied to L or G, but demanded for B & Q. Conversion therapy is outlawed if psychological (L & G) but funded if chemical or surgical (T). Three (L, G, T) out of five cannot naturally have children, and one cannot naturally be monogamous (B). One (Q) turns a epithet into a badge of honor and all demand the shunning and shaming of any who object to the farce. The expanding acronym has made pawns of children, speech police of professors, and fools of psychiatric and psychological associations, who are forced to periodically reverse their disease definitions to avoid being run out of town. Where is the Gospel in all this? Nowhere!

Colin Donovan
6 years 2 months ago

Well said. An incomplete Gospel is a false Gospel. A Gospel which calls a person to love themselves and their weaknesses to the point of summing up their identity by them is not calling them to “be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect,” “to go and sin no more,” and to “take up the cross and follow (Christ).” These are calls to every one of us, with our particular temperaments, genetic constitutions, epi-genetic, familial and societal influences, AND freely chosen moral choices. We either exalt ourselves as we are, or we reform ourselves with the help of the sacraments and Christ’s redemptive grace.. One choice is for God; the other is not.

Tim O'Leary
6 years 2 months ago

Fr. Martin - Everyone who believes Jesus is Lord and is baptized is a Christian, but, as everyone who goes through RCIA knows, one must also accept the teachings of the Catholic Church to be and to remain a Catholic. To his apostles, Jesus said: “"Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me." So, we must not presume. We have the freedom, always, to accept or reject Jesus and His Church. It is part of our human glory and our great obligation. St. Paul says (1 Tim 2:4), He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Or as St. Peter says, (2 Peter 3: 9), The Lord “is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Let us pray that we persevere in the faith.

All humans have crosses to bear, and some are much heavier than others. It is not healthy to pretend they do not exist, or that they are only caused by others, such as haters-who-hate. Some crosses are so close to us, we cannot recognize them. Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). He also said “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). It is worth contemplating what one’s personal cross might be.

Mike Macrie
6 years 2 months ago

A very thoughtful article on welcoming all of us Sinners. I always get a kick out of this Gospel in Jesus welcoming a Sinner.
In the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spies a man named Zacchaeus perched high in a sycamore tree. He was the chief tax collector in the region, which at the time would have also meant that he was considered the “chief sinner” in the region, since he was colluding with the hated Roman authorities. Jesus calls up to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today!” Zacchaeus shinnies down the tree and repents, saying that that he will repay anyone he has defrauded “four times as much.”
Jesus’s offer of welcome prompted Zacchaeus’s change of heart. For Jesus, it was community first, conversion second.

Pancho Mulongeni
6 years 2 months ago

Mike thank you, your comment is the most non-judgemental, although it still associates LGBT people with sin. As a LGBT community member and Catholic in a country with no legal protections, Namibia, I appreciate this. We need to move towards decriminilisation of same-sex activity, because no one is arrested for fornication, yet we as LGBT persons are arrested across the continent of Africa, Asia and the Carribean. Really, what type of world can we build were the state sanctions punishment for sin?

Randal Agostini
6 years 2 months ago

An interesting article, but I wonder how many of those sitting in the pews are looking for the same love from God and their fellow man. Every person wants to be wanted and accepted, but that is not the nature of man. That is why Jesus threw down the gauntlet - "Love one another as I have loved you." - a challenge that we all share. I still do not understand this "come out" necessity. Why should any one of us want to present our differences first.
If anyone should be complaining it would be the blacks. They had or have no other option than to "come out," and every one of them have had to live with that, no matter how successful they have been. One of the reasons there are so few black Catholics is because of their historical treatment as second class citizens within the church.
All of us are "normal" in our differences, but that does not mean we have to propel our own normality onto others. What has been most offensive to heterosexuals is the existential threat of the imposition of sex as the most important function in our lives. Unfortunately the "love" that heterosexuals observe amongst LGBT is certainly not the Love that Jesus speaks about. The single most offensive act to me was the imposition of "same sex marriage" on to my own psyche. I am not naive and found it perfectly acceptable to institute any kind of union between people so that the could organize their civil lives. Let us be honest with one another - if the LGBT movement had it's way they would be forcing the sacraments upon their unions and THAT is clearly against all the teachings of Christ and the Church.
Marriage is not for the faint hearted and certainly not a weekend tryst. I have to thank God every day for the graces he has bestowed upon myself and my spouse, not to be able to endure, but to celebrate His love within our union.
If there is to be dialog - let it be honest so that we can "Love our neighbor."

Jean Miller
6 years 2 months ago

Now how about some Spiritual insights for the teaching body of the Church. The hierarchy ---the rule lovers---has promoted and sustained this "less than" approach toward the LGBT children of God, firmly establishing a caste system with the Church. The surge continues, denying their right to committed marriage, denying their full participation in the Church, reception of Eucharist and even a Catholic funeral.

Most unlike the Jesus I know.

Stanley Kopacz
6 years 2 months ago

Keep cranking, Father Martin. Sorry about the flak though thankfully the comments on this post have avoided being personal so far. God loves you too along with a lot of us out here.

Mike Theman
6 years 2 months ago

He deleted the comments that included suggestions of his narcissism and homosexuality.

Anne Danielson
6 years 2 months ago

"Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? [20] For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body."

Although it is true that we do not always choose who we exist in relationship with, we choose how we behave in those relationships. The desire or inclination to engage in demeaning behavior of any nature, does not change the nature of the act. No one who desires to be Loved, or Love another, including a man and woman, existing in relationship as husband and wife, would condone the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act, that demeans the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter. Love, which is always rightly ordered, is devoid of lust. "With Love, comes responsibility".

Our Call to Holiness, is a call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds.
Never underestimate the value of a Loving friendship, which is always respectful of oneself and the other, in private, or in public, and thus devoid of lust. Human persons have the inherent Right to experience authentic Love through Salvational Love, God's Gift of Grace And Mercy. To deny this inherent Right to our beloved sons and daughters, by denying that acting on our disordered inclinations is sin, lacks both Grace and Mercy.

In order to receive God's Grace and Mercy, we, who are sinners, must repent and believe in The One Word of God, The One Truth of Love Made Flesh, The One Lamb of God Who Taketh Away The Sins of The World, Our Savior, Jesus The Christ.

Susan Osborne
6 years 2 months ago

I've read some of the comments....but I primarily want Fr. Martin to know that I appreciate his article. I have several friends who are LGBTQ, and I'm thinking of two in particular who regrettably left the Catholic Church to enter the Episcopal Church. At heart they will always be Catholics, but they want to be open and active in their church...and really can't be as a Catholic. You've mentioned that there are welcoming communities....are they Catholic Churches? If so, that is great. My friends live in a large city, and I know they'd like to find one. In the meantime, I'm really tired of fellow Catholics talk knowingly about what is and is not sinful. My friends have the right to live their lives as God created them. I support them and I believe that God supports them, too. Simple as that. They are the most Christian duo that I've every met. The rest of the discussion is really none of our business. And, yes, I am an active Catholic...and I love my church. Thank God for our Pope.

Tim O'Leary
6 years 2 months ago

Anyone who joins the Episcopal Church while "at heart" are Catholic is doing great damage to themselves. In Mark 8:36, Jesus said "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" - but for the Episcopalian Church???

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