Couple creates a new scholarship for L.G.B.T. Catholics

In this July 26, 2013 file photo, Michael De Leon, left, and Gregory Bourke speak in Louisville, Ky. Like many dads when his spouse is traveling out of town, Greg Bourke takes on the role of single parent, shuttling two teenage children to basketball practice and other activities while working a full-time job. (Brett Barrouquere, File, Associated Press)

Dismayed by the negative messages L.G.B.T. Catholics often face regarding their place in the church—firings of L.G.B.T. workers by Catholic institutions and the negative comments about gay people from some church leaders—Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon decided to take action. The couple, who were plaintiffs in the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, recently announced the creation of an endowed scholarship at the University of Louisville that will support Catholic students or graduates of Catholic high schools who identify as L.G.B.T.

“We’ve had so many talks about what we can do to encourage L.G.B.T.Q. youth to stay in the Catholic faith, to remain rather than walk away, and we had this revelation,” Mr. Bourke told America.

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The scholarship, which Mr. Bourke said he believes is the first of its kind in the nation, will be awarded next month. The University of Louisville, a public institution with nearly 16,000 undergraduate students, offers six other scholarships aimed at L.G.B.T. students. All the same, Mr. Bourke said he was initially worried the creation of the award might generate controversy given the church’s teaching on homosexuality. But he said he has been heartened by the response of the community. Several of the couple’s fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes parish have donated to the endowment, he said.

“We think that L.G.B.T.Q. young people today don’t get enough encouragement to stay in the faith,” said Mr. Bourke.

“We think that L.G.B.T.Q. young people today don’t get enough encouragement to stay in the faith,” said Mr. Bourke, a 1979 graduate of the University of Louisville. “They get too easily discouraged when they read about the discrimination that’s taking place.”

By way of example, he pointed to news that a local Catholic high school recently fired a guidance counselor after a parent complained to the school she was married to another woman. The counselor, Alison King, wrote in The Courier-Journal on Mar. 21 that even though she had kept her private life under wraps during her 11-year tenure working for the school, she was fired after being confronted by school administrators.

“They see these things happening with the church—discriminating against L.G.B.T.Q. people—and they think, ‘Why should I stay?’” Mr. Bourke said.

Mr. De Leon agrees.

“Greg and I often say, ‘If we leave, they win. We feel we can change things by practicing the faith we love and by helping others do the same.”

“So many L.G.B.T.Q. people feel that their faith and their sexuality is an ‘either/or’ situation,” he said. “We feel that even though the Catholic Church does not make it easy, young people need to be encouraged to keep the faith in which they have grown up and hopefully love.”

“Greg and I often say, ‘If we leave, they win,’” he added. “We feel we can change things by practicing the faith we love and by helping others do the same.”

Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon married in Ontario in 2004, but their union was not recognized in their home state of Kentucky. In 2013, with same-sex marriage already legal in several U.S. states, they agreed to be part of a lawsuit against Kentucky, seeking in federal court the right to have their marriage recognized.

While a judge ruled in their favor in 2014, saying Kentucky must recognize marriages conducted in other jurisdictions, that decision was later overturned by an appeals court. A group of plaintiffs that included Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2015 cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide. (Mr. Bourke said he felt “relief” when the court ruled that states must recognize same-sex marriages because it meant that both he and Mr. De Leon could apply to be jointly recognized as the legal parents of their two children.)

The pair are both lifelong Catholics and are not shy about discussing their faith.

Mr. Bourke said he long ago chose to remain part of the church and he does not plan to walk away anytime soon.

In 2015, they were named Persons of the Year by the National Catholic Reporter; their two children attended Catholic schools, and the family volunteers at church together. In a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, the pastor of their church, the Rev. Scott Wimsett, said that Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon are “loved and respected” at the parish, adding: “They’re just good people. And that’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

Lisa Gunterman, who is also Catholic, has known Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon for decades through their mutual work fighting for L.G.B.T. nondiscrimination protections in Louisville, a law that passed 20 years ago. The director of the L.G.B.T. center at the University of Louisville Belknap Campus called Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon “great role models for our students,” who, thanks to the scholarship, will “know you don’t have to give up part of your identity just because of who you are. You can be L.G.B.T., and you can be Catholic.”

While Mr. Bourke prefers to focus on the positive, he said that he and his husband, both of whom are graduates of Catholic schools, have experienced homophobia in the church over the years.

When the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay scout leaders in 2015, Mr. Bourke reapplied to lead his son’s troop, a position he previously held until he stepped down in 2012. But the Archdiocese of Louisville said that it would continue to ban openly gay men from serving as leaders.

“If something is really important to you, you really need to fight for it,” Mr. Bourke said.

Then in 2016, the archdiocese rejected a proposed design for a tombstone the couple created for their side-by-side burial plots in a Catholic cemetery that featured an inscription of wedding bands and a drawing of the Supreme Court. (Other grave markers at the Catholic cemetery include images related to sports, colleges and even horse racing, The Courier-Journal reported.)

Despite the occasional challenges, Mr. Bourke said he long ago chose to remain part of the church and he does not plan to walk away anytime soon.

“If something is really important to you, you really need to fight for it,” Mr. Bourke said, adding that he and his husband feel compelled to speak publicly about their lives in order “to change people’s hearts and minds.”

To that end, Mr. Bourke participates in the unofficial L.G.B.T. alumni group of the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with a masters degree in 1982. He and Mr. De Leon joined Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, for a talk at the university’s law school on Mar. 27.

In November 2016, Mr. Bourke led a “Pilgrimage of Mercy” for about 80 L.G.B.T. Catholics and their allies in New York. Most recently, he urged a woman who reached out to him for advice to stay involved at her parish even though she was upset about the firing of Ms. King from her guidance counselor post.

Mr. Bourke said that when it comes to L.G.B.T. Catholics, the situation has improved over recent decades—progress he hopes will be aided by the scholarship.

“When I was younger, being L.G.B.T.Q. was something that was certainly just not ever discussed,” he said. “There’s more of a discussion now and there are more places for L.G.B.T.Q. people to find acceptance and to find homes in the church.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Christopher Lochner
5 months 2 weeks ago

Interesting. Modern Catholicism is about nothing if not about two good people who have money and national name recognition. Imagine if it was about anyone else. No, I can't either. And, like in the book written by a certain Mr. Orwell entitled "Animal Farm", we're all good Catholics, it's just those with the power are more beloved and more Catholic than those who have not; current catholic teaching (in truth, reality) leans strongly in favor of those who are well connected and powerful. If not then what's the sense? Yes, I am well aware, life has always been this way. And most individuals are only concerned with their own kind or cause, whatever these terms may mean. The sin here is in the unsurprising self serving egos involved and nothing more. And if catholic means universal, well, this is the way of an old and foolish religion, obviously. What kind of Catholic are you? Only a valid one if a title of one form or another may be applied. Blessed are those with status for they shall be called children of god. This is astoundingly modern and evangelical but not in a good manner.

Valerie Finnigan
5 months 2 weeks ago

The scholarship is wonderful. I wish one were available for me when I was in college and for my daughter where she currently studies.
However, I have accepted Church teaching on same sex relations. It's difficult, but then, resisting any kind of sin isn't supposed to be easy. If it were, it wouldn't be a cross we have to take up as we walk in our faith. Otherwise, Jesus would have said we must take up our feathers and follow him.
I am not interested in a religion that teaches we don't have to make any sacrifices, that we can sin so grace may abound. I don't want a god made in my own image. My faith and my orientation are not equal. Faith is essential to my eternal life. My attraction to women isn't. And yet prioritizing my faith has earned me far more hatred among fellow LGBTs than saying I'm bisexual has from fellow Catholics.

Paul Bolin
5 months 2 weeks ago

It’s much easier for you, as a bisexual, to accept church teaching than it would be for a gay man or a lesbian. As a bisexual, accepting church teaching just meant that you had to settle down with a man (whom you are attracted to). It merely narrowed the dating pool. From the sounds of it, you did marry a man and had a daughter and a family and all the wonderful things that offers. For gay men and lesbians, the church forces them into a lifetime of despair and physical/romantic isolation due to their sexual orientation. Everyone they are interested in is off-limits. I had an acquaintance in college who tried killing herself because she couldn’t reconcile her identity as a Catholic with the idea of being romantically alone for the rest of her life. She ended up with permanent brain damage from her botched suicide attempt. I blame the church and this errant teaching. No one should face such a prospect.

So please, remember this. The fact that you are incidentally attracted to women withstanding, as someone who has been afforded the benefit of being able to find a romantic partner, get married, and have a family, you are hardly in a position to speak for the LGBT people that the Church’s teaching most profoundly affects.

Deacon Raymond Moon
5 months 2 weeks ago

It is amazing to me that when someone disagrees with Church teaching, they label such teaching as errant or wrong. She is either correct in her teaching on human sexuality or she is not. You choose. (well, you have chosen). It is the world's philosophy that is screwed up here. We are all called to love, and love deeply, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. But the world has distorted that word, love, into a term that is almost no longer legible or understandable.

If one has to be LGBTQ in order to understand or speak for them, then does one have to be a drug addict in order to understand or speak for them? Mr. Spock would be "intrigued" by your 'logic'. It is only in losing yourself in Christ that you will be found. Our faith is not based on our feelings, sexual orientation, or even our skin color (yes, some people believe that). Our faith is founded on Jesus Christ and on his example he gave us while he was walking with us. He called us to follow him, for his kingdom is not of this world (so don't follow the world). You are not "trapped" by this same sex attraction, you were not "born" this way. There are Ministries to help anyone understand and live a full life in Christ who has these attractions. Look up Paul Darrow on Facebook, perfect example. The Church's teachings are truth and are given to us for our salvation.

Gabe Reeder-Ferreira
5 months 2 weeks ago

There is no Catholic Church teaching on relationships between two people of the same-sex in a loving committed relationship. Tell me, Deacon, if marriage is not based on our feelings, then why do those of the opposite sex get married? They must have felt something, but I guess that is completely irrelevant in Catholic teaching.

Michael Cardinale
5 months 2 weeks ago

There is a Church teaching, based in Scripture, on same-sex sexual relationships. See 1 Cor 6:9, Rom 1:26-27, and 1 Tim 1:10, and CCC 2357 ff. Choosing to ignore it does not mean it doesn’t exist. St. Paul recognized the power of the sexual drive, and the Church has preached on sex in marriage for 2000 years; I’m not sure how one concludes it’s irrelevant to Catholic teaching. Arguments about feelings are a diversion. Marriage exists to seal a family together open to the possibility of children. Homosexual uniting (always sodomy) can never produce children, as it’s an inherently barren relationship; therefore, marriage between homosexuals is unnecessary. But, the Church does not ignore the plight of homosexuals and provides ministries, such as Courage, to aid in their struggles.

Robert Lewis
5 months 2 weeks ago

There would be nothing wrong with Courage if it were a PUBLIC ministry that encouraged the same-sex-attracted to embrace their condition as a cross to bear and demanded of heterosexual Catholics that they support their same-sex-attracted brethren and respect them for their peculiar spiritual gifts. Instead of that, Courage reinforces shame by en"couraging" same-sex-attracted Catholics to remain hidden, or "closeted" within the so-called "Body of Christ." No self-respecting homosexual should belong to such an organization.

Michael Cardinale
5 months 2 weeks ago

I admit I don't know how Courage works, but the couple of people I know who attend Courage are open to me about their same-sex attraction. It seems to be similar to AA, which requires one to admit he has a problem, but doesn't require him to advertise he goes to AA, though most of my alcoholic friends and relatives do.
It's a little disconcerting that you consider the Body of Christ "so-called." We are all, not just Catholics, members of the Body. We are all called to be healthy members of the Body of Christ.

Gabe Reeder-Ferreira
5 months ago

To your point I’m not sure what makes you think same-sex couples can’t or don’t have children. They do all the time. Not everybody whether in a same-sex marriage or opposite-sex marriage have children either. Besides the possibility to have children exists without marriage. Show me where it says you have to be married to have children? Or that you have to have children if you get married?

Marriage exists for same-sex couples even if you choose to ignore it. Same-sex couples have moved past the passages you are hung up on, which have more to do with gang rape and prostitution than sex between two consenting adults of the same-sex. It sounds like you need Courage to aid in your struggles with homosexuals yourself. You should try a meeting or two before preaching it to others.

Gabe Reeder-Ferreira
5 months ago

To your point I’m not sure what makes you think same-sex couples can’t or don’t have children. They do all the time. Not everybody whether in a same-sex marriage or opposite-sex marriage have children either. Besides the possibility to have children exists without marriage. Show me where it says you have to be married to have children? Or that you have to have children if you get married?

Marriage exists for same-sex couples even if you choose to ignore it. Same-sex couples have moved past the passages you are hung up on, which have more to do with gang rape and prostitution than sex between two consenting adults of the same-sex. It sounds like you need Courage to aid in your struggles with homosexuals yourself. You should try a meeting or two before preaching it to others.

Valerie Finnigan
5 months 2 weeks ago

Please do not mind the accidental repeated comment.

Gwynith Young
5 months 2 weeks ago

A terrific thing to do. You're some of the leaders the Catholic Church needs. Well done guys.

Tim Donovan
5 months 2 weeks ago

As a Catholic who's gay, I support church teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. However, I agree that like some other teachings, it's difficult to follow. Growing up in the 1970's, I was fairly frequently taunted by painful terms ( "faggot." ). Once during a ride home on a school bus, a student in sixth grade spit on me (I was in seventh grade). In fairness, he did apologize. I also experienced depression because of my orientation, and attempted to commit suicide in 1994 (when I was 32--now I'm 57) by a deliberate overdose of a legal prescription drug. Fortunately, I survived. My life up to that point was a time of complicated emotions and actions. When my best friend at age 18, and a,college student, was told that his 17 year old girlfriend, a,high school senior, was pregnant, they were faced with many difficulties (the mother of my friend's girlfriend was distraught, and made known her extreme disappointment). His girlfriend also learned that years before her older sister had had an abortion. Despite this tragic act of violence, my friends chose to have their son, and married nine months after he was born. Both my friend's (now) wife's sister and me were very happy to help tye couple raise their son. I was committed to helping to care for their baby both as a friend and as a pro-life advocate. I find much pleasure and a,renewed sense of purpose in helping to raise a child. As one who had always loved children, after several years of working with adults who were disabled, I decided to attend college, and while working part-time working with disabled children and adults, I majored in Education, and found meaning in graduating and becoming a Special Education teacher. For six years I instructed children with brain damage. Despite the challenge, I enjoyed my work. At this time, my married brother and sister both also had a child (later two children each) and I again found purpose and happiness in helping to care for my nieces and nephew. I must admit that I still had some depression because of my being gay. However, I also found more meaning in my life for helping to care,for my seriously ill Dad, and in 1994, also helped my parents care for my terminally ill Aunt who came to live with my parents. (She was a,widow without any children). Because,of loneliness because of my orientation, I did some years later have sex with men. However, I regretted my actions, and received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I continue to experience lustful desires (as well as commit various sins, mostly not sexual in nature). I have found that receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month from my compassionate pastor is helpful in giving my fortitude to by a better Christian. Since 0ctober, 2015, I have lived in a nursing home due to a chronic health problem. However, again I find meaning in my life by assisting other residents (whether friends or acquaintances) with their personal needs, and also assisting the staff in their caring for the other residents. I also have a,good, loving relationship with my family, and several friends. One happens to be gay, and although we disagree about the morality of gay marriage we remain on. good terms. I fully realize based on my many experiences over the years that beg gay can be challenging. However, I believe that by praying to God for strength as well as by loving my neighbors that I have found meaning in life. Finally, while I respect these men for their commitment to Christ and the Church, I don't believe that their marriage, while legal, is moral.

Sandor Gyetvai
5 months 1 week ago

Tim, I want to thank you for your heroic witness to Christ and his Church. I have heard many times people say 'We can learn so much from our gay brothers and sisters', and I always believed this to be true, but those who were usually put forth as who we should learn from were in fact bad examples. You however are the type of person who all Catholics (Christians) can learn from. We all fall short in our lives of the call from Christ, but our humble contrite hearts returning to him, and with his Grace, continue on our journey towards growing in sanctity, is the path of every sincere Christian. You obviously exemplify that in your life. I would love to know you as a friend as I am sure you are a great friend to those who know you. As a Married man with a wonderful wife and many children, I have had my fair share of sexual temptations and have fallen short in this way and many other ways in my marriage and as a father. But like you, I returned to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and returned to striving to live the life which Christ has called me to live. May the Lord richly Bless you in your Courage and fidelity to him! You are an example to all of the Christian way of life!

Frank Bergen
5 months 2 weeks ago

Let me just say "Thank you!" to the editors for publishing this article, to Mssrs. Bourke and DeLeon for the active roles they have played in church and state, and for their generosity in establishing a scholarship for Catholic LGBTQ kids. Bravos all around!!

Sandor Gyetvai
5 months 2 weeks ago

Oh, if each of us could just pick One serious sin that we are very Oriented towards, and petition the Church to change church teaching on the One sin we are so very attached to, then there would be nothing left in the Church's moral teaching other than 'be nice', and maybe not even that. I've met some people who really do enjoy being vitriolic, and have a very very difficult time not acting that way. I've known Men and Woman who just can hardly think monogamously, therefore the church should change the moral teaching on Adultery since shoot, why should they suffer? There are People who just really have a hard time not being incredibly stingy and selfish with their money, so maybe the Church should just change her moral teachings on our obligation to charity and financial justice. And how about Kleptomaniacs, they just have an incredible compulsion to steal, so obviously the 'though shall not steal can't be in the Church's moral teaching. Oh, and don't forget those who are psychopaths, I mean, they just have to kill somebody to feel some satisfaction in life, so maybe killing should be pulled from the moral teaching. Is there anything left that someone wants pulled from the Church's mean moral teachings that they just can't stand because it oppresses their freedom from living life as they desire?

Brian Kudro
5 months 2 weeks ago

Perhaps self-righteousness?

Michael Cardinale
5 months 2 weeks ago

Cute; but it doesn't refute the premise. Is engaging in homosexual acts not sinful, or is that claim a heresy? Does it make receiving the Eucharist a sacrilege, with the possibility of eternal damnation? Did God create man and woman different for a purpose, or are these differences just incidental?

Robert Lewis
5 months 2 weeks ago

In case you haven't noticed, God has also created persons of none or indeterminate or trans- anatomical gender. What do you suppose THAT purpose was? Or do you propose that those folks also "chose" what you, in your Pharasaical mind-set, would label "deviancy"?

Michael Cardinale
5 months 2 weeks ago

I've noticed that very few people are born as you describe, I don't consider them deviant, and I don't presume to divine God's purpose. In any case, I was discussing homosexual actions, which is a choice, from which your comment is an intentional diversion, and doesn't address the question. Calling me Pharisaical is an ad hominem and also does not address the question.

Mister Mckee
5 months 2 weeks ago

Go Irish!
Go GALA!
http://www.galandsmc.org/2019-thomas-a-dooley-award/

John Still
5 months 2 weeks ago

I'm confused about why this article was included in this magazine, a Catholic magazine, with priests on the editorial board. Does the magazine adhere to the tenets of the Church or not? If so, why is the magazine promoting a lifestyle that is clearly against Church teaching and a mortal sin? There is no dispute on this point. I would really like to know why a priest would give the false impression that such a lifestyle is okay in the eyes of the Church. Please, Shepherds, do not lead the flock astray. Please stop sowing confusion. Whether the reader thinks it's unfair or not, compassionate or not, it's the Church teaching.

Judy Schroeder
5 months 1 week ago

As a hetero, married, Catholic woman, yes! I hunger for the day "Mother" Church finds her voice to reconsider the holy purpose of marriage. Procreation is, of course, a blessed event, and I am confident that NONE of the male voices on this page would ever consider avoiding conception with anything except self restraint, but a "barren" marriage for love and companionship is also blessed. I'll pray for the day our church can change its understanding of God's will and bless marriages like that of these two wonderful men. In the meantime, let's stop the repression that has led to SO MUCH pain, sinful mistreatment, and hypocrisy about homosexuality in the church and sex in married life. Can I get an Amen!? THANK YOU for the article. And many thanks to our brothers for their witness.

Sandor Gyetvai
5 months 1 week ago

Hello Judy, I think you are confused by your sentimentality, and not using the full gift of Reason which God gave you. The church has no problem with Holy Friendships between two people of the same sex, and in fact encourages them. Marriage however, is a unique human relationship, which is firstly based upon the natural fact that men and women are sexually complimentary, and then elevates this natural reality to the Sacramental reality. Grace builds on Nature! If the nature part is missing, the Grace and reality of marriage is also missing. Sexual relations, properly speaking, are a genital pairing. This pairing can only take place between those who have biologically complementary genitals. Again, the Church is not being distracted by sentimentality, but using the Reason which has been given to us by God. You try to compare homosexual's who are not not actually barren, but are in fact misusing their sexual faculty, with those married couples (Man and woman of course) who may be incidentally barren, but are in fact still sexually compatible. This is a confusion which is easily resolved with a short study of human physiology. The plain fact is that Two men or two women can never in fact be married, and to state such is in fact a lie and a distortion. We may now have in our legal system the unreasonable recognition of two men or two women as being married, but don't forget, this is the same legal system which does not recognize the scientific fact that a human child in the womb is in fact a human being. The same legal system which once considered people to be non human merely because of the color of their skin. In all of these cases (slavery, abortion, gay 'marriage') the laws were/are not based upon what is reasonable, but instead on sentiment. Sadly, laws based only on sentiment are never good for society. You can't expect the Church to conform to the unreasonable winds of the world. Even if there are weak priests and bishops who are more concerned with what the world is telling them, then what the Church teaches, we still need to stand strong for the teachings of the Church.

F C
5 months 1 week ago

Sandor Gyetvai
You write: "Sexual relations, properly speaking, are a genital pairing". Thomist natural law arguments from the 1200s may teach this, but "using the Reason which has been given to us by God gives us" (as you say), modern anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, history, etc, tell a different story.

Judith Jordan
5 months 1 week ago

FC . Excellent comments.

Judith Jordan
5 months 1 week ago

s

Phillip Stone
5 months 1 week ago

See April 8 report of lobby attempting to get Vatican to endorse LGB etc.
No comments allowed.
I reaffirm, the Vatican does not have my permission to endorse activities associated with a perverted sexuality which are immoral and must not support the lie that there are no remedies available to such abnormalities.

But, of course, the editorial board is so hell bent on making sexual deviants appear as paragons of virtue and the only sinless Catholics, they hope to distort the reality that the ordinary people in the pew are much more discerning and do not and will not have a bar of it..

Judith Jordan
5 months 1 week ago

Philip Stone---The overwhelming evidence in the psychiatric community is “remedies” are not successful. Instead, these “remedies” cause more harm than good with many gay people experiencing depression, self-hatred, and suicide. When you label them as “perverted” that contributes to many of the problems and harassment they endure. I recommend you not limit yourself to the “moral” issues regarding the topic and read some scientific studies on it.

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