Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.
I’m struggling with my relationship with the Church and have stopped attending Mass since October. My priest gave a sermon that I felt was anti-gay, and I walked out. I met with him to talk about it, and he said some things that were even more extreme than what I heard in the sermon, and topped it off with a little Islamophobia. For me, it was the culmination of years of discomfort with the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage, and the family.
To help me discern whether I can return to the Church or not, I’d like you to explain the Church’s teachings to me. What does the Church say is bad, wrong, or disordered about homosexual sex (and for that matter, oral sex, sex with birth control and/or sex by infertile couples, whether they are infertile naturally, as a by product of life-saving medical treatment, or by choice)? It is my understanding that the Church says these acts are bad or wrong because they can’t create babies, or because they don’t allow for the supposed perfect mutuality of heterosexual intercourse. And I do understand that the Church is totally fine with infertile married people having sex if it’s natural or because of cancer treatment, but not with vasectomy. My issue is that I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with any of these kinds of sex, if they take place in a loving, committed relationship. I think that all of these kinds of sex can be an expression of selfless love and putting the other person first.
I would like to return to the Church, but my conscience, what I believe is the voice of God in my heart, tells me that my acquiescence to what I believe is bias and exclusion, is worse than missing a few Masses.
I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.
~Crisis of Faith
I’ve spent many hours thinking about and reflecting on your question in prayer. This seems to me less a question of doctrine and more a question of belonging. While I don’t identify as an LGBT+ person, and I’m not a theologian, I am a person who has questioned Church teaching and my belonging within the Body Of Christ, so that is what I can speak to.
Experiences like yours make the Catholic Church, the Universal Church, feel anything but Universal. Instead of “all are welcome”, it can feel like some are welcome. If I’m being honest, I’ve wrestled with and continue to wrestle with many of these same questions both theologically and personally as I witness the experience of close friends.
As I’m reflecting on your question and writing these words, my almost three month old daughter is napping in the next room, and I think of how easy it’s been for me to “fit in” within the community of the Church as a straight woman. I was raised Catholic, married a good Catholic man, and we’ve started our good Catholic family. That’s what people see on the outside, anyway. They don’t see my sins, my wrestling, my own many crises of faith. All they see is a “good girl” who shows up to mass every weekend and checks all the boxes of what it means to be “Catholic enough”.
You, my dear, are a seeker, and I encourage you to keep seeking answers to your questions. Keep following that righteous anger. Instead of allowing it to pull you away from the Church, how might The Holy Spirit be using this to draw you in. How might you be uniquely called to work for a more diverse and inclusive Body Of Christ. How might you say to those in the LGBT+ community: “Come to the table. There is a place for you here.” Be a person who invites those that others would exclude.
As for your questions regarding specific Church teachings, this priest isn’t the only priest. If he isn’t able to answer your questions well, continue to seek out priests, religious and laity who will. I cannot recommend spiritual direction enough. I found a spiritual director through the Dominican Sisters of Peace who are located in my home town. Sister Joan and I have been meeting once a month for three years and her wisdom has guided me well on my own spiritual journey. Remember the primacy of conscience when it comes to issues of morality. Let your conscience be your guide to seek Truth.
If you want to understand more about Church teaching and perhaps get involved with ministries that advocate for and serve LGBT+ identifying persons within the Catholic Church, check out Eden Invitation, as well as Courage and EnCourage.
Thank you for trusting me with your questions. Thank you for seeking answers. Whatever you do, keep asking and keep seeking always.
Yours in Christ,
Read our archives on same sex attraction
Krista is a licensed social worker living in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, Jeff and their dog, Hank. She believes the best moments in life happen around the table, there’s always room for one more book in your Amazon cart/suitcase/purse, and that every load of laundry folded is an hour out of purgatory. You can find her on the trails with her boys, on the couch with a novel, or on her knees in front of the blessed sacrament.