Arriving at a traditional Greek restaurant in Manhattan, I was quickly seated by the hostess. I had arrived a few minutes early and began to peruse the menu for something that would quench my desire for a spicy dish - little did I realize that this be an awkward foreshadowing for how the night would unfold.
A few moments later, I was joined by the guy that I had being planning to meet for a date for more than week. The guy I was meeting was a few years older than I, was dressed in casual business attire, and spoke with a degree of confidence that caught my attention.
Upon settling in, we began by chatting about our professional careers. Once employment status was cleared, we embarked on a discussion regarding our personal interests outside of work. After the usual theater, music, hanging out with friends – oh, and being close with the family, I happened to mention that I was also very active in my church. At this point, his face was swept with what appeared to be fear mixed with confusion.
He asked me “What religion are you?” I replied to his question with an honest answer “Roman Catholic.” First he smiled; then he giggled; and then he remarked “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” It was here, sitting in a restaurant in Manhattan, having just moved to New York City a few months earlier, that I was finally realizing that coming out as a gay Catholic was met with more inquiry then when I came out to my parents more than five earlier.
When I was 18 years old, I was teaching religious education at a Catholic Church near my hometown in Ulster County, NY. At the same time, I was fighting for a gay-straight alliance at my high school. During the process of forming the GSA, a parent of a child at my parish challenged my ability to teach Catholic doctrine. In response, the parish priest ordered an open meeting of the entire parish community to allow for those opposed to my teaching to bring their complaints in front the greater community.
On the night in which the disputation was take place, I arrived with my father to a church filled with well over a hundred people. The priest arose to the lectern and reiterated the purpose of the meeting. When he offered the podium to the congregation, one-by-one each member rose to the lectern and to my own surprise offered words of support and affirmation for who I was as an individual. Does that make gay Catholic sound like an oxymoron or rather does it add to the recognition that although doctrine may assert a particular teaching, Catholics see beyond the falsehood of such and to the truth of the very core of humanity.
Now 22 years old, being a gay Catholic has thus far made for rather interesting dates. My faith, coupled with my undergraduate degree in religious studies, has caused more than one date to include a statement similar to “The whole Catholic thing sort of freaks me out.” Quite honestly, I’m confused as to why it’s so difficult for others to understand how someone could be gay and Catholic.
Often time people will ask “How can you be Catholic when your church perceives you as an abomination?” In response, I wonder, “How can gay Americans choose to live in the United States when our country denies us equal rights?” Is the answer to always just get up and leave; is it not easier to just never sit in the pew rather than to sit in the pew and challenge the institution that denies my humanity? As a gay Catholic, I am not beholden to doctrine or dogma that denies my validity, but rather I am beholden to my belief in a Creator that loves all humanity for who we are as individuals.
Gay Catholics, and all members of the human race, have an obligation to bring our religious and secular leaders to witness the necessity for compassion. I will not wrongly presume that the Pope will come out tomorrow in support of gay marriage, but I am confident that as one gay Catholic amongst many, we each play a fundamental role in showing not only other Catholics, but also the community at large, that we are here and proud. Coming out Catholic should not be the end to a date, but rather a point in the passing of conversation.