Despised and Rejected: Where Is God When the Church Dismisses a Gay Catholic?

When we’ve been reporting about LGBT people and supporters being fired from jobs at Catholic institutions over the past two-and-a-half years, most of the cases have involved school teachers, and, to a lesser extent, parish music ministers.  Nicholas Coppola, a volunteer at his parish, was the sole exception where someone not employed by the church was told that his participation was no longer welcome because he had legally married his longtime boyfriend.

Terence Weldon
Terence Weldon

This week, across the Atlantic, another case has emerged where a volunteer has been dismissed because of his support of LGBT equality.  In England, Terence Weldon, who blogs at Queering The Churchone of the oldest and best respected Catholic LGBT blogs, has gone public with the fact that he has recently been let go from a volunteer position with CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), the overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.  You can read the entire story of his experience here.  

The reason given for his dismissal was that he has been “campaigning against Church teaching.”  Weldon, who has been blogging since 2008, sees the situation differently.  He describes his ministry of blogging in this way:

“For years, I have felt strongly that this passage from Luke 4:18, based on a similar one in Isaiah, amounts to Christ’s opening mission statement, at the start of his ministry:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’

“By extension, I have written previously, this must include bringing good news to the queer, who also are oppressed, often by the Church itself.”

He also describes his reactions to the charge of “campaigning against Church teaching.”

“My initial response was to say that of course I understood his position and that of Cafod, forced on them by the rules of higher authority, and agreed that there remained the possibility of working simply within the local parish, where I am well known and accepted, and even find strong support for my activism.

“However, the more I reflected on this later, after he had left, the more I found myself angry – not at him or at Cafod, but at the Church itself, which is so intolerant of any internal dissent or disagreement.”

Since the incident of his dismissal came near the time of Holy Week, Weldon put this whole situation in the context of two lines from the Good Friday Scriptures:

“He was despised, rejected…”(Isaiah 53:3)

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.: (Psalm 118:22)

Understandably, Weldon feels this rejection very powerfully, and it has caused him to question his membership in the church:

“And so, feeling intensely, ‘despised, rejected,” I began to wonder again, as I have done from time to time before, whether my critics on both sides are not perhaps, correct. Do I in fact have a place in the Catholic Church – or should I make a move to another, one which allows for full participation in decision taking and regulation by laity alongside that of clergy, one that takes seriously the concept of a church for all the faithful that was promised for Catholics by Vatican II, but never implemented?”

While we stand with him in solidarity over this terrible injustice accorded him, we also encourage him, if it is not too harmful to him, to persevere.  It is not easy to be despised and rejected, but our hope and promise has to come from the second line of Scripture he quotes:  rejection will lead to becoming the cornerstone.

LGBT people have much to give to the church spiritually.  Their courage to be who they are and their ability to tell the truth are gifts that can benefit the entire Catholic community.  Those are the powerful positive gifts.  But the experience of rejection and being despised can also be a gifted experience and can lead to an important role in the church.

Whatever Terence Weldon decides, we stand with him.  His testimony and service these many years have been beautiful gifts to the church. We pray that he discerns the way that God is calling him at this painful time.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Terence?  You can post them in the “Comments” section of this post or you can respond on his blog.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

23 thoughts on “Despised and Rejected: Where Is God When the Church Dismisses a Gay Catholic?

  1. Terence May 2, 2014 / 2:55 am

    Thanks, Frank. I’ll have more to say about this, and my response,at Queering the church, later

  2. Annette Magjuka May 2, 2014 / 5:29 am

    Terence, my response is that you ARE Catholic, and always will be by virtue of your baptism. You are a loved and cherished part of the Body of Christ, part of all of us. As a fellow baptized Catholic, I wish you love and support. Right now in our church, there are some bishops, priests, nuns, and other “officials” who would have us harm our LGBT brothers and sisters. To the extent that you can remain firm, going nowhere–proudly refusing to go away, then it affords others the opportunity to stand right along with you. Eventually, it will become obvious that those who would reject you are the “false prophets,” the evil within. Not all in the church reject you. I accept you, and send you love and support. If enough Catholics absolutely refuse to participate in rejection, intolerance and injustice, our church will become aligned in doctrine and behavior, as promised by Vatican II. If all who are mistreated leave, then the “little monsters” Pope Francis mentioned will win. Of course, in places like Uganda, there is support for “death to gay” laws, imprisonment for gay people and their supporters, and the call for parents to “turn in their gay children to receive their reward in heaven.” The injustice has become murderous. This evil must not stand. The faithful must say a resounding NO. Only you can decide, by virtue of your examined conscience, what to do or where to worship. I want you to know that I stand with you and your truth. In Washington, DC, there were some nuns and others who decided to remain standing throughout the entire mass to show that they are there and “ready to serve” as priests. They remain standing and did this for years. I don’t know if they are still doing it. But I loved this form of internal dissent. When dignitaries would visit this DC church, they would ask why some were standing. It would give a forum to explain that the church refuses to grant equality to its women. This action caused much consternation within the parish, causing disagreements even within families. But the protesters kept doing it for years. I hope they are still standing. I “stand” with them, as I stand with you. Terence, you are Catholic. You are loved by the faithful. Unfortunately, some “in charge” are doing you harm. I am so sorry.

  3. Sharon Willey May 2, 2014 / 7:35 am

    The yeast does not make the dough rise from without.

  4. Richard Judkins May 2, 2014 / 10:55 am

    The same thing happened to me 4 years ago when I was fired from St. Dominic Parish in Orland California, where I was employed for 12 years. I was fired after I came out but I was also told shortly thereafter that I could not even serve as a volunteer music minister. Until then I was playing keyboard with the Hispanic choir..

  5. Fr Anthony Borka May 2, 2014 / 4:57 pm

    Sorry to disagree but Terence should leave the Roman Church as I did too in order to be more spiritual. Jesus left Judaism to follow a new order . I, and others, have found a spirituality in the independant Catholic Church where we are Catholic by following the Vatican II teachings, and we should know the Councils are more normative than an individual Pope or Bishop. There is no room in the Roman Church for LGBT persons righr now. Pope Francis is a ray of hope but he has to deal with the conservative bishops of John Paul II. The Church changes slowly. Why stay with an unfriendly institution when there are better choices?

    • Barbara May 3, 2014 / 5:58 pm

      Just two things to consider Anthony. One is that Jesus didn’t leave to found a new church. The early followers were Jews. One of the first big questions in this new Jewish sect was whether Gentiles could become Christians without being circumcised and obeying the Mosaic Law.

      Second, it that the hierarchy is not the Church. We are the Church.

      That said, I find most present leadership not only inadequate, but I’d even say unChristian. How each person deals with that is different and I support Terence and all those who suffer this “regime of abuse” in their choices. It’s my belief that we, the Church, need those who stay and those who leave. Each give witness to the Christ.

  6. Chaplain Bill May 3, 2014 / 8:23 am

    The same thing happened last month at St. Agnes Parish (I live within its service area) in Arlington, VA after it was discovered that the music director he had the temerity of marrying his same-sex partner of many years. “Who am I to judge? Well, by extension, lots of your bishops. These actions are the fruits of two disastrous pontificates — one which is now a “saint,” and the other was his henchmen.

  7. Ghosty Wolfe May 3, 2014 / 1:15 pm

    I was at a Dignity Mass in 1987 when the priests read Cardinal Ratzingers “On the Pastoral Care to the Homosexual” to the congregation. It was also announced they could no longer hold Dignity Mass and, worse, they weren’t sure exactly what they would be able to do, or not do, for their gay parishioners. One of the priests was crying. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic. Many men at church that morning were dying of AIDS. My roommate died of AIDS, several of my closest friends died of AIDS and I watched a whole generation of gay men die of that vicious disease and those who were Catholic suffered two fold due to the intolerance of the CC. I’ll never forget those men at Mass that morning. Crying. Sobbing. Bereft. Abandoned. That was 27 years ago and if I had waited for the Catholic Church to come around to embrace the teachings of Christ (love your neighbor as yourself) I would be a very bitter woman today. After that horrible morning, I tried calling around to other “Catholic” churches. Eastern Orthodox, something called “Apostolic Catholic” …but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore and I “abandoned” my search. As a woman I found numerous problems with the Christian religion in general and more with the Catholic Church in particular. Misogyny has been the code and credo of the Catholic Church for a very long time and has not changed to this day. I mean, in the midst of the worst scandal in recent church history (child molestation and abuse) in 2009 the Vatican announces they are going to do a MASSIVE investigation! Yes, they are going after the hidden sins of …are you ready for this .. the women religious communities of the United States (they suspect the evil nuns were being too liberal). THAT, my friends, is hatred of women. I could give 2000 years of examples of mistreatment of women but what I’m trying to say is this – I left the church years ago because I would not tolerate the massive abuse of my gay brothers…During that time I’ve become educated and now realize that even IF the Catholic church changed it’s teachings and attitudes towards gay people tomorrow… IF they decided to allow gays to marry and celebrated gay relationships ..The ongoing lack of respect and common decency towards women would still be there. Women have no voice in the Catholic church.. period. Also, there’s a noticeable lack of people of colour in the Vatican as well. You can dress it up any way you want to but go to the Vatican .. Go look at who’s in charge, who has the power and who makes the decisions. Men. Predominately, old white men. The problems with this disparity in equal representation are legion and have caused countless millions to suffer. Think of the third world women who can barely feed themselves yet are told they can’t use birth control. How many babies have to starve to death for the old white guys to get it? Same with AIDS and condoms. How many third world people have to catch the disease before the old white dudes in Rome get a grip? So long as nothing but old white men run the Catholic Church, for me, this discussion is academic. Inclusive means everyone. Not just old white men. Not just gay people. Not just women. Not just people of colour. Everyone. If we could all wrap our minds around that and present ourselves as united front to Rome, things might change. As is, we are divided and getting nowhere fast.

    • Annette Magjuka May 3, 2014 / 7:18 pm

      I totally agree with what you wrote. But as my 88 year old aunt who is a nun says, “That is not my church.” I still consider myself a social justice Catholic, and there are still many of us around. Those old white men are not the church. We, the Body of Christ, are the church. We must be the ones to minister to one another. WE are Catholic. I refuse to give $$ to the church because of the cover up of the sex scandals, etc, etc–all of what you wrote. But I still say you and I are the church, Sr. Simone is the church, and my aunt and her fellow sisters, in the trenches helping people–we are the church.

      • Ghosty Wolfe May 4, 2014 / 12:45 am

        I would like to think you’re right. I am concerned that before all is said and done there will be a total tearing apart of what exists now. I think it will be the doing of the Vatican. I worry that nuns all over the continent will be excommunicated. The idea of Sr. Simone, your aunt, Sr. Gramick being given the boot scares me. The order of nuns that taught me as a child were excommunicated (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and some were devastated by what happened. I have hoped for years that the CC would wake up and realize they are extremist and hateful but thus far they’re blind to their own flaws. One other thing, I’m actually afraid to go into a Catholic Church now. If they know I’m lesbian I’ll get trashed and 27 years ago when they trashed gay men with AIDS I pretty much learned everything I needed to know about CC and orientation. Do you know in Lincoln, NE the Catholic Conference there is demanding that Catholic mental health workers not only have the right to refuse gay people services (which already existed) but they want the right to deny a gay person a REFERRAL to a therapist who will treat them? If a gay person is suicidal the CC insists they have right to tell them, “too bad, so sad but we don’t help gay people with anything!” They’ve been trying to get that passed for six years or thereabouts. Non-Catholic therapists in Lincoln having fits about the issue is all that’s kept that idiocy at bay. The day they get their way I forsee lots of dead gay Catholic teenagers in our future. This stuff is crazy and frightening and frankly, I do not feel the “love.” I really don’t.

      • Annette Magjuka May 4, 2014 / 1:42 pm

        I know. This is the worst it has been in my lifetime. I grew up around a Catholic university when most of the Catholics I knew were extremely progressive and concerned with civil rights and the poor. We had the hope of Vatican II, our guitar masses and the sense that one person can make a difference. The backlash against Vatican II has been insidious. There are still progressives, but some do not speak up. Some do their thing and ignore the official church teachings. Of course, the issue of women and our role in the church is an ongoing disappointment/frustration/indignity. But now, with the Uganda laws against gay people and Catholic representatives giving public credence to the jail sentences, telling people to turn in their gay children to reap their reward in heaven–this is the time for decisive action against these laws/injustices. In America, the bullying of our LGBT children in schools, the firing of LGBT teachers, choir directors, and volunteers, the refusal of allowing gay student groups on college campuses, and the secular laws that are being floated in many states–it is time for decisive action against all of these injustices. At some point, it is important for the faithful–all of us who know it is wrong–to stand up and speak, and to refuse to stop speaking until the injustice stops. Are we Catholic? Yes, in the way my aunt says…(“That is not my church.”) But the concern is that others do not understand that there is a huge schism in our church, and the hierarchy “speaks for Catholics.” What action is enough if you know you are Catholic (the good kind) yet the perception is that by being Catholic you sanction what is happening at the hands of these anti-Vatican II “little monsters” (See Pope Francis…”)??? I am seeking what is the best course of action. The church has left many of us! What will we do????

      • Ghosty Wolfe May 4, 2014 / 8:33 pm

        I agree with you 100%. It has gotten worse. For one, all dialogue has been severed by the Vatican. It’s a monologue from the men in power to the rest of the Church. Unfortunately, there are many people in the Church that are very happy with the ongoing hate and discrimination. Being an active Catholic right now must bring a lot of stress with it. I have to admit when someone says they’re an active Catholic I shut up pretty fast. Part of that is because I was living in Lincoln, NE. for the last ten years and Lincoln is the diocese of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz. He’s the guy who, in 1996, excommunicated all the Call to Action people in Lincoln (along with Freemasons, Catholics for a Free choice, Planned Parenthood, etc). Call to Action appealed but in 2006 the excommunication was upheld by the Congregation of Bishops. So all the Catholics that would have been ok with me and who I am were kicked out of the church. I’ve moved out of Nebraska and am hoping that the Catholics in this area are mellower (is that a word?) but I don’t hold out much hope. I personally think that Catholics of conscious (all of us) should come together and storm Washington (the Vatican isn’t in this country so it’s the best I can come with for a place to gather). If all of the different groups came together we would have millions of people showing up as one voice telling Rome we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. For Rome to boot ALL of us out with excommunication would be a massive loss of people and of revenue. The money may not matter to them BUT at least we would all know who each other is and, if all are booted, start an American Catholic church. Something has to be done. This cannot continue as is – people are getting hurt by these antiquated policies dictated by Rome.

  8. Stephen May 5, 2014 / 5:40 pm

    Like many other gay men, I left the Catholic Church on a quest to find God and be the man He created me to be. It became increasingly clear that I could not do that and remain in a place that told me there was something wrong with the way that God made me. I was no longer accepted in my own home. I do want to make it clear that there are many wonderful people in the church who have shown me God’s love and acceptance. I was fortunate enough to find a supportive Catholic community near my home and I count it as a blessing, because such a community is truly uncommon today. I didn’t have to grapple with my gay orientation for too long. I was accepting of who I was from the beginning, which was a blessing and a grace in many ways, though I did feel the sting of rejection from a place that was supposed to be my home. I consider my brothers and sisters who have not been as fortunate and I feel compassion for those men and women who struggle with self-hatred and condemn themselves to a life of secrecy, those who are constantly bombarded with messages telling them they are freaks. I think of the kids being bullied at school who then go to mass with their parents and hear anti-gay remarks. I wonder how many teenagers who kill themselves also went to church with their parents and heard those things. And mostly, I wonder where God is in the midst of all this.

    Read the full article, “Finding God in Gay” here: http://practicalchristians.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/stephen-fratello-learning-to-find-god/

  9. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM May 10, 2014 / 2:03 pm

    When I was deciding who I would ask to be my godmother for Confirmation, I thought long and hard. In a Mexican family, godparents are serious considerations that can initiate family unrest if not properly chosen. So I considered “playing it safe” and asking my grandmother. No one would question that decision. But I wanted to make sure my godmother would fulfill the duties of knowledgeable, spiritual mentor. My grandmother could not read or write although I saw her painfully practice writing her name. She was born in Puebla, Mexico in 1900. Her mother (my great grandmother) had children with four different men and wasn’t married to any of them. And even if any of them wanted to marry, the institutional church of the time frowned on it because my great grandmother was considered no better than a prostitute – she was a circus performer. She contracted tuberculosis when my grandmother was a child. One of her sons went to the local rectory to pick some medicinal herbs from the garden in hopes of a cure, or at least some relief. One of the priests caught him and beat him emphasizing that the herbs weren’t for scum like her. When my great grandmother died, it was expected that my grandmother’s godparents would care for her; instead they sold her to a rich family as an indentured servant. She was regularly beaten. She slept in the kitchen where she heard the rats scurrying around at night. It was a miserable life for a little girl. Eventually her half brothers, sisters and cousins “kidnapped” her and sent her and her sister to the United States to a better future. Her half siblings all converted to Protestant churches because of the abuse of that priest and RCC scandals that they witnessed during the Revolution. So I asked her, “Grandma, the Catholic Church treated you and the family so badly. And my uncles and aunts went to other churches. Why did you stay Catholic?” Her reply was “Oh, mija. That wasn’t the Church. Those were just some men.” What an awesome, wise woman. Every time I have thought, “Enough!” I remember my grandmother. But I know everyone has their own, unique experiences. And I pray for all who are bullied, tired and struggling. I keep you in prayer. Terence Weldon, I keep you in prayer. I ask for your prayers for the RCC. Someday there will be reconciliation for the shameful sins of institutional sexism and homophobia. And the Examination of Conscience will not only pertain to my brothers and sisters in the religious life, it will also pertain to all of us who have witnessed sexism and homophobia in our RCC and did nothing to stop it. Blessings.

    • Ghosty Wolfe May 10, 2014 / 6:07 pm

      It odd how things happened. When I went to Catholic school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Southern California, the Sisters spoke about the problems of the Churches history. The Crusades, the inquisition, etc. I remember how proud they were that those days were over and the Church didn’t do those things anymore. Vatican II had happened and a new day was dawning. We (the Church) admitted our failings, faced the world with courage and love. Hateful wars, terrible incidents of racism and bigotry, Anti-Semitism – those days were past. John the 23rd had brought a humanity to the pontifical seat and the sisters emphasized love, tolerance and respect in their lives and in their teachings. I really respected and loved those ladies. The head of the convent, Sr Elaine, spent extra time with me when my family was having problems. I will never forget her kindness. It made a huge impact on me. She spent the better part of a whole day with me, in her office, just talking with me and listening to my problems…I was 11 years old. Some boys had bullied me. She was such a wonderful lady. I truly believe it’s because of those ladies (which, coincidentally were called the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart) that I keep some hope lit for the RCC. It’s odd because all of the sisters at my school were excommunicated the summer of my 7th grade year (something to do with the Sisters objecting to rules that wouldn’t benefit the children and communities they worked with). The head of the Order at that time was Mother Superior Anita. It was a large order. 300 women were gone when all was said and done. A couple years after the excommunication happened, I managed to get a hold of Sr. Elaine. We spent a day together. We did lunch but it was on a Sunday and she took me to Mass. She explained she couldn’t take communion because of the excommunication but insisted that I take communion. She was keeping her vows and told me not to give up hope in the RCC. I was angry over the Sisters being booted but… She was adamant that it was not my issue and me to please stay faithful. She said the problem was between her, her Order and the Vatican and it did not and should not effect me and my relationship with the Church. Do you know I have looked for Sr. Elaine for years! Both Sr. Elaine and my homeroom teacher, Sr. Theresa – They made such a difference in my life! That was over 45 years ago so don’t know if they’re still with us BUT I heard a few of the Sisters (in Los Angeles – My sisters were in Santa Barbara) accommodated the RCC demands and remained in the Order. They relocated to the Midwest. I know Sr. Elaine truly missed the convent… I’ve always wanted to thank her for her kindness and when I saw I.H.M. next to your name .. I thought .. If those letters stand for an order you’re in and it’s related to the one I knew as a child – Perhaps I could, in a way, send a thank you through you. If I’m completely off base it has nothing to do with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart – my apologies but… Thank you for sharing with us. You sure SOUND like the Sisters that taught me as well. Loving and accepting. Blessings!😀

      • Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM May 13, 2014 / 4:28 pm

        Sorry it has taken so long to reply. I was educated by the IHM’s in Los Angeles. I went to St. Vibiana’s Elementary, Our Lady Queen of Angels High School and Immaculate Heart College. I was a sophomore in high school when Cardinal Mac Intyre gave the ultimatum to the IHM’s to go back to living with Pre Vatican guidelines or face harsh consequences. The IHM’s were a pontifical order which meant they answered directly to the Pope. The cardinal didn’t care. The Pope could say whatever he pleased, but the Cardinal decided who lived in his convents and who taught in his schools. You can read about that time in Witness to Integrity by Anita Caspary, IHM. It is available online. It is excellent. In addition to the grief that was caused to the nuns, Our Lady Queen of Angels High School was closed although the Office of Education promised our parents that the mass exodus of teachers would have no effect. We were advised that Queen of Angels was being “incorporated” with Bishop Conaty High School. In addition, the doors of many other high schools were closed to the girls from OLQA. That experience taught me the heartless, legalistic shadow of the hierarchy. I also learned the fear that permeates the religious orders. It was very difficult to find any orders of nuns or priests that would openly support the stand of the IHM’s. But even that hurtful life lesson brought about the precious beauty of those who did support us, regardless of consequences from the hierarchy. There were wonderful, courageous friends like Bishop Remi de Roo. The Immaculate Heart Community now numbers about 160 members with new members joining every year. If you live in Southern or Central California, I invite you to visit our retreat center, Casa de Maria in Montecito, CA. There are some IHM’s there who would be happy to talk to you. Bendiciones.

      • Barbara May 13, 2014 / 8:26 pm

        Rosa, you might be interested to know that Remi de Roo has just celebrated his 90th b.d. and is still going strong in promoting Vat 2! 🙂 He welcomed Sr Margaret Rowe into the Diocese in 1968 or 69 to establish a small community of contemplative Sisters. I joined that group in 1970. Remi has suffered much for his committment to the Gospel and Social Justice, but seems to maintain a deep spirituality that repels bitterness and conflict. I have learned much from him.

  10. Barbara May 10, 2014 / 5:28 pm

    Rosa, I’m sitting here tearfully with that little girl who became your grandmother. She will never be canonized, but she is a true follower of Jesus and one I can admire and imitate.

    It seems to me that if the Vatican, and the hierarchy, and all the structures we know, fall apart and crumble into dust – the Christian Communities will continue, inspired and nurtured by women like your grandma.

    Thank you for sharing your family story.

  11. peterananda June 4, 2014 / 8:02 pm

    I’m not a Catholic but, for what it’s worth, many years ago, around 1969 I think, when Gay Liberation was just seeing the light of day, the thought came to me, about homosexuality, literally: “Anything so despised and rejected has to be the cornerstone of the whole arch.” For what it’s worth . . .

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