The Spiritual Harm Caused When LGBT People Are Excluded From Church

An Indiana gay Catholic man has revealed that his pastor asked him to give up his social media advocacy for LGBT equality or resign from his volunteer leadership roles in his parish.

Sam Albano
Sam Albano

In an essay posted this week on the National Catholic Reporter website, Sam Albano described the meeting he had with his pastor last August, and the painful decision he felt forced to make:

“During the course of our meeting, my pastor notified me that I could not publicly disagree with official moral teachings and simultaneously hold positions of leadership within the parish. He asked me how I wished to proceed. It quickly become clear that I could not continue in volunteer parish ministry if I held firm to my convictions on the issues facing LGBT Catholics. My choices were quite limited. As a matter of conscience, I made a heartbreaking decision that afternoon. I resigned my position on the parish council. I resigned my position on the young adult board I had helped to found a year earlier. And I resigned my position as sacristan and eucharistic minister.”

Albano, who also serves as secretary of the Young Adult Caucus of DignityUSA, recognizes that this action is part of the disturbing trend of church firings which have been related to LGBT issues over the past few years, but his concern in the essay is less with the structural problems, and, instead, focuses on the spiritual harm these actions cause.  He observes:

“LGBT people who choose to remain in the church are often subject to attacks upon the genuineness of our faith. Our love for God and our loyalty to the Catholic tradition are frequently and cavalierly called into question. This has served to create an environment in which we cannot honestly discuss our concerns, our spiritual lives, or even our relationship with God.

“Most startling of all, we know that far too many of our LGBT brothers and sisters have parted ways with the church and given up on the Gospel of Jesus Christ altogether. We also know that there are young LGBT people sitting in the pews of every parish, waiting for the church to speak hope to them. And because we are widely failing at this endeavor, their departure too is imminent.”

Albano rings the alarm bell on the pastoral harm that is being caused by LGBT exclusion:

“I think it is reasonable to suggest that we have a pastoral emergency before us. More importantly, we have a pressing moral matter. In the harsh treatment of LGBT Catholics, we have done more than injustice. Indeed, we have erected a substantial stumbling block to knowing Jesus Christ, hearing the Gospel, and living a life of Christian discipleship. We have lost too many of our people: God’s people.”

He calls on all in the church to personally to take the responsibility to do outreach to LGBT people, noting that it may include difficulty for some:

“For some, reaching out to LGBT Catholics might mean taking up a cross. Some will surely find themselves subject to questioning, misunderstanding and suffering. Obedience to the Gospel has posed such a risk in every land and generation. Those who seek to build a better church for LGBT people should be assured that there are many Catholic people who already stand with them in this endeavor.”

Albano recognizes, too, that his own life has been changed by this experience–and his spirituality, too, has been strengthened:

“Some months now stand between me and that warm summer afternoon when I resigned my positions in the parish. I have lost the life I once had as an actively engaged parishioner. My relationship with my faith community of 13 years has suddenly changed.

“But the Christian person recognizes that only in losing our life do we ever truly gain it. I take great hope in the new life that lies ahead of me, although I know nothing about it at this time. And I remain steadfast in my pilgrimage as a gay Catholic man, trusting in God and striving to follow the way of the Gospel. I continue to love my parish. I continue to love my pastor. And I persist in my love for the church. My service to God and to the church has clearly changed, but certainly not ended.”

Only strong faith and courage could have provided this young man with the wisdom to reflect so carefully on this terrible experience, while at the same time helping him recognize important positive paths ahead.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

8 thoughts on “The Spiritual Harm Caused When LGBT People Are Excluded From Church

  1. amagjuka February 28, 2015 / 4:47 am

    The exclusion and marginalization of LGBT people by church officials causes spiritual harm to everyone in the Catholic church. Every time I read about one of these firings, it makes me wonder how I can stay in the church when the official, sanctioned actions of church leaders are in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus. There is a witch hunt happening, and it is wrong. Catholics do not want to be complicit with these actions. So when LGBT people and their supporters are excluded from leadership positions, teaching positions, etc., it causes spiritual harm to every individual in the church, gay or straight.

  2. tom shea February 28, 2015 / 9:43 am

    did his parish community support him in any way???

    • amagjuka February 28, 2015 / 11:45 am

      I agree jono113, for those with the strength to do so, refusing to resign is the way to go. If people go quietly, then it is like any other abuse that does not end. No one really knows what is happening! And having discrimination as an official tenet of our Catholic faith must be understood for what it is. Those Catholics of conscience must speak up, and speak up, and continue speaking up.

  3. jono113 February 28, 2015 / 11:12 am

    Could Sam have accomplished more by refusing to resign? This would have forced the pastor to either back off or openly remove Sam from his positions. By resigning, Sam let the pastor off the hook and he escaped accountability to the parish. Yes, this may have caused some uproar in the parish; but, isn’t that how injustice is brought into the light for all to see?

  4. Anton February 28, 2015 / 12:12 pm

    Why do stories like this remind me of Jesus and Zacchaeus? Zach thought he was TOO SMALL, others thought he was only a money-grubbing sinner, collaborator with the Roman occupier enemy, rejected from his “religious” community, and worthy only of scorn and condemnation. YET, Jesus invited himself into the home of Zacchaeus, recognizing that he, TOO, was a “son of Abraham (and Sarah).” When will the hierarchy and so-called ministers of the Catholic church recognize that Jesus has also called LGBT people into communion with him and invited them to receive and to share “his body and blood” and minister with him in sharing God’s mercy and compassion with all the world, so desperately in need and desiring of God’s LOVE? “EAT, DRINK OF THIS, ALL OF YOU!!” Jesus also learned from the Syro-Phoenician woman, the Canaanite, whom he called a “dog” when she reminded him that dogs get what falls from the table fare offered to the children. Jesus RECOGNIZED her faith, and granted her wish … the healing of her daughter. Gay popes, bishops, priests have been ministering to the church since the very beginning and to this very day. So-called, “straight” parents have brought into the world all our LGBT families. Why does the hierarchy insist on breaking up these families? Is that REALLY God’s will? I doubt it. Thank you Jesus for coming into my home and allowing me to wash your feet with my tears and anoint you with nard before your so-called ministers place you in the grave.

  5. Larry February 28, 2015 / 5:24 pm

    And the priest? Was he really trying to be ideologically pure or was he covering his butt. He did not want to have to explain to his bishop or anyone else who might make him a monsignor why he did not tow the party line. In other words, the priest has no courage in his faith and the gay parishioner who gives his energy to the parish does. I suggest that no one EVER go quietly in these circumstances because silence is the enemy. Let the priest explain his real thinking to the parish and they can decide if he is a worthy leader or not.

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