With June in its final days, Pride Month is ending, and with it, the parades and celebrations in which many Catholics have participated.
One gay Catholic, Matthew Hawley, wrote about his experiences attending Pride festivities for the first time as approaches something “adjacent to pride when it comes to my sexuality.” In The Huffington Post, Hawley explained his journey to becoming gay, Catholic, and proud.
Raised in a traditional Boston Catholic family who regularly attended Mass, his mom a Catholic school principal, Hawley, 24 years old, came out as gay only a few years ago. Before telling his family, he went to Eucharistic adoration to “talk about it with God”:
“I went to adoration when I decided to embark on Operation: Find a Man. I feared God would be angry, but instead I distinctly felt God encouraging me.
“The next day I got a call from my mom at work. She said she’d gone to Church that morning and felt there was something troubling me that I hadn’t told her about. I struggled to hold the phone. I’ve never felt so assured that God was in the Eucharist.
“As I came out to family and friends over the course of the next year and a half, the response was varied — from unconditional love, to those who feared for my soul because now I was going to hell to blatant rejection. Many kept asking: ‘Why?’ “
In a separate piece at Elite Daily,Hawley explored the reactions to his coming out from Catholics in his life. His mother was affirming, and focused instead on whether Healey would become a priest and, if not, then what about grandchildren. Other responses were critical, encouraging him to seek help or telling him they could not support him.
Since coming out as gay, people in Hawley’s life began asking a new question familiar to many LGBT Catholics: why did he remain in the church? He answered by differentiating the institutional church from the people of God:
“I would like to think the Catholic Church will one day change its mind, but it’s almost irrelevant because the Catholic Church has been wrong about a great many things. I grew up in a time when Boston was littered with sexual abuse victim stories daily. I know the Catholic Church would rather people in Africa die of AIDS than give them contraception. I know the Church is still incredibly and shamefully sexist in almost every regard.
“But that is the Church. And to be honest, I hate the Catholic Church as much as anyone. Catholicism has not lasted for 2,000 years because of priests or the institution. In fact it has lasted in spite of both. Its longevity stems from millions of people across the world who still connect to the beliefs of forgiveness, do unto others what you want done, and the self-sacrificing love of our creator.”
Hawley said he now better understands what pride means, having jettisoned the false dichotomy of his youth that he could only be gay or Catholic. He wrote:
“When I came out, God reached out to me to say you can be both.
“That is why I’m proud: I reached back. I have incorporated my sexuality into my whole being. It does not define me. I am proud to be gay and Catholic. That is not simply a fact. It is an accomplishment. In spite of my surroundings, I proclaimed that I want to find happiness with a man. In spite of the world, I maintained my faith. I did that, and I am proud.”
Being LGBT, faithful, and proud is an experience many Catholics have celebrated this month. In Boston, where I attended Pride celebrations, I visited an exhibit booth for three welcoming Catholic parishes organized under the name Greater Boston Rainbow Catholics. Their banner, which people were invited to sign, read, “I am a proud LGBTQ Catholic and I pray the church would love me more.” I cheered on Dignity/Boston’s contingent marching in the parade, followed by some smaller Eucharistic communities.
In this one city, LGBT Catholics and their allies affirmed God’s love for all people and celebrated their love for one another. And this Catholic affirmation happened in cities and in communities across the world. There were even Pride parades in the traditionalist Catholic nations of Poland and Croatia, reported Crux.
A New Ways Ministry supporter has informed us that there will be a contingent of LGBT Catholics and Friends in the New York LGBT Pride March on June 26th, marching behind the following banner:
The organizers are inviting all LGBT and Ally Catholics in New York to join them. If you are interested in walking with the group, please send an email to: info@NewWaysMinistry.org. You will receive more detailed information in response to your email.
While we grapple still with the violence in Orlando and, for Catholics, the church’s mixed response, may the final Pride celebrations this weekend be places where Catholics can affirm every person living as their authentic self as the path to true holiness. Or, to quote the Boston welcoming parishes’ theme, itself a quote from St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who you were meant to be and you will set the world on fire.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry