As Pride Month Concludes, Celebrating LGBT, Catholic, and Proud

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Matthew Hawley

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.

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Franciscan friars at Boston Pride

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.”

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Dignity marchers in Boston Pride

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:

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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

5 thoughts on “As Pride Month Concludes, Celebrating LGBT, Catholic, and Proud

  1. amagjuka June 24, 2016 / 6:52 am

    Since I consider it a great evil for people to make LGBT people feel “less than,” I think of LGBTdiscrimination when I ponder THE question, Why Does Evil Exist in the World?. The best I have come up with regarding evil is that we are presented with evil to see what each of us will do, how we will act. Will we act from love, or fear and judgment? I remember the first time I visited the Holocaust Museum. I was overcome with despair when faced with Man’s Inhumanity to Man. But near the end, there was a wall with portraits. When you read the bios, the wall celebrates individuals who took action for love–hiding Jewish people, doing what they could. THIS is the hope against evil! Some act from deep faith and love. Mr. Rogers’ Mom taught him that when faced with scary things, to “look for the helpers.” Sometimes I think the church focuses on LGBT sexual behavior when we should be stressing how each Catholic must become a helper. We must get back to individual conscience formation. Because if one is disciplined in faith, dedicated to doing “the most loving act,” I believe that most Catholics will conclude that the most loving acts do not include isolating, marginalizing, bullying, rejecting, judging, firing, jailing, or executing. It certainly does not include gunning down 49 people. It is complex, but it is also so very simple. We are called to love. We are called to support, and to break bread. I am happy that Matthew Hawley has his “wall” of support, of his “helpers.” This is what we must cling to. Although I do not know Matt personally, I would like to add my name to his wall. Catholics must stand and be counted. This is the hope of the church.

  2. Loretta June 24, 2016 / 8:27 am

    St. Francis de Sales, “Be who you are and be that well.”

  3. Michael Holtz June 24, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    Congratulations, Matthew! I am excited to see young LGBT Catholics awakening in this day of possibilities. May you have a wonderful journey in life, to include finding a husband to share it, and children should you chose to adopt.

    I was fortunate to meet my husband at Mass back in 1986. We’ve been partners since 1988 and married in 2012. Our faith has been an instrumental component of our relationship, and I daily feel God’s grace through the love and support of my husband. You, too, will find someone to share your journey; give it time and don’t worry.

    • Friends June 24, 2016 / 11:01 pm

      Such a beautiful statement, Michael! I’m reminded, over and over again, of the case of Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was “hell-on-wheels” against gay Catholics, but who also personally dressed and presented himself in “High Drag” costuming — including his garb in the long-train “Capa Magna”, along with his sporting of ornate fancy gloves, whenever he appeared in public liturgical events. Pope Francis was eventually “on to” Burke’s crazy costuming antics — and Francis busted him out of his extravagant drag lifestyle, and exiled him to a sinecure position in a minor charity with the Knights Of Malta. So in spite of the sometimes vexing ambiguities of his published discourses, Pope Francis seems to me to be the most deeply inspired and compassionate Pope we’ve seen since the reign of Pope St. John XXIII. NO Pope is perfect in dealing with our existential issues as GLBT Catholics — but Francis strikes me as one of the best and most compassionate Popes we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

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