San Diego bishop celebrates special Mass for parents of L.G.B.T. Catholics

People pray during Mass Oct. 7 at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Diego (CNS photo/David Maung). People pray during Mass Oct. 7 at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Diego (CNS photo/David Maung).

Members of the Catholic L.G.B.T. community and their families gathered in a San Diego church on Saturday to celebrate Mass and observe the 20th anniversary of a letter from bishops meant to address the pastoral needs of Catholic parents with gay and lesbian children.

“‘Always Our Children’ was written at a time when good and faithful churchgoing Catholics were witnessing society quickly change before their eyes and the church seemed—in their eyes—to stand still,” Bishop John Dolan, an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, preached at St. John the Evangelist Church, located in San Diego’s historically gay-friendly Hillcrest neighborhood.

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The U.S. bishops’ committee on marriage and family released the letter “Always Our Children” in 1997 as an attempt to encourage parents not to abandon their gay and lesbian children and to assure them of God’s love. It received mixed reactions at the time, with some Catholics decrying it as a capitulation to the still-nascent gay rights movement while others said it did not go far enough to combat bigotry in the church and wider society.

The U.S. bishops the letter “Always Our Children” in 1997 as an attempt to encourage parents not to abandon their gay and lesbian children.

During his homily, Bishop Dolan recalled the varying results some Catholic parents experienced when seeking pastoral advice from priests about how they should respond when a child came out as gay or lesbian.

“In many of these encounters with pastors, parents were met with love and compassion as they discussed their children’s ‘new way of life,’ while—sadly—others were met with words of condemnation; even if the hard words of their pastors were meant to express truths regarding their children,” he said.

Aaron Bianco, a pastoral associate at the parish who planned the event, said he was heartened by the number of families and L.G.B.T. Catholics who attended the Mass—including a couple of dozen Catholics from Palm Springs, Calif., who drove three hours to attend.

“You could see people crying,” he told America, recalling how one person in attendance confided to him that he had not been to Mass in nearly three decades. He said some parents, especially from the Hispanic community, had told him they felt as though they had to distance themselves either from their church or from their gay children, a choice he tells them they do not need to make.

Bishop Dolan used part of his homily to urge sincere dialogue, which he acknowledged can be difficult when discussing heated topics.

“We want them to know you don’t do either. You can love your child and be an active member in the church,” he said.

While the Mass was originally advertised for the parents of gays and lesbians, in honor of the original letter, many gay and lesbian Catholics also attended after diocesan and parish staff reached out to the L.G.B.T. community.

Kyle Escobar-Humphries, who attended the Mass with his husband, told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “It’s important because my kids have two gay dads and I would like for them to understand that this church is open for everybody.

“I want them to understand how to treat each other equally,” he continued.

Bishop Robert McElroy, who leads the diocese, also attended the Mass. He told the Union-Tribune that the Mass was a response to Pope Francis’ call for the church to serve everybody.

“Pope Francis is calling us to reach out to everyone with a message of radical inclusion.”

“Pope Francis is calling us to reach out to everyone with a message of radical inclusion,” he said. “Sadly, there has been an estrangement and an alienation with L.G.B.T. people, and the church needs to take steps to heal that.”

The event came at a time when some Catholics are debating how welcoming the church should be to Catholics who do not adhere to church teaching on sexuality. The debate received a jolt of energy in 2013 when Pope Francis asked, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests. It was renewed more recently with the publication of Building a Bridge by James Martin, S.J., an editor at large at America, in which he argues that church leaders should be more welcoming to L.G.B.T. Catholics and that they in turn should be more respectful toward church leaders.

That book has set up a sharp debate, with several cardinals and bishops, including Bishop McElroy, endorsing the book’s message, but it has also received a wave of negative feedback from some critics, who argue that the book does not more fully explain Catholic belief that sex between two people of the same gender is a sin.

Bishop Dolan used part of his homily to urge sincere dialogue, which he acknowledged can be difficult when discussing heated topics.

“Twenty years later, the dialogue and discourse continues, but it isn’t always fruitful or civil. The unshaking ideologies of people without and within the L.G.B.T. community are daily blogged, tweeted and Facebooked in ad hominem, yellow-journalistic, fake-news style where now the mysteries of Christ and the Good News are lost and good people are directly or indirectly hurt,” he said. “Such rhetoric has to stop!”

“Ad hominem attacks and lies about those with whom we disagree must always be avoided,” he continued. “As our Catechism states, ‘If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.’ Civil discourse and fruitful dialogue cannot be forfeited by those who uphold the teachings of the church and/or by those who struggle to incorporate our teachings within their personal lives.”

Mr. Bianco said he had received multiple threats in the weeks leading up to the Mass.

The Mass itself, which was attended by more than 400 people, was not without controversy.

Mr. Bianco said he had received multiple threats from people posting on Catholic websites in the weeks leading up to the Mass and that the tires on his car had been slashed in the church parking lot. As a result, more than three dozen police officers were on hand in case of violence.

But in the end, only a small group of protesters gathered outside the church, distributing pamphlets decrying the message of “Always our Children,” according to the Union-Tribune.

One protester accused the church of watering down its teaching on sexuality.

“The church is bending with the times and with the pervasiveness of homosexual activism throughout the country and indeed the globe,” Allyson Smith told the newspaper. “And we feel the church should stand strong as a bulwark against cultural trends.... Our concern today is the church is becoming too accommodating to homosexuality.”

But Mr. Bianco said that in his eyes the Mass was a success.

“Members of the community know that at St. John’s, in the neighborhood where they live, the doors are wide open and we’re always welcoming them,” he said.

Henry George
1 week 5 days ago

Can someone please explain to me, and anyone else who may have the same question, whether people who are "gay" can ever find the opposite
gender to be of romantic interest.

It seems to me that we are being told that people are born "gay" and thus are created "gay" by God and therefore their way of living has/must be
accepted by all those who believe in God.

Or is it that "gayness" arises from Original Sin - where all of Creation is distorted by the sin of Adam and so nature does not always cooperate.

I also wonder what will happen to gays in the future, having read a survey in a "Progressive" Magazine that 90 % of those who responded said that if they were a way to tell if a Child was going to be "born gay" they would have the baby aborted.

Will "gays" just be medically eliminated either through abortion or
gene therapy ?

What then of tolerance and understanding ?

J Brookbank
1 week 2 days ago

Henry - What publication printed the statistic you mention?

The only thing I could find was a an article on eugenics in an American University Law School publication (THE MOdern American, 2006) that built a hypothetical argument comparing in utero genetic testing for Down's Syndrome and (potential) in utero genetic testing for homosexuality, which then references a George Will column in the Washington Post which quotes a statistic that 80-90% of pregnancies determined to have genetic markers for Down's Syndrome are aborted.

Thus, the author of the American University *essay* (it was not a study nor a survey; it was a philosophical exercise) made up statistic that 90% would abort following prenatal testing that revealed genetic markers for homosexuality. It was not an endorsement of the termination of pregnancies in either case; it was an argument that we need to "educate, promote, and accept all forms of diversity — including homosexuality" and persons with Down's Syndrome. Its focus is eugenics, not homosexuality; and many would argue that it creates any number of false equivalencies between life with Down's Syndrome and life as an LGBT person and the fears of pregnant parents in the hypothetical instance of in utero test results of genetic markers of homosexuality.

Nonetheless, I could find no such actual survey or study and no such actual statistic.

I saw some other citations on the web which ran along the lines of that same hypothetical and a Libertarian site that posed the question. basically, of whether pro-choice voters equivocate on choice if the reason for abortion was predicted sexual orientation and received less than two dozen responses. Most of it is "gotcha!" writing, intended to catch out the gay community and its allies in logical inconsistencies. It is sophomoric.

There is a fellow from the American Family Association who has extremist conservative ideas who seemed to be quoting that hypothetical statistic from the 2006 American University eugenics essay. He is also stated this ""Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews." - Bryan Fischer Web post, "Homosexuality, Hitler, and ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" 2010 (source, The Southern Poverty Law Center). He is a bigot and extremist and hyperbolist.

I would be interested to know what "progressive" publication published or cited the stats you mention.

Ken Spreitzer
1 week 5 days ago

Hi, I'll take a stab at answering your question. As background: I'm gay -- actually I guess I'm slightly bi-sexual, because I can be attracted to both sexes (physically/sexually, emotionally, romantically). However, my ratio is heavily skewed towards guys (99 44/100%?), so I tend to just say "gay" because it's much more representative of my reality.

A famous researcher, Dr. Kinsey, came up with the "Kinsey Scale," which ranges from 0 to 6 and can be useful in these types of discussions. 0 is completely straight, 6 is completely gay, and 3 is completely 50/50 (straight/gay). 1, 2, 4, and 5 are proportionally mixed as you would expect. I guess I'd be a 5.something. :) I do find *some* women attractive, but it's few and far between,

Having said that, I think most gay people would identify as a 6, and have no romantic attraction to the opposite sex. I do find this subject interesting, and I'll sometimes ask other gay friends (men) if they're ever had sex with someone of the opposite sex. Probably 50% of the replies have been along the lines of, "Eww! No! Gross!" That's a pretty over-dramatic reply, but is sincere and accurate. Probably 30% just say, "No". Maybe 20% say either "Yes, I have and it was fine" or "No, but I'm not opposed to it."

This seems like an appropriate time to be pedantic, so I'll say that anyone who says "Yes" or "No but I would" must be, by definition, bi-sexual. But it would be sort of misleading to use that term, since these people are no longer pursuing the opposite sex (such as in my case).

So the short (and least misleading) answer to your question is, "No." Gay people aren't attracted to the opposite sex. That's why they're gay. :)

Allow me to take a moment to mention that I believe that being gay is not a choice. I know that I never made that choice! It's completely natural to me: I see an attractive guy, and I am immediately attracted. I don't have to think about it. It's as natural as breathing. (Indeed, studies have shown that sexual attraction for all people is located deep in the brain, in the same area that handles automatic functions such as breathing.)

There's no conclusive, single answer as to the "cause" of homosexuality, although there are a lot of interesting studies and facts. For example, in the case of identical twins, if one twin is gay, the odds are only 75% that the other one will be. If the twins are fraternal, then the likelihood drops to about 54%. This seems to imply that it is heavily influenced, but not completely controlled, by genes. (Interestingly, the numbers are about the same when you talk about right-handed vs left-handed twins.) It has also been shown that the chance of a male child being gay increases as the number of older brothers increases. In other words, the 5th male child in a family is statistically more likely to be gay than the 1st male child in that family. The number of older sisters does not have an influence. One theory for this is that each male child causes the mother to increase her estrogen to compensate for the testosterone of the fetus, and this increased estrogen level remains slightly elevated after birth. Each subsequent male child is exposed to relatively more estrogen during development, and this can nudge the child towards being gay. The best answer so far seems to be that there is a strong genetic basis for being gay, but the hormonal environment (in utero) also influences it.

What has *not* been shown is that upbringing affects it in any way. Which makes sense; sexual orientation and desire are so deep in our core. (If you're straight, doesn't the idea of having sex with someone of the same sex just feel so "icky" and gross?)

The one thing I *know* to be true is that I never chose to be gay. If you have proof otherwise, I'd love to see it! :) I also don't think it's actually in opposition to the Bible, God, or nature. I could go into some detail on that, as there is a lot to say. But let me just say that the idea that God created me to be gay (which I *know* to be true), but He gives me these desires (which are completely natural to me), expects me to be *lonely* my whole life ("it is not good for Man to be alone"), and then condemns me to hell, all because He loves me and never gives anyone more than they can bear, just doesn't make sense; it defies any sense of love or justice.

As for the future and aborting presumed-gay fetuses, I have no insight. The questions you raise are good ones, indeed.

I hope this all made some sort of sense. Thank you for taking the time to read my reply.

J Brookbank
1 week 4 days ago

Ken, I really appreciate your very generous and thoughtful answer.

A few thoughts came to mind: I have one friend who is one of five kids in a Catholic family with parents in an intact and happy marriage and four of the kids are openly gay. Another is from an extended family in which there are three generations of both gay and straight men and women - grandmothers, aunts, cousins, kids with some of the younger family having been raised by straight parents after a gay parent lost custody in the late 20th century because they were gay. No way around it - some families are chockful of gay people despite VERY straight upbringings. And I have gay friends whose kids are straight despite having been raised in social circles with many many gay adults, couples and families. And I am a straight woman who has lived most of my adult life in heavily gay social circles, and I was, am and will remain straight because, at the same time I like living in communities that are safe and supportive of the LGBT community, I am sexually attracted to men and I have consistently liked and enjoyed that part of my identity. My gay friends didn't choose to be gay and I didn't choose to be straight. Most of my gay friends tried to be straight and I was open to the possibility that I was gay but it became clear that we are attracted to who we are attracted to and that basic chemistry was not subject to manipulation by us or anyone else ------ and we all learned that, regardless of the gender of the person to whom we committed, our relationships were pretty much the same in the essentials. Anecdotal, yes, but reality.

J Brookbank
1 week 4 days ago

duplicate

GONZALO PALACIOS
1 week 5 days ago

There was no sexual activity in God's creation of Adam and Eve. There was no sexual activity in God's begetting of Jesus, the New Adam, nor of the New Eve, the Virgin Mary. There is no sexuality involved in the creation of Jesus' Mystical Body. Marriage - not sexual activities - was established as a sacrament by Jesus Himself: for the ministers of that sacrament it is no longer a mere civil "contract". For millenia now, the religions of the world have taught erroneous opinions on human sexuality: the Virgin Mary's fiat taught us differently. Please read Luke's account of Our Lord's conception and then relate it to "Mary, the Unwed Mother of God, or to be perfect is to have changed often, J. H. Newman" (Xulon Press, June 2017). Concentrate on Jesus' one commandment to Love one another. AMDG, Gonzalo T. Palacios, PhD

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