Can I be Catholic and Gay?

Catholics with SSA grapple with many questions as they try make sense of who they are, how God loves them and whether they have a place in the Church. Some of these questions might be: Can I be Catholic even though I am gay? How do I live my Christian faith? Do I have a place in Church? Does God still love me as I am?

In her talk, ‘Gay and Catholic,’ Eve Tushnet offers some thoughts that can help us answer these questions. Among her main points are the following (paraphrased):

How do we talk about homosexuality to those who are gay and their families? Our conversations must begin by being open to listening to them. This will help them speak freely because they can trust and confide.

In Scripture opposite sex and same sex love are used as models of our relationship to God. Opposite sex love is presented in marriage and sexual fidelity. Same sex love is in friendship.

Gay people can live Christian life and love if they understand their vocation. For Tushnet, vocation is where God is calling you to receive love and to give love to others. It is not just about the married, religious or priestly vocations. She reflects on a vocation of friendship for gay people. This vocation is about being intimate with another person but this intimacy is not physical intimacy. We see this kind of intimacy practised in families and among friends. This kind of intimacy is expressed in care when there is giving and receiving of love from one another. Such is how the vocation of friendship expresses itself best.

The vocation of same sex love expressed through friendship — not sex — is beautiful and holy. Friendship can be a relationship of sacrificial love, and this can shape how Catholics with SSA in how they live as a celibate Christian, still one with the Church. Such a vocation can help them flourish in ministry as they serve with Jesus. Such a vocation of friendship lived sacrificially for others can help people with SSA to live lives of service, for example, in celibate partnerships (like monastic communities where hospitality is practised) or in intentional communities where friendship is lived fully. These are ways to live chastely. They are opposed to the gay lifestyle that is characterised by sex.

The above invite gay Christians to live the realities of their faith and their homosexuality, and so have a fruitful life. Often most gay people are trying to answer the question ‘What do I do with my desire?’ For gay Christians, the more important question is ‘How am I called to love?’ The focus should be the vocation of the gay Christian — it is the vocation of friendship lived sacrificially for others.

This invitation for gay Christians to live a vocation of friendship fully, freely and chastely challenges us to think of how the Church, families, non-SSA people and society can support those who want to live this vocation of friendship in practical ways. For example, can married people reach out to and support single gay people by including them into family life? Will companies extend compassionate leave to people with SSA so that they can care for other people with SSA?

You can listen to her talk here:

Having listened to Eve Tushnet, here are some points for your reflection and prayer this week:

  • Can you recall someone who offered you a listening ear when you needed to share your struggles as a person with SSA, or gave you a safe space to be yourself? If you met this person tomorrow, what would you want to say to this person about how his/her action affected or touched you?
  • How do you feel about Tushnet’s points that “The vocation of same sex love expressed through friendship — not sex — is beautiful and holy” and this “Friendship can be a relationship of sacrificial love” to help you “live as a celibate Christian, still one with the Church” and flourishing in ministry serving with Jesus?
  • For Tushnet, “vocation is where God is calling you to receive love and give love to others” which is best lived by people with SSA in the form of “a vocation of friendship”. Such a vocation is characterised by an intimacy of love that cares for others and allows others to care for you. Do you wish wish to live such a life as a Catholic with SSA? Spend some time with Jesus and share with him your thoughts and feelings living such a vocation.

Words of Encouragement for this week

“Ask Christ to help you become happy.” – St Paul Miki