Are the U.S. Bishops Ready to See Us?

Patrick Flores |

We merely ask that they realize Church doctrine applies to us as well. We are queer, but we are human persons, made in the image and likeness of God.

Let’s imagine, for a moment that you’re a close companion of Jesus. The rabbi’s divinity has been, in many ways, hidden from you. Present there all along, but hard to see, given the circumstances. He does call himself the Son of Man, after all, not the Son of God.

Then comes the Transfiguration, the subject of this Sunday’s gospel reading. Up on the mount, Jesus, the same person as before, is revealed to be more than you had previously seen. “This is my beloved son,” a voice from the cloud says, “listen to him.”

Some recalculations are in order. And with hindsight, when the rest of the story is told, the wholeness of Jesus, fully God and fully man takes shape.

Now let’s imagine, for a moment, that the inherent goodness in LGBTQ identities and relationships had been hidden from you. You have grown up in an age and community when gay and lesbian people were villified and feared. You are told that trans people are a threat, from people you trust more than any other, that they are coming along with same-sex couples for the rights you hold dearest. To practice your faith with integrity and be safe in moments of vulnerability.

Then comes the moment we find ourselves in today. LGBTQ people can be seen and celebrated in the media and queer people of faith become more visible than you had previously noticed. “We have always been here,” they say, “take a look at what you have missed.”

Some recalculations might be in order. Where you might have once seen a threat, faithful relationships, vibrant and diverse identities, strong and lifegiving families take shape.

We are at such a moment in today’s Catholic Church.

The U.S. Congress is poised to pass the Equality Act, banning discrimination against people based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Despite this being exactly what the Catechism calls for, (CCC # 2358), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out strongly against it.

As queer Catholics, we would like to invite the U.S. bishops to journey up the mount with us, and see if some recalculations are in order. To see our lives for all that they are, not just what they have previously seen. To paraphrase Catholic and gay activist Bill Kraus, we merely ask that an institution which talks an awful lot about human rights, recognize that the queer people of this country, are also human.

Allow me to spoil some of the surprise. 

You are going to find so much joy - the LGBTQ community is such an expressive and heartfelt place of celebration. You will encounter trans and non-binary lives of such incredibly depth, dignity and fidelity, same-sex relationships of such grace and altruism they can only be described as life-giving, and a whole host of diverse identities - asexual, pansexual, aromantic, genderqueer - it will be like “discovering” a new continent and realizing how diverse God’s creation really is. There all along, but seen by you for the first time.

At Vine and Fig we are not asking for any bishops to refute or change Church doctrine. We merely ask that they realize Church doctrine applies to us as well. We are queer, but we are human persons, made in the image and likeness of God. Our Church is universal enough to include queer people. Some of us are called to family life, some are not. Calling our love, our pursuit of family “intrinsically disordered” because Church leaders haven’t taken the time to understand us is where they have missed the mark. But we are more than willing to show them the fullness of truth present in our lives.

But we need our bishops and priests to realize that they currently target children for bullying and harassment and even violence. Such treatment is the logical and foreseeable consequence of telling the world that we are a threat to social values, are attacking the nuclear family, and even the Church itself, how do they expect people to treat us? I have only ever been harassed and bullied by Christians and their motivation to do so came from clergy who taught them to fear me. That children who grew up like me with an acute sense of their otherness must be stopped. And so conversion therapy is still rampant with in the Church and Catholic schools strip queer children of role models so that they can never see themselves as healthy, happy, and whole adults. 

To ensure a child can never envision themselves growing up is the very definition of the harassment they claim to stand against. The Church must do better.

And not seeing a queer individual as a whole person deeply affects our psyche, just as it does for any human. Attempting to silo off a key part of our humanity and demonize it will inevitably teach us to hate ourselves just as the culture does. If the bishops would like to know why young queer people experience suicide as such higher rates than the rest of society, they should try reading the Catechism again.

And if the Church wants to stand up as pro-life and pro-family, they’re going to have to take a good long look in the mirror and see where the bullying and violence and harassment of LGBTQ people is coming from.

Parents who love their queer children and teach them they are beautiful creations will save lives. Educators who respect their students as capable of discerning and expressing their gender will save lives. Congregants who celebrate the love of their parishioners will save lives. Where Catholics will learn values like this, values that actually save lives is glaringly absent from that statement from the USCCB. 

Maybe the bishops will learn how to save young lives from the Catholics who are already doing it.

Queer people of all ages, all around the world need Catholic bishops to love them more and fear them less. Not a single Catholic intuition need be abandoned to see LGBTQ people as God sees us. Capable of love, of knowing our gender, and of raising families. When the bishops spend enough time with us to see that, then even they will know what needs to be done for queer people to feel truly welcomed in the Church.

So to the U.S. bishops, we invite you to see us. Queer people are already faithfully present in all levels of the Church. Up here on the mount of a new era, are you willing to see more than you could previously? Our whole humanity and goodness, worthy of protection in a country and church where we can finally say together, “it is good that we are here.”