Homosexuality And Catholicism: Being Gay Isn't The Problem

Homosexuality And Catholicism: Being Gay Isn't The Problem

Ah, the Pope has spoken: "If a person is gay, seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" Pope Francis said this weekend on his plane while in Rio de Janeiro. "They should not be marginalized."

He's not saying gay is good; he's saying it can be forgiven if not acted upon. As a priest and father of the Church, it is not his duty to judge but to forgive acts of homosexuality so that we in the gay community should not be marginalized. Boy, I feel so much better... how about you?

This is, from a Catholic point of view, an important statement to come from the Pope.  It’s a 90-degree turn from Pope Benedict's stance that homosexuality is a "disorder."  It looks to many like there's a new, gentler and softer Pope in town.

Well, as a lesbian who was raised Catholic, it seems to me like the same old, same old. And it seems silly to make such a big deal about homosexuality in Catholicism because gays are not the Church's big problem: pedophiles are. The ease with which homosexuals get blamed for child molestation is reminiscent of hated minority groups being stereotyped throughout history as aggressors of the most vulnerable. Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of killing Christian babies, and black men in the United States were accused of raping white women then lynched without a trial.

A few years ago, I was working as the as the Texas Executive Director of a national nonprofit focused on child safety and ending sexual exploitation of children. One of my duties was hiring staff. On one occasion, I was interviewing a young man for a new position, and had a Board Member also participating in the process.

After he left, the Board Member said to me, "I have to ask — not that there’s anything wrong with this — but is he gay?" Now to be clear, I was very much in the closet at that time, and felt I had to be to keep my job. I looked at the Board Member and said, "Yes, obviously he is gay and he's given evidence of that in his community activities noted in his resume. Is that a problem?"

She responded by saying, "Well we can’t hire him. We can't let a homosexual near children; that's not legal."

I almost fell out of my chair. I knew for sure I wasn't coming out of the closet there, and also that it was time to look for a new job. I explained to her that homosexual and pedophile are two very different sexual orientations. 

Pedophilia typically refers to an adult psychological disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners. Does the Catholic Church have a pedophilia problem? Yes, it does. Does it have a gay priest problem? There may be gay priests, but I wouldn't call them the problem. Gay men prefer gay men for sex. And heterosexual men prefer adult women for sex.

Pedophiles prefer children and adolescents, and typically do not have sexual contact with other adults. These are clear markers of the difference between the two, but the tendency for people to mistrust what they don’t know shows up in finger pointing at gays as being the real problem in the Church.

Apart from my time working for the National Center, I grew up in a Catholic family where child abuse was taking place. I had three uncles who all abused children; two of them were priests. One had his name published in the local paper a few years back during a season of "outing pedophile priests" that was going on in the state. This uncle molested both boys and girls and in his final years, hid out and wouldn't speak to anyone in the family. 

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The other priest molested only boys and had an elaborate system for using and "rewarding" them that I learned about from my brother. My youngest uncle molested girls and boys in the neighborhood for years until someone finally called the police and put a stop to it.

These men are now deceased, but the impact on the family was deep, as they abused my brothers and me.  It is important to note that none of them were gay. After years of my own healing work, and stepping into my role at the National Center, I started to learn what pedophilia really is. Gays take the rap, but rarely are gay men the offenders when it comes to child sexual abuse.

I want to thank Pope Francis for saying that we in the gay community no longer need to be marginalized. It's about time. But I think his words have a long way to go: we should be welcomed as full versions of ourselves, not under the conditions that we repent, refuse our lifestyle or take a backseat. And, while we're on the subject of change, I'd love to talk about the marginalization of women, as well. I guess that's a topic for another plane ride.