On the First Sunday of Advent this year, the Always Our Children (AOC) ministry of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC sponsored a meeting entitled, “Catholic and Homosexual: Is There a Place in the Church for Me?” Named after an earlier pastoral letter by the U.S. Bishops directed toward parents of homosexual children, this AOC ministry is one of the few that continues to attempt to meet the needs of gay and lesbian Catholics in the nation’s capital.
Given the Church’s official pronouncements about gay men and women in recent years, the question — “Is there a place for me in the Church?” — is at least an honest one. Ever since the Ratzinger-directed shift to the right in Catholic magisterial pronouncements, especially with the Vatican’s 1986 pastoral document on ministry to homosexual persons, offical Catholicism has put forth statements causing gay Catholics to ponder this question more and more: Do I really belong here? Are the doors of the Church open to me and am I welcome in this community of faith and at the Lord’s Table?
Msgr. Richard Burton (yes, his real name!) began the gathering at St. Matthew’s by giving an overview of the U.S. Bishops’ most recent document on “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,” noting that the bishops end their statement with a section entitled, “Concluding Remarks: A Respectful Dialogue.” I was pleased and grateful that the Cathedral parish in our nation’s capital had the courage to host such a gathering, which Msgr. Burton considered to be a “semi-private dialogue.”
In their conclusion the bishops note: “At the same time, it is important that Church ministers listen to the experiences, needs, and hopes of the persons with a homosexual inclination to whom and with whom they minister” [emphasis added]. Noting that, “Dialogue provides an exchange of information, and also communicates a respect for the innate dignity of other persons and a respect for their consciences,” I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the bishops themselves participating in such dialogues in the future.