A reader writes:
I want to share with you an anecdote that I think powerfully illustrates the disconnect between the hierarchy and the sensus fidelium on how LGBT people should be treated by the church.
I was born and raised a very conservative Roman Catholic environment in Texas. This was true for my home, my parish, and the private Catholic school I attended from ages 10 to 18. The liberal Catholics you describe were not only nowhere to be found, I had no idea such people even existed until I moved to Boston during college. The Catholics I grew up around had much more in common culturally and politically with Southern evangelicals than the East Coast lefty Catholics I got to know as an adult. They still do for the most part.
I’ve spent the last several years living in DC and now Brooklyn, but my job has sent me back to the home town in Texas for six weeks of training. Last Thursday, I had dinner with two friends (both about 15 years older than me) from the parish I grew up in. We got to talking about our kids, and one of my friends mentioned that he thinks his daughter (in her early 20s) is probably a lesbian. I have the same impression but don’t know for sure one way or the other (I’m friendly on Facebook with her) and told him so. At this point, I need to explain exactly how conservative this man is. He carries a concealed weapon at all times (not that uncommon in Texas), BUT – he told us that he even carries it to church, because he wants to be ready if ISIS invades through the southern border and attacks our church, which he reasons would be an obvious target (FYI, we are hundreds of miles from the border). He is 100% serious about this. That should give you an idea of where this man is coming from. Now, after he mentioned his suspicion about his daughter’s orientation, our other friend asked him how he would react if she came out to him.
He said that he’d tell her that he doesn’t share with her what he and her mother do in bed, so she doesn’t need to share it with him, but that he loves her and always will. He also told us that he’d respect her more if she came out instead of hiding who she is. One can certainly criticize this reaction, but there can be no question that it is one of unconditional love. We didn’t discuss any matters of church doctrine, but this is the type of attitude that I believe Pope Francis is trying show us we need to take towards our LGBT brothers and sisters: First and always love. This is how everyday Catholics know to treat real people in real life.
Andrew, if the hierarchy has lost my dear friend, who is as right-wing and reactionary as they come, I honestly don’t know who they still have. Both my friend and his daughter love the church and are quite active in it. As you’ve written, Francis is forcing the bishops to finally have a conversation the faithful have been having for years. And I’m beginning to think that the sensus fidelium may be that there’s little left to discuss. We can only pray that Francis succeeds in leading the hierarchy into the light of Truth, the Truth being love. First and always love.
(Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)