“Be Not Afraid”: First Steps for the Queer Catholic

A Catholic confronting for the first time the recognition of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation can find it a seriously threatening experience, believing the dual identity to be irreconcilable. For many people, the only solution is to renounce one or other, by simply leaving the church, or by embracing some kind of ex-gay program. This is entirely unnecessary. There is no inherent contradiction between being Catholic and queer. This site hopes to show some ways in which one can live honest and integrated lives, embracing both these identities in harmony, and not in conflict. For the person just starting out on this journey, here are the first steps you should take, with some posts and pages I recommend  as primary reading. (There’s no need to follow all the links. Use as few, or as many, as you like. For starters, cherry pick just those that most interest you – or follow each on, and then the further links they contain. )

For All Christians

There are some basic steps that are applicable to many other Christian denominations, and not to Catholics alone. I have summarized these at “Be Not Afraid”: First Steps for the Queer Christian.(In Preparation). This post concentrates on the (Roman) Catholic Church specifically.

Recognize the Contradictions

For those who are dealing with the Catholic church specifically, it is also useful to recognise that for all its apparently homophobic teaching, in its internal culture it is in fact a Homoerotic Catholic Church. It could also be helpful to know that for all the negative material that has come from the modern Vatican, there have in fact been several popes who have either enjoyed their own sexual relationships with men, or who have protected relatives who have done so, or who have lavished generous papal commissions on notable gay artists to produce frankly homoerotic art. Read about some of these in Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites.

Welcome the Transformation Underway

It is important though to understand the more serious side of Catholic theology, and how it is changing. There is a lot to make one angry in formal Catholic teaching, but also a great deal to treasure. I present my personal perspective on this in The Magisterium and Me, and summarise another point of view at  Gay Catholics and the Church in Four Dimensions.

Welcome the Transformation Underway

In the wider Christian church, there is a widespread and fundamental transformation under way of Christian Responses to homosexuality. This will inevitably also have an impact on the orthodox teaching and practice of the Catholic Church on homoerotic sexuality. However, there are also pressures building inside the Catholic Church, as I noted in discussing the views of theologian James Alison, in “Discovery of Gay = Good News For The Church“. It is not only teaching on queer sexuality that must and will change, but that on human sexuality in general – for the simple reason that there is now a huge disconnect between teaching and what Catholics actually do believe. This is important, as orthodox Catholic teaching on the sensus fidelium proclaims that unless something is accepted by “the church as a whole”, it cannot be taken to be valid as doctrine.

Know What Others Have Done

Fr James Martin SJ, at America magazine once posed the important question “What is a Gay Catholic to Do?”, which I summarised here. The page What Gay Catholics Have Done has links to a number of responses – what other gay Catholics have done. The writer Dugan McGinley “Acts of Faith, Acts of Love” describes gay Catholic biographies as “sacred texts”. He is right – we can learn a lot from the experience of others who have undergone the journey to self-acceptance. Read as many as you can find.

Find and Participate in a Supportive Faith Community

Get to know other real live gay and lesbians of faith. If there is one near you, join other LGBT Catholics for Mass, or at other functions, or in local support groups. If you cannot meet in person, try meeting on-line, for example at the Catholic group at Gay Christian Network, or in the comments threads of the very many blogs/websites now emerging for LGBT Catholics.

Keep Reading, Keep Sharing

Understand that making a place for gay and lesbian Christians is not just a fringe activity by some gays and lesbians acting in self-justification. It is in fact a fundamental movement transforming the Christian church, a process which has only been evident in recent decades, but which will undoubtedly spread. Above all, keep reading. Coming out in faith, like coming out itself, is a process – one which takes time. The more you learn, the easier it gets. Continue exploring this site, but also visit the others listed in the links. Read some books. For a start, try some from my introductory book list.

Above all, as you embark on your own journey – Be Not Afraid:

1. You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.

You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.

You shall see the face of God and live.

R. Be not afraid. I go before you always.

Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

2. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.

If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side,

know that I am with you through it all.

R. Be not afraid. I go before you always.

Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

[ Lyrics from Lyrics Mode ]

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12 comments for ““Be Not Afraid”: First Steps for the Queer Catholic

  1. Mareczku
    March 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. It is a good resource for me. I learn much from you. I am thankful for yours and other blogs that help to keep me connected.

    • March 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Glad to hear ir. Mareczku. It was my daughter who prompted me to put this together. She’s not religious herself. but she does actively promote the site to friends and colleagues. She pointed out that she doesn’t know where to tell people where to begin, there’s now so much here.
      Now that I have successfully negotiated the migration, I am putting a lot of time into improving the navigation around the site. There will be more posts similar to this up within a few days, and I have done a lot to improve the thematic pages as well.

      So – there’s more to come.

  2. Catherine
    April 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I love the words in the next verse of “Be Not Afraid” – “and if wicked tongues insult and hate you all because of me, know that I am with you through it all”

    • April 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      That’s a useful and pertinent observation, Catherine. Thanks.

  3. SisterTemptation
    September 2, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Here in Massachusetts we are converting whole parishes and groups to the LGBT movement.  The Church is being queered.  And when she is fully queered, when Rome falls to lust, we will usher in the Age of Aquarius.  The Age of Lust, of sexual freedom.


  4. November 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    “You shall not sleep in a bed with a man like one sleeps with a woman for that is an ABOMINATION in God’s eye.”
    The fact that some Popes and a lot of cleric, prelates, bishops, priests, nuns, etc…indulged in homosexual acts doesn’t mean that these are not seriously sinful.
    Those who think the contrary are self deceiving.
    Nobody can rewrite the Holy Bible according to one’s mood.
    “The sky and Earth will pass, my Words will not pass”  Lc 21,29-33

    • November 8, 2011 at 12:54 am

      “Nobody can rewrite the Holy Bible according to one’s mood”. Precisely. But that is precisely what mistranslations, such as the one you quote, have been doing for centuries – and likewise the flagrant misinterpretations and frequent abuse of a selected handful of other texts to condemn sexual minorities.

      • Canisius
        August 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

        I can assure you Weldon.. I will violently defend the Church from your type I already have in so cases… BURN THE RAINBOW FLAG

  5. Frank
    November 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    You’re supposed to be a Christian, Canisius? I see nothing of Christ in you. Where did Christ act in such ways? You should be ashamed. Further more, if you’ve used violence in the past, then you are probably a criminal on top of that!

    • November 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks, Frank – for pointing out what I didn’t bother to do.

  6. March 15, 2014 at 2:24 am

    I cringe whenever I hear the terrible folk-music pablum of “Be Not Afraid” and have to suppress the urge to run screaming, but luckily we are everywhere, and there are even faithful gay people like me who are adherents of the Extraordinary Form (the Tridentine Latin Mass). It may take time, but the Holy Spirit is at work, helping the Church to understand its children better. All of our popes are ushered in by God when they are the most needed, but I’m especially thankful and optimistic that our Holy Father, Francis, will help turn the tide. Biblical scholars already know that homophobia cannot be justified using Holy Scripture; it is just a matter of time before that knowledge suffuses throughout the Church.

    • March 22, 2014 at 12:02 am

      I share your name Terry, and your conviction that the Holy Spirit is at work, and gratitude for Pope Francis, helping to turn the tide. Much as I love Latin, I do not share your enthusiasm for the extraordinary form – but that’s fine. Diversity is good – and that includes liturgical diversity. (With apologies for the delay in replying. I’ve been somewhat distracted this past week, taking some time out and paying more attention elsewhere.)

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