In writing about Pope Francis’ reply to the Kairos group of Italian gay Catholics who wrote to him in June, Francis DeBenardo title his post at Bondings 2.0, “Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement“. He is absolutely right to do so – there is an important opportunity right now, just waiting to be seized. In similar vein, writing earlier about the planned Extraordinary Synod on the Family, DeBenardo asked his readers, “What Would You Say About Marriage and Family at the Upcoming Synod?” Why not reply to this important question, not only at Bondings (which of course, you should do), but also in letters to Pope Francis, and to the group of Cardinal advisors who proposed the synod, and to our own senior bishops likely to attend?
As I wrote myself on this topic, for far too long a tiny but vociferous minority of the Catholic right have dominated letters to bishops and the Vatican, and as a result have exerted totally disproportionate influence in putting pressure on people and groups that in their own misguided view, are out of line with Catholic orthodoxy. Pope Francis has made it clear that he is no interested in this kind of condemnatory letters of complaint, but he has shown abundant evidence or genuine interest and concern for those letters which tell him of real difficulties encountered by people in real lives, as a result of the harshness of some elements of Catholic teaching and pastoral practice. It’s time to take up our pens and keyboards, and send him (and our own bishops) our personal stories – which La Republicca described this week as “messages in a bottle”
There have in fact been many reports of such letters, from LGBT and other Catholics, and Pope Francis is not the only one who has responded sensitively. One person who has written to the pope, and also to the American bishops, is Kellie King, who wrote to me a while back to share her story, and encouraged me to publicize it. I’ve wanted to do so ever since, but have struggled to find the right time and occasion to do so, while giving it full justice for the importance it deserves.
That time has arrived – to publish this, and other letters that I know of. Below is the text of her letter to Pope Francis, which I present without comment (for now). Later, I will present her story of how she has also been writing to bishops – and how they have responded.
Dear Pope Francis,Please read with love, you have no idea how many lives and souls you can save if you read this with openness.I’m confused and I’ve been my most of my life. I have always felt a pull to God even though I was raised in a home without a Christian upbringing; I always longed to find God. I also have always thought of this pull as a calling or something I was supposed to do regarding God. This pull has always been there even as a child. I tried to find God in my adult life, but I’ve always been pulled down by people always telling me that I cannot be a Christian. This comes from straight people and even gay people. I have heard over and over again, “you can’t be a Christian, you are a lesbian Kellie and gay people are either agnostics or atheists. I’ve Battle against such rhetoric for years, but I feel like at 40 everyone has won. I’ve lost my faith in God and I have finally given in as if to say, “Ok everyone you have won, the lesbian is broken, I am agnostic / atheist, I don’t believe.” I have seen many gay people take their lives because of this. In fact the suicide prevention resource center synthesized a study that estimates between 30%-40% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide. This has been linked to minority stress which is interpersonal prejudice and discrimination. Minority stress makes an individual vulnerable to different conditions such as a higher rate of cancer, heart disease, suicide and major depression. I believe in my heart this has to do with the fact that once you come out you are bombarded with religion telling you, “It’s a sin, it’s a sin,” and thus pulling people away from God to just wonder through this world.Why the sudden change? Not long ago I fell in love with a woman and she fell in love with me as well. She was very religious and spoke about God and his love so beautifully. Before I knew it our long talks turned into something more. She had lived a straight life her whole life and always wondered why she was always living in, “slow misery,” as she called it. When we realized what happened I asked her to pray and make sure she was one with God about us. She prayed constantly for weeks and I left her alone so she was able to focus. After weeks of praying she became calm with her feelings and at one with God and our love. She felt as if we were both Christian and could help other gay and lesbians find God. As our relationship progressed and people found out she was bombarded with, “these feelings you are having are from the devil, it’s a sin and you will go to hell. If you are gay you just need to live straight and it’s your burden to bear.” I saw her go from such a light shining on her to torn down and broken. I pushed her back to her straight life and moved away from her to help her and every two or three months I get a call or text message saying, “I love you, I can’t live without you, God can’t want me to live like this.” Followed up a day or two later with, “I can’t make it right with Catholicism and I don’t have the strength. This experience has taken its toll on me and my belief in God. I don’t have the strength to live a pretend life married to a man and or to be alone. I just don’t have the strength and in turn it curses me to an eternity to hell.This has broken me, is this is how God wants people to live, in misery? I’m trying to be as honest as I can be. I used to try to be nice to everyone and help when asked, to try not to lie and live the way that Jesus would want. Now I drink and smoke all the time, while driving by churches I flip them off and curse them. I tell my 3 children that they only have themselves to believe in and I was wrong about God. I just do not want my children, God forbid one is gay to have to live with the burden that I have lived through. I would cut off all my limbs if it would ensure that none of my kids are gay. But, if they are I don’t want them to carry the burden that they will go to hell for loving someone. So it feels like the best choice. I don’t want my children to hurt because of religion.So your recent interview where you said, “Who am I to judge,” regarding gay priests brought me such joy and comfort. This comfort didn’t last long as I read the entire interview. You basically said, “It’s okay to be gay, but not to act on it.” This leaves me so confused and lost again. So God makes people gay, but wants them to live alone and take on this burden? I just don’t think human beings are supposed to be alone. Everyone needs someone to create a life with, to laugh and cry with, someone to navigate the hills and valleys, someone to lie next to as you sleep, someone that has your back, someone to love. Not many people are given the ability to live celibate.I’ve spent my life open to everyone around me and I have always been open to the opinions of all people and due to this I believe I have changes hearts. I tried not to be a gay person that is in people’s faces, but rather an open gay person that is approachable and willing to listen. For example, my sister married an extremely homophobic man and when my sister told me this, she thought I was going to cut her out of my life. I of course did not. Instead I opened my arms and heart to her husband and listened to his views without judgment. Because of this he is one of my favorite people and I love him dearly. Over the years he has changed and is no longer homophobic and understands that, “it’s just love.”I feel like a fraud now because I’ve lost my faith, really lost faith. I lost my enthusiasm, my passion, my light and I feel like just walking through this life, raising my kids until my inevitable eternal life in hell. This probably reflects million of homosexuals. You once said that Christians are supposed to be joyful. I don’t want to be gay as most don’t want to be gay. I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed for God to make me straight, but to no avail. You have such a kind heart and I wish you would start a true dialog with gay and lesbians. To have an open heart and understand the struggle. Maybe you can save gay people in the process?The reason I’m writing is because I want to start to help gay and lesbian youth. I always felt it was to bring them to Christ, but now I can’t. I don’t believe and as I sat in front of my computer where I was starting a blog to help people I realized I can’t help people, I’m lost. At that moment I was compelled to write you and pled with your grace and love to open a dialog with gays. Let them know they are loved, they are allowed to be Christian, let them have a place to worship God without worrying about getting kicked out because they “look” gay. Tell them they are loved, wanted and needed in our society. To support love between two people that commit to a monogamous relationship. Tell them they deserve love and we are accepted in our society. Tell them to come out of the closet and celebrate the differences among all God’s people. Tell them, tell them. I don’t have it in me to tell anyone this again.Another reason why I am writing is to help you understand that there are so many beautiful gay and lesbian people that could bring people to Christ. I often think about where Christ would be on this situation and many months ago I was at a gay and lesbian function and as I looked around I saw so many people that didn’t fit into our society. I of course saw gay men and gay women, some were people that would fit into society and no one would know they were gay unless they told. Some were flamboyant men and very masculine women. But as I looked closer I saw people in wheel chairs that were welcomed with open arms, I had a man pass me that looked homeless and I watch him as he took a chair. When he did the server came to take his order without any judgment and declined because it was obvious he didn’t have any money to purchase a dinner. When a woman saw this she walked over to his table and said, “Hello there welcome, I’d like to buy your dinner,” and she did. I saw men dressed as women that looked so out of place even at this function and they were not sitting alone and were not embarrassed, rather smiling and soaking up the little time that they are not judged in our society for being obviously different. I saw straight couples smiling and laughing with everyone. I saw love and acceptance and then the thought came into my mind, “where would Jesus want to dine on this night?” I then imagined on the other side of town the rich socialites and I remembered a night when I had dinner in this area with all straight rich, and I hate to say it very religious people. No one knew I was gay and in the middle of dinner the homophobic sneers started as a gay man walked by. I won’t tell you the details but it was heart breaking to hear. I didn’t want to offend them and blurt out, “hey guys I’m gay,” so I kept quiet and wept inside. Once that memory came to me as I was at the gay/lesbian function I thought, “Jesus would be here, with us, proud of our open hearts, non-judgment and love and acceptance toward all Gods people.”Thanks for listening, Please do not reach out to me, I’m not worthy of starting this discussion, but I know many who are.Kellie King