Pope Francis has been creating a stir in the Catholic community since his papacy started eight months ago. He has called for a shift in the church’s attitude toward groups that have been historically marginalized, particularly homosexuals. “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
As a person who is gay and catholic, Pope Francis’s words are warm and welcoming, unlike his predecessors. I can remember my early years in the Catholic Church were marked by ill talk towards groups that weren’t right with the church. The priest preached at the altar about God’s love and his son who died for us, but somehow, His love was not for everyone. How could this be? I learned that if I wanted acceptance from my church, my friends, my family, then I could not be gay.
I came out my freshman year at PLNU. As freeing as the experience was, it also ate away at me. I was consumed by a subculture that I let define who I was. Every night was a different damaging experience. As my behavior spun out of control, my relationships with friends were severed. When I thought I would find acceptance from my parents, I was proven wrong, and lost my last beam of support. A depression manifested itself in me that threw me into isolation. Prayer and God faded from me, and I felt my soul disintegrating. I didn’t want this life. I questioned my position in the church and the Christian community as a whole and I made plans to leave this school. I was convinced that there was no longer a place for me at this school or in church. Misery overwhelmed me and I all I wanted was to crawl out of my skin.
In my last effort to find absolution from a life that had broken me, I prayed to God who I had selfishly shunned from my life. It would be nice to say that I found revelation and spiritual enlightenment that radically changed my life, but that didn’t happen. What I did come across was a new form of prayer. A new prayer that engaged in active conversation with God, a prayer that became honest and humble. Convictions arose in my life, and a new journey began.
I decided to wrestle with Scripture. I sought guidance from friends, from professors, and from strangers and received nothing but love and affirmation that my sexuality did not define me. These were fruitful endeavors. Where I thought I would find resentment, I found acceptance. Although I continue to fall into bad habits and make stupid decisions, I do not let them impede me from searching for God.
Three years later, I continue to struggle with what scripture is saying and how my life is living out according to scripture. There are many parts of scripture regarding homosexuality and marriage that I do not understand. What I do understand is that I am fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God. I believe in a personal savior who died for my sins, who loved me long before my existence. My identity is in Christ. To my fellow students who are second-guessing this truth…don’t. Don’t give up on the church. Don’t give up on your faith. You are loved and welcomed in His kingdom.
I don’t expect the stance of the Catholic Church to radically change in my lifetime, but I do believe it is taking the necessary steps to represent a community that was once shunned and condemned. “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” Pope Francis said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”