Church’s Silence Continues To Hurt LGBTQIA+ Catholics
The recently disclosed sexual abuse of young boys and girls by dozens of priests across the United States was shocking and disturbing especially since I personally knew some of these men. The physical and psychological damage done to the young persons abused is almost beyond comprehension. My heart goes out to them. The institutional Catholic Church, as opposed to the people themselves who make up the Catholic Church, did not for decades put a stop to the devastation brought about by people who pledged their lives to God. The response was silence and it continues to be so.
I wait patiently for someone in authority to explain to me how this could have happened in a church to which many were personally devoted including my friends and family. But the response again is a defeating silence.
The abuse was uncovered, lawsuits have been filed, dioceses and religious orders have collapsed into bankruptcy, and most importantly people attempt to go on with their lives abandoned and abused by a church in which they thought they were safe. But still no attempt at an explanation, only well-intentioned but essentially meaningless apologies. And a different kind of abuse goes on.
Those of us who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and were raised as Catholics continue to be psychologically abused by the institutional Catholic Church again by silence by refusing to acknowledge and understand the real lives of people whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity are outside the binary of heteronormativity. We are at best ignored and at worst told that we have been misled by the devil or the “evil one.” We are being judged despite the Pope’s admonishment not to do so.
I was raised a Catholic never seeing public school until I went on to do graduate work at the University of Illinois and SUNY Buffalo. I was a devoted altar boy at the former Queen of Peace Parish School, taught by the Felician Sisters, from which I graduated in 1965. I loved and continue to love Canisius High School and the Jesuits priests who helped make me the good gay man I like to think I am. I earned by BA from Canisius College. I ate, drank, and slept Catholicism as a closeted gay man. Being Catholic was my identity. As I grew older and continued my education I finally came to terms with who I am and came out to all in my early 30s. But that understanding of who I was, shaped by the Catholic Church, created the pain of separation that came about when I realized I was no longer welcome in my church. So unwelcome that to this day I am saddened and pained that I couldn’t bring myself to take Communion at my Mother’s funeral.
I’ve tried to find my way back in including going to a Come Back to the Church program where a priest told me to leave when I disclosed my being a gay man. I continue to financially support the Felician Sisters who educated me as a young man and I continue to financially support the operation and restoration of Corpus Christi Church, the beautiful beloved church of my parents and my immigrant grandparents…a tribute to their faith and love of the church. I was thrilled to be able to attend my golden jubilee graduation from Canisius High School and receive my golden jubilee diploma. When asked for a quote in the jubilee program booklet as to highlights and memories I wrote: “I am most proud of being an openly gay LGBTQ advocate throughout my life as a direct result of what I learned while at Canisius High School.”
Most people my age are retired or are planning to retire. I am among the latter but I will continue to work to change the mis-informed institutional Catholic teaching and stop the psychological abuse of those of us who might still be LGBTQ Catholics. We can’t go back and undo the harm that has already been done but it is long past the time to acknowledge our mistakes and welcome LGBTQ Catholics as full members of the church which raised us but continues to hurt us by ignoring us in silence or hurting us in teachings that don’t reflect reality.
We are taught that we are made in God’s image. I was made gay and have lived my life as a loving gay man as God had intended. It is time for my Church to recognize and appreciate the work of our God. It is time to end the “sin” of psychologically abusing my LGBTQIA+ friends and family. I am ready to help.
Gregory P. Rabb is a Jamestown resident.