More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church - Vol. 1

By Christine Firer Hinze; J. Patrick Hornbeck II | Go to book overview

6 From Closet to Lampstand
A Pastoral Call for Visibility

M. SHEILA NELSON

College of Saint Benedict / St. John’s University

Christ’s ministry was all about inclusivity. He left no one out of the circle and excluded no one from the banquet. But two thousand years later, we, the Body of Christ, often sound much like the Pharisees Jesus criticized— arguing about who belongs, whose lifestyle makes them worthy to approach the altar, who has a right to participate in the sacred. While our culture does not see closets as healthy places for people to live, many in the church still insist that when it comes to persons of certain sexual orientations, invisibility should be the rule, regardless of whether or not a person is sexually active. These voices promote the closet as a necessary safeguard— to protect the homosexually oriented individual from temptation but also to protect children and adults “lacking spiritual maturity”1 from seeing that persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are for the most part healthy, happy, grace-filled, contributing members of the community. For God’s sake (so this line of thinking goes), we need to prevent the impressionable from thinking that LGBT persons are normal!

Thankfully, more and more of us are refusing to live in the closet, even if we occasionally find it necessary to hide out there. Still, most LGBT Catholics live in parishes and faith communities characterized by institutional closetedness. Our young people grow up in a religious world where questions of sexual orientation are largely ignored: sexual orientation is not talked about in any depth in most Catholic religious education and confirmation programs; except in a handful of welcoming parishes in a few major cities around the country, homosexually oriented persons are invisible and therefore, in the minds of most Catholics, non ex is tent. That is why those of us involved in ministry to LGBT Catholics hear repeatedly from parents that when their son or daughter came out to them, they themselves went deep into the closet, fearful of letting anyone know the truth

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