I attended Catholic Schools growing up and accompanied my family to Church on a weekly basis. I have a true and deep connection with my faith and hold it very close to my heart. Upon graduating High School, I moved to a different city and set out on my own. I continued to attend mass regularly and found peace and joy with what at that time, was a very traditional life. However, in my early 20′s shockingly enough, I found myself attracted to a woman, and I simply followed my heart. By doing so, I immediately felt like a hypocrite, with respect to my religion, and subsequently ceased going to mass due to this terrible guilt. The mutually agreed closeted relationship lasted in excess of 10 fabulous years of which I never once visited Church. When the relationship ended, I immediately went back to Church and sought forgiveness and asked for acceptance ‘from above’. Not long after I resumed attendance, once again, I found myself in a wonderful relationship with another woman. The trend continued in that I immediately felt guilty and physically stopped going to Church. I tried to make sense of this trend and why things were happening they way they were, but to no avail. I noticed, in Loving Annabelle, the sermons selected had a theme (to assist Simone and her challenges) and my interpretation of the selections was that the Catholic Church accepts anybody and everybody, “no-one shall be left unaided”. Obviously, I found the sermons very interesting and intriguing. I continue to struggle, terribly, and carry such a burden of guilt in that I am letting my religion down – being with a woman. Unfortunately, I have not been able to garner enough courage to revisit Church/confession and speak directly to the priest to ask if the Church will accept that I am in a same sex relationship. I am also terrified of what the answer could be…
I was wondering if you are Catholic, and if so, do you know if the Catholic religion has evolved into accepting homo-sexuality?
I MUST find peace and acceptance with my spirituality as it is a priority in my life. I completely accept who I am as a person and am open to whichever sex I am attracted to, at that given time. I feel that once I know I’m accepted by God, then I can and will proceed in life and grow as a person, and as a result to be proud to tell my loved ones who I am and who I love. I am now 44 years old and my struggle with guilt has won and MUST change that. Can you possibly shed any light my way?
PS-during my journey I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. I attacked it with complete and utter determination. My aggressive and stubborn personality, in combination with, a very positive attitude persevered. I am VERY proud to say I am a Cancer Survivor and have been Cancer free for 10 years! I totally feel, and am convinced that
the “location” of my Cancer speaks volumes (pun intended). We, as humans, will undoubtedly get dis-ease in certain and very particular areas of our body and for specific reasons. My Cancer was in the Thyroid, my vocal area….I did not SPEAK out as to who I am, and was therefore faced with consequences (Cancer). To be in the closet is wrong and I MUST do something about that. Overall, it is up to us, as individuals, to figure out what our body is trying to tell us, to honor that, and make the necessary changes.
First of all, congratulations on beating your cancer! Your courage and fight is certainly an inspiration to others! Now, let’s get down to business…the Christian faith is a mixed bag of acceptance and rejection of gay and lesbian people across the board. The Catholic Church has definitely come out against the acceptance of gay and lesbian people as part of its faith community. They believe that the gay and lesbian lifestyle is in conflict with Christian teachings, and therefore, the church does not believe that they should condone these lifestyles. That said, as with most Christian denominations, there are groups within these denominations that believe differently. The Catholic Church has a group called DignityUSA. Their mission statement says, “DignityUSA works for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities—especially gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons—in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy, and support.” This group continues to grow in support from Catholics, and I would urge you to check out their website and information. They can be found online at www.dignityusa.org. They can provide you with information concerning reconciling your personal faith and desire to be a part of the Catholic Church and your sexual orientation.
Remember, your spirituality doesn’t depend on your adherence to any particular denomination. Spirituality relies on your personal relationship with your higher power. There are plenty of ways to develop your spirituality, developing a closer relationship with your higher power. Prayer, meditation, compassionate works, personal rituals—these all have power to nurture your spiritual self. Your walk with your own spirituality should not have to be separated from whom you love; actually, it truly cannot be. If you cannot find that within a denomination like the Catholic Church, find it within a community of faith that does love and accept you just the way you are!
I have sat a long time with this letter wanting to do you honor in my response. I can hear pain in your letter as well as determination around needing to not be in the closet with either your spirituality or your sexuality. Both of these parts carry so much weight in who you are as an individual. I can only imagine how hard it has been for you over the years to walk into these aspects at different times with only half of yourself allowed to be present. I have been learning in my own life recently that things are not ever so black and white. You actually don’t have to choose one or the other.
The image I just got was of you struggling to be in a relationship with yourself. Picture yourself as two separate people for a moment, the Catholic side of you is one individual in the relationship, and the part of you who finds yourself in relationships with women is the other part. Looking at this relationship from the outside, “normal society” (whatever that is), would say, that isn’t going to work! There is no way that can work! The question then becomes, if these two are going to try and make it work, “who has to change?” That is what we are taught isn’t it? If there is conflict, one party has to change. If you are in a relationship that so clearly isn’t working, someone has to change, or the relationship will break.
When a couple goes into therapy there is usually one who is excited and one who is scared, the person who is excited hopes that the therapist is going to side with them and say that the other person is wrong, and needs to shape up. The person who is afraid to go, thinks the therapist might say they themselves are wrong, and that they need to change and need shape up. Why does there always have to be a good guy and a bad guy? We have all heard the saying, “it takes two to tango”. But we still point the finger and say… “Its the other sides fault!”
My new belief around this question of who has to change… is neither… and both. Each person is perfect they way they are and could be recognized as such from the other person. At the same time we all have areas of life and of ourselves that can learn and grow and blossom… and in a sense, change.
Coming back to the relationship you are struggling to have with yourself; who needs to change? Which half needs to be let go of? It seems that the answer to that changes depending on which part you are closer to at the time. What if you decided that neither had to change, as well as both. Having a deep sense of spirituality that you resonate at such a deep part of your soul is a beautiful thing and needs to be valued and cultivated. Penny gave you a great resource for a church who work with “respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities.” Your sexuality is also such a deep part of your soul that is just as beautiful and has equal need to be valued and cultivated. How can you find piece in connecting these two parts of yourself? A question I ask myself often when faced with inner conflict is, what would I tell my daughter? Often we are much more open, forgiving, and supportive of others then we are for ourselves. If you can, talk to yourself the way you would to a daughter coming to you with this difficulty.
I don’t know if this will resonate with you or not, but in reading your letter I also feel that you might benefit hugely from doing grief work. It sounds like this battle has been raging in you for several years. At any given time there was an aspect of you that was not being allowed to shine. Sometimes it was your spirituality and sometimes it you’re your sexuality. Each of those parts of you might have huge sorrow around being “kept in closet”. Giving yourself a platform to feel grief is more valuable then our culture gives credit for. There are a couple resources for this, check out Center for Grief Recovery
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we created a world where people didn’t have these fears? Didn’t feel that they had to choose one aspect of themselves and leave the other pieces of sprit behind? Be the example. Show the world that organized religion can embrace sexuality. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
PS- Congratulations on beating cancer! My heart goes out to you!! And…I totally agree with you that the “location” of your Cancer speaks volumes (pun intended).
John 14:11:12 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Love and gratitude,