Catholic & LGBT

This week I continue looking at religion and LGBT issues, today focusing on the Catholic community.

Of all the religions, the Catholic Church has perhaps been the most impacted by debate and controversy around homosexuality. In addition to its basic religious tenets concerning LGBT issues, there’s also the ongoing scandal concerning sexual abuse of minors by priests around the world and its alleged cover-up at the highest echelons including the Vatican. This is of course a serious matter and the church may or may not be making progress in addressing it, but I am not focusing on the issue here today. Instead, I am looking broadly at Catholic teachings on homosexuality, or “same-sex attraction” as its often referred to, and the struggles of LGBT people within the church.

The Catholic Perspective on ‘Same-Sex Attraction’

Father Mike Schmitz is a Catholic priest, author, and speaker in the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota. He works with Ascension Press (YouTube), which describes its mission as providing “Catholic parishes, schools, organizations, and individuals with effective and engaging Catholic study programs, books, and other resources.” It seeks to “engage and nurture Catholics at all levels of their faith journey.”

In 2016, Father Schmitz spoke about “Love and Same-Sex Attraction” at the Steubenville Youth Conference in Wisconsin.

So… It’s OK to be gay — but not… gay.

Spiritual Insight for LGBT Catholics

Father James Martin, SJ, is an American Jesuit priest, writer, and an editor of the Jesuit magazine America. In 2017, Pope Francis appointed Father Martin as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. He’s appeared widely on TV and written several books including Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

After the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Father Martin was disturbed by the church’s failure to support LGBT people, particularly those who are parish members. He began lecturing on how the church could better minister to LGBT Catholics. In this video, he presents spiritual insights for LGBT Catholics and answers five questions about ministry to LGBT Catholics.

Not surprisingly, Father Martin’s perspectives have been controversial. Father Schmitz from the first video above countered Father Martin’s perspective on the Matt Fradd Show, a popular podcast. Father Schmitz discusses here two points I find of particular interest. First, he presents an argument why some sections of Leviticus can be dismissed today in modern society while others still apply — specifically the prohibition against homosexuality. And he addresses the fact that Jesus never specifically talked about homosexuality.

Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?”

Father Martin isn’t the only one shaking things up a bit. Pope Francis has made several statements appearing to signal a change in Catholicism concerning homosexuality. Flying back to Rome from a trip to Brazil in 2013, Pope Francis spoke with reporters and posed the question: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” This was seen as a monumental shift from just a few years earlier when Pope Benedict XVI called homosexuality “an intrinsic moral evil.”

Pope Francis later explained his intent and meaning in his book The Name of God is Mercy. The Catholic News Agency quoted excerpts in a report on the book’s release in January 2016. Pope Francis explained, “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

Following the Pope’s comments, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, appeared on CBS. He clarified that Catholic doctrine can’t change but says that Pope Francis is signaling a change in tone towards LGBT people.

In 2016 Pope Francis spoke further, this time saying that the Catholic Church owes an apology to the LGBT community.

LGBT Catholics Organize ‘Dignity USA’

These small advances coming from Father Martin and Pope Francis are positive steps in the journey for LGBT Catholics, but don’t yet change their fundamental plight. For his part, Father Schmitz is certainly personable and even persuasive in some ways, but he is ultimately serving up a kinder, gentler version of LGBT oppression.

In response to the rejection and oppression they feel in a church and faith they love, LGBT Catholics organized Dignity USA in 1969 under the inspiration and leadership of Father Patrick X. Nidorf, O.S.A., an Augustinian priest and psychologist. The organization grew in size and stature. Its history is available online.

This video reviews the 51-year history of Dignity USA, its accomplishments and its meaning in the lives of its members.

This is a slide show of Dignity USA members followed by statements by members and supporters.

In closing, this final video is Dignity/Washington’s Easter Vigil held virtually this year due to the pandemic on April 10, 2020. Prior to the pandemic Dignity/Washington met weekly at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, and will resume again when the crisis is over. Presiding is Father Denis Pringle.

Title image: Gabos Albin /

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