As a Christian gay person, and former candidate for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church, I propose that in response to the recent LGBT mass shooting in Orlando, Pope Francis celebrate a Mass for LGBT people in St. Peter’s Basilica and Square in Vatican City.
The Pope’s effusive, rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?” is a promising question, but it needs actions to back it up.
While a non-judgmental tone sounds good, unless clear and tangible follow-up happens, it doesn’t mean much.
His call for an apology to gay people shows that he is willing to ask their forgiveness. Jesuit Fr. James Martin told CNN, “No group feels more marginalized in the church today than LGBT people.” Clearly, active forgiveness and reconciliation are needed. What better way to celebrate that than to participate in the Eucharist together?
What the secular and religious world needs is an unequivocal demonstration of prophetic support for LGBT people, especially youth. A Mass for LGBT people all over the world is a good first step to let gays know that they are accepted for who they are, and that they are loved unconditionally.
A public Mass is the type of action that many LGBT people thirst for. We want to know you truly offer presence, inclusion and acceptance. A Mass would allow a group that has been so excluded to participate in an action that is never conditional or situational: God loved the world so he sent His Son to save it.
At the Mass, Pope Francis could invite gay priests to come out of the shadows of their closets.
Such an invitation would allow them to be completely and utterly honest about who they are. He could call parents of LGBT youth not to abandon their children. He could remind the rest of the world that pastoral outreach to the LGBT community is necessary. He could decry governmental policies which discriminate against or criminalize LGBT people.
The Pope could remind the world that God delights in all people—straight, gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, and all who don’t fit a label—and that God made us human, embodied beings. Pope Francis could do this by calling for a reform of the catechism of the church.
At a mass for gays, the Pope could finally lead the church out of people’s bedrooms, beyond talk about sex, and to human relationships and the whole life of every person. He could say that LGBT people are not sinners and that their relationships of love are not sinful.
Such is already the cornerstone of a papacy that proclaims the Joy of the Gospel.
The Pope should allow all LGBT people to receive the Holy Eucharist at such a Mass, creating an important symbolic gesture for all pastors and bishops who seek to limit reception of communion. He must allow them back into the Catholic family. If the church is truly maternal, it will open her arms in welcome.
It is sad to point out that the world is still not safe for LGBT people. The recent massacre of gays in Orlando reminds us that, despite the gains in marriage equality and the overturning of other discriminatory laws, the current wave of LGBT equality is still met with resistance in the secular world and with destructive messages in the religious world.
I call out to you, Pope Francis: please invite LGBT people throughout the world to make a pilgrimage to Rome in order to celebrate Eucharist with you.
We will respond overwhelmingly, and this celebration will be a blessing for all.