In response to the silencing of LGBTQ people during the World Meeting on Families, it is critical that we share our own stories to tell Pope Francis that LGBTQ families enrich our lives and the Church. Join me in writing letters of faith and family to Pope Francis during his historic visit to the United States. On Saturday, I’ll deliver these messages to Pope Francis and the leaders gathering in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families to be sure LGBTQ families are included in this critical conversation.
Our Dear Holy Father,
My name is James Rowe, and I am a gay Catholic. I used to be embarrassed by this story I share, but now I look back at it with beaming pride.
At the young age of four I wanted to become a nun.
My parents weren’t Catholic, but that didn’t stop my dream of one day helping to do the Lord’s work as a nun in the Catholic Church. But by the time I was seven I realized my dreams of becoming a nun would be just that, dreams. I could have perhaps grown up to become a priest, but for me with all due respect, priests mostly talked about doing the Lord’s work while the nuns were actually doing the Lord’s work.
While my gender was preventing me from becoming a nun, it wasn’t preventing me from becoming Catholic, so as a young boy I began to attend Sunday mass every week by myself. I received all the sacraments and for the next 11 years, I was the only member of my immediate family to attend church almost every Sunday morning.
Everything changed however when I came out as gay at the age of 18.
It was 1982 and it was the dawn of the AIDS crisis. Churches around the world began to use this life ending disease as an example of God’s punishment and I found myself no longer feeling welcome in the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter.
Thirty years later that would all change again when I decided to finally return to the Church I once loved. I have found a Catholic Church here in New York City that recognizes and celebrates ALL of her church members. But I know am lucky. Most LGBTQ Catholics don’t have these welcoming Catholic Churches to attend.
During the AIDS crisis as thousands were dying around the world, “Silence Equals Death” was literally shouted by those fighting for their lives. My sincerest hope is that you apply this warning to the bishops in Philadelphia when discussing the LGBTQ community and our place at the Catholic table. The silence in this case may not cause a physical death but it most certainly can cause a spiritual death, which is just as horrific.
The Catholic Church I grew up in taught me how to love, as Jesus loved.
And as a result of this teaching I feel confident that Jesus would have not only invited us to his table he would have listened to us as well.
New York, NY