Which Is the Better Picture?

04/01/2015 07:24 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016


Which would make for a better picture? A group of 'religious leaders' celebrating discrimination or serving the poor?

If you're like me, you're finding it difficult to keep up with the storm of anti-gay legislation which has hit our country. The Human Rights Campaign is reporting 85 anti-LGBT bills have been filed in 28 states. When gay marriage began gaining momentum across the country in recent months, I fully expected some 'push back.' After all, change is hard. But what I didn't expect, came the other day when I saw an article with a photo published on Indianapolis Monthly's website. The photo shocked me. The photo was of Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence with religious leaders after signing the anti-gay bill on March 26th. Religious leaders? Of the 18 'religious leaders' and supporters seen in the photo, 11 of them were clearly Roman Catholic - in full religious attire with prideful smiles. I was beside myself.

Whatever happened to "Who am I to judge?" It's no wonder that the Catholic Church is viewed as anti-gay. Do any of the people in that photo realize what that could do to the LGBT youth who are struggling with their orientation? Do they realize how damaging it could be? Instead of being photographed serving the poor, nursing the sick, administering the sacraments non-judgmentally, feeding the poor, they chose to be photographed with an anti-gay discrimination effort? Are you kidding? Do they know that 30% of all successful teenage suicides are attributed to sexual orientation issues?

Those of us who have worked in ministry, know full well the struggles many of our LGBT teenagers have - and in many ways, we have failed them.

I can remember officiating at funerals for those who had committed suicide while suspecting that they did so at least in part because they were gay. I have a custom of placing my hands on the coffin in a moment of silence before giving the homily. During this time, I pray to the deceased and ask for their guidance and support. On one occasion - for a funeral of a young man I suspected committed suicide due to sexual identity issues - I placed my hands on his coffin, paused for a moment in silence and asked him for forgiveness - and I began to cry.

The Catholic churches teaching as well as conservative Christian church teachings regarding homosexuality are causing harm to those who are struggling with their sexual identity. Every week, young people are told that they are defective, disordered, or diseased by their church and church leaders. Since the release of my book, "Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest," I have received emails every week from young people who are trying to reconcile their church's teaching with who they are. And every week, through my work at Rising Voices of Faith, I communicate to them that they are loved, accepted and valued - just the way they are.