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Holy Father: The Time Has Come for a Dialogue on LGBT People

12/22/2012 07:16 pm ET | Updated Feb 21, 2013

When Christ ministered to the Samaritan woman, he met her at the well, spoke with her, and listened to her. While the Canaanite woman begged at his feet, Christ listened and bore witness to her great faith. In reflecting on these two stories from the Gospel, I do not think it is a coincidence that Christ listened as a key element of his ministry.

It is in observing this that I find the Holy Father's recent comments regarding marriage equality so difficult to digest. His comments and those of Lucetta Scaraffia in her recent editorial for L'Osservatore Romano, lack the compassion and respect for human identity that is evident in the teachings of the Church. In writing this article, I am not asking the Holy Father or others to accept marriage equality, however, I am asking that when you speak about me, you do so with understanding and with respect for my humanity and dignity. It is important for the Church's leaders to remember that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are not beings to be merely discarded with words, but rather have been and continue to be great contributors to the advancement of the human story.

This morning when I read Pope Benedict XVI's comments from his Friday address where he condemned efforts to achieve marriage equality, I couldn't help but reflect on my experience of watching Franz Joseph Haydn's Creation performed at Carnegie Hall that same evening. In his monumental work, Haydn reminds us of the harmony and peace that was evident upon the formation of the world. Haydn's masterwork calls to mind the absolute beauty of creation and of all that has been created in God's own image.

In considering this, it became clear to me that Pope Benedict XVI is not to blame for his comments regarding marriage equality. In fact, through his comments it is clear that the Pope has likely never met a committed same-sex couple. It is equally likely that the Pope has never spoken with the accomplished, graduated, married son or daughter of someone who has been raised by two fathers or mothers. Further, it seems rather evident that the Holy Father has never spoken with the parents of an LGBT child who has taken his or her life, because they felt as if hope itself had ceased.

With all due respect to the Holy Father and to Ms. Scaraffia, I will not allow hope to cease in either my own life or that of the LGBT community. Contrary to Ms. Scaraffia's derogatory use of the word "utopia," I embrace an image of Utopia that bears witness to the beautiful and error-free creative force of God. I long for and desire to stand among a utopian reality that allows peace, harmony, justice, and equality to prevail. As a Catholic, I believe that this desire comes forth from my great love for Christ and my hope to live as Christlike as possible.

It is this image of Utopia that I reflected on the other night at a theater in New York City. Watching the most recent production of Bare, I was not quite sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the profound witness that the musical offers for Catholics and all people of faith seeking to understand the struggle that goes on in the heart and mind of LGBT young people. The musical explores the love that emerges between two teenage boys at a Catholic boarding school. In a truly emotional exploration of love, forgiveness, and redemption, the story provides true insight into the meaning of love and faith. In one of the most powerful scenes, Peter cries out to the man he loved who took his life...

That the world should not forsake you

That the world should love you well

You and I were meant to be

I wish I could have made you see

That in you God was very pleased...

The love that was evident between Peter and Jason in Bare is not an anomaly, is not ugly, and is not different. Rather, their love is beautiful and transcends the limits placed on same-sex relationships by the Pope and Ms. Scaraffia with their respective comments. To argue that same-sex relationships somehow "threaten" humanity is in itself a great injustice against those created in the imago dei. Gay people are not, in the words of the Pope, seeking to destroy the "essence of the human creature," but rather we are seeking to help humanity witness the fullness and diversity of creation.

As Christmas approaches and we prepare for the Feast of the Nativity, the time has come for the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to meet with LGBT people. We can no longer accept a monologue on an issue that demands a dialogue. LGBT people of faith and the whole of humanity deserve an embodied theology on human identity that listens to and discerns the stories of LGBT people. It is impossible to have a theology that claims its foundation in truth without accepting the truth of the lived experience -- a reality that even Christ recognized in his earthly ministry.

We must embark, as a Church and as a global people, on an ascent to truth so as to come to witness the fullness of God's creative force and the beauty that it contains. In fact, I would agree with these words from the Pope's remarks yesterday: "When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God." We can no longer force LGBT people to deny their God-given identity, instead we must guarantee the absolute dignity of all people. If we fail to witness the Christ who is within LGBT people, there may come a day when we are no longer able to see the face of God; on that day, all hope will cease.