About a week ago a priest invited me to a men’s day here in London and I said why not?
Over email I introduced myself a little to the priest by explaining that I was Catholic and gay and following Jesus. I was not expecting the reply I got which to be honest was heartless and even hurtful.
He immediately babbled off church teaching in a rather defensive way similar to how police officers babble off “you have the right to remain silent…..” in the movies!
He went on to tell me where I could get help by suggesting different groups to me.
Was I asking him for help? NO!
Did I know about these groups already? YES!
Did I agree with his theology around sex? YES!
So why then did he treat me like an idiot that knows nothing about being gay and catholic and was in need of enlightenment?!
As I prayed about it what came to mind was ‘presumption’. People jump to conclusions before even asking and put rules before love.
Jesus constantly calls us to love and not to judge. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everyone but it does mean that we can love them and talk to them without degrading and putting them down.
Instead of placing me under ‘catholic arrest’, this priest could simply have said “that’s interesting, I’d love to talk to you about that some day” and even if I was a totally heretic and was promoting all types of sex which I’m not, he could have been prepared to listen to my life and experiences to better understand why I believe in what I believe.
‘But for the grace of God go I ” Is a common expression in Catholic circles and this is exactly what it means. If we had the life and experiences of someone else, would we be any different to them or would we be even worse?
Of course the situation actually was worse than I am saying because I also asked him if Toni could come with me and let’s just say I was placed under double arrest while it was made clear to me than only men with male DNA could attend.
Again I found this very sad and terribly lacking in love, understanding, compassion and tact.
Of course God and the church have their rules but love must come before the rules because we all fall short because of sin.
We must not judge others because they fall short of perfection but on the contrary, we must help them and love them and encourage them to become a little more perfect without lording ourselves and our self-perceived holiness over them.
And this isn’t just for LGBT. This must apply to how we treat everyone from those of different religions to those committing the greatest of sins because one grace from Jesus and they could convert and become far holier than any if us!
So let’s make an effort to love and if we have a group that is explicitly for Catholics or for men or for women, that’s OK but let’s be loving and charitable about how we communicate this to other people and so avoid hurting and rejecting them.
Jesus, help us to be merciful.