LGBTQ Issues: How Do We Respond As Jesus Would?

February 5, 2019

By Sister Natalie Rossi

Sister Natalie Rossi

After Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie received a letter from a parishioner about her transgender child, the bishop asked Monsignor Edward Lohse, the vicar general, to set up a study day on a “Pastoral Response to Gender Identity Questions.”

Two-hundred people in leadership positions in parishes, schools and agencies in the diocese attended over two days in October. I attended the first day and Sister Margaret Park attended the second.

Issues such as these were discussed:

  • A transgender student tells the principal that he wants to use the faculty bathroom rather than a student bathroom.
  • A person in process of joining the Catholic Church Says his RCIA sponsor identifies privately as transgender.
  • A church employee says his son began transitioning to a female, but he and his wife are prepared to condone their son’s decision rather than lose their relationship.

The bishop had said, “We are not going to quote dogma, theology and canon law. We need to begin by listening to them.”

The key message for me at the study day on the “Pastoral Response to Gender Identity Questions” was to be welcoming and compassionate to the LGBTQ person, but the deeper message was that we cannot affirm them for who they are. It was difficult for me then to see how any LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) person would feel welcomed in the Catholic Church.

So how do we respond to the LGBTQ community as Sisters of Mercy? Catherine called us to reach out to those on the margins, those rejected by society. LGBTQ persons are those who are still rejected by most of society. It is difficult for many LGBTQ persons to even enter a church. For them, church is not a place of safety but of trauma. Many experience the “pastoral gaze” and hear “of course we accept you for who you are, but we want you to change.”

How can we lovingly accept each person for who he or she is?  Compassion calls us to listen to people. What is it really like growing up as a gay boy, a lesbian girl or a transgender person? We can only find out by listening.

Church teaching tells us to stand by those who are marginalized or threatened.

What does that really mean? So, we ask. What would Jesus do and say?

Love is the answer. Do not judge. Accept a person for who he or she is.

Francis DeBernardo from New Ways Ministry, which advocates justice and equality for LGBTQ Catholics, attended the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Ireland. He stated: “What did I learn at the World Meeting of Families? I learned that through creative ways, strong faith, communal cooperation and confident voices, love will conquer fear as we build a church of equality for LGBT people.”

Perhaps this is something to think about.

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  1. Leslie Porreca,rsm

    Thank you for this article… can we invite Bishop Persico to invite his brother Bishops to create these study days in their diocese and parishes? The conversation is so very needed for healing and spiritual growth.

  2. Beverly Palumbo

    Love one another is the Gospel mandate. It seems to me that accepting each person for the person is what we need to do. Why do we fear each other? Let us pray to see and be the Christ for each other.

  3. Virginia Giglio

    I am a married cisgender Mercy Associate now attending a Unitarian Church due to their inclusiveness. I love my LGBT and GD siblings and can’t imagine my life without them. Suggestion: stop studying the matter and get to know and love real people. There is a world of suffering in this community that cries out for Mercy answers. Don’t put them off – love them, love them, love them!

  4. Diane Clyne

    Yes, thanks so much for the article. I agree with Leslie (comment before me) that we need these conversations in every faith community. Let’s invite one another!

  5. Roselani O. Ferguson

    In Hawaiian; the word Mahu has always meant third gender,these are people who identify with both male & female. It is a shame that people; especially Christians seem to have a hard time accepting anyone different from themselves. What would Jesus do? He would just love them, we are all created in God’s image, He made everything. All that He made “was good”. Stop making life harder than it has to be, extend your hand, heart and head to love (Aloha). Stop judging when you don’t even know their hearts & what they have gone through. Our last monarch’s prayer resonates to me what they suffer: (Mahu etc.)
    Ke Aloha O Ka Haku: The Queen’s Prayer
    by Queen Liliʻuokalani

    ʻO kou aloha nō Your loving mercy
    Aia i ka lani Is as high as Heaven
    A ʻo Kou ʻoia ʻiʻo And your truth
    He hemolele hoʻi So perfect
    Koʻu noho mihi ʻana I live in sorrow
    A paʻahao ʻia Imprisoned
    ʻO ʻoe kuʻu lama You are my light
    Kou nani koʻu koʻo Your glory, my support
    Mai nānā ʻinoʻino Behold not with malevolence
    Nā hewa o kānaka The sins of man
    Akā e huikala But forgive
    A maʻemaʻe nō And cleanse
    No laila e ka Haku And so, O Lord
    Ma lalo o kou ʻēheu Protect us beneath your wings
    Kō mākou maluhia And let peace be our portion
    A mau loa aku nō Now and forever more
    Āmene Amen
    Peace to All Humankind~

  6. John L.

    It’s hard knowing so many people have similar negative experiances within the church. I am very happy to see so many people putting an effort to practice what the Bible teaches. Not just the young or inexperianced either, it is our elders that can lead us down a better path just so long as their hearts are as open as their minds.