In referring to my own faith journey, I have often referred to the value that I have derived from my time exploring Ignatian spirituality, in a Jesuit parish, and in the Jesuit – sponsored lay movement, the Christian Life Community (CLC). It has given me a firm conviction that there simply is no contradiction between a life of integrity as an openly gay man, and my Catholic faith. This conviction, developed over many years, was based initially on extensive Ignatian prayer, spiritual direction, and an extraordinarily intense, genuinely mystical, Ignatian directed retreat.
In my earliest encounter with the Jesuits and sexuality, I was told by a parish priest that “faith” is not a matter of the intellect, but of experience. Based on that definition, I have the faith. Conversely, one definition of theology, is “faith seeking understanding”. I have the faith – what I have been doing these past dozen years or so, has been a search for understanding. All that I have learned, from explorations of the bible, of LGBT and church history, social anthropology, natural science, and theology, has left me more convinced than ever, that this is indeed so. “Gay Catholic” is not an oxymoron, but for those of us with a natural same – sex affectional orientation, a simple statement of personal integrity and honesty.
The notable Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner has written that it is possible for each of us to experience what he calls a “personal encounter with God”. Once experienced, he notes, nothing can stand between us and that experience: not the Church, not the Bible itself. It is my firm belief that in the retreat I referred to earlier, I was blessed with just such an experience – thus reinforcing even further my deep conviction that for gay Catholics, coming out and accepting that sexuality as part of our “sexual identity” is no more than adherence to an important Catechism command. And so, I strongly advise anyone still struggling to reconcile sexuality and Catholic faith, to explore the riches of Ignatian spirituality.
There is no need to do this alone. My own experience was immeasurably helped by membership of a Jesuit parish, and a particularly strong CLC group, but there are other routes. The Jesuits have a well – deserved reputation as a gay – friendly order of priests, for which the evidence is clear. Of the explicitly gay welcoming parishes worldwide, a high proportion are Jesuit led. In many countries, there are Jesuit priests who run spiritual retreats, specifically tailored to LGBT needs and concerns. One final indicator of the value of Jesuit support, is found in the program for the “Ways of Love” conference, to held in Rome this October, as part of the foundation meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. Of the 10 headline speakers for this conference, three are Jesuit priests, and two are religious women in orders shaped by the Ignatian tradition.
One of these, works directly with the CLC community. In a notable article earlier this year, he describes how openly acknowledging their sexuality, enabled a gay CLC group not merely to find acceptance by other CLC groups and the national CLC community, but also to break down prejudice, and even develop straight allies.
Read his full article in Spanish, or below, in an English translation, courtesy of Gionata.
(“Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam”).