Gay Catholics Balance Sexuality, Faith

Andre Monte is an English and creative writing senior. He is a panelist during Safe Space training sessions and an active volunteer in the Baton Rouge community.

He is gay and also Catholic and found a way to live with both.

Gay men and lesbians have found ways to live inside the bounds of the Catholic Church and have a variety of support from church and legal groups.

Like Monte, Rev. Jim Morrison is gay and still practices Catholicism. Morrison is a Thibodaux pastor who announced Jan. 2 that he was gay to the parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Church at Nicholls State University.

Monte and Morrison have realized it’s okay to be gay and Catholic.

And groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and all accepting churches have worked to ensure the religious liberties of gay men and lesbians.

THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE

Bob Furlow, spokesman for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said the Church does publishs its stance on gay lifestyles in “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” a book that specifies the official stances of the Church. “The Catechism” says homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral, but people don’t choose their sexual orientation and should not be discriminated against because of it.

“The practice of homosexuality is against the church and natural order,” Furlow said. “It is to be avoided.”

The Vatican has also announced recently that gay priests may not be fit for priesthood with the release of a document by Pope Benedict XIV in November that gay men who are “deep-seated” homosexuals should not be ordained.

Gay members of the Church do have one option: remaining celibate. Furlow said many gay men and lesbians do live in celibacy.

Although the Church does not agree with homosexual practices, it has made some efforts to encourage fair treatment for gay men and lesbians.

“I think people with a gay or lesbian disposition should be treated with dignity that we reserve for all people,” Furlow said. “Often it’s a cross they bear because of society.”

Furlow said the National Conference of Bishops published a document in 1997 titled “Always Our Children,” which addressed the parents of gay men and lesbians.

“The document encourages parents to encourage and accept their children regardless of sexual orientation and not to cast them out,” Furlow said.

LIVING GAY AND CATHOLIC

Many members have found ways to incorporate religion into their lives.

“The teachings of the Vatican still have an effect on my life, and I want to find ways to deal with it and work around it,” said Monte, who was a freshman at the University back in 1997 and has come back to study more.

And Monte has come to terms with himself.

“I’m not perfect and nobody else is.” said Monte, who was wearing a silver-colored cross around his neck. “And that’s okay.”

Monte is active in the community; he said service is important to him, and he tried to help with many service events in the community. He is also a panelist for Safe Space, a program that affirms and supports all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and during those panels he often discusses the topic of religion.

“When I have answered questions about religion, I gave people my background on religion and then told the people: ‘Whatever their denomination or spirituality you’ve come from, if it works for you, it’s great,'” Monte said.

While Monte stood on the front steps of the Union overlooking the Parade Ground in a city that is special to him, he said he is happy here in Baton Rouge. Although he does not consider the city the most accepting environment for gay men and lesbians, Monte said Baton Rouge is still his home.

“I have met many types of wonderful people here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.

Morrison also manages to live similarly, dealing with a sexual orientation and religion that often conflict for some people.

According to a statement released by Rev. Sam Jacobs, the Bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Morrison will continue serving the community as a priest.

In the statement, Jacobs said there is a difference between homosexual actions and orientation.

“In my short tenure as bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, I have known Father Jim Morrison to be a compassionate and energetic priest who has provided good pastoral ministry to the people he has served,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he would support Morrison, who has been a priest for more than 18 years.

SUPPORT OF RELIGION

Monte has revived his religious life through the Metropolitan Community Church. Three years ago, Monte started going to the MCC, an all accepting church in Baton Rouge, after some of his friends invited him to attend.

Monte said he identifies himself as Catholic though he usually attends services at the MCC. He usually prefers going to the MCC.

“The services at the MCC are more open, there is more music and it’s more energized,” he said.

Although Monte does not regularly attend Catholic masses, he said he may start going.

“In the future, I can see myself going to mass and sitting down and taking what I need to do from the service without worrying about the other people in the congregation,” Monte said.

OTHER OUTSIDE SUPPORT

Besides the Metropolitan Community Church and other all accepting churches, the ACLU is another group that works to protect the freedoms of all people, regardless of race, gender or sexual preference.

“Our position is we believe in religious liberty that encompasses the establishment clause as embodied in the first amendment,” said Joe Cook, director of the Louisiana ACLU.

But Cook said the ACLU does not have the power to change religious perspectives. Gay men and lesbians who seek change within their church have to work with their church.

“People who want to change procedures and policies need to work internally to make their church more inclusive and tolerant,” Cook said.

Religion is not addressed directly; however, conversations around religion may emerge from discussions that take place during training sessions.

At LSU, Safe Space provides help for members of the gay and lesbian community, including a list of resources such as the MCC, said Marco Barker, the Safe Space coordinator.

Barker said these places “provide a place for all populations, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, to worship and explore spirituality.”

Monte said he hopes other people who find themselves in a similar situation can benefit from his experiences.

“I try to be happy with who I am,” Monte said. “I am okay with who I am, and that sends a message.”