My name is Donny, and I am a 16 year old Catholic. I read one of your articles online about the Roman Catholic Church and homosexuality and LOVED it. You brought up a really good point about the "fan club card"! My question to you is this... I love Jesus and most teachings of the Catholic Church but some just do not click. (Especially when it comes to homosexuality being "sinful"). I really want to have a partner some day and I do not want to be looked down on because of it! Would it be wrong to explore and find Jesus myself without the aid of the Church? Thanks for taking the time, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
16 Years Old And Already A Catholic Rebel
I am not in the habit of corresponding with 16 year olds, but in this public forum, and because you have written, and are obviously reading Bilerico (something I wish had been available to me when I was 16 and the only gay literature I possessed was my 40 volume set of Nancy Drew mysteries) I'll answer your questions. Do not expect any private email from me.
Two ground rules:
a) Be sure your parents are aware of what you are reading and writing. No secrets from the parents about this subject.
b) Take a shot at having this conversation with your local parish priest. Expect to be disappointed, but you never know. They are not all foolish. If he makes you feel "sinful" because of your sexual orientation, you tell him to speak to me.
I think it is foolish to try to force a 16 year old to do something or to not do something. For example, did your priest or your parents tell you not to masturbate? How'd that work out for you? I don't know anyone who successfully followed that prohibition and it sets a pattern of ridiculous and unattainable expectations.
The best counselors are the ones who will keep you from making big and permanent mistakes. Please listen to them if you are considering becoming sexually active. Believe me when I say that what you do not know at 16 can kill you, or at the very least, leave you with some bad memories that you will have to carry in your head forever.
I think the heart of the matter you present is whether or not anyone can find Jesus and/or God outside the Catholic Church or any other Christian Church. The fact is that it happens every day. The Catholic Church thinks it is the best "vehicle of salvation" and that you ought to stay in your pew even if it's a back row. I don't want to tell you to leave the church or stick with it. I do want you to know that many people find Jesus on their own. You may become one of them. God is OK with this.
As you form your decision about religion in the years to come, be sure you are asking the right questions:
1) Why do I want to join -- or keep my membership in - any religion? Here's a reason: some types of prayer are communal. It is healthy and good to celebrate with like-minded people, to recite cherished words and to share songs, rituals. I think it is good and healthy to belong to a tradition of some sort. (I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be without tradition or clan.) One of the problems I had with modern Catholicism was that the music was terrifically bad and killed the feeling of tradition. I loved the scarcely heard Gregorian chant and the old hymns, but there is a huge toleration for bad music in the modern Roman Catholic churches in America. It is sad. I also didn't like the fact that the Roman Catholic ritual was inflexible. I was not allowed to personalize it to the point of making the words deliver the beautiful truths that are at the center of the message of Jesus. If we can't personalize our rituals, we should have just left them in mysterious Latin and let people alone with their private thoughts while sitting in church. Basically, do not let any church leader tell you that you can't let your spirit express itself in a way that is beautifully and perfectly you. Mama Cass Elliot said it perfectly decades before you were born.
2) Who is Jesus and what did he really mean to say? Religious people are fond of telling us with surety what Jesus really meant when he said the things he said. It is always wise to listen to those who have studied the Bible, but avoid listening to folks who try to "sell" you their Jesus. Churches are crowded with people who insist that their version of Jesus is the only correct one. No one has a better response to those people than Leslie Gore, again, long before you were born (and long before she came out of the closet.) The voice is hers, but the words are Jesus' own:
3) Does your religion make you feel guilty or proud? If your church doesn't celebrate the real you and take delight in having the out-and-proud you -- and your boyfriend or someday your partner or husband --near its altar, shake the dust of that church off your shoes, but sing your way down the aisle and out the door with one of God's favorite hymns (Like a true diva, God first sang these words to Moses from inside a burning bush on a mountain when Moses asked him his name. Read Exodus 3:14):
One bit of advice. When you are in church, look around you and wonder what all the people in the pews and all the special people around the altar are so afraid of. Ask them. Most will not know how to answer that question. Some fear judgment. Some dread going home. Some fear death. Some fear what is in their heart. Some fear God. They are called the God-fearing and they are the strangest folks of all. God takes no enjoyment in your fear. Really, why fear God? It's not like you can do much about it if God gets pissed. It's not like you can hide if God is looking for you. This fact was best expressed by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1965, and in this video you will see my idea of a really good church service. That's right, I come from the "liturgical shindig tradition":
Donny, I know it doesn't seem as if I have taken your question seriously enough, but really, you couldn't ask for better saints or guardian angels than Mama Cass, Leslie Gore and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Do not fear God. Find God inside yourself. Spend time with people who are skilled lovers in and out of church. Read the parables of Jesus often and hold on fiercely to the wisdom you find in his stories. If you are lucky, you will live to see an age in which the Catholic Church will do the same thing, and then we can all come home. Until then, you may find yourself churchless for awhile, but that is not a disaster. When I walked out the door of the Catholic Church after having said my very last Mass I did not for even one second feel that I was creating any distance between me and Jesus.
Finally, because you are 16 and, I assume, living at home, you ought to obey your parents in this matter. If they insist you go to church each week, do it, but while you are there, take the opportunity to talk with other Catholics about your issues and your sexuality. If the people in your church are uncomfortable with this, the problem is theirs. Christians are fond of saying how much they love you until you show them the real you. That is the test of their love, and it is a test they should be forced to take. Jesus was teaching in the temple when he was much younger than you are. Keep your ears and eyes open, and use your voice. You'll say some dumb things in the years to come (God knows I have) but saying nothing is worse. And if I were your parent, I'd be telling you that you are way too young to be having sex with others, gay or straight or bi. You don't know what you don't know. That is why Jesus designed you with two hands. Use the left one for its natural purpose for at least another two years.