Disheartened by recent comments from USCCB that the June 26 SCOTUS decision on marriage equality was ‘a tragic error,’ Gerard will include a plea to U.S church leadership asking them to consider how pastoral guidelines resulting from an upcoming family synod will affect future generations of religious children who struggle with same-gender attraction.
In October 2015, Catholic cardinals from around the world will gather in Rome to conclude a year-long reflection on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world. They will determine, among other things, pastoral guidelines regarding homosexual relationships and their place in the larger church family.
This meeting comes on the heels of the recent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) response to the June 26, 2015 SCOTUS ruling for same-sex marriage equality, in which President Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the decision ‘a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.’
When author Gregory Gerard considered these events, he felt compelled to initiate a GoFundMe campaign and offer one more testimony: his own memoir. In recent years, Gerard has been inspired by evolving comments from church leadership, hinting at a more inclusive church landscape for LGBT faithful.
“In 2013, we heard Pope Francis say ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?’ This newest pope has met personally with members of the LGBT community to hear their stories. Also, during the October 2014 synod, an early draft of a working document said that ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.’ This is a significant shift from what I knew as a Catholic teenager in the 1980s,” Gerard said.
He was discouraged that the final version of the 2014 synod document had expunged any such favorable language toward gays, but the USCCB response to the recent SCOTUS ruling ignited action: “I’ve been considering this idea for awhile. Reading the statement from Archbishop Kurtz got me charged up enough to launch the GoFundMe campaign.”
Gerard is a gay man, raised Catholic in rural Western NY, whose memoir, In Jupiter’s Shadow (2009, Infinity Publishing), chronicles the struggles of a devout teen working to ‘solve the mystery’ of same-gender attraction.
“Given the back-and-forth messages of ‘gay is welcomed; gay is disordered’, I couldn’t let them finalize this synod process without urging them to consider one more testimony,” Gerard said. “The time is ripe. I think about how I struggled silently during adolescence—how the next generation(s) will continue to struggle if misperceptions about same-gender relationships continue. As a kid, I sensed the stigma attached to the feelings I was experiencing. I relied on secret research to educate myself, studying things like pastoral guidelines from church leadership.”
“It took me a lot of years to reconcile my faith with my orientation. I wrote my memoir to share the reality of the profound angst I experienced at a very young age—angst perpetuated by the teachings of the Catholic Church. I believed if I could authentically capture the essence of that inner conflict, it might help those who struggle today. And it might speak to those who continue to classify the rights and relationships of LGBT persons as ‘tragic.'”
Gerard points out that statements like the USCCB response to the recent SCOTUS ruling have an impact beyond civil legislation for adults.
“When bishops and cardinals approve and publicize such viewpoints,” Gerard said, “they are the ones perpetrating harm on the vulnerable. I think many are well-meaning, but many miss the full impact of these messages on the greater church family—on the thousands of vulnerable boys and girls who, today, are secretly wondering if God approves of their same-gender romantic feelings. When church officials suggest that gay relationships are unequal or disordered; when tradition, perception, or bigotry robs faithful gay kids of the hope of a committed, blessed relationship—to me, that is the tragic error.
“I think it’s relatively common for people to think that the issue of gay marriage only affects adults. I want to send a hard-copy of my memoir to all 277 members of the US Catholic leadership to share one more faithful adolescent’s experiences with Catholicism and feelings of same-sex attraction. I hope my narrative—along with the many testimonies I’m sure the bishops have heard from LGBT people in recent years—will prayerfully speak to their hearts and feed up the leadership chain into the October synod. Just last week, the Episcopal Church opened the marriage rite to same-gender couples across that entire denomination. Change can happen.”
Gerard is a gay author who resides in Rochester NY. He married his partner of 18 years in 2013. His GoFundMe campaign is working to raise $4,000 to cover the costs of producing and mailing hard-copies of his memoir to the 277 active members of the US Catholic leadership. For more information, or to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/r58rm9hk.