Photo by Karl Fredrickson, @kfred, Unsplash

The Church’s queer obsession

What the bishops could learn from the laity

New Ways Ministry published a story on October 15 titled, “Seattle Task Force Releases ‘Mixed Bag’ Report on LGBTQ Issues in Catholic Schools.” The Archdiocesan Ministerial Covenant Task Force is divided on issues including employment discrimination at Catholic schools.

Those favoring such discrimination, who deny that it is discrimination, claim that employees are fired or non-renewed only for “breaking of the covenant through actions, public witness, and lifestyle choices.” Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne said he will enter a discernment process with the report, so it is unclear what will come of it. Robert Shine of New Ways writes, “Hopefully, the archbishop will break from his fellow U.S. bishops and choose justice for church workers instead of more discrimination.”

The obsession of so many Church leaders over homosexuality to the exclusion of all other considerations calls into question their fitness as pastoral ministers and moral leaders and their intellectual honesty. It is dispiriting how much of the institution is about ownership and control at the expense of care and understanding. The bottom line for me, raised as a Catholic, is that regardless of what they say, my gayness is part of how God made me.

My enduring love for and commitment to my partner are an affirmative moral good. How can the bishops not recognize this? It is because they have blinded themselves, and all their fancy words only make clear the extent of their folly.

I am in a binational relationship with a man from the Congo who lives in Europe, and we are separated much of the time. A few days ago he had a terrible migraine headache, and called me just to hear my voice. That simple impulse meant the world to me. In the midst of his suffering and my concern, there was joy.

That this does not move these religious leaders says nothing good about them. In contrast, the sustained witness and engagement by the people at New Ways says only good things about their ministry, founded in 1977 by Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick.

At the LGBTQ Victory Fund brunch in April 2019, Pete Buttigieg said, “My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.” With notable exceptions like author James Martin SJ, a few Catholic schools like St. Mary’s College in South Bend (which has opened an LGBTQ center), and some lovely statements by Pope Francis (who, however, is poorly informed on gender science), the moral leadership here has come from the laity — or a portion of it, given some conservative Catholics’ strict, monolithic view where no discussion or dissent can be tolerated.

What are those conservatives afraid of? Indeed, what are they conserving? There are plenty of examples in the Gospel of a less imperious, more receptive perspective: the discussion of children, the washing of feet, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the use of a Roman coin to distinguish between religious obligations and secular ones.

Why the Church’s angry fist, the cruel firings, the legalistic insistence that a teacher is a minister? One of the worst aspects of this struggle is the claim by Church authorities that the objects of their crackdowns lack humility, as if humility requires abject submission to whatever the hierarchy says. I humbly suggest that this is terribly false, that in my fiancé’s quiet statement, “Hi, my Ricky, I just need to hear your voice,” is the universe in microcosm.

This bond is itself a covenant of beauty and power, in defense of which my lover in 2002 braved a murderous attack by his own family.

The reflexive authoritarianism of so many in the Church hierarchy in treating our love as disordered is akin to that violence.

On that awful day, when his uncle declared, “You have brought shame upon our family,” my Patrick replied, “I have a right to live my own life.” His uncle lunged at him with a knife, which he kicked out of his uncle’s hand.

Years later, the same uncle apologized for what he had done. It turned out that he had a gay son himself, and needed Patrick’s help. This should be a humbling lesson to those who are forever slamming doors on us that they are powerless to prevent the opening of windows at unexpected times and places.

Ultimately, the bullies are defeated by the simple, powerful witness of our love — the love, as Dante wrote, that moves the sun and the other stars.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at

Copyright © 2021 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.



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Richard J. Rosendall

Richard J. Rosendall


Former president, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington. Charter member, NAACP-DC Police Task Force. Co-founder, Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.