My parents baptized me as an infant in the faith of the Catholic Church. As I grew older, I attended the classes required of me to make my first communion. Then, when I was in my teens, I was confirmed. My confirmation was my standing up for my own beliefs and saying that I was making the decision to be a Catholic.
As a practicing Catholic, I was always immensely proud of my faith and the important role it played in my life. I felt fortunate to have priests, nuns and lay ministers who taught me the value of being a Catholic and, more importantly, the importance of celebrating mass and being a part of the parish family. Throughout my bleak childhood, the parish felt very much like my home.
I walked away from the faith of my youth in my early 20s because I was struggling in my heart with my own sexuality. As I was processing what “it” all meant, I could never seem to recapture the connection I had felt in the church as a child. While nothing was ever really discussed regarding homosexuality in my church, it was understood that “those kinds of people” were not acceptable and that caused a discomfort that I could not shake.
It was when I fell in love with my beautiful late wife that I came to realize how important a role faith played in my life as an individual and, in addition, our life as a couple. I realized very strongly how much I missed that affirming community as we started attending St. Therese Parish in Madrona.
St. Therese Parish took care of me when my wife was suddenly killed in a flash flood. They helped me lay her to rest and, in doing so, helped hundreds of others who attended her funeral by making sense of the unthinkable circumstances.
Since Pope Benedict took the reins of the Catholic Church, I find that I am having a very difficult time defending my faith once again. The language of discrimination and denial of equality from the hierarchy has opened in me a place of abandonment and sadness. I cannot help but feel a sense of deep loss for the church that was once my home.
Washington State, with the support and understanding of our governor and legislators, understand that domestic partnerships will never be full equality for same-sex committed couples. They are working to change the language of the rights for same-sex couples from domestic partnerships to marriage.
I stood in the room as Gov. Gregoire made her televised announcement in support of same-sex marriage. She spoke of her personal growth and understanding of how marriage equality fit into her own Catholic faith. During her speech, she referenced her faith and the discussions she had with her daughters and bishops that aided her understanding of the importance of marriage equality for all families in Washington State.
In response to Gov. Gregoire’s support, the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) issued a letter to its parishioners stating that marriage is a civil contract between a male and female. The letter says that the law in Washington State prohibits marriage to close blood relations – which led them to believe that it is a clear indication that the definition of marriage is in direct relation to bringing children into the world and the continuation of the human race.
As I read on with further disbelief, the letter also stated that marriage is in faith and societal traditions an acknowledgement and the foundation of civilization, and that society was dependent on the stability of those relationships.
If the definition of marriage were to change, there would be no special laws to support and recognize the irreplaceable contribution that these married couples make to society and to the common good by bringing to life the next generation.
The WSCC feels that a change in legislation regarding marriage would mean that Washington State would no longer recognize the unique sacrifice and contributions made by (heterosexual) couples and, therefore, would add to the forces already undermining family life today.
The group is asking their parishioners to join them in prayer for “married (heterosexual) couples” and families and to do everything possible not to support this legislation of equality for homosexuals.
The tone of this letter speaks very little of an open and inclusive language, faith or the tenants of Christianity.
I am now a wife in a committed relationship with a beautiful woman. She is about to give birth to my child and this type of language is deeply painful for both of us. It leaves two Catholic women with the decision not to baptize their child in the church.
As a couple we have struggled in trying to figure out a way to rectify peace within our religion that now seems to increasingly speak as if gay and lesbian people have no ability or understanding of commitments, building families, relationships, love, or faith.
As painful as this letter was for me to write, I know that I am not the only one who knows this pain. I wait for the day when the church of my youth will again open its arms as Jesus once did and comes to understand that all of us are welcome.