Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

‘The Church must welcome all of her sons and daughters’

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published October 16, 2014  | En Español

It took a while before our calendars could all sync, but finally the meeting took place about six weeks ago. From my point of view, it was well worth the wait. I had a superb encounter with about 10 simply wonderful folks who came from five or six of our parishes. They are members of a larger group of individuals who belong to many other parishes, but who find a common bond in the fact that they are parents of gay and lesbian children.

Like parents everywhere they love their children, and like faithful Catholics they also love our Church. Yet they also are deeply troubled to feel that our Church does not love their children, and therein is the conflict that fills and saddens their hearts.

As parents, they have all faced and accepted the reality of having a child who has openly shared their sexual orientation with them in trust and in the hope of being lovingly received as a son or daughter. As devoted parents, they obviously reacted with concern that their child’s revelation would become the source of hurt and discrimination. They know that it too often does bring rejection and insult to a child that they love and cherish.

What they hope for now is that our Church will become more loving and understanding of the worth and dignity of their children.

These wonderful people asked the Archbishop if he could love their children with the same compassion and understanding that the Lord Jesus embraced those He encountered as living outside of the social and religious norms of his time.

I assured them that not only could I respect and love their children, I was obliged to do so by the same Gospel mandate that governs the entire Church.

Our conversation included a personal description of the young people represented by these parents. Some of them brought photographs, and many spoke of their children with tears. These young men and women were raised in Catholic homes, some attended Catholic schools, and many were very active in parish activities.

Their parents then spoke of the hostile environment that many of them encountered from the Church. The language that the Church uses in speaking of their sexual orientation is often unwelcoming and condemnatory. These parents said repeatedly that their children do not feel welcome in the faith of the Church in which they were raised.

I assured them that the Church must welcome all of her sons and daughters—no matter what their sexual orientation or life situation might be—and that we have not always done so with a spirit of compassion and understanding. I spoke of the distinction that our Church makes between orientation and behavior, which admittedly needs reexamination and development.

We are all called to conversion—not just some members of the Church.

The severity of some of our moral language occasionally suggests that certain members of the Church are superior to others. St. Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).”

I encouraged this group to continue to meet and pray together. I will ask one of our deacons with a child who is gay to serve as my liaison with them. I invite any pastor who has been in conversation with parishioners who might face some of these same challenges to contact Amy Daniels in our Formation and Discipleship Office to refer them to this group. I will celebrate Mass in November for the group at their fall retreat, and I will continue to support them, as they remain very much in my heart, as do their children.

I ask all of us to pray for them and their children that we might together discover ways to draw them closer to the heart of the Church—where they belong and where there is always room. I am very glad to know that the Bishops’ Synod is asking these very same questions right now in Rome!