15Nov Pope Francis Sent Me a Letter. It Gives Me Hope as a Gay Catholic.

The New York Times – Opinion Guest Essay.

Mr. O’Loughlin, a correspondent for a Catholic news organization, is the author of “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of the Fear,” from which this essay is adapted.

When Carol Baltosiewich was a Catholic nun, she spent 10 years caring for young men dying from AIDS. Even so, the first time I spoke to her, in 2016, I was terrified to tell her I’m gay.

As a reporter who covers the church, I had started interviewing Catholics who worked and fought during the height of the H.I.V. crisis in the United States, roughly 1982 to 1996. People like Ms. Baltosiewich persisted amid frequent hostility from church leaders toward gay people and the broader stigmas of the time. A poll in 1987 found that 43 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”

A Catholic myself, I’d long internalized that being honest about my sexual orientation could be dangerous. L.G.B.T. people have been fired from their jobs at Catholic organizations. Some groups supporting L.G.B.T. Catholics have been barred from parishes. So even someone like Ms. Baltosiewich, who has loved and served countless gay men, could feel risky.

Link to full article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/opinion/pope-francis-lgbt-community.html

8 Responses

  1. Ger Hopkins

    Pope Francis Sent Me a Letter…

    What a bizarre article. How odd.

    In 2016, five years ago, he was “terrified”, not concerned or worried but “terrified”, to tell a woman with a long history of working with AIDS sufferers that he was gay.

    A year after the gay marriage referendum here, six months before Leo Varadkhar became Taoiseach, he felt that telling Ms Baltosiewich he was gay “could be dangerous”.

    Even though he was the national correspondent for America: The Jesuit Review, home to Fr James Martin who published at least 10 articles on gay and LGB issues in its pages in 2016, it felt “risky” to be honest about being gay because of the fear of being “fired” or “barred”.

    How peculiar.

    Do people just suspend their critical faculties when it comes to this subject?

    Reading the article it is as clear as day that the Pope’s message in his letter is once again “Hate the sin, love the sinner”.
    There’s a bit of creative ambiguity in how one quote from the letter is used:
    The Pope offered a decades-delayed papal blessing on the work undertaken by people like Ms. Baltosiewich. “Instead of indifference, alienation and even condemnation… these people let themselves be moved by the mercy of the Father and allowed that to become their own life’s work”

    Leaving the reader to think the Pope is referring to discrimination by the Church against Catholics working with AIDS sufferers in the 80s when in fact he is referring to society’s view of AIDS victims at the time.

    We’re well used to that in the old media in Ireland but you think of the NYT as taking these things a bit more seriously.

    P.S. I’m all for strangeness and peculiarity. It adds colour to the world. e.g. the profile picture Michael uses online would make him an extraordinarily well preserved 63 year old.
    https://twitter.com/mikeoloughlin
    https://www.mikeoloughlin.com/

  2. Joe O'Leary

    Pope Francis sent me a Letter…

    The point of the article is that the author overcame cynicism to recognize that gay relations could be a powerful and valid expression of love. His cynicism is or was shared by many priests, or perhaps was even de rigueur in clerical circles, so that they were overtaken by the laity’s wisdom.

    The ‘love that dare not speak its name’ is no longer ‘odd’ or ‘bizarre’ or ‘strange’ or ‘peculiar’; those epithets have migrated to another affection that dare not speak its name.

    The author may be screwed up by his Catholic experience (even Mr Varadkar, who is Jewish,*** was terrified of coming out to the Irish people), but we need not doubt that he is telling us what he felt, whether rational or not.

    ‘Reading the article it is as clear as day that the Pope’s message in his letter is once again “Hate the sin, love the sinner”.’ Surely the author himself made that as clear as day (referring not directly to the pope but to his CDF)? Though touched by the letter, he expresses the disappointment he is not alone in feeling, but intimates that he has hope–in view of a new willingness to dialogue–that things are perhaps on the verge of changing at last.

    ‘Leaving the reader to think the Pope is referring to discrimination by the Church against Catholics working with AIDS sufferers in the 80s when in fact he is referring to society’s view of AIDS victims at the time.’ Really? The papal letter seems to accept the author’s complaint of Catholic discrimination, and does not redirect it to the convenient fiction of ‘society’s view’.

    Btw, the author is not THE but A national correspondent of America. His essay is adapted from a book-length study, which sounds like an encouraging and edifying report on good work done by good Catholics (but under pressure from fellow catholics, to the point of having to leave a religious order; hence the eloquence of the papal gesture).

    (Ed: ***Mr Varadkar is quoted as saying he is not religious but raised Catholic in a mixed-race, mixed-religion household, Catholic and Hindu.)

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Pope Francis sent me a Letter…

    Oops, excuse momentary confusion due to stories of Leo Varadkar’s friendship to the Irish Jewish community (https://www.thejc.com/community/community-news/irish-prime-minister-leo-varadkar-attends-his-first-seder-1.462007).

  4. Ger Hopkins

    Pope Francis sent me a Letter…

    Joe #2, I’m intrigued about this other affection you refer to, but since it can’t speak its name I suppose I’ll have to remain in the dark.

    To me the emphasis in the Pope’s letter seemed to be on loving the sinner. I’d be delighted if you think the CDF also show that love but I’m guessing you meant something else.

    The principal thing that is being confused in this very confused article is the distinction between ministering to the sick and advocating for the lifestyle that made them susceptible to the sickness in the first place.

    It is hard to imagine an AIDS worker being condemned by the Church or by society for carrying out corporal works of mercy. As far as I’m aware everyone viewed that work as heroic. The difficulties, again as far as I’m aware, all arose when people argued for and promoted active homosexuality. That would obviously have led to difficulties for religious especially.

    While the act of caring for the sick might lead to sympathy for their lifestyle choices it’s still possible to view the two things separately. Those caring for AIDS victims in the eighties would have been just as likely to be dealing with intravenous drug users. Without that leading them to campaign for the acceptance of the use of hard drugs.

    Or as we might say ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’.

  5. Joe O'Leary

    Pope Francis sent me a letter…

    I wrote ‘passion’ first but changed it to affection’ in the old sense:

    the action or process of affecting or being affected.

    a condition or disease.
    “an affection of the skin”
    a mental state; an emotion.

    The ‘mental state’ that conduces to mockery of gays today dares not speak its name and lurks in silence, whereas, happily, the normal and natural affections of gays and lesbians are being expressed openly and honestly.

  6. Paddy Ferry

    Pope Francis sent me a letter.

    “The ‘mental state’ that conduces to mockery of gays today dares not speak its name and lurks in silence, whereas, happily, the normal and natural affections of gays and lesbians are being expressed openly and honestly.”

    Very well said, Joe.

  7. Soline Humbert

    Pope Francis sent me a letter (15Nov)

    An excellent, important talk..attended by 6 Irish bishops!
    https://acireland.ie/kate-moynihan-leads-aci-to-ally-with-lgbtqi-catholics/
    Thank you ACI for making this text available

  8. Eddie Finnegan

    Pope Francis sent me a letter / ‘Kate Moynihan leads ACI to ally with LGBTQI Catholics’

    Thanks to ACI for this excellent article, to Kate Moynihan for the lead she has given, to 25% of the Bishops for their presence, and to Soline@7 for the link. For the hearing challenged or deaf among us Zoom attendance is always a challenge, so a transcript or article such as ACI has supplied is next best thing. Site Editor, could this linked article be given greater prominence on this ACP forum?