On June 1, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted that Catholics should not attend Pride events during the month of June, which is commemorated as “Pride Month” throughout the United States.
“A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Tobin tweeted. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”
By the following day, the bishop issued another statement after widespread backlash against his original tweet.
“The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” Tobin said, adding that “individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.” While the bishop expressed regret that some people took offense at his tweet, he did not apologize for or retract any of the content of his original statement.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches what Tobin tweeted: that people with same-sex attraction must be treated with love and respect, and that the promotion of same-sex sexual relationships is contrary to faith and morals, and God’s plan for human sexuality.
Given these two teachings, what should a Catholic do if invited to participate in “Pride” events?
How Pride month started
The commemoration of June as “Pride Month” was officially established by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but it was already being unofficially celebrated for decades prior to that.
Pride Day, which eventually grew to be Pride Month, has been commemorated since June 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, when activists and other New Yorkers took to the streets to protest against police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar and lounge at the time for people identifying as gay and lesbian.
Today, Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. with parades, parties and concerts celebrating the gay rights movement and celebrating the LGBT lifestyle.
Chris Stefanick, a Catholic author, speaker and lay minister at Real Life Catholic, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would not be attending “Pride” events, and that he also discouraged other Catholics from doing so, especially with children.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is really clear about this,” Stefanick said. He cited the Catechism’s paragraph 2358, which states that people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Stefanick noted in his video that “Pride” events, in their origin, were largely about speaking up against just that – unjust discrimination and harsh treatment towards LGBT people.
“I agree with the Catechism on that because I’m a devout, card-carrying Catholic. If that’s all that ‘Pride’ parades were about, I would show up, I would march in one, and I would have a t-shirt that said ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358.’ Right? Because it would be a Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 parade!” he said.
But “Pride Parades” today encompass a much larger agenda than anti-discrimination, Stefanick said.
“They’re largely funded by, supported by, attended by, the secular LGBT agenda. And while one sliver of what they’re standing for and pushing against in society is upholding the dignity of the person, which I would agree with, there’s a whole lot more that they’re pushing for that’s directly against my faith,” he said.
In follow-up comments to CNA via email, Stefanick said that that video cost him a donor, who accused Stefanick of being unloving for his opposition to attending Pride events. In a subsequent email to that donor, Stefanick reiterated that he was attempting to approach the issue out of love for all people, and in line with his faith.
“So much confusion exists around this issue,” Stefanick said.
“And that confusion is often perpetuated by people in Church leadership who add to the world’s perception that anything said with clarity is hateful and hurtful and bigoted. It’s perpetuated by people who refuse to clarify which aspects of the LGBT movement we agree with, and which ones we have to absolutely reject…not because we’re moralists, but because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and happiness we’re looking for, and nothing else will do!”
How to love without compromise
Courage is a Catholic organization for people with same-sex attraction and for those who love them. It supports them in leading a chaste life and building community and deep friendships with others in the Church who support them.
Courage is active in about two-thirds of the Catholic dioceses of the U.S., as well as in multiple other countries, with more than 150 Courage Chapters and just under 100 Encourage Chapters. Encourage is the apostolate for relatives and loved ones of people who identify as LGBT.
Fr. Philip Bochanski, the executive director of Courage, told CNA that Catholics should keep in mind that Pride events “were originally meant to draw attention to unjust discrimination and harsh and sometimes even violent treatment against people because of their sexual attractions and their understanding of their sexual identity.”
“And so the idea that we ought to call that out and condemn it is simple. That’s something that The Church is fully in agreement with,” he said, also referencing CCC 2358.
“And a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from 1986 goes even further and says: ‘It’s deplorable that homosexual people have been and are the object of violence malice in speech and in action, and that such behavior deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors whenever it occurs,’” Bochanski added.
“The Church has always been in agreement that people who are living with these experiences should not be discriminated against unjustly and should not be treated with malice or violence,” he said.
But the Church also teaches that the answer to the unjust treatment of people identifying as LGBT “is not to change the Church’s teaching or to say that homosexual relationships are good or moral, but the answer really should be to teach the truth more clearly about the dignity of the human person, and call all of our brothers and sisters to a life in holiness which always includes the virtue of chastity, among the other virtues,” he said.
Bochanski added that he has some Catholic friends, many of whom are involved in the Courage apostolate, who attend Pride events — though not as participants or marchers.
“They’re there along the route offering words of encouragement about God’s love and the inherent dignity of every person, talking about the virtue of chastity, offering people friendship and support and if they’d like to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about same-sex attraction, offering them support if they want to understand what chastity means and how to embrace it.”
Still, he said, while it may be good for some people to attend Pride events in order to witness to God’s love and the teachings of the Church, it would be “foolish to ignore the reality” that sometimes, at some of these events, some people display “images that can be lewd and in some cases offensive and scandalous and especially for younger people.”
“(Catholics) have to be very prudent and careful about that reality and not expose ourselves to situations we can’t control that are offensive or obscene, or raise issues that a person is too young to understand,” he noted.
Bochanski said that Catholics can love those who identify as LGBT by being willing to listen seriously to them, and by accompanying them on a path of holiness.
“I think that trying to welcome and accompany people as Jesus would do really starts with a willingness to listen to where people are coming from and what they’re going through,” he said.
“So, I often say, a person who wants to spread the Good News and lead people to understand God’s plan for sexuality and relationships and virtues like chastity…(should) say, first of all, ‘I love you very much,’” to such a person, he said.
“Second, ‘I believe that God has a plan for your life and for your relationships and for sexuality, and if you follow that plan, it’s going to lead you to be happy.’ And third, ‘I want to hear your story so that we can see your story in light of the Gospel story and we can walk together as we see that path that God has marked out for us,’” Bochanski added.
He also said that it’s important to present the fullness of the truth of God’s plan for sexuality, which is a Church teaching that cannot change: “that’s always going to be true, because it comes from the Word of God.”
Bochanski emphasized loving people with same-sex attractions as full persons, and helping them to see that their identity does not lie solely within their sexuality. This is the reason the apostolate typically uses the terms “people with same-sex attractions” rather than “gay” or “lesbian,” for example.
“(A)s we’re striving to love someone, we shouldn’t label them or encourage them to label themselves according to their sexual attractions, saying ‘this is who I am and how God made me,’” he said, “because it’s not telling the whole truth about the nature of the human person and the nature of God’s plan for our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships.”
Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.
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