I work for the Catholic Church as a Choir director. Five years ago upon my hire, I was quick to come out to my boss, thinking it best to be forthright. He told me he knew when he hired me, and then off handedly added, “I suspect you will use discretion in your relating to the parishioners?” Knowing he meant nothing intentionally demeaning in his token of seemingly friendly advice, I feared it would be a detriment to my growing in self actualization, but decided nonetheless to carry on in my musical pursuits.
To my delight, I found that a great number of people in the pews could not careless to many of the mainline teachings of the church and were more interested in a genuine encounter with God, or something higher than themselves, than they were with whom people choose to love, sleep with, or with being told how to treat followers of other faith traditions, or whether or not practicing safe sex was safe morally. Greater still, I found generally that those who were attracted to the music program and choirs were more accepting even still, often with children, relatives, or they themselves gay.
To be certain, I have had my less than accepting moments. In the beginning when older churchgoers would try to set me up with their granddaughters, I grew tiresome of telling people that I was considering the priesthood and am taking necessary time to discern. Perhaps a shameful and easy answer, I did not feel like coming out on Sunday mornings after only one cup of coffee. Perhaps the most scathing incident was a letter and petition that asked for my immediate removal simply because I was a homosexual and worked with children’s. It was, in his words, an abomination, and I might turn the children into little gay, sexually perverse monsters simply by daring to breath the same air they breathed. (As a side note, that man who called for my dismissal would later ask for my forgiveness for his hateful, intolerant actions). But it was the love of first group I mentioned, and the sometimes impossible hope of the just described conversion, that kept me going.
As to practicing discretion, it became a non-issue. I found people have a way of looking into your eyes that tell you all you need to know, at least people who have come to know in some way the depths of their own selves. There exists a matured depth to their gaze that says ‘I love you just the way God made you.’ The shallower eyes, by contrast, lack that depth and level of self- awareness, being content to simply into ecclesial line, leaving their conscious in a doctrinal box underneath their canonically surveillanced bedrooms.
So why do I continue working for an institution that historically condemns? I love choral music. I love teaching. And I love people seeing their spiritual evolution. To shake the same hand of man that also penned a petition for my removal, in a display of forgiveness, acceptance and mutual respect offers profound hope to me. My cynicism for the intolerance evolved (as I am still a work in progress) into a patient hope of conversion through love. The eyes of the blind really can be opened. Hearts can and do change.