Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interview on LGBT issues

Sarah Haidara, interviewed me via email for her London Metropolitan University newspaper Verve. Here are the questions and answers.

Are you the founder of the Farm Street Church LGBT group? If yes, can you tell me why you decided to create it? If not, can you tell me when you joined?
No, I am not the founder of the Farm Street Church LGBT group. I joined the group about five years ago. Within the comunity we have a group for the younger people in the 20's 30's and 40's. I am coordinating an outreach team from this group (the YAG outreach team).

The LGBT Catholic community goes back many years. Previously to Farm St , before March 2013 we were meeting regularly at Our Lady of The Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, every other week. Previously to that, people from the community were meeting at St Anne's Anglican Church; and even before that there were meetings in particular houses. Thus, the movement over the past fifteen years have been towards becoming a more visible community inside the Catholic church, and towards becoming more integrated to the regular Church life and liturgy.

How important is it to have a group like that?
I think it is good for LGBT Catholics to be able to meet other LGBT Catholics, so we can support  and encourage each other. The LGBT Catholic Westminster group has a pastoral council which considers the needs of the community and the development of meetings about various related topics, prayer, support, and days of reflection.We come together for the 6:15PM Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, Mayfair on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, and we also meet after mass.

In addition, the younger adult group (YAG) also meets regularly for spiritual and social activities. Through our fellowship, we seek to create an environment in which younger LGBT people feel supported and can embrace and deepen their faith, nurture their personal relationships with God and with each other, and engage in Christian witness in the Archdiocese of Westminster and in the wider society.

I think that these aims are still relevant and important.
[ The above answer heavily copies from our website statements and mission ;-) ]

In your experience do most people from the LGBT community tend to stay away from religion?
I think that an increasing number of people in our society, specially the younger generations, perceive the Catholic Church as hypocrite: on one hand it preaches to love your neighbour while on the other it publicly opposes homosexual relationships and marriage. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not the reality of the Church corresponds to this image, this perceived tension drives people away from religion, specially in the LGBT community. The proof is that many seem to believe that you have to choose between your religious identity or your LGBT identity; thus they become surprised when they find out that I am gay and also Catholic. I have good news here. You can be a wonderful Catholic without renouncing to your LGBT identity. 

Nowadays, a lot of celebrities support the LGBT community, and even in TV shows, there are more gay, lesbian or transsexual characters. But in your opinion, do a lot of people still struggle to come out because they fear people’s reaction?
The closet is not a very healthy place to be for LGBT people because of the inner psychological energy that it takes to keep it. However, once you come out of the closet you can't get back into it, therefore it is understandable that people would take precautions about to whom and when they come out. Many of the meetings that our YAG-LGBT group organises are not advertised in a way that anyone can come, as some people fear that they may be outed. At the same time many of us also have no problem to attend London Pride March as LGBT Christians.

There are still quite a significant number of church people who find people who aren’t heterosexual sinful. But at the same time, there are more people who are atheist or who seek spiritual fulfilment through other mean (for example Buddhism). So, in your opinion does the opinion of the church still affect young people?
I think that many people seek some sort of spiritual fulfilment in this life. And some of these, disenchanted from the Church try to find it somewhere else. To me, however, the route to spiritual fulfilment is to trust the good news of Jesus Christ, and become one of his disciples in the Church.
I am quite unsure about how much the opinion of the Church affects young people in general. I don't think that young people, as a class, listen to the church, say, more than they listen to teachers, friends, tv-series, or politicians. In many cases it can even be that what they think the church says is not actually what it says but a caricature or a deformation of its true message. On the other hand, there is always some people who do care about what the Church says. In this case it is more likely in my opinion that they would care about what the church says in many areas and not just LGBT related issues.

In your opinion did the church become more tolerant of people from the LGBT community in the past years? Do you think that in a couple of years or even in a decade from now, Christianity will fully accept and tolerate the LGBT community?
If acceptance and tolerance of LGBT people you mean to officially bless and support same-sex marriages, or officially include partnered people in leadership roles of the Church, I don't think this is going to happen in a widespread worldwide manner any time soon.

I think however that the Christian denominations and communities in the western world have changed in the same direction than society, being in general more inclusive of LGBT people now than in the past. There has been also some radicalisation on this topic,  becoming in some places the defining test to be either inside or outside of certain communities or circles. 

In my opinion the Catholic Church has also changed in the last decade or two, but basically under the surface and at grass level. It is possible that at this point in time we will start seeing changes in the pastoral approach to LGBT people, without official changes in the teachings of the Church. 
If you are a young LGBT Catholic person in your 20's 30's or early 40's you may want to join our welcoming YAG group at Farm St ( or come to mass with us on the 2nd and 4rth Sunday of each month.  

What was your relation to religion while you were growing up? Would you say you’re a religious person?
I've been Catholic all my life. Yes, I would say that I am a religious person.

Can you tell me how old you are?
I'm 35 years old. I am not representing LGBT-CatholicsWestminster nor YAG, thus statements of opinion are my own. I blog at

No comments: