Thursday, October 13, 2022


A fence in Laramie, Wyo., the town where Matthew Shepard was beaten and tortured in October 1998 

(Photo courtesy of Nicholas Fagnant)

“Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them."

I posted some stuff on Facebook yesterday which probably would fit better here, on the blog.  I forgot to set it for myself only - as I often do with the intent to use it as a blog post, or just to save it to reference.  I have to be careful on certain topics because family follows me now and I don't want to come off dogmatic or judgmental when I write about Catholic teaching.  Some would accuse me of compromise or not telling the truth (in charity) but that's not the case.

What happened yesterday was that it was a remembrance for Matthew Shepard, which Fr. Martin, SJ linked to, at the Outreach site.  I know I'm on some people's watch list because I'm sympathetic to Fr. Martin and his work, just as I am supportive of Pope Francis and his reform.  That's fine, I'm no longer controlled by their criticism.  As I always repeat, ad nauseum, I completely support and love Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage as defined by the CDF and the Catechism, and Tradition and Scripture.  I've done my best to live in fidelity to that as well.

The story I linked to is in memory of Matthew Shepard, who died 24 years ago, and is a personal reflection on Shepard’s story by Nicholas Fagnant, a doctoral student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  It is a touching tribute. I believed for a long time Matthew's death had nothing to do with being gay - that being gay wasn't "tangential" to the crime. If I posted in sympathy, I was often criticized and accused. Clearly I was wrong on so many levels, especially regarding the motives and bias of the men who killed him. There is still such a push to discredit every story like this, to depersonalize gay people, to deny their existence, to insist that is not 'who they are'.

Nicholas Fagnant's story is compelling.  He is a faithful gay Catholic - and his account is edifying.

What I learned on my pilgrimage...

I have long felt a deep connection to the story of Matthew Shepard and I have spent most of my life relating to Matthew as a queer saint. On October 6, 1998, Matthew—a scrawny, 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming—was picked up at a bar by two men pretending to be gay. They tied Matthew to a fence and beat him into a coma. Matthew died six days later at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.

United with God, Matthew is forever a part of the Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints. I imagine Matthew’s queer miracles show up quietly, most likely in the lives of other queer kids searching for belonging and among H.I.V. positive folks. Sometimes I pray to Matthew, and I keep the Rev. William Hart McNichols’ icon (pictured below) near my front door. Every time I head to class, the icon reminds me why I’m studying. Matthew’s story continues to shape me and my “faith that does justice.”

Just like Matthew Shepard’s parents, my parents met as students at the University of Wyoming. Growing up, I reluctantly sported my “Junior Joe” gear at Cowboy football games. As a scared kid beginning to wrestle with understanding my gay identity, I became increasingly anxious in public places that I felt could inflict some kind of spiritual, emotional or physical harm. - Outreach

I just want to say that I see nothing wrong with Outreach - so far all the articles I've read help me to be open to others and their experience of being gay and Catholic.  That is a good thing.

It is important to be honest with oneself, with others, with God.   

Again, yesterday, I was speaking with a dear old priest friend, whom I have known since college.  He asked about my brother's visit and asked me - again - why it was so long that I had seen my he and the rest of my family. I told him I didn't know. And I didn't.  I guess I've been so used to saying I didn't know, that I came to believe I really didn't know.

Later, as we were talking, I mentioned I was careful of what I post these days because I now have gay nieces and nephews and I don't want to turn them against the Church.  As I was explaining what I meant by that, I told him how I had stayed away from family for years so as not to give a bad example or give the impression I was living in a gay marriage - he understood, since he has known me for all these years and knew my situation. Long story short, I suddenly realized that was it - why I stayed away from the family. I didn't want to scandalize or give a bad example.  Every time I got close, I said something or did something that could be misunderstood as encouraging a gay lifestyle. I withdrew and cut off communication, believing explaining myself would be too complicated and that they would say it didn't matter to them what the Church taught and so on.

I never knew how distancing myself hurt my family...

Likewise, while I was absent, I missed how the family developed, how a couple members of my family grew and realized, all by themselves, without any influence from me, that they were gay. I did not make them gay! I was not even in their lives to give them a bad example! (Until one came out and I really believed I gave him a bad example.)  That said, this realization has been huge for me.

Recently, in the last few years, Cardinal Burke told Catholic parents that they should not invite gay relatives - esp. those in gay partnerships - to family gatherings such as Christmas. This Cardinal and I are the same age - that was exactly my mindset throughout the years. Until Pope Francis came along - accepting and encouraging us all to do likewise.

Until I reunited with my family this summer I imagined I was an outsider, an outcast. In meeting my brother and sister, nieces and nephews, I understood I was never an outsider, nor was I that important as an influence - I was my sister's brother and uncle to her kids. Her kids were not trained to judge but to love. Little kids don't judge - they love and respond to love - when they grow up - guess what? They love you just they way you are. Never, ever underestimate familial love. Love and accept one another.

St. Paul writes, 'stop lying to one another' - we need to stop lying to ourselves.  We need to let ourselves be loved.