And I’m not the only one. There are many of us. And we won’t apologize for it. Despite everything there are still many of us who are gay and still hold on to our religion. First and foremost I have to start by saying I mean no disrespect, and I mean absolutely no disrespect, to all the victims and those hurt by the wrongdoings of the priests and those who covered it up for so long to anyone out there. But still some of us gays are holding on to our religion and if you don’t like it, too bad. Nobody is going to tell me, and nobody should tell anyone to not participate in or how to practice their religion, or spirituality. If you want to make a case for yourself and why you don’t practice, or have changed practice, ok, that’s fine. Please do! But you don’t get to dictate where my faith should take me to worship. I’ll respect your decision, as you should respect mine. Let’s go back, way back. Christianity, founded in the first century, has many branches, including Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. Catholicism differs from others in the rituals it requires, sacraments such as Baptism, Confession and Communion, among others. They also believe the communion, as based on the last supper to be more than just reflective of Jesus’ last meal with his apostles, that the host and wine were actually the body and blood of Christ. Ok. Do we believe in these things? Well if we are Catholic then yes our faith calls us to believe. Faith is the cornerstone of the religion. Of any religion! No matter what religion you belong to the rules, rituals, processions are all regimented and some have stricter requirements than others but for those who believe, it is because of their faith in that religion. Faith in their religion. Not faith in the men who preach. Not faith in the men who administer. Not faith in the men who manage the church, coordinate which priest goes to which parish, or dictate when Bishop raises to Cardinal. No, their faith is in the religion itself. When you look at it like this, and recognize that my faith is in my religion itself, you can’t expect me to abandon my religion simply because some of the men who administer that religion are evil. There is a reason my faith in my religion is so strong. I was raised Catholic. My parents were avid church-goers. We practiced the standard rules and protocols. We observed holy days of obligations, participated in the sacraments when it was time. My brother and I were both Alter boys, I lasted longer than he did lol. We had an advent wreath, gave up chocolate for lent, and we went or participated in the week-long Easter services of 3-hour masses. Maybe we enjoyed the buffet afterwards a bit more than the service but I never gave my parents a hard time about going. The reason for that is the reason I never really hated going to mass. I got something out of it. And that’s why I never turned my back on my religion despite the despicable acts of so many men in the church. Yes, they were horrible, despicable acts that never should have happened or allowed to continue. That clouded my opinion on how this branch of Christianity manages their servants, with more thought about political gain than anything else, but it didn’t cloud my faith in the religion itself. That’s why people stay with their religion. They get something personal out of it. They get comfort, they get support, they get guidance and they get care. Parish is community, and when people in the community come together to congregate in a mass at a church every week, they form this parish. That means something to people. Having that sense of commonality in something so deeply meaningful and personal is huge! To know that your own beliefs and what keeps you going when things are tough are the same things that others have is an incredible feeling. What I got was how it made me feel. Even as a teenager sitting in church there was something that resounded in me. And not just the sermon. I remember the words of the mass, the script the priest had, I remember the passage that comes after the Lord’s prayer, hell I still repeat it every night after I say my prayers. Oh I probably shouldn’t have used the ‘h’ word there but <<shrug>>. And yes, I pray every night. Don’t you? I have a lot to pray for. The joy my kids bring me, the health of my family, the strength to shoulder burdens and more importantly, to give thanks for the so many good things that have happened in my life. When you think about it, and you should, there really are more good things that have happened in our lives than bad, and why not give thanks to your higher power for them. For me mine is God, but that doesn’t have to be yours. You do have one though, don’t you? I have seen the power of community in a parish at work. When my best friend passed away last summer, the outpouring of support just from friends within the parish, was enlightening. It was beautiful, and it was truly special. You see, when you are a member of a parish, even if you don’t know all the other members, they are your friends and they want to help because that’s what they do. That’s just simply what they do. Helping her fellow parishoner means as much to Martha who made that wonderful lasagna, as it did to Jacob’s widow Sarah to get it. Maybe more so as she and Martha weren’t previously close, but her ‘call to action’ in the time of need for someone truly hurting and in need gave Martha purpose. It gave her the opportunity to do the work that she felt she was meant to do. That she felt God asked her to do. God is in that parish, and in each member. That’s where God is. We raised our boys in the Catholic church. Do we follow all the rules? no. I’m not a ‘Holiday Catholic’ that only goes Christmas and Easter. But I have to admit its pretty infrequent. I’d much rather go to the noon mass at the chapel downtown on my lunch break than on the weekend, but that’s just me. My kids go with their mom. Often begrudgingly, but my youngest actually doesn’t hate it. Our priest is young and relate-able to a certain degree. And he’s a fast-talker! Which is even better. I call myself catholic because I was raised catholic and I am catholic. And while we aren’t supposed to pick and choose what rules we follow, I have to admit we do. Go ahead and call me out on being hypocritical, but we do our best to abide by as much as we can but within our own beliefs. There’s a difference here and that’s based on what the first century men who created the religion deemed appropriate and today’s reality of who we are as a society, family and individuals. We allow ourselves to skip the Stations of the Cross. We don’t get the boys out of school early and make them miss Track or play practice because it’s All-Saints day. And over the summer we may find ourselves on hiatus while on vacation or if we don’t want to leave the beach on a Saturday afternoon. But our beliefs in our religion remain in tact. Because of our faith. Again, go ahead and call me hypocritical, but if you are one of those people who left the church because of all the scandals and will sit there and preach how much organized religion is bullshit and it sucks and any Catholic should consider themselves an idiot to stay in the church, well I’ve heard enough from you, so shut the fuck up and I mean that. I’ve heard much worse but I won’t list it all here. But, any of you spouting this: I dare you to go up to my best friend’s widow and say those same things to her, a woman who has gotten SO MUCH out of her own belief in her faith and her own religion and that it and of itself was an enormous source of comfort for her. Go ahead, I double-dog dare you!! You see, I’m man enough to respect your higher power and your way of relating to that higher power. What, you don’t have one? Damn, you are missing out! I mean it doesn’t have to be mine but it should be, well…something. Isn’t that what we should all strive for? Respecting everyone’s choice of religion? Where is it written that we should do that, I know I saw that somewhere… No, I’m wrong, the constitution gives everyone the right to the freedom to express their preferred religion but no one ever said we had to respect each other for that choice. That’s really sad. Behold the failure in American society. Rights don’t guarantee respect. A topic for another day perhaps. I will add that my version of respect doesn’t mean I, you, or anyone, should be allowed to shove their religion down your throat. It doesn’t mean my religion, your religion or anyone’s religion, should impinge upon the rights of anyone else. It doesn’t mean my religion, your religion or anyone’s religion, should allow for the discrimination of anyone else. In fact, believe it or not, the government’s own Religious Freedom law does NOT allow for the discrimination of anyone for being gay. Arguably this is my biggest issue with the catholic church. Discrimination. Having studied the history of the bible I became aware of that the men of the first century who took all these records, and books and writings and how they chose themselves what would be the official canon, based on their own agendas. I can honestly say that there is no firm evidence Jesus thought it a sin to have tattoos, prostitute yourself of be a homosexual. What isn’t arguable is the ten commandments, and the most important one is the one so many branches of Christianity seem to forget. Love Thy Neighbor. Again, while I may not follow all the edicts set forth by the Catholic Church, Love Thy Neighbor is one I strongly do. For now I’ll end with this. Just as I dared you to throw your disdain in the face of someone who truly needed the comfort her faith and religion provided just by being a member of her catholic parish, I dare you to hit me back and tell me why you can’t see the light, why you won’t participate, or why you don’t believe. But if you can’t do it with respect and sound reason, your opinion is pointless. Now look, If you or someone you love was a victim of abuse from a member of your religious sect, I respect your decision to leave. I have nothing but respect for your decision and compassion for having to go through that. Are you man enough to voice your opinion? To even have one? Throw me some shade… I dare you.