With recent LGBTQ community targeted hate crimes — namely the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs — identifying with the community can seem even more daunting. Catholicism is one religious sect where homophobia is prominent.
However, people like Danielle Wiese and Kate Berry are working on breaking the stereotype. Catholic Allies, an advocacy group based in Indianapolis, is striving to promote the dignity and respect of the LGBTQ community. I saw their post on Instagram where they received permission from the priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Church to represent the LGTBQ community by going to church wearing shirts with rainbows and various colors (though they are not affiliated with the Catholic Church or the Archdiocese). By doing this, they doubled the size of their congregation who were all there in support. They have a goal of creating a safe environment for those within the LGBTQ community and spreading the word that their faith is for all.
After reading about their work, I decided to reach out. By the end of the day, Wiese answered the questions I had about their mission.
After making the time to sit down and talk, Wiese and Berry, who had been friends since kindergarten, decided to start an advocacy group a few months ago. Ever since then, they’ve received more support than they had anticipated.
“It feels like this is kind of like dominoes. All of these people were set up just ready to start this movement and start this conversation and we just kind of tapped the first domino and everything fell into place,” Wiese said.
When I say I went to Catholic school, people question whether my experience was traumatizing or if I felt forced into the religion. Luckily, I can say that I had a good Catholic school experience and felt safe within my community, even though others cannot say the same. Sadly, the stereotype that Catholic schooling can be hard for kids within the LGBTQ community is not entirely wrong.
Christianity has a rough past with the LGBTQ community. Oftentimes, it can be expected for someone who goes to a Catholic school to be discriminated against for bringing up this community. People in the LGBTQ community who try to go to Church oftentimes report feeling uncomfortable.
By bringing their mission out to local Catholic spaces, Berry and Wiese have a mission to change that discomfort. They strive to “work within the writings of the Catholic Church,” as a call towards respecting the dignity of the LGBTQ community. They also hope to support the mental health of LGBTQ youth.
Sadly, those who identify within the LGBTQ community are four times more likely to attempt suicide within the U.S. Wiese works as a pediatrician and is well aware of statistics like this. Some of the children Wiese works with are a part of the LGBTQ community, and their mental health doesn’t always get better with therapy or medication. Their mental health struggles stem from the sense of shame they feel about their identity.
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She and Berry hope to change this normalization into a situation where these kids feel safe in speaking about their identity.
“That, to us, is what it means to be followers of Jesus, to stand up for those who are marginalized and who have been discriminated against,” Wiese said.
Christians who believe in the dignity of LGBTQ people are not the minority. One study found that 54% of Christians feel that people in the LGBTQ community should be accepted. Also, acceptances of openly gay or lesbian couples in congregations have risen somewhat from 37% to 48%.
Wiese left final remarks about Catholic Allies' mission statement — to call upon every catholic to accept those a part of the LGBTQ community. She believes everyone is “made in the image of God, deserving of respect, to have their dignity be seen, to be loved and to know they’re not alone."
Being Catholic does not mean you have to be homophobic. There are many factors that go into having a Catholic faith, and accepting those within the LGBTQ community, is one of those factors.
Carolyn Marshall (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in media studies with a focus in TV, film and digital production and a minor in English.