An Open Letter to Gay and Lesbian Christians (And to All People of Good Will)

A word or two about how this work came to be written. As part of a class on the Christian Scriptures, we were asked to write a letter, in the style of St. Paul, to a group within the People of God with whom we had some experience in life or ministry. What follows is what I submitted. I am convinced it is one of the two or three best things I have yet written.

Michael, a slave of Christ Jesus by the will of God, the grace of Baptism, and the unmerited gift of the Holy Spirit, to his gay brothers and lesbian sisters among God’s holy ones, and particularly to those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church: Grace to you all, and peace, from the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is coming. I give thanks all ways to God for you, my brothers and sisters-for your powerful presence both in the world and in the assembly of believers; for the manifest multitudes of gifts, graces, and blessings which God has given you; and for the selfless way you share those blessings with all who will receive them. You are an example and an inspiration to all who have eyes to see.

Yet I am not nearly so naive as to think that all the people of the inhabited world are willing to accept even an undoubted blessing if it comes from one of your hands, or that they all have eyes which are capable of discerning the generous way you share what you have with others. I do not intend to make light of or to gloss over the very real suffering you must endure each day because of your faith, your very nature, or some combination of both. Indeed, my sorrow to say it, some of the very worst of those sufferings come at the hands of those who call upon the same God as you do, and who acknowledge the same Jesus as Lord. But I am certain that God knows your sufferings, and will recompense you for them a thousandfold on the day of the Lord.

I beg of you, dear brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, not to let your hearts be troubled on this account, or to let your faith be weakened. The good news of the Gospel is for all-slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, and yes, gay, lesbian, or heterosexual. God does not play favourites, so you may legitimately question the sincerity and the motives of anyone who does-and especially of those who claim to do so in God’s name.

You who have died with Christ in Baptism must remember what you have been taught about him, and act as he would act, so that you may rise with Christ in the Resurrection from the dead. You have heard how the Lord told his disciples that if any town or village would not receive them they should move on to another place, and shake that town’s dust from their feet as they left it in witness against them on the Last Day? Go, therefore, and do likewise! But as you go, I bid you to remember our Lord’s injunction not to match one evil with another. Does this mean you should offer no resistance to evil, or to remain passively silent in the face of injustice? Let no one think it! I mean, rather, that you must not put off the Christ with whom you were clothed for new life in order to put on the garments and the likeness of your adversary which, being mortal, lead only to death. You may indeed refuse to cooperate with evil and actively resist injustice, but you must not become evil or unjust yourselves.

Brothers and sisters, I further urge you to consider your lives in the light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to conduct yourselves accordingly. Many call you “sodomites” for the wrong reasons, but there are some among you who deserve the name! Reform your lives, and hearken to the words of the Lord as spoken to the prophet Ezekiel: “The crime of your sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, calm complacency; such were hers and her daughters’ crimes. They never helped the poor and needy; they were proud, and engaged in idolatrous practices before me, and so I swept them away as you have seen.” Hear, too, the words of Isaiah: “If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words, if you deprive yourself for the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkest hour will be like noon.”

Brothers and sisters, have you lost your minds? Are there not enough people in the world already who hate you and tear you down, that you must do the same yourselves? I tell you again, God does not play favourites – so why should you? Has Christ then been divided into parts, that you should separate into factions and quarrel with one another? As the Lord Jesus told his disciples, anyone who is not against us is for us, and that house which is divided against itself cannot stand. There are many gifts among you, but one Spirit which inspires them all; the Lord of Life is one, but many and varied are the paths of those who follow him. “Those faggots” and “those dykes” you deride were buried with the same Christ in one Baptism, and it is one Lord in which the sissiest drag queens share, around the same table, with the most macho leathermen.

So I charge you to come together in love and in fellowship with one another, not in anger or derision. Do not be proud, or conceited, do not indulge in malicious gossip or spread falsehoods about one another. Rather, try to be as much like Christ in all things as you possibly can. Be kind to one another, and if you must boast about something, let it be that you are more devoted than anyone else to loving service of your fellow human beings. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself – most particularly those you disagree with.

Be mindful of the poor and needy, whether among you or elsewhere in the world. If you have been blessed with a greater share of worldly goods than others, let that greater blessing also be the measure of your charity. For though the world may hate you and utter every kind of vicious slander against you, your duty in the Lord is clear: you must love them anyway. Moreover, there exist among you many who are not as well off as you are, to say nothing of those who suffer persecution and loss of their daily labours and other resources because someone has found out that they are not “normal.” Shall these your dispossessed brothers and sisters then go naked, homeless, and hungry while you continue to enjoy your fine clothes, fancy apartment, and dine regularly in the finest restaurants?

Where sexuality is concerned, my brothers and sisters, it is my duty to remind you that it is God’s good gift to humankind, and that its primary purposes are unitive and procreative. These teachings are normative for all in the Catholic Church, and I know well that you have heard them thundered at you many times.

That is not my intention here. We are called to freedom by the Lord Jesus Christ, as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, and part of that freedom is the right to make moral choices for ourselves. Indeed, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council proclaimed, it is a moral duty for all to follow the dictates of an informed conscience – for it is by our consciences that we shall be judged. But it is not enough merely to claim the mantle of conscience after the fact, to cover a disagreement with the teaching of the church. No, one must first of all be familiar with the teachings of the church relevant to the problem, one must study those teachings in the light of the Gospel and of Tradition, and then prayerfully conclude that the teaching is in error or in conflict with either the Gospel or the Tradition (or both), before one may truly be said to have informed one’s conscience sufficiently to permit one to dissent – in which case one is obliged to do so, on pain of committing a serious sin.

By way of helping you to inform your individual consciences on this matter, dear brothers and sisters, I put forward these principles for your consideration:

  1. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” We may be free in Christ to engage in sexual relations with anyone we may choose and as often as we choose, but is there truly any benefit in such behaviour?
  2. The unitive nature of sexual intercourse is such that it should never be entered into wantonly, casually, or without due and proper consideration of all the possible consequences of doing so. Nor may sexual relations legitimately take place with anyone who, by reason of mental capacity, age, impairment of faculties or judgement, or the existence of some subordinate relationship such as student to teacher, client to therapist, etc., is unable to give free and full consent to the act.
  3. Sexual relations should be both mutually agreeable and agreeably mutual. Under no circumstances can a human being be reduced to the status of a mere object without serious damage to the innate dignity of all human beings that is our right as people both created and redeemed by God. Similarly, promises already made are binding until formally dissolved, and must therefore be respected – whether the promises are your own or another’s.
  4. Sexual intercourse is by nature procreative, which is not to say that it is solely concerned with the generation of children. Sexual relations can therefore never be looked upon as an end in themselves, but must always be seen as serving to bring about or to enrich life on some level.

Beyond these few points, brothers and sisters, which I offer as my own and not as something which comes from the Lord and which you are bound to obey, I leave it to you to make up your own minds and to inform your own consciences about your sexual behaviour. But whatever you may decide, I charge you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to be faithful to the Gospel both in reaching your decisions and in acting on them.

And lastly, brothers and sisters, I would speak to you about the terrible plague which has ravaged our world. Some have claimed that this disease is God’s punishment on a wicked age or a wicked people for its sins. As the Lord lives, let no one think it! Our God is a God of love, as we read in the letters of the Beloved Disciple, and rains on the just as well as the unjust, as our Lord told his disciples. Clearly, those who claim this disease is a punishment for our sins do not understand either God or love – and have forgotten the words of the Psalmist: “If you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand their ground?”

I grieve with you for the countless thousands already lost, and at the thought of the many thousands more who will be lost until a cure is found – may that day come quickly. But I rejoice to see the nobility of spirit, the depths of compassion, charity, and love which this epidemic has brought to the fore among you.

Do not lose hope, my beloved ones, because of this disease. Rest assured that the dead whom you mourn are not gone from you forever, and that they are surely held in the healing hands of our God who loves both them and us. Remember what the Lord Jesus promised his disciples as they broke bread together for the last time: there are many places in God’s house wherein we may dwell in safety, and that he would come back, when he had prepared a place for us, to take us to be with him in God’s presence forever. Let that be your hope and a consolation for you in this time of troubles.

Keep on your guard against those who would deceive or harm you, my brothers and sisters, and remain constant in faith, hope, and love. Continue the good works you have already begun, and add to them as you are able. I send you my love and my prayers, and I ask for yours on my behalf. Greet one another with a holy kiss. May the God of all compassion bless you and keep you safe until the Lord Jesus comes again – may that day be soon, and may we hasten its coming by our efforts to walk in the light of his Gospel.

Copyright ©1996 by Michael J. Spires. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to download this document only if this copyright notice is retained. Any other use constitutes a violation of Title XVII of the United States Code.