An article that appeared on WBEZ this week highlighted something that much of the news media, has been realizing for months, and that we have known for years: Catholic parishioners are ignoring their hierarchy on issues of LGBT equality, and are, instead, following their hearts toward acceptance and love. Parents Toni and Tom Weaver told the story of their son's coming out to WBEZ's Judy Valentine, and explained why their church's reaction has prompted both of them to leave.
“I was about as active in the church as a layperson could be,” Toni Weaver said, “I was an organist, a choir leader, daily Mass. I lived for the church. The church was so much a part of my life that I couldn’t imagine my life without it.”
That changed, however, when her youngest son, Michael, leaned forward from the back seat of their car to tell her and her husband something important on the day of his college graduation: "Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. I'm gay."
"We couldn’t wait to get home and get out of the car so both of us could just embrace him and assure that him everything was okay," Weaver said.
Interestingly, Weaver explained that, had Michael told her 10 years earlier, she likely wouldn't have had the same reaction. A devout and orthodox Catholic, Weaver said her mind wasn't changed about LGBT equality until she began doing masters work in theology. In her classes, she said she was moved by her colleagues' candor and vulnerability, and a realization about the nature of sexual orientation.
“Here were people who were gay who were being treated atrociously, and they were being denied their basic rights, and they were the butt of jokes,” she said. “It finally dawned on me that people don’t choose their sexual orientation. That for me was an absolute turning point, and I attribute it to the work of the spirit.”
Consequently, when she and her husband were sitting in mass and her priest began reading a letter denouncing LGBT rights and belittling marriage equality, Weaver says she felt slapped in the face by her church. From the middle of her pew, she stood up, maneuvered to the aisle, and walked out.
"I grieved the church for 18 months. I grieved it. Something had died in my life."
Parents like the Weavers are not unique; Catholics across the country are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a hierarchy that continually ignores the compassion of its congregants. A strong majority of American Catholics—56%--support marriage equality. Even greater numbers support issues like employment non-discrimination.
Driven by the gospel they've heard about for years, the one that calls people to care for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the marginalized, more and more Catholic mothers and fathers are embracing their LGBT children, friends and neighbors in beautiful defiance of the church leadership's anti-LGBT public posture.
GLAAD is moved by the courage of the Weavers, and recognizes how loudly their acts of compassion and acceptance speak.