LGBT Catholics share their stories at World Youth Day

Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations is sponsoring six young Roman Catholics are on their way to the church’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero. Their message: that the church must treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with respect and advocate them.

World Youth Day is held every two to three years, and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, ages 16-35, to the host city. This year the six-day event will take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and wil begin on July 23. The event is focused on prayer and spiritually but will also include teaching sessions sponsored by organizations such as the Knights of Columbus that have opposed any advancement of civil rights for LGBT people.

Lauren Carpenter, 27, a social from Baltimore who is facilitator of the Young Adult Caucus for DignityUSA is one of the young people going to the event. She spoke of the impact their coalition's presence will have, "I have met so many LGBT young people who has struggled with shame, guilt and confusion because their church tells them they should not love who they love. I hope our presence gives hope to any LGBT Catholic youth who are present, and in a small way works at changing the homophobia in the church."

Though the Roman Catholic hierarchy opposes marriage equality and expanded civil rights protections for LGBT people, the vast majority of Catholics in America support LGBT people, including support marriage equality. Marriage equality is legal in Brazil and in the pope’s native Argentina, both heavily Catholic countries. Also a string of polls in the last two years show that Catholics, especially young Catholics, in the United States support LGBT equality more and more.

“My Catholic faith challenges me to stand up and advocate for those who are turned away and belittled by society, even if I must stand up to the leaders of the faith that has taught me these very values,” said Megan Graves another of the six young people.

In addition to participating in World Youth Day events, the pilgrims hope to meet representatives of other LGBT Catholic groups and possibly participate in a pubic vigil on behalf of LGBT people.