Latin makeup 34 percent of all American Catholic adults. In 2022, the Catholic Church still does not recognize same-sex marriages and, according to Pew Research, Latinx Catholics tend to be more church-aligned than European American Catholics. They are also more likely than European American Catholics to view various behaviors, such as homosexuality, as sinful. For many fags latinx catholicsnavigating faith, community, and emotional well-being within the church can be like walking a tightrope.
In recent years, Pope Francis has spoken out about being more accepting of queer people in the church – or at least by creating spaces for pastoral care. He declared at the beginning of his pontificate: “If someone is homosexual and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him? Pope Francis even went so far as to openly thank the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, Sister Jeannine Gramick, who was barred from community work because she supported LGBTQ+ Catholics. However, the pope also upheld church doctrine that calls for LGBTQ+ chastity and calls same-sex acts “disorderly.” Just last year, the The Vatican doctrinal body has declared that Catholic priests could not bless homosexual unionsmuch to the frustration of those who saw the Pope’s earlier comments as a step in a more tolerant direction.
While the Vatican refuses to change its stance on homosexuality as a sin, how do LGBTQ+ people fit in and navigate a religion that seeks not just their expulsion, but their destruction? The answer is not black or white, but queer Latinx Catholics who stick to their faith and their parish do so for many reasons.
Family and community acceptance versus tolerance
When Andy Ruiz came out as trans, the first thing his mom did was find a parish that would love and accept her kids. “With my queer identities, that’s why my mom took a more active role in finding a church that supported [my siblings and me]Ruiz tells POPSUGAR. “Coming out trans in my family was like, ‘Well, if the priest says you can pass, pass,'” she laughs. Ruiz’s family is from a small pueblo in Guanajuato, Mexico, and his Catholicism was strongly mixed with indigenous practices and more centered on local traditions and female deities. “I was able to see another side of Catholicism,” she says. “We believed in spirits and other saints who are not recognized by the church…my mother always told me as a child not to look at the Bible at face value or take Bible teachings directly from someone else,” Ruiz says.
queer latinas and Latinx Catholics are not a monolith, but for many the emphasis is on the written word of Jesus rather than acceptance by the Church itself. Latina/x Catholics who come from families or parishes that affirm their identity might also find it easier to stay in the Church, regardless of what the Vatican demands. “What matters to me is what Jesus said,” said Victoria Jiminez, who identifies as non-binary. “Jesus was a black anarchist illegal immigrant who undermined the state, who was anti-capitalist and emphasized community and love of neighbor.”
Jimenez, who comes from a strict and non-tolerant Cuban home, says their personal spirituality is what helped them get through the hurtful things people say about LGBTQ+ people. “What else do you get when you’re gay besides your self-talk and spirituality?” said Jimenez. “It’s not like you can rely on the community, because you see how they react to other people – the kids internalize that. We grew up listening to that – some people have amazing families, but again, the interpretation of each [of the scripture] is really different.”
Everyone chooses and chooses
According to Pew Research, 53 percent of American Catholics have never read the Bible or rarely read the Bible. This has led some to believe that the opinions of many American Catholics are based more on the biblical interpretations of priests than on their own understanding of Scripture. “It is difficult to separate culture from religion. The problem, in my opinion, [is that] many people who are very religious discriminate against the LGBT community based on what they believe to be religious principles, but most people have not studied the Bible,” said Yunuen Trujillo, a lesbian Catholic lay minister and author of “LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide to Inclusive Ministry,” says.
To understand the presence of homosexual Catholics in the church, we need look no further than the example set by non-homosexual Catholics in the church. “Everyone picks and chooses,” Trujillo told POPSUGAR. “On the issue of queer identities, everyone will tell you, ‘Well, the doctrine says this.’ But what does the doctrine say about helping the poor?There are more quotes about it in the Bible than anything else.
A Guttmacher Institute Analysis federal government data from 2012 found in his early twenties, 89 percent of Catholic women never married had had sex and nearly all of them were using some form of contraception: things strictly forbidden by the Church. A 2020 study found that among American Catholic women, 25% use sterilization, 15% use long-acting reversible contraceptives (such as IUDs), and 25% use hormonal methods (such as birth control pills). He also found that 24% of women who had an abortion in 2014 identified as Catholic.
Many queer Catholics ask: why focus on this hateful interpretation of Scripture while turning a blind eye to other “sins” – such as child abuse, discrimination against women, genocide and colonization committed by and within name of the Vatican. Sodom and Gomorrah is the main scripture cited to justify homophobia, but even that, according to many, is open to interpretation.
“In college, one of the really fascinating things my teacher taught me was that the Hebrew translation of the Old Testament versus the New Testament was really wrong,” Ruiz says. “The New Testament side says it was sodomy and homosexuality that really hit [sic] [the city], but in the Torah it is centered on the act of rape itself. This simple mistranslation could have radically changed our world. Rape was considered such a vile thing that God decided to destroy a city on it? Imagine if that would have been our moral law now?
“My relationship with God can exist without the Church”
Often gay Catholic Latinxes must keep their sexuality a secret or consider “chastity” to stay in the church. But more often than not, they either find a more welcoming parish, or they leave the Church altogether. “You want to keep your community, but you don’t want to not be yourself,” Trujillo says. “It shouldn’t be a compromise. Just as parents shouldn’t have to choose between church and their children, gay men shouldn’t have to choose between having a partner and living happy, healthy lives and continuing to have the community they were raised with. Why should they lose that community? It’s not fair.
There are directories of accepting parishes, but these may be outdated, and the trial and error process of finding accepting priests may be too emotionally draining for some. LGBTQ+ Catholics may find it easier to leave or practice “domestic church— that is, when people organize and come together to worship in their living rooms. Many gay Catholics stay and fight for their rights within the church, but Trujillo says there are still a long way to go – both in the church and in Latinx Culture.
Trujillo says there’s no shame in leaving if your mental and emotional health suffers. “You don’t have to go to church to be a Catholic. In Catholicism and Christianity there is a lot of common theory, [but] the only thing that matters is what Jesus said,” she said. “When I go to the gospel, [Jesus] ate with all those who were discriminated against; he spoke to women and placed women in leadership positions. He would break all the rules: he did the opposite of all the religious and social rules of the time. You have to love yourself and love others, that’s what justifies staying in the Church. That’s the biggest lesson.”