The history and policies of the Catholic Church can seem hostile to its LGBTQ+ members but there’s been growing pressure from the laity to recognize and affirm the diversity of Catholic-identifying people. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, over 60% of Catholics in the U.S. are in favor of allowing gay and lesbian individuals to marry, and 76% say society should be accepting of homosexuality.
This makes now an opportune time to record and share the stories of Catholic LGBTQ+ individuals. A new project from Pacific School of Religion’s (PSR) Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion’s (CLGS) Catholic Roundtable, Queer and Catholic: A CLGS Oral History Project seeks to do just that. The archive will be one of the first centralized oral history collections dedicated solely to the queer Catholic experience and will serve as a form of activism, a way to increase representation now and for future researchers, and a way to impose accountability for the harm the Catholic Church and Catholic communities have imposed on their queer members.
The archive project is designed to be both intersectional and multicultural and cover participants’ stories from childhood to the present. People who identify as LGBTQ+ and were raised in Catholic communities, in families where Catholicism was a dominant force in their culture, or who identify as culturally Catholic can participate in an interview.
Project director Emma Cieslik said, “We hope this oral history project will be valuable to Catholics eager to educate themselves about Catholic LGBTQ individuals and their experiences; religious practitioners eager to use evidence of trauma to change the systems that caused it; scholars interested in queer Catholic identities over time; and especially young queer Catholics…who are looking to understand their place and future in their church.”
CLGS’s Catholic Roundtable, headed by CLGS executive director Bernard Schlager, was launched in 2022, joining the Center’s existing African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Jewish, Latinx, and Transgender Roundtables.
The mission of the Catholic Roundtable is to bring together lay and ordained leaders, scholars, artists, educators, and activists to create culturally appropriate programs and coalitions that affirm the dignity and human worth of LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies. Rooted in a variety of Catholic traditions, the Catholic Roundtable promotes LGBTQ+ Catholic leadership; develops educational, spiritual, and liturgical resources for Catholic individuals and communities; and fosters the exchange of best pastoral care practices with Catholic and allied faith communities. The Queer and Catholic Oral History Project connects directly to this mission by documenting the queer present and future, both inside and outside the church.
You can view the first interviews in Queer and Catholic: A Catholic Roundtable Oral History Project here.