This morning, I had a poignant dream that I was alone with Pope Francis himself, opening up to the holy man about my fear of loneliness as a gay man. He listened attentively as I told him that I’ve worried now and then that my worst bouts of loneliness have led to me becoming truly depressed, and that the same happens to other gay people I know. Not once did he criticize me, or condemn me during my talk with him. In fact, the Pope didn’t interrupt me whatsoever. It was a relief, having somebody so purely spiritual hear me out completely. At the end, I’m certain he offered me a blessing of some sort.
In the last year, this is the second dream I can clearly recall of seeing Pope Francis in person. The other instance was back in October, where I saw him walking around in a quiet, peaceful building that may have been located in Heaven itself. His presence in that dream signified to me that what I was seeing contained important spiritual guidance, which ended up proving true after the dream led to me facing my survivor’s guilt over a high school classmate’s suicide.
Maybe he showed up in this morning’s dream because I’ve been worried about other guys struggling to accept themselves? I’m not sure. And I’m especially confused as to why the Pope himself was the person that showed up to listen to my heartfelt worries. After all, I’m a Methodist, not a Catholic, even though I do respect Pope Francis as a man striving to embody God’s love for all.
Or maybe the answer is much more obvious than I’m making it out to be. You see, I’ve had a growing interest in becoming Catholic due to various other Catholic-influenced dreams and spiritual experiences like this. These experiences have provided me with vital answers that I’ve felt my Methodist faith can’t provide, such as what happens to people who commit suicide, and the reality of spiritual warfare. Pope Francis appearing like he did in this dream could be an indicator that I’m potentially headed for conversion in the near future.
However, the ultimate roadblock that I need to overcome before I seriously dedicate myself to converting is my fear of being judged by the Church for being openly gay.
The Catholic Church and Homosexuality
This fear is mostly irrational, but has basis in the Catechism of the Church, which deals with homosexuality in parts 2357-59, stating that homosexuality is an “inclination” that is “objectively disordered”, and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”. Along with these charges, the section also declares that all gay people are called to chastity.
I need to take care that I don’t blow the Catechism out of proportion, especially the part declaring that all gay people are called to be chaste. When I think of the word “chaste”, I associate it with gay Christians who have determined for themselves that any and all forms of gay romantic/sexual relationships are wrong. Thus, I cringe when I read this passage in the Catechism, because I fear being told similarly that I must forever forsake my pursuit of romantic happiness simply because I’d be a gay Catholic.
For sure, I don’t know if that’s really the truth, especially when I know so little about how gay Catholics function. But nonetheless, I have deep reservations about joining a Church that actively views me as “disordered” just because I’m gay. I fear that I would be ostracized, one way or another, should I try to have my soulmate become part of my church life.
Perhaps that’s why it was Pope Francis himself who served as my confessor in this dream. Having the head of the Catholic Church sincerely hear me speak about my fears and offer peace on them would be one quite effective way to move past my worry about potential ostracization.
It also certainly helps that Pope Francis has made various statements expressing a desire to reconcile wounded LGBTQ persons with the Church. In an interview translated from the original Italian by America Magazine, a Catholic magazine, the Pope said the following after being asked for his opinions on people with “open wounds” such as same-sex couples:
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
Pope Francis and the Confessional
I did a bit of web research, and it seems that the current Pope is a strong advocate for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, using Confession to humble oneself before God and admit our own wrongdoings. This document I found contains the Pope’s love of the Confessional, which in his eyes serves as a supreme outlet for God’s tireless mercy.
In this document, a strong Confessor is noted as a person who “listens, accompanies, and encourages”- which is the perfect summary of the Pope’s behavior towards me in the dream as I confessed my fears and reservations to him. The following quote from the Pope about the importance of the Confessor striving alongside the penitent in their journey struck a chord with me:
“Mercy means carrying the burden of a brother or sister and helping them walk… The confessor who prays, the confessor who weeps, the confessor who knows that he is more a sinner than the penitent, and if he himself has never done the bad thing that the penitent speaks of, it is but for the grace of God. Merciful is being close and accompanying the process of conversion.”
I’ve never gone to a Confessor to open up about my sins, much less my fears about being gay, but if I could find one like Pope Francis, who espouses a desire to mercifully guide others as they seek God’s grace, I’m certain that I’d be happy.