What do you do when you’re a nun in a very traditional religious order–one that still wears the habit–and you have an openly gay cousin? Do you chastise him? Do you shun him? Do you embrace him? Do you seek relationship with him?
Sr. Bernadette Reis and her cousin Paul Mages tell us their story on Busted Halo® to Bill McGarvey.
BH: I can’t tell if you’re trying to say, ‘I’d like to call Paul to greater integration’ — meaning greater integration with himself as a homosexual man? Or are you saying, ‘Okay, you’re homosexual, but the Church is calling you not to be sexually active.’ — which adds a whole slew of issues? Or, ‘integrate yourself in terms of reparation therapy’-type stuff? Can you talk a little bit about that?
SB: Actually, that’s a really good question because I’ve never actually gone there with Paul because it’s really none of my business to initiate that discussion. But I think that’s a good part of the equation because I think there is some pressure on Catholics to try to convince friends or family who are homosexual that they need to change. This is something I never told Paul, but one of the first times that I called my Dad to let him know that I was going to be seeing you, he asked me if I was going to have a talk with you. And I knew exactly what he meant by that. And I did question if I should do that or not, if I was somehow betraying the Church if I didn’t somehow let you know where I stood. But you know, I really felt that number one: Jesus never did that. He never went up to someone and said, “Hi, you have something wrong with your sexuality and I am here to fix you.” He never did that. It wasn’t even on my mind as something that I needed to do. It was something that all of a sudden came up because of my Dad.
But then I have found out since then that other people have that same dilemma: ‘Am I supposed to convince my homosexual friends that the way that they’re living is wrong?’ I think that I am here to be a friend to Paul. From the level of experience, to go over to Paul’s home and to see a home set up for him and his partner to live as a couple, it was the first time I had ever been in a situation like that, so of course it’s going to feel — what’s the word? — different, you know. But we do exactly the same things together as I do with other friends, we have the same conversations together, they invited me out with their friends — I mean, I really felt a level of acceptance. And I was glad, you know, that they could just freely bring me, when you know in the back of my mind, what I represent is something that Paul has been hurt by. But in terms of what I would hope for everyone, because I’m a part of this too, is that we can be in a dialogue with ourselves about why we behave the way we behave, and the choices that we make, and who we love, and what we like and what we don’t like, so that we each fulfill God’s Will for us. How I do that is going to be different than Paul because my background is different, my calling is different, the way I work things out between myself and God is different. And so I can understand the Church’s teaching. For me, I’ve worked that out. And I mean, I’ve grappled with things, I’m still grappling with some things, and I’m not perfect. And it’s the same for him. But I’m not God; I’m not his God. And if Paul invites me in to that process, that’s different.
I really had to reconcile the fact that I’m the one that has to make the decision about what I feel comfortable with in terms of talking about his lifestyle with Paul. I decided that my gut feeling would be the thing that would lead me. And I had to trust it.
PM: You probably prayed about it, too, I’d imagine.
SB: Yeah, I did. And I just felt, I’m gonna trust my gut on this one. I’d like a relationship with you, and what a way to slam the door on a relationship! I mean, “Hello. Before we sit down to dinner I’d like to talk to you about how wrong this all is. Bon appétit.” [laughs]
Read the rest here. I love how Sr. Bernadette relates all of this to her own calling to be a celibate.