As a starting point for those looking to introduce LGBTQ ministry to their parishes, schools, or campus ministries, Yunuen Trujillo’s new book, LGBTQ Catholics: A Guide to Inclusive Ministry, is a worthy guide. An accessible, no-frills book with helpful definitions and practical advice, it guides readers through the fundamentals of church doctrine and the need for LGBTQ inclusion.
The target audience is not LGBTQ Catholics themselves, but anyone who wishes to undertake the work of creating a church-approved LGBTQ ministry. Gay Catholics who turn to Trujillo’s guide, however, will be refreshed by his approach. She centers the importance of respectful and inclusive language, inviting readers to view LGBTQ Catholics without bias or misconceptions.
She talks about her own identity as a queer woman of color and the real challenges facing minority Catholics, an invaluable perspective and one that many readers will find relevant. Trujillo points out that gay Catholics sit alongside straight Catholics in the pews and that all the faithful share the same calls to love God and to love one another. Only when Catholics stop seeing LGBTQ people as “others,” she argues, will the church be truly inclusive.
Trujillo captures how queer love is just another variation of the infinite diversity of God’s creation and not contrary to nature. “The first thing we should understand,” she tells readers, “is that the desire to have an eternal loving bond with another is felt as naturally by an LGBTQ person as it is by a heterosexual person.” This is an important but often overlooked point in official church language on LGBTQ people. Trujillo is pragmatic in his assertion that LGBTQ Catholics can, like straight Catholics, be called to married life as well as celibate or religious life.
Trujillo notes more than once that good LGBTQ ministry takes into account that queer people’s sexuality is just one aspect of who they are and one aspect of their life of faith. She encourages those leading LGBTQ ministries to take an integral formation approach – to provide opportunities for pastoral care and spiritual growth that are not limited solely to queer Catholic gender identities.
With an eye to Catholic social teaching, she also translates this holistic approach to explaining doctrine. On the dismissals of LGBTQ employees of Catholic institutions, she outlines the teaching of the Church on the rights and dignity of workers; on chastity, she considers the implications of virtue for Catholics of all persuasions. While adhering to the teaching of the magisterium, it offers a broad interpretation that goes beyond the “dumb passages” of the Bible, the language of the catechism on “intrinsic disorder” and the general emphasis placed by the Church on the sex life of homosexual people.
She manages to respect both the experiences of queer Catholics and the position of the church, including the clashes that these two viewpoints often bring. It is not an easy task, but one that Trujillo undertakes with conciseness and generosity. Trujillo’s approach to doctrine shifts the conversation about queer Catholicism beyond its usual sticking points, suggesting a much-needed renewal in our thinking about how queer Catholic life and the teaching of church collide.
Trujillo is the rare book that both elucidates doctrine and keeps the goalposts of the Christian faith firmly centered in love. LGBTQ Catholics culminates in a pastorally focused chapter. Trujillo speaks of Pope Francis’ exhortation to Catholics to cultivate a meeting church – a church that allows the faithful to meet people “exactly where they are, not where we want them to be”, and to see Jesus into each other.
She also stresses the importance of being “a listening church”. As she breaks down church doctrine piece by piece, she repeatedly tells readers that doctrine is important, but genuine listening should be the priority. Faith is only enriched when we listen and learn from those with whom we have little in common. “Being a listening church means listening to learn from the lived experience of the other,” she writes. “God’s grace is something we can receive through others, and who better than people we don’t usually understand.”
It’s compelling that Trujillo recognizes that she and the Catholic Church are still learning how to deal with and deal with LGBTQ people. She invites readers to make room in their hearts and imaginations for God to inspire a version of the church that exists only in the future. “God still reveals himself through creation, through the signs of the times, through love,” she writes. “Are we paying attention? Are we listening?
The book is inclusive, but not exhaustive. Its most glaring omission is its lack of commentary on how to truly welcome transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Catholics. The book goes no further than explaining the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity – a disappointing omission at a time when trans Catholics need accompaniment, but many cisgender Catholics lack vocabulary and experience to meet their trans brothers and sisters with respect.
Nonetheless, Trujillo’s book fills an important gap in the existing literature on LGBTQ Catholics. She manages to elegantly balance both her perspective as an employee of the archdiocese and her experience as a queer person. It’s especially powerful to hear from an LGBTQ church worker who writes openly about her journey to self-acceptance, her struggles to stay in an often harmful church, and her call for marriage. Her life story and suggestions for starting LGBTQ ministries make this a book that inspires empathy and action.