SAN JOSE (CBS SF ) — At St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church in San Jose, the sign says all are welcome. But sometimes that’s a tough sell for members of the LGBT community.
Many gay people feel the Church has also turned its back on them, and for right reason. The Archdiocese of San Francisco has shown immunity to the city’s traditionally progressive LGBT stance, most recently with a new staff handbook for Archdiocesan high schools that declare gay sex, along with adultery and masturbation, as “gravely evil.”
It’s a different story in San Jose, where St. Julie Billiart Church holds a special “all are welcome” mass. Looking at the congregation, it’s impossible to tell straight from gay — and that’s actually the point.
“They say, ‘oh, this is different,'” said Father Saju Joseph, pastor at St. Julie Billiart. “‘We feel like home here. We feel being embrace. We feel warmly welcomed.'”
The diocese used to hold a special mass just for LGBT members but they say the demand for it has dwindled.
“There’s only about six regular attendees, now,” Joseph said. “Is that a good thing or a negative? I think it’s a good thing because we think it’s a sign of people finding a welcoming place in their home parishes.”
John Vu, who leads the LGBT ministry, says just by saying kind words about gay people, Pope Francis has had a profound effect on the gay community.
“Nothing the Church teaches has changed,” Vu said. “The tone has changed.”
Deacon Ruben Solorio with the Diocese of San Jose agrees.
“I think Pope Francis has been that prophetic voice that we have needed to hear in a society that is changing,” Solorio said.
It won’t be easy to change hundreds of years of church doctrine, but this could be a first step — a place where sexual preference simply doesn’t matter. Because sometimes being truly welcomed means not having to stand out at all.
The all are welcome masses will rotate from parish to parish each week, across the Diocese of San Jose.