The Catholic Church isn't known for welcoming the LGBTQ+ community and the church as a whole is still officially homophobic, describing gay relationships as "deviant behavior."
"I don't think that's a Christian message at all, a Christian message, let alone Catholic," says retired school teacher and gay Catholic Michael Hogan.
But here, in Chicago's rainbow neighborhood of Northalsted, you'll find two LGBTQ+ communities that have been practicing Catholicism for decades. In this space, we spoke with parishioners of AGLO, the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach.
"I feel like my relationship with God actually grew stronger by coming out just because I was able to just be myself authentically," says AGLO member Brent Taghap.
In this service, a Catholic priest celebrates mass in a church full of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Publicly, AGLO doesn’t dispute church teachings, but privately some of the members are hoping to change the homophobic rhetoric from the larger Catholic community.
"My part of the Catholic Church, and you heard it tonight, God is love, I mean, it's not that judgment," says AGLO member Brian Smith.
According to a Gallup Poll, from 2016 to 2020, U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage more so than the national average.
"Through baptism, we become a member of the church and no one can take that away from you," says AGLO outreach director Joe Vitek.
Originally, AGLO was part of a larger LGBTQ+ Catholic group called Dignity, but in the late 1980s, Dignity challenged the Vatican's stance on homosexuality and was forced out of the church. Now, they hold mass inside a Methodist church just around the corner.
"The core of our mission is to affirm same-sex relationships as being Life-Giving and life-affirming," says Steve Forst, president of Dignity Chicago.
"We are all called and we are all loved and we all should be surrounded in God's table, around God's table," says Reverend Kathy Rolenc.
Rolenc is an unrecognized priest by the Catholic Church standards, but she’s accepted at Dignity. She preaches and recognizes this LGBTQ+ community, that's been largely ostracized by the Church.
"You have to truly believe that you've done nothing wrong. You are a blessing from God," says Rolenc.
Dignity and AGLO differ in their response to church rulings that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sinful, but there's no animosity between both organizations.
"We're very much both Catholic communities of faith, but from different perspectives," said Vitek.