One phrase I never really heard growing up, or really until the last 10 to 12 years or so, is the terminology “world view.” According to the American Scientific Affiliation, one of its definitions is the following:
“A world view is a mental model of reality — a framework of ideas & attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life, a comprehensive system of beliefs…”
Recently I attended a workshop co-sponsored by OutFront Minnesota and Minnesotans United for All Families. It happened to be just after the November election, in which MN became the first state to block a constitutional amendment preserving traditional marriage. These two groups, working in tandem, had much to do with this election result. The purpose of the workshop was to then discuss next steps towards same-sex marriage becoming legalized in MN.
I attended for a couple of reasons: one, I have great sympathy/empathy for my fellow brothers and sisters within the LGBT/SSA community, many of whom wish to see non-traditional marriages come to pass in our state and nation. And, candidly, during the months this summer and fall when I was away from traditional Catholicism, I found myself increasingly on their side of this issue. I would here clarify that I now once again fully accept the traditional Catholic view of marriage being between one man and one woman, both on a civil and moral level.
In any case, the workshop just happened to be two short days after I returned once and for all solidly to Roman Catholicism. I was already signed up, it was paid for, and I thought perhaps it would be wise for me to attend while I was still an “insider” so to speak. I also very frankly had yet to work through my understanding of Church authority once again, and I would still submit that the Church at times has some blinders when it comes to the real needs and concerns of same-sex attracted individuals.
As I say this, I would again state that I am not in any way rejecting official Church teaching: I am however stating that, much if not most of the time, the issue of homosexuality is dealt with by two glaringly opposing world views even among Catholic Christians. I would contend there may be a third view that is not as often discussed, much less practiced by many of us on either side of the barbed wire fence. That third way is not so much a new set of ideas, but rather attempting to find ways to put the old ones into practice—and it is the approach of genuine love and concern so many of us need on this hot-button issue, I believe. We speak of loving our homosexual neighbors, yes, but not in concrete ways. Or if there are concrete notions, they are too often brought forth with little or no sensitivity to the pain so many of us in the community feel at times. That is what this article is about.
I would hasten to take a moment right now and say that I know I was wrong to leave the Church again, even for a short 4 months, and to reject the “home of Rome” which God had clearly brought me to. And, in coming back again, I realize implicitly that I must accept the authority of the Apostles and their successors, and I do so willingly. But it is important to note that, even within those parameters, there is much that the Church allows us to work through without specific and exact methods of implementation. Example: the Church teaches both that homosexuality is a sin, and on the other hand proclaims rightly that those of us from that background, sinners that we are, have exactly the same dignity and grace as our heterosexual counterparts. Not a new or novel idea. Where it becomes daring, however, is in looking for particular means to practice this teaching while following both concepts simultaneously. I have read, for instance, of some Catholics who want to pass laws against us, even in areas of healthcare or other areas of basic necessity, and their reasoning in doing so is “for our own good.” They reason that by denying LGBT people housing or work, or the freedom to walk down the street with their partners, or visitation of those same loved ones in the hospital even if dying, they are somehow doing the “misguided” LGBT community a secret favor because they thus hoping that actively gay people will one day awaken to their “evil influence” on society and run to the local parish begging entry.
If you are one of those, I have a newsflash for you. You are part of the problem, not the solution. Over the centuries horrific atrocities have been done to homosexual people, and even by, or sometimes led by, Church leadership. The Church’s history on the authentic rights of LGBT persons is not exactly stellar. If you read this account on St Bernadino of Siena, you will soon discover that sainthood did not mean perfect theology by any means nor should we sugar-coat it as such. And he is one of many. Does that make him not a saint? Not at all. But it does make him a product of his time. And time often reveals how wrong our very sincere over-reactions can be.
For myself, I can count at least 4 ways in which the Church which I genuinely love and respect would have burned me at the stake, using, as John Calvin did to Michael Servetus, green wood so I would burn slower, presumably to give me a longer time of torture and thus repentance. One, I am same-sex attracted. In years past, before the mid-20th and into the 21st centuries, and frankly within a lifetime I remember all too well, it would not have mattered that I was or am celibate, and have been so since 1999. Just the fact that I would admit such thoughts in my head would have been enough to stoke the fire.
I also left the Church, another punishable by death offense—and I have Jewish blood relatives. Again reasons for the torture mongers. And, once I returned, the Protestant segments of Christianity would have been after me too back in the day. So yes, the Church has indeed failed and destroyed many, many good and sincere people over the centuries, whether gay, straight, Catholic or Protestant. And we need to quit defending those actions, no matter who administered them or why.
So what does this have to do with today and my recent struggles? A lot in fact. I left this time out of a deep and abiding pain within me, so profound that very few took the time to understand, or perhaps simply could not. I do not know. Is that an “excuse” of some sort for my actions? Not at all. If it were, I would have just stayed away and lived in excuse-land, which in many ways would have been much easier for me. But my point is that there were some very real hurts, and valid wrestling of heart within me. Those things were not wrong on my part. How I handled them was. But I see within myself some of the reasons that so many other LGBT people have indeed stayed away. And back to my original purpose on this post, I would like to suggest 5 possible ways that hurts such as I went through this last year could have been dealt with while still following Church teaching.
1) Stop hammering about the “gay agenda.” There is one, to be sure. There is also incidentally a Church agenda. We all have one in fact. One of the things I learned at the conference I mentioned earlier was that, the real goal of the leaders present was not to win the election only, but to “change the world views” of those around us. Those words chilled me frankly. They say to me that so-called “marriage equality,” should it pass in MN or elsewhere, will not be enough. And never will. So I am not suggesting not to fight, politically or otherwise, about the issues here and their ramifications. But there are ways to combat without unnecessarily provoking others. That is one of the things which disturbed me about the Chic-Fil-A support day last summer. I am well aware that there are two sides to this sub-issue, and I am not trying to revive an old argument here. But I bring it up because affected me very personally. I was already becoming more and more conflicted about why Rome and our Archdiocese were pushing harder and harder against this issue, and when that particular incident came up I felt, and still do, that someone would be getting rich off of the fears others had of allowing homosexual people to have more power. As it turned out, August 1, 2012 was this wealthy company’s all time highest sale day ever in their history. In the past, when issues of social concern have been protested in this country or elsewhere, it is generally by a boycott or some other similar punitive measure. However in this case it was exactly the opposite. People were made wealthier and more powerful due to it. That did not make sense to me then or now. And the reason it felt “hateful” to some of us was exactly that. One of the statements of the Cathy family (founding owners of the Chic-Fil-A chain) was that they were all still married to their “first wives.” To which I say, great. You succeeded where I failed. It seemed, quite bluntly speaking, to be a kick to my gay groin and very braggadocio. It may not have been meant that way, but like so many sound bites in our day and age, it took a life of its own. Later on I saw numerous pictures of “normal” families happily eating their tasty food and smiling broadly while doing so, Chic sign prominently displayed, and on an emotional level it seemed (again please note I say it seemed, not that it was meant as such) as though the words in between the waffle fries were saying, “LOOK AT US, YOU GAY PEOPLE, YOU FAGGOTS WHO INCIDENTALLY SUCK, BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER, EVER HAVE THIS.” And that seared my heart. Many of us (me included) were married heterosexually at one time or another and it did not end well. Can you at least understand why that might have felt like such a wrenching blow below the belt? We have and live with feelings we do not ask for. We pray, fast, go to church, and marry for years and yet those temptations do not leave us. We finally face all of our family and friends, losing some of them in the process, by “coming out” and admitting our deepest and most shaming secret. And the thanks we get for our integrity in doing so is having our face rubbed in a greasy chicken sandwich. And then those same people are angry because, although perhaps misguided on some levels, we wish for what we perceive to be “equality?” Get a grip.
2) Stop saying inane things such as “gay people can already get married. They just need to marry someone of the opposite gender.” Aside from miracles, and they do occasionally happen, most of us who have tried that route have miserably failed and hurt dozens of people in the process. And then still end up alone anyway. Would it not be far better to help us live chaste lives? And do not expect us to do so alone. I wrote awhile back on the Straight/SSA male connection. The link is listed at the end of this article, so I will not repeat everything I said there, but suffice it to say we cannot do it without you—the straight Christian. And many of us feel frightened of or horribly wounded by many of you who are straight. That fear is in fact the root of at least much of the anger towards the Church from the LGBT/SSA world. We are told that the Church is a safe place to go, and welcomes all. Then we dare to give it another chance, and find we just do not fit in on level after level. I was told one time, if I wanted to develop some male friends, to just “join the Knights of Columbus.” Not a bad thing of course, but so many of their discussions and plans these days are all about “fighting all those gay folks and their damned agenda.” If this was your area of battle, would you honestly wish to sit through that every time you went to church or church-related social events? We eventually feel beaten to a pulpit and then the straight element of the Church wonders why.
3) Another thing bothering me about the Chic-Fil-A incident, and again I realize that there were two sides to the issue, was the lack of charity shown by so very many people who took up the Appreciation Day challenge. On Face Book, where I seem to live most of my life, I saw person after person, those I respected, those who I believed respected me as well, gearing up for August 1 as though it was going to be the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, only this time for those hell-bound fags who dared to disagree with them. That struck terror within me—real terror. I lost sleep over it, had stomach pains, and felt that those who previously had encouraged me in my Catholic Christian quest for celibacy had all turned on me. I realize now that was not the case, but when we are in the midst of internal chaos we do not always see things clearly. So I eventually turned it back on them. That of course was where I went very, very wrong. But I was and am fairly well catechized and I have to wonder what those types of comments did to people who were not. I suspect some of them left the Church and may never return as a result. One such comment mentioned “vomiting” when thinking of a gay couple kissing. The pain that particular comment caused me was worse than anything I had felt since I had returned to the Church over 6 years earlier. I felt utterly alone, not loved or trusted by the “gay activists” who felt I had forsaken them for enemy territory due to my conversion, and now just as distanced from the Catholic Christians who I thought honestly accepted me as I was. Again without excusing myself, that was much of what triggered me into thinking of leaving. I wondered how on earth a Church which encouraged such mob-like behavior through the ages and even in our century could be “one, true, holy, and Apostolic?” Can you at least see why someone who was not raised in the Church would think us insane for following such a system? I can.
4) Do not quit fighting—but do it kindly. Someone who welcomed me back “to the fold” caught me totally off guard very recently because this person, in emails, wrote very kind things to me privately, but in public writes slam after body-slam against gays. I guess I am acceptable to this person, but only as long as I “toe the line” (which I intend to do as a Catholic in any event) but one slip up and I think she would be the first to pile up that green wood mentioned earlier. I am 57 years of age—celibate for 12 years, and now a returned Catholic for 7 of those same years. What if I were a young 21, un-churched, and all I ever read was this person’s public writings? How would I ever possibly guess that the Church wanted me, or that Jesus Himself gave a rat’s ass about my soul? Answer—I wouldn’t. If this same person posted around half as many articles on her page and said the exact same things in a kinder, even slightly gentler way, as was done to me privately, I still might reject her words but then it would be on me not her. As Hank Hanegraaff (a well-known Protestant evangelical apologist known as the “Bible Answer Man”) often says (and here I paraphrase a bit), “The Cross has its own offense—do not add to that offense by yours.” Seems simple. But it isn’t. Why? Because we all tend to have deeply emotional reactions to issues that affect us, in particular ones as serious and far-reaching as this one does. I am not suggesting to turn the other way or not to present, as my dear friend Brandon Vogt recently did (par excellence I might add), some clear and compelling reasons to oppose gay “marriage.” But Brandon is one of the best examples I know of a kind-hearted approach while yet speaking the truth. Long before he ever wrote this article for Our Sunday Visitor, again linked below, he publicly acknowledged me on his blog several times, and shared (with my permission) about my SSA struggles. I have never met him in person but trust him more than some of my closer friends and even family. Kindness and sensitivity go a long ways in issues of the heart. And this one certainly is that.
5) Be willing to dialogue—some of you are cringing at that very word right now. It is one of the most overused and under-explained terms in our language of late. Perhaps you are not aware, though, but our Holy Fathers Pope Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II have each in turn paved the way for more dialogue with opposing groups than probably any two Popes in recent history. However one of the things Benedict says regarding this topic is to actually start out by laying out the parameters of your disagreement. We do not need to pretend we go along with sin. We do not need to avoid politics. But at the same time, in fact at the same moment, we need to publicly stand for those who are sinning. A very fine conservative evangelical pastor I once knew was asked the question “what do I do if I find out my family member or co-worker is gay?” His answer has always stuck with me. “Take them to lunch.” The real battle here if for souls. Even if we win every court battle and vote down every aspect of the “gay agenda,” those from my background are planning to keep on fighting. And part of that fight is right. Not all of it. But support those parts which are, and not just with words. So invite me out. Or better, an actively LGBT person you know—and be willing to pick their brains and let them pick yours. Just do not take them to a fast-food chicken place…
Okay that is a lot to digest, even for me as I write it. And some of you may disagree with parts of what I suggest here—that is okay. What is not okay is to ignore the pain and hurt of your LGBT sisters and brothers while you crusade to stop them from taking over your territory. Fight if you must, in the political and other arenas. They certainly plan to. But do it with a meal in hand. And do it for them, not you. You may both win that way. If Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino can do it, so can you and I.
Further related articles (please note that these are not all from traditional Catholic perspectives however):
- The Catholic Church’s new gay insult (salon.com)
- Reaction Swift To Cardinal George’s Attack On Marriage Equality (lezgetreal.com)
- White House Petitioned To Label Catholic Church a ‘Hate Group’ (jean2010.wordpress.com)
- Catholic University Blocks LGBT Group, but Students Won’t Back Down (patheos.com)