Why I No Longer Identify As a “Gay Catholic Christian”

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There have been a deluge of articles on homosexuality of late within the Catholic and other Christian faith communities, many which seem to center around “what to call” those of us from homosexual backgrounds who are now celibate.  This is obviously of great importance to many people, and there is certainly some validity to the desire on the parts of those who, whether from homosexual or heterosexual backgrounds, wish to clearly define “what” those of us who have dabbled in erotic thoughts or behavior with people of our own gender should be termed as. To be honest that is the least of my problems when I get up in the morning and drag my ever-older body to work each day or go to Mass on Sundays or weekdays. It seems to matter not at all to our Lord Jesus Christ or to the Blessed Mother when I pray my Rosary at night either.  But it matters to society, and I get that point.  And that is why I write this essay.

Let me start out by saying that I am not writing this to attack those who may disagree or may find fault with my views here—I get, very much first-hand in fact, the reasons for using terms such as “celibate gay,” as well as those who may refer to themselves as “ex-gays” (mostly within evangelical Protestant circles).  I have also noticed that the term SSA (which I prefer, and which means “same-sex attracted” ) is becoming increasingly hijacked by many who do not understand its current connotations in the first place but who choose to use it in some cases against those of us who have come to a decision of celibacy and are aiming for ever-increasing chastity. I will add that I have noticed this trend to constantly redefine terminology among both “pro-gay” and “anti-gay” people, which is what makes it increasingly ironic and baffling to me.

Metamorphosis and Phraseology

But that in itself does not make one set of terms wrong at all times, nor the other one always correct.  I will deal with each of these semantics then, share my own observations on why they seem to be increasingly used, abused and misused, and finally give some concluding thoughts, and I do so fully respecting those who may disagree with my pre or post-suppositions. I think that words can create a metamorphosis, and I am noticing a whole lot of folks who are using them incorrectly while feverishly trying to explain me to myself. This then is my first point—please do not tell me who I am. Let me explain myself to you instead, just as I would hope you choose to do with me, and let me use the terms and understandings I have come to accept as a Catholic Christian.  That is called mutual respect. Is there room for dialogue and discussion?  Absolutely. But in the final analysis how I define myself is up to me. And ultimately God.

First off I resisted the term “SSA” for a long time, even after returning to the Church after 15 years of “gay activism.” It still seems clumsy to me at best, and like a clinical disease at worst. I would prefer to say I am “same gender attracted,” but even that was suggested to me by a fellow blogger to cause its own confusion since not all agree on what gender even is in these days. Yikes!  Besides if I started calling myself SGA then absolutely no one will know what I am referring to—not the least because it sounds more like a supermarket than a condition.  So, SSA will need to do for now.  But why use it in preference to “gay,” or LGBT, or (and I truly hate this one), LGBTQ? The last one should be a no-brainer in any case. I am not a “queer Catholic” or “queer” anything else. I am a human made in the image of an infinite God. And so are you.

What says the “LGBT community?”

To understand the connotations of “gay” as opposed to SSA, we need look no further than leading experts within the actively LGBT world. The explanation and definitions below are from http://www.pridenet.com/history.html, and not much could better show the ever-changing meaning of words than what is written on their site. An excerpt is below as well:

“The word (gay) started to acquire sexual connotations in the late 17th century,   being used with meaning “addicted to pleasures and dissipations”.   This was by extension from the primary meaning of “carefree”:   implying “uninhibited by moral constraints”. By the late nineteenth   century the term “gay life” was a well-established euphemism for   prostitution and other forms of extramarital sexual behavior that were perceived as immoral.

The use of the term gay, as it relates to homosexuality, arises from an extension of the sexualized connotation of “carefree and   uninhibited”, implying a willingness to disregard conventional or   respectable sexual mores. Such usage is documented as early as the 1920′s. It   was initially more commonly used to imply heterosexually unconstrained   lifestyles, as for example in the once-common phrase “gay   Lothario”, or in the title of the book and film The Gay Falcon (1941),   which concerns a womanizing detective whose first name is “Gay”.   Well into the mid-20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as   “gay” without prejudice.

By the mid-century “gay” was well-established as an antonym for “straight” (respectable sexual behavior), and to refer to the lifestyles of unmarried and or unattached people. Other connotations of frivolousness and showiness in dress (“gay attire“) led to association with camp and effeminacy. This range of connotation probably   affected the gradual movement of the term towards its current dominant meaning, which was at first confined to subcultures. The subcultural usage started to become main-stream in the 1960′s, when gay became the term predominantly preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves. Gay was the preferred term since other terms, such as “queer”   were felt to be derogatory. “Homosexual” was perceived as   excessively clinical: especially since homosexuality was at that time designated as a mental illness, and “homosexual” was used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to denote men affected by this “mental illness”. Homosexuality was no longer classified as an illness in the DSM by 1973, but the clinical connotation of the word was already embedded in society. By 1963, the word “gay” was known well enough by the straight community to be used fluently.”

“Not so gay” these days

When you read the above history and definition, given to us from the best research within the actively LGBT communities, the realization is apparent that the term pretty much assumes active involvement in the lifestyle and support of the overall homosexual community.  Since I am celibate, and I have withdrawn my support for such things as unconditional “marriage equality” and the like, dropped my memberships from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and OUTFRONT Minnesota, no longer attend or participate in Pride parades, and relinquished my position where at my place of employment I had been the lead “LGBT” spokesperson for several years,  all of which were only parts of activism activities I was involved with over the course of 15 years, I am not acting, by the actively LGBT’s own definition, particularly “gay” these days.  So there is not much of that lifestyle left in my life other than a still definite attraction to members of my gender. And I am definitely a man, despite the screen/blogger name “Catholicboyrichard.” But I will admit to being little more than a child when it comes to the Faith. In fact, none of us are. If St Paul called himself “chief of sinners” then what am I? Or any of us?

My point—I do not live as a “gay person” and yet I would be lying to deny the existence of those attractions.  So what am I?  I no longer identify with a community I was bound integrally to for 15 years, however nor am I suddenly “macho man” plus. Plus, yes, macho no.  The most macho thing I probably have learned over the years was how to become a couch potato, and my doctor is not putting up with that these days anyway. Oh well. So back to the definitions—I am someone with something.  I am a person, in the image of God my Maker, marred yes by sin, but in His Image nevertheless. I have leanings towards and see the beauty in other males more quickly than I do with females.  That is it. I am “same-sex attracted.”  SSA. The term fits and makes sense to me.  But I am not “gay,” which implies an innate make-up in my being that I am powerless to do anything about other than to but accept.  There is an old commercial (for Oil of Olay—or “Oil of Delay” as a friend of mine used to call it) which says “I do not intend to age gracefully—I’ll fight it every step of the way.”

The measure of a man?

That is how I view my SSA tendencies.  And when I say “fight it,” I do not mean I must become a boxing fan, watch excessively violent TV or movies, or start passing gas or burping in public places.  I am still allowed to be a fairly sensitive, kind-hearted person and to prefer cooking or reading to football.  It may surprise the straight men reading this that Jesus Himself was pretty “not-so-macho.” Let’s see—He wore a robe all the time, hung around with men constantly, loved women but never made passes at them or checked out their rears, secretly or otherwise, cooked for the 12 Apostles on occasion (fish for breakfast, anyone?), and shared parables and stories based on His own hours of prayer and studies.  In short He was strong but knew when to be tender.  And in His day and age, the societal standards of what made men “manly” were in any case somewhat different from ours today. This is exactly my point in fact. He showed us that the “measure of a man” consisted of very different things than what Americanized John Wayne types of guys currently look for.  And since the sports of choice in His day involved such things as throwing people to the lions for lunch, using them as human torches, and earning their freedom from noxious slavery by “killing their way to the top” via gladiator activities, I doubt He was particularly an athletics aficionado either.  He loved worshipful music and knew Sacred Scripture as if He wrote it—oh wait, He did! He could be tough as nails (not only such as the ones used to torture Him on the cross but the type apparently used in His carpentry work) and yet gentle towards women who would gladly have had Him for their pleasure, and simply told them “Go and sin no more.”  He was the quintessential man of men. We need to look no further for what makes one manly. And the same may be said for our Blessed Mother in regard to womanhood. Mary was the original authentic feminist—and the only person to ever get by with telling Jesus when to begin His miracle ministry at the wedding in Cana. She followed Him but never doted. She submitted to St Joseph but never backed down from her high calling or “fiat” even when he was ready to divorce her for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock while engaged to him. And she worked and travelled all through her pregnancy until the very day our Lord and Savior was born. “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy could have easily been her theme song too, not just the famous feminism theme of the 1970s. She truly was and is womanhood personified.

One of the best lists of “manly” characteristics in the New Testament is in 1st Timothy 3:1-3. I am quoting from the RSV (Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition) here:

1 The saying is sure: If anyone aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money.

That is what being a “real man” is all about and nothing else. My point is this—neither our King of Kings nor His and our Queen Mother followed social norms, even of their own days, as to what being “manly” or “womanly” supposedly meant then or now.  The asexual parts therefore of my nature, which may or may not have indirectly contributed to my SSA leanings in some way, are not in themselves sinful, and do not need surgical removal. In fact there are a few of them I would prefer to keep intact. That is part of what scares me about some aspects of so-called reparative therapy, but that is for another time and post.

Label or description?

In any case this is why I believe we sell our actively LGBT sisters and brothers short when we do not call ourselves by the correct terminology. If we use inane expressions such as “that’s so gay” or, worse yet, call ourselves “queer Christians,” we are telling them essentially that we are at no different place in our journey than they are.  Such self-identification may get our foot in the door occasionally, witness-wise, but it makes it overall at least more difficult to differentiate between our experiences and theirs. St Paul was a God-loving and strict Pharisee fundamentalist—but a Christ-hater. He called all of those involvements and accolades for being one of the elite religious of the day “dung.” My good friend Chris Kluwe of MN Vikings/NFL fame would likely have had an even more clear term for that, I am sure. I will refrain from printing it here though. Just as an aside, Kluwe by the way still has my utmost respect for standing in solidarity with the LGBT/SSA community, even though I now clearly disagree with some of his conclusions regarding so-called “marriage equality.” Nevertheless I call my years of “gay pride” exactly the same thing–dung.  And no, I do not call actively LGBT people by such a term.  They, like me, are precious people in the image of a wondrous and holy God.  But, as in the beautiful (unfortunately out-of-print) book by David Morrison, Beyond Gay, I am at least, step by slow step, moving beyond that familiar world.  And I want to take my actively LGBT/”gay” friends and family with me on that journey.

Thus here is where I differ from those who wish to be called “gay Christians” or “queer Catholics”—I do not think referring to myself as a “celibate gay Christian” is particularly accurate or truthful. I think it automatically transports me into a corner of the world I no longer belong to. It seems to me a lot like calling myself, as a close friend of mine who happens to have epilepsy, an “epileptic.” Clinically, both terms are accurate. But one says I am something. The other says I am a human person with something. And, again, words matter.  One is a label, and the other is a description of an imperfect but real creation of God. One makes me sound like an “ex-con” and the other like a current and present member of the family of our Lord Jesus and His Church.  Which would you like better if you were in my shoes?

Disorder or condition?

Lastly, I have heard the ghastly use of the term SSA of late by someone referring to same-sex attraction as the “SSA disorder.”  Whether involved in the community or not, whether celibate or not, or even whether I term myself as “LGBTQ,” I might happen to be a doctor, lawyer, priest, minister, married or single, well-adjusted or poorly so.  I get very disturbed when I hear or read such things as “for we know that the gay lifestyle leads to a higher risk of HIV, depression, substance abuse, and a generally lower life expectancy. To oppose the normalization of a lifestyle that leads to this degradation of the human person — specifically the same-sex attracted person — is no hate at all, but a love. Not a love most people want, but a desire for the good of the beloved nonetheless.” If by that statement you are referring to same-sex “marriage,” I would clearly agree. But if by it you mean let us go backwards a bit further as a society and, for “their own good,” let’s get those anti-sodomy laws back on the books and start screaming “faggot” to the next homosexually inclined person we meet, then I would just say hold up. Now. 50 years ago, or less, it was commonly considered “acceptable” to beat up “queers” or at least bully them mercilessly. I was there and lived it. Less than 30 years ago it was a very real question within the health care industry as to whether we should even treat those with HIV, since they “brought it upon themselves.” I can only say then, please quit treating diabetes or heart disease, which are often direct results of obesity, or cancer, particularly if caused by smoking, and a host of other diseases or conditions which are preventable but deadly. And for God’s sake do not waste our tax dollars on preventative health education. Let them read it on their own via the ever-reliable information superhighway. And if they fail to do so, slam the hospital door in their faces. Just don’t miss Mass on Sunday

So how does this fit with the misleading term “SSA disorder?”  Quite easily in fact. If I as a human being am disordered, and I will concede that the wound of having SSA does include a “disordered passion,” so too are my non-SSA friends who undress every woman that they see while sitting by their wives in Mass or church, as well as the pastors (some statistics would say 50% or upwards) who have their occasional slippage into the world of pornography.  And “porn” is not what it was when I was 14 and sneaked a look at some old Playboys found in the neighbor’s dumpster by my friend Marty.  The most I ever saw at that time was the human body, but never in action as such. The fact that 10 year olds can now see actual sexual intercourse, neither hinted at nor suggestive of, but the real thing, including the climax, by the click of a button, should alarm us drastically. Do not call me “disordered” and then forget to include yourselves as part of the photo-op. We are all disordered in some way or another, and when the term was originally used in the Church it was quite clear that this was the case. When St Thomas Aquinas and Rome included that term, it was the overall passions of humans gone awry which they were referring to, not the modern Freudian or clinical definition of the word,  used primarily in our day and age to mean that SSA is somehow just a bit more disordered than what the average person deals with.  We already know we are a fallen people—so perhaps just look in the mirror if you think you are less “disordered” than I am.

So those are just some of the many reasons I am not defining myself as “gay” anymore. It does not mean I have been instantly or miraculously delivered from the “demon of homosexuality” or that I now can throw a football 100 yards.  It indicates I am not demarcated by anything I was, or even still struggle with—whether weight, sexual lust towards either gender, gossip, or slandering of others.  It states that, instead of being born a Capricorn, I was born again through baptism under the sign of the Cross. It means I am, and will be, a Catholic Christian. No more, and nothing less.

Below are some links which directly or indirectly relate to the article above:

http://www.blackstonefilms.org/

http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/2012/05/queer-reflection.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/05/4-ways-the-gay-marriage-debate-has-been-rigged.html

http://www.pridenet.com/history.html

http://sexualauthenticity.blogspot.com/

More related articles:

The following are two very much opposing views on the topic by two NFL players, both whom I have met and happen to deeply respect, Chris Kluwe and Matt Birk. Beware of the rather “colorful” (but hilarious) language from Kluwe, and at the same time note the very respectful response from his friend and fellow former MN Viking Matt Birk.

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5 thoughts on “Why I No Longer Identify As a “Gay Catholic Christian”

  1. THE REAL DISCUSSION HAS BEEN PRIMARILY ON FACEBOOK, AND I HAVE RECOPIED IT HERE FOR THOSE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED…AND IF ANYONE KNOWS A BETTER WAY TO COPY FB COMMENTS LET ME KNOW THAT TOO! THANKS.

    Nicole DeMille Richard one of your best.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Thanks so much!!! And truly important now as there is a very real movement afoot among celibate Christians to still call themselves “gay.” I don’t judge them for it but I definitely disagree, and am afraid of the precedent it is setting.

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    Nicole DeMille You give compelling reasons.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams Everyone has to use their voice and their experience to do their best to glorify God. How I do it and how others do it, even if on the outside it seems like we belong to the same “group”, will be different because God calls us all to our own unique mission.

    I don’t call myself gay, same sex attracted or bi-sexual, but I have had sex with women and in groups in my past. It wasn’t an orientation, it was a symptom of my root issue. so it’s different but I still use that to make the point to others that I am not a prude who has lived in a bubble all my life so they know that I can meet them where they are and love them as they are right there.

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    Nicole DeMille Honesty is key to evangelizing.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Courageous statement Leticia Ochoa Adams!!!

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    Elizabeth Cecilia Wellner I appreciate this article. I am bothered by the movement for those who are celibate Catholics (and other Christian religions) who have SSA (the term I generally do use in discussing this) having to label themselves, or for that matter when other people insist on labeling them. I know exactly what sins I struggle with, and I REALLY don’t want to walk around being identified by them, as though they define who I am.

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    Richard Gerard Evans And that is the most salient point, Elizabeth. I am a Catholic Christian. And a struggler. Like everyone else. God bless you and your words.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams But if you were trying to tell someone who has the same sins as you that you relate to them you just might say you are “___” too. That’s what I mean by everyone having their own unique mission. Telling them they shouldn’t call themselves gay is the same as telling them they should. Everyone can choose what they want to identify themselves as in some matters. When I talk to friends who are gay I tell them that I know people who are Catholic and gay to speak to them where they are at. Then if they want to know more I send them links to Gay, Catholic and Doing Fine or something like that. That’s part of meeting people where they are at and not expecting anything from them to love them. I have gay friends who live with partners and I love them. I eat with them, talk to them, laugh with them without condition. I wouldn’t go to their wedding, and they know that, but I would wish them happiness just like I do any other friend.

    It’s just like if people had an issue with people saying “Hello, I’m so and so and I’m an alcoholic” in an AA meeting. Sometimes you do identify by a disorder for healing and sometimes to help others who are where you once were.

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    Elizabeth Cecilia Wellner I am most definitely a struggler too, and very thankful that God and His mercy are there waiting for me when I mess up! God bless!

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams Saying I’m a “struggler” is labeling yourself. Not to be rude but it is a label. My point being that we all label ourselves, and I think those who say they are Catholic and gay have the right to do so if that is how they see fit. And those who don’t also have the right not to do so. That’s just my very humble opinion.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Leticia Ochoa Adams I agree with your attitude by all means. What I believe is that a watering down of issues can happen so very easily though. As I said earlier, calling myself “gay” almost automatically causes people to assume I am either sexually active or for same-sex marriage. SSA may be a label in a sense, but the difference is that one is a person with a condition, and the other has become commonly, very commonly in fact, a way of saying ” I was born this way” and don’t bug me further hehe. I realize that is not how you use it. But it is the common usage.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Struggler is not much of a label though. We all are such.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Plus I was clear in my article that I did not judge those who use those terms, or their relationships with God. And I do not. But I disagree with their methodology. Strongly.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams I agree that people think that when one uses that label, but that is when you explain and then they maybe see something they wouldn’t have even cared to see if one automatically distances themselves from them from the start. I hope that makes sense. I don’t care much for labels, but we all use them. And have to when reaching out to people in order to establish common ground.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams And I also understand where you are coming from, I just don’t think that it’s good to always preach to the choir and those outside of the choir don’t know what SSA means. I could probably come up with some good analogy about how Jesus spoke to lepers as people even though the term leper pretty much meant outcast at that time, but my brain just broke. LOL! I’m reading Flannery O’Connor and I think I just short circuited.

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    Richard Gerard Evans I get your point Leticia Ochoa Adams. I just do not think we should misrepresent ourselves in order to reach out to people. And the “Spiritual Friendship” group tends to do that in my opinion. I am not saying that they do not reach anyone. Perhaps they can and will reach others who would never listen to me. But the very thing that jarred me in the first place after 15 years a very “active” LGBT activist was the entire concept of same-sex attraction. It was key, at least to me, to see that there really was a 3rd way out there. I had dealt with the “ex-gay” viewpoint and also the “pro-gay” viewpoint, and tried in vain to reconcile them with my Christian faith. And neither did. It was only when I realized I was SOMEONE with something, and not, as most actively LGBT persons believe about themselves, the actual center of my identity, that I even began to break free. And believe me it has been with fits and starts. Nicole DeMille certainly knows this about me. So I know fairly well the gamut of struggles and confusion out there. I just think calling ourselves “gay Christians” adds to that confusion.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams Right, I get your point as well. Which is why I say that everyone has their own unique mission and we each carry it out the best we can according to what God asks of us. I don’t think it is misrepresenting anything unless the intention behind it is to misrepresent. I could be wrong. I don’t really know. I just know that my gay friends respond more to those who say they are gay and Catholic, even if in the end they don’t agree with them on living a chaste life. Again, it’s all my opinion. I have only been a part of that movement as someone who supported my friends.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams I tried using SSA in a conversation with a friend and he just rolled his eyes and said “That is the stupidest thing ever” so I just dropped it. There are so many emotions going around right now that talking to anyone who disagrees with you is like a dance. Regardless of the issue.

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    Richard Gerard Evans But what I am saying is that I think the “eye rollers” do so because they automatically see THEMSELVES as “gay–” as part, and often the main part, of their identity as persons. And that is exactly what the leadership of the LGBT community wishes for us to think and feel. And that to me is where the danger lies. A couple years ago I attended a 2 day pro-gay “marriage” conference (during one of the times I was away from the Church for a few months) and the main message of the entire conference was that the only way to win the marriage argument was to change the “world view” of the conservative Christian community. And they are winning this fight by getting Christians to support the concept of “gay.” I feel so strongly about it because I have been on all sides of this thing over the years, and that is the precise plan which exists to work on the straight community. And I am not saying that individual people are not exceptions. But what I truly believe is that we reach people best by not buying into or even accidentally implying that the world view being promoted, very officially in fact, is okay or part of what we as Christians and Catholics believe in. Some may indeed laugh, or worse. But it does not mean that they aren’t listening. Sometimes all we can do is sow a seed.

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    Nicole DeMille I tend to agree with you in this last regard, Richard.

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    David Roney I believe the labeling comes from pride. We rarely label ourselves with terms we are not in some way proud of. And since so many in the LGBT movement are proud of their lifestyle, they attribute the label to others as well.

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    Richard Gerard Evans I would carefully agree, David Roney. Carefully because sometimes even pride is a mask for shame and pain, which many of us who have come from that community have carried unmercifully. But it does no good to feed that wrong reaction to a person’s legitimate pain. It does not heal.

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    Richard Gerard Evans WHY can’t I get a lively discussion like this on the blog itself??? Would anyone object if I copied and pasted it there?

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams I agree with you, but it’s not my job to guess why they roll their eyes. It’s not my job to even convince them that that lifestyle is sinful, because so are parts of mine, it’s only my job to have a friendship with someone and pay attention to the Holy Spirit on when to speak and when to not. I hope that makes sense. And that goes with all my friendships, not just those with gay people.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Personally I believe that the New Evangelization is a job for us all. I am not suggesting that you pound anything down other’s throats (or up into any other orifices for that matter hehe) but I also do not think it is the time to be silent either. And yes the bottom line is being led by the Holy Spirit as we talk to others.

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams The journey to Christ is made with tiny baby steps. I’ve been here four years and I’m barely even starting to get close to even really wanting to love Him. And I had a pretty profound conversion. I spent my first four years relishing in the pride of the length God went to call me out of that life, so pretty much I’ve wasted a lot of time patting myself on the back instead of loving my neighbor. I am trying to change that by just not assuming to know what anyone’s going through, because I know for a fact that no matter how much I write or talk about my past or present, people have no clue what I’m going through. Only God does.

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    Nicole DeMille Richard feel free!

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    Richard Gerard Evans Thanks Nicole DeMille!

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    Leticia Ochoa Adams Ps I love these discussions, they teach me a lot.

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    Arlene B. Muller Very good post. I think most people these days associate the term “gay” with someone who intentionally embraces the “gay” lifestyle and is actively involved in homosexual behavior. So it you have deliberately chosen to and are striving to turn away from homosexual behavior and acknowledge that homosexual behavior is sinful, the term “gay” should no longer apply.

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    Nicole DeMille That was largely Richard’s experience, Arlene. If you haven’t checked out his blog, I highly recommend it.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Amen to all of ye!!!

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    Nicole DeMille Sometimes you can’t be silent because people ask. And then you have to give the truth charitably.

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    Richard Gerard Evans Does anyone know how to expand the comments before copying them???

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    Arlene B. Muller I read the blog post as well as the post.

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    Kristi Dahl Anderson great discussion!

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  2. This is a good post as usual Richard. It takes a lot of effort to attempt to control language, especially when it comes to popular usage.

    When we take an honest inventory of our lives and review the choices we have made, I sometimes wonder how authentic it is to always be going back and forth with these terms – trying to live up to a ‘definition’. I first met you when you were married and a Pentecostal. Then you were pro-LGBT, then you returned to Catholicism, then you were gay-Christian, Anglican and now you are Catholic. I’m happy for that. This post suggests to me you are still struggling with identity and do not want to be labeled. That is good and I pray you continue to remain faithful.

    These issues are very troubling, no doubt about it. I’ve often struggled with the identity issue as well – but concluded it’s a waste of time trying to redeem language – it simply confuses language usage, makes it PC or non-PC. The fact is that the term in general usage has turned out to be gay. The pope says it, the cardinals and bishops use it in unofficial documents, priests, lay people gay people and normal people use it. If I remember correctly, I think it is used in the film, The Third Way. It is also common usage in Catholic schools as well as many Catholic parishes.

    Very often it comes off as if those who use ssa exclusively and insist on its exclusive use are being a little holier than thou about it. It ‘s use is not a litmus test for orthodoxy or fidelity to Catholic teaching by any means.

    The Church calls all men and women to chastity, single people to celibacy. It’s not a curse to be lamented. It’s a grace. People with homosexual inclination are called to chastity. As today’s reading at Mass says: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit – not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain etc., etc., … and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right”. That’s my take on this discussion. A lot of gay people do not make that leap to “I’m not really gay – I just have SSA.” The Church does not ask that a person change an inclination or attraction or deny it, or to forbid them to use particular terms to describe their experience of themselves, but rather to be faithful to the Gospel, the Commandments, and to embrace a life of chastity in order to grow in holiness.

    The preference for the term SSA over gay may be meaningful for many of us – but it isn’t necessary for salvation or the reception of the sacraments. Promoting gay as a good and a third way of sexuality, as a lifestyle or spirituality is indeed an error and sin. I’m not sure people who use the descriptive ‘gay’ are participating in such political activity..

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    1. Thanks Terry…my take is that most of what you say is correct in that those in movements such as “Spiritual Friendship” are attempting to follow Church teaching, and yet to build one another up as people of the Faith in an accepting and positive way. I would differ from them in the way that they are going about it. I would differ with myself in the way I have gone about it too in the past, as you humblingly delineated regarding my own confusion and choices at times. I will disagree that I am still struggling with my identity though. I am a (Roman) Catholic Christian. I am very intentional in not allowing that to change again. For 2-3 years I did vacillate a whole lot and would not ever deny that. Even during my several “trips” towards Anglicanism (which all told lasted a year or so out of the last nearly 9 as Roman Catholic) I never considered myself Protestant again–which was precisely why I went in the direction I did rather than for example Methodist or MCC–my heart was still looking for what I had found in Rome after 35 years away. I was just trying to find some way to reconcile my own struggles as both a Catholic and “gay” person. Which in reality was very much faulty on my part. I write about this very openly on the “Why I’m Catholic” site, not sure if you have seen it or not, but the link is http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/struggle-catholic-same-sex-attraction in case you wish to do so. It also links to my original return to the Church story on that same site. Having said that, I do think that the terms matter, but I would be the last one to be “holier than thou” regarding the issue. believe me. You might note too that the very first link I list after the article is to Melinda Selmys, who I think is brilliant and very much a follower of the Church. She and I squarely disagree on this topic. That to me is not the main issue, nor why I wrote this piece. The issue, in my opinion, is a subtle weakening of the defenses that can indeed come through change in terminology. Official Church documents never say the word “gay” and certainly not “queer” either. I sincerely doubt that they ever will either. Pope Francis, speaking in (I think) Spanish, was asked a question off the cuff and used a term which was then translated “gay” in English but that does not mean it is his normal or everyday usage in describing SSA folks. I would be interested in what term he used in that conversation now that you mention it. In any case I would never dare be holier than thou because I am just glad I can even still aim for holiness at all rather than having been struck down by lightning on occasion hehe–so my finger is certainly not pointing at those who use other terms, as I clearly stated in the first paragraph of the article in fact. I am so very glad to hear from you BTW. I know many were hurt during my own very public struggles–and that you were one of those who were– and I will spend the rest of my days doing reparation for that. God bless.

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  3. Thank you so much for a beautiful, well-written blog piece. I never understood the need to differentiate between Catholics based upon our struggles, challenges, and sins. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ trying to become holy as the Father and Son are Holy and to get to heaven. Labeling doesn’t help anyone on this journey!

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    1. Thanks Catholicpsychdoc! As always I appreciate deeply your encouragement. As I shared with my friend Terry this article is meant to be my experience, and why I believe it is honestly better to use SSA, but not an indictment against those who choose otherwise. And as Terry points out, it is the life we lead, not the terms we use, that will ultimately get us to heaven or not. On that we certainly all agree. But both of you are right in that labels hurt, not help. And I think, for me, the label “gay” has hurt most of us rather than the other way around. It is not a matter of denying my feelings. Again, as stated in the article, they exist. They haven’t left me in 58 years and I seriously doubt I will suddenly and miraculously be desirous of women anytime soon (although God can do anything, but just saying). I simply wish to be who I am. And that is a Christian who is Roman Catholic and aiming for salvation. God bless!

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