The LGBT community and three possible pastoral approaches as Catholics

I am a part of the LGBT community. And it is a part of me. It does not define me, and is not all I am or think about. But to suggest it is not part of me is to be intellectually and otherwise dishonest.

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Having said the above, I am, first and foremost, a Catholic Christian with a commitment to seeking towards chastity and a pure heart. Some of you reading this have already challenged my reference to myself as part of this group, but I am. And so is every same-sex attracted person, whether active sexually or not, and whether they choose to identify as such with other LGBT persons.

To me that is lesson one here. In the recent book by Father James Martin, SJ, “Building a Bridge,” he suggests that we begin to eliminate from our vocabulary the term SSA (same sex attraction) and that it, among other things, can cause an unnecessary rift with those we are part of if that happens to be our orientation. At first I challenged that idea, and strongly. In further thought, however, I think he is right. The reason many of us have used SSA rather than LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is precisely to differentiate or distance ourselves from what many call the “gay identity.” Instead I fear it is causing more confusion than it could ever be worth.  For starters how many people do you know (outside of the more traditional Catholic world that is) who even know what SSA means? Probably none. We thus are distancing from the very people we say we are attempting to reach out to.

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To be clear, SSA is not an improper term by any means, and I would not criticize any who continue to use it. But, like so much of “Christianese,” it does not clearly identify the topic at hand, which is homosexuality, without an easily distracting sidebar chat that can derail the entire conversation if we are not careful. The purpose many of us have used it in the past is to emphasize that being SSA or LGBT does not need to define us, as I suggested in the very first sentence of this essay. That is valid. But very often that same sidebar causes it to do exactly that. I have personally found it far easier to simply say I am gay or LGBT but “celibate for religious reasons.” People get that, even if they disagree, and one can then move forward in what is already most likely a very sensitive discussion overall.

The above point, however important, only lays the groundwork for the actual pastoral approaches in question though.  I would like to deal with each of them briefly and then allow both myself and the reader to digest the idea that the Church can reach out far better to the LGBT community than we have done, both collectively and individually, in the past. I would suggest three valid paths to the topic, both doctrinally and in approach.  I would mention here, in using the term “pastoral,” I am not limiting my terminology to priests or ministers. We are all “pastors” at times to those we know and love.

First is what I would call the “Courage” approach. Within the Church, and approved by the Vatican, is a vibrant ministry to those who struggle with homosexuality. I link to the Courage website here, and have suggested to more than one person, including me, to utilize their fine services.  I can say nothing against it nor is that my intent today. https://couragerc.org.

As an important aside, it is crucial to note that Courage does not reach all however. For some, the struggle is in making peace with themselves and their sexuality in order to even accept the possibility of a celibate life. For others, there is an in-between or middle path that sees ways for us to have in-depth and possibly even legal commitments which do not involve sexual activity but allow for the love which so many of us crave, and as perpetually single people in the Church do not tend to find easily. For yet others, it may involve a very honest but fundamental disagreement with Church teaching on the topic. Each of the three groups mentioned are made up of real Catholics and real humans. All deserve consideration.

In any case, Courage believes strongly in using the term SSA for the reasons I have mentioned already, among others. Having had at least some association with them over the last several years, I would observe that, while none of the three paths here are easy, this one can be very good for some and extremely painful for others. I have spoken to people who have wept after slipping from the very best intents and viewing pornography, for instance. You might say, and in many cases I would agree, that this would indeed be a good reason to weep. But…

I have also known those same people to be literally threatened with hellfire during what is already a difficult and humbling time of confession with their priest, and I do not see that as the answer most often. Imagine being a person of 21 years and having been told by the Church you love and the Christ you wish to follow that you will never, under any circumstances, be allowed to express your sexuality to any other human in this lifetime. Further imagine that one day you turn on your computer to do school or other work and quite unexpectedly you are sent a link to some, in this case, gay porn.  What would you do? If you are hormonally within the norm, you will most likely view that porn, particularly if you are in other areas already denying yourself from being sexually active. Then you go to confession and the priest tells you, in no uncertain terms, that had you died that day or night you would have gone straight to hell and burned for eternity due to that one act. It might just cause you to never enter a confessional again.

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church does delineate this as an objectively serious sin, and I am not here to argue that point, more often that not you likely were not fully rejecting God but simply tripped up temporarily. For a sin to be serious or mortal, we as Catholics are taught that it must be serious, we must know it is such, and we must freely choose to do it anyway.  Most people at their hormonal heights, alone on a lonely night, denying themselves as mentioned from direct sexual contact, would not fit the last of the three listed here.  A priest who does not realize this when someone is weeping in the confessional is simply not getting it.

Back to Courage–while much hope is offered, there are more than a few within that group who live in constant fear and misery due to their lapses such as the above. And that can actually lead to a form of sexual binging and purging, which then becomes a habit and finally a total oppression within even the most sincere individuals.  Please note I am not here suggesting to bypass Courage. I am simply saying one needs to know what they are likely to face and deal with if they choose that route however. I believe Jesus calls it “counting the cost.”

Second would be the “spiritual friendship” approach. This would be Christians, primarily Catholic but others as well, who accept and even embrace their LGBT side and identify as such but who nevertheless choose celibacy. At one point I challenged this idea too–I do not anymore. Some in those circles choose partners, even having life commitment ceremonies, but choose to not become sexual with that person. The pitfall of course is to live under the same roof with someone you are attracted to and love deeply and to avoid ever having sex or anything close to it. How far can a person go? Is kissing okay? Is emotional “marriage” okay? What if one or the other chooses to eventually marry sacramentally to a person of the opposite sex? How devastating could that be for the partner left behind? Again there are blessings and pitfalls in this approach. But it at least has some refreshing honesty. A website to learn more of the thoughts and ideas behind this concept would be https://spiritualfriendship.org.

Finally what about those who are within the Church but are not at the place where they can choose to give up full sexuality and possibly even marry those of their own gender biologically? The Church as we speak is having many conflicting ideas and discussions in regards to the place of such people in the Church, as to whether they are allowed to receive Holy Communion or even have a Christian funeral.  This struggle to me is the most heartbreaking–and in fact the one that the vast majority of LGBT Christians, whether Catholic or other, find themselves dealing with.

A high-profile priest who in the past worked closely with Courage has suggested publicly that it would be allowable to have such couples in one’s home, for example at Thanksgiving or other holidays, but never to refer to them as a “couple.” Really? People who are committed to one another, who share a home and bed, and who are faithful to one person rather than being promiscuous, but we are told that the “truly Catholic” approach is to pretend none of that is the case and to make the partner of one’s beloved son or daughter feel slighted due to what the Church terms as an irregular relationship? I cannot believe that this type of thinking still goes on. But it does and regularly.

Let me use a slightly different example from my own life many years ago. A friend of mine (straight) was dating a woman, and they suddenly broke up. A couple of short weeks later his former girlfriend arrived on the scene and he decided rather suddenly to marry her. Then, he asked me to be best man at the ceremony. I prayed on it, and finally decided that the best approach was to speak to him privately about my concerns. I did so, and then agreed to accept the supreme honor of standing up for him, and have never regretted doing so. It has been years since we have been in contact, but I am pretty sure from all indications that this marriage was a lasting one. And, even if it had not been, I had clearly shared my suggestions regarding waiting so I knew he could never say I had not done so. We remained wonderful friends, even after their first child was born, and that simply would not have happened if I had pushed him away at that moment.  There are no easy answers in such scenarios, whether gay or straight, but turning from him and his bride-to-be would not have prevented that marriage from occurring. It would however have estranged us, possibly forever. Supporting him did not mean agreeing with him. Nor does it with same-sex couples. They belong in our homes and Thanksgiving tables, as well as our parishes.

How this fits with same sex marriages is simple–I do not agree with the priest from Courage who suggested that we distance ourselves from loved ones who choose another path.  Expressing initial concern is one thing, but I believe that being there for them in that crucial hour could make all of the difference later on in regards to them coming back to the Church or not.  Again I probably have horrified a few readers by this view, but to me that is the far more pastoral approach.  And, by the way, it is no longer “so-called same sex marriage.” Legally it is marriage, whether one agrees with the concept or not. In the same vein Bruce Jenner is now legally a woman and her name is Kaitlyn. If you cannot acknowledge that or must make light of it, as so many Catholics and other Christians are absolutely fond of doing, you do neither her nor your cause any service. I am not sure what we are attempting to prove by calling someone else’s sexual identity by other names than they prefer. We do not have to agree with them. But pretending their perception or legal identity does not exist, or for that matter spending time fighting to reverse the law, whether one fought for it or against it at the time, is a waste in my view, and a good way to turn away some very good LGBT people from the very place they should feel most welcome–the house of God. A great place to learn more about Catholics on this particular path would be https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com. I would say succinctly that this site is not endorsed by the Church. But it is an excellent resource  to become educated on the feelings and concerns of those you may at times disagree with and yet who have struggles more similar to yours than you may expect.

I am sure this post brings more questions than answers to many of you.  And there is much more I could add to the three approaches discussed here.  But the Church does not need to choose between defending her doctrine and accepting those who do not. To me that is the bottom line here. And I think it is a crucial one for the day we live in.

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A Question of Language: ‘Same-Sex Attraction’ vs. ‘Gay or Lesbian’

I respect the work of New Ways Ministry. I do not always find myself on the same theological page as them. I agree though with the idea that we are more than our sexuality and are people of dignity in the eyes of God, whatever our orientation. And that is not the center of our lives. He is.

Bondings 2.0

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently featured an interview with Fr. Philip Bochanski, the new director of Courage, a ministry which promotes celibacy as the only path for gay and lesbian Catholics.  The article states that the priest reported that “the organization feels supported by Pope Francis’ encouragement to accompany those ‘with same-sex attraction’ on their spiritual journeys.”  Bochanski is quoted as saying that Francis’ language of accompaniment, “is very useful for us. It recognizes the approach we take.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski

It is noteworthy that Courage is taking direction in their pastoral work from Pope Francis, who is seen by many as having initiated on new openness on LGBT issues in the Church.  But, as the NCR article points out, the leadership of Courage does not follow Pope Francis when it comes to language about LGBT issues. The reporter stated:

“[The Courage] approach includes using a language that some might…

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Ready…again

 

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I am ready to write again. You will likely read and notice a few differences though. For one thing I do not intend to cover up my weaknesses quite so much anymore. Do not get me wrong—God has done huge things in my life and I do not wish to in any way glorify my less-than-perfectness either. However, too often I have seen, and not just in others but in myself as well, the tendency to put my best foot forward and keep the other one hidden out of sight, so to speak.

I sin daily. Most if not all (actually all, whether intentionally, consciously or not) of you reading this do so as well. We also live in a day and age that is unprecedented in its ease to fall in various ways, in particular sexually. That particular discussion may make some of us uncomfortable—I know it does in my life. But I still fall in areas, and that is one of them. I have been celibate, in that I have not had nor have I sought person to person contact with another human, male or female, since 1999. That is nearly 17 years, and the last 10 as a Catholic Christian. So far so wonderful, right? Yes—and no.

Before you go congratulating me on such an accomplishment, I will openly say that my mind is at times a virtual cesspool. My computer too. Living alone with the WWW at my fingertips has some built in occasions of sin, and I cannot pretend I never have allowed myself to become trapped from time to time due to that combination. I have seen lately a multitude of articles by people who “used to” struggle in this area, and that is truly great and inspiring. I can take nothing away from that and am not attempting to do so. But what of those who have yet to overcome? Those who try all the techniques of prayer, fasting, daily Mass and rosary, and every other good idea on the lists of those who have “made it?” And still fall more than flat into the sewer after doing so?

And that is where I am at. Overcoming, and failing. Overcoming again, and then falling worse yet. Celibate but not chaste. Born again virgin but occasional internet whore. All of that can describe me and more. Not always but sometimes. In between such moments I do indeed seek God in the ways mentioned and have not given up hope. Not at all. But it can be deathly discouraging to be the one who does not quite seem to get over this area of what is a sometimes intense struggle. Reading of other’s victories can, at times, have the unwitting effect of tempting a person such as me to near despair. If I really wanted the victory, if I was truly consistent, if I honestly came to the “end of myself” (whatever or however that may look like) I would be able to write one of those victory articles too instead of one which sounds like I have given up on all that I hold sacred, which I nearly have at times, by the way. More than you the reader know. And not so long ago either.

But one thing keeps me going. What God has started within us, He does tend to finish. In fact He promises to do so. Every one of us are works in progress, even if that progress seemingly comes only in fits, starts, and restarts. And a lot of us fall into that category in one way or another, not necessarily in lustfulness but perhaps with gluttony, jealousy, or numerous other inner and outer wars. Traps exist for all of us, and for some they are lifelong struggles. Mine certainly has been longstanding to say the least.

Perhaps you are the person who watches the infomercial about the 300 LB woman who is now a sweet 120 and size 8. And, instead of being excited, you find yourself medicating your discouragement by going to the kitchen and getting some Ben and Jerry’s plus a spoon as you continue to watch the anorexic model on TV tell her tale. In my case perhaps it is a sense of utter loneliness that makes it easier to imagine being surrounded by beautiful and youthful folks who do not notice my many flaws. That is the power of pornography and cyber.

My point is this. Victory does not come in a one size fits all package. Some are delivered from certain of their sins instantly and never understand why that same deliverance does not occur with in the next person. Others fight a long battle but, once they are on the winning side for a few months or years, begin to lose compassion for those of us who keep messing up. And neither of those groups realize that very pride may lead them one day into something worse. I once knew of a young man who was instantly delivered from drug addiction, with no withdrawals of any kind. He fell in love with Jesus and his life was genuinely changed. I knew him personally and can attest to his sincerity. Yet, a few short years later he had an affair with a married woman from the church. The struggle within him was not gone but had only morphed into a new weakness. That story is scarily similar to many of us I think. The roots of our battles, the besetting ones at least, go deeply and at times lie dormant, waiting for the next way to become manifest. We do well to admit this to ourselves and others.

So yes, expect some honesty, some of it painful not just for you to read but me too, in what I pen going forward. When I posted on Face Book a few months ago that I had failed in chastity if not in person at least online, and that someone was possibly interested in quite literally exposing me due to what he rightly saw as my hypocrisy, I was overwhelmed with the response of probably friends, most Christian but even a few who were not, who gently supported me, as well as some who wrote me privately and admitted to their own struggles. Ironically a fellow Catholic writer was the only person who felt the need to tell me how deeply disappointed she was in me, and strangely that one response is the one I think about the most even still.  The lesson I would gently say to that person if she is reading this is that most of us know our failures already, and do not need them to be thrust at us, especially if we have confessed them to God and the world already. Yes there are consequences as she deftly pointed out to me and I am willing to pay them as God sees fit. I took time totally away from writing precisely due to this situation during all of Lent and used much of that time to do some serious reflecting so that I could come back fresh and new after Resurrection Sunday. Instead I skipped Mass on Easter and did it all over again after a beautiful Holy Week. And my first thought after yet another such major failure was to never write again but to go into permanent hiding. Not so however. Not with the God of second chances who we love and serve.

Today I have been to confession and, yet again, I have been forgiven. And my penance this evening was to sit silently in the church sanctuary before the Blessed Sacrament and let God speak to me. That was it. Not 50 decades of anything. Just let God be God in me.  In doing so, I came to believe that He does want me to write, and not just about this topic hopefully! But I have to do so with more humility and each time as a “wounded healer.” I do not have all of the answers yet, even for myself, and I will not guarantee to God or the reader that I will never slip into the abyss again either. But that was never my story anyway. Mine is one of Divine Mercy, and not only for the octave of Easter. God’s to me, and, very hopefully, mine to others who also are as flawed as I am. And that is many of us. Many of you.

So I am back. Humbled. Maybe even a bit humiliated. But real. And working on the underlying issues that make certain sins so attractive to me. God willing, perhaps I can help some of you do the same even while you help me too. Then perhaps the ugly sins I have committed can be somehow used for something good. And so can yours as well, if we just do not ever, ever give up. Blessed Easter.

My latest…and one of my best…from “Catholic Stand”

I do not say the above to brag, not in the least, but rather because I believe it has an urgently important message…the story of my friend Andres is compelling and sad, and beautiful, all at once. If someone you know struggles with SSA (same-sex attraction) or perhaps you do, there is huge hope. His story is worth a read, and I consider it a privilege to know this young man, and to write about him.  God bless. And please share! 

http://www.catholicstand.com/sex-attraction-courage-live/

From Public Discourse–“There Must be a Reason”

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/05/15022/

I was extremely privileged to have this article used in one of my favorite online journals, Public Discourse. If you are not familiar with them, they are an outreach of The Witherspoon Institute, and an outreach of my good friend Ryan T Anderson, PhD, who has been on every media venue from CNN to FOX to NBC and who has written for National Review, as well as The Heritage Foundation, plus who co-authored the book What is Marriage? Man & Woman: A Defense with Sherif Girgis and… Robert P George. And the list goes on, with yet another book coming out this summer. Why did I do this article and why now? Simply put, it is a tribute to my recently late father, Donald Leroy Evans, and a tribute to traditional marriage, quite frankly something that is becoming an endangered species in the United States as well as the world in our society today. Some of you will likely disagree with my conclusions regarding the future of marriage, but I think we all can agree that real love and acceptance is what every person, whether actively LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), or those such as myself with SSA (same-sex attraction), but who have chosen not to act upon those desires at this time in my life, both want and need. And we desire it most from our family and particularly our parents. My dad gifted me with that. Profoundly. And, in doing so, gave me a sense of manhood that no other human, living or dead, could have done. Please read, enjoy, and know that what I share here is deeply personal and from my heart. God bless!

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.

KNOWING THE CONTRARY “ME”– A challenge to any and all who love the non-straight neighbor among you…

witherI was utterly privileged this last week to have an article published in the Public Discourse page of the Witherspoon Institute. I was approached regarding this by Sherif Girgis and Ryan T Anderson, who, along with Dr Robert P George, last year authored an amazing, accurate, and concise study of the marriage controversy facing our nation and beyond, its relationship to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights and needs, and if what is commonly called “marriage equality” is indeed the answer or not. A link to this book is located at the end of this page, and I would highly recommend it to any who may not have read it or wish to learn more on the topic. Having said that…

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/04/13097/

The timeliness of their use of this article amazed me totally, as this very same week a potent new video, while not directly dealing with the marriage issue, was released which delivers a powerful punch in regard to the ever more visible need for the Church to effectively assist those of us from SSA (same-sex attraction) backgrounds to live our Christian (in my case Catholic Christian) Faith more effectively. Among other things, this video touches on many of the ways to reach out with realistic compassion towards those of us who at times have greatly struggled in integrating the Faith with our inner scuffles and sometimes severely wounded pasts, or even presents.

To me the two are one. They each represent the puzzlement and seeming contradiction that is me. In the article I attempt to present some practical ways to connect with SSA persons, and the video does the same thing but in different but complementary ways. Together, read and watched with care, they will show you who I am. This is the “me” you could not figure out before, and who at times has frustrated or disappointed many of you with my moments of anger towards the Church I love while yet wishing to follow her now and always. And I would point out that it is some of you on each side of this timely, thorn covered issue who have felt both the disappointment and even at times a betrayal as you observed my inner and outer tussles over the past few years. These two together will clarify much of that if you allow them to. I hope that you will.

http://www.blackstonefilms.org/films/the-third-way/index.html

I do not ask you to necessarily agree with the concept of a “Third Way.” In fact we may or may not ever see eye to eye on it and that is okay. But I have found it to be based upon what I believe is objective Truth, and the one perfect balance between the late Fred Phelps’ idea of railing against both the sinner and the sin, and the opposite extreme of promoting and imposing upon society the radicalism of the very real actively LGBT agenda which does not plan to stop until same-sex marriage is not only legal but promoted in every church, classroom, and nation. I believe that both extremes are real, and that each are impoverished in that they miss the very real concerns, fears and pains of the other “side.”

So, if you have ever wished to understand your brother, your cousin, your uncle, your friend, your co-worker, and your neighbor, all of who happen to be me, this is that most excellent opportunity to do so. The video is around 30 minutes, so get a soda or cup of coffee and take your time to absorb the many pieces of a story you may have never heard before. The article may take you 15 minutes, especially if you read it without skimming and I would implore you to do so rather than grabbing a sentence here or there away from the context of the rest. Too often today we do this in our blog-infested world, and sound-byte past the most important points in a story or article. Please do not do so this time around.

Thus I am asking for 45 minutes of your time. It is the only time I will ever do so, but I pray that every person I know and who claims to care about me will decide to do so. Your understanding of me would mean the world to me, even if we never agree on the topic. And your dialogue would be so very, very welcome. Please then grant me 45 minutes of your life—you may be surprised at what you learn, not just about me but about yourself, if you do. Thanks so much and God bless.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Is-Marriage-Woman-Defense/dp/1594036225

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