by Guest on 18/11/09 at 3:55 pm
First of all, I’d like to express how exceedingly grateful I am for this and other blogs that offer meaningful spaces of solace for LGBT Catholics who otherwise may not find sufficient places of dialogue and engagement within the mainstream sectors of the Catholic Church. Without the insight and enlightened alternative perspectives found on these wonderful sites I may not be in the peaceful phase of existence which I now enjoy in life. So, thank you Jeremiah, for providing this platform of encouragement and edification for us all to strengthen each other in the love and charity of Christ. With that being said, now I think I’m prepared to tell my story, and I ask all of you to please do your best to put up with my long-winded verbiage, as I tend to become much like Pope Benedict when I write… =/
When I was about 14 my mother and I left the Episcopalian Church in reaction to the election of Bishop Gene Robinson. Then, this event was outrageous to us, given what we had always been taught was Christianity’s approach to homosexuality even though at the same time I was in denial myself about my own attractions towards boys…
Throughout high school this attraction only grew stronger. Yet, going to a conservative Missouri Synod run Lutheran school, constantly getting a conservative interpretation when it came to moral matters, I only continued to hear how much of an abnormality homosexuality was.
During the same time, my mother and I began to investigate Catholicism. In our exodus from the Anglican Communion we had been drawn to Catholicism by the Church’s overt dedication to the veneration of the saints and the central foundation that the successor of St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome contributed to the unity of the entire universal Church.
Slowly but surely, we continued along the process of joining the Roman Catholic Church. We were confirmed by the then-Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal William Keeler, and received into communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil of 2007. That night was one of the most joyous of my life, as I felt that a void I had been chasing almost my entire life had finally been filled.
However, the honeymoon period lasted only temporarily. As I had prepared to become a Catholic I had made it a point to understand the Catholic interpretation on homosexuality, as my attraction towards guys seemed to become more and more prominent and harder to ignore with each passing day!
The Catholic Church’s seemingly moderate approach to the issue of homosexuality, when compared to most Protestant interpretations, seemed highly reasonable and sensible to me. From my own observations it was clear in Scripture that God made males and females to complement each other in order to contribute to the production of children and the further multiplication of the human race. Homosexual relations, in my mind, erased this complimentary aspect of sexual intercourse and romantic expression. So I resigned myself and accepted that homosexuality was indeed be an inherent “disorder” oriented towards a genuine “moral evil”. Thus, I realized that my vocation in life was to carry my cross in lieu of the Lord and in imitation of and union with his own sufferings.
What this meant was constant denial of my romantic feelings and emotions towards other guys. It also meant weekly trips to confession, revealing any instances of sexual expression which the Church had determined were morally wrong. Thus, for a period of almost two years I repeated the same cycle, taking solace in the sacraments, but always having confession serve as the precursor to me receiving the Lord in the Eucharist, so that I might always be in a worthy demeanor when being a dwelling place for the living God in the most Blessed Sacrament.
This period of my life was extremely heartrenching and difficult to bear. As I watched my friends enter into loving, meaningful relationships filled with affection and care I knew that because of my disordered attractions I could not enjoy this luxury. During gym I would gaze at the beautiful, toned bodies of so many of those beautiful boys and long to know what it felt like to touch them, embrace them, or even kiss one of them (since I had never up to this point even kissed another guy, much less been in a relationship). I remember many agonizing, lonely nights where I would cry myself to sleep wishing there was a boy next to me, whose chest I could rest upon, whose arms I could take comfort and security in. Yet, just as Madonna’s song from her 2005 Confessions on a Dancefloor proclaimed, this was “Forbidden Love.” And I continued to resign myself that this was the Lord’s will, and that this was what he demanded of me in order to be a faithful disciple of his.
Yet, the pleading refrain of Madonna’s song never left my heart whenever I heard the song and whenever I thought about another boy, “Forbidden love… we seal our destiny’s forever, Forbidden love, forbidden love… Forbidden love… are we supposed to be together? Forbidden love, Forbidden love…”
In late 2008, after I had graduated from high school I encountered a peculiar turning point in my life, for which I will forever be grateful to God and all those who helped me come to this point.
As I was preparing to vote for the first time in my first-ever presidential election I was considering all the issues that would be at stake when I cast my ballot. The moral issues which the bishops proclaimed as inextricably important to the voting process weighed heavily on my heart. Up to that point I had accepted the teaching from the Magisterium that abortion was murder in all circumstances, that embryonic stem-cell research was the same atrocity, that the legalization of same-sex marriage was a horrible affront to the stability of human civilization that must be stopped, and that the pro-life issue was the most important one to take into consideration when reflecting on whom to vote for.
But as I looked at what havoc President Bush and the GOP had wrought on our nation for nearly the decade that they were in power I couldn’t help but wonder, “No matter how pro-life they are, how does the Republican party care about the least among us and ensure the preservation of the common good throughout all sectors of society?”
As I began to ponder this question I became exposed to alternative, independent Catholic thinkers who engaged in thinking that I had never before considered. People like the great Fr. Hans Kung. Karl Rahner, Fr. Richard McBrien, John McNeill, Garry Wills, Sr. Joan Chittister, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop Jaques Gaillot and numerous others.
As I studied these progressive Catholic scholars a new picture of Catholicism began to emerge in my mind. The Catholic Church as we know it today, with its strictly defined hierarchy, its monarchial papacy, and its seven numbered sacraments was not directly instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus laid the foundations for the church and promised that the Holy Spirit would always be present to guide it. But the threefold ministries of bishop, priest, and deacon were not always as clearly delineated as they are today. Even the position of the Bishop of Rome evolved over time, and always, he was seen as a pastor presiding over the church in charity, not supreme jurisdiction, and certainly not exercising the claim that the Pope now claims today of infallibility. The church developed, under the auspices of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the needs and historical contexts of the current age. But the church we know today was in no way divinely spoken into existence by Jesus Christ. Of course, he continues to reign as head and king of the church, but nowhere in the gospels did he speak of such a clearly defined system of doctrines, clerical offices, and styles of worship.
As I began to grasp the notion that the church developed over time I continued to learn that not everything in the Bible has to be taken as literally true in all circumstances. The biblical prohibitions against homosexuality, when they are analyzed in their original languages, can always be dismissed as evidences of cultural structures and moral norms that are notably in contrast to the twenty-first century world we know today.
As I considered these new prospects of interpretation with regard to the essentials of the Catholic faith I decided to register as a Democrat, as they were the Party that best seemed to take into consideration the church’s full social justice position, and not just the issue of abortion.
I also decided to support Sen. Barack Obama as the next President of the United States of America. After I had voted for the first time and watched the election returns on that glorious night which I shall never forget, my entire fortunes in life changed when I had learned that he had won the election.
The wall of tyranny, cynicism, and oppression that had so blinded our nation and damaged our image abroad during the Bush administration collapsed in just a few short moments! A new future of prosperity, peace, and equality for all seemed within the grasp of all Americans already! I remember I cried that night, not just because of the historic significance of that momentous occasion, but also because of the internal implications it caused to resound within my heart. I thought to myself, “If our country can usher in such a profound movement of change, why can’t the church adopt the same attitude?”
From that point on, after a short period of intense reflection and prayer I received a consolation from the Lord that I was the work of his hands, and that nothing he had created was damaged or tainted with shame. Like a sign that a teacher during high school had hanging in his classroom proclaimed, “GOD DON’T MAKE NO JUNK!” And ever since then, I’ve decided to officially agree to disagree with the leaders of the church on the issue of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
I’m profoundly grateful to God, to this blog and to so many other sites which provided to me alternative explanations for the feelings which I was experiencing, to have reached this stage of happiness in my life. Although I still have not really entered into a genuine relationship I have enjoyed the comforts and joys of intimacy with another boy.
I’ll never forget the first time I cuddled with another guy. As I finally rested my head upon his strong chest the refrain from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, which I had longed for so long to act upon and experience finally came true! I felt the intense warmth, strength, and security radiating from his chest. I felt for the first time, the heartbeat of another pressed to my ear. During the simplicity of that first embrace I enjoyed with another man it felt as if time stopped, and we were the only two persons left in the universe. It was an especially primordial feeling, like the one expressed in the first pages of Genesis when it says that the world was a formless wasteland but that the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters. Even though it did feel as if we were the only two persons upon the face of the earth in that moment, I felt as if the Lord’s presence, approvingly gazing upon me was hovering over us as the Holy Spirit did at the beginning of time. Even though, unfortunately, this intimate friendship ended in disarray, I caught a glimpse of what true, lifelong, meaningful, unconditional romantic love can be like. And I hope to find it in the future. Sometimes, I feel as if I can barely go on because that affection from another person for which I long for so ardently is absent from my life…
Anyway, I’ve gone on far too much. I still love the Catholic Church. In virtue of the Eucharist, the veneration of the saints, and the unitive nature of the papacy (even though its is a grave error when its expressed in a purely authoritarian and jurisdictional manner) the sacraments, I feel that it is indeed the fullness of Christianity that the Lord intended for his disciples to enjoy. That doesn’t mean that the church is devoid of imperfections. The leaders of the church seriously need to take scientific, sociological, and psychological innovations and discoveries into consideration when they pontificate on the standards of human sexuality.
Pope Benedict XVI, who I love dearly and hold in great esteem as a spiritual father and an exceedingly brilliant and holy man, exhorts all of us constantly to find the perfect harmony between faith and reason. How ironic that he crushes this very dialogue that should be taking place when it comes to human sexuality and the lives of the People of God throughout the world! When will this hypocrisy end? When will the leaders of the church understand that by opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage they are only acting out of fear of the unknown and contributing to a prevailing attitude of discrimination that the church has exercised before, using scripture to endorse its arguments for the defence of the practice of slavery and the denigration of women?
I have hope that the Lord will continue to send out the Spirit to renew and revitalize His church, but it disturbs and deeply discourages me when its shepherds place more concern for doctrinal preservation rather a regard for pastoral sensibility and the integrity and dignity of all its members, regardless of gender, race, class, or sexual orientation.
Pope Benedict, Archbishop Burke, Archbishop Chaput, and all the other fundamentalist hardliners of the church would do well to heed the words of Christ when he chided the Pharisees and said,”Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men!” (Mark 7:6-8)
Even though the current climate within the church may seem increasingly dismal I have hope in the Lord’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church. The recent news from Salt Lake City is very encouraging, if only the bishops could embrace this compromising stance and at least show that they really do believe in the inherent dignity and compassion do to LGBT individuals, rather than exerting all of their might to condone bigotry and ignorance. But yes, I do still have hope, and will continue following the Lord FORWARD, as he exhorted Mary Magdalene to do as he went into Galilee following his glorious resurrection, always forward, never looking back, but following the Risen Lord forward into the pages of history!