As a reformed same-sex-attracted Catholic male, I would like to comment on the persuasive influence of Fr. James Martin’s pro-LGBT book Building a Bridge, and on the current over-eagerness of Church hierarchy to draw into the fold all those actively involved in the LGBT lifestyle without asking them to leave this lifestyle behind.
Most of my adult life I have struggled with my condition and identity. Since becoming a Catholic 35 years ago the struggle intensified as I tried to reconcile these inclinations with Christ’s teachings. Never, in all that time, was I met with judgment or oppressive severity, nor did I suffer cruel marginalization by Catholic priests – only compassion and thoughtful, helpful counsel. The Church has nothing to apologize for, not in my books anyway.
Long before the Church ventured anywhere near the current threshold of debate, I once walked those familiar corridors of thought which priests and bishops are now exploring: I wanted Church teaching to change, to adjust to suit me and adapt to the mentality of modern psychology. I wanted the Church to understand and believe that men (and women) like myself were “made” this way by God and therefore our desires, needs, our right to take partners and be loved and cherished with intimacy, were every bit as meaningful, as natural, as essential and valid as male/female marriage.
I protested. I smarted. I even left the Church briefly at one stage, incensed by the “red-necked resistance” to the anti-discrimination aspect of Homosexual Law Reform.
Like Jacob, I wrestled with God. For years I wrestled with Him, with Scripture, with Magisterial teachings. And then one day He convicted me in my sins. I repented. I went to Confession and tears poured down my face as I confessed. I was treated with the utmost sensitivity, and when I emerged from the confessional I felt cleansed by my tears and absolution. Over the next 24 hours, I felt renewed, like twenty years had peeled away from me. My soul had “recovered its original innocence through the Sacrament of penance” (to quote Jesus speaking to Sister Josefa Menendez). It is difficult to explain precisely in words but I sensed a shadow had lifted off me, the sin-burden released.
I was a New Creation. Later, in prayer, I completely surrendered my sexuality to God.
Let’s be honest though: the attractions and feelings haven’t totally vanished since that day. There are no illusions in my life. I’m not sublimating things or detached from reality. Rather, I have undergone tremendous healing (my troubles stem back to abandonment as a baby by my mother), and this healing began with my admission that my same-sex attraction has been, as the Church in her wisdom teaches, “intrinsically disordered”.
This truth has increased in clarity over time as order has gradually been restored to my heart and mind. The fall of Adam has left humanity a damaged race, and my condition is an inherent part of that. Recovery, however, is uniquely possible through the living legacy of divine Sacraments of Jesus’ real presence which He has left His Church. Every time I receive Him in Holy Communion I am strengthened; daily Mass and prayer, especially the Rosary, along with fasting and regular confession – these are all part of the armor to maintain chastity and grow in grace.
Like St Paul I can say, “I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling”, but I am a happier and freer, more integrated person nowadays, no longer governed by my appetites – more content, at peace, something which others notice.
When I recently read that a leading Cardinal declared that “living up to Christian ideals these days requires heroic virtue”, and then added, “the average Christian cannot aspire to such high ideals”, I felt stirred to write and refute his words because they deny the extraordinary help of the Sacraments. I am nobody special; the changes which have taken place in my life I can only attribute to God’s grace, and this is available to anyone who asks with a sincere heart.
In welcoming into the Church those immersed in the LGBT lifestyle, the sinner and the sin, the Church is stepping onto dangerously thin ice – especially if same-sex couples, for example, are welcomed like those in adulterous relationships to share the Communion Cup. This is official sanction of sacrilege and do we not bring “judgment and condemnation” upon ourselves with this? When Jesus told the religious leaders of His time that prostitutes and tax collectors were entering heaven before them, He meant repentant ones.
Being “inclusive” is commendable, and we are all called to an outreach of love, but to consider soft-washing the Church’s so-called “harsh” language to condone same-sex behaviour, can only result in excluding “the excluded” even further from salvation and the real benefits Jesus has to offer!
Sadly, Fr James Martin and his advocates, who complain about the LGBT community being marginalized by the Church, are now guilty themselves of the same act of marginalization when they speak disparagingly and intolerantly of people like myself, labeling us as “ex gays” and traitors to the cause, while we are simply devoting ourselves to embodying the traditional teachings of Christ.