Have you ever felt misunderstood?
Regarding the Vatican’s document on priesthood (and homosexuality), I definitely feel that today. See, same-sex attractions (and transgender inclinations) are a part of my story. However, with my bishop fully aware of this, he opened the door for me to enter seminary for diocesan priesthood.
Not closed. Opened.
State of the Heart
My bishop and I had many conversations leading up to this. He knew I was open to growing in the fullness of virtue. And when he told me, “I would be happy to have you as a priest in my diocese,” I wept with joy. Though I didn’t end up going to seminary, I learned that people like me were not automatically blacklisted.
The Greater Focus
Throughout the discernment process I came to know that being accepted or rejected for seminary was not dependent on the attractions/inclinations I experienced. Yes, those were relevant, but they were secondary to my attachments.
Attachments to what?
Attachments to anything of this world that might serve to be an impediment to my total abandonment to the Lord. Many great saints have modeled this dying to self and their earthly attachments so they could be more profoundly united to the suffering of Christ on the Cross. I wanted to strive for that as well.
The thing is, attachments are not always “out there” for us to see – sometimes we have to dig deeper so they can become revealed. I know that if I was to return to my prior attachment to the gay identity, I would be choosing to impede (and contradict) my desire to fully die to myself.
I knew I couldn’t live in a contradiction, so I had to ask myself what was more important to me. After much prayer, I eventually faced my fear of the unknown, and took a leap of faith and let go of my attachment to the gay identity. It was a matter of trusting God enough in my moment of total abandon, to sustain me outside of the world that I had built up around me. To trust God completely – one of the greatest forms of worship.
Language Is the Foundation
I got here after years of pursuing clarity – especially in language. For example, we already know that words like “homosexual” (and “heterosexual”) are not clear enough to describe the intricacies of the human person and the state of hearts. Those words don’t permit an awareness of the distinction between unchosen attractions/inclinations and one’s chosen (embraced) identity.
However, there are greater clarifications that need to be made at this time – in particular, the distinctions between people who experience same-sex attractions, people who wholeheartedly/non-wholeheartedly embrace the gay identity, and people who exhibit homosexual tendencies.
Note: Homosexual tendencies are not in reference to perceptions of a “feminine” male or a “masculine” female. Rather they are to do with the types of behaviors a person believes they ought to pursue. This, however, is deeply connected to identity (and self-concept) because the identities we embrace to describe ourselves, often become how we define ourselves. And this is what influences our tendencies; what we perceive of ourselves and our vision of what it means to come to fruition.
Heart above Behavior
After letting go of my attachment to the gay identity, I was able to move beyond the roller-coaster cycle of “behaviour management” where I truly believed that I was “countering my nature” by denying myself the opportunity to enter a romantic/sexual homosexual pursuit (even in fantasy). However, I didn’t just stop the roller-coaster, I jumped off the ride altogether.
Today I don’t pursue this invisible unicorn called “celibacy” for the sake of being a well-behaved Catholic. “Celibacy” outside of the context of chastity, is merely abstinence. Today, it would be accurate to assess my state in life as celibate, but it’s no longer my objective, but rather a fruit of pursuing a heart of chastity.
And with that, I am free to respond to the potential vocation that God might have in store for me – whether it be holy opposite-sex spousalship (marriage), priesthood, or even continued single-hood. Today, all are rooted in the pursuit of truth, clarity, virtue, and holiness, and ultimately joyfully letting go.
And yes, there’s an increasing divide in the Church… but be it known, it is not because of attractions.
Nothing hurts my heart more than seeing division within the Church. Unfortunately, when it comes to the matter of sexuality and identity, I see this more and more. With same-sex attractions and transgender inclinations being a part of my story, this especially hits close to home – but possibly not in the way one might think. Please allow me to explain.
The language we speak in terms of sex and sexuality has changed rapidly over the last several years. Some clarifications seem to convolute complex topics, while other clarifications provide us with an awareness of essential truths required to be understood in order for us to make sense of the Catholic Faith. Much like how we can attempt to interpret a song, we have to first have and understand the lyrics. However, with the Song of the Church, it seems that people are often content to merely hum along at times.
It was clarified language that brought about a new awareness in me. My paradigm of reality was shattered, drawing me to recognize that attractions/inclinations experienced (not chosen) must be considered distinct from an identity embraced (chosen). From this, I realized that I could drop the shame I had been harboring, which opened my heart to grow in relationship with people – who eventually led me to prayer. Through my experience with them, I came to know I belong in the Catholic Church and can be honest with myself about the attractions/inclinations I experience. Furthermore, I was able to once again open my heart to the possibility of Holy Spousalship (with an opposite-sex spouse) if it be in God’s Will. And if it is not, I am at peace in joyfully offering my sexuality to the Lord, as a gift.
My sexuality is important to me, but that gives me all the more joy to give it to God. There is no joy in giving a meaningless gift.
I got here because by the grace of God, I was able to let go. I was able to let go of my attachments to this world which kept me shrouded in safety and comfort and which entrenched me in my own ways. And when I was challenged in my ways, or ways of thinking, I truly dug my heels in and fought. All the while I was following my conscience, which I hope serves as a reminder to everyone that the advice to merely follow our conscience is one of the most dangerous and reckless recommendations that could ever be given. Furthermore, we mustn’t forget that even those who are aiming to destroy the Catholic Church are following their conscience as well. All it does is entrench opinion and thus divide.
Divide and conquer. We must never forget whose game plan that is.
I long for an end to the madness. I long for unity. However, unity will never arise for as long as people maintain their earthly attachments to their opinions. No matter how many degrees or diplomas a person has completed (from any number of zero-vocation producing “Catholic” college campuses), they will never be able to contribute to the fullness of unity unless there is a willingness to fully die to self. And here is why: in being open to fully dying to self, we open the door to being crucified along with Christ – by crucifying our earthly attachments which then allows us to more clearly reflect the love of God (which may very well get us crucified in time).
And part of dying to self means dying to our opinions (that goes for me too).
Lucky for us, as Catholics, our faith wasn’t built upon opinions, which means that dying to our own opinion does not mean we need to leave our faith. There is still hope for unity. In fact, dying to our own opinion, from what I have seen, has drawn people further into their Catholic Faith. The reason for that is because Catholics who pursue this dying to self, open their hearts to pursuing what is actually true. And after they begin to discover truths – which transcend human existence – they come to realize that the Church doesn’t invent truth, but rather upholds it.
It is this precise realization that draws people into an awareness that shatters the paradigm that declares that “The Church is Rules.” As that paradigm crumbles, a new one arises, which is “The Church is Mystery to Pursue.”
When this latter paradigm arises, there is no stopping the good fruit that is soon to abound, such as long as each and every incremental truth is embraced on one’s own accord. And as these incremental truths are embraced, the “lyrics” to the Song of the Church become known, and also better understood. That is, people begin to see the language of the Church in the way it was intended to be interpreted – which is about upholding the transcendent objective (and most probable) truths of our universe and beyond, removed from any notion of personal interpretation of feelings on any particular matter. That is, people become more able to see the language used by the Catholic Church as not being related to personal preferences (or opinions), but rather about the Order of Creation.
Of course, that won’t make much sense to anyone who cannot die to idea that the Church is just another opinion. However, that is why in attempting to shift the hearts of the world away from the idea of Church as opinion, we simply cannot “tell” people the Church is true. Rather, we must engage people in a journey. That engagement will come only after a heart is first open, which makes it our priority to pray that the Holy Spirit may open hearts. It all starts with prayer.
When it comes to sexuality and identity, persons like me are being pulled in two opposing directions by the two predominant “opinions” within the Church. The former is that we should embrace the “Gay and Celibate” way of thinking. The latter is to drop the any sexual/gender identity label, while still being fully honest with ourselves about the attractions/inclinations we experience. Both of these opinions are being expressed by people at all levels and in all roles. They are not compatible with one another, not regarding being able to be honest with oneself about attractions/inclination experienced, but rather due to one’s willingness to fully die to self or not. As in, only one of those camps reflects the hearts of persons who are willing to die to their attachment to the contemporary gender identity label.
What might be more important for us to consider is what side would add strength to the contemporary gender ideology movement itself. We should not forget that this movement has instilled the (contagious) idea that people ought to self-identify and define themselves according to the attractions/inclinations they experience, and thus has hijacked their natural (and good) desire for fulfillment to be rooted in the fruition of a particular contemporary gender identity.
The problems with the desire for fulfillment being attached to the idea of coming to fruition within a particular gender identity are as follows:
- This has drawn many to leave behind their obligations as fathers and mothers in order to pursue their “true self.”
- This has drawn (especially young) people into sexual experimentation, which feels physically good, but which is now interpreted to be a confirmation of a particular sexual orientation.
- This has drawn young people to face the question of defining themselves and their sexuality long before they develop the intellectual capacity to dissect the information that they are being immersed within in our culture.
- This deprives young people of the opportunity to develop healthy non-sexual/non-romantic same-sex relationships without pressure of feeling that it might mean they “are gay” (or some other similar identity label).
- This draws a great number of young people – who are already at high risk of exploitation – to allow themselves to be exploited on account of the positive attention they receive from their family, society, or online community, resulting from the affirmations that are heaped upon them for their courage to embrace some type of identity as “who they are.”
Whether these are opinions or truths is definitely worth discussing.
Though we are to never judge the state of a person’s heart, we are to judge a person’s actions. However, it is through a person’s actions that we can glean degrees of clarity about the state of one’s heart. For example, through a person’s choice to hold on to some earthly attachment, we can glean the degree of clarity that would let us correctly judge that there is a degree of closedness to the fullness of dying to self. It is a judgment about a facet the heart, while not being a judgment of the state of heart as a whole.
This concept could be applied to any context, whether it be a person refusing to throw out a letter from a past girlfriend, or pretending they are trying to fight an addiction while keeping an “emergency stash” nearby.
The point is that these lines of division are moving up the ranks of the Church, with certain conferences and websites choosing to advance one more than the other. People with a genuine desire to learn and grow are trying to make sense of things but are often at a loss to determine which “version” of the Catholic Faith is true. Is it the “Gay and Catholic” way of thinking? Or is it the way of thinking that permits people to be fully honest with themselves about the attractions/inclinations they experience, while striving to fully die to themselves and their earthly attachments?
Humility allows us to gracefully engage with persons who hold different views than us. This involves listening, and does not involve being walked over. However, if we are not already striving to be the living reason why someone might want to orient their own life more deeply towards Christ, then we ought to realize that our words/actions will bear little fruit. Also, when we engage with others, we need to realize that all participating parties may be drawn into a shared journey. Nobody knows all there is to know, so this shared journey is essential for the development of that shared journey – which of course is best done in appropriate relationship. No relationship, no shared journey. Nonetheless, it is within this shared journey where the right questions can reveal whether a person truly has the desire to fully die to themselves and their earthly attachments, or not.
A Journey to What?
Truth. Christians believe that regardless of how many counterfeit banknotes exist, the real banknotes still exist. That is, no matter the amount of departures from truth, actual truth still exists. However, because we live in a post-Christian world where many people see Church as “opinion,” we cannot simply get out there and “tell” truth at people. Therefore, instead of merely “telling” the truth, we might do well to aim to reflect the truth of God’s Love and Mercy in every breath of our life (as best we can). God knows we aren’t perfect, and He knows that we can only do all we can do. However, as hearts are convicted, the truths of the Catholic Church become known.
Again, as the truth becomes known, the idea that the Church is merely opinion (inventor of truth) begins to wane, and the idea of Church as Mystery gains traction. This is important because it opens up a whole new reality for people to respond to. And when people become awakened to truths authored by God into our universe – because of some initial act of love which cracked their heart open, they incrementally become more aware of and more appreciative of the beauty of the Order of Creation, otherwise known as the Art of the Divine Artist.
We Are His Art
It was through first becoming aware of myself first and foremost as a beloved [adopted] child of God, and then secondly becoming aware of myself as the beloved handiwork of the Divine Artist, that I knew with full conviction in my heart that I needed to strive to withhold myself from indulging in every inclination (sexual or otherwise) that would counter the beauty of the Art of the Divine Artist. This conviction was motivated by my love for the Divine Artist.
I came to realize that just as how every one of my experiences in life had shaped me to some degree, I had to be honest with myself about how my experiences would have impacted my trust parameters. I retrospectively can see that my trust parameters governed who I would spend time with and who I would allow myself to get close to (or not). Despite my desire for closeness with same-sex peers I still often chose isolation, and despite my desire to be in another body I kept those inclinations buried in my heart. I made those choices out of my greater objective which was to avoid the fear of the unknown. But those choices also made me long for companionship – with the hope that a companion might “accept me for me.”
The fact is, at the time, even I didn’t “accept me for me.” I was running in fear.
After debating the idea of whether or not I was “born this way” or not, I was able to speak with one of Alberta’s most prominent Gay Activists at a provincial conference. After he permitted a seminar full of teachers to blindly accept the “accepted nuance” that “gay” people were merely “born that way” I asked him afterwards, to which he told me “When it comes to sexual attractions, environment plays a factor.”
I was able to think of this in light of the neuroplasticity presentation I had just seen the day before at the same conference, to do with student learning patterns. And it clicked. Our brains are not static. We have neuroscience to support this. Our relationships influence our trust parameters. We have psychology to support this (even quack psychology). And environment plays a factor. We have one of Canada’s leading gay activists saying this.
Through this series of events and realizations, I was able to realize that the attractions/inclinations didn’t need to define me. In fact, I was only as gay or straight or “trans” in as much as I chose that to be the case. I gained the freedom to know that my destiny did not need to be wrapped up within the gay identity label. I gained a freedom in this because I didn’t want to embrace that identity. The fact that I am criticized for my choice shows the blatant double-standard that exists, where people on one side shout the mantra “I define me!” yet I am not allowed to define myself?
Being able to step away from my former life patterns and then step away from the gay (and “trans”) identity labels were absolutely crucial in my journey into the Catholic Church. The words of that prominent Gay Activist gave me the permission I needed to let go of the world’s opinion of who I was, while still giving me the permission to be fully honest with myself about the attractions/inclinations I experience. That set the stage for the Holy Spirit to continually open my heart to even bigger questions that I had yet to ask, and while pursuing each and every one of them, I dove further and further into the truths of our universe, only to find that one-by-one, they were upheld by the Catholic Church.
I had dove into the Mysteries of the Catholic Church without even recognizing it.
And through that, I began to see the improbability of our universe alone being All, the improbability of order, the improbability of us having the capacity to exercise the fullness of free will over our hearts, the improbability of the idea that there is only one realm and we are within it, and the improbability that of all realms (intra-universal and extra-universal) we are the only instance of rational entities.
I fell in love with the magnificence of our Creator God. I fell to Him. I realized in my heart the reality of Heaven and Eternal Consistency of God. I learned of his perfect Love and thus Perfect Justice. I learned of my choice to accept or reject Him today (and every day) and thus determine my destination eternally forward. I learned that to love Him and Accept Him most profoundly, I would have to die to all opinion, and to myself, and to my attachments to this world.
I learned that I could best love Him by trusting Him and directing all glory to Him. And that mean honoring his glorious creation by respecting it, as structurally created, along with the order of creation itself. I wasn’t structurally created “gay” or “straight.” I wasn’t structurally created “trans.” I was structurally created male. This is written into each and every cell of my body and this truth speaks to me louder and louder every day that I choose to restore my identity to God.
The beautiful Art of the Divine Artist is reflected in me. It is reflected in those I love. It is reflected in people I don’t even know. And even after my death, each cell in my body before total decomposition will still reflect the truth of how I was structurally created: XY. Likewise, my sexual faculties have written within them a complementarity to the beautiful Art of the Divine Artist that is female.
My desire to be honest with myself about what or who I am attached to more, draws me to willfully and joyfully crucify any temporal inclination to act in ways that counter the Art of own body or someone else’s. I desire to crucify these attractions/inclinations more and more because I know that when I entertain them I am drawn to desire to engage in activity that would be disrespectful to God’s Art. And I choose this because of my love for the Divine Artist. And this has brought me joy beyond measure, because giving a very special gift (sexuality) to someone you love (God), is life-giving.
For as long as used to self-identify as gay and then trans, I forever thought it was counter to my nature to deny myself the experience of sexual/romantic encounters in those ways. As soon as I became able to see myself first and foremost through the lens of God, as his beloved [adopted] son, while also being convicted of the absolute need to fully die to myself, I was able to let that go. I was able to get off the roller-coaster of simply trying to modify my behavior while never addressing the state of my heart. I was able to see myself in a new way.
I was able to see myself outside of those labels. In fact, I chose to drop them completely. They are not me – they don’t define me at any level – while I still uphold the gift of sexuality. Through the love of Christ, I am not afraid of being known outside of those labels. I am not afraid of dying to self. I am not afraid of humbling myself to the Lord via responding to His invitation to put Him first – even in identity.
This, sadly, is most urgent because the willingness to fully die to self is the precise point that separates those who refuse to budge from those identities (which includes those who are more openly embracing homosexual non-intercourse but still romantic relationships), from those who experience same sex attractions but who are striving to grow in holiness and who are ready to die to themselves and their earthly attachments.
And if the desires of the heart are never challenged, for many, those desires will win out. For that reason it is uncharitable to draw a person who loves God into an identity that has embedded within it the nuance that it is one’s nature to be inclined to engage in thoughts/behavior that is counter to the Art of the Divine Artist. All it does is set a person up for a lifetime of behavior management, constantly fighting what they perceive to be what they ought to do but don’t in order to “be a good Catholic.” This “freedom” (which is really a form of cyclical slavery that I too lived) pales in comparison to the freedom that can only be found within a heart open to the fullness of virtue. And that includes humility and chastity.
1. Purpose: The purpose of this resource is to draw people into a journey towards hopefully embracing a greater degree of objective and most probable truth as derived by applying the mathematical/philosophical Law of Non-Contradiction. We can use this intra-universal law to determine the most reasonable position on any particular matter – including those pertaining to attitudes towards human behaviour (as well as human behaviour itself). This approach provides us the opportunity to draw others into a greater awareness of a number of necessary conceptual distinctions that might not otherwise be discovered or considered. On account of this anchoring in logic (as defined by the Law of Non-Contradiction itself), these necessary conceptual distinctions (as well as their implications) may be more likely to be embraced on one’s own accord, simply as a matter of one’s own conviction to greater self-honesty about what they perceived to be true. This matters greatly because our behaviors (and our expectations of behaviour) are ultimately shaped by what we perceive to be true.
As well, where necessary conceptual distinctions become further embraced on one’s own accord, there arises a gradually-increasing interior obligation (driven by one’s own conviction to greater self-honesty) to use language that has the capacity to express those distinctions. This increased collective expression of said distinctions serves to subtly influence the language of the world around us, which can serve to further draw others into greater awareness of those distinctions as well. That is, these subtle linguistic nuances can gradually effect a world-wide transformation of thought with regards to behavioural norms and expectations, as already evidenced by a number of increasingly popular ideologies of this day. In saying that, we would do well to remember that one must first become aware of a particular distinction before they can consciously choose to evaluate the implications of that particular distinction and integrate it within their own worldview. Note that a deliberate interior evaluation of those distinctions (once they begin to be integrated into one’s own life) may lead a person to a life-changing conviction of heart in some way.
2. Church Authority: On account of this resource being anchored on the Law of Non-Contradiction and the socially-accepted value of pursuing a greater degree of understanding (out of one’s interior conviction to pursue greater truth and self-honesty), it does not rely on Church Authority to provide the foundation upon which to build. This is not to take away from Church Authority, but rather a deliberate response to the current reality in which an increasing amount of people (sadly even within the Church) reject Church Authority. For that reason, using the Law of Non-Contradiction as foundation provides an opportunity to evangelize more effectively in increasingly hostile environments because those who have a hatred for religion (especially the Catholic faith) have their disdain redirected from “Church Teaching” to truth itself.
This is important because as the people of the critical mass who have a sincere desire to pursue and embrace greater truths are brought to see via their own conviction to truth that many who attempt to deteriorate the Church actually reject objective and most probable truth (which the Church merely upholds), they will be more inclined to distance themselves (at least interiorly) from those people. This intentional distancing – which is always preceded by one’s conviction to greater self-honesty, erodes the overall societal influence of those who are attempting to deteriorate the Church. In other words, be reaching hearts in such a way that they may be more likely to be convicted of the truths upheld by the Church, the power of the critical mass (which has rejected truth) is lessened.
3. Intended Audience: Presenting concepts through the lens of an invitational narrative anchored on the human experience is an effective strategy to draw people into embrace a message for themselves on their own accord. However, this particular resource does not utilize this approach, for the purpose of maintaining focus on the pursuit of the objective and most probable truths themselves. Those who present this resource to their faith communities must trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal to them how certain experiential anecdotes may be introduced within, in order to better reach the hearts of their particular audience. On that note, be it known that this resource was intended specifically for those in a teaching capacity, whether they be clergy, religious, or invested laypersons. However, this resource was also written with the average Christian person in mind, for when obedient to their respective bishop, it is through them that the cultural climate of a faith community can be transformed for the better in a most profound way – from the bottom up (which is the most effective means of mobilizing the critical mass).
4. Approach: If presented appropriately, specifically through the lens of engaging a person within a journey as opposed to merely restating the Church’s position, people may come to experience a greater degree of empowerment (on account of their own choices to pursue the journey). It is that intentional engagement in a journey that draws people to a more profound interior conviction of truth. It is this deepening interior conviction of truth that draws about a greater confidence in one’s ability to share (and defend) their faith, in addition to inspiring them with the desire to do so. Thus, this approach draws forth the circumstance where people may desire to more profoundly serve the Church in obedience to their respective bishop, on account of first and foremost focusing on the shared journey.
One positive aftereffect of this approach is that it can lead to an improved state of faith education and pastoral care (on account of increasing the faith devotion of those serving and or on account of drawing a greater number of people into service). As well, it is known in the educational world that inspiring people to engage themselves in a journey towards a deeper understanding (reflective of the Inquiry Method) is one of the most effective educational practices. It allows for degrees of autonomy, a personalized narrative, and at certain times, experiential encounters. It is not always practical but it should be used when appropriate for it yields far better results with regards to people becoming convicted in their heart, as opposed to merely amassing “head knowledge.” This matters greatly because youth of this day are increasingly having their learning patterns shaped by this approach. Their brains are being conditioned to learn in this way – and in some cases it is now drawing them to choose to reject what they perceive is outside the narrative that they have come to embrace as a result of their prior experience. In recognizing this, we would do well to incorporate this particular educational approach for religious instruction whenever appropriate, especially under the guidance of an instructor who is capable of inspiring hearts to grow – led first and foremost by their own lived example.
5. Rationale: Approaching sensitive topics in this way can help shift the perception of the critical mass from possibly falsely believing that the Church commands obedience to correctly believing that the Church invites us to pursue a greater degree of truth (with respect to our state in life). Indeed, obedience is a sign of faith, but it is not commanded. That is, the Church has commandments, but because of the gift of the fullness of free will over our hearts, God never takes away our ability to choose the degree in which we should follow them. Nonetheless, this transformation in approach may serve to draw people into a deeper journey into the Church because the very invitation of pursuing a greater degree truth implies that there is a greater degree of truth worthy of being pursued to begin with.
This is important because those who experience interior positive reinforcement on account of the neurochemical response elicited via task completion are more likely to become engaged in a journey that is anchored on the pursuit of a greater degree of truth – which requires within it, incremental task completion. Neuroscience has brought forth the awareness that it is the male brain that is typically structured to respond in this way – and completely independent of one’s specific choice. Though male and female are equally valuable in the eyes of God and in the existence and function of humanity, we can be assured by what we now know about the neurochemical responses that teaching the faith in a way that emphasizes the journey towards greater truth (solving a mystery) will appeal more so to males than females. Thus, if we shift our teaching strategy to emphasize an approach that will appeal more so to the male brain, we can draw about a circumstance whereby young males will experience greater incremental success within faith instruction in school – because it will make better sense to them. It will be more likely to be internally (and subconsciously) perceived as something that they ought to be invested in, because the success they experience within this approach will affirm within their hearts that growing in the faith is something for men – and thus something for them to grow into. That is, if they perceive this, then the stage will be set for them to begin to perceive that growing into their faith is a necessary facet of their rite of passage into manhood. This of course is only strengthened with every positive male (and masculine) role model that they come to know within the Church community.
This trajectory can be further strengthened if the rest of the Church community chooses to minimize the instances that the faith is depicted in a way that a young person may interpret to be juvenile – for they will be inclined to let this go along with the rest of their childhood once they become aware of their desire to enter a rite of passage into manhood. In saying that, if a young male pursues the rite of passage into manhood with the underlying perception that they ought to grow into the faith, then we as a guiding church community become active participants in the gradual restoration of authentic masculinity – within the Church and within the world. This is because continuing to grow in the faith (especially into adulthood) will continuously draw us to a greater degree of dying to ourselves, and that is masculinity is – modeled first and foremost by none other than Jesus Christ Himself. What cannot be ignored is that where men are more inclined to die to themselves as a form of joyful self-sacrifice to the Lord (arising from an increased trust in Him), there are a greater number of joyfully accepted vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life – all three being foundational to the well-being of our faith.
More and more I hear of people like me (who have same-sex attractions as part of their story) who desire a deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ within the community of the Catholic Church. Out of that desire, they are sincerely striving to make sense of how their life could fit within the Church. Some are striving to make sense of how they might fit in socially, while others are striving to make sense out of why God “picked” them (to experience these attractions), while even others are striving to figure out how they might be able to enter a gay relationship that wouldn’t break the “rules” of the Church. These of course are honest pursuits of greater understanding.
However, the root of these pursuits is the idea that “Gay people should be celibate.”
This idea is driving many people away from the Church, as personally described here.
What people don’t realize is that having celibacy as the primary objective, is tantamount to jumping on a life-long roller-coaster and merely “white-knuckling it” until you die. With “celibacy” as the primary goal, all you can do is hang on for the ride that you are “destined” for, for your entire life. The problem with this is that it doesn’t give a person the opportunity to get off that ride; it doesn’t permit people to see beyond the ride itself.
The pursuit of celibacy in this way, is aimed at behaviour suppression instead of what Church is inviting us all into, which is the transformation of heart on account of our love of Christ (which of course will open us to growing deeper in virtue). Again, the “gay people should be celibate” way of thinking is focused on behaviour, while the Church is really calling us first to focus on the state of our hearts, and our openness to growing in the fullness of virtue.
The Church invites us to consider the state of our heart, so that we may become aware of how we are able to show our love for Christ more profoundly. People of course will begin to do that not when they are told they can’t do this or that (behaviour modification) but rather when they taste the joy from someone who is living a life of virtue (transformation of the heart) – and because of that, they come to want it for themselves.
For that reason, we need to be that living reason why someone would want to open their heart to growing in the fullness of virtue. If we are not the reason, then we are not offering a better garden than the one they are used to, so to speak. That means we have to look interiorly, and assess our own commitment to virtue, and recognize our commitment for what it is along the scale of radiantly attractive, to muted and stuffy. We have to be the better garden.
Until that occurs, the mind-set that “gay people should be celibate” as a primary objective will continue to spread, and will continue to frustrate people into leaving the Church. However, once people become convicted of their desire to grow in the fullness of virtue, the objective of celibacy (to “follow the rules”) falls away to the objective of pursuing a life of holiness – in which one of the fruits will be celibacy for those who are outside of a holy marriage (a marriage in which chastity is practiced and Christ is at the center).
In short, we need to shift our focus from “gay people should be celibate” to “all people should be holy.” In doing so, we let go of the false nuance that we should white-knuckle our way through life, and instead introduce the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ desires our hearts to be unified to His (for He knows His infinite love will fulfill us). When embraced whole-heartedly, this will manifest itself in a greater desire for holiness, but in God’s time, and in God’s way. All we can do in the meantime is walk with all those who choose to do so.
In that, we are one in the same, on a shared journey.