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.