Thursday, August 7, 2014

Please Don't Tell Catholics With Same Sex Attraction That You Will Try to Pray Their Gay Away

I was fortunate enough recently to see a public testimony on a popular Facebook page of a young man who said that he was a homosexual who chose to remain faithful to Catholicism and was thus celibate.

From what I've been told, many Catholics who identify as gay, homosexual, or same sex attracted (SSA) feel as though they are not respected by the LBGT community.  To choose to believe that their attraction is not something they should act upon makes them a spectacle.  To choose their religion over the chance of a lifelong partnership and maybe a family is seen as foreign and completely unreasonable.  If we look at the major cause of the LBGT community right now, same sex marriage, it is obvious that the gay community is looking for a chance to not feel so alone in the world.  To know that they have the chance at a lifelong partnership.  The idea of anyone, even clergy, deciding to be celibate for God is extremely counter-cultural.  We all fear loneliness.  We all want intimacy.  Many of us cannot see how this is possible without a romantic relationship.  While homosexuals who embrace their homosexuality have the acceptance of the LBGT community, SSA Catholics who embrace celibacy tend to be the odd people out for their choice.  I can understand given the current push for same sex marriage why this happens in the LBGT community, but, I cannot for the life of me figure out why heterosexual Catholics also tend to make our own feel like they are not wanted by us just as they are.

You see, after I saw the brave testimony of the young man on that page, I saw a comment towards him that filled me with uneasiness.  You see, even though the commenter commended him for choosing Catholicism, she then went on to tell him that she prayed that God would take his homosexuality away so that he could have the joy in his life of a marriage and family.

Listen, I know that these sorts of comments are made with the best intentions.  Many of us are very adverse to any sort of suffering, and we want to help others not to suffer, we just cannot take away every burden and every cross of every human.  As Catholics, we especially believe this.  We have no guarantee of an easy life, even if we do everything God asks of us.  Given the amount of martyrs we honor in our faith, I think it should be pretty obvious that comfort and pleasure in our earthly lives is not our reward for being "good."  Catholics believe that the sin of Adam and Eve (Original Sin) brought suffering into this world, and it (and the tendency to sin), is not something that we can escape.  According to the Catechism,

405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

Beyond the fact that it is theologically inaccurate to say that God will reward us for our devotion with a removal of our deepest earthly suffering, there are also some very harsh implications made when we say that we are going to try pray that someone changes so that they can get married.  Since when is marriage the only way to live a fulfilling and happy life according to Catholics?  We have celibate clergy and religious, and we also have singles who are consecrated virgins.  Marriage is only one way to live our lives and only one choice of vocation that God can have planned for us.  Surely we believe the single, heterosexual Catholics who choose to remain celibate can have a fulfilling life by living out their vocation and an intimacy with God.  Why can't we believe that single, homosexual Catholics can have just as fulfilling a life and intimacy?  Isn't part of Catholicism acknowledging that sex, while a beautiful part of God's plan, is far from the only source of happiness in life?  When we act as though a person with SSA can't possibly have a happy and fulfilling life without becoming a heterosexual and getting married, we immediately undermine their decision to remain celibate.  Family is wonderful, but an intimate connection with God is the first priority of all of our lives. 

Essentially, we all have our crosses to bear.  Some of them bring us great spiritual fruits.  To suggest that God should reward a SSA Catholic with the removal of their cross is to undermine the cross and the sacrifice of their celibacy.  Further down in the comment box of that conversation where the prayer was offered to remove someone's SSA, another Catholic with SSA chimed in and said,
"Instead of praying for someone's same-sex attraction to go away, please just pray for God's will to be done in their life. We all have a cross. For some of us, that cross is same-sex attraction. Some people have that taken away -- but many, many do not. Ask God to do His work in us. Don't tell Him what to do.

Pope Francis rather famously said in an interview, "Who am I to judge?"  Now, if you are a stickler for reading quotes in context like I am, then you know that he was talking about celibate priests who have SSA who are faithful to their vows.  He expressed in very simple language that he wasn't going to try to change them, and that he didn't see anything inherently wrong with them.  He dismissed the paranoia of there being a "gay lobby" at the Vatican.  He affirmed their personhood.  He acknowledged that we have no reason to judge or try to change them.  Please remember the words of the Holy Father when you deal with celibate homosexual Catholics.  Remember not to feel pity for them.  Remember not to act as though their life is "less" because of their particular cross.  They are not less.  They are whole and made in the image and likeness of God.  Just as we shouldn't pray that a nun's vocation changes to marriage, nor should we suppose we know what would make a Catholic with SSA fulfill God's plan for them and express a wish to change them.  Some SSA Catholics do make the choice to enter into mixed-orientation marriages, but, honestly, that's between them and God, and not something we should impose upon them.

In many ways, our society makes homosexuals feel like they are the outsider, the "other."  Our Catechism teaches us against doing this, but many people of other faiths and backgrounds still do it, unfortunately, as do many Catholics.  From the pulpit, preachers will talk about "the gay agenda," not realizing that people struggling with SSA are in their audience.  Homosexuals are people, and the assumptions made about them separates us and makes evangelization and, honestly, any civil conversation, nearly impossible.  Compassion for the fact that they have felt unaffirmed their whole lives, probably at least partially due to bad theology like the assertion that we will not suffer if we follow God, must be felt.  Empathy and understanding, while staying true to our faith, is imperative.  I fear, however, that we are so used to treating homosexuals as outsiders that, even when they are orthodox members of our religion, we still treat them that way.  We should try to be more like Pope Francis and take them as they are.  We shouldn't treat them like they need fixing any more than the rest of us do.  The truth is, we all have a spiritual disorder thanks to the fall.  Please remember that, if we treat them as outsiders, we run the risk of pushing them away from God.  They really deserve our love and our respect, and we must make sure that, given the conversation of current culture, that we are excessively careful in every word we use towards them. 

Remember the context of, "Who am I to judge?" and please, please, please, try to live it.  Be the community that our celibate SSA Catholics desire.

No comments:

Post a Comment