Warning: This might turn into a bit of a rambling rant. I hope not.
There is a parish I like to frequent in Center City Philadelphia. It is run by Franciscans and offers 5 daily weekday Masses, confessions 4 days a week, daily Vespers and Eucharistic Adoration 6 days a week. To get to this parish by the most direct route, I have to take a street which at some point becomes pretty seedy. There are rainbows on some of the street signs indicating this is a "gay pride" part of town. On the block just below where the church sits is a string of shops hawking filth of every sort. It's best to avert one's eyes on this particular block because you never know what's going to creep up on you. Today it was "sculpture" of a risque variety as well as so-called sex toys in colors which are supposed to appeal to women. I always pray for the shop merchants and the people who buy their wares. I also do my best to get the sometimes pornographic images out of my mind as well as chastise myself for not being more careful not to glance in the windows.
It sickens me that a childhood symbol of hope has been corrupted, as has been the word for being lighthearted or carefree. One wonders what innocent word or symbol will be next.
Sometimes, I feel really irked that I have to walk through this mire to get to this church but then at others, I think: What better place to proclaim the Good News than in a hot-bed of sin?
Now, to digress for just a bit.
I recall falling in love when I was 21 years old with one of the actors from the film Chariots of Fire. Not sure what it was about the late Ian Charleson, but I had it bad. I was a senior in college when I first saw the film and was going to visit England shortly after graduation. (I know, no excuse for being a groupie). It just so happened that when I was in London he was appearing in Guys and Dolls at the National Theater. I gave serious consideration to taking myself to the show (even though I cannot tolerate musicals) and then camping out by the exit doors afterward. Fortunately, I came to my senses and did neither.
Years went by and of course I forgot all about Ian and went on to marry you-know-who. Still, I remember the cold shock of reading in the newspaper one day that the former object of my fancy had died from complications due to HIV-AIDS. I knew what kind of death that entailed and felt utterly heartbroken that he had suffered so much. Every once in awhile, I think of Ian, and I pray fervently that he has been shown God's mercy. I came upon something a fellow actor wrote about him the other day and it saddened me. He said that at the time Mr. Charleson fell ill, it was taboo for an actor to "come out" and even worse to make it known you had AIDS. The writer went on to talk about how if this had happened now, it would have been a completely different story. Ian could have "come out of the closet" and had the visible support of family and friends, and perhaps even benefited from advances in treatment. At the time he last appeared on stage, none of his fellow actors knew what ailed him. Why did that sadden me?
Because the author of that piece just doesn't get it.
No matter how many people are polled, or how many states recognize gay unions or marriages, or how many people admit to being homosexual, it's still not the way God intended for us to love one another and raise families. Yet what do we do with all of these souls who are in the grips of same-sex attraction? Do we just ignore them and hope they'll go away? Do we isolate ourselves and our children from them lest their disordered lifestyle infect ours in some way? Do we acknowledge that they carry a cross unlike any other, and that they are still children of God who are loved by their Father in Heaven? Do we call them derogatory names and puff ourselves up with the pride of knowing we are not in the same boat they are? Do we get angry at the way their lobby has further corrupted our culture and simply denounce and dismiss them?
What are we to do?
I honestly believe this issue, even more so than abortion, is going to be the final battleground for Catholics in America. That is why the answer to how we proceed is so important. But first let me ask: when is the last time you heard about same-sex attraction from the pulpit? I would submit to you that this is perhaps the most grave moral crisis facing this country right now, second only to the slaughter of babies, and yet it largely goes ignored in homilies and in parish bulletins. There is the occasional announcement of the stand of the USCCB on the definition of marriage, but that's about it. How many parishes offer counseling for SSA? How many have any kind of outreach? I know of none.
So, how have I responded in my personal life? This is a tough one for me because believe it or not, I do have friends that identify as gay men. It's been some time since I've been in their company, but we are still friendly through Facebook and Christmas cards. Would I invite any of them over to my house? I can't say that I would right now, because they would want to bring their partners and by having such a "couple" in my home, I would be giving my stamp of approval to their relationship. I would not want that influence on my kids either. If invited, I might go to their home, or out to lunch or dinner, but I'm not sure. My gay friends know where I stand on this issue and we tend to politely ignore our differences by limiting our interactions to brief chatter like "Happy Birthday" or "Good Luck" or "Merry Christmas". What more can I do but bear witness to my faith while practicing a kind of benign neglect of these friendships?
I know the surest way to lose someone is through anger. Of course it does upset me that Hollywood and the MSM not only accept but promote homosexuality as something normal. Pressure is exerted on all of us and especially our kids that if you don't buy in to the gay agenda, you're buying into the same kind of hatred and bigotry that segregated the South. It's easy to get disgusted. But how will we answer if we are called to give an account of what we did to help our brothers and sisters suffering from same-sex attraction?
How do you welcome such people to Mass, IF you welcome them at all? Do you just pretend that the well-dressed pair of men who come to Mass together every Sunday who also live together, vacation together, etc. are just good friends? Does the priest give a sermon to make them feel uncomfortable? Does the priest remind people that only those in a state of grace should come forward for Holy Communion and does he include those who don't qualify as those living together in sin, whether with the a member of the same or the opposite sex? Do we say it's none of our business and just ignore them, like we ignore the man and woman who are shacking up and have kids out of wedlock with each other?
What are we to do?
I don't think we can just give up, and I don't think we can just say "those people make me sick, I don't want anything to do with them". I think of the number of times the Gospels refer to a person who was possessed by a demon. Did their families give up on them? Did the community they lived in give up on them? No, they enlisted the help of the One Person they knew could exorcise the devil. How have we enlisted Jesus to help those suffering from same-sex attraction?
Some years ago, an elder at a well-known Presbyterian church in Philadelphia was asked her opinion of same-sex couples and she said it's always wrong when we don't make the most important relationship in our lives the one we have with God. She went on to say that if we place God front and center, we would be less likely to engage in relationships not sanctioned by Him. I often think of that and how right she was.
If we lead people to Jesus Christ, He will do the rest. How do we lead others? By rejoicing so much in our own faith that we make others curious. One can live a penitential and prayerful life without being a miserable codger. One can be perfectly morally upright without imparting a sense of superiority. For those of us who are parents of teens - when our children fall in love, don't we want to know more about the object of their affection? Sometimes we're delighted and sometimes we're not. No one who falls in love with Jesus Christ is anything other than enthralled.
I do know one thing for sure: the road to Him is not paved with anger.
What are we prepared to do?