Monday, April 8, 2013

How Do We As Catholics Respond to SSA?

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?


  1. Excellent post Joyce. I'll bet your friends understand completely why they may not be invited over - at least I hope they do.

    God bless you. Keep loving Jesus.

  2. Thank you Terry. Truth be told, they haven't invited ME over either. I do think they understand and don't want to put me or them in that "awkward" situation.

    We will keep loving Jesus, yes.
    Love and prayers,

  3. I appreciate this post also. I share your hesitation on this matter. One of my oldest friends left her husband, is married to a woman (in NH) and is a witch, to boot. She has two grown children. It has been years since I have spoken with her. The crazy part is -- I knew her since we were little kids, and I totally understand how she arrived where she is. Some rough stuff.
    I still love her and miss having her as a friend. some of our later correspondences left me feeling she was actually more wary of me than I was of her.

    Anyway-here is my two cents on gay friends and the Church. IF you know someone who WANTS to go-- by all means, invite them. My sin was in no way handled when I first started going to mass. Yet the Church, in Her wisdom, allows us in before we get our act together, and being in the presence of Jesus can only do us good. It was a good while until I was even slightly sorted out, and I believe it was solely because I was allowed to join the Church in my raggedy condition. The power of Jesus in the Eucharist gave me the conviction, courage, and strength I needed to move out of some of my more destructive sins.

  4. It is definitely not a straightforward issue (excuse the partial pun). I agree with you about being in the presence of Jesus and the sacraments. I have a former friend/co-worker really, who is a wiccan ( I say former because she got really ugly with me about the whole Chick-fil-A controversy and at that point, I decided I had had enough with her). I still pray for her though. She tended to get particularly ugly with me after I'd return from retreat. I've seen her do an about-face on other issues in life so I pray that conversion is one of them.

  5. I have never heard SSA discussed from the pulpit. I too have friends and family who call themselves gay. For me I love the sinner but not the sin. What two adults do with full knowledge of its sinfullness is their business as far as I'm concerned and i'll pray for them. I don't know if homosexual sex is any more sinful that heterosexual premarital sex with birth control, and I'm sure the majority of unmarried couples engage in that. But same sex marriage is an absurdity and destructive to society and must be opposed. Unfortunately we are losing that battle.

  6. Yes, we seem to be losing that battle but I will not abandon the war for souls. We must stand firm.

  7. Hi Joyce...I was going to write something similar to what Manny wrote. I don't know that one type of mortal sin is more grievous than another..especially when both are sexual sins. But, the problem is that the gay community wants their behavior accepted as good, and their relationships deemed equal with marriage. Sin is sin..whether gay or straight, and neither can be condoned. And nature and nature's God has determined that marriage is between a man and a woman.

    We do seem to be losing the battle though, but God won't, and we just have to keep up the fight. This is a tough one.
    The whole culture is against those in our camp. It's not so easy to be a Catholic these days!

    Thanks for your courageous and insightful post. xoxo

  8. HI Patricia. Yes, I don't know that I can or would want to guess which sin is worse than another. The bottom line is that sin is committed and God is offended by it. I think those who suffer from SSA carry a cross unlike any other. I see so many young men and women literally mutilating themselves so that in a way, their outward appearance might actually resemble what all of our souls look like when we permit them to be riddled with sin. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I will repeat when then-Father Corapi often said about this issue: Those who find themselves attracted to a member of the same sex are called by God to celibacy, just as priests are. That is a pretty tall task and not one that people are likely to meet while they are being shunned, ridiculed and ostracized. And that's pretty much what I've tried to say here.
    God bless,


Comments which reflect true Christian charity are always welcome. Comments which attack the Pope, the Church, priests or other bloggers will go in the dustbin, especially if they are anonymous. Thank you and God Bless you!