Conference Announcement

I have been very busy recently helping to create a conference that will address issues of same sex attraction and Catholicism. The official announcement has happened, and a poster for the event is now available for downloading.

I’m very excited about this–it will truly be an international affair, and the line up of speakers is very impressive, with more being added daily. I think this is desperately needed at this point in our Church’s history.

Please pray for this event, and if you do pastoral work as a priest, religious or work within a diocese with those who live with same sex attraction, please consider coming. The registration process will be available on March 1.

SSA Flier-page-001

In Praise of Depressing Holidays

I never expected or planned that I would live a single life. When I bought my home over a dozen years ago I thought that this house would become a home, with a wife and children.

It was a hard decision to make alone. I agonized over buying a house since I feared making the wrong decision.

When I finally found two houses that interested me, my real estate agent asked me in the midst of my indecision, “What would make the decision easier?”

I looked out the car window as we sat in front of one of the houses. “A wife. A wife would make the decision easier, because then I wouldn’t be deciding on my own what house we want to make a home.”

He mustered the best reply he could. “Well, that’s one reason you have me to help you.”

He was a good agent, but he wasn’t my soul mate. He wasn’t a companion I had chosen to share my life with. Buying a house by myself made me feel more terribly alone than I ever had in my life.

I was grateful for my job, grateful to have a house–finally–but it was an empty house. How I planned and dreamed! I made sure the house had three rooms. Enough for kids. The basement was going to be a perfect play room for the children when they came, just like my house growing up. The backyard looked like a park. I would build a sandbox and hang a hammock between the massive trunks of the soaring white pine trees that lined my yard. How I loved them, the tallest trees in my neighborhood–so tall that a hawk nested among their branches. I dreamed of rocking my children to sleep on a summer’s afternoon. I could see us, swinging in the hammock, looking up into the trees for a glimpse of our hawk. I would tell them stories, while they were soothed to sleep by the sound of the wind whispering through the needles that danced far above us.

I slowly made the house my home. I picked colors for rooms, always mindful of my bachelor state. “For now, I want my house to feel like it’s a den,” I told my friends. Leather chairs, deep dark browns, reds and mahogany, dark stained oak.

No feminine touches here.

Not yet, anyway.

“One day, soon,” I always hoped.

I used to write letters to my wife. On cotton stationery. I imagined giving them all to my wife on our wedding night, wrapped in a silken bow. “These are my gift to you,” I would have said to her, on my knees.

Writing to her kept the dream of her alive in my mind. When I was feeling particularly lonely I would write to her, saying things like, “I know one day we will meet. But will I know, in that first moment, that here, on this day, I’ve met the woman I one day will wed? What joy there will be when look back on the paths that led us to each other! We will be happy when we both realize we’re in love, and you will choose me, and I will choose you, over all others.”

I would pray for my wife, that she would be happy, that she would grow in love for God. I would pray that God would help me to be a man worthy of her love. Despite my attractions to men, I believed with all my heart that God’s plans would somehow bring a woman into my life who would cause me to say, like Adam said of Eve, “here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”

That day never came.

I burned those letters long ago.

There are no children’s voices greeting me when I arrive home, nor, I realize, will there ever be. I have my trusty hound who greets me with tail wagging, but like Adam surveying all of the animals in Eden, my dog isn’t a suitable companion to me.

Solomon said ages ago, “two are better than one. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?”

So what is a man to do who’s chosen the single life out of obedience to God? Who feels lonely, and who longs for a companion to keep his bed warm?

I must say to God, “thank you for loneliness.”

This may seem like madness to some, but this is the only way to true peace and contentment I have found that works. This can only be done by an act of the will, aided by the grace of God.

I hate the loneliness I so often feel, especially during the holidays. I don’t particularly like Christmas, to be honest. I’d just as soon hibernate for a few weeks and wake up in the following year,with no change in my schedule, than go through the Octave of Christmas as a single man.

I could numb the ache, and fill the coldness of my bed easily enough with another lonely soul, and have some pleasures while I’m at it to help me get through the holidays. Or I could say in 2015 that I’ve had enough loneliness, turn my back on my rational mind and my faith, and try to believe the lie that all that matters is whether I’m happy in the way I’d like to be happy. It wouldn’t be hard to find a man to share my life with, if I decided that my loneliness is the worst thing that could happen to me in my life.

That’s not the path for me, however.

I don’t have many choices over what life has brought me, but I do have a choice in how I will respond.

My brother recently reminded me of St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

That’s a hard saying, and it makes me irritated sometimes, if I’m honest. Give thanks to God during the holidays, when all I want to do is stay in bed until I’m back to work? Give thanks to God when I come home to an empty house? I can’t seem to do that, but I realize I need to try.

So often in my life I’ve shook my fist at God and said to Him that He doesn’t know what He’s about. Why did he allow me to be attracted to men? Why didn’t he take that away from me in all of those countless nights of crying out to him? Why is my lot in life the single life? That’s enough to make a man turn his back on God.

And I did.

For a time.

I still sometimes want to shake my fist at God. I still get angry with him, but that time away from God showed me how little I know about my own well being and happiness. One of the greatest gifts God can give to His children is experiencing some misery in this life. The loneliness and pain I’ve experienced is the only thing that could ever make me long for heaven. Thanks to loneliness and the heartbreak of broken hopes, there’s nothing here that I know will bring me the joy or fulfillment or happiness that I really want.

I have loneliness to thank for that. Because of loneliness, pain, heartbreak and depressing days in bed, I think of heaven every single day of my life. And every day of my life I desire to go home.

This earth–it’s just a house. It’s no home for us. We’re pilgrims, wayfarers in a poor man’s inn. But even for all that, it’s not so bad. We have friends, beauty and love. And music, and beer, and yes, even dogs to help keep us warm at night, until we finally reach that far distant country, where joy, infinite joy, will be ours.

That moment when we go home, where we enter finally into the great promise of eternal life, Pope Benedict XVI called, “the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality.” Our true home, he says, “would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

I see now why the dark days of depression I feel during the holidays are such a gift to me. For without them–without that loneliness that grips my heart like a vice–why would I desire heaven as much as I do? Oh, how I long for that day! Every unmet longing in my life points to that desire in me to plunge into the ocean of infinite love, where we can love others and be loved by them, finally and completely. With no impediments. No selfishness, no fears. No need for approval. No doubts, no insecurities. No envy or regret, or suspicion or lack of trust. Nothing, but love. Not love as an emotion, but Love, as a person, flowing in and through us. We will overflow with the infinite love of God for us, a love with the currents of the eternal and boundless love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, bringing joy in its wake. The tides of that love never recede. There is always more, it is never ending and boundless, and like an ocean swallowing a drop of rain, all of our pain in this life will be as nothing. We will be glad for it, for it was the path that led us home.

A Word About Sexual Orientation

One of the big topics of my blog is the question of sexual identity, and how the Church must resist the language of “sexual orientations” or of the confusion of “sexual identities.” Rather, what the Church must be in this confused world is salt and light that points to the truth that all men and women are made in an objective way, ordered both body and soul towards their sexual opposite.
I haven’t been able to keep up much on my blog, but I do correspond with some folks from time to time on topics related to my blog. I just finished up an email I sent to a few folks about a recent post at Spiritual Friendship that troubles me, and so I decided to paste it below:

I’m sending this to those who might be interested in the question of sexual identity and anthropology, as seen through the lens of those who call themselves a “gay celibate Christian.”

This is a blog post today from one of their leaders, an Anglican, Wesley Hill who wrote the book Washed and Waiting. This post points out one of the common threads I’ve seen in the thinking of the “gay but chaste” group of thinkers. They’re always telling their interlocutors who have concern over their calling themselves gay, “you don’t understand what being gay means, and if you did, you wouldn’t be troubled by it.” There’s a bit of hubris in it, plus it reveals how they’re trapped in the language of sexual identity, rooted in the destruction of the notion of our innate sexual complementarity.

The blog quotes an evangelical woman who was just hired at Wheaton College (amidst some controversy) to help minister to those with SSA. She describes what she sees a gay orientation as being:

A gay orientation can be understood as an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty. The best way I can describe my experience of “being gay” is that with certain women I feel the “it” factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them, to know and be known by them, to be drawn outside of myself in self-giving love for them. When I feel all Lesbiany, I experience it as a desire to build a home with a woman that will create an energizing love that spills over into the kind of hospitality that actually provides guests with clean sheets and something other than protein bars. Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men (even though it can’t be reduced to a desire to have sex with other men), while I usually feel like “bros” with men. This causes me to see the world through a different lens than my straight peers, to exist in the world in a slightly different way. As God has redeemed and transformed me, he’s tapped into those gay parts of me that now overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.

I find this so strange, and I think this is where Catholic thinking can help. Feeling all “lesbiany” and having that desire go towards essentially nesting with another woman in a domestic partnership is part of what is objectively disordered about same sex attraction. This woman is made for man, and insofar as she feels “all lesbiany” in dissonance with her God given nature, we see one result of the fall of man in our lives. It seems unwise to view as good the privation of the good of experiencing our true sexual nature. I see this as an impediment to growing in relationship with Christ–if we are confused about our nature, and see what God allowed as a privation in our lives as something good, then we can’t see the reasons why Divine Providence allowed it in our lives, and therefore understand why through His good pleasure God wounded us in this particular way, for our good and for our sanctification.

And the last sentence: “he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight” is the result of her ten years involved in sexual orientation change efforts, through the Protestant group Exodus. The bifurcation of sexuality into “straight” and “everything else” is one of the great problems with today’s view of sexual identity. Of course, God made her a certain way, ordered towards her sexual complement. What she means by God not “making her straight” doesn’t mean a change in her objective sexual orientation, but rather her subjective attractions and inclinations coming into alignment with the objective truth of her sexual orientation. God doesn’t always allow this, but this is where we must follow the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane: may this cup pass, but even so, Thy will be done. The wrong response is to think and believe ourselves as being some sort of sexual “other,” or “sexual minority,” as many of these authors like to talk about. This is where Courage has wisdom: if we’re going to grow in sanctity and holiness, we must have a certain humility to the truth of our situation. I think that’s very painful for a lot of people, but the virtue of chastity is far more than “being celibate” or “being continent.” The CCC tells us that it is “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” It seems to me that embracing a sexual identity, or sexual orientation that is opposed to the truth of the body will inhibit the true growth of the virtue of chastity in the human person, even if one is sexually continent. I think one focus of our conversation must therefore be on “what is chastity” with regards to homosexuality. Josef Pieper I think can be very helpful here.

Digging more into the blog post I mentioned at the opening, I see obvious evidence that those who call themselves “gay and Christian” are prisoners of today’s culture, and yet they are blind to it.

Wesley Hill quotes another blogger about how we as Christians should view homosexuality today, and in so doing, sums up exactly why I think we need to do battle for a recovery of a cultural understanding of sexual complementarity which goes far deeper than merely the issue of same sex marriage:

[I]f we truly understand the cultural situation in which we find ourselves, we have to accept that being gay/lesbian is a matter of human identity, not a matter of performing (or desiring) certain erotic activities. Thomas Aquinas could properly treat (male) homosexual activity as one amongst many species of lust, because culturally, that was how he and his readers experienced it; we experience our sexual desires as identities—gay, lesbian, or straight [footnote: Or indeed bi, trans, queer, or asexual…]—and so as something far more profound and basic to our sense of self than merely another experience of desire, whether disordered or not.

In the book, The Homosexualization of America, author Dennis Altman writes that the great success of the gay rights movement was to focus the discussion of homosexuality away from behavior, and instead on identity.

Sadly, these Christians who are striving to follow Christ aren’t even aware that they are prisoners of the culture around us, and that their view of homosexuality is the result of those who C. S. Lewis would call “innovators” in the Abolition of Man, where he writes of them, “Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.”

This all calls to mind St. Pope John Paul II’s wise words in Veritatis Splendor:

It must certainly be admitted that man always exists in a particular culture, but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This “something” is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by living in accordance with the profound truth of his being.

I see these continuing conversations we’re engaged in as one small step in freeing mankind from the prison of today’s culture concerning sexual identity. If the Church doesn’t save the world from the confusion of sexual identity, who will?

Robin Teresa Beck

Robin Teresa Beck is a beautiful and wonderful daughter of God. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her over the past few years, ever since she gave her testimony at the Courage Conference a few years ago. She’s an author too, and wrote the book I Just Came For Ashes.

Here she tells the story of God’s redemption in her life. It’s a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness in the midst of our pain and woundedness.

You should buy her book!

Robin’s Story from Harvest Bible Church on Vimeo.

Hey Parents! Don’t Give Up Hope!

In digging through emails tonight from the year 2000, I stumbled on this email I sent to my mom when I really didn’t want to have anything to do with her. I’m glad to say that our relationship has long since been reconciled, but reading it tonight makes me think about how many times I hear from parents who are estranged from their children, and the great sorrow they feel.

I suspect some parents who might be reading this blog might have received emails like the one below from their own children. I hope my story can give them some hope. To parents who read this, I urge you to always place your trust in God that, (borrowing from St. Paul and St. Julian of Norwich), “in the fullness of time, all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

I read this letter tonight with joy that comes from realizing that this is far in the past. I now know that God has redeemed all of the pain surrounding this email. It was a bit sad to read it tonight, but I also realize that part of the journey of my spiritual life–and indeed my parents’ spiritual life–needed to go through this particular valley.

I’m recalling right now the strange, but poetically beautiful turn of phrase in Pope Francis’s first encyclical. He writes that Abraham’s faith was rooted in a “memory of the future.”

To parents who are estranged with their children, I always share one message: cling to hope and faith, and as Pope Francis urges us: remember the future! Romans 8:28 must be constantly on our minds: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” And with the words of St. Pope John Paul II, I say, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song!”

It is good for parents to know those words of St. Pope John Paul II were first uttered by St. Augustine, that great patron saint of chastity who said to God, “give me chastity–but not yet!” Parents, take hope that he was brought into the Church in large part through the prayers and tears of his mother, St. Monica!


Read this…and don’t weep. Rather, have joy that the Prodigal Son has come home, and has been reconciled with his Heavenly Father.

And his mom and dad.

Hi Mom…

I suppose it’s obvious that there are issues unresolved regarding my relationship with you, thus the reason for no communication. I do not desire at this time to open up a dialogue about these things, but since you sent me an email, I feel I need to respond. I don’t really even want to send this email,and would ask that you refrain from responding, and asking why I might be feeling this way or what I’m thinking. It is only fair that I be honest with you, though undoubtedly it will hurt, and the truth is that I don’t desire much interaction right now at all. Lunch is not something I would want to do, and would only do it out of a sense of familial obligation. These feelings, I feel I must be honest, are primarily towards you, not to dad. There is much that I have thought and processed and am continuing to work through. At some point this year, I will express my thoughts/feelings, etc. to you. I ask that you please be patient, and understand that I am committed to reconciling our relationship, but in the right time and in the right manner.

In the meantime, I don’t really have a desire to have much interaction at all with you. I know those words will most likely hurt a little, but I owe it to you to be honest. It has been a long time since I have communicated with you, and you are owed an explanation.

Please don’t respond to this. It may not make sense, but I don’t want to hear from you about this, and I’ll delete any message I get. I suspect that’s difficult, but I need to be honest with you. I don’t really ever want to get an email from you in the foreseeable future–emailing is something which is very personal and important to me, and because of the unresolved issues between us, I don’t really want to see any messages. It is an invasion into a place I don’t want you to be.

Having said all that, I want you to know that I am close to reaching a point where I will communicate my thoughts and feelings with you. I do not know what reconciliation will look like, but it will take place, as I said, sometime this year. I’m committed to that.

I can understand if you feel you want to communicate something to me. If you feel you need to, you can do it through one of my brothers, but please don’t write a letter.


Over a decade later, here is a picture of joy, a moment captured on the last day of filming of Desire of the Everlasting Hills, where I share the great good God has done in my life. Parents, I say cling to hope, and cling to Jesus, the Desire of the Everlasting Hills, trusting that He will bring your child home, just like he did me.

Dan and a beer

February 10, 2000

I’ve been going through a bunch of old emails, trying to sort through them and make sense of them. I realize I wrote an awfully lot about my life living with same sex attraction in emails to a lot of people, and I think these emails from the past will feature very prominently in the book I’m writing.

This email is from February 10, 2000. I wrote it to a friend of mine who is also attracted to men. He had sent me an email discussing a thought he had that perpetually hounded him. He doubted anyone liked him, or ever wanted to be with him. Essentially he was living in a constant state of self-loathing.

I wrote him about the same feelings I lived with, and what that had been like for most of my life.

Incidentally, I’m happy to say that by the grace of God, I now genuinely like myself, and despite what I wrote in the email below, I finally understand that people actually like me too.

Hi B________,

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. I just haven’t made the time until now to send off a reply. I wanted to comment on your concern about people “actually enjoying time with you.” It’s a useless thing to try and reassure someone, that, “yes…people DO like to spend time with you.” It may help to some extent, but it doesn’t approach the root issue, in my mind. It’s merely a bandaid for a wound that demands critical attention.

For me, I have the appearance, outwardly, that I’m happy as a clam, and comfortable in any situation. I decided at an early age that I had to try to do something to gain the admiration of my classmates. I tried to be funny and just get along with everyone. I succeeded at that, but never really felt like I belonged, or that [in high school] I really had any close friends. (Of course, a common high school occurence). Regardless, I set up a pattern of living which was based primarily on survival, rather than actually engaging with other people. No one would have suspected, I think, that I lived in a lot of turmoil, with the same fear you expressed: do people like me? I’ve had many friends with whom I would look for signs of a disruption in the friendship, and I’d make adjustments accordingly. Rather than actually becoming close friends with them, I survived, making sure they remained my friends.

I overgeneralize, but there has always been a deep-seated feeling of an assumption of rejection. Ultimately, I think it’s rooted in the fact that I have historically rejected myself, believing all kinds of negative things about myself. Historically, if you were to ask me if I would want to be around me, that I would want to be friends with me, I would answer probably not, because it has historically been inconceivable in my mind that people like me. I don’t like me, so why should they?

I see this thinking clearly linked with the struggle we face. Homosexual desire, as I’ve come to view it, is a seeking after those elements in our lives which we see lacking in ourselves. If I doubt people “like” me, it’s clear I view myself as lacking. I therefore see and admire qualities in others around me which I have said to myself over the years, “if only I was like him, then I’d be alright.” Of course this is all hogwash, but I’ve seen that played out in my life in many ways. I remember comparing myself to other guys way back in elementary. Those elements, over time, which are rooted in a dislike of myself, became sexualized for me overtime. I’ve come to a point where I believe that a huge part of my healing process stems from healing the self-loathing I have felt towards myself, which results, for me, in the feelings you’ve expressed over concern about people being sick of me, or disliking and rejecting me.

I hope you let me know anytime you’re feeling that way. It’s a feeling I’m very familiar with, and I appreciate your honesty. That “perennial” feeling of the possibility of rejection is probably more important or vital an issue to seek healing for, because I think it is from that that a big part of our desires stem. The issues surrounding homosexuality, I think, are the symptoms of deeper stuff. Anyway…I’ve got to go teach, and I’m out of time. I’ll talk to you later. Monday I’ll be back in town again. Let me know what your schedule’s like.

Your friend, who is NOT sick of you, but rather looks forward to our next coffee outing,


Father Paul Check in the National Catholic Register

Here’s a great article from Father Paul Check on the subject of the Prodigal Son and our true identity as children of God.

He is spot on in his analysis:

In my opinion, homosexuality is not first a question of sex or of relationships. It is first about identity and, in particular, a misperception and confusion about who someone understands himself or herself to be.

He writes with the pastoral charity that is a feature of his personality and ministry and which characterizes his approach to those of us who live with same sex attraction. It’s well worth the read.

Here is another portion that I find compelling:

I am often asked a question I cannot answer easily: “Father, what do I say to my son, my daughter, my friend, etc., when he or she has told me, ‘I am gay.’”

It is not an easy question to answer because much depends on the relationship the speaker has with the person, to what degree the person understands himself or herself in the light of his or her sexual attraction and other considerations.

Yet there are some things we can do as we prepare to respond to the self-revelation described above. The first might be to return to the Parable of the Prodigal Son and to the strength of the love and grace of Our Father in heaven. I am not saying that every person with same-sex attractions (SSA) is a prodigal, willful son or daughter. Not at all. The homosexual inclination itself is not sinful, the Church teaches; only the act is.

While I am certainly not proposing a strict analogy between the question of homosexuality and the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I do find aspects of the parable helpful in this context.

When the boy initially goes to his father, something has caused him to be confused about who he really is. In that moment, he is not thinking of himself first as a “beloved son.” Another identity has superseded the truth. In time, the truth will return to him, but that clarity has come through suffering. Grace has been at work in “all things.” The role of the priest in a time of trial is to steady hearts, to help deepen peace and to encourage people to believe that, during the trial, God is still good and that his grace is still at work. In these moments, the Paschal Mystery — the salvific life, death and resurrection of Christ — becomes less notional, less of a theological principle and more of a lived reality of grace in the life of the soul. The Catechism has taken flesh.

He continues with what has been one of the primary focuses of my ministry in this area, especially towards high school students: their true nature and their true identity, particularly concerning their sexual identity:

In my experience of more than 10 years in the Courage apostolate, however, I believe it preserves the right order of things. Sound pastoral practice follows sound understanding of identity — or what is called “Christian anthropology”: knowing who we are, what we are and why we are. And those questions can only be fully answered by the Gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ.


“The Church’s teaching makes this hard, Father,” one parent said to me. I understood the point, but I gently suggested that it was not the Church’s teaching that made the situation difficult; it was, in part, his son’s confusion about himself that was causing the tension. Our Savior did not promise that the truth would be easy to accept or to live, but that it would bring us freedom and peace (John 8:32, 14:27).

Amen, Father Check! How true this is: I am not defined by my subjective inclinations or desires, but rather as St. Francis of Assisi said: ” I am as I am in the eyes of God. Nothing more, nothing less.”

I’m always intrigued by those who say when they come out that they are finally “being honest about who I am.”

I find them not being honest enough, and this is where the beauty and wisdom of the Church points the way to the Truth about the human person. I’m only being fully honest with my sexuality when I acknowledge the truth my body reveals to me: I am a man, made for women.

Living in accordance with that truth is what brings peace, not living in accordance with the truth I feel because of my subjective experiences of sexual or romantic desires.

May more and more people hear this truth that the Church wisely teaches us!