My Cross Isn’t Greater Than Yours, or, Enough With the Whining!

Show me a man who doesn’t suffer, and I’ll show you a dead man.

One of the more irksome aspects in the current conversation on LGBT issues and Christianity is the remarkable amount of dreary and droopy writing I hear from folks like me who grew up in the Church and realized they had an attraction to men.

The trope goes something like this, as I read in a recent blogpost in the “we’re gay and Christian and you should listen to us about how to minister to us” blogosphere:

[I]t would be beneficial for Christians and Christian traditions as a whole to consider [the] question: are we imposing sexual abstinence as an unfunded mandate with dire consequences for LGBT people who do not succeed? Especially as more people are coming to awareness of their sexual orientations and gender identities at younger ages, it is irresponsible and cruel for churches to repeat,“You can’t have sex!” and refuse to offer any additional support.

Then there’s some mention about the Church today being like the Pharisees Christ scolded because “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them,” with the clear implication that the Church today is like that for young people.

I grant that the Church can do better–but it can do better in all things. It can do better ministering to single mothers, it can do better ministering to those who went through divorce, it can do better feeding the homeless, and it can do better with teenaged kids with same sex attraction, like I was so long ago, feeling lost in Church. (Cue the sad violins, please. Who HASN’T felt lost in the Church at some point in their lives? It seems it’s nearly a necessary part of the journey of faith for everyone to feel lost at some point in their lives.)

What I find so irksome is how awful a picture they paint of the kid who wakes up with an awareness of same sex attraction, and is a Christian. In most writing on this subject today, from the first person narrative, this is portrayed as an impossible situation, such as this blog continues to communicate:

In the eyes of many young people, the only two options in this situation are 1) force yourself to be sexually abstinent with no sense of future vocation or present support, or 2) don’t force yourself into a permanent state of abstinence, but simultaneously risk being excommunicated, barred from entering the church building, and/or kicked out of your parents’ house. It shouldn’t be surprising that with no other alternatives, numerous young LGBT Christians find themselves crushed by the pressure from priests, pastors, parents, and faith communities. 


Crying babyI hate that sort of portrayal of what my life must have been like back when I was a teenager in the eighties, or how that must be what the life is for a 15 year old. How fatalistic. How could that ever inspire a teenager to fight the good fight of chastity if they were to ever read that?

Sure it’s hard! But we are made of the stuff of God. We are made in the image of a God who willingly went to the Cross. That’s the building block of our humanity. Boys and girls with same sex attraction aren’t witless victims of the vagaries of fate if they find themselves attracted to the same sex–they have a choice, and God has promised that he will always provide his children the grace to live out the most difficult of demands. Boys and girls who find themselves living with same sex attraction are being invited to a great battle–yes, let us help them! But, for crying out loud, God is ever present in their lives, and our God is not small–nor are teenagers victims of “unfunded mandates.” What about all of the youth in the 2000 year history of the Church who found themselves sexually attracted to the same sex and quietly said, “OK. These are the cards I’ve been dealt. I trust God, and I’m going to obey Him, come hell or high water.” Those numbers are not few! Far better for those of us who are striving to follow the paths of the saints to inspire kids by our desire to daily plunge into the battle, than to talk about dreary stuff like “unfunded mandates.”

One reason I write is to inspire young people to not focus on the dreary picture most self-proclaimed “gay” Christians seem to paint of their lives and experiences, nor to focus on how difficult this particular cross is, compared to others. Rather, I write with the hope of inspiring them to pursue the great and noble cause of chastity for the sake of their love of God, and love of neighbor, and love of the world. And indeed, love of themselves!

I write hoping that youth will be moved to focus outward, to look to the great saints who’ve gone before us, and who have done the impossible, so that they can say, “hey, this is hard, but I can do it too, because they did it before me.” I write with the hopes of stirring up a burning desire to do the impossible, which is a rather exciting way to live one’s life.

I don’t really care very much to hear about what the celibate “gay” Christians have to say to me, or to the Church about how the Church should minister to people like us. I’m far more interested in finding out what the Church has to say to me about homosexuality, than I am in changing what the Church says, and how it says it to me. Sometimes the sheep can help point out their needs to the shepherds in their care, but rarely. Most writing on the subject of same sex attraction and Christianity today seems to be the sheep shouting to the shepherds: “you’re idiots when it comes to this flock. Oh, and we’re the ones who can point your shepherds’ crooks in the right direction.”


Blech! Stop looking in the mirror so much, my fellow same sex attracted Christians, and instead, look at yourself through the lens the Church provides for us. Your life will be more peaceful because of it.

There have been generations upon generations of men and women who have grown up in the Church, with an attraction to the same sex. St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:10, in reference to sexual sins such as homosexual acts that “such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This isn’t the first time in history that men have lived with deep seated attractions to men–it’s just the first century in which men and women have felt so strongly compelled to share this information with the world, and to say, “Hey Church, you don’t get this whole topic, and you’ve had no idea what you’ve been doing for the past 2000 years. Thank God we came along to tell you what you’re doing wrong, and how you can do it better.”

Harrison Ford roll eyes

From the very beginning, the message of the Church has been constant: offer up your life, as a living sacrifice to God. And there have been saints galore who’ve done this in the area of sexuality–including teenagers! I don’t need special “gay saints” to be inspired to live chastely. I just need St. Joseph, or the Holy Mother, or St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the other saints who pursued chastity, in whatever station of life they found themselves. St. Clement of Alexandria wrote long ago, “The best means towards understanding of the truth and the performance of the commandments is to follow those others who have already been through the test with flying colors.” Do we honestly believe that this is the first century in which men and women have been “running the race” of obedience with regards to homosexuality? No. It’s just the first century in which we have decided that it’s the “greatest of crosses,” and where any of us who choose to pursue the virtue of chastity get an extra pat on the back, because it’s perceived as being so hellishly difficult.

Sure, it’s hard.

But show me a man who doesn’t suffer, and I’ll show you a dead man.

I have long been of the conviction that the healthiest way for any of us to live our lives is this: I need to assume your cross is worse than mine, and I need to help you carry yours. People already believe that this cross of ours is a hard one–which is why so many folks are now in support of same sex marriage. It’s time for us to start focusing on other people’s crosses more than our own.  I don’t want to focus on how hard this life is. It’s far healthier to focus on how hard other people’s lives are, and help them navigate their lives.

Enough with the whining, my fellow same sex attracted Christian. We’ve got to cling to what Job said: “Though he slay me, still will I trust in him.”

Instead of painting dire, awful pictures of the despair that must be ours if we wake up with an awareness of same sex attraction, or talking about “unfunded mandates” for chastity, instead, we need to inspire kids to jump with two feet into the greatest of battles they’ll ever face, and to do it out of love of the King of Kings, out of love for their neighbor, and out of love for themselves. What we need is stuff that stirs the soul to battle for chastity, and to paint the picture not that it’s horrible, but rather that it’s the most exciting adventure of one’s life.

What’s needed is less whining…and more Shakespeare!

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

46 thoughts on “My Cross Isn’t Greater Than Yours, or, Enough With the Whining!

  1. That Henry V monologue is the best of the best! When I got the e-mail about your new post and got to the bottom of the page, Patrick Doyle’s moving score was already swelling in my imagination and I could hear Kenneth Branagh’s inspired delivery of Shakespeare’s marvelously crafted words. I went to your blog quickly so I could add a comment with a link that extraordinary clip, but I’m glad to see that you already have it here.

    I so appreciate how you used that monologue (and clip) in the context of speaking about pursuing the virtue out of love for God in the company of brothers (and sisters). I’ve never thought of the monologue that way, as being applicable to the spiritual adventure lived shoulder to shoulder with one another. “We few, we happy few!” It’s so true! What other course of life is more worthy of the investment of our entire beings? And what other bond of human fellowship can run deeper? The romance and sexual intimacy that may be absent from the lives of those living with same-sex attractions or single for whatever reason pales into oblivion in comparison to that kind of soul-deep friendship!

  2. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. It was my “vocation.” I walked down the aisle with a cradle Catholic who had led me into the Catholic Church. Yes, I’m a convert. I promised to be bound to him, til death do us part. Things were okay until the birth of our fourth child, when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It turned out that I was not cut out for marriage, though every part of me my whole life had told me that I was. I even had given birth to four children. But see, people who have a serious mental illness should not get married. It is too heavy a burden for the spouse to carry, just as it is too heavy a burden for a man with deep-seated homosexual tendencies to be a priest. The relationship became abusive, because my spouse could not cope with me. I was advised by the Church, through counselors and a priest, to divorce him for my own safety. I continued to deny this, thinking that my vocation was for marriage, though my life was in danger. Finally, he cheated on me, openly, with another woman. It wasn’t until he broke my heart that everything made sense to me. I obtained a civil divorce, per the reason advised to me which is given in the catechism, but we remain sacramentally married barring an annulment. Hence, I have been celibate for eight years, since our civil divorce, and still consider myself to be married to him, as the Church says we are sacramentally married.

    There are many things in my story that fly in the face of what “gay rights” activists claim. First, I am living proof that one can be wrong for years about one’s vocation and needs guidance from the Church on these matters, even when they are deeply personal matters. Second, it is important to understand that it is unfair to others to expect them to carry the cross of disorder, whether in a marriage or in the case of the flock of a priest who has a disorder. Third, it is important to understand that the state does not create a marriage. Marriage is God’s realm. I am married, fully, though the state says that I am divorced. It does not harm me to check “divorced” on a government form. I know who I am, even if the state does not recognize it. The idea that you need the state for a marriage is delusional.

    I trust that in time we will all come to know these things in more fullness. We will never know them as a Church until more people like me tell their stories. Those of us who live according to the teachings of Jesus through His Church are those who come to better understand who they are in reality. Sometimes it can take years, as it did in my case. Be patient with God. He has good reason for the things He does.

    • @ lgraas: Your fidelity in spite of abuse and adultery and your divorced status in the eyes of the state is inspiring, much like the faithful covenant love of God for us in spite of how often we turn our backs on Him.

      You might want to check out “Our Lady of Cana”, a fellowship of Catholics who willingly remain faithful to their marriage vows even if they have been abandoned or are separated or even divorced.

    • Dearest Igraas, No you were and are married. It is your husband who is to blame. People with bi-polar disorder do remain married if their spouse is willing to EMBRACE THE CROSS. But that is the nature of marriage. I am physically sick, married for 30 years. My spouse has had to embrace the cross many many times. It’s his ladder to sanctify, and we are very happy together. My stepfather experienced bi-polar disease. My mother found out after they had been married for 10 years. I insisted she go see a psychiatrist to find out what was wrong as he treated her unkindly very often. The priest psychologist diagnosed him as bi-polar. Yes, I guess she could have sought an annulment because of his mental health. But Mom said, “No, your stepfather didn’t understand he was sick when we married. And I TOOK HIM FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE.” And she stayed married to him for 29 years until she died in 2001. Did she suffer? Yes. Her marriage bed was her cross. But my Dad, who was once radically anti-Catholic, made it to heaven because of Mom. And she told me it didn’t matter if someone was different, you still love them even in the midst of your suffering. My mother never told my Dad what he had and didn’t seek medical attention for him. She heard bad things about the side effects of drugs to control it, so she protected him, accepted him, loved him, and occasionally corrected him. But she never left him. However, I have observed less mature, less courageous people who have turned on their bi-polar spouses blaming them for their infidelities, their own coldness, etc. The faithful bi-polar spouse suffers. And it is real suffering and not caused by your mental condition.

      If your husband became abusive, that was his mental illness, not yours. And yes, you have to leave abusive relationships. God bless you. Susan Fox

  3. Your point about the heroism called up by the Cross is well taken, but I find the implication that the Church doesn’t need input from SSA folks on how to minister to them completely unconvincing. Ordinary Catholics these days often get the impression from the speech (or silence) of the Church’s ministers that same-sex attraction is *in itself* sinful — in such an environment, it’s hard to see how a child would even admit to experiencing it. Indeed, this is precisely why your calling is so important, for you are trying to reach those children.

    The Church’s tactic of laying low on the issue and talking about it in hushed whispers has led to a veritable disaster. If anyone — including people with SSA (or, for example, the creators of “The Third Way” — cares fit to point that failure out, I’m with them.

    • I don’t say that the Church doesn’t need input, or can’t benefit from input from those of us who live with same sex attraction. What I reject is the utter hubris of so many who seem to think that they’re the only ones who actually understand this. I believe that the Church understands me far better than I understand myself. I think that’s a better place to come from. There is so much arrogance in the gay Christian community today that I recoil against. I think it’s ultimately unhealthy. Reform of the Church is always good, but to be effective, it should always come from a place of humility first, not “listen to me, you idiots,” which essentially is what 90% of what I read these days.

      • I think that the reason you hear so many pieces of writing lacking in humility is as much a function of medium as message. The internet is not a good place for humility — many people need to be trained how to post in a respectful and humble way. (Also, if I recall reading my Church Fathers correctly, they were anything but humble, too. So humility is not a sine qua non for reform efforts.)

        For all the ways in which the Church never changes, the Church is also constantly changing — doctrines stay the same, methods change. The current methods the Church has of handling same-sex attraction are methods predicated on the idea that the homosexuality is a societal taboo. But now homosexuality is normative, not taboo. It would be surprising if the new methods we will develop have very much in common with the old methods.

        Of course, certain fundamentals will stay the same: the distinction between attraction and action, the refusal to celebrate temptations, the necessity of self-denial and surrender.

        Yes, a thousand times yes: self-serving whining is not a good indicator that an author is an inspired witness to Truth. But I don’t think people who look at the current ministry to SSA individuals in America and see a big empty space need glasses. Current attempts at ministry are abysmally inadequate.

      • I’m curious if you can flesh out that last sentence. “Abysmally inadequate” is a strong phrase. Is it the content, or the availability that you view as “abysmally inadequate?”

        I’m curious to know why you think the current methods are somehow shaped by “homosexuality being a societal taboo.” Or rather, I wish you would flesh that out some more, or why what you call “the old methods” are inadequate, or why “new methods” wouldn’t have “very much in common” with the old. What would a new methodology look like, anyway, and how would it be different than what exists currently?

        As to the Church Fathers, they’re as different from each other as another man is to another. Some, like St. Jerome weren’t the most humble of folks, but St. Ireneaus was, so I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. One aspect they all had in common: reliance on the Church to guide them. That’s what I don’t see so much in the “gay Christian” blogosphere, and that to me is of great concern.

      • I would add that certainly new methodologies will inevitably occur. I don’t, however believe that they should be shaped or led by the people who those methodologies impact. That’s my point about the sheep leading the shepherds. Sure, let the Church consult with those of us who live with SSA. But our attitude should be one of humbly submitting to Holy Mother Church and her wisdom. Case in point of where I see such hubris, is the mocking tone so many blogs make of things like the USCCB’s statements about homosexuality, or same-sex marriage. It’s just horrible, and shows an unhealthy hubris. I’ve certainly never been accused of not speaking my mind–but above else, I want to be guided by my bishops, not guide them on how to guide me! God save me from THAT!

      • I’m glad you asked me to clarify the comment about current methods being abysmally inadequate. I almost clarified it to begin with, but I was too lazy. The problem, for example, isn’t with Courage per se, which I think is doing a lot of great work. It’s that Courage is rather inaccessible. Catholic churches in America aren’t very good at speaking the truth in moral issues from the pulpit, or very good at meeting people where they’re at. (This is a criticism I’ve seen bishops and popes give, so I hope I’m not being presumptuous here). If you started a group for people with SSA at a Protestant megachurch, you would probably get 10-30 people to attend. But it is often hard for entire archdioceses to get more than 4-5 people to attend Courage meetings. Clearly we’re doing something wrong.

        I think one part of the problem is, as I said, old methods. The pastoral system for people with SSA is built around a model of people who are either “coming out of the lifestyle” or people who are deeply in the closet and dealing with the temptation to sexual acting out or addiction. This is a group of people that do need significant support.

        But increasingly, people don’t have to make a lifestyle choice to find themselves in a gay relationship, and people don’t experience the sort of “in the closet” dynamic that many of us (myself included) are familiar with. The very fact that Courage is in some ways similar to Alcoholics Anonymous is a huge turn off. If the attraction to people of the same sex is not intrinsically shameful, then why must people be quiet and hidden about it?

        The answer, traditionally, has been that it is a temptation, and temptations aren’t things to speak openly about. That advice is sound for temptations that are socially forbidden, but it is NOT sound for temptations that the society embraces. Not speaking about homosexuality, when homosexuality is rampant in the culture, will just create greater barriers to young people with SSA coming into the Church.

        I always think about Roman converts to Christianity who like to go to the Gladitorial competitions. Surely they should stop doing this when they convert — but must they stop talking about their interest in the Gladitorial games — not talking so as to ignite their interest, but talking so as to communicate to other potential converts that the desire to see the Gladiators is normal and understandable, though (as a Christian) it is wrong to contribute to the evils committed in the Arena.

        My hope is that you consider my words prayerfully, Dan, because I really do feel that you are in a unique place in the larger conversation on these issues. You show a beautiful devotion to the Church and a refusal to tolerate the wishy-washy moral categories sometimes put forward on sites like Spiritual Friendship. But you also understand what it’s like to be a boy with SSA, and how deeply appealing a culture that accepts gay sexuality can be to such a person. My belief is that the Church needs to make the gospel attractive to boys and girls with SSA, not by compromising the Truth, but by understanding the culture and using all the cunning and wisdom we can to get the Good News out.

      • Hi Daniel,

        Thanks for fleshing this out a bit more. I agree with a lot of what you wrote in your first paragraph:

        The problem, for example, isn’t with Courage per se, which I think is doing a lot of great work. It’s that Courage is rather inaccessible. Catholic churches in America aren’t very good at speaking the truth in moral issues from the pulpit, or very good at meeting people where they’re at. (This is a criticism I’ve seen bishops and popes give, so I hope I’m not being presumptuous here). If you started a group for people with SSA at a Protestant megachurch, you would probably get 10-30 people to attend. But it is often hard for entire archdioceses to get more than 4-5 people to attend Courage meetings. Clearly we’re doing something wrong.

        If you read one of my other comments, Courage is on the verge of becoming more and more accessible. This proves to be a several year process to get Courage established. Case in point is the Archdiocese of Detroit, which I’ve been very involved with over the past several years implementing a more vibrant Courage chapter there. There is great interest on the part of the clergy, and they’re goal is to soon have four different Courage chapters in the Diocese, including one in Spanish. These sorts of endeavors are happening all over the country now, in a concerted and consolidated effort where Courage members regularly to and speak to the Clergy of a given Diocese in order to express the need, and to help motivate the development of a Courage chapter. These efforts are beginning to bear great fruit.

        Which makes me think of Ratzinger. I’ve always been guided in my thinking as to “when will ministry to folks with SSA finally explode in the Church???” by this writing of Ratzinger, on the New Evangelization.

        Yet another temptation lies hidden beneath this—the temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers. But this is not God’s way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (see Mark 4:31-32).

        The Kingdom of God always starts anew under this sign. New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—this is not what new evangelization promises.
        New evangelization means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice—rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29).

        Large things always begin from the small seed, and the mass movements are always ephemeral. In his vision of the evolutionary process, Teilhard de Chardin mentions the “white of the origins” (le blanc des origines): The beginning of a new species is invisible and cannot be found by scientific research. The sources are hidden—they are too small. In other words: The large realities begin in humility.

        Most important of all, is that last line: large realities begin in humility. That is something I see in Courage, and don’t see very much of at all in most other writers today speaking on what the Church needs. I’m not concerned about the small numbers that are being reached right now through the Church–Ratzinger’s words help me there. The question is this: do we form our ministries with the belief that we actually have the power to save anyone? I have no power to do that, no priest has the power to do that, and no ministry has the power to do that. St. Francis de Sales had a common theme in his spiritual direction: remember God has no need of you. (And then act as if He does!)

        I don’t worry about the small number of people the Church seems to be attracting. I pray about it, and do my little work in the Kingdom, and let God worry about when and how this ministry of Courage will grow. I would say that most writers on issues concerning homosexuality and the Church suffer from the temptation to impatience that Ratzinger is talking about.

        I do take your words to heart. Especially about the hypothetical 15 year old boy. I was just speaking with the mother of a 15 year old boy the other day, and he is having a heck of a time, just like I did. But in that, I see both cause for sorrow, and cause for excitement–God is clearly doing some great work in that young man by allowing this very difficult pain in his life. That’s what excites me, and moves me to compassion. The challenge, it seems to me, is to inspire that young man to trust in God–and to help him carry this load, just like I’ve always been inspired by Gandalf saying he’d help carry the load for Frodo. That always helped my vision of such things.

        I’m definitely working to help those kids, and I will continue to do so. I just think that so much of the formulas that the most vocal folks in all of this conversation are coming up with are very questionable and many are problematic. But your point is well taken!

      • The second to last paragraph of my last post should end in a question mark. I got lost in my own grammar.

      • Dan,

        Well, I can’t personally say enough about how much of a Godsend you are, with respect to this issue. I remember finding your blog, many years ago, and my first response was disbelief. You see, I thought the temptation to homosexual activity was just purely unspeakable, and that it was supposed to just magically go away — and I grew up in a very thoughtful Catholic family. To read you writing about how God could work in your life despite — even through — the temptation, it was quite the eye-opener.

        I don’t think we quite see eye to eye on the way forward, but I am very comfortable with you as one of the people leading the charge. My biggest concern is for youth with SSA — and this is also the biggest challenge for the Church, since the sex scandals have severely crippled its ability to minister effectively to children, especially boys. Imagine the complexities in trying to put together a youth version of Courage, overseen by Catholic clergy. I would not like to be the bishop who would deal with the blowback from that!

        In my mind, the Spiritual Friendship crowd might be developing a viable means of witnessing to young people with SSA, though it does run a sort of end-around from the Church hierarchy. (I’m a part of an ecumenical discipleship community that is not under Church supervision, so this doesn’t strike me as intrinsically objectionable). The key thing, though, is that we do not exchange the truth for a lie, and the jury’s still out on that, with respect to what’s going on at Spiritual Friendship.

        Oh, and I’m looking forward to seeing the future of Courage! In fact, maybe I should finally get off my duff and join the local chapter!

  4. And when victories are won, against all odds, in our individual souls or on broader cultural or ecclesial fronts, let the song of our hearts be “Non nobis domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam” ( Not to us, Lord, but to your name give glory!)

    Henry V: Non Nobis and Te Deum

  5. P.S. Christopher, this is a fantastic post, utterly fantastic. Thank you very much. I will spread it around the net. Susan Fox P.S.S. Do you do Facebook? We have a group that discusses this issue. We are going to change the name to do more with Marriage, but currently it is called “I’m against same-sex marriage, and I’m not a bigot.” (We inherited the name from an old group that just closed.) This is where to find it. You are welcome to join us.

    • Thanks Susan for the kind words! I do Facebook, but I don’t venture into much of anything deep. It’s mainly used for staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues, and talking about the beers I like to drink. 🙂 I find there’s not enough control of who sees what to use Facebook for more serious topics.

      • Well I put this post on my Facebook Page, On “Silent No More: Ex-Gays Speak Up! and on “i’m against same sex marriage and I’m not a bigot.” Silent No More was having a discussion with a whiney person who advocated same sex marriage and felt persecuted by Christians, so I’m sure they will appreciate the encouragement. It also therefore went out three times to my 1000 plus Twitter Followers. Hope one of them picks it up. You’ll get more readership. God bless you. Susan Fox

  6. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading it along with the comments 🙂 Not sure if it answered my question from last week, but still extremely helpful!

  7. Pingback: Got SSA? Quit whining about it. | Senator מִֹשְׁלֵי

  8. I agree we homosexual Catholics tend to whine a bit and think we have it worse than anybody, but at the same time the problem of homosexuality is, I think it is fair to say, uniquely difficult in some ways since it deals not only with sexuality but can also be a huge factor in how we interact even non-sexually with both men and women. I know in the modern world we are not supposed to get freaked out when a guy friend tells us he experiences homosexuality, but at the very least it makes even platonic intimacy more difficult and complicated. And that’s before we even get into the lack of a primary life-partner.

    Also, I wanted to say I think it is more difficult for some than for others to deal with homosexuality. Some people are able to find the connections they need that are good and wholesome and perhaps even within the church, and others struggle pathetically.

    As a 50-yr-old with SSA I am old enough to remember the American Church’s first round of attempting to minister to homosexuals. Before Courage had really gotten off the ground, there were “meet and greet” type groups for gays in the 1980s, which unfortunately often ended up as just places for gay guys to meet nicer gay guys than they would meet at the bars, but still physical-based meet ups. Those meeting groups were perhaps a bit naive, and were thrown out when homosexual scandals started to surface.

    Now we have Courage, and that’s pretty much all we have, although there is still at least one entire state without a Courage group – which of course means that for many people there is absolutely nothing except what the wider culture provides.

    Courage, for those who haven’t attended, is very similar in format to Alcoholics Anonymous. Courage was established in 1980, thanks be to God, but its format and structure has been unchanged since then, even though the world has changed very much. And while I always defend Courage from its detractors because, as another commentor said, it is good as far as it goes, there simply has got to be something more than Courage for homosexuals and their families. Perhaps striking the right balance of social connecting and education/evangelizing – which is admittedly very difficult when dealing with the difficult problem of homosexuality.

    The reason that I think expanding and updating this sort of ministry is so important and overdue is that people will get connected elsewhere if there is no way to do so at church. On this problem there are millions of critics and hardly anybody with any ideas to augment Courage, so in an attempt not to be a “whiner without a cause”, here is my suggestion: There should be an informational group in every diocese. I think this would avoid the complexities of “playing psychotherapist” to lonely or angry gays, while providing basic information to those affected by homosexuality – either directly affected, or their families. This also helps avoid the “AA” type mentality, and the shame attached to having to sit through a confessional-type discussion group of your most personal info with relative strangers.

    Mine may seem like a nothing suggestion, but if you think about it some of the most basic information on homosexuality from a Christian point of view is becoming increasingly hard to come by in our culture. I think it would be nice to have a little lighthouse of truth in every diocese on this topic – even if it is just basic basics and we still have to find ways to live out our individual situations. At least we would be combatting the misinformation somewhat, and helping people to know that they are not alone, whether they are homosexual themselves or whether they have a family member that is, which can sometimes be just as painful when you feel you cannot help somebody you love who is struggling.

    • I think you raise several good points. The good news, as I see it, is that Courage is doing a full court press to be in every diocese in the country. We’re making great progress with this, but it will start to bear fruit in a year or so. Courage is constantly going to diocesan clergy study days, as well as doing yearly trips to seminaries, educating our future priests on the need for Courage in their dioceses, as well as more frequent homilies on the subject of homosexuality, from a pastoral approach, rather than condemnation of the “gay agenda.” Many priests who have recently been appointed to bishops were former Courage chaplains, which has been very helpful in those dioceses, and which helps promote the need for Courage in other diocesan settings.

      I’m not sure when you last were at a Courage meeting, or last attended the Courage conference. (I’d recommend the Conference–it’ll be in Philly this summer. I think it’s fantastic.) I don’t find the inclusion of the 12 steps problematic. In my Courage group, there are some folks who are at a point in their journey where they really don’t have a need for that sort of accountability. But there always IS someone there who needs that sort of help and assistance, and I’d say the reason Courage has continued along that path is to assist the most vulnerable, or most in need of help in that regard. I find it to be an environment of great help and support when someone comes in and says they’re having trouble with one night stands, and the other folks there can be a source of encouragement. I’ve also never known anyone who has lived with same sex attraction who hasn’t had a difficulty with some sort of addictive sexual behavior, whether that’s masturbation, or porn, or full on anonymous hookups. One can say that most men have certainly had those issues too–this isn’t unique to SSA folks, but it seems that in my Courage group, there is always someone who is in need of that sort of assistance, and some who aren’t. And yet the basic message of each of the 12 steps are reminders that I find very encouraging for me, and I find that they are very much in line with Catholic spirituality: the need to acknowledge our need for God in living out holy lives, the need to engage in self-examination of one’s conscience, the need to make amends for wrongs that we’ve committed. The 12 steps, I’ve come to learn, are not so much geared towards chastity, but rather towards an honest and humble examination of one’s spiritual journey. It is invaluable in this sense, so that’s one reason I find the 12 steps to be beneficial.

      That being said, the 12 steps aren’t the only mode of meeting that Courage meetings use, and I don’t think that your assessment of Courage being an “AA” type meeting is completely accurate. I don’t feel shame there, for example. Now, I don’t believe that Courage is the be all/end all of ministries. But one aspect that is key here is this: Courage has always been shaped under the authority of the Magisterium. It was envisioned and given its charter from the Servant of God, Cardinal Terence Cooke. Courage, from the very beginning, has been under the spiritual authority of the Church, in everything it has done. It was approved by the Vatican, and is now in the process of gaining canonical status.

      The protection, spiritually speaking, of being under direct spiritual authority to the bishops is vital to any ministry that will have success. Right now, there is a lot of talk about what ministries “could look like,” but for the most part, most writing I see in the “gay Catholic blogosphere” is focused on what is wrong, or is highly critical of Courage (usually in a very mocking tone!), and there are vague proposals of what these groups might look like. Many of their suggestions go directly against the guidelines issued by the USCCB, and often these writers mock what has come from the bishops as being totally absurd. That is hugely problematic, and if any other ministry will succeed, it must always be begun from a place of humility to the Magisterium, not one which assumed the Magisterium is inept at dealing with homosexuality.

      As far as ministries to families, EnCourage is absolutely fantastic, and is growing by leaps and bounds. I can’t imagine a better ministry to families than EnCourage.

      • I agree with you 100 percent! I think Courage is going to become more visible in the Church in the future. And they are making steps that you mentioned to get there. However, I wouldn’t disregard what they are doing now invisibly. I was a writer trying to write about the issue of same sex marriage, and I thought I could find what I needed in papal documents. I kept chasing this one and that one. I’d read it, and still it didn’t give me the answer. God knew what I was seeking. So ironically — i, a Catholic — wrote a private message to Homosexuals Anonymous asking for help. The group I contacted was headed by the Assembly of God Church. They got me in touch with Courage, and finally I found Fr. John Harvey and numerous other resources (Theology of the Body) that helped me. So basically if someone is seeking the kind of help that Courage can give, God leads them to it. He knows our hearts. God bless you. Susan Fox

      • Well at this point I think we’re talking past each other. I was trying to explain why the whiners are whining, whether rightly or wrongly, but I fear my comments were mistaken as a criticism of Courage, and the famous Courage Defense kicked in. Communication stopped. Same old story. God bless you – I really mean that. It sounds like you are plugged into a great Courage group and I am sincerely happy that is the case because we each have to take care of ourselves first and foremost.

      • Hi there, and thanks again for stopping by. I guess it doesn’t feel to me that we’re talking past each other. I read the positive things you had to say about Courage, but I also thought it was worth adding to the conversation that your concern that it’s not available in enough places is something that’s on the radar of Courage, and the Church, and that they’re trying to remedy that. I think that’s helpful to know. But I also wanted to amplify on your description of Courage as being essentially an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. I think that’s worth discussing too, right? If there is a famous Courage defense, it has developed over time because of so many widely disseminated mischaracterizations of what Courage is really all about, and I guess I would never describe it as an “Alcoholics Anonymous” type group. I wouldn’t have any interest in being a member of it, if that was my experience of the Apostolate.

        I do think you raise good points–I like the idea of “little lighthouses” in every diocese. But it does seem to me that the most logical place to turn for those lighthouses is Courage, rather than each diocese attempting to reinvent the wheel every time, and run the risk of getting some sort of Dignity-light. Adherence to the Magisterium is fundamental to those little lighthouses being effective, and one area where Courage won’t run amok is in that department.

        I do agree with you that the way people handle and respond to homosexuality is also very different, depending on the person, and so we must be sensitive to that. I suppose this post that I wrote was in response to so much dreary portrayals I tend to read these days. Now, I’m the first to admit that my life in high school was hell! No doubt about it, but I was inspired back then by examples of remarkable men and women of faith who endured hellishly difficult things too. I suppose that’s what my point is: today’s “gay and Christian” blogosphere seems to focused on how hellishly difficult this life can be, that they seem to not have much consideration about how others who have different hellishly difficult paths have handled them, and survived, and on the other side, been better for it. I think of Joni Erackson Tada. Her story of accepting and thriving after becoming paralyzed after a diving accident made a profound impact on me when I was a young child. So too the story of Corrie Ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place. In part, since there wasn’t much writing on the subject of homosexuality, those people became my inspiration–and one component that tied together all of those inspirational people for me was their lack of focusing on how terrible their condition was.

        This is what I see as being so problematic today. It is good that the Church listens, but it is also good that young people who grow up with an attraction to the same sex hear stories of great sacrifice in other areas, and not to hear continually how awful a job the Church is doing, or how awful this life is, etc.

        There has to be a balance, and now, I feel that there is a bit too much navel gazing and mirror watching.

  9. Another excellent post. The focus on how much suffering and sacrifice is involved keeping the commandments gets pretty tired. Chaste celibates,need to be careful about proclaiming their heroic virtue and promoting their personal cause for canonization. Everybody’s got something.

    I like what the last guy wrote: ” It is good that the Church listens, but it is also good that young people who grow up with an attraction to the same sex hear stories of great sacrifice in other areas, and not to hear continually how awful a job the Church is doing, or how awful this life is, etc.”

    That is exactly right.

  10. Dang it, now you’re gonna make me reread all my posts to see if they’re whiny or not. I don’t agree with how this pits has been received (it’s certainly not the “sit down and shut up and me a man” one person who quoted it seemed to believe it was), but I do agree with a lot of what I’m reading here. I’m gonna read your blog some more and see what else is out there.

    • Hi David,

      I saw how this blogpost was excerpted somewhere else recently, and it didn’t capture what I was trying to say. Especially this: I don’t want to tell people, (especially kids, of all things!) to “man up.” That’s not what I was trying co communicate–rather, it was to communicate the more broad picture that we all suffer, and that God allows this in our lives, in large part, so that we might suffer alongside them. For me, the magnitude of the suffering that I experienced over the years only made sense when I could see it in connection with the Cross of Christ, and where I could put it in perspective with Christ’s burden bearing.

      God bless!


      • I felt a lot more challenged, in a good way, when I read this versus what was excerpted and misinterpreted by EP and Crisis. I definitely see what you’re saying here in this post, and like I said, I pretty much agree. I’ve been doing some studying on priestly celibacy and that’s helping me a long way to grasp what it all means.

      • I only saw it excerpted at Crisis. What is EP?

        It’s easy to excerpt something, and not get the sense of the whole post. That’s so unfortunate.

  11. I assume you moderate your comments, and I have no problem with this comment being trashed after you read it. I write just to note that using those first two block quotes as examples of crybabies telling the church how to minister to them was very sloppy of you. If there are examples of such (and I have little doubt that there are) you should have used them instead of out-of-context quotes from Sarah and Lindsey.

    • Hi Readerjohn,

      I do moderate comments, primarily because of spam, as well as troll-like comments. There’s no reason I would trash this comment.

      But I am confused by your comment. I’m not sure why you accuse me of taking the quote out of context–I was writing about dreary droopy characterizations of how awful life must be for the person who is attracted to the same sex, and in this case, especially for teenagers. Talk about “unfunded mandates,” and things like “now, don’t go have sex,” because the Church says no is, well, a whiny portrayal. Hasn’t every teenager in the history of the Church been told, “don’t have sex?” Some get married, but there are vastly higher numbers of single men and women who have never been able to find a spouse, and will be single their whole life, than there are SSA folks. Why single US out? It’s so self-regarding and self-focused, which I find irksome. That’s one issue I have with blogs like Sarah and Lindsey’s.

      But to the larger point: the very fact that a blog portraying the “experiences of a celibate, LGBT, couple” has any traction in the Church today is proof of the reams of writing that has already been done in books and in the blogosphere about how hard and painful the life of the single SSA person must be. Their whole existence as a “celibate gay couple” is proof of what I’m talking about.

      Chastity isn’t merely continence, and I would submit to you that the path forward for the Church should never be in supporting “gay couples,” of any stripe. If they have any influence in 2014, it is through the power of sentimentality, and all of the “woe is me” writing that has been flying around the blogosphere for the past ten years.

      They are living a continent life–but insofar as they view themselves as a “couple,” well, that isn’t the fullness of what the virtue of chastity is all about. “A Queer Calling,” even in its title shows me that they’ve rejected the objective reality of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. Both Sarah and Lindsey were created by God to be coupled with their sexual complement. Both are made for coupling with men, not with women.

      Now, some married couples have chosen continence for the sake of the Kingdom. There are many examples of this in the history of the Church. Sarah and Lindsey don’t fit in with this long line of continent and chaste spouses. They have moved away from the God given plan of relationship between members of the same sex (friendship) towards aping the love that was designed solely between men and women, in marriage: eros and romantic love. Their love, in that regard, is unchaste–and thus, not “love” at all.

      We can look at one beautiful example of the perfectly chaste couple: Mary and Joseph. They were both continent, and chaste–but they were coupled together in the complementary nature for which they were created. Chastity is not merely an act of the will that constrains one’s sexual appetites. Chastity is living in such a way that honors God’s plan for our sexuality. A “celibate gay couple” isn’t doing this. They have chosen to engage in a romantic relationship not with their sexual complement, but with their sexual equal. This is unchaste. Continent, yes, but chaste, no.

      Which comes back to my broader point. The fact that “A Queer Calling” is accepted as being able to speak to what chastity is within the context of the Church, is indicative of the sentimentality of our culture and Church on the subject of homosexuality, which has stemmed from an overwhelming torrent of dreary and droopy writing from places like GCN, and so many other places too: “SSA is so, so hard!!!!” Wah! If there is a positive view of Sarah and Lindsey, as a “couple,” then it stems from the sentimentality of this age, thus we have support in some quarters for the idea of “celibate gay couples,” which seems to me about as strange as a brother and a sister loving themselves in a romantic way, and calling themselves a “couple,” but choosing to live a continent life because they know God has commanded that sex be reserved between a husband and wife, not members of a family. So too with same sex people: the form of love that is appropriate for them is the love of friendship, not romantic love.

      • I’m ambivalent about smacking a tar baby as I’m not in the LGBT/SSA category. But Sarah and Lindsey have taken pains to define what they mean by celibacy. “Romance” and “romantic” do not describe their relationship, it appears to me. Try a little harder to engage what they’re actually up to – maybe even probing it in comments. Isn’t that the Christian approach?

      • Readerjohn,

        This comment actually shows your lack of knowledge of the history of thought, of which blogs like Lindsey and Sarah’s are the tip of the iceberg. I have known Lindsey’s thinking in particular for several years, long before their blog began, through her posts at the Gay Christian Network.

        They call their relationship a “partnership.” What sort of “partnership” is it? Have you ever expressed your friendships with your best male friends as “partnerships,” or have you ever called your relationship with your male family members “partnerships?”

        The language in that post, speaking of the vulnerability in their “partnership,” which they see in “marriages” suggests that this isn’t merely a friendship.

        Words mean things, John, and a “gay celibate partnership” has no place in the history of the Church.

        I have probed and reflected on the thinking that has gone into their blog for many years, including with Lindsey herself, in the fora of the Gay Christian Network. I know of what I speak.

  12. Perhaps the virtue of chastity is the necessary precondition before one can enter in a gay celibate partnership. Only their confessors would know where they are in the development of virtue in their spiritual lives. I also seem to recall that a rather famous member of Courage who was involved in a similar arrangement. I think his name is David Morris… but I’m not sure if I recall correctly. I have not heard much about him in recent times.

    • I actually think of it another way: the more the virtue of chastity is cultivated, the more a “partnership” is seen as being “unchaste.” The whole notion of “partnership” comes from the culture around us–it was an idea cultivated by those who didn’t want to commit to marriage, essentially common law couples. It was coopted by the LGBT community to describe their relationships, essentially trying to emulate “spousal” unions. And now it’s being coopted by those who think that the idea of a “partnership” between two men and two women is acceptable, just so long as it’s “chaste.”

      Really, what “gay and celibate partners” are talking about is “continence.” It has long been my thinking that the concept of chastity precludes the idea of a “partnership” between two members of the same sex. Perhaps that’s something I will flesh out in a future post.

      David Morrison is the fellow you’re thinking of, and his book is called Beyond Gay. No two stories are exactly the same, of course. His was one in which he came to the conviction that he couldn’t continue sleeping with his partner. They arrived at this slowly, and they ended up continuing sharing a life with each other, but what is informative is how he viewed the transformation of their relationship towards friendship.

      He writes about it at his old blog (long inactive) and I think it is informative as to how he speaks about his former partner. (If you go to the link, scroll down to the post “same sex marriage and friendship.” There isn’t a direct link to it.)

      It’s no secret that the man with whom I used to be sexually involved have continued a deep and ongoing friendship even after we stopped sleeping together. We did so because, in the wake of the shock of chastity, we came to the conclusion that what we had as friends had always extended far beyond merely the bedroom and that there was no reason to stop being friends just because we stopped doing it.

      And here:

      Lust and emotional neediness might have drawn us together, but ongoing growth and genuine love is what God drew out of such sordid beginnings.

      I find that situation, and other situations I know similar to Morrison’s to be very different than the situation of “gay celibate partnerships” that are floating around today. The notion of consciously entering into “chaste, celibate partnerships” emanated in large part from conversations over many years at the Gay Christian Network Side B forums among several authors there. I followed that conversation with much interest, and believed it was mistaken from the start, and very different than a situation like David Morrison. In his case, he was “partnered”–then God called to him and his partner, and brought them back towards what is an appropriate love for two men: friendship. Whereas someone who is consciously entering into a “partnership,” moves from that which is proper, i.e., friendship, towards that which is unseemly for two members of the same sex, i.e., “partnership” or a “committed relationship,” even if that relationship is absent sexual expression.

      There is a difference, and it’s not insignificant. This notion of “gay celibate partnerships” is a mistaken solution to the problem of loneliness and companionship, and is ultimately unchaste in principle, even if no sex is engaged in. It is a strange progression in the history of love, and it doesn’t seem in keeping with what chastity is all about, since chastity isn’t merely concerned with sexual activity, but is concerned with the proper internal relationship with one’s sexuality.

      The CCC describes chastity this way:

      2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

      The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.

      There is something amiss in the integrity of the person, and the integration of sexuality within the person if one is focused on a “partnership” with a member of the same sex, rather than a friendship. I’d say that anyone who is engaged in a “celibate partnership” is stuck halfway to chastity–and have yet integrated chastity fully into their lives.

      I was corresponding with a priest recently about this very subject, and wrote the following:

      Anyway, I think that a romantic “relationship” between two men or two women, regardless if they are continent or not, is unchaste, in its very nature. It seems to me that “a celibate gay relationship” is as absurd as a “celibate relationship” between a sister and a brother who have fallen in love with each other, but because God is opposed to incest, are sexually continent.

      I also wrote this to the priest as I was reflecting on all of this:

      It’s one thing to continue sharing a life–but there needs to be a transformation through the renewing of the mind too, of what form that shared life takes.

      The proper relationship between two men or two women is friendship–not something that emulates a marriage, or a sexually active gay partnership–minus the sex. It’s not what will lead to human fulfillment, because it departs from God’s plans for our lives.

  13. Can you say more about the distinction between the two movements. 1. From a partnership that involved sexual activity to friendship and 2.) Friendship that moves to a partnership that still lacks sexual activity. How does one determine that chastity is lacking in the later and not in the former? How does one determine that Morrison’s is virtuous while the others are vicious? Objectively speaking the former would seem more problematic due to the nature of overcoming vice than the latter who have not crossed that line.

    I agree with you that every case is different. But I also think that making determinations about the prudence of such situations is better left to the pastoral care of spiritual directors and confessors rather than someone online and removed from the particulars of the case.

  14. I saw a documentary on Mother Teresa where she visited Bierut during the worst destructive bombing the city had ever endured. She was told she couldn’t enter the country because of the daily bombing that never seemed to end. She simply nodded and said “I shall ask the Blessed Virgin for a relief from the bombing”….. The next scene was a Jet caring Mother Teresa entering the city. Almost in a sense of comic relief the caption in the next scene read”The next day”. The bombing stopped and Mother Teresa is shown entering the building where many (Wounded from the war) were being cared for. There was a 7 or 8 year old boy suffering from shell shock, a WWII term describing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He was shaking violently. Mother Teresa gently walked up to him and put her hand on his heart and he stopped shaking as he looked into her eyes. The power of Grace in the soul of this small woman literally blew me away!…I understood the value of “Intercession” in that realm of prayer. Personally, I felt I was that small young boy caught in a world of SSA and how simply a mere touch of a hand could relieve the suffering….. That lesson of Love (Charity) settled into my memory and heart and much healing came . I’ll confess, I have no talent for eloquent writing. …and uhhhhhh…no ability to spell simple words!!! But if this message helps heal a few “heart wounds” then it will be worth typing all of this out on a small tablet with one finger and seriously thinking about getting a desktop! God Bless You Dan and thank you for your powerful testimony! !!!

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