The Pernicious Lie: “Coming Out” Is Freedom

The wisest decision I ever made about living with an attraction to men was never broadcasting it to the world by following the ritual of “coming out.”

As time passes I become more convinced that the wisest course of action for anyone who lives with same sex attraction is to keep this information limited to a very small number of close confidants. Unless someone likes boxes placed around them which have very little to do with reality.

Boxed In

Obviously, I’ve written publicly about all of this. I’ve been on television, I’ve been on the radio, and I’m even in a film about it all. Eventually I knew that all of this would trickle down into my day to day life in a rather organic manner. I knew that all of my colleagues would know about this, and that they might find it strange, or surprising, or shocking—or something. And I knew they would have their own views on the subject, and probably think that I’m repressed, or backwards in my thinking, or perhaps “finally discovering who I truly am.” I didn’t know exactly, but I prepared for whatever might come as best as I could.

I couldn’t really prepare fully for the way some have responded. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done, but their responses to me have convinced me even more strongly of the need to discourage anyone from ever publicly disclosing their attractions to the same sex.

Here are a few of the more irksome moments I’ve encountered:

At a bonfire with many people I work with, a fellow who has been with another man for a long time made it clear that he had become aware of my writings on homosexuality. The way in which he did it was very silly to me. I was pointing out to him someone on Facebook that I thought he might know. He indicated that he knew the family, and that he thought all of the men in the family were cute. Turning to me with a mischievous look, he said to me, “you do too, don’t you?”

“Well, no,” was what I wanted to say, but I responded instead by saying, “Oh. So I guess you’ve found some of my writing online?”

I have always wondered what my friends and colleagues who’ve chosen to live with a same sex partner might think of my writing. It has troubled me, since I have wanted to make it clear that my choices are the choices I’ve made, and that I haven’t written publicly about any of this out of judgment of them and their lives.

So I decided that perhaps this night provided a chance to make this clear to my friend. I suggested we take a walk.

We talked for a long time. He was concerned that I stood in judgment of him and his partner, and I assured him that this was a choice I made–for me. I care about this fellow, and I wanted him to know that just because I chose to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, that didn’t mean that I stand in judgment of him.

It was a good conversation, and eventually we meandered back to the bonfire.

Later I heard that when we left the bonfire there was joking that took place among some who were there that, “oh, I bet they’re going out there to make out/mess around/do something.”


The box both he and I were put in was this one: we’re both “gay” in their mind, and apparently in that box, “gay guys” take any opportunity to have some sort of physical/sexual encounter.

What kind of dignity do they think it’s possible for “gay men” to have, if they think that two men walking alone, away from a bonfire, are going to have some sort of tryst? It’s horrible for me to contemplate that this is the box they seem to have placed me in now.

That was the last thing on my mind when I walked away from the light of the bonfire. I was concerned about my friend, and concerned that my writing might have hurt him. And it hurts me that we became the butt of some sort of joke. And here, in the midst of writing this post, where the phrase “butt of some sort of joke” flowed naturally in my reflections, I’m thinking of the sophomoric world in which we live and how I suppose that’s a phrase I should avoid now.

That’s maddening to me.

Here are a few of the other random comments that well-meaning friends and colleagues have made that reveal they have placed me into a box:

Any relationship I had with a woman in the past will apparently now be construed as me “exploring my sexuality.” Never mind the fact that I fell madly in love with a woman who I hoped to marry, and was devastated when it didn’t happen. That part of my life is now neatly packaged, filed away on a shelf with the label: Dan’s Sexual Exploration.  I suspect too the reason they’ll say that it didn’t work out is because of the box they’ve put me in as being a gay man. “Of course it didn’t work out—how could he? He’s a gay guy, and he couldn’t even acknowledge it to himself back then.”


One friend told me that as she looked back on my past relationships with women, she seemed to believe that I was always attracted to masculine or androgynous/boyish looking women.

Really? I think the women I dated would find that offensive. And it’s demonstrably false.

Yet another example of rewriting my life story though the lens of “Dan the Gay Man.”

Other friends seem to think that all of this is me trying to reconcile my faith with “my sexuality.”

What they don’t understand is that I came BACK to my faith, in large part because of the truth of sexuality. I was very content to leave behind my faith—I routinely flipped off a Church in town, every time I drove by it, but eventually I found the truth about my sexuality where I least expected it to be. Though I know they believe this is me merely clinging to superstitious beliefs I need to get rid of, if I want to truly be set free. One more box. It’s all so patronizing.

Another person seems to think that I’m just the sort of person who “wants to live a single life, regardless.”

Yet another box I’ve been placed in.

Here’s another box: if I’m striving for chastity, it must mean that “I’m not interested in sex.” The logic here seems to be this: anyone who is consciously choosing to live a chaste life must not really enjoy sex.

This couldn’t be further from the truth for me. Is it so hard to conceive of a human person who might enjoy something immensely, and yet decide not to fulfill those desires out of a desire for a greater goal he has in mind? We see it in physical fitness, or in dieting, or in sacrifices people make for pursuing a career. Why not with chastity too? If I could have the world revolve around my particular desires and proclivities, my days would start and end with a roll in the hay. But that would be a very inhuman way to live, and a life of complete and total self-indulgence.

When I think of chastity, this line from St. Pope John Paul II pretty much sums up my life:

An exuberant and readily roused sensuality is the stuff from which a rich—if difficult—personal life may be made.

I’m not an asexual creature. I’m not someone who just has always wanted to be a bachelor. I’ve been madly in love with a woman. And I’ve been madly in love with a man too. So who am I?

According to a lot of my friends and colleagues, they’ve conveniently pigeon-holed me wherever they seem to think I fit best.

I hate that. I really, really do.

Who am I, truly? Who is anyone, truly?

I am a man, made in the image and likeness of God. That’s who I am—I’m not a “gay man,” and I’m not a “bisexual man,” and I’m certainly not a man who looks at a bonfire as a way to find some guy to make out with or have a sexual tryst with. I know who I am, and I know who I am, sexually. That truth comes from the truth of my body. I am a man, made for sexual union with women, and the only sane–and rational place–for that sexual union to take place is inside of marriage that is open to the possibility of life. And that’s the reason I have chosen to pursue chastity.

One of my great missions in life is to tell young people to avoid the rather boring and insipid boxes of sexual identity that our culture likes to create for us. Don’t come out. It won’t bring you freedom. You’re not “coming out” into freedom and truth. Rather, you’re being boxed in to lies and misconceptions. “Coming out” to the world isn’t liberating at all. Unless you find chains and labels liberating.

The Bishops had it right. Share this with some close intimates. Share this with your parents, your priest, your family, and a few close and select friends. But don’t share it with the world. They are the ones who truly love us, who are our Shepherds, guided as they are by the Paraclete. Listen to them, and be free. Don’t be enslaved by the appearance of freedom or liberating that supposedly will be yours by “coming out.” Hear their words, and be guided into the path that is safe:

For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self- disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.

38 thoughts on “The Pernicious Lie: “Coming Out” Is Freedom

    • Thank you. You know, I don’t know what your name is, or anything about you. 🙂 I appreciate your encouragement very much, so thank you. But I am curious: Are you someone I know through Courage, or did you find my blog online, and it resonated with you?

      God bless!

      • My Courage Chaplain (Captain) told me about it, I was acquainted with someone named Christopher that recently committed suicide in a large American City. I live in the South Central USA. So I guess God aligned the stars (Divine Providence) at the right time and Place and a “New Age of Aquarius….aka “Truth” dawned……I dedicated all posts to his memory in the hope no family has to suffer that tragic loss again. Dan your blog is a consolation for many……don’t stop! We need you! I owe you all the thanks in the world for you dedicated service! No, we haven’t met…..not yet at least!

  1. I’m actually going to disagree with that last paragraph (which I know isn’t yours). The one thing I’ve always found maddening, especially with Courage, is this element of secrecy. I’d rather be out and open about who I am and how I’m living my life to hopefully encourage others to do the same, especially since the Diocese of Harrisburg (the diocese I live in) has only one or two chapters for 15 counties, And the reality is that even if you talk about yourself as “struggling with SSA” or any other identifier about your sexual orientation, someone somewhere will put you in a box. Personally, I’d rather that box be on my terms. Is this position for everyone? No, and I respect that. Obviously there are people for whom coming out could become problematic. But for some of us, its part of our journeys and we use it as the Lord sees fit.

    • Interesting thoughts David. Thanks for stopping by. I would pose this to you. That last paragraph, which isn’t mine, IS from our Bishops, from their 2006 document talking about ministry to folks like us. Why do you think they advise that counsel?

      And here’s a challenge that I will pose to you: the things we most disagree with in Church teaching are probably things that impact us the most, and are the ones most difficult to humble ourselves to follow. But do you trust that the Holy Spirit guides the Bishops into the path where true freedom resides, or not?

      I have long been of the conviction that the teachings of the Church that make me squirm are exactly the ones I should follow. I’d recommend that you reconsider your thinking on this, in light of how much you disagree with it.

      I think of when Christ spoke to the Apostles about divorce and remarriage, and how hard that teaching is/was. And yet they adhered to it.

      Why will you not humble yourself here, and consider that the bishops might have more wisdom on this issue than you do, particularly since this impacts your life so intimately. Can you, or I, have the wisdom of objectivity?

      As to the phrase “struggling with SSA,” I don’t like the phrase either, and I don’t use it myself. There’s nothing inherent about Courage that dictates that people use that phrase.

      I would also challenge you on your last sentence: “as the Lord sees fit.” I would argue that the Lord sees fit to guide us through the bishops NOT to come out, publicly.

      • I’m not 100% convinced that the letter adequately reflects the experience of actually being gay. I’m well aware that the church engages in a type of double speak on the topic which needs to be addressed; love gay people but don’t support non-discrimination clauses and encourage them to remain in the closet. It’s an unworkable premise in this day and age. Kids and adults are exposed to homosexuality on a regular basis, and they need good Catholic role models to show them how to actively live out the church’s teachings. As someone who was actively open and gay, I fail to see how going back into the closet can benefit myself or folks who want to learn what it’s like to be chaste and follow the church’s teachings. Liberal writers are accusing us of being the new ex-gay movement and putting the bodies of dead gay kids at out feet. Maybe you’re called to do things your way, and I’m called to do things mine. I’ve had people approach me for advice and help and to say “thanks” after hearing my story both when I was a Protestant and now that I’m back to my catholic roots. Clearly chaste living and homosexuality is something people need to hear about in reality, not just in theory.

      • A couple of responses here, as I read your reply. 1). I’m not so concerned that the Church reflects “the experience of actually being gay.” I’m more concerned that the Church expresses what it means to live a fulfilling life, as a man, and that within that fullness of truth about the nature of man, that She guides me along the path of a fulfilling life based on that standard, not on what “being gay actually means.” I don’t think it’s ever been a goal of the Church to talk about what a person’s “experience” is. 2). I don’t agree that the Church engages in double speak. 3). The Church wisely doesn’t even acknowledge “the closet” as a legitimate context in which to view the entire issue of sexuality, or oneself. The “closet” is a completely manufactured idea, which as far as I’m concerned, is an absurd concept that should be challenged wherever it’s encountered. The notion of ‘being in the closet’ implies being trapped, and as a Church, if we talk about “the closet” we need to point out how the entire concept has nothing to do with our true nature. Especially with young people! 4). It’s strange to believe that the exhortation of the USCCB to keep this part of one’s life discreet is “an unworkable premise in this day and age,” when “being gay” is a completely novel idea within human history (how long have we been talking about “gay” people anyway, as a class of person?) 5). I don’t suggest that someone like yourself who has been actively open and self-identified as “gay” hide that fact. That is a part of your past, and indeed, God can use the redemption in your life to bring others into the Kingdom. However, we are also called to be “transformed by the renewal of our mind.” This involves your understanding of your own sexuality too. 6). As to “Maybe you’re called to do things your way, and I’m called to do things mine.” I don’t buy that: we’re both called to abide by the guidance of the Magisterium. That means if we’re truly going to be effective in the Kingdom of God, we’ll abide by every dot and tittle of the Magisterial documents about homosexuality. Including the recommendation of the bishops about public disclosure, particularly to young people. That is part and parcel to “how we’re both called.” It’s not “your way,” or “my way,” it’s the Church’s way, and that has been spelled out on several occasions.

        So the challenge to you that I pose to you is this: will you minister and evangelize “your way,” or do everything you do in complete concord with the guidance of our Bishops, both from the CDF, and from the USCCB?

      • If being open about my past and being honest about what the church expects and can lead other glb Catholics to a deeper understanding of what a chaste and celibate life can be, then yes, I shall continue to do things “my way”. Can I explain and live the church’s teachings in homosexuality? Yup. Can I understand the Catechism and the chastity that’s expected if me? Yup. Can I go further and even explain why celibacy is preferable over the pseudo-romantic relationships some Side B folk espouse? Yup. Seems like I’m doing a pretty good job at grasping what the church says.

        Yes, the 1992 and 1986 letters contain some serious doublespeak as far as I’m concerned. But that’s a discussion for another time.

        The church also cannot expect to minister to glb people if it refuses to let them actually be themselves. I don’t think that my way is any better or worse than your way, although I quite frankly find your way to be somewhat unrealistic as a one size fits all approach to addressing the issue. Don’t come out, don’t talk to anyone, and find support where? I certainly can’t live a chaste life in a vacuum and neither can most people. We cannot live authentically in community if we’re expected to hide who we are all the time. It’s emotionally draining, been there done that, and I know first-hand it doesn’t work.

        I think that’s part of my issue with your comments, I look at Eve and Ron and the folks at Spiritual Friendship, and see them trying to build a community and provide support for people who are Catholic and glb, and see your blog and wonder how the suggestion that we not be ourselves is going to help people live authentic Catholic lives. I personally cannot develop the relationships the Catechism suggests I need by being a fake.

      • Interesting.

        Certainly I’ve never said this, nor anyone else I know who’s involved in Courage: “Don’t come out, don’t talk to anyone, and find support where?”

        Of course one can’t live in isolation. But where is the correct boundary? That’s what the bishops are wise in their counsel: a select few, and certainly not a “general public self-disclosure.” If you are suggesting in your ministry that young people “come out,” you’re doing a disservice to them. And going against the Magisterium. Now, I don’t know if you are, or what the extent of your ministry is, so I don’t want to make assumptions here.

        I would challenge you a bit on your confidence that you’re living in complete alignment with Church teaching. What is chastity anyway? It’s not merely sexual continence. It’s about the truth of our sexual nature. You are concerned with “who we are.” And so am I. I just don’t think from what I’ve read from you here that you go far enough in “who you are.” You’re not a gay man.

        The question concerning chastity and homosexuality is this: are we humble enough to acknowledge who we truly are, as sexual beings, made by God? That’s the core issue that chastity is rooted in: humble acknowledgment of what it means to be sexual creatures, and to have sexuality. Virtue is always marked by something being in accord with right reason. Right reason about human sexuality is rooted in our complementarity–that is “who we are” as sexual beings, made that way from the very beginning (as Christ said in the gospels) as male and female. If we’re going to truly live chaste lives, we need to know who we are as sexual creatures, and be humble enough to acknowledge the truth of our sexuality which has nothing to do with our subjective experiences. You are saying that “who you are” is a gay man. The Church would say you are a man, made for women. That’s exactly what my blog is about: being fully authentic and honest about who we are.

        But enough about that.

        Let’s turn this around: if you’re dissatisfied with (on one side) the pseudo romantic stuff from the SF crowd, and you’re dissatisfied with Courage, what is it that you would propose, and would it be in keeping with everything the Magisterium has said on the subject?

        On another note, have you ever been to a Courage Conference? Or been involved with a Courage Chapter?

      • The closest Courage chapter to me meets once a month over an hour away so, no, I have not been to one. I was, however, unimpressed with both the email list and Facebook pages though. Between the arguing over how to self-identify and whether or not it’s ok to date but not be sexually active, I decided participation was simply not worth it. I prefer real relationships to online ones, and Courage can’t offer that when you’re in a diocese with one group for FIFTEEN large counties (or is it sixteen?).

        As for “authenticity” what is the same-sex attracted person supposed to do in social situations? Pretend? Hide? Date and hurt people? Dodge answers to normal social conversation?

        I’m not interested in women, never have been, never will be. So while you focus on one paragraph of a twenty-six page document, I see a document which encourages those in positions of pastoral care to encourage the person with SSA to participate as fully as possible in the life of the church, without mentioning SSA. How do you develop authentic relationships with other people if you’re hiding who you are? Been there, done that, it’s awkward and emotionally draining. “Here, be a full member of the church, but don’t tell people what you’re dealing with, let’s just create really socially awkward situations”. Oy vey. There has to be a middle ground which comes with being honest about where you’re at without draping yourself in gay pride flags.

        I think your positions and interpretations are clumsy and unworkable in the real world, but you clearly don’t feel the same way. The fact that we’re having this discussion goes to prove my point that “one size fits all” is not a workable solution for such a complicated issue. And considering how many openly Fay Catholics are beginning to talk about lives of chastity, I think I’m in ok company.

      • I just have a quick moment here today. When I was a Protestant, I drove an hour once a week to meet with other folks who lived with SSA and wanted to follow Christian teaching. An hour’s drive once a month doesn’t sound like an insurmountable impediment to me. Why haven’t you TRIED it? It seems to me rather that you have a perception of Courage based on what it’s like online. Like any online anything, it’s never what things are like “in person.” I urge you to go to a Courage Conference before you dismiss the organization out of hand. There are fantastic, honest and genuine people at a Courage Conference. And there are oddballs too. Just like any association of people. There isn’t a “Courage” profile.

        I’d also challenge you on this: you complain that there is only one chapter for 15 counties. There’s only one chapter in my diocese too, but we’re in the midst of creating a brochure and mailing a packet of information to every priest in the diocese, with a letter from our bishop. We are actively–as members of Courage–working to build our presence on the ground. Today, I’m heading to another neighboring diocese to give a talk to Catechists, where I’ll be talking about Courage. And then in early November, I’ll be in that same diocese speaking to all of the clergy in the diocese about Courage, which will be starting a chapter at the first of the year. Why not help out in your diocese?

        What does a person do in social situations? No pretending, no hiding, no dating and hurting people. Why would this be the assumption? I’ve navigated those waters very adroitly over the years. As a Christian, one can say this, very easily: “I don’t feel called to marriage.” What is dishonest about that? I would argue that saying, “oh, the reason I don’t day is because I’m gay” is dishonest about my created nature. That’s being inauthentic. With certain close friends, they know about my attractions to men, but there are plenty of “confirmed bachelors” in the world too, that this seems a strange argument to make.

        You say that I’m focusing on one paragraph of a twenty-six page document. Well, that’s not really true, is it? Anyone whose read this blog will see that talk about all sorts of aspects of chastity. Or if they’ve seen my on TV, or heard me on the radio, or seen me in the documentary I’m in at, they’ll see that I’m attempting to live out every paragraph of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, just like the rest of the Courage Apostolate. The only reason I’ve brought that paragraph into focus is because it’s the one paragraph so many people choose to ignore.

        As to this: “How do you develop authentic relationships with other people if you’re hiding who you are?” Well, two points here: if I say that “I’m a gay man,” I’d say I’ve bought a lie about “who I am.” Secondly, in developing deep relationships, I think of C. S. Lewis’s discussion of friendship, and I think of Christ and his tiered relationships: disciples, apostles and beloved John. I’m not sure why you could construe the USCCB document as leading to “don’t tell people what you’re dealing with.” Quite the opposite–they wisely tell us to share this with some, our close intimates, our spiritual director, etc. I’m very authentic with “what I’m dealing with” with my closest friends. I don’t see the bishops’ teaching as an obstacle to being able to say, “hey, this is what I’m dealing with.” It’s very unwise to share “what I’m dealing with” with too many people.

        It doesn’t trouble me if you believe my positions are clumsy or unworkable, since that would be stating that the Natural Law is clumsy and unworkable in the “real world.” I would argue that there’s nothing more “real” than natural law and the truth of our nature. The fact that we’re having this discussion seems to me to reveal that you don’t agree with the fullness and breadth of Catholic teaching on this issue that intersects your life most intimately. Why is that? You say you’re in good company–but that’s the company of those who choose to ignore the parts of Church teaching they don’t agree with. That’s not the company I want to keep!

      • I absolutely disagree with your thoughts on Eve or Ron, but considering some of what I’ve read on your blog, I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else. On the plus side, I’ve learned a lot from this, so clearly God brought me to this conversation for a reason.

      • I doubt you disagree with all my thoughts on Eve and Ron, since I think much of what they do is fantastic. I just don’t they go far enough in. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

      • PS, which letter is that from? I’ve read all three of the big ones and I’m drawing a blank.

      • David and Dan,

        I would encourage you both to see that — aside from a few minor glitches — you are both very much in agreement about the basic framework here. The differences seem to be in the details.

        The practice of the Church (on the ground) has been to address issues of self-disclosure on an individual pastoral basis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Church issues a new document at some point to verify this practice. Documents from the Church have been few, and they haven’t been comprehensive. It’s obvious that the Letter Dan mentioned was not meant to teach, for instance, whether a man who starts a ministry for the other men with same-sex attraction can or should (for evangelistic purposes) call himself “gay”. Instead, the Letter was a pastoral recommendation pertaining largely to the question of “how one thinks of oneself” and “how one makes oneself vulnerable to others”.

        Now, David, when you say that you must disclose or you will be denying “who you are”, I literally have no idea what you’re saying. “Gay” is an adjective, like “left-handed” or “tall” or “insecure”. There’s no reason everyone else has to know your adjectives. Different people prefer different adjectives, and I don’t think that’s a problem: some disabled people prefer to use a different adjective than “disabled”, for whatever reason. But your core identity is not in being gay. Indeed, it would be very puzzling for a Christian to say that an inclination toward sin is a part of his core identity in the first place.

        At the same time, I don’t think that one’s attraction to the same sex has a small impact on our lives — living in this day and age, it has a large impact. But that’s not like saying being left-handed is ultimately important; it’s more like saying that we live in a time period when left-handedness has become the subject of political wrangling, so that being left-handed DOES dramatically affect one’s day-to-day interactions.

        In 1590, when Shakespeare was writing his sonnets, he experienced no such rancor about his love for the young man he wrote to. He knew that the love could be purely manifest in his encouraging the young man about his own worth, and urging him to find a wife. He knew that the love could be impurely manifest in a sexual relationship. He did not think the love made him “who he was”, but he also didn’t think he had to deny its existence. He fought against his sin — not the culture, not the Church.

        These days, all same-sex attraction is public, even the secret kind. We all fight battles much larger than ourselves, because powers and principalities want to use us as pawns in their little game. Ah, for the innocent days of Shakespeare!

      • Quick question here–is this “Daniel P”?

        If it is, hello! If it isn’t, then thanks for stopping by and commenting. (And hello to you too!)

        I’m wondering if you could expound on what you mean by the first line of your last paragraph, about it Al being public. I’m just not following your meaning there.

      • Hi Dan! Yeah, it’s me. I’m not sure why the “P” isn’t showing up.

        By “these days, all same-sex attraction is public”, I’m making a comment on how thoroughly human beings are creatures of their culture. If the culture deals with gay or same-sex attracted people as political footballs, then being quiet about one’s same-sex attraction doesn’t stop that influence. I said to myself, “Oh dear, I’m gay” when I was 11 because the culture defined me that way. And now, as a married man with kids, I know that the culture only understands me as a “closet case”, or at best a “bisexual” (which sounds like something out of Frankenstein; at least “gay” people get a word with rich historical connotations). The culture expects me to end up in some sort of criminal activity, whereupon they can descend like vultures and lecture us all about the harms of “denying who you really are”.

        Why does that matter? Because we are creatures of our culture. We are inclined to live the life that has been assigned to us. The men of Sparta weren’t courageous because of their own intrinsic toughness; they were courageous because “that was the thing to do” — it was the social script for their lives, and departing from that script was unthinkable. But sometimes it must be done. Those who harbored Jews in 1941 were departing from script; they were defying their culture. It was difficult, and it was — no matter how much secrecy was involved — public. It only became “known” if they failed. But it was always a public action.

        It’s the same for us. The Catholic priest who experiences SSA and yet tirelessly pursues chastity is fighting a political battle for his own soul. The culture (the “world”) wants power, and he refuses to cede it. Though he acts in secret, his battle is the same as yours; indeed, I think your role is, in part, to stand as a witness to thousands doing the same thing you do, but in secret.

        Since the battle is political, it is true that our people (Christians with an unwanted attraction to the same sex) need to be EMPOWERED. That is my favorite thing about Spiritual Friendship, but I also see it happening in Courage, and in Courage I think the theology behind it is much more solid. But we do need voices shouting with a *different* storyline. As resisters in 1941 created a “type” — the rebel against Hitler — we also need a type, so that people can emulate it. That’s why I love Wesley Hill’s focus on people like Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and I always find a lot of inspiration in Shakespeare. Without a vision, people perish. And the vision has to be public.

      • Thanks for the clarification, and thanks for the conversation! We still need to get that beer!

        One of my biggest motivations in my work is to push against the notion of us being “creatures of our culture,” and to actually help set people free from being “creatures of our culture,” most specifically someone like yourself at age 11 who assumed–because of the culture around you–that you were gay, and which now results in people thinking you’re repressed, etc. and all of those horrible things people would say about a married man who happens to find men attractive.

        One of many epiphanies on that path was JPII’s Veritatis Splendor, which is so apt to this discussion:

        “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. To call into question the permanent structural elements of man which are connected with his own bodily dimension would not only conflict with common experience, but would render meaningless Jesus’ reference to the ‘beginning’, precisely where the social and cultural context of the time had distorted the primordial meaning and the role of certain moral norms (cf. Mt 19:1-9). This is the reason why ‘the Church affirms that underlying so many changes there are some things which do not change and are ultimately founded upon Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and for ever’. Christ is the ‘Beginning’ who, having taken on human nature, definitively illumines it in its constitutive elements and in its dynamism of charity towards God and neighbour.”

        I grew up in an age where I wasn’t a prisoner of our cultural pigeon-holing of LGBT, unlike you, and any other child growing up today. I think kids like us have now become prisoners to our culture and the language of sexual identity, and as a Church, we need to assert to our youth the profound dignity of our true nature. This is what really motivates me on this issue. We may not be able to change the secular world, but we can help the Church ensure that Catholic youth at least aren’t prisoners of our culture. I think it’s a great mission!

      • Dan,

        Yes, definitely beer. Maybe when you stop by the Detroit area sometime…

        As for culture, I’m doing a lot of academic work on this very topic right now. My interest is how cultures educate — or miseducate — us, and how the very language we speak “teaches” us the values of this present darkness. So I certainly agree that we cannot capitulate to the language or the storylines of the dominant culture. HOWEVER, I don’t think we can merely cast aside that language, either. The phrase “same-sex attracted” is a piece of specialized vocabulary, and it lacks all power in the language because of that.

        That’s why I personally love the phrase “chaste gay”. I agree that it’s paradoxical, but it’s paradoxical in a Chestertonian way: it makes you stop and say, “Huh?” If you put it on a poster with a good looking guy/gal, people would be startled and intrigued. It *appropriates* common language, and thus it can be evangelistic; and yet it does not capitulate to common language, since it exposes the language to paradox. You do not destroy something by standing at a distance from it, but rather by standing close by and using a hammer to smash it.

        So we’re talking about methods, not principles. I take it for granted that words can be manipulated by us just as well as by our cultural enemies. Nothing could poison the well of harmful gay discourse more than the idea that “coming out” has nothing to do with being sexually active. Does that mean I *want* people to come out? No, probably not — and certainly not with megaphones. But if the Christian idea takes root, people WILL be coming out as chaste and gay, and that is something that God can use for His glory.

        To me, a teenager coming out is a bit like a teenager getting pregnant. It’s not what you want, but you can’t control it, and it can help someone mature. At least if we give them the option to come out as gay and CHASTE, Catholic kids will have a framework to approach the future “on the same team” as their conservative Catholic parents.

      • Thanks for the comment Daniel. I always enjoy what you have to say. I didn’t know that was your field of study. Just as an aside, I’m assuming you’ve read Josef Pieper’s book on the abuse of language? That has been instructive to me in my thinking. This culture hasn’t organically developed to the point where we say “gay people,” it has been engineered that way. With a purpose.

        This an interesting quote from the book, “The Homosexualization of America,” by a fellow named Dennis Altman:

        “The greatest single victory of the gay movement over the past decade (the 1970s) has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity, thus forcing opponents into a position where they can be seen as attacking the civil rights of homosexual citizens rather than attacking specific…behavior” (Altman, 1981, p. 9)

        Have you read After The Ball? If you haven’t, I think you really should. We are in a culture that has been shaped, purposefully, so that we are now talking about “being gay,” and the reification of one’s subjective attractions into an identity. This has been done, in part, through the conscious engineering of language. When I was in my teens and college, we spoke of one’s “sexual preferences.” Through systematic pressure, that language was changed to “sexual orientation.” Clever and insidious.

        I never really give much credence to the argument that “same sex attraction” doesn’t have any purchase in society. I’m on a mission to make it so that it does! At least in Catholic circles. But it’s sort of moot point, since we talk about “same sex marriage” and “same sex adoption” and “same sex couples” all of the time. People “get” what “same sex attraction” means. And similar to your comment about a Chestertonian paradox, when I use the phrase “same sex attraction,” it gets people scratching their heads. They’ll wonder, “well, doesn’t he mean ‘gay’?”, which opens up the conversation to me explaining the anthropology behind the language of identity.

        When I spoke at Bowling Green State University, the headline read, “Speakers Discuss Same Sex Attraction.” Score one for pushing back against culture.

        Underlying your argument, though, I think is this: it’s the language the Church uses that keeps people away. Not so. It’s the hard teachings of the Church that keeps people away, not the language. And that comes back to GKC: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” The Church’s teaching on homosexuality hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

        Once anyone is caught in the snares of sensuality, no matter of what stripe, the only way back home is the path of the Prodigal Son. I think it was St. Clement of Alexandria who wrote something to the effect that sensual pleasures blind us from seeing the truth. The more disordered that sensual pleasure takes, the more blinding it is, since we have exchanged the truth for a lie. Language isn’t the key to evangelization. Suffering is–both on the part of those enchained in sin, i.e., they will need to suffer some incision from the Great Physician in order to see the truth, but perhaps most importantly, those who desire their salvation must offer suffering on behalf of their salvation. That’s the only way to set people free.

      • Dan, I disagree. I think you are judging this man to whom you responded. And i think you are not supposed to do that by the very tenets of your own
        church. You made your choice, and I respect that. But Mr. Romano also made his, and you should provide him with that respect as well.

        Personally, my own favorite teaching of Christ is when He says “My Father’s house has many rooms.”

      • Gretchen, I’m not really sure what you’re saying here. We disagree–is a disagreement always “judgment?” I’m not sure why you say either that I don’t “respect” David in this. Once again, I think you’re equating disagreement with a lack of respect. I think dialoging with someone you disagree with actually shows respect for another person. If I didn’t have respect for someone, why would I engage them in a conversation?

  2. Dan, The organization Courage is so aptly named. Your life and writing are a profile in courage. You have embarked into uncharted territory. You are a pioneer and pioneers are going to be the first to see some beautiful vistas and one of the many who will be beaten up by the environment. Your ability to be so in touch with your own feelings and to articulate them so clearly without whining or accusing others, really, is a great gift to others in your situation and to those of us who love those who have SSA.. People are doing and saying stupid things in response to your decision and to your life. Thanks for helping us see how we might be being stupid and insensitive, without hating us or lashing out at us! You are just saying how it is. I think over time, these reactions might be less common both for you personally and for the whole culture. I think it is good for a few brave souls to come out. You are being a model and your experience will help others know what to expect. Your film Desire for the Everlasting Hills will do a world of good. At some point a film about what you are experiencing now might be a good thing. And who knows what future chapters there will be in your life (God has things planned for you that you cannot believe, now!) and in our Church and culture too. I am sure you are helping it move in the right direction.

  3. Hey Dan,

    by self-disclosure, you’ve helped me as a Catholic individual with SSA. Courage is a fantastic apostolate, and I wished there was one where I live. In South-east Asia, homosexuality / SSA is taboo, yet there are many of us here who experience it.

    I was wondering if you could write about the Priesthood and SSA.

    Would a person with SSA, not having lived out a ‘gay’ life, have a call to the priesthood? Is it even an option for us? I have been seeing a spiritual director, and have shared with him about my SSA, but he has no answer for me. I know marriage is not something to pursue, and that Pope Benedict has mentioned that they need to decide “whether to admit to the seminary and to holy orders candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” Any thoughts?

    • Hi there–I’m just catching up on comments here. Sorry it’s taken me awhile to respond.

      I think in this, we can rely on the Holy Spirit in the discernment process. As long as you are open and frank about all of this with your vocations director and the Bishop, and place yourself under their authority, I think you can rest in peace in this.

      As for me, I have no doubt that the priesthood is not for me, in large part because of that 2005 document. I could perhaps consider becoming a religious brother, but for me, I don’t think the priesthood is wise. And in general, I don’t think that the priesthood is a wise path for those who live with strong attractions to the same sex, but then I think of people like Henri Nouwen who were clearly called to the priesthood and did great service to the Church. That’s where trusting that God will guide you into the truth in this is helpful. That guidance comes through the discernment process with the vocations director and the bishop.

      God bless you!

  4. Pingback: At the end of the day, “coming out” is a personal decision | Musings of Me

  5. There are said to be 4 interior wounds Christ suffered in His Spirit during His Passion that I think most people that have a Same Sex Attraction have also experienced on a deeper level than most:

    The Wound of Rejection
    The Wound of Misunderstanding
    The Wound of Failure
    The Wound of Abandonment

    Unless actually experienced, who can fathom the depths of these interior wounds?

    “God will wipe away every tear, there will be no more sorrow, no more pain…….”

  6. Dan, you may or not have had the same experience, but I can’t think of any place I feel more complete or whole than in the Sacrament of Reconciliation after a sincere heart felt confession…….the lyrics of this song remind me of the completeness I feel after the words of absolution…….

  7. Pingback: Should Celibate Gay Christians Call Themselves “Celibate Gay Christians”? | stasis online

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