Thursday, June 30, 2016

Desperate Despair of Hooking Up

I have posted here  and here on the hook-up culture, but am unlikely to surpass Maloney's analysis, printed here in its entirety. This makes for a reality check for parents excited about sending their offspring off to university and for anyone concerned about the real war on women (and men). The best defense for serious Catholics?  Right Here.
JUNE 14, 2016

What the Hook-up Culture Has Done to Women

A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
A few months ago, a young woman at Stanford University was raped by a virtual stranger, and her rapist received a ridiculously light sentence. The story grabbed headlines everywhere, and caused a firestorm on social media. This “dumpster rape” is being blared about everywhere in the public square while a far more insidious and dangerous threat to women rages on directly under our noses, unacknowledged. This threat is systematically destroying an entire generation of our daughters, sisters, aunts, future mothers, and friends.
The young woman who was raped behind the dumpster has an advantage over most young women today: she knows she was raped. She is angry, and rightly so. She realizes that she has been violated, and she can try to find a way to heal. The young women I encounter every day on the campus of the university where I teach are worse off than this victim, because they do not know what has gone wrong in their lives. Nonetheless, something has gone terribly wrong, and on some level, they know it.
In thirty years of teaching, I have come to know thousands of women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. These women are hurting. Badly. Consider these examples from “the front lines”: a young woman says to me with all earnestness, “This weekend I went to my first college party, and I hit it off with a guy so we went into the back bedroom where the coats were and started kissing, but then he reached down, moved my panties aside and penetrated me, so I guess I’m not a virgin anymore.” Another young woman came to me in tears because her doctor told her that since she has genital warts, she may have trouble conceiving children in the future. She had always assumed she would get married and have a family someday. “And the worst part is,” she wailed, “I’m not even promiscuous. I’ve only had sex with six guys.” This young woman was nineteen when she said this to me.
Once, in a writing assignment about Socrates and the Allegory of the Cave, a student wrote that she decided to make better choices after she woke up one morning in a trailer, covered with scratches, naked, next to a man she didn’t remember meeting. At least she knew there was a problem. All too often, these women come to me in a state of bewilderment. Women have never been more “sexually liberated” than these women are, or so they are told. No more are they shackled by ridiculous bonds like commandments, moral rules, words like “chastity.” They shout: “We’re free!” Yet they whisper: “Why are we so miserable?”
It is no coincidence that the top two prescribed drugs at our state university’s health center are anti-depressants and the birth-control pill. Our young women are showing up to a very different version of “college life” than that of the previous generation. One woman, while in her freshman year, went to her health center because she feared she had bronchitis. In perusing her “health history,” the physician said, “I see here that you are a virgin.” “Um, yes,” she responded, wondering what that fact might have to do with her persistent cough. “Would you like to be referred for counseling about that?” This student came to me to ask if I thought she should, in fact, consider her virginity—at the age of eighteen—a psychological issue. (I said no.)
In a seminar I teach every other year, we discuss the ways that addiction reveals certain truths about embodiment. One of the books we discuss is Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. The students adore this book, and we have fascinating conversations in class. The chapter that generates by far the most passion, however, is the chapter on drinking and sex. Knapp speaks honestly about the key role that alcohol played in her decisions to have sex, sex that she regretted and that made her feel terrible. My students resonate deeply with Knapp’s experiences, and I continue to be struck by how unfree these students feel. Once the culture embraced non-marital sex and made it the norm, women who do not want to have casual sex often feel like outcasts, like weirdos. College is the last place where one wants to feel like an utter misfit; couple that with the fact that first year students are away from home for the first time—lonely, vulnerable, insecure—and you have the recipe for meaningless sexual encounters followed by anxiety and depression.
Why don’t these women just stop it? Rather than get drunk in order to have casual sex, why don’t they put down the glass AND the condom? The world we have created for these young people is a world which welcomes every sort of sexual behavior except chastity. Anal sex? Okay! Threesomes? Yep. Sex upon the first meeting? Sure! Virginity until marriage? What the hell is wrong with you? I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the reason so many college-aged women binge-drink is so that they can bear their own closeted sorrow about what they are doing. The woman who got drunk and got raped behind the dumpster is the victim of a toxic culture. But my students are also the victims of a toxic culture. Small wonder that the number of women suffering from eating disorders, addiction, anxiety and depression is at an all-time high.
I have not been raped, and I did not engage in non-marital intercourse. I did have an encounter early in my life, however, that gives me a glimpse of the shame experienced by women who “hook up.” When I was sixteen years old, my sister took me to a bar near her college campus. The bar was one designated by students as the “easy in” place, because I.D.’s were checked cursorily if at all. Once we were inside the bar, my sister was swept away by a phalanx of her friends, and I lost her in the crowd. A “college man” at the bar noticed me, and came over to ask me if I would like something to drink. I had no idea what to order or how, as I had never been to a bar before. He reassured me that he would take good care of me, and went over to the bartender. When he came back with a Tequila Sunrise, he said it would taste great, like Hawaiian Punch. He was right; it was delicious, and I gladly accepted three more from him. The next thing I remember, I was doing some very intensive French-kissing with this fellow, and he was murmuring a suggestion that we “take this somewhere else.” By the grace of God, my sister’s boyfriend had just entered the bar, saw me, pulled me away from the man, and dragged me to the back of the bar and my sister. That was my first kiss. The next morning, I experienced my first true hangover. As awful as I felt physically, though, my shame was much, much worse. A romantic through-and-through, I had dreamed for years of my first kiss. A drunken slobber with a stranger was the brutal reality I would never be able to undo.
And yet, whenever I tell people this story, they are shocked that I am making “such a big deal” about that night. People drink. They kiss. But for the grace of God and a sister’s boyfriend, they end up in a stranger’s bed with a bad headache, a dry mouth, and an incalculable emptiness. I am often told, “Lighten up!” “You had fun. Big deal!” “Why are you so hard on yourself?” I kept speaking the truth of that awful experience, but my culture could not absorb that truth. I had no words for my sadness; it was only later in my life when I was a stronger person that I was able to say, “You know what? It was a big deal. It wasn’t fun. I did feel ashamed.”
A few years ago, I was online and saw that man’s name come up on a blog that I read. He graduated from the college and became a respected and award-winning journalist. When I told some friends I had found him and he was now famous, they suggested that I “network” and re-introduce myself to him online. I was horrified at the thought of doing any such thing; after more than thirty-five years, I was still deeply ashamed of that night. It was years before I realized how very ashamed he should have been. In fact, given my age and obvious vulnerability, his behavior was predatory and vicious. The fact that he ought to have been ashamed, however, did not mean that I needn’t have been. Had this fellow succeeded in taking me somewhere to do what he intended, I would have felt degraded. The culture of “Sex and the City” and “Girls” would have insisted that I was fine, I was a modern woman, I was “free.” I knew better. Yes, I was sixteen, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in a bar that night. I knew I was not of legal age to drink. I knew that accepting drinks from complete strangers is a very bad idea. I never told my mother about that night, but if I had, she would have said, “Anne, you know better.” To say that I had no choices that night is to rob me of the moral agency that I, in fact, had. At sixteen, I may not have known how to articulate that fact, but I do now.
An entire generation of women is wounded yet unable to find the source of the bleeding. There is, indeed, an “unconscious despair” behind their “games and amusements.” They “hook up,” feel awful and have no idea why. It’s hard to heal when you don’t know you’ve been damaged. And the despair and shame that these women who hook up feel is real. Contemporary sexual culture is toxic for young women, and until women stand up and acknowledge that fact, despair, sadness and regret are going to be the underlying chord structure of their very lives. We fail an entire generation when we withhold from them the “wisdom not to do desperate things.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All You Need is Love (da da da da da) Love is all you need

Of late Papa Bergoglio has uttered ambiguous sayings on the Church’s need to apologize to homosexuals for the manner in which she has treated them. Judging from the popular brouhaha in the social media, perhaps there is  confusion in people’s thinking between homo-philia, chaste friendship, and homo-eros, people who desire sex with people of the same sex

We all know of the etymology from which these phrases derive. In the Greek there are four words for “love:” agape, pure unselfish love, philia, the love of friendship, especially between brothers, storge, affection love, a deep bond usually borne of spending a long time with another and, of course, the one most familiar, eros, which is passionate, sexual love, seeking pleasure from the other.

In the Catholic view, as Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est, all loves must be included under agape, which is the term Christ uses, and the Church has adopted, to mean “charity--” pure, unselfish love which wills the good of the other, without necessarily seeking our own good.

Our over-eroticized culture, however, often considers “love” as erotic love. This usually applies to persons of the complementary sex, a man and a woman. But what of “love” between persons of the same sex?  There is nothing wrong, and indeed much that is good, in men loving men and women loving women.  True friendship between “brothers” and “sisters”is only possible, however, if the love remains chaste.

What the Church warns against in same-sex friendship, following natural law, is eroticizing this natural and healthy bond, turning homo-philia, into homo-eros, with its accompanying unnatural vices.  Our culture’s fascination with homoerotic tendencies has obfuscated the natural homophilic friendships of men and women. 

Pope Benedict XVI also stated in Deus Caritas Est that modernity has warped eros, not the Church and Christianity, which very early on in the Roman Empire purified eros from its pagan inclinations, so toxic for women and children, subjugated as they were and used as sexual slaves and prostitutes (a plight that threatens them today as well).

In a genuinely Christian culture, men attempt to be chaste in relating to women, or at least held to account if they are not. Women thus hold all the cards in the sexual relationship.  It is the opposite in a pagan culture, cut off from Judeo-Christian revelation, Here women are objectified and sexualized, taken by force if need be.  So anyone who says the Church is anti-woman knows not history, nor that Her teaching is her best defense.
So eros must be controlled and channeled, incorporated under the higher love of agape, willing the good of the other.  As John Paul II and Benedict both taught clearly, this is possible only within monogamous and faithful marriage, wherein the true “gift of self” can occur, with eros ordered to the mutual complementarity and union between husband and wife and the procreation of children.
All of our other friendships should be non-sexual and non-erotic. 
Yet modernity thinks that all this matters not, though there remains a seeming aversion to adultery, pedophilia and rape. Be forewarned: even these are becoming increasingly difficult to explain as we cut ourselves off from the vine of Christian revelation and reason. Just recall the idolizing of Alfred Kinsey, an entomologist who malformed himself into a “sexologist,” carrying out sexual experiments on children, depicted fawningly by Liam Neeson in the film linked above.

So we now think that any sexual activity between “consenting adults” is OK. But how to define “consensus,” with all of the obvious and implicit disetortions of power and authority, and the problem of saying who really is an “adult.” Does one measure with the yardstick of biology? Psychology? Spirituality? Who determines? Furthermore, something harmful does not cease to be harmful just because one consents to it.

As Paul VI once wrote, we must not underestimate the power of libido, and how it affects us and those around us. In a homily in 1972, which served as the basis for my book, he opined that unleashed and ungoverned eros, whose origins lie in the deeply wounded libido of Man, is at the basis of many contemporary societal ills:
·        the breakdown of the family and redefinition of traditional marriage
·        the epidemic of sexual diseases
·        abortion,with the unborn killed daily in far greater numbers than any other modern massacre.

So we do people with a homosexual orientation, and anyone else with an inclination to sexual deviancy, no favors by supporting their disordered inclinations and actions. Rather let us render them a service in love by revealing to them the full truth of who they are, and who they are called to be, in God’s image and so loved.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Help Me, Obi Wan Kenobi

My response to today's Supreme court abomination in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is to ask the deceased Obi Wan, a Catholic to pray for the U.S.

Abortion and Obi Wan Kenobi

In 1914 Agnes Cuff, a flighty and unstable young woman with few prospects and little money found herself pregnant. The father didn’t want to be involved. She was alone, shamed, poor and pregnant.
Today she would be encouraged to get herself to an abortion clinic and end the unwanted pregnancy.
Instead a little boy was born.
English actor  Alec Guinness, most famous for his role as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars was Agnes Cuff’s only child.  On his birth certificate he is named “Alec Guinness” but those were only his first names. The place for the child’s last name is blank. So is the column where the father’s name is listed.
It has never been confirmed who Guinness’ father was. Some speculated that he was a member of the Anglo-Irish Guinness family. Alec Guinness himself thought his father was a banker named Andrew Geddes.
Alec Guinness converted to the Catholic faith in 1956 and was a faithful Catholic for the rest of his life. His delightful conversion story is told in his autobiography Blessings in Disguise He was playing Father Brown and filming in France. Wandering home from the film set in costume as a priest a young boy ran up and took his hand, chatting animatedly and cheerfully before scooting off with a sweet, “Au revoir mon pere!” Touched by this show of childlike trust, and astounded by an answer to prayer, Alec Guinness came home to Rome.
If abortion had been easy and legal in England in 1914 the world would never have experienced the witty, smart, subtle art and the quiet, steady witness of Alec Guinness….
…and Star Wars would have had an enormous void.
As nearly half a million young people converge on Washington DC for this years’ March for Life we should remember the great loss to our nation and our world of all the murdered unborn.
We will never know what other great talents never lived. What other Alec Guinnesses would there have been? What advances in science, medicine, technology, business, the arts and sport might there have been?
March for Life is a joyful event  which celebrates life, but there is always an elegiac quality to the March.
It may be a March for Life but it is also a March for Grief.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sr. Cecilia. Ora pro nobis

Who smiles like this at the moment of death?

Sister Cecilia, of the Carmel of Santa Fe in Argentina, witnessed to her love for Christ in her struggle with lung cancer

Death is a tragedy for mortal man, and yet with faith in eternity and anticipation of the embrace of our heavenly Father, death becomes radiant.
We share today the news of the death of Sister Cecilia, a Carmelite of Santa Fe in Argentina, who suffered from lung cancer. She astonished those who surrounded her in her agony, as her face was transformed by a tender smile as she closed her eyes to this world. As you can see in the photograph, she looks like a lover who has arrived to the encounter she has long been yearning for.
The Carmel of Santa Fe announced the death of Sister Cecilia to their brothers and sisters and friends of the Carmel, with a brief, but profound, note.

Dear brothers, sisters and friends:
Jesus! Just a few lines to let you know that our very dear little sister has softly fallen asleep in the Lord, after an extremely painful illness, which she always endured with joy and surrender to her Divine Spouse. We send you all of our affection, thankful for your support and prayer during this time that is so sorrowful and yet also so marvelous. We believe that she flew directly to heaven, but all the same, we ask that you do not fail to pray for her. From heaven, she will reward you.
A warm embrace from your sisters of Santa Fe
Translated from the Spanish.
sr cecilia travel to hospitalsr christina writing a messagesr christina writing to her sisterssr in death

Pray for Papa Bergoglio

Is the Holy Father being "sifted like wheat" of late? I ask this because he has made some interesting remarks of late, such as:

Pastors should not be “putting our noses into the moral life of other people.”
Isn't there the requirement that confessors and a pastors priests have some sense of the moral life of those to whom they minister? 

Secondly, during a question-and-answer session, Francis spoke of a “pastoral cruelty,” such as priests who refuse to baptize the children of young single mothers. “They’re animals,” he said.
Most priests are very generous in extending baptism to infants, realizing that they are not responsible for the sins or shortcomings of their parents. Those who do, at times, delay baptism do so for other reasons, such as little evidence for a well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the faith. There are some prudential judgments to be made and pastors are required to make them (see canon 868). 

It is to be regretted that the Pope, as initially reported, should have called priests “animals.” But let he who has never said anything of another equally reprehensible cast the first stone.... (And the Pope has dine a superb job of catechesis on Confession).

These papal observations are not doctrinal, but serve as fodder for dissenters and the morally befuddled or misled in the world. Let us pray for our Holy Father and for the universal Church.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Terrorism Is Not Hate | R. R. Reno | First Things

Mr. Reno never fails to go beyond the horse-race journalists' coverage of things that matter, as here:

Terrorism Is Not Hate | R. R. Reno | First Things:

"The violence he will commit is properly called terrorism. It is motivated by a political judgment, and committed by reactionary non-state actors in an asymmetric warfare with military powers. It is fundamentally different from incidents in which the perpetrator is deranged by some strong emotion—“hate”—as were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold...."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

...Let No Man Put Asunder

Sadly, the works of St. John Paul II on marriage, the family and sexuality, were basically ignored at the Synod on the Family. His Apostolic Exhortation, The Role of the Christian Family in theModern World, has been described as the Magna Carta of the Church’s understanding of marriage and family in our time.
In response to the serious consequences of divorce, and in light of the New Evangelization, let Catholic bloggers be more loyal to young people and innocent, as well as confused, spouses, and link St. John Paul II’s clear and luminous thinking about the sacrament of marriage as regards remaining faithful to one’s marriage and children while attempting to resolve for at least several years the conflicts in each spouse that contribute to marital difficulties. 
I, as many have, witnessed firsthand the fact that those who initiate divorce have never faced their own inner emotional conflicts, especially sadness, that they unconsciously brought into the marriage from their family background or from their own selfishness.  Dare we ask spouses who have separated or divorced to reconsider their commitment to their marriage and their children?  Growth in virtues and in graces from the sacramental bond can, in fact, lead to a rediscovery of trust and love for one’s spouse.

What God Hath Joined Together...

A recent 2016 study of suicide risk from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 24% increase in suicides in the United States over the 15-year period between 1999 and 2014,      including a tripling of the suicide rate for females 10-14, this in a culture that posits that all family structures are the same. Research on the children of divorce provides overwhelming evidence to disprove the myth that divorce does not harm children.  In fact, the divorce epidemic has contributed to the serious and growing psychopathology in American youth. One example is the 2010 study of American adolescent psychopathology published in 2010: 49 percent of the 10,000 teenagers studied met the criteria for one psychiatric disorder and 40 percent met the criteria for two disorders.
Research by Penn State sociologist Paul Amato (2005) on the long-term damage to children from divorce demonstrated that, if the United States enjoyed the same level of family stability as it did in 1960, the nation would have 70,000 fewer suicide attempts in youth every year, about 600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy and 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency. 
A 2011 study demonstrated the suicide risk in those whose parents divorced before they were 18.   Of the 695 participants that had experienced parental divorce before the age of eighteen, men from divorced families had more than three times the increased risk of suicidal ideation in comparison to men whose parents had not divorced. Adult daughters of divorce had an 83 percent higher risk of suicidal ideation than their female peers who had not experienced parental divorce.
Adults are also vulnerable to suicidal thinking and acts after divorce.  A 2010 study from Rutgers of suicide among middle-aged Americans found divorce rates has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s, leading to social isolation. In 2005 unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s.
The million youth per year traumatized by the divorce “plague” deserve attention, as do those adults who have been its losses.  Many factors have contributed to the depression and marked rise of suicide in youth and adults in our culture:
·        the profound loneliness and hopelessness that can develop when a youth does not experience the love of a father and a mother and their love for each other and
·        when an adult lacks spousal love;
·        the epidemic of selfishness/narcissism leading young females and adults to be treated as sexual objects and not as persons;
·        being born into and living in unstable cohabiting unions;
·        the retreat from marriage;
·        a materialistic mentality;
·        the severe epidemic of substance abuse disorders, particularly heroin;
·        the absence of the Faith which can provide comfort and hope during difficulty emotional and financial crises.

Many young females no longer believe in romance and dreams of a faithful, loving husband and home with the little children who will be born.  In view of this sad reality, a young girl could be tempted to think about why one should live if there is nothing to dream of, idealize and look forward to. (To be continued…)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Orlando Massacre

Where do we belong? An ex-gay Catholic view of the Orlando Massacre 
By Joseph Sciambra
When I walked into the Castro District of San Francisco in 1988, I could not have picked a worse time in history to come-out as a “gay” man. It was the height of the AIDS crisis. That year alone, over 4,800, mostly “gay” men, died of AIDS in the US. The following year, the number of deaths would triple. Far into the next decade, my seemingly exuberant life became constantly interrupted as I was forced to stand by when one after another beautiful and once boundlessly hopeful young man fell silently into the grave.
Some of these dead boys I knew well, others were but among the countless shadows that brushed against me in the dimly-lit nightclubs; a few, I could hardly remember, for they existed merely as a collected catalogue of the near-faceless men I had spent a few moments with. They were those I would sometimes anonymously huddle up next to. Acts of shared mutual desperation had brought us together, and inevitably pulled us apart. Often, I would only fully recognize them in death. However, none of us wanted it this way. None of us traveled to “gay” wanting to die, no more than those similarly beautiful and hopeful young men who one night went to a local club.
But for my generation, what brought us together, even in the midst of AIDS, was a collective need to be accepted; sometimes, by anyone. For many of us had grown up as lonely and scared little boys; unsure of who we were on a most basic level of identity. But, as a child of the 1970s disco-era, where “gay” icons emerged from pop-culture for the very first time, by the time I was a teenager and avid devotee of Madonna – I was no longer embarrassed by who I thought I was. Yet, with “gay” men, at the most – making up about 4% of the population, finding like-minded allies and friends, especially in a relatively small town, was not an easy endeavor.
So, when I turned 18, with the sonorous masculine voices from the chorus of The Village People song “Go West” playing endlessly through my brain, I headed to San Francisco to be among my own kind. The first place I went to was a “gay” bar – a magical sort of place with a large dance floor crowded almost consistently with unbelievably attractive men. Earlier that night, walking down Castro Street, like a lost out-of-town tourist, the music of the Pet Shops Boys thumping through the air, drew me right through the open front door. Inside, everything I ever yearned for merged into one fantastic world of total happiness: the boy no one wanted, the scrawny kid who got knocked around, the sad little fairy who just wanted to play with the other boys, was suddenly the object of attraction; handsome and manly men bought me drinks and shoved each other aside in order to push up against me. Unlike the world at large, that I had just escaped – there was consistency and harmony here; there were occasionally some drunken and pointless arguments or fights, but, overall, everyone got along. To me, that was Truth.
Yet, apart from this public space, there were also dark recesses of the club, where men would often slip away to meet each other. Looking back now, I can see how desperate all of us were for love and acceptance, that the grinding against each other on the dance floor was never enough. Sometimes, these brief encounters left me feeling empty, but, just before, I had been alone, and now I wasn’t. Because these “gay” enclaves provided hope, that I wasn’t the only one, and that, amongst others who felt as I did, being “gay” made sense. We were looking for an identity, and the “gay” community provided us with one that fit. And, for a while – I was very happy. I was home, and I never wanted it to end.
But, it did end. Suddenly, although I recognized the always hovering reality of AIDS – it was something that happened to anybody, but me and my friends. Then people I knew began to get sick and die. It was random and quick. Some of us began to lose count. And I wondered why I was here; why we were all here. Had we been somehow marked for death? Was the unknown God of my childhood a ruthless overlord who hated us and wanted every gay man destroyed?
Those massive questions, while simply trying to survive the carnage – at the time, I could not even begin to comprehend. Later, when I was accorded a measure of calm and peace, I realized that everyone who walked into some gay bar or disco, or even a bathhouse or sex-club, went there because they had nowhere else to go. No matter what we did to ourselves, none of us deserved to die. Only we did, and, although we were terrified, we stayed put – where else could we go?
I came of age in the post-Conciliar Church of the 1970s. Then, a sort of seemingly benign indifference pervaded every aspect of Catholic education. This created a strict adherence to the subjective theory that all the long-held doctrines and teachings of the Church were inherently relative to certain individuals and situations. We were essentially told to create our own personal Jesus – to make our own world; and, that is exactly what we did. As for me, I made a “gay world and a “gay” God. When AIDS struck ever closer to me – I thought the God I created had turned against me.
The utter failure of the Catholic hierarchy in the US to swiftly and decisively clamp down on widespread dissent, specifically with regards to highly erroneous philosophies on homosexuality, became embodied in one man: Fr. John J. McNeill. In addition, there were other loud “gay” dissenters in the 1970s, namely Bishop Raymond Hunthausen, the late Fr. Robert Nugent, and Sister Jeannine Gramick; of the three, Gramick is still alive and active – wreaking havoc from outside and within the Church.
I will never forget a dear friend, one of the “gay” vanguards of the movement, who came-out in the revolutionary epoch of the 1970s, who repeatedly recommended, once he found out I had been raised Catholic, McNeill’s landmark book “The Church and the Homosexual.” My friend, who told me that he had once incessantly wavered about his somewhat overdue-coming of age as a “gay” man, he came-out in his late-20s, said Fr. McNeill confirmed that his reoccurring misgivings were unfounded. He pointed to something specifically that McNeill had written: “Human beings do not choose their sexual orientation; they discover it as something given.” He read aloud to me passages detailing McNeill’s contention that committed relationships between those of the same sex were as “holy” as those between men and women. Presently, he was in, from what I could tell, perhaps his third or fourth “steady” relationship. But, as I told him, my generation had grown up without any heavy lingering cultural, social, or religious hang-ups about sexuality; I simply knew that I was “gay” and knew where I belonged. My friend would die of AIDS a few years later.
I never contracted HIV, nonetheless I spent much of the 1990s on a constant cycle of antibiotics, trying, sometimes ineffectually, to stave off the endless sexually transmitted infections that kept coursing through my body. When I left “gay,” not by any choice, but because of the impending reality of death, I inexplicably, and almost immediately, went to speak with a Catholic priest. I explained everything I had been through over the past decade and how I wanted to leave San Francisco and the Castro. When I finished talking, he let out a sigh and said: “But, you were born gay, that’s where you belong.” He critiqued some of my methodology, that I had gone about being “gay” in a somewhat erratic and reckless way, and that I should try to “settle down” with one man.
Today, on certain points, many priests and prelates would agree with him; one recently said: “I believe people are born the way they are born and I believe that God creates us as we are.” But, even more disturbing is this statement: “For me, this inclination is a question mark: It does not reflect the original design of God and yet it is a reality, because you are born gay.” This is probably the worst sort of misdirected paternalism in the guise of liberal mercy. It’s an epic fail: while appearing to uphold Catholic teaching that homosexuality is ultimately not part of God’s plan, at the same time, they also condemn us to it – because, after all, we were “born gay.”
In an even greater self-destructive leap, immediately following the Orlando massacre, one Florida Bishop had this to say: “…sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.”
This is decidedly not the Catholic Church and not what the Catholic Church stands for; although, I too, had to discover this for myself through trial and error. Like most “gay” men and women who crawl to the Church – we quickly discover that “pastoral” practices concerning homosexuality often depend on who you are talking to; this uncertainty in the priesthood can cause resentment, or a capitulation back to our “gay” identity – albeit in a more circumscribed form that sometimes embraces chastity. But, one thing I almost immediately knew – I did not want to go back. For, the Lord Jesus Christ had pursued me – and, on the night of my very conversion, I was involved in a scene so dark, it went beyond any of the comparably tame encounters that routinely take place in a “gay” nightclub restroom. But, at the last moment of my life, I was given a final choice, and I chose Him. But, shouldn’t the Church offer all “gay” men and women that exact same choice? Or, must we wait until death?
Yet, to some extent, the Church has contributed to the eventual death of some gay men and women, but not in the way this Bishop from Florida is proposing. For, it is in the laxity of (and abandonment of) Catholic teachings, not in their imagined harshness, that the Church is complicit. Because, in offering no alternative to the “gay” identity– this has not breed hate, but created outright rejection. Where the Church should be a defensive refuge from the chaos, uncertainty, and violence of the world, for many “gay” men and women, the Church has actually come to symbolize this chaos and disunity – even its hypocrisy, symbolized in the all-too-public spats and sometimes malicious disagreements among the prelates during the recent Synod. Despite what appeared on paper, the Church looked conflicted and confounded. The inability of some within the Church to present a clear and concise message on homosexuality has caused many to disregard the Church outright, and to turn to the only other world they know.
Unfortunately, some in the Church, like the Bishop from Florida, continue to make the same mistakes of the past, by constantly referring to us as gay, lesbian, transgender and LGBT; we are none of those things. We were not born “gay,” and we were not born damaged; we may have been hurt along the way, but, like the rest of humanity, we can recover and heal. We do not belong to an identity, we do not belong to a movement, and we do belong to a group. So don’t talk to us as if we do. We belong to God.
Is there any one brave enough to show us the way?
I see the pictures of the dead, and they remind me of the men I used to know – who died of AIDS so long ago. They, too, thought that “gay” was where they belonged. When will the Catholic Church welcome these men? But, not with false platitudes about being born “gay.” We must be welcomed into the Church – with Truth, and with Love.
49 precious lives were lost in one night, but since the HIV epidemic began, an estimated 311,087 “gay” men with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated 5,380 in 2012.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life. – Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons