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Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.  Full stop.  But I believe that there are ways that we can better love and serve the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for posts about the Church’s teachings on gay marriage, Jason Evert has an AMAZING video on this topic.

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

 

  1. LGBTQIA+ suicide and self harm is a pro-life issue.  As a youth minister, I believe strongly that priests, youth ministers, young adult ministers, DREs, and a variety of lay people should be equipped with knowledge of how to help struggling LGBTQIA+ persons.  At the very least, we should know how to help people get the help they need.
  2. We should raise our kids to stand against bullying.  This includes standing up for LGBTQIA+ peers and reporting bullying to trusted adults.  Bullying is not OK.  It is never OK.
  3. Watch your speech. If we want to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we love and care about them, we need to remove “gay,” “fag,” etc as derogatories from out speech and remind others to do so as well.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When we talk about LGBTQIA+ topics, do our words shine with love and the truth?  If not, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Understand where many are coming from.  One thing I’ve seen so strong from people posting about Pride is that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been hurt by (or know someone that has been hurt by) someone who supports traditional marriage.  This hurt could have been in many forms: emotional, physical, etc.  You may not have been the aggressor, but they now associate those who espouse traditional marriage with aggression.
  5. Ask loving questions.  One way that we can approach with charity is by listening first.  Not too long ago I reviewed Everyday Evangelism by Cathy Duffy.  She made the phenomenal point that:“…while an understanding of doctrine and worldviews is helpful, more often than not, the most valuable skill you bring to the table for an evangelistic conversation is the ability to listen.” We are called to become active listeners, because through listening we show that we truly care about the person as an individual.  Duff continues later to say: “Most people recognize that if we really care about someone, we should want to listen to them.  And, conversely, if we don’t care about someone, we convey that message by not listening to them.  The challenge for us is to improve our listening skills…” Before we do anything, we should listen.
  6. Be so careful as to what you post on social media.  I love social media.  But proceed with caution.  What you say is a public pronouncement to everyone and can be so warped out of context.  Fellow inkslinger Maurisa Mayerle wrote an incredible guide to interacting over social media which you can find here.
  7. Stop talking about “straight pride parade.”  This is a specific thing but it’s cropped up this particular pride month.  It feels like we’re drawing battle lines as opposed to forming relationships.   This is not how we show love, or start open, loving conversations.

 

At the core of all of this, sisters, is Love.  During this Pride month, a story went viral.  It was about a man wearing a  “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt (you can read it here).   He shares about people who would come up to him, crying, desperate for that “dad hug.”  So desperate for that love.  It’s heartbreaking to think of someone who feels so hated.  Especially when we all have a Father in heaven who longs to give them the Love that they seek.

Sisters, many of those who participate in Pride truly feel like Catholics hate them, look down on them, refuse to love them.  We are called to re-write that script.  We are called to be the Love.  

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Current Events Parenting Respect Life Same Sex Attraction Vocations

The Real Problem with Gay Scouts and Leaders (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the Boy Scouts of America. In this article, we’ll discuss the policy to include gay teens as members. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the recent decision to admit gay adult leaders. 

As a proud Eagle Scout, my husband was especially excited to get our only son involved with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) once he was school-aged. For the past five years, my husband and son have spent countless hours together at camp outs, activities, fundraisers, and meetings. The BSA has provided them with some of their most cherished father-son bonding experiences.

BoyScouts1We breathed a sigh of relief in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that private organizations like the BSA have a right to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” Since the BSA oath requires boys and men to promise to be “morally straight,” the ruling gave the organization the legal right to exclude openly gay teens or adults who couldn’t make that promise. 

But those legal protections have been completely gutted over the past five years by none other than the BSA itself. In 2013, the organization decided to allow openly gay teens as members. On Monday, it voted to allow openly gay adults to serve. And THAT decision has left many of us shaking our heads, wondering why an organization that fought like hell just 15 years ago to protect its core values just unnecessarily embraced a policy that’s dangerous for the kids it serves.

WHY NOT GAY SCOUTS?

Even parents who weren’t entirely happy with the 2013 decision to admit gay teens could at least see some value in that policy change; certainly, young men who identify as gay need positive male role models. But even with that laudable goal, it’s still a mistake for the BSA to allow openly gay teens, just as it’s a mistake to allow gay adults. Not because these policies will lead to the moral acceptance of homosexuality, but because there are practical aspects to being a Boy Scout and working with a troop that make the policies problematic. 

scoutsWhen my son graduated from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts two years ago, he began attending camp outs. That meant putting him in a tent with other boys, sometimes while wearing nothing but his underwear. There usually isn’t an adult in the tent with the two, three, or four boys sharing close sleeping quarters. 

So far, no Scout in his troop has confessed to being gay, but if one did, that would be my son’s last camp out. And it’s not because I want my kids to shun their gay peers. Or because I believe every gay teenage boy is a lecherous, immoral sexual predator. It’s because I know from experience how easy it is for a hormonally-charged, emotionally immature young person to confuse intense feelings of friendship with sexual attraction. I know because my foray into homosexuality began when the intense friendship I had with a female friend crossed the line into a sexual relationship. This happens far more often than most people realize. 

I’d never discourage my children from having a friendship with a peer who identifies as gay; in fact, even as preteens, my kids have had peers say they’re gay or bisexual. I’ve supported them continuing the friendships, even after young woman decided she had a crush on our daughter (who learned how to respectfully rebuff such advances at the tender age of 11). That said, I still consider it completely imprudent to put my sexually- and emotionally-immature son into a situation where he’ll be in close, intimate proximity to a youth who doesn’t have the same moral convictions against homosexual behavior. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t put him in a tent with a girl: because in his immaturity, it could easily become an occasion of sin for him. Especially since my son would already have the foundation of friendship with the fellow gay Scout.

Yes, you have that same immaturity in a troop comprised exclusively of straight teens. But in that case, every boy there has a psychological and moral boundary that discourages homosexual acts. You completely change the dynamic, however, when to one of the boys, that’s a morally acceptable action. Teens crave acceptance and love and it’s easy for them to become infatuated with a peer, especially a close friend, as we saw with my daughter’s friend and as I experienced myself. Those intense feelings aren’t a problem as long as both kids have the interior conviction that homosexuality is wrong. 

AMBIGUITY+IMMATURITY+OPPORTUNITY=MORAL DISASTER

But is it wrong? Our culture doesn’t think so. Even children raised in practicing Catholic households are today finding it increasingly difficult to accept the Church’s teaching about the immorality of homosexual acts when they’re bombarded by the message that it’s not just morally neutral, but something to be celebrated. You’re more likely to find ambiguity among teens about this issue, even well-catechized teens, who are afraid of the withering accusation that they’re a bigot or hater if they take a hard line against homosexuality. 

We wouldn't mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?
We wouldn’t mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?

As a parent, it’s my job to ensure my son isn’t put into a situation that could result in more temptation than he’s equipped to handle at a young age. I wouldn’t allow him to play video games or on the computer with a friend of his that I know has a problem with porn; I wouldn’t allow him to share a tent with a teenage girl. Nor will he be allowed to share a tent with a gay peer. These things can seriously damage my son’s sexuality if he’s asked to grapple with them before he possesses sufficient maturity to make a good decision.

Spiritually speaking, a homosexual experience for youth is far more damaging than an unchaste but heterosexual one. For many people, having a homosexual experience at a young age is a bell that can never be unrung, that can lead to a lifetime of sexual identity confusion, as it has for me and for many others. Again, it’s not about gay teens being sex-crazed, but about the fact that ALL teen boys are forming their sexual identity and that their emotional and sexual immaturity makes them especially vulnerable to sin during that time. The BSA policy is dangerous because it denies the vulnerability of the teenage years and puts sexually-immature kids together without the natural boundary of everyone being attracted to the opposite sex. 

Despite the veneer of being good for self-identified gay teens, the BSA policy actually puts these teens at even greater risk than just feeling ostracized for being gay. You’re taking these young men, who are attracted to other young men, and putting them in close, intimate proximity to the very sex they’re most sexually attracted to. At best, this is a near occasion of sin for these young men. If it’s obviously imprudent to put teen boys and girls in the same tent while camping, so why are we effectively putting gay scouts in that same situation? 

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Assisted Reproductive Technologies Fatherhood Ink Slingers Marriage Misty Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Same Sex Attraction Vocations

The Travesty of Two Daddies

familyEvery once in a while, I come across a story that stops me in my tracks. Like the Italian high court’s decision to overturn a pedophile’s conviction because his 11-year-old victim says she’s “in love.” Or the Australian judge who pointed out that easy access to abortion and contraception may lead to the legal sanction of incest, as it has to once-taboo homosexual relationships. Today’s story stayed with me all day, as I pondered the implications of a gay actor describing his joy at being able to create children with his partner–while he’s HIV-positive.

As a faithful Catholic, I have dozens of theological reasons for believing it’s wrong for two men or two women to use in vitro fertilization or surrogacy to obtain a child. But I actually don’t need a theological reason, because I’ve had six children with my husband over the past 20 years. And what I’ve learned is that the relationship between a woman and her child is primal, sacred, and written in my very flesh.

We used to know this intuitively. But as we’ve fixated more and more on fulfilling our personal desires to the detriment of everything (and everyone) else, inconvenient truths about the irreplaceable relationship between a child and his mother, between a child and her father, were sacrificed at the alter of Me, Myself, and I. Facts, though, are stubborn things, to quote John Adams. And the facts are clear: a child needs a mother and father for the best chance to be emotionally, psychologically, and even physically healthy.

The psychological and biological inter-dependency of a mother and her child, from conception through infancy, is well established. A baby is born with eyes that can focus just about the distance from his mother’s breast to her face; his cry will cause her body to involuntarily release milk to nourish him. A newborn allowed skin contact with his mother has a more stable temperature, higher blood sugar levels (a good thing), and more normal heart and breathing rates. A mother and child who sleep together even synchronize their breathing. There are dozens of studies showing the many ways in which a child depends on his mother’s actual presence to gain the best footing upon entering the world.

Despite all this, I find myself a growing minority in refusing to celebrate the scenario of two men creating twin boys with an egg donor to raise as their own, as happened in Texas last year. I’ve carried a child and then held him to my chest, feeling the spiritual connection between us reflected in my very body, which responds reflexively and unconsciously to his needs. I saw the picture of the two Texas dads holding their baby boys to their naked chests right after birth to mimic the skin-to-skin contact recommended for moms and babies. I cried about it for days. Because instead of celebrating the victory for gay rights, as everyone else seemed to be, all I could think about was the confusion and incalculable loss to those two little boys, who instinctively sought the warm haven of their mother’s arms–and were denied them by adults whose priority was their wants over the children’s needs. Because that’s what good parents do, right?

After infancy, mothers are just as indispensable to their children. I have four daughters and it’s primarily my job to help them navigate the emotional, social and physical challenges of growing into a woman. Even the most compassionate gay dad will never be an adequate substitute for a loving mother who shares your unique feminine biology and struggles. A girl doesn’t want her dad or even her gay dad’s best female friend to help her when she gets her first period; she wants–she deserves–a mother there with her.

And what about fathers? Despite the secular portrayal of fathers as incidental to children’s development, the facts are stubborn here, too: fathers have a profound effect on their children’s development. Girls who grow up apart from their biological father are more likely to experience early puberty and a teen pregnancy than girls who spend their childhood with both parents. Research suggests that a father’s pheromones may influence his daughter’s biological development and that his presence provides the security and confidence she needs to avoid “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

It should go without saying that a boy needs a father to guide him into manhood, but conventional wisdom now says that two women can do the same job for a boy that a father would. Yet I’m certain my preteen son would disagree. Even the most caring mother can’t speak to a boy’s struggle to embrace his masculinity–both biologically and psychologically–like a father can. A boy wants a father to show him how to shave, not a mother. A boy with a father can look at his dad and know that he, too, will survive all the bodily and emotional changes that have turned his world upside down.

Yes, life is messy and sometimes we can’t provide our children with a mother and a father. Their father left us; our spouse died. Her addiction or his abuse forced us to divorce to keep everyone safe. But here’s the difference: single parents always intended to give their child the two parents they need. These men and woman are making the best of a bad situation and I know God blesses these families with abundant graces. Most single-parent families also still have the opposite-sex parent as part of the child’s life; though separated, the mother and father are still available to the child and can provide the guidance and model he needs while growing up. Even when regrettable circumstances separate a child from his biological parents, adoption can still provide him with a loving mother and father so that he can thrive despite that loss.

But that’s not what happens when gay couples start a family–these folks deliberately create a child that will never have a father or mother, for which there is no hope of ever having both of the vital relationships so important to our development as persons. It is fundamentally wrong–not from a religious perspective, but from a human rights one–to purposefully deprive a child of so basic a need as a mother and father, so that gay men and women may have what they WANT.

A girl needs a mother to learn how to be a woman. A boy needs a father to learn how to be a man. Children need the opposite sex parent, too; a girl needs a father and a boy needs a mother, for both provide example and guidance unique to their sex. A mother and father provide the fullest education in what it means to be human–and this is simple wisdom that no amount of social engineering will change.

 

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Ink Slingers Respect Life Same Sex Attraction

An Open Letter to My Gay Sister

As someone who struggles with same-sex attraction yet remains a practicing Catholic, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the “gay Catholic world.” It’s a small world (after all), consisting of a handful of us who have tasted the worldly wisdom on homosexuality, found Christ, and decided He’s worth the suffering, struggle, and sacrifices necessary to be chaste.

A few weeks ago, my browsing took me to a blog by a woman who had been a practicing Catholic just a few years ago, but who calls herself an atheist (after a brief stop in one of the more liberal, enlightened branches of Christianity). On her blog, she detailed coming out to friends. While most offered a nonchalant, “Cool!” it seems that she got a more tempered response from  two faithful Christian friends, who said: “I love you anyway.” This response prompted a thoughtful post about why the “anyway” troubled the woman, who believed that one word negated the previous three.

So much of what she wrote represents the prevailing attitude today and it needs to be addressed. Especially since so many Christians have been cowed into accepting that you can’t believe homosexual acts are wrong AND authentically love a gay person. To that end, here’s my open letter to my (formerly Catholic) gay sister. 

Dear Sister:

Fifty, 30, or even just 10 years ago, if you or I had shared with faithful Christians that we are attracted to women, and they responded with, “I love you anyway,” we would have considered ourselves blessed. But today, such a statement troubles you because it “suggests there’s something wrong with being gay.”

And you’re right: there isn’t anything objectively wrong with being gay. Neither of us do anything wrong in our attraction to women. But we both know that’s not what you mean. What you really mean is, “They think there’s something wrong with me having a sexual relationship with another woman.”

Well, DUH. What exactly did you expect? These were, according to you, avowed Christians. Are you really surprised you didn’t get their full stamp of approval of you living as a lesbian?

Your reaction illustrates what I’ve known for a long time: that most self-identified gay people today don’t want tolerance, but moral approval. It’s not enough for Christians to say, “To each his own” and let others live in freedom. It’s not enough to go on as before, with Christians treating their out-of-the-closet friend the same as always. No, today Christians are expected to actively celebrate homosexuality or we’re branded a “hater” or “bigot.” We must support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples or we’re against “equality.” (Never mind that gay marriage opens the door to every other kind of union based on “feelings,” including some very unpalatable “marriage partners” who WILL demand their place at the table.)

Not only that, but you’ve bought into the lie that you’re only able to truly love someone if you laud their every action, no matter how much you believe it’s wrong or believe it’s harmful to them. Your Christian friends are supposed to think it’s just fantastic that you’re now living as a lesbian and if we don’t, then we hate you and most likely primitively fear all gay people. There’s no middle ground anymore for people of wildly divergent belief systems to live in respect and peace…now, we must all AGREE about what’s morally good and bad, too.

Oh, I get it. It’s okay to disagree with your behavior, but being gay is who you are. And since being gay is intrinsic, then anyone who doesn’t believe it’s an awesome, beautiful thing to live out must be rejecting you as a person. “I was born this way,” you say. “It’s a natural part of who I am. So who are you to say you love me ‘despite’ this part of myself?”

Maybe your attraction to women is actually innate. Maybe you were never attracted to men and always attracted to women. So what? My husband was born with a fierce, intense personality…a close friend was born with different brain chemistry…my teen daughter was born anxious, as evidenced by pictures of her as newborn with her face clenched tightly in sleep. These innate “orientations” are no less intrinsic to who they are than homosexuality is to you; like your homosexuality, they’re natural and not morally wrong per se. These folks just are who they are.

But here’s the rub: my husband and friend and daughter all accept that these intrinsic parts of themselves can be destructive and they work to master these parts of themselves. They certainly don’t celebrate them or expect others to; my husband isn’t a “proud rager!” and you won’t see my friend in a parade shouting, “We’re here, we’re bipolar, get used to it!” As mature people, they understand that just because something is a natural part of their makeup doesn’t automatically mean that giving free reign to it is in their best interest. Being “born that way” doesn’t ALWAYS translate to “something to be celebrated.”

But maybe you didn’t really expect your Christian friends to celebrate your homosexuality; maybe you just wanted them not to condemn you. “I love you anyway,” they said. Which as far as I can tell, is exactly what Christ says to us. He sees us in all our brokenness and says what your friends said to you. We need to give up this false idea that authentic intimacy—real love, if you will—is based on understanding, because it’s not. Authentic love is based on acceptance. And that means warts and all—the real warts and yes, even those flaws that other people just think I have. (Like being too pushy, which I most definitely am NOT.)

loveanywayIn saying they love you “anyway,” your Christian friends offered you that acceptance, just as God does. Your friends didn’t proselytize you or demand that you convert back to being heterosexual to remain in friendship with them. It’s wrong to ask others to go beyond forbearance of our idiosyncrasies and (dare I say it?) faults and accept as good everything that we think, do, and even are. What an impossible, unreasonable standard to have of our friends, to demand that they think everything about us is just grand—or they can’t possibly love us with the authentic, self-sacrificing love of Christ.

What you really wanted was for your Christian friends to be so moved by the fact that you, you!…someone they know and care about is gay, that they would embrace all of you—including your life as a lesbian—as morally good. But did you ever consider how disrespectful it is to your friends to expect that kind of response to your news? You basically expected them to abandon their moral convictions so you could feel better about your decision to live a certain way. As my husband tells our daughters, anyone who expects you to sacrifice your moral values in the name of “love” doesn’t have a clue what love really is.

Such as view of friendship is self-serving and immature. I eat meat…lots and lots of meat. And I’m pretty sure I can say that my the desire to eat meat—and the act of eating it—are simply part of my makeup. I’ll never be one of those people who go bananas over salad; eating flesh is just who I am. Yet I can’t imagine demanding that my vegetarian-for-moral-reasons friends laud me eating meat as a condition of friendship. Or worse, complaining that they don’t “really love me” if they won’t declare my carnivorous habits morally good.

I said before that love is based on acceptance, not understanding. Let’s go one further: we don’t love people because they engage in morally good behaviors (as we define “good”), but because they possess an intrinsic dignity, a dignity that no behavior (good or bad) can increase or diminish. We may never understand one another—does anyone really, this side of the veil?—but we can recognize and honor that dignity in one another. We can accept each other, even the parts who may not like, which is the basis for all true intimacy.

You said that your Christian friends’ statement that they love you “anyway” troubled you. I submit that says more about you than it does about them and their love for you. I’ve been blessed with friendship from atheists, agnostics, Mormons, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Swedenborgians(!). Every one of these friends held that I was living immorally (by their code) in one way or another: I drink coffee, worship what appears to be bread and wine, and eat animals. I knew they disagreed with me; they knew I knew they disagreed. But because we accepted one another, we didn’t nitpick the friendship. We afforded each other the freedom to be wrong, but supported and helped and suffered with each other “anyway.” That’s love and it’s the real deal, even with an “anyway” tacked onto the end of it.

Yet even if one of these friends had rudely chastised me for doing something they fervently believed was not only wrong but harmful to me, I wouldn’t have been troubled by it. Their rudeness would have bothered me, but not the essence of their criticism. Why not? Because I’m secure that I’m doing nothing morally wrong by drinking coffee, eating animals, and worshiping Jesus under the guise of bread and wine.

The only time another person’s disapproval bothers you is when you suspect they may be right…we’re most defensive when we know we’re doing, but want to convince ourselves we’re right. If you really are a “proud lesbian” who’s absolutely sure she’s on solid moral footing, then your Christian friends’ responses would never have troubled you. In fact, they could have offered a far darker and uglier response and at best, you would have felt pity for their misguided  rudeness.

The fact that so many of my fellow gay sisters and brothers can’t be satisfied with “I love you anyway”…that they can’t abide anyone even thinking homosexual acts are wrong…that they are willing to shout down and crucify anyone who subscribes to the traditional Christian beliefs about sexuality and marriage (Mozilla CEO, anyone?)…these things confirm for me that “God’s laws are written on the hearts of men.” The United States today is decidedly gay-friendly; every significant area of influences from the media to academia to corporations will applaud your decision to live as a proud lesbian. In the end, though, it’s that voice we can’t escape—the still, small one in our soul—that convicts us “anyway.”

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I’m Catholic. I’m Gay. Now What? (Part 2)

I said in Part 1 of this article that at the root of same-sex attraction (SSA) is the same desire that’s at the bottom of heterosexual attraction: the desire to love and be loved. God himself put this desire for union in us and as Martha says, it’s a good thing. But just as with all good ends, it matters just as much how we get there.

The Catholic Church teaches that while same-sex attraction isn’t inherently sinful, homosexual relations are never part of God’s plan for us. So what is? As my experience, as well as that of Melinda Selmys and others suggests, marriage may be God’s call more than you might think. (And I mean traditional, heterosexual marriage, not gay marriage.) Whether a person is called to marriage or not will depend on whether their SSA is something caused by woundedness or whether it’s more innate. For those whose SSA was caused by abuse or another deep wound, psychological and emotional healing may make it possible to engage in a loving marital relationship.

Evidence, too, suggests there’s a spectrum of SSA, with men who experience SSA being more solidly homosexual and women being closer to the heterosexual side. This is probably why more women than men who have SSA are able to enter into and sustain marriages. I’m a prime example of that and I’ve talked to many women whose SSA, while a temptation, doesn’t impede their ability to connect with their husbands physically and emotionally. Many who commented on my original testimony were happily married despite a history of lesbian relationships.

But what about those who believe they are “born with” SSA? What about the man or woman who finds physical relations with the opposite sex viscerally repulsive? Obviously, marriage isn’t an option for these folks and it’s wrong to suggest they should get married. Too many Christians–even some with SSA– think marriage is a “cure” for SSA. If, like me, your SSA is rooted in a deep emotional wound, the love of a spouse may help heal some of that wound over time. But for any healing to occur, your love for and attraction to your spouse must exceed your attraction to every other person. My marriage works despite SSA because my love for my husband eclipses entirely the occasional and fleeting sexual attraction I have to women in general.

Even so, it’s not my husband’s job to heal me of the wounds that led to SSA; it’s God’s job. When I struggle, I take my weakness to God, who gives me his own strength to conquer it. It would be unfair to put that responsibility on him, just as it’s unfair for husbands and wives tempted toward infidelity to expect their spouse to keep them from straying. There is only one Divine Physician, and it’s not your spouse.

I’ve come to believe that for those with SSA who are not called to marriage, God has a unique and profound plan…a plan that still ends in a splendorous union, just not a conjugal one. Sex, that most intimate tangle of persons where we most profoundly love and are loved, is intended to be a foretaste of heaven. But once we’re in heaven, we won’t need sex or marriage anymore, Jesus said, because we’ll say God face to face. We’ll no longer need the “sign” of sex to point us to our ultimate destiny–union with God–because we’ll be living out the reality of that union. And just as it always is, the reality will be unimaginably richer, more beautiful, and more satisfying than even the best earthly shadow of it.

In our world, where finding your “soul mate” is considered the highest goal of human experience, it’s hard for people to even consider that God could be calling some individuals to live out a most intimate union with Him–exclusive of romantic relationships–here and now, in this life. Yet it’s true. God desires for these individuals to be in a deep intimacy with him even before heaven, not only for their own sake, but as a sign to the world that union with God is our ultimate destiny. Vocations to religious life (all religious life, not just priests and nuns) are one such call, but so is the single life. With the exception perhaps of contemplative religious life, it’s the single person who has the most freedom to cultivate intimacy with God.

Single persons who embrace God’s call to intimacy are greatly privileged. I’m blessed to know such a woman, who is the godmother to one of my children. She’s in her mid-40s, has many male friends, yet seeks union with God above all earthly relationships. It’s clear from talking to her that her relationship with the Lord is far richer and more intimate than what I can cultivate with God in my busy life of being a wife and mother. She is being drawn into that intimacy with God right now, instead of waiting as I am until death for that more perfect union. It’s beautiful to see and at times I think I even envy her. 

A saint (I can’t remember which one) once asked Jesus why He doesn’t call more souls to greater intimacy with him. His answer was, “I do, all the time, but they say no.” One reason it’s so difficult for people to accept that SSA is a disorder is that they can’t imagine our loving God would allow souls to be so afflicted just so they’ll be lonely and miserable if they choose to be faithful Catholics. But what if God permits SSA as a means of reserving some souls for Himself? God permits heterosexuals, after all, to be wounded or even born with specific proclivities toward sin because it’s only through our weakness, our brokenness, that we can admit our need for Him. Far from being a shameful affliction, then, SSA is more likely to be the sign that a soul is set apart by God, destined for a profound and rare union with Him that begins not in heaven, but in this life. If God only ever permits suffering to bring about a greater good, then what greater good could there be  than ordering the soul so that it’s drawn primarily to Him?

Many faithful Christians see SSA as a pitiable disorder and believe it makes the person repulsive to God. Imagine getting to heaven only to discover it was the gay or lesbian person that God specially favored. 

None of this is to say that there won’t be struggle…tremendous struggle for some. For the soul who chooses to remain faithful to God and eschews earthly union with another person of the same sex, the process of growing in their relationship with God will almost certainly be fraught with temptation and difficulties. But just as in marriage, it’s the struggles that strengthen the relationship and draw the couple closer over time. Of course it will be hard; anything meaningful is. But the person who flings himself into God’s arms when faced with his own weakness will never be abandoned.

 

Dorothy Day choose single motherhood over living against the teachings of the Church. She chose God above her most intimate earthly relationship, making her a model for many with same-sex attraction who wish to be faithful, too.

Social justice crusader Dorothy Day probably understood the sacrifices required to choose God over earthly relationships more than most; in December 1928, she ended her common-law marriage to Forster Batterham, father of her only daughter, Tamar, to become a practicing, faithful Catholic. Near the end of her life, after decades of living chastely with God as her primary companion, she wrote: 

“First, when God asks great things of us, great sacrifices, He intends to do great things with us; though they will seem small, they will be the most important. Who knows the power of the Spirit. Second, when we are asked to show our love for God, our desire for Him, when He asks us as Jesus asked Peter, ‘Lovest thou me?’ we have to give proof of it. ‘Lovest thou me more than these, more than any human companionship, more than any human love?’ It is not filth and ugliness, drugs, and drink and perversion He is asking us to prefer Him to. He is asking us to prefer Him to all beauty and loveliness. To all other love.”

Not many with SSA will choose God above earthly relationships, especially with same-sex marriage legitimizing homosexual unions. But Jesus always warned us that “The gate to life is narrow and few will find it.” For the few who do, may God reward your fidelity with courage, joy, and a peace and intimacy this world cannot comprehend. Bless you.