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Gay people who try to follow Church teaching may have more to weep about than the rest of us

In March I received a sobering letter taking issue with the attitude of some Catholics to gays

By on Friday, 27 August 2010

Over at Fr Z’s blog there is an interesting debate about whether homosexuals are born that way or become gay as a result of background and upbringing. Is it nature or nurture? Many of those who contribute to the debate, among them homosexuals, believe that it is nurture. Take a look.

My own view is that most homosexuals are born that way. I believe it instinctively. I also believe it because many gay people say it is the case, and I see no reason for disbelieving them. I do not, however, believe that being born that way makes gay sex right. Nor do homosexuals necessarily believe that. Last March I received a letter from a homosexual traditionalist who did not believe it. But he did not like the attitude of some Catholics to gays, and rebuked me for having written in my Charterhouse column that homosexuals formed a “rich and privileged minority”. I reproduced a couple of lines from the letter at the time, but here, with a couple of small deletions, is the whole thing:

“… I can’t for the life of me understand why you think that some homosexuals are ‘a rich and privileged minority’. Often the opposite is true. I, for example, am not rich. I live a rather empty and lonely life, never fully able to be who I am, for, yes, I encounter prejudice often (especially at church). I will never have the privilege of fathering children, or of having a loving relationship…

“Many ‘gays’ such as myself go to church and try to lead a good (and chaste) life. I try to live by the precepts of the Church I love.

“It is quite hurtful when our priests talk of ‘the evil of homosexuality’ in the same breath as abortion, prostitution, etc, as if there are no ‘gays’ in the congregation at all! As I am sure you are aware, finding oneself homosexual is not a choice, whereas these other situations are avoidable…

“Some time ago, one of your articles made mention of an outrageously dressed individual in a post office queue. You assumed he was ‘gay’. But in my experience, gay men usually dress quite conservatively, and often with a more pronounced masculinity than is usual. I am sure, for instance, you may have passed me at the 9am Mass [traditional Latin] at the Oratory, as I’m there every week, but I suspect that I blend in with the other traditional Catholics in my sombre jacket and tie…

“But to finish, please take care what you say – there are more people of ‘homosexual orientation’ in the Church than I think you realise. Meanwhile enjoy your privilege of children and grandchildren, and the privilege of acceptance by all.”

“Acceptance by all” is pushing it a bit, but what my friend says is sobering. Life is infinitely sad. Good and bad alike, we mourn and weep in this vale of tears. But self-denying homosexuals – homosexuals who try to live by the Church’s teaching – often have a lot more to mourn and weep about than the rest of us.

  • Justin

    Every gay and lesbian person, especially those who are catholic should be embraced and loved unconditionally by every catholic person in the church. We catholics should be in the forefront of love and respect for our homosexual brothers and sisters. How else can we expect them to show courage and self discipline from being tempted to take part in the sexual act. It has to be through our prayers, our embrace and our constant love. The homosexual person should feel free and comfortable to be in church, take part in various activities, be proud of his or her sexual orientation and show the rest of us who are not gay, the special love that God has for them as he has showed them the way to the true church. The chaste homosexual person who follows church teachings is closer to God than the rest of us. Just one step away. I will pray for by catholic homosexual brothers and sisters every day.

  • Jackie Parkes

    I think it is actually quite a cross to bear to have a homosexual orientation. I have “The Truth About Homosexuality ” by Harvey & a lot of Courage Literature & we discuss “being gay” with family members who are & the difficulties it brings. I must say I don't think it makes a person “happy”. i notice fr tim Finigan has a short piece in his column in the Ch today. I think the Church is asked not to ordain a man with “a deep-seated” orientation & would think that was sensible. It's only recently i've noticed this “camp” term..& I'm still not sure what it really means! Regarding the nature or nurture I think it's the second but it's difficult to say. The sad thing is in the homosexual person maybe not being able to marry or become a priest but live chastely as a single person. that may be their particular cross. I have seen it in my own family. However it's no barrier to sanctity.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    I am starting a prayer group for gay Catholics / Christians at Hope University in September… that will be nurturing and life giving… most Church people want to throw the first stone…?

  • GFFM

    Addressing one's sinfulness is difficult, a cross. Sexual sinfulness no matter straight or gay is painful. However, I find it a bit surprising that the writer here did so little research into some very good psychiatric work done on the origins of homosexual behavior. Has he never considered that a person may honestly believe he is gay from birth (how could one remember one's infancy), but be perfectly wrong. Feelings are not facts, neither are one's instincts about truth telling. For anyone interested I would strongly suggest reading Joseph J. Nicolosi's Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy which just came out in paperback in 2009. Dr. Nicolosi and his colleagues, during the last 16 years, have had some stunning clinical insights into the development of homosexual behavior.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    Every LGBT who wants to live a full Christian life – in the fullness of God's love HAS TO LEAVE CATHOLICISM
    - there's no other option. I know so many gay priests… it really annoys me because they are maintaining a religion that inherently hates LGBTs….

  • cunnane

    “Gay people who try to follow Church teaching may have more to weep about than the rest of us”

    And for this reason, I am so happy I am no longer a catholic.

    This sanctimonious and sophistic column makes me sick.

  • nytor

    “Every LGBT who wants to live a full Christian life – in the fullness of God's love HAS TO LEAVE CATHOLICISM”

    Don't be ridiculous. The Church is not a political party. One cannot fall into heresy just because one doesn't agree with every “policy”.

    Everyone who has accepted that the Church holds the truth must submit to it and its teachings without reserve. Rejecting the Church because you are gay is short-termism and it betrays a secular mindset.

  • nytor

    and yes of course following Church teaching is difficult, but it's difficult for everyone and the idea that somehow because it's difficult one ought not to follow it could be applied to almost any teaching. what's the point of it if it's easy? it should be testing.

  • EditorCT


    if you're so happy about no longer being a Catholic, why are you here – apart, obviously, from wanting to be nasty to the author of the (excellent) article.

    No law says you need to blog here – take a hike.

  • Kristine

    I know many heterosexual persons in the Church who have not got married, have not had children, live “a rather empty and lonely life” as our friend says and struggle to live a chaste life in conformity with the Church teaching just because… they have never met someone with whom they would like to get married. I wanted to put it down here in order to let our homosexual friend know that there are many heterosexual persons who share the same situation and I greatly admire their courage and sacrifice (in both cases) because it is an extremely heavy cross.

  • James

    Fortunately, the work of researchers such as Dr Joseph Nicolosi and Dr Timothy Lock has given a great deal of hope to homosexuals who sincerely want to abandon their wretched condition. This work has shown that while there might be a biological element in the occurrence of homosexuality (for instance, monozygotic twins seem likelier than others to have actively homosexual traits), the whole concept of a “gay gene” which was being bruited about a few years ago is no more than a politically correct lie. The same sort of lie, in fact, by which scientifically illiterate activists in 1973 bullied the American Psychiatric Association into removing homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

    Courage is a Catholic organisation which does much of value in enabling numerous homosexuals to live satisfying and faithful heterosexual lives. But of course the homosexual in question must wish to improve himself, and must be prepared to eschew the status of “professional victim” which is so deeply bound up with modern identity politics.

  • Bwaj

    Rubbish. Read St. Mtt:19.12. Also in 1 Cor:6.9-11 St. Paul did not say those who practised homosexual acts became heterosexual after Baptism. If he had done so he would have been adding to the Gospel which is a sin. Salvation is by faith in Christ and Baptism (St. Mk:16.16), together with repentance (St. Lk:24.47). Homosexuality like all medical disorders as well as sin entered human nature during the Fall.

  • Bwaj

    I suggest you read St. Matthew Chapter 19 v.12. Voluntary chastity for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven is only for heterosexuals, however, for those who are homosexual whether from their mothers' wombs (St. Mtt:19.12a) or if they have been made so by men (St. Mtt:19.12b) it is obligatory even for homosexuals who are not Christian. St. Paul does not say those who committed homosexual acts before Baptism become heterosexual (1 Cor:6.9-11). What then is the conclusion? They are called to embrace chastity for the kingdom of God (St. Mtt:19.12c).

  • Bwaj

    I suggest you read Our Saviour's words in St. Mtt:19.12. Chastity is obligatory for everyone who is not married,irrespective of sexuality,but especially if they are believers (St. Mtt:19.12c) – however, Our Lord tells us there are those who are '”eunuchs”' that is '”incapable of marriage”' from their mothers' wombs (St. Mtt:19.12a) or because they have been made '”eunuchs”' that is '”incapable of marriage”' by men (St. Mtt:19.12b). Our Redeemer tells us only a man and a woman can marry (St. Mk:10.6-9). From this we should understand God is against and will not recognize same-sex partnerships. He is even more against same-sex marriages as such things are a blasphemous parody of what He created. Homosexuality entered human nature like all sin and health problems through the Fall (Gen:3). St. Paul tells us those who practised homosexual acts repented and were baptized (1 Cor:6.9-11). He does not say those who suffer from same-sex attraction became heterosexual so we must draw the only other conclusion: that they lived a live of celibacy which for them would be obligatory (St. Mtt:19.12) as only heterosexuals can practise voluntary chastity for the kingdom of God (St. Mtt:19.12c).

  • Justin

    Thank you for pointing out the important work on reorientation therapy by Dr. Nicolosi which can also be found here However, the right to seek treatment for unwanted homosexual attractions, is a choice that some people make and may not be appropriate for all homosexual people. Important though this work is, we are still left clueless as to the exact causes of homosexuality other than it being a combination of nature and nurture. There are strong predisposing factors but no real cause. An analogy would be with people with learning difficulties where for the vast majority of cases, it is idiopathic, that is, there is no known cause other than predisposing factors. Meanwhile, we are left with our homosexual brothers and sisters in church, facing loneliness and prejudice from some people. Our Lord would have wanted us to reach out, acting justly and loving tenderly while walking with him humbly, so that some day we can each tell him when we meet him, dear Lord, your overwhelming love softened my hardened heart and you left me no choice but pour out my love to the ‘other’.

  • Bwaj

    'Deep-seated' means not a phase that some teenagers and young adults go through i.e. incurable.

  • Will

    As a gay Catholic myself, I find the Catholic Church's attitude to sexuality in general, and to homosexuality in particular, pretty twisted. Gays shouldn't try to follow it; they should just ignore it and get on with their lives.

  • Mollybenton5

    So why are you reading it then?

  • John

    Just wondering, that's all……Do heterosexuals think or feel they were born heterosexual or chose to be heterosexual? Just wondering……

  • Guest

    Haha. The people of his time said the same thing about Christ. They found his talk of being the Son of God pretty twisted, blasphemous even.

    It's no surprise to me that people find the Church's teaching therefore somewhat twisted. But here's what I find strange – you self-identify as a Catholic and in the very same breath you speak of “the Catholic Church” and her teaching as something separate from yourself. For me there is no distinction, when people speak of “the Catholic Church”, they are speaking of me and my brothers and sisters as well. As Christ prayed, “ut unum sit” – that they may be one, not just one superficially, or in name, or in shared tradition, or even prayer, but one as Christ and the Father are one – i.e. pretty darn “one” – the Father and the Son are, as you will appreciate, distinct persons but One God whose collective wills unite. So too are we like them when we profess ourselves Catholic.

    As a gay Catholic, one who fails to live out Christ's calling to chastity far too often, I am mindful of my sins and only hope to die in a state of grace, in the bosom of the Church. That is my prayer unto God.

  • nytor

    I always read it as “not having overcome it”, ie incapable of celibacy, especially as further on in the instruction it mentions the need to have overcome it for at least 3 years prior to ordination to the diaconate. I therefore read it as permissible to ordain the demonstratably celibate.

  • jng

    Many catholic young men and women, widows and widowers or all ages, besides religious choose to live celebate lives. Some might feel like strangling someone without being a murderer. Inclination and action are not the same thing and your correspondent is not alone in avoiding sexual activity as someone else might avoid fornication or adultery. The difference seems to be that they are unlikely to feel personally attacked should a priest condemn fornication or adultery, as, after all, they are trying to avoid it and he is supporting their view. People are people, individuals, and must deal with life as best they can. It is bad enough when others try to categorize one, but categorizing oneself by ones inclinations rather than actions is inviting oneself to have a rather low level of self esteem . . . perhaps I have a vested interest as, otherwise I would be a drunkard, a glutton, a libertine and a thug . . for starters.

  • Lnewington

    Tradional Catholic is so right. There are more people of homosexual oriential in the church than many realise, at all levels worldwide.

    Their disposition is not always a happy one and many have aids.

    I have never forgotten an article by Richard Sipe an ex Benedictine monk and priest who counsels many in religious life.

    It is written with sensitivity and respect, please read it with same. Never another Pat; Clergy in Crisis.

  • Mamasnookems

    I love the homosexuals, hate the sin, but I also know biblically we are all sinners, should repent their sins and be saved if you want to follow Jesus, not confessing to a priest, but to God Himself and turn to Jesus, He can help change your lifestyle to be obedient to Him.He will forgive! It is not a religion,it is a spiritual relationship with Jesus.

    John 6:44

  • Lnewington

    The priests that talk about the evil of homosexuality in the same breath as prostitution and abortion, need to stop and reflect on their brothers in Christ who are hetrosexual, fathering children, abandoning them , using the mothers and women in general as prostitutes and not just a few, not impartial to abortion to protect the priesthood and avoid scandal.

    They protest too much.

  • Stephen

    “Fortunately, the work of researchers such as Dr Joseph Nicolosi and Dr Timothy Lock has given a great deal of hope to homosexuals who sincerely want to abandon their wretched condition.” – James

    Incredibly upsetting stuff to read. Incredibly upsetting to see “the homosexual” discussed as almost sub-human. One does wonder what this “homosexual” is or looks like… do we not realise that sexuality is fluid, and that sexuality is not an “either/or” fact of our nature. For those men and women that do profess deep-seated same-sex attractions, then they are not to and should not desire to renounce their sexuality… instead they should work about cultivating relationships that facilitate their faith in Christ. The issue of chastity is a moral obligation upon al men and women outside of Marriage (and if you're talking to Aquinas, only specific sexual acts are legitimate).

    My point is this: let's stop treating and discussing “the homosexual” as though he or she is some exception in Christ's Kingdom, worthy of mourning and disgust above and beyond fallen sexuality and its mediation. Homosexual men and women with deep-seated attractions may face struggles that are particular… but it is then for us us to *LISTEN* to those struggles, as the author of this blog has done to his respondant. It is certainly not for us to sit around and discuss “the homosexual” in such gross and inappropriate language as James above does… and certainly not for us to throw about how “lifestyes must be renounced”. What do we possibly know of the intentions of God for men; and who are we to comment so idly as has been done here.

    Shame on us.

  • Mamasnookems

    It is a choice and we are not born with it at all, God wouldn't create or put homosexual tendancies in people, it is the enemy that does that, you make that choice. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorah because of their homosexual behavior. It is in the bible. But Jesus came down to destroy sin by dying on the cross for us and raising from the dead, call on His Name and you will be saved, (from all sin) and trust in Jesus Christ.

  • paul

    If the Church believes it is OK to be gay and that for many it many inherent in their genetic makeup, then why should it care what goes on between two consenting partners in their bedroom?

    The only line I can think of in the Bible is Leviticus 18:22 'Do not lie with another man as you would a woman'

    However, take the bible this seriously word-for-word and not as 'inspired word of God' and you realize just how bad things can get – Exodus talks about the owning and beating of slaves as acceptable, it is also stated that rape victims much marry their attacker and that if a priest's daughter commits fornication, she will have dishonored her father and must be burnt. etc. etc….

    Jesus would have wanted his Church to be a beacon of acceptance and love, not of institutionalized discrimination! That's why although a Catholic, I fully support the gay demonstration of partners kissing when Pope Benedict arrives in Barcelona. Non-violent, direct action that speaks a message of compassion and love, who could be against it?

  • paulsays

    I understand your reasons for leaving the Church. And I think the Church needs to change its mind on homosexuality, it is certainly nice to see it going in the right direction.

    I did enjoy the article myself though, it was very honest and emotional in my opinion.

  • Dio

    If you find the church´s attitutde to sexuality “twisted”, how come you call yourself catholic? The church´s moral teaching isn´t up for grabs or debate. Homosexual BEHAVIOUR has been regarded as a sin from the first days of christianity, as you very well know, I suppose.
    That said – the church teaches to love, help and accept people with homosexual tendencies, like Jesus accepted the adulteress… but did NOT condone adultery. I am sorry if I come across as harsh or antagonistic… that´s not my intention. God bless you and give you HIs loving grace.

  • Dio

    our urges – whether born with us, or acquired – may not be up to us, but our ACTIONS are.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    Gays should leave Catholicism and join a church that doesn’t hate them. If they feel the need to remain celibate they can do that in their new church. I can’t see why people would remain within a community in which they are actively or passively discriminated against. Take the hint and leave! You will NOT reject this decision but discover what true acceptance is. This may help you to understand God’s love for you in a new way. 

  • Jacobhalo11

    Many of you have been saying that it is the teachings of the Church.  No, it is the teaching of Jesus, and the New Testament. The Church is only relaying the message.