Why choose celibacy? A gay Catholic speaks out

Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2015 / 10:32 am (CNA).- More than 10 years ago, Joseph Prever found himself scouring the internet for anything that might help him: he was gay, Catholic, and confused. Resources were scarce for a man struggling with homosexuality and trying to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching. In the intervening years, Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction have become a more vocal presence in the Church. Google the words “gay Catholic” and one of the top sites to appear will be Prever’s own blog, a blog with the tagline: “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine.” There, the 32-year-old writer considers his own experiences as a man struggling with same-sex attraction and trying to live out the virtue of chastity. What follows is an edited version of a conversation about everything from homosexuality and Batman to poetry and football. The interview is published in two parts.Part TwoWhy do you live celibately? I think the act of so-called ‘gay sex’ is immoral. I think it’s immoral, for one reason, because it is intrinsically closed to life and thereby distorts what the sexual act is meant to be. Where it gets tricky is where we talk about the emotional reality of homosexuality, because some people ask me, ‘well, that’s fine if you think that gay sex is wrong, but what about gay romance?’ For example, some people say, ‘do you think it would be appropriate for two men who are orthodox Catholics to be in a committed romantic relationship which was celibate?’ And my answer would have to be no. There is an intrinsic connection between romance and sex, and you don’t want to start what you can’t finish. This raises a further question, which is, ‘ok, if it’s not ok for two men to have sex and it’s not ok for two men to have a romantic relationship without sex, is it ok for a man to feel romantically towards another man?’ I think I have to answer yes and no. It’s ok in the sense that it’s something that some people can’t help it sometimes, so you can’t be culpable for feeling that way. But I think it’s not ok, in the sense that it is deeply and intrinsically inappropriate. And I don’t mean inappropriate in the sense of, ‘oh that’s gross, we shouldn’t talk about it,’ I mean inappropriate in that it does not correspond to reality.What do you mean by not corresponding to reality? I think for a man to feel romantically towards another man is based on a kind of misapprehension of what that man is and can be. This is where we get into the really hard stuff – which is also the really important stuff! I think it’s really hard for a lot of people to understand how a deep love can exist between two men and not be sexual. And I think this is at the heart of the misunderstanding of homosexuality that’s going around. The fact of the matter is when my male straight friend X says ‘I really love our mutual friend,’ who is also male and straight, Y, I don’t think there is any sexual component to the love between X and Y. In fact, I think that is the ideal toward which I should strive in all of my friendships with other men: to be able to have love for them, and in fact to expunge any sexual component.To return to my earlier question, then, what do you think we as Christian community can be doing to help people who struggle with this? Somebody said recently that it would be wonderful if there were a branch of Courage in every diocese, and I think that’s absolutely true. It’s a shame that somebody should have to travel far and wide to find help. The first problem is silence. And the specific problem of silence is that if you grow up Catholic and gay, or at least if you did a few years ago when I was growing up, or before that, then the overwhelming impression you get is not so much that you’re bad or evil, but it’s that you’re absolutely not allowed to talk about this. That it is beyond the pale of what is open for discussion. Now the question is where that impression comes from and what can be done to correct it. The difficulty is: how can we overcome and correct that, without, at the same time, giving ground on the morality of homosexual actions? I think conservatives in general are more concerned about the latter, and liberals in general are more concerned about the former. And I think the liberals are right.Ok, so what would you do to help people deal with these issues? For me to do things is different than for someone who’s not gay to do things. What I actually have done is to write about it and be open about it, because that gives people an example of ‘oh, well, this guy isn’t embarrassed, so maybe I don’t have to be, either.’ That’s what I can do, but of course not everybody can do that. The question is where does this intersect other people’s lives. Obviously one place it intersects the lives of someone who isn’t gay is if your friend tells you they are gay. Then what do you do?Yes – what do you do when a friend tells you he is gay? Well, the absolutely primary thing is to let that person know that your relationship with them is not going to be diminished because of this, or made weird. Because what I was most afraid of in telling people was not that anybody would reject me or call me a sinner, because I don’t know any Catholics who would do that. But I was afraid that people would start to distance themselves from me in small ways. I was afraid that my male friends would not treat me like one of the guys anymore, because they would be worried that I would be attracted to them, or that they would think that I was somehow not like them. So one of two things is going to be going through the head of someone who is revealing themselves in this way. One is that they will be judged, and two is that they would be treated as weird or odd. I think those two things are distinct, but I think what anyone can do to immediately diffuse those worries is the most helpful thing.And what do you think we can do more practically, for instance, in parishes? There has to be a positive element to the message. A lot of young gay Catholics know they shouldn’t do gay things, but they don’t know what they should do.What should they do? They should start by telling somebody about it, preferably a priest who is willing to talk with them and help them.So you think pastors and others should do a better job of being aware of what people are going through in regards to homosexuality? Like the Catechism says, the number of people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible: this is a large segment of the population we’re talking about, and it’s not a matter of a few ‘edge’ cases.   The other day, I was joking with someone about smoking crack, like you do because people make jokes about using hard drugs with the understanding that, ‘oh, nobody I know deals with that.’ And then literally the day after I made that joke, I found out that somebody who I’ve known for a very long time has been smoking crack for months and months.   And that is exactly the sort of situation I dealt with growing up, which is where it was sort of standard to make jokes, ‘ha ha, gay people’ because nobody we know is gay – and of course if you hear that sort of thing all the time, you begin to think of yourself as outside of the realm of normal human experience.Is that how you felt growing up? Absolutely.Do you think that that actually pushed you more outside ‘the realm of normal human experience,’ because you perceived it to be that way? Very much so. It sounds cliché to say it, but your perception really does become your reality. If you believe yourself to be of such a nature that you don’t actually belong in society with most other people, then you begin to interpret small thoughtlessnesses as large exclusions, and so you become less able to interact with your actual peers. And then they see you beginning to draw back, and start to think of you as someone who doesn’t really want to be part of their group anyway.How have you managed to overcome that in adulthood? Partly through therapy; partly through the group, People Can Change; partly through friendship; and partly through my spiritual director.Is that the general path you would recommend for a young version of yourself who’s out there right now? Yes, very much.   I was actually very frustrated recently by an email I got from a reader. He had sent me an email when he was at a low state. He was clearly extremely depressed, and so I replied with various comforting things and tried to be as practical as I could for what he might do the next time he felt like that, or what he might do right then, and I asked whether he had a therapist, or a spiritual director, or anybody with whom he could regularly talk about these things.   He emailed me back apologizing for being so dramatic, and saying it wasn’t usually all that bad, and then what he said about therapy was that he preferred to rely solely on the power of the sacraments. And I thought that was just the most horrendous nonsense! The reason I say that is not because I think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments, but I do think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments for things that the sacraments weren’t actually designed to do. For example, it would be absurd to say that you weren’t going to go to the doctor to fix your broken arm because you preferred to go to confession. Within human society, there exist certain solutions to certain human problems, and if we don’t take advantage of them, then we’re being very stupid.   But the problem is, actually – and this is something somewhat practical – I think there exists within Catholic culture, this unspoken belief that therapy is for heathens, or that therapy is for people that don’t really take their faith that seriously.Do you think the same is true for medication in mental health, which you also write about on your blog? And do you think it’s related to the idea you mentioned earlier – people assuming that you are just not trying hard enough? Oh definitely. I think there’s a stigma in the population in general for getting therapy and for getting medication for mental health issues, but I think that stigma within the Christian and Catholic community is exponentially larger. Although, I think this might be a bigger problem in the Evangelical community than in the Catholic one. I only say that because I’m thinking of a particular Evangelical friend of mine who constantly has to deal with – he’s gay, but believes basically what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality – he has to deal constantly with people telling him that for him to call himself gay is for him to be embracing a sin. These are people who don’t, in fact, distinguish between the inclination and the action. These are people who say, ‘well, I might go around experiencing temptations to adultery, but I don’t go around identifying myself as an “adulterous Christian,” so why are you going around identifying yourself as a “gay Christian?”’And what is your response to that? My response to that is that while it’s true that homosexuality means that a particular kind of temptation is prevalent in someone’s life, it also means a lot more than that. Since sexuality itself is so deeply tied to so many aspects of our personality, and our experience as human beings, then homosexuality has very wide-reaching effects into almost every aspect of our lives, or at least as many aspects of our lives as sexuality effects.In America, stereotypes on many levels associate gay men with being effeminate. Are those legitimate stereotypes? Or is there some way in which you feel like being gay affects your masculinity? There is some legitimacy to the stereotypes in the sense that there is some legitimacy to every stereotype. Stereotypes don’t arise out of nothing. It’s also true that either many or most, or possibly all of gay men I’ve ever known have experienced some difficulty fitting in with other men, and very many of them have experienced what they feel is a lack of masculinity in themselves. I believe that among gay men in general there is a higher incidence of personality traits which are generally not considered to be as masculine. For example, most of the gay men I know are more sensitive than most men. Most of them are more artistic than most men; most of them are more introverted than most men. So the fact is that being artistic and sensitive and introverted are not un-masculine traits, but in culture as it exists right now, those traits are more associated with femininity than with masculinity. (But) those things are not un-masculine, and are in fact, quite masculine. I spent many years in (a place that was) a bulwark of ideas about traditional masculinity and what it ought to be, and a lot of those ideas are extremely simplistic, damaging, and wrong. But the problem is, people feel like if they start to question or abandon those ideas, then they are giving too much ground and betraying their faith, somehow. People identify the cultural idea of gender with what the Catholic faith holds about gender. It does seem to me that our perception of masculinity as a country is changing. And I actually think that is a very good thing, and maybe that is indicative of something larger taking place under the surface. I just think that if a man doesn’t express interest in the things that have traditionally been considered masculine, he’s less open to ridicule than he would have been 10 years ago. Like I think it’s more acceptable to not like football, for example. (Laughs).So what do you think we can do to help men who struggle with homosexuality not squelch their natural tendencies toward good things, like being talented in the arts or sensitive toward others? The reason the question is hard to answer is that it is not really about homosexuality at all. It’s about how men are perceived in our culture, and how women are, and people worship, and how people relate to each other. It’s just about what it means to be a human. That’s what all of this is about. The odd thing, or the frustrating thing actually, is that there is, culturally, this huge storm going on about homosexuality. What frustrates me is that no one seems to realize that it isn’t about homosexuality at all. It’s about what it is to be human.How so?   Well, anytime you start talking about sex, you start talking about what it is to be human.  I think the reason people are so interested in homosexuality at all is because people are profoundly interested in how human beings relate to one another, and what sex has to do with any of that – and nobody is really clear about any of those things right now. But suddenly, the question of homosexuality requires us to think clearly about those things, and a lot of us are finding out that we have no idea. Really, everything is condensing into this one, huge weather system – I don’t even know what’s going to happen. But there’s a big hurricane brewing. (The challenge is that) you almost can’t say anything else other than men are men and women are women and the two are not the same.   Physical differences are not just physical differences, because physicality is not just physicality. It all comes down to the fact that you can’t paraphrase the poem. That is to say, if you have a poem which says something beautiful and true, you can’t say sum it up by saying, ‘ok, and what the poet meant to say is this syllogism.’ And in the same way, the only way to describe what masculinity and femininity are is to say: ‘here are men, they are manly. Here are women, they are womanly.’ That’s literally the only way to do it, because our bodies are poems. They are poems that express the ‘masculinity’ of God and the ‘femininity’ of God and we have to take them seriously, which doesn’t mean we can pin down (exactly) what the poems are saying.So you think a lot of the cultural conversation going on is not precisely about homosexuality, but about humanity? Have you seen this in your own experience? I’m extremely happy that everyone is talking about homosexuality, not because I think that homosexuality is in itself very important. I think it’s incredibly unimportant, actually, in and of itself. I think it’s incredibly uninteresting, in and of itself. What I do think is incredibly interesting is the questions of what men and women are; what gender is; what eros is and what friendship is; how human beings relate to each other; and what sex has to do with any of that.   The reason I’m glad that everyone is talking about homosexuality is that we are being forced to confront all of these questions which we’ve needed to do for a very long time. Part of me had imagined that after I came out, then there would be lots of people lining up to talk about my gayness, and that we would be talking about it all the time, and that everyone would talk about it. And of course part of me was attracted by that idea because of course everyone wants to talk about themselves. However, what I found to be the case was that my friends and I generally talk about the same things we’ve always talked about. And usually homosexuality does not come up. Which on the whole I’m extremely pleased about because on the relatively rare occasions when it does come up, no one’s surprised to hear me talk about it. Which is really all that I wanted, actually. You do run into gay people who just want to talk about being gay and it’s just tremendously boring and narcissistic.   I went to a party once where there was this gay couple, and one or two hours in, everybody was clustered in around the gay guys, listening to them talk about being gay. And it was weird and gross, but there are at least two reasons why this happened. One is that it’s a great feeling to be talking openly about something that for a long time you thought you could never talk about. And two, when you see a gay guy at a party, a lot of people, consciously or unconsciously, see an opportunity to demonstrate how open minded they are. It’s like if you saw a black man at a party in the sixties. You’re going to want to, especially if you’re a liberal, go over and talk to him and make a thing about how, ‘look, I’m talking to this black guy.’ And it’s understandable. But what it does, obviously, is that it objectifies that person. What my friends did was absolutely not that.What do you wish average Catholics and other Christians knew about people who are struggling with homosexuality and are living in the Christian church? Number one, you almost certainly know some. Number two, most of us have probably felt excluded from ordinary society for a very long time and in a very deep way. Number three, many of us have devoted a lot of effort to getting rid of our homosexuality, and have failed, already.  And number four, which is the final number, (laughs) well, number four is more particular to me, maybe: but to me, friendship is one of the most important things in the world, and so the greatest thing that somebody could do for me is to be my friend, regardless of anything.This article was originally published on CNA July 1, 2015. Read more

Why choose celibacy? A gay Catholic speaks out

Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2015 / 10:32 am (CNA).- More than 10 years ago, Joseph Prever found himself scouring the internet for anything that might help him: he was gay, Catholic, and confused. Resources were scarce for a man struggling with homosexuality and trying to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching. In the intervening years, Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction have become a more vocal presence in the Church. Google the words “gay Catholic” and one of the top sites to appear will be Prever’s own blog, a blog with the tagline: “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine.” There, the 32-year-old writer considers his own experiences as a man struggling with same-sex attraction and trying to live out the virtue of chastity. What follows is an edited version of a conversation about everything from homosexuality and Batman to poetry and football. The interview is published in two parts.Part TwoWhy do you live celibately? I think the act of so-called ‘gay sex’ is immoral. I think it’s immoral, for one reason, because it is intrinsically closed to life and thereby distorts what the sexual act is meant to be. Where it gets tricky is where we talk about the emotional reality of homosexuality, because some people ask me, ‘well, that’s fine if you think that gay sex is wrong, but what about gay romance?’ For example, some people say, ‘do you think it would be appropriate for two men who are orthodox Catholics to be in a committed romantic relationship which was celibate?’ And my answer would have to be no. There is an intrinsic connection between romance and sex, and you don’t want to start what you can’t finish. This raises a further question, which is, ‘ok, if it’s not ok for two men to have sex and it’s not ok for two men to have a romantic relationship without sex, is it ok for a man to feel romantically towards another man?’ I think I have to answer yes and no. It’s ok in the sense that it’s something that some people can’t help it sometimes, so you can’t be culpable for feeling that way. But I think it’s not ok, in the sense that it is deeply and intrinsically inappropriate. And I don’t mean inappropriate in the sense of, ‘oh that’s gross, we shouldn’t talk about it,’ I mean inappropriate in that it does not correspond to reality.What do you mean by not corresponding to reality? I think for a man to feel romantically towards another man is based on a kind of misapprehension of what that man is and can be. This is where we get into the really hard stuff – which is also the really important stuff! I think it’s really hard for a lot of people to understand how a deep love can exist between two men and not be sexual. And I think this is at the heart of the misunderstanding of homosexuality that’s going around. The fact of the matter is when my male straight friend X says ‘I really love our mutual friend,’ who is also male and straight, Y, I don’t think there is any sexual component to the love between X and Y. In fact, I think that is the ideal toward which I should strive in all of my friendships with other men: to be able to have love for them, and in fact to expunge any sexual component.To return to my earlier question, then, what do you think we as Christian community can be doing to help people who struggle with this? Somebody said recently that it would be wonderful if there were a branch of Courage in every diocese, and I think that’s absolutely true. It’s a shame that somebody should have to travel far and wide to find help. The first problem is silence. And the specific problem of silence is that if you grow up Catholic and gay, or at least if you did a few years ago when I was growing up, or before that, then the overwhelming impression you get is not so much that you’re bad or evil, but it’s that you’re absolutely not allowed to talk about this. That it is beyond the pale of what is open for discussion. Now the question is where that impression comes from and what can be done to correct it. The difficulty is: how can we overcome and correct that, without, at the same time, giving ground on the morality of homosexual actions? I think conservatives in general are more concerned about the latter, and liberals in general are more concerned about the former. And I think the liberals are right.Ok, so what would you do to help people deal with these issues? For me to do things is different than for someone who’s not gay to do things. What I actually have done is to write about it and be open about it, because that gives people an example of ‘oh, well, this guy isn’t embarrassed, so maybe I don’t have to be, either.’ That’s what I can do, but of course not everybody can do that. The question is where does this intersect other people’s lives. Obviously one place it intersects the lives of someone who isn’t gay is if your friend tells you they are gay. Then what do you do?Yes – what do you do when a friend tells you he is gay? Well, the absolutely primary thing is to let that person know that your relationship with them is not going to be diminished because of this, or made weird. Because what I was most afraid of in telling people was not that anybody would reject me or call me a sinner, because I don’t know any Catholics who would do that. But I was afraid that people would start to distance themselves from me in small ways. I was afraid that my male friends would not treat me like one of the guys anymore, because they would be worried that I would be attracted to them, or that they would think that I was somehow not like them. So one of two things is going to be going through the head of someone who is revealing themselves in this way. One is that they will be judged, and two is that they would be treated as weird or odd. I think those two things are distinct, but I think what anyone can do to immediately diffuse those worries is the most helpful thing.And what do you think we can do more practically, for instance, in parishes? There has to be a positive element to the message. A lot of young gay Catholics know they shouldn’t do gay things, but they don’t know what they should do.What should they do? They should start by telling somebody about it, preferably a priest who is willing to talk with them and help them.So you think pastors and others should do a better job of being aware of what people are going through in regards to homosexuality? Like the Catechism says, the number of people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible: this is a large segment of the population we’re talking about, and it’s not a matter of a few ‘edge’ cases.   The other day, I was joking with someone about smoking crack, like you do because people make jokes about using hard drugs with the understanding that, ‘oh, nobody I know deals with that.’ And then literally the day after I made that joke, I found out that somebody who I’ve known for a very long time has been smoking crack for months and months.   And that is exactly the sort of situation I dealt with growing up, which is where it was sort of standard to make jokes, ‘ha ha, gay people’ because nobody we know is gay – and of course if you hear that sort of thing all the time, you begin to think of yourself as outside of the realm of normal human experience.Is that how you felt growing up? Absolutely.Do you think that that actually pushed you more outside ‘the realm of normal human experience,’ because you perceived it to be that way? Very much so. It sounds cliché to say it, but your perception really does become your reality. If you believe yourself to be of such a nature that you don’t actually belong in society with most other people, then you begin to interpret small thoughtlessnesses as large exclusions, and so you become less able to interact with your actual peers. And then they see you beginning to draw back, and start to think of you as someone who doesn’t really want to be part of their group anyway.How have you managed to overcome that in adulthood? Partly through therapy; partly through the group, People Can Change; partly through friendship; and partly through my spiritual director.Is that the general path you would recommend for a young version of yourself who’s out there right now? Yes, very much.   I was actually very frustrated recently by an email I got from a reader. He had sent me an email when he was at a low state. He was clearly extremely depressed, and so I replied with various comforting things and tried to be as practical as I could for what he might do the next time he felt like that, or what he might do right then, and I asked whether he had a therapist, or a spiritual director, or anybody with whom he could regularly talk about these things.   He emailed me back apologizing for being so dramatic, and saying it wasn’t usually all that bad, and then what he said about therapy was that he preferred to rely solely on the power of the sacraments. And I thought that was just the most horrendous nonsense! The reason I say that is not because I think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments, but I do think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments for things that the sacraments weren’t actually designed to do. For example, it would be absurd to say that you weren’t going to go to the doctor to fix your broken arm because you preferred to go to confession. Within human society, there exist certain solutions to certain human problems, and if we don’t take advantage of them, then we’re being very stupid.   But the problem is, actually – and this is something somewhat practical – I think there exists within Catholic culture, this unspoken belief that therapy is for heathens, or that therapy is for people that don’t really take their faith that seriously.Do you think the same is true for medication in mental health, which you also write about on your blog? And do you think it’s related to the idea you mentioned earlier – people assuming that you are just not trying hard enough? Oh definitely. I think there’s a stigma in the population in general for getting therapy and for getting medication for mental health issues, but I think that stigma within the Christian and Catholic community is exponentially larger. Although, I think this might be a bigger problem in the Evangelical community than in the Catholic one. I only say that because I’m thinking of a particular Evangelical friend of mine who constantly has to deal with – he’s gay, but believes basically what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality – he has to deal constantly with people telling him that for him to call himself gay is for him to be embracing a sin. These are people who don’t, in fact, distinguish between the inclination and the action. These are people who say, ‘well, I might go around experiencing temptations to adultery, but I don’t go around identifying myself as an “adulterous Christian,” so why are you going around identifying yourself as a “gay Christian?”’And what is your response to that? My response to that is that while it’s true that homosexuality means that a particular kind of temptation is prevalent in someone’s life, it also means a lot more than that. Since sexuality itself is so deeply tied to so many aspects of our personality, and our experience as human beings, then homosexuality has very wide-reaching effects into almost every aspect of our lives, or at least as many aspects of our lives as sexuality effects.In America, stereotypes on many levels associate gay men with being effeminate. Are those legitimate stereotypes? Or is there some way in which you feel like being gay affects your masculinity? There is some legitimacy to the stereotypes in the sense that there is some legitimacy to every stereotype. Stereotypes don’t arise out of nothing. It’s also true that either many or most, or possibly all of gay men I’ve ever known have experienced some difficulty fitting in with other men, and very many of them have experienced what they feel is a lack of masculinity in themselves. I believe that among gay men in general there is a higher incidence of personality traits which are generally not considered to be as masculine. For example, most of the gay men I know are more sensitive than most men. Most of them are more artistic than most men; most of them are more introverted than most men. So the fact is that being artistic and sensitive and introverted are not un-masculine traits, but in culture as it exists right now, those traits are more associated with femininity than with masculinity. (But) those things are not un-masculine, and are in fact, quite masculine. I spent many years in (a place that was) a bulwark of ideas about traditional masculinity and what it ought to be, and a lot of those ideas are extremely simplistic, damaging, and wrong. But the problem is, people feel like if they start to question or abandon those ideas, then they are giving too much ground and betraying their faith, somehow. People identify the cultural idea of gender with what the Catholic faith holds about gender. It does seem to me that our perception of masculinity as a country is changing. And I actually think that is a very good thing, and maybe that is indicative of something larger taking place under the surface. I just think that if a man doesn’t express interest in the things that have traditionally been considered masculine, he’s less open to ridicule than he would have been 10 years ago. Like I think it’s more acceptable to not like football, for example. (Laughs).So what do you think we can do to help men who struggle with homosexuality not squelch their natural tendencies toward good things, like being talented in the arts or sensitive toward others? The reason the question is hard to answer is that it is not really about homosexuality at all. It’s about how men are perceived in our culture, and how women are, and people worship, and how people relate to each other. It’s just about what it means to be a human. That’s what all of this is about. The odd thing, or the frustrating thing actually, is that there is, culturally, this huge storm going on about homosexuality. What frustrates me is that no one seems to realize that it isn’t about homosexuality at all. It’s about what it is to be human.How so?   Well, anytime you start talking about sex, you start talking about what it is to be human.  I think the reason people are so interested in homosexuality at all is because people are profoundly interested in how human beings relate to one another, and what sex has to do with any of that – and nobody is really clear about any of those things right now. But suddenly, the question of homosexuality requires us to think clearly about those things, and a lot of us are finding out that we have no idea. Really, everything is condensing into this one, huge weather system – I don’t even know what’s going to happen. But there’s a big hurricane brewing. (The challenge is that) you almost can’t say anything else other than men are men and women are women and the two are not the same.   Physical differences are not just physical differences, because physicality is not just physicality. It all comes down to the fact that you can’t paraphrase the poem. That is to say, if you have a poem which says something beautiful and true, you can’t say sum it up by saying, ‘ok, and what the poet meant to say is this syllogism.’ And in the same way, the only way to describe what masculinity and femininity are is to say: ‘here are men, they are manly. Here are women, they are womanly.’ That’s literally the only way to do it, because our bodies are poems. They are poems that express the ‘masculinity’ of God and the ‘femininity’ of God and we have to take them seriously, which doesn’t mean we can pin down (exactly) what the poems are saying.So you think a lot of the cultural conversation going on is not precisely about homosexuality, but about humanity? Have you seen this in your own experience? I’m extremely happy that everyone is talking about homosexuality, not because I think that homosexuality is in itself very important. I think it’s incredibly unimportant, actually, in and of itself. I think it’s incredibly uninteresting, in and of itself. What I do think is incredibly interesting is the questions of what men and women are; what gender is; what eros is and what friendship is; how human beings relate to each other; and what sex has to do with any of that.   The reason I’m glad that everyone is talking about homosexuality is that we are being forced to confront all of these questions which we’ve needed to do for a very long time. Part of me had imagined that after I came out, then there would be lots of people lining up to talk about my gayness, and that we would be talking about it all the time, and that everyone would talk about it. And of course part of me was attracted by that idea because of course everyone wants to talk about themselves. However, what I found to be the case was that my friends and I generally talk about the same things we’ve always talked about. And usually homosexuality does not come up. Which on the whole I’m extremely pleased about because on the relatively rare occasions when it does come up, no one’s surprised to hear me talk about it. Which is really all that I wanted, actually. You do run into gay people who just want to talk about being gay and it’s just tremendously boring and narcissistic.   I went to a party once where there was this gay couple, and one or two hours in, everybody was clustered in around the gay guys, listening to them talk about being gay. And it was weird and gross, but there are at least two reasons why this happened. One is that it’s a great feeling to be talking openly about something that for a long time you thought you could never talk about. And two, when you see a gay guy at a party, a lot of people, consciously or unconsciously, see an opportunity to demonstrate how open minded they are. It’s like if you saw a black man at a party in the sixties. You’re going to want to, especially if you’re a liberal, go over and talk to him and make a thing about how, ‘look, I’m talking to this black guy.’ And it’s understandable. But what it does, obviously, is that it objectifies that person. What my friends did was absolutely not that.What do you wish average Catholics and other Christians knew about people who are struggling with homosexuality and are living in the Christian church? Number one, you almost certainly know some. Number two, most of us have probably felt excluded from ordinary society for a very long time and in a very deep way. Number three, many of us have devoted a lot of effort to getting rid of our homosexuality, and have failed, already.  And number four, which is the final number, (laughs) well, number four is more particular to me, maybe: but to me, friendship is one of the most important things in the world, and so the greatest thing that somebody could do for me is to be my friend, regardless of anything.This article was originally published on CNA July 1, 2015. Read more

Pope Francis: let’s feel the wonder of meeting Jesus Christ, ‘the great gift of God’

Vatican City, Dec 20, 2015 / 09:46 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- Ahead of Christmas, Pope Francis spoke on the surprise of God and his great gift in sending Jesus Christ to save mankind. “God gives us all of Himself by giving His one and only… Read more

How one skeptical scientist came to believe the Shroud of Turin

Rome, Italy, Dec 19, 2015 / 03:39 pm (CNA).- The Shroud of Turin has different meanings for many people: some see it as an object of veneration, others a forgery, still others a medieval curiosity. For one Jewish scientist, however, the evidence has led him to see it as a meeting point between science and faith. “The Shroud challenges (many people’s core beliefs) because there’s a strong implication that there is something beyond the basic science going on here,” Barrie Schwortz, one of the leading scientific experts on the Shroud of Turin, told CNA. Admitting that he did not know whether there was something beyond science at play, he added: “That’s not what convinced me: it was the science that convinced me.” The Shroud of Turin is among the most well-known relics believed to be connected with Christ’s Passion. Venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Jesus, it has been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image. The image on the 14 feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide cloth is stained with the postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured and crucified. Schwortz, now a retired technical photographer and frequent lecturer on the shroud, was a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project which brought prestigious scientists together to examine the ancient artifact. As a non-practicing Jew at the time, he was hesitant to be part of the team and skeptical as to the shroud’s authenticity – presuming it was nothing more than an elaborate painting. Nonetheless, he was intrigued by the scientific questions raised by the image.   Despite his reservations, Schwortz recounts being persuaded to remain on the project by a fellow scientist on the team – a NASA imaging specialist, and a Catholic – who jokingly told him: “You don’t think God wouldn’t want one of his chosen people on our team?” And Schwortz soon encountered one of the great mysteries of the image that still entrances its examiners to this day. He explained that a specific instrument used for the project was designed for evaluating x-rays, which allowed the lights and darks of an image to be vertically stretched into space, based on the lights and darks proportionately. For a normal photograph, the result would be a distorted image: with the shroud, however, the natural, 3-D relief of a human form came through. This means “there’s a correlation between image density – lights and darks on the image – and cloth to body distance.” “The only way that can happen is by some interaction between cloth and body,” he said. “It can’t be projected. It’s not a photograph – photographs don’t have that kind of information, artworks don’t.” This evidence led him to believe that the image on the shroud was produced in a way that exceeds the capacities even of modern technology. “There’s no way a medieval forger would have had the knowledge to create something like this, and to do so with a method that we can’t figure out today – the most image-oriented era of human history.” “Think about it: in your pocket, you have a camera, and a computer, connected to each other in one little device,” he said. “The shroud has become one of the most studied artifacts in human history itself, and modern science doesn’t have an explanation for how those chemical and physical properties can be made.” While the image on the Shroud of Turin was the most convincing evidence for him, he said it was only a fraction of all the scientific data which points to it being real. “Really, it’s an accumulation of thousands of little tiny bits of evidence that, when put together, are overwhelming in favor of its authenticity.” Despite the evidence, many skeptics question the evidence without having seen the facts. For this reason, Schwortz launched the website www.shroud.com, which serves as a resource for the scientific data on the Shroud. Nonetheless, he said, there are many who still question the evidence, many believing it is nothing more than an elaborate medieval painting. “I think the reason skeptics deny the science is, if they accept any of that, their core beliefs have been dramatically challenged, and they would have to go back and reconfigure who they are and what they believe in,” he said. “It’s much easier to reject it out of hand, and not worry about it. That way they don’t have to confront their own beliefs.” “I think some people would rather ignore it than be challenged.” Schwortz emphasized that the science points to the Shroud being the burial cloth belonging to a man, buried according to the Jewish tradition after having been crucified in a way consistent with the Gospel. However, he said it is not proof of the resurrection – and this is where faith comes in. “It’s a pre-resurrection image, because if it were a post-resurrection image, it would be a living man – not a dead man,” he said, adding that science is unable to test for the sort of images that would be produced by a human body rising from the dead. “The Shroud is a test of faith, not a test of science. There comes a point with the Shroud where the science stops, and people have to decide for themselves.” “The answer to faith isn’t going to be a piece of cloth. But, perhaps, the answer to faith is in the eyes and hearts of those who look upon it.” When it comes to testifying to this meeting point between faith and science, Schwortz is in a unique position: he has never converted to Christianity, but remains a practicing Jew. And this, he says, makes his witness as a scientist all the more credible. “I think I serve God better this way, in my involvement in the Shroud, by being the last person in the world people would expect to be lecturing on what is, effectively, the ultimate Christian relic.” “I think God in his infinite wisdom knew better than I did, and he put me there for a reason.”This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 4, 2015. Read more

Pope Francis meets with railroad workers–and reminds them of God’s mercy

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2015 / 03:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday addressed rail workers, remembering the hard and sometimes deadly work that built the railways of Italy. He invited them all to embrace God’s “medicine of merc… Read more

Want to find God? Seek him in the most needy, Pope Francis says

Rome, Italy, Dec 19, 2015 / 11:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking at a Rome homeless shelter, Pope Francis has said the humility of Jesus Christ’s birth shows that mankind can find God in poverty. The Pope was at the shelter to open a special Holy Door for the homeless during the Year of Mercy. “This is the door of the Lord,” the Pope said Dec. 18 as he opened the Holy Door. “Open the gates of justice. For your great mercy will enter into your house, O Lord.” The Pope then paused in prayer and proceeded in to celebrate Mass at the homeless shelter in Rome’s Termini – John Paul II train station. About 200 people were in the congregation, representing all the Caritas centers in Rome. In his impromptu homily, the Pope stressed that Jesus was not born to a princess in a palace. Rather, he came in humility to a simple young girl who lived on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. There is a lesson here on where to find God, Pope Francis said. “If you want to find God, look him for humility, look for him in poverty. Seek him where he is hidden: in the most needy, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “This is not luxury, this is not the way of great wealth, this is not is the way of power. This is the way of humility,” he continued. “Today we pray for Rome, for all the inhabitants of Rome, for everyone, starting with me, because the Lord give us the grace to feel ourselves rejected, because we do not have any merit: only he gives us mercy and grace,” he said. “To get closer to that grace, we must approach the rejected, the poor, to those who need it most.” He also voiced his desire for a spiritual renewal at Christmas. “This Christmas I wish that the Lord is born in the heart of each of us, hidden so that no one realizes,” Pope Francis said. Another day, another Holy Door! This time at a homeless shelter in Rome. https://t.co/U15luxeikh — Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) December 18, 2015 The homeless shelter is named for the 20th century Italian priest Don Luigi di Liegro, who founded the Rome diocese’s Caritas organization. The Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy began Dec. 8. Pope Francis declared the event to help encourage acts of faith, charity, and mercy. The Holy Doors of the Rome diocese are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the plenary indulgence that is connected with the jubilee. Four Holy Doors have been opened in the Rome diocese, including the homeless shelter’s door. Pope Francis opened the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. American Cardinal James Harvey opened the Holy Door at St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. On Jan. 1 Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St. Mary Major Basilica. The Pope has asked the Catholic bishops of the world to designate Holy Doors at churches in their dioceses. Read more

Want to find God? Seek him in the most needy, Pope Francis says

Rome, Italy, Dec 19, 2015 / 11:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking at a Rome homeless shelter, Pope Francis has said the humility of Jesus Christ’s birth shows that mankind can find God in poverty. The Pope was at the shelter to open a special Holy Door for the homeless during the Year of Mercy. “This is the door of the Lord,” the Pope said Dec. 18 as he opened the Holy Door. “Open the gates of justice. For your great mercy will enter into your house, O Lord.” The Pope then paused in prayer and proceeded in to celebrate Mass at the homeless shelter in Rome’s Termini – John Paul II train station. About 200 people were in the congregation, representing all the Caritas centers in Rome. In his impromptu homily, the Pope stressed that Jesus was not born to a princess in a palace. Rather, he came in humility to a simple young girl who lived on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. There is a lesson here on where to find God, Pope Francis said. “If you want to find God, look him for humility, look for him in poverty. Seek him where he is hidden: in the most needy, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “This is not luxury, this is not the way of great wealth, this is not is the way of power. This is the way of humility,” he continued. “Today we pray for Rome, for all the inhabitants of Rome, for everyone, starting with me, because the Lord give us the grace to feel ourselves rejected, because we do not have any merit: only he gives us mercy and grace,” he said. “To get closer to that grace, we must approach the rejected, the poor, to those who need it most.” He also voiced his desire for a spiritual renewal at Christmas. “This Christmas I wish that the Lord is born in the heart of each of us, hidden so that no one realizes,” Pope Francis said. Another day, another Holy Door! This time at a homeless shelter in Rome. https://t.co/U15luxeikh — Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) December 18, 2015 The homeless shelter is named for the 20th century Italian priest Don Luigi di Liegro, who founded the Rome diocese’s Caritas organization. The Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy began Dec. 8. Pope Francis declared the event to help encourage acts of faith, charity, and mercy. The Holy Doors of the Rome diocese are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the plenary indulgence that is connected with the jubilee. Four Holy Doors have been opened in the Rome diocese, including the homeless shelter’s door. Pope Francis opened the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. American Cardinal James Harvey opened the Holy Door at St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. On Jan. 1 Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St. Mary Major Basilica. The Pope has asked the Catholic bishops of the world to designate Holy Doors at churches in their dioceses. Read more

What does it look like to be gay – and a practicing Catholic?

Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2017 / 03:27 pm (CNA).- More than 10 years ago, Joseph Prever found himself scouring the internet for anything that might help him: he was gay, Catholic, and confused. Resources were scarce for a man struggling with homosexuality and trying to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching. In the intervening years, Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction have become a more vocal presence in the Church. Google the words “gay Catholic” and one of the top sites to appear will be Prever’s own blog, a blog with the tagline: “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine.” There, the 30-something writer considers his own experiences as a man struggling with same-sex attraction and trying to live out the virtue of chastity. What follows is an edited version of a conversation about everything from homosexuality and Batman to poetry and football. The interview is published in two parts.Part OneCan you introduce yourself and your blog?   I’m Joe Prever. I used to blog under the pseudonym Steve Gershom. I’ve been doing that for a few years now. The blog is about what it’s like to be a gay Catholic – a gay Catholic who is of course, celibate – and I say ‘of course’ because that seems to me like the only option if you’re going to be both gay and Catholic. On the blog I try to stay away from abstract discourse about spirituality and sexuality in general and more towards lived experience: that’s what I see as my niche.  Why did you start writing a blog? I honestly don’t remember the thought process that led me to it, but I do remember wishing at one point that there was somebody blogging like that, and in fact these days there are just a whole lot of people in my situation who are blogging, and that’s really great. It seems liked it’s very much exploded in the last few years. My friends and I joke that there’s a gay Catholic renaissance on, or actually a gay Christian renaissance on, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of it – or at least we tell ourselves that we’re at the forefront.Did those other people read your blog before they started theirs? Some of them did, yes. In fact, a couple of them have said to me that I was someone who helped to inspire them to start, so I’m very proud of that. This was a few years ago. Even at that time there were a fair amount of resources, in the sense that there were people who were writing about it, and you could find various testimonials online if you googled hard enough, but there were very few people who, on a day to day basis were like, ‘here’s what this is like, here’s how you deal with that,’ etc.And so you decided you were going to be that resource? Yes. Because at that time, I was sort of starting to feel for the first time that things were very much manageable, and I think back to this very specific moment in college when I was 18 or 19, and googling this kind of stuff, just to see if there was anybody out there who I could relate to and who would have some wisdom to share about it, and I did in fact find some stuff. It was remembering the feeling of how good it was to find that made me want to pass that along.You blogged pseudonymously for years and then you ‘came out,’ so to speak, in the summer of 2014. Why did you decide to do that? It was one of those decisions where by the time you make it, you realize that you’ve already made it, if you see what I mean. It was hard in the sense that I’d actually always said that people shouldn’t be public about being gay, because it was not anybody’s business and I felt that it would lend legitimacy to this idea that being gay is a sort of a single way to identify yourself: I actually still sort of hold that position – kind of. (Laughs). It’s hard to describe: I don’t think that being gay is as essential of a way to identify yourself as say, being male is, or being Catholic, or being human. I guess my position right now is that if the cultural atmosphere were different from what it is, then I don’t know whether I would have gone public.   The real reason I did is because of the blog, and talking about these things in general, and the cultural conversation in general that’s happening right now – all of these things have become such a big part of my life… it wasn’t really a question of honesty. It’s just that when something is so much a part of your life, people ask you, ‘oh, so what’ve you got going on?’ or ‘what are you doing these days?’ and I felt really lame saying, ‘oh, you know, programming computers. Watching movies. Hanging out. Stuff.’   So honestly, it was largely a vanity thing. It’s like the scene in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne is doing this, ‘I’m a rich celebrity playboy’ thing, and he’s bathing in fountains and buying hotels and so forth, and Katie Holmes’ (character) is upset with him for being such a wastrel. (Laughs) And I felt like I wanted to be publicly Batman: strictly for vanity-related reasons. I wanted everyone to know how awesome I am.I’m trying not to laugh… Well, it’s perfectly true. And I suppose there are other reasons, like I want to be a public witness and things like that, but I suspect that it’s mostly vanity.What response did you get when you ‘came out’? When people began to associate you with this gay guy who writes a blog? On the day that I made public the post where I came out, I received just piles and piles of comments and emails and text messages. Most were from people I didn’t know, except for the text messages, obviously, but a very large portion of them were from people who had known me for a long time and who just wanted to say how pleased they were that I had done this and how proud they were of me to have taken this stance, and how courageous they thought I was and how honored they were to be my friend, and all of this stuff. In other words, I can’t think of a single friend, family member, or acquaintance who did not greet this revelation with support. I think I would have had a very, very different response were I not celibate. When I get negative feedback, which I occasionally do from people who disagree with what the Church teaches, they say that I am being made a poster boy and that I’m being used – which is to say, conservative Christians are super happy to have somebody to point to whom they can say, ‘well look, here’s one person who agrees with us.’Do you think being accused of being a ‘poster boy’ means that people are people angered by your celibacy? That’s an interesting question. I think some people are angered on my behalf for what they perceive to be a sort of ‘Stockholm syndrome,’ and I’ve actually heard that phrase thrown around more than once. People see me defending the Church’s teachings on marriage, and on sexuality, and what they see is somebody who’s been taught to suppress his own nature for so long that he’s actually come to believe the things he’s been told about himself – that’s what they see.What’s really there? I can’t sum myself up, but the point is that if any of the people who accuse me of being the poster boy or of having ‘Stockholm syndrome’ or anything like that were actually to read the things I’ve said, they would see that, number one, I don’t sort of unquestioningly accept whatever I’m told about sexuality, but I always bring it back to my own experience. And number two, I very much admit the difficulties inherent in the life I live and I don’t pretend that they don’t exist. And I don’t think I would do either of those things if I had ‘Stockholm syndrome.’Your blog header is, ‘Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine,’ and you’ve been using the word ‘gay’ throughout our conversation so far. Do you have any thoughts on that word, as opposed to ‘same-sex attraction’ or other terms? Absolutely. That is another hard question, and it’s a question about which my position has been continually shifting, so I don’t feel as though I’ve found solid ground yet. I’ve always used the word. It used to be that I would use the word in writing, but sort of in my interior monologue and in private conversation I would say ‘same-sex attracted.’ I used to joke that the only reason I used the word ‘gay’ was so that I would tend to show up more on Google, which is only partially a joke, because you know if you’re going to use the tools of technology to evangelize, then you have to be savvy about what Google is going to find and what it isn’t.   But I guess the shift mainly happened as I began to approach being more public about it, because as I became more public I also came into contact more openly with people who identified as gay or who struggled with same-sex attraction, or whatever. And what I found was that a lot of them had a lot of resentment towards people who insisted on not using the word gay.Why did they have resentment? For a few reasons. It’s a really complicated topic, and I’m not sure how to distill what is offensive about it. One, is that it’s offensive to be told what you ought to be allowed to call yourself. And in fact, I rarely feel strongly about whether I should use the word gay or not, but the one time I do feel strongly about it is when somebody starts upbraiding me for it. Because it feels incredibly intrusive. This is a topic that gets very political very fast. It’s the sort of thing where people feel, and I think rightly, that they have been constrained to keep silent for most of their lives – and a lot of people have, whether it’s constrained by actual explicit homophobia among the people that they love and/or are related to, or whether it’s just sort of a general culture understanding that you don’t talk about this sort of thing. So you have a set of people who have felt this way for most of their lives, and then you have people saying ‘oh, well it’s sort of cool now if you talk about that, but just be sure you talk about it in this or that way.’ This is frustrating and comes across as very patronizing because these are people who don’t have any insight into the experience of what it is to be gay telling you what it is or is not ok to talk about, and what it is and is not ok to call yourself.Would you also apply that criticism to the Church who never uses the word ‘gay’ in her documents? I understand why She (the Church) doesn’t. I don’t know if that will continue to be the case. I don’t have any bitterness towards the Church as a whole in that way.   This is reason that I haven’t yet come to a solid opinion on this question – because the problem is that secular people and Christian people mean two different things by the word ‘gay.’Could you explain that a little more? It’s really hard to distill. But you know what’s at the heart of it? When I told my roommate I was gay, the first thing that he said to me was, ‘do you mean same-sex attracted?’ And that was actually the precisely wrong thing to say, and I don’t hold it against him. (Laughs) But the heart of it is that I was telling him this incredibly personal thing, and he was instructing me in the right way to feel about it, immediately, from the get-go. Now I think that one reason Christians tend to dislike the word ‘gay’ is because if somebody says that they are gay, then they are usually implying that it is an unchangeable aspect of their personality. Whereas the sort of default position among a lot of Christians is that homosexuality is changeable. The unspoken implication is that if you identify yourself as ‘gay,’ then you’re probably not trying hard enough to be straight. And I believe that this why it is so offensive to be told that they shouldn’t use the word gay.   It might be true that some people can change to some extent, but it’s extremely offensive to assume that the only reason somebody hasn’t changed is because they haven’t tried. And even though very few people would have the chutzpah to make that explicit, I do believe that that’s the belief that’s behind it.What do you think we should be doing as a Church, as a Christian community, to be helping people who struggle with homosexuality? That’s a really good question! I’ll start first by saying that I’m extremely grateful for the organization People Can Change, which is an organization founded precisely on the idea that radical change with respect to homosexuality is possible. I’m grateful for them not because they ‘made me straight’ or something, but because they gave me a space in which to work out some of my issues, many of which turned out not to be related precisely to homosexuality in particular, but were just sort of emotional issues that needed dealing with. I think a lot of gay men and women do have emotional issues that aren’t going to be dealt with if they’re told that everything is already ok. But on the other hand, this is dangerous because you have a lot of Christian people already assuming from the get-go that if somebody is homosexual, then they must have various and many emotional issues that need working on, and that’s not necessarily the case. (Laughs) So you see why this is difficult!If the understanding in the Christian world is that homosexuality is a “disorder,” and homosexual activity is a sin, then logically it would seem like as Christians, we would want to help our fellow Christians who are “dis-ordered” to be “ordered.” Do you think there’s a problem with that logic? I think there’s a problem with that phraseology. There’s a subtle but importance difference in saying that somebody has a disordered inclination and saying that somebody is disordered. The Church has to be clear with respect to ‘what is the nature of homosexuality itself,’ but can’t make a pronouncement on whether it is a mental disorder, for example. Many people assume that when the Church says ‘homosexuality consists of a disordered inclination,’ they take that word ‘disorder’ and assume that She means ‘mental disorder.’ But I think the Catechism has purposely phrased it in such a way that you can’t actually conclude that if you’re reading carefully. But it takes careful reading. The Church never changes her underlying principles, but when something new happens, it’s always a question of, ‘well, what do the underlying principles dictate in this particular situation?’ And a lot of the times it turns out that it doesn’t dictate what we thought it did but it takes a while to figure that out.What do you think the underlying principles are that are dictating what the Church is saying about homosexuality? That men are men, and women are women, and the two are not the same.Do you want to expound on that at all? Nooooo. (Laughs).   Well, what I think is that one, at the bottom of it, men and women are different. Number two, that eros is different from friendship, and number three, that physical acts have spiritual meanings. I think those things are the fundamental axioms that we have to work with here. And I think those things are precisely the things that are being argued about. I don’t think the Church is arguing about them, and I don’t think She should, because as far as I’m concerned, those things are absolutely essential to what the Church believes about people. But those things are very much being debated in the broader culture. I’ll tell you how I see myself and what I do, which is not only with respect to homosexuality but with how I try to live the Catholic faith in general. I try to live my life by those principles that make sense to me as a human being, and are consonant with what I know about human nature and with what the world at large has discovered about human nature. However, I also believe that if anything is true, it is Christian: that every truth is a Christian truth, and that there can be no truth about human nature which is not consonant with what the Church teaches about human nature.This article was originally published on CNA June 30, 2015. Read more

Pope Francis wants the ‘great mystic’ Gaudi to become a saint

Rome, Italy, Dec 18, 2015 / 06:25 pm (CNA).- On Wednesday Pope Francis met with members of the organization in charge of promoting the cause for canonization of Antoni Gaudi, known as “God’s architect,” telling them that he hopes the cause moves forward quickly. “The meeting with Pope Francis was an unforgettable experience; he told me that ‘Gaudi is a great mystic’ and that he hopes he will be declared Venerable soon,” Jose Manuel Almuzara told CNA Dec. 18. Almuzara heads the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi. Originally started as a small group of laymen with a tiny budget, the association decided to investigate the possibility in of Gaudi’s sainthood in 1992; the cause for his canonization was officially opened in Rome in 2003. In Rome this week for a conference and concert inspired by Gaudi, Almuzara was accompanied by the postulator of Gaudi’s cause for canonization, Silvia Correale, as well as other members of the association. Titled “Gaudi and mercy,” the event took place the afternoon of Dec. 15 at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. Almuzara was the speaker, and was joined by pianist Manuel José Ruíz Segarra and soprano Rocío Martínez for the concert. The group met with Pope Francis the next day during his Dec. 16 general audience. During the encounter, Almuzara said that he recited one of Gaudi’s more famous quotes: “The Church does not cease to build and therefore its head is the Pope – which means he builds bridges – churches are bridges to reach Glory.” He told Francis he appreciates his efforts to “build bridges,” and asked if the pontiff had read a book he had given to him in April titled “Sagrada Familia, Opus Magnum de Gaudí,” to which the Pope replied that he had. Almuzara explained that the association had wanted to participate in the Jubilee of Mercy in a concrete way, so they came up with the idea of the “Gaudi and mercy” workshop and invited members of universities, dioceses, institutions, schools, parishes from around the world to participate. When he handed the Pope a flier, Almuzara recalled how Francis said the workshop seemed like “an excellent idea.” “(Gaudi) is an example of life and work who took mercy into account, with a face to recognize, contemplate and serve; who throughout his life lived with intensity the signs of the presence and the closeness of God,” Almuzara said. The audience with the Pope, then, was a means of uniting with his desire to make the Church “a credible sign of mercy,” he said, adding that “we believe that Antoni Gaudi is an example through his life and work.” Gaudi, a Servant of God, was born in 1852 in Spain’s autonomous community of Catalonia. He was a devout Catholic, which together with forms drawn from nature greatly influenced his architecture; he has received the nickname “God’s architect” due to the emphasis he placed on religion in his works. His most famous work is the basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) in Barcelona. He began his work on the masterpiece in 1883, and in 1914 stopped all other projects to work exclusively on the masterpiece, to which he dedicated himself until his death in 1926. The church was consecrated by Benedict XVI in 2010, and named a basilica. Still under construction, it is expected to be completed by 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The basilica is known to have inspired conversions, one of whom was a Japanese architect who in 1998 was sent by the South Korean government to study Gaudi’s work in Barcelona, in preparation for an exhibition on the Gaudi’s works. Given only one week to complete his work, the man, a Buddhist at the time, wrote a letter to the association several months later revealing that he was converting to Catholicism. That same Japanese architect designed a special ambo for Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which was completed and installed in time for Francis’ Nov. 10 visit to the Italian city. (Almuzara told us this during the Pope’s visit to Florence – we tried to track the architect down, but were never able to reach him.) Almuzara and Correale also had a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, and the congregation’s secretary Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, in order to discuss the progress of Gaudi’s cause. The meeting was “very cordial and helpful,” Almuzara said, adding that while no dates have been set, the cardinal encouraged them to continue working to advance the cause. Specifically, the cardinal encouraged them in their work compiling what is called the “la positio super vita, virtutibus et fama sanctitatis,” that is, the book compiling “the position on the life, virtues and reputation of holiness” of the person under question. Included in “the positio” are several things, which Almuzara listed as: a full exposition on the history of the cause or process; the declarations of the witnesses and the documentation on the person’s life, work and the reputation of holiness of the person’s intercession; the opinion on the person’s writings; the documented biography of the person and the information on the heroic virtues they exercised. Once the volume is completed it must be presented to the congregation, Almuzara said, explaining that if they recognize the heroic virtue of Gaudi, it will then be presented to the Pope, who would then authorize it’s publication, allowing Gaudi to be called “Venerable.” He also spoke of possible miracles attributed to Gaudi, saying that while there is “no miracle recognized as such” yet, certain favors have been recorded by individuals and families who have asked for Gaudi’s intercession and sent them in for study. As of now “there is no concrete date for Gaudi to be either a venerable or a blessed,” Almuzara said, but added “who can calculate or put a date on a miracle?” The miracle, he said, “we put in into the hands of Divine Providence, (because) only God knows the day and the hour.” “Therefore we remain vigilant,” he said, and, quoting a remark Gaudi had made about the amount of time needed to complete the Sagrada Familia, stressed that “our client is not in a hurry.” Read more

In Lincoln diocese, faithful sacrifices lead to record-setting pledge campaign

Lincoln, Neb., Dec 18, 2015 / 01:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Lincoln’s capital campaign has raised $62.5 million since early 2014 to help fund Catholic schools and parish projects, educate seminarians, support retired priests, and evangelize – nearly $10 million over its goal. “This speaks to the faith and missionary spirit of the Catholics in our diocese – no matter the amount pledged, I know that Catholics have made sacrifices to support the mission of the Church,” Bishop James Conley said Dec. 17. Bishop Conley said he was “deeply grateful” to God for the Joy of the Gospel campaign. It far exceeded its initial goal of $53 million. “I hope that we can build on the success of this campaign, most especially by continuing to grow in faith and holiness.” The bishop said it was most gratifying to see so many families contribute. More than 11,000 households, about 45 percent of Catholic households in the diocese, pledged a five-year gift. Peter Hoskow, managing director of fundraising consultant Community Counseling Service, said the campaign was “among the most successful diocesan efforts” in U.S. Catholicism. Typical diocesan campaign participation is 20 to 25 percent. The average pledge amount was over $6,800, the highest average gift the consultant service had seen in its decades of operation. The diocese’s 32 Catholic elementary and high schools will receive the largest portion of funds. Diocese spokesman J.D. Flynn said other funds will provide school grants for new programs, personnel needs, and “innovative approaches to Catholic education.” St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, 25 miles west of Lincoln, will use some of the funds to expand and to defray the costs of tuition. The diocese’s minor seminary is presently at maximum capacity. More than $10 million from the campaign will fund parish needs such as roofing projects, disability access, remodeling churches and parish halls, and programs of faith formation and evangelization. The campaign’s support for diocesan pastoral outreach and evangelization will back a new pastoral plan, a staff director for Hispanic ministry, expanded prison ministry, online resources, and outreach to divorced Catholics. “Pope Francis reminds us constantly to remember people on the margins,” Bishop Conley said.  “We need the Joy of the Gospel to reach people the Church might not otherwise impact.” The campaign will also provide seed capital for the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, an accredited educational effort for university students. The bishop credited the drive’s success to the generosity of the laity and the hard work of diocese’s clergy, staff, and volunteers. He also credited the Virgin Mary, “the patroness of our diocese, who prays for the success of our ministry.” Almost $1 million in pledges to the diocese came from 145 priests. Bishop Conley personally raised over $16.8 million in pledges. About 86 percent of parishes met their fundraising goals. Six parishes joined diocesan needs and larger parish projects in “combined campaigns” that raised another $11 million not included in the diocesan total. The bishop said the diocese is still working towards a sustainable financial model for ordinary operations. “We have to continue to be good stewards, and to be supportive of the Church’s work,” he said. “But the campaign reminds us how many Catholics are willing to give generously to our mission.” Read more