Mark Shea and the Gay Saint

Mark Shea’s May 1 column, the one in which he informally canonizes the late Perry Lorenzo, might not qualify as a revolutionary act. But it will, I think, represent something — a subtle but important tonal shift in the intra-Church conversation on homosexuality. If Mark himself doubted his column represented something new, he probably wouldn’t have bothered writing it in the first place.

Lorenzo, who died at the age of 51 in December, 2009, had served as education director for the Seattle Opera. A lifelong Catholic, graduate of Gonzaga University and onetime seminarian, he became an expert in liturgy and sacred music. His Blogspot blog is still up; his posts (even less frequent than mine!) showcase his profound love for the Church and the arts, and his appreciation for the symbiosis of the two.

Lorenzo was also openly gay. (His obituary reports he persuaded his partner, Paul Hearn, to convert to Catholicism.) Mark Shea’s reaction to all this amounts to a shrug. Without bucking the Church’s line on homosexuality, Mark declares Lorenzo’s sex life — if he had one — off limits. “I also agree with the Church that my own acts of gluttony are sinful and even gravely so,” he writes. “But I don’t believe God has abandoned or rejected me and I trust his grace to help me slowly become conformed to Christ, so why should I believe for a second that somebody like Perry, who manifested such abundant and beautiful fruits of the Spirit was not pleasing to God and was not doing his best to strive for God?”

Implicit everywhere in Mark’s post is the sense that Lorenzo was not merely gay. He was, first and foremost, a human being with remarkable gifts and talents that he applied, generously, toward evangelization. Lorenzo’s sexual orientation may have complicated his relationship with God, but at least there was a relationship to complicate. Declaring him a “saint,” as Mark does, is probably a little premature; devil’s advocacy for the opposing view is hardly unreasonable. The real, solid takeaway is that Lorenzo is a fellow sinner and fellow pilgrim, just like Mark or me or any of our readers.

This may sound like nothing more or less than common sense — would any Catholic deny there’s more to Mel Gibson than bigotry and anger-management problems? But in these frazzled times, it represents a very neat splitting of differences. Many Catholics reject Church teachings on homosexuality out of hand. Pew data shows that support for gay marriage runs higher among Catholics than among Americans in general. On the other side, the subject of homosexuality drives some prominent, self-consciously orthodox Catholics to astounding depths of nastiness. Last month, the Catholic League tweeted sneeringly of “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen” who “had to” adopt kids, rather than conceiving the old-fashioned way. By way of attacking Cardinal Wuerl, who had placed a priest on administrative leave after he’d denied communion to an open lesbian, George Neumayr wrote that anonymous “church insiders” had nicknamed the cardinal “Wuerl the girl,” in tribute to his “precious personality.” This was as close as Neumayr could come to saying, “Check it out, dudes, His Eminence is a pillow-biting faggot” without risking a lawsuit. To at least a few Catholics, “gay,” or any synonym, is still an argument-ending epithet.

But, from reading the responses to Mark’s piece, I didn’t get the sense that too many of these people hang around Patheos. Far less than outright contempt for gays and lesbians, Mark’s critics seem driven by a kind of moral fussiness. By speaking so highly of Lorenzo’s gifts, and so neutrally of his sexuality, Mark was condoning, if not encouraging, sin. (If I were George Neumayr, I might compare Mark’s critics to so many princesses, with peccatus as their pea.) To quote from someone commenting under the handle “Sophie”:

Christ wants us to do fraternal correction when our brothers/sisters err in their lives and not say what he does is between him and his God…The sins of the members of the body affects the whole body of the Church. No soul is an island. If the gay man was a deliberately practicing a homosexual lifestyle, then he was in a state of mortal sin no matter how many acts of charity or good works he does in his life…Sainthood is serious business and it means HEROIC fight for virtue. This “gay” man’s eloquent words are nothing if his deliberate actions are not congruent to what he professes. Love for Christ and the Church is proven with our lives not merely with our words…This article cheapens the demand of Jesus to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Never forget that when Jesus forgave Mary Magdalen, he stated “Go and sin no more”. He never condones sin.

Sophie — whose remarks seem pretty typical of Mark’s more negative responses — places the issue firmly in a theological context. In doing so, she creates space for ongoing dialogue. What form should fraternal correction take? Where gays and lesbians are concerned, what form of spiritual direction is most effective? If the cultivation of virtue requires a heroic fight, does it follow that priests and other counselors should comport themselves like so many Pattons and Pullers? If the goal here is really to minister to actual human beings, rather than protect the party line from worldly encroachment, I don’t know that there can be a single, definitive answer. There may, in fact, be as many answers as there are gays and lesbians looking to lead the Christian life.

LGBT issues have a special place in my heart for a very personal reason: to this day, I’m amazed I’m not gay. My being straight seems like a terrible oversight on somebody’s part. Unathletic, expressive, creative, quick to tears and worshipful of my mother, I’m a total nance whether you want to quote Jung or Bensonhurt folk wisdom. (Yeah, I know — plenty of actual gay people bear no resemblance to the stereotype, but try telling that to my inner 13-year-old.) I tend to form close friendships with macho, stud-type guys; if I’m not literally playing bottom to their top, I’m certainly playing Lewis to their Martin or Dom to their Burt.

Even after I discovered my attraction to women, I lived with the quiet but persistent fear that one day I’d revert to my true form and wind up in bed with another guy. One evening, after a breakup had convinced me I was hopelessly out of my depth in the Kingdom of Woman, I decided, “Hell with it. The mountain might as well come to Muhammad.” (The fact that gay men had always been so generous in their shows of appreciation made me wonder whether playing for their team might not, in fact, turn out to be an easier gig.) I went to the gay bar two doors down from me, and within an hour was necking with a former Colomban priest named Mike, or in my improvised Gaelic endearment, “Mickleen.”

No disrespect to the poor guy, but I did not enjoy myself one little bit. Indeed, I was so distracted that I found myself looking over Mike’s shoulder toward the bar. Then, suddenly, I realized what I was looking at: there was a very pretty girl giggling over her beer and popcorn. Whether she was a fag hag, a lesbian or just someone who wanted not to get hit on I have no idea, but I was doing my damndest to make eye contact with her. Very shortly afterward, I aborted the experiment, having settled for myself the question my own sexuality, and of nature versus nurture, and resolving never to torment a woman by growing a beard. (I later reneged on the beard thing.)

This little anecdote is relevant because it illustrates how cultural baggage can burden people, no matter how hard they may try to unbudren themselves. Growing up, just by breathing the air I breathed, I absorbed the idea that homosexuality, being the natural extension of effeminacy, was plain contemptible — a flaw that polluted the character as surely as a spot of mold pollutes a kaiser roll. Looking back, my having tried to pick up a guy seems less remarkable than my having waited so long to do it. Being gay was so unthinkable that anything else — even the hetero mating game, which often involved the psychological equivalent of my slamming my dick in an oaken door — was to be preferred.

Here’s the kicker: I came by these prejudices during a childhood spent in cosmopolitan Manhattan, the son of ultra-liberal parents. My high school was about ten minutes’ walk from the West Village, birthplace of the Village People. In the landscape of my youth, openly gay people were so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. And still, the idea I might be one of them condemned me to me years of paranoia. When I think of how growing up in a more traditional environment might have committed the delicta of fornicatio with my head, I cannot repress a shudder.

This long, painful history of self-suspicion has made me want to try to cultivate imaginative sympathy for people who actually are gay. (Rick Santorum says he’d love a gay kid as much as a straight one? Okay, that’s mighty white of him, but I’m not sure I’d want to be that kid.) Whatever stupid things Dan Savage has said and done, I’ll always respect him for the “It Gets Better” campaign. My earnest hope is that my adopted Church, even if she cannot bend her rules regarding gay relationships, will enforce them in ways that offer gay people not merely compassion, but respect. Nobody should shout “mollites!” or “μαλακός!” at the opposing team when it’s fourth and goal.

Of course, gay rights activists aren’t shooting rubber bullets, either. Last fall, for example, the Rainbow Sash Movement challenged Cardinal Dolan to a debate on gay marriage. The challenge came in the form of a rude and fatuous letter that no self-respecting person would have felt obliged to answer. Given this context, it makes perfect sense that Mark’s praise for Lorenzo triggered a defensive response; why not circle the wagons when the Injuns really are charging? For that reason, I’m glad Mark was brave enough to take the hit. He did it for a worthwhile cause. Catholics of good will deserve a gentle reminder that gays and lesbians — particularly those crazy enough to want to share pew space with us — are individuals, not simply bearers of an alien agenda, and much more, in all cases, then the sums of their indvidual sins.

Update: My brand-new friend Calah, of the Barefoot and Pregnant blog, has written a very moving personal essay in response to Mark’s piece — especially remarkable considering she normally rates Mark right up there with cancer.

The Crusades and Yearning for Christendom
In Praise and Defense of Catechists
Five Reasons I Despise Listicles
Lent and the Lame Evangelist
  • Lisa

    My problem with Mark’s column had nothing to do with the issue of homosexuality. It’s a horrid, hit-spiking invasion of privacy of a dead guy who didn’t ask for Mark Shea’s opinion of the state of his soul as related to his sex life, much less the whole Internet’s.

  • Mark Shea

    When somebody sexual orientation constitutes part of their obituary in the Seattle Times, there’s no invasion of privacy happening.

  • Joe Durepos

    Wow, what a thoughtful, brave, and welcome post–thanks. And Kudos to Shea.

  • Nancy French

    “Whatever stupid things Dan Savage has said and done, I’ll always respect him for the “It Gets Better” campaign.”

    If homosexuality is a sin, does it really get better? Or, if you give yourself over to a sin (any sin), would it get worse?

    Also, this IGB campaign manifests itself in these ways?

    And what can you possibly mean about Rick Santorum? I’m not a huge Santorum fan, but what do you mean it’s “white of him?” And why wouldn’t you want to be his kid? (Other than possibly having him drag you around the country in a destined-to-fail political bid?)

  • Billiamo

    When you’ve been struggling for years with ‘the sin that cries out for vengeance’, as I have, posts like Mark Shea’s are like a balm to the soul. The semi-Jansenist remarks of many of his readers? Not so much. It makes me want to abandon comboxes for good. And not just comboxes.

  • Gerry

    Nice try. I got here from the Anchoress, but that’s as far as I will go. I will not read Shea’s crap for any reason.

    I will note that taking a cheap shot at Santorum, while defending the bullying bigot Savage, is believable.

  • Laura

    Billiamo, I hope you’re taking spiritual direction from a sturdier source than comboxes.

    Meanwhile, I have come neither to praise Caesar nor bury him. I wonder if a regular guy, given the same circumstances save one, and the same spiritual stuff, would have come to as much glory or grief. In other words, maybe I should write about my saintly grandma and see if it makes the news. But since the story doesn’t involve French-kissing her, I won’t quit my day job.

  • Occum’s Razor

    So… “openly gay” is no longer a gravely disordered state?

    Oh wait, gluttony is now on the same depravity level of sin as “openly gay”?

    So that whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing really had nothing to do with unnatural sex acts.

    So now “openly gay” merits a moral “shoulder shrug”?

    When exactly did the Roman Catholic Church’s New Age Catechism hit the book stores?

  • Corita

    Max, I got here from Calah’s site and I want to thank you, too, for the courage to tell your story, albeit for different reasons than Calah did. It takes guts to tell that tale in the Catholic blogosphere, or a kind of ignorance! But I think probably you know what the “sin that cries out for vengeance” crowd is like.

    @Billiamo: Please don’t give up.

    [I have less contact with them than you might suppose. They don't take me seriously enough. Even the few critical comments this piece has attracted sound half-hearted compared to what other bloggers face. Thanks for your kind remarks. The fact that readers have shared and tweeted this piece at a much lower rate than usual makes me wonder whether I gave them more of me than they'd wanted. That's what writing's about -- sometimes your risks pay off, sometimes not. You learn and move on.]

  • Billiamo

    No, Laura. That way madness lies. I’m just put off by the lack of mercy.

    Thank you kindly, Corita — I’ll never give up.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    So… “openly gay” is no longer a gravely disordered state?

    Of course it is. “Gravely disordered” is not the same as “sinful,” however. An openly gay man who is chaste may have gravely disordered inclinations and be completely in the state of sanctifying grace.

    Oh wait, gluttony is now on the same depravity level of sin as “openly gay”?

    Dunno. One is listed as a deadly sin, and the other isn’t, though.

    So that whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing really had nothing to do with unnatural sex acts.

    I suggest reading Mark Shea’s follow up the same day as the original post. He axes the notion that S & G aren’t about homosex pretty hard.

    So now “openly gay” merits a moral “shoulder shrug”?
    When exactly did the Roman Catholic Church’s New Age Catechism hit the book stores?

    For someone named Occam’s Razor, you don’t seem very interested in the simplest explanation. I’d try, I don’t know, reading what Mark is saying.

  • Corita

    “Even the few critical comments this piece has attracted sound half-hearted compared to what other bloggers face….The fact that readers have shared and tweeted this piece at a much lower rate than usual makes me wonder whether I gave them more of me than they’d wanted.”

    Max, I would guess that at least some of those people are still digesting the story. I am sure that it is hard for a number of Patheos readers to even imagine how a person can possibly choose to go to the gay bar and canoodle with a random stranger and…NOT BE GAY. The definition of the word is, in some minds, just being *able* to consider doing such a thing. It’s at least a line, and coming near it is up for jokes, right?

    But anyway I think this might be hard to put into the “gays are this and straights are that” kind of boxes plenty of decent, compassionate people have. I don’t know if I am expressing it clearly.

    I stopped reading a number of Catholic discussion groups a few years ago because I just couldn’t handle the static of emotions that the well-meaning and the “sin/vengeance” folks (sometimes the same folks) continuously dished out when the topic of homosexuality came up. Maybe you never went to those places, and the blog traffic hasn’t gotten sufficiently big enough for them to come to you yet. But I have to say that things are looking up in the blogosphere these last few weeks.

    [Homosexuality is one of those issues where partisans on both sides say, "You're either with us or against us." If your average gay activist were to read this piece, he'd say, "Thanks for nothing, schmuck," and rip into me for not challenging Church teachings. Many Catholic culture warriors write off as traitors anyone who refuses to hold up homosexuality as the Tony Montana of sins, i.e., the one people can point to and say, "That's the bad guy."

    But yeah, you guessed my motives right. I wanted my regular readers -- who know me for a bit of an oddball -- to say, "Well, gee, if Lindenman attempted a gay fling, then homosexuality must not be so bizarre or exotic after all. Why, a good friend of mine was one of those Lesbians Until Graduation."]

  • Calah

    Max! Thank you so much for your comment on my post, and for linking back here! This post is really, really great. Just perfect, I think, the very thing that Catholics in comboxes need to hear right now. I don’t think it’s TMI at all. I was raised Evangelical in a very Evangelical section of the Bible belt, where “gayness” was vehemently proclaimed to be a particularly disgusting sin that one chose to live, and all scientific evidence to any genetic link or other cause was dismissed as “the liberal agenda.” I was always troubled by the sheer disdain and disgust with which gay people were treated, and I found the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality to be infinitely more respectful of human dignity than any other take on it, including the secular culture’s. It was really sad when I began to see just how much of the mentality I was raised with had invaded Catholic circles as well. That kind of self-righteous condemnation is just so foreign to my understanding of our faith. I really appreciated Mark’s post and yours for reminding the internet world that we are supposed to treat each other with compassion. You put a human face on the whole thing, which I think a lot of Catholics never see. Thank you so much for that, and for taking the heat that will doubtless come your way.

    (Oh and btw, the “mighty white of him” comment made me giggle. I really don’t doubt Santorum’s words, but that was still funny.)

    [Thanks! Your post -- to which I will promptly provide a link -- impressed me with its earnestness. As so often proves to be the case, I couldn't help being a smartass. You're right that evangelical culture has really changed the face of American Catholicism. My theory on why? Apart from the settlers of Maryland, American Catholics lived for a long time in ethnic enclaves where the styles of piety retained close ties to their European roots. Now that those white ethnics have moved out to the suburbs, they've either abandoned the religion, or invested in a style much more typically American, which is to say, much more evangelical and mega-churchy. It helps that the Second Vatican Council, and later the pastoral exhortations of John Paul II, encouraged laypeople to take a more active role in evangelization; fundies have been doing that forever, so naturally we've been aping their style.

    In case anyone needs reminding, "Mighty white of you" doesn't refer to anyone's race. In less racially sensitive times, it was a way of saying, "How very decently you behaved." In connection with Santorum, I'm using it ironically, a way of saying, "Whatever. Don't do me any favors."]

  • Student of G.K. Chesterton

    Can someone first post the rules of Canonization? Where does the author of the article prove Shea had canonized Mr. Lorenzo?

    Strangely the same author said something along the lines of Shea calling the man a saint. Mr. Shea himself, obviously, does not even believe he’s made the man a saint. Only God can make saints.

    Whether you have an official Canonization through the graces dispensed to the Church for the person’s verification of being called a saint or the ordinary sainthood each receives through the beatific life and graces God gives (meaning, God does not present the person’s sainthood ncessarily for the effigy of as a witness who is visibly declared a saint by which God provides ample signs as: St. Theresea of Lisieux, Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and Bl. Pope John Paul II) – whether one or the other, the souls resting place is with God (no matter what life they’ve lived. Which, by the way, doesn’t confirm, affirm, nor deny the person is with God.) Afterall, Christ said why do you go among the dead rather than the living?

    To draw Mr. Shea’s comments to an extensive degree is very weird. He does not come close to the statements said of him. Here’s brief comment, don’t get your knickers in a twist.

  • Stephen J.

    Technically, gluttony always *was* on the same level as open homosexuality; they’re both among the Seven Deadlies. And nobody’s sins merit a “shoulder shrug” — but nobody’s sins are unforgiveable, either. “Forgive us our trespasses *as we forgive*” isn’t exactly a New Age part of the Catechism.

    One of the hardest things to come to terms with about anybody is that their flaws don’t nullify their virtues, nor do their virtues nullify their flaws. Commitment to truth has to be balanced with commitment to charity, and to hope that God’s grace has time to work even in the instant a soul is crossing out of Time.

  • midwestlady

    Ah yes, Mark Shea. I rarely read Mark Shea because I think he veers toward knee-jerk drivel on a regular basis. This only re-confirms my impression of him.

    Look, there’s nothing wrong with doing a nice piece on someone whose work you like or who you knew and thought a lot of. On the contrary, life is tough and people who do a good job of something deserve to be lauded for the things they accomplish. Honestly and generously lauded.

    On the other hand, informal canonizations are NEVER called for. And this is, make no mistake, and informal canonization, calling him a saint. Yet this was a person in open defiance of Church teaching on an ongoing basis. Couldn’t Shea have simply said something like “He was a great guy with his share of flaws like us all, but he did this with some style and grace and I really respect him” and let it go at that? There’s nothing wrong with saying that and it would have been the truth. Naw, that wouldn’t have been knee-jerk dramatic enough for Mr. Shea. He has to “spout.”

    [One of the Anchoress' readers posted something along the lines of "Shea earned this by being such a blowhard for so long." I must admit, every time Mark calls Obama our God-King, I debate doing a shot of Drano. But then I end up asking myself whether anyone gets far in blogging by being bland or equivocal. Lord knows I never did.]

  • The Ranter

    Max – don’t get me started on the Catholic League and Bill Donohue. I don’t have kind words usually for them.

  • Thomas R

    I might sound like an idiot, but are the deadly sins really all the same and all mortal? I thought they were just groupings of things that are the source of sins.

    Because it seems to me if the “seven deadly sins” are mortal sins than everyone is probably in a state of mortal sin much of the time.

  • JerseyDan

    Dan Savage obviously has issues with the Church way over and beyond his contempt for the church; however I try to overlook his contempt and his rather strange, humanistic, “ethical slut” endorsing sex advice (he really doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart what I or anyone else thinks anyway). His It Get’s Better Campaign has probably done much good, better than anything the (Institutional) Church has done or is doing in order to keep young GLTB folks from despairing and commuting suicide. What I see in those videos is people, all kinds, colors and orientation saying “just hang in there…”. An arm on the shoulder if you would. I see very little in the way of an outreached hand from the church when young people are so hurt and scared and confused and contemplating suicide that I have to be glad for IGB even if it is a shadow of what I think loving Catholics could produce if they wished.

    I think Mark makes a good point when he talks about conforming himself to Christ. There is so little out there on inward striving for conversion and so much in the way of “love the sinner, hate the sin” that kids become self loathing. They end up defining themselves by their orientation, their desires, their sins real or imagined, committed or contemplated and loose sight of the bigger picture of conforming themselves to Christ.

    Teenagers are anything but balanced.

    Thanks Max, for another great post and thanks for sharing your fears and anxieties. I am struck that in Greenwich Village, as the son of liberal parents you would have been anxious. Imagine what the realization of being gay would be like for a cradle catholic from a conservative family who thought and taught that gay people were mistakes. Not only was I different and condemned to a life of sin and slime, being an outsider and loneliness…I was going to hell as well. I was only spared a suicide attempt by a very holy and loving, fully habited nun who spent hours trying to convince me that God loved me and formed me and would always be there for me. I will always be great full to Sister Jean for demonstrating love like I had never imagined possible and demonstrating that while she couldn’t promise it would get better that the situation was and is better than I thought because at least someone still loved me and He had decided to show that love through Sister Jean.

    [That's exactly the kind of thing I do try to imagine. Glad Sister Jean was around! As for Savage, well, I've always said that ex-Catholics pay the Church a backhanded compliment. By hating on her so extravagantly, they re-affirm her prominence in their consciousness. When's the last time you saw an ex-fundie singer go on Saturday Night Live and tear up a picture of James Dobson?]

  • Lisa Graas

    Speaking as one with Bipolar Disorder, I will be very glad when people understand that homosexuality is disordered and that if we find our identity in disorder instead of in Jesus Christ, we’re not going to be saints anytime soon.

    He wasn’t a “gay man.” He was a man who had same-sex attraction. Until we get that, people are not going to find Christ in these debates. Jesus is not in the warm fuzzies. He is in the Cross.

  • Tina

    Amen, Lisa!

    When we acknowledge disorder and weakness within ourselves, that’s when God can use us most:

    “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

  • Chris C.

    Thanks to Max for an insightful article and kudos to Lisa Graas for her astute observations which I would like to second.
    For believers the issue cannot be whether or not to love and accept those with disorders, including SSA but whether or not to define them or encourage them to be defined by those disorders. Encouraging those with SSA to self identify as “gay” does exactly that, according to the excellent and orthodox Catholic apostolate Courage, which I hope all Catholics will support. They recommend specifically against such self identification as being a hindrance to holiness, not a help. As with any other disorder; bi-polar, gluttony etc, we are called to bear our cross daily, in humility and trust. However we are not defined by that same cross, but by our humble walk of faith with Our Lord.
    My problem with what Mark Shea has written has nothing to do with offering true compassion and acceptance to those with SSA. But in love we owe them the fullness of truth. Those who have need to support to sustain them in dealing with SSA and in being fully faithful the Christ, would do well to check out Courage.

    [My essay was all about confronting prejudice, so please, tell me whether my misgivings about Courage International have any validity. From what I understand, it's run on the lines of a 12-step program. That kind of enforced intimacy with strangers, those constant reminders of how helpless everyone is, sound infantilizing, not to mention demoralizing. I don't doubt it works for some people, but I have to believe it would drive others completely nuts.]

  • Chris C.

    I have no firsthand experience but did know someone who was in it. My observations are based on what I learned on their website. The meeting structure might not be for everyone, or maybe only for a period of time. Maybe those with SSA and who are active with Courage, or part of the family support group Encourage, can weigh in. Sorry I can’t be of more help on that.
    My reason for discussing it was more to point out that there are good avenues for those with SSA who seek to live a sacramentally faithful life in Christ and in union with His Church; something that I think was largely missing from the discussion of this topic, on multiple blogs, over this past week.


  • Jennifer

    You took a very cheap and gratuitous shot at Rick Santorum while defending and making excuses for a vile and hateful man like Savage. That speaks volumes to me.

  • Corita

    @Chris C, you wrote: “My reason for discussing it was more to point out that there are good avenues for those with SSA who seek to live a sacramentally faithful life in Christ and in union with His Church; something that I think was largely missing from the discussion of this topic, on multiple blogs, over this past week.”

    I think the discussions taking place– those I have read– have been sparked by pieces that were not really about those who are SSA living a sacramental faithful life, but about our attitude, as Catholic Christians, toward those who are SSA and how all the faithful can (should?) properly relate to each other within the context of our faith.

    The responses then become mainly a discussion of how this can and should take place. So the focus is more on those who are NOT SSA, than those who are. But I am so glad that those who are, are chiming in to give their perspective.

    And BTW, my understanding about Courage is that it depends a lot on local leaders of the support groups.

  • Corita

    Sigh. And I do not mean to set up some sort of significant differentiation between Christians who do not struggle with SSA and those who do.

  • Manny

    Of the various blogs on the Lorenzo subject here on Patheos, this was the best written. A lot of the “nastiness” comes about because the two sides are at an impass. If there were a way to comprimise, I suspect we would. But the Bible is clear, which ties the orthodox side and the homosexual rights side feels slighted and denigrated if homosexuality is perceived as a sin. It cuts to the core of their identity.

    “Lorenzo’s sexual orientation may have complicated his relationship with God, but at least there was a relationship to complicate.”

    That was a blessing (as well as a grace) for Lorenzo. So many gays have no faith at all. Special blessings to the homosexuals who fight their impulses to stay in a state of purity. And I completely understand gays who refuse one of the orthodox denominations to become a part of a liberal christian sect. It may not be the correct Church, but at least it’s a relationship with God.

  • terry nelson

    Excellent post – thanks very much. You have courage and are wonderfully honest. God bless you and stay strong in your faith.

  • Tina

    Hi Max,

    If I may, I’d like to attempt to respond to your questions about Courage. I’ve been a member of Courage for the last 18 years and I worked for the Courage apostolate for 10 years.

    Not all Courage groups are based on a twelve-step format. The Courage handbook says that the twelve-step format is just one of several formats a Courage group may employ. What is a regular feature of any Courage meeting is the reading of the five goals at the beginning of a meeting:

    1. To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. (Chastity)
    2. To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. (Prayer and Dedication)
    3. To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone (Fellowship)
    4. To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life; and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining these friendships. (Support)
    5. To live lives that may serve as good examples to others. (Good Example/Role Model)

    After the reading of the goals, the facilitator usually gives a short talk on a relevant topic or leads the group in a brief meditation or reflection. Then each member is given the opportunity to share what’s on his/her heart, and how his/her life is going. After each member is given a chance to share, the group closes with prayer. Afterwards, if time permits, people often go out for a coffee or a bite to eat.

    Courage members are encouraged to develop friendships and form community with each other and with the Church at large. Individual groups are encouraged to have retreats and days of recollection, and, when possible, to participate in the annual conference.

    Not every Catholic who experiences same-sex attractions needs a Courage group to live chastely, but a Courage group can be an excellent source of support and fellowship, especially when one is going through a period of temptation or struggle. At present, I don’t go regularly to my local Courage meeting, but I do drop in about once a month, mostly because this ministry is very dear to my heart and because the members are my friends.

    I suppose each Courage group is about as good as its particular facilitator and individual members make it. I was very fortunate to have participated in well-run Courage groups, and I was doubly blessed to have Father Harvey (the Founding-Director of Courage) for a boss. Through Courage, my faith has been strengthened and I’ve made life-long friends. For that, I’m very, very grateful.

    If anyone so desires, they may hear my testimony which is currently on the Courage website: (scroll down to “Tina’s Witness”).

    Sorry for taking up so much space in responding! :/


    [Thank you very kindly, Tina. I'll be sure to listen to your testimony later today.]

  • Les

    Far as I know, rejection of the Holy Spirit is about the only unforgivable sin….. that said, in my own journey , i have battled against some pretty awful sins that conflicted with my need to be closer to Him. Sometimes, i succeed in casting them away, and sometimes i dont. Through it all, the best weapon i have had, is obedience. Through obedience, i have come to be more humble, because i set my own needs and desires aside to take up His. I fall and get up, fall and get up, but never give up and never lose focus on Him, He calls regardless of our state of sin. This has only taken about 36 years since becoming Catholic, and i was in my 30′s when i converted from athiesm. Thank God for all the loving , caring people in my life that have supported me in my struggles, and never abandoned me, even at my worst. We are not the Body of Christ alone, and God Willing, we can also be one of those loving and supportive people in other’s lives, no matter the state of their sins.

  • Kristen indallas

    “then I end up asking myself whether anyone gets far in blogging by being bland or equivocal. Lord knows I never did.”

    I dig ya Max. And your ability to write about potentially fracturing topics in an even-handed, humble, and unifying way. This and the recent peice on the sisters have me thinking you may just be the most thoughtful blogger that exists. Not being reactionary does not make you anything at all like bland, at least not in my book.

  • LeAnn

    Max I am one of your regular readers. I have been busy the last few days so I just now got to your post. I admit I have not read Shea’s post. So I am commenting strictly on your display of bravado in flinging wide the doors and spilling your guts. This was a remarkable piece. Your ability to share your struggles puts your reader like a fly on the wall, observing your actions at a distance and you allow your reader to think, OMG he did that! And yet, you survived, you climbed, you looked back.

    I had many a crush on gay guys. I took a gay guy to prom, well it wasn’t prom it was a Sadie Hawkins dance. I had male friends who would go to the bar with me and we both would admire a nice ass on a guy. I even thought I could convert one guy to “my side”.

    I have come to realize that we all have faults, whether it is love of books like Fifty Shades of Gray, Deep Throat movies, or succumbing to the temptation of a same sex fling. Adultery and Fornication are ugly sins that hurt people and it doesn’t really matter the sexual preference. Likewise, Chastity and Temperance are virtues whether hetero- or homo- sexual.

    God calls me to love humankind. I do take seriously my obligation of fraternal love and how that means I tell an adult friend or family member of their mistake. One priest cautioned though, it must be done in private and it should not be done often. One takes this to the public only if the scandal is public and then only when the offender first makes it public himself/herself.

    Anyway, I enjoy your writing. Thanks for starting a dialogue.

  • Rosemary

    So, just because you had the experience of making out with an ex-priest, Shea’s point of view is justified?
    I once worked with a guy who told me that he was a strong proponent of capital punishment. When I raised the issue of his friend who had recently been convicted of murdering her boyfriend, he said to me, “Well, that’s different. She’s a friend of mine.”
    You have been seduced by that false argument, and I am surprised, Max. I thought you were more honest than that.

  • Eric

    Max, I stubbled on your article and enjoyed it. I had a gay couple as neighbors, and friends, who were both active in their Catholic parish. I thought the congregation and the priest handled things graciously. They were welcome, involved, loved, and accepted as the good but broken people we ALL are. This was done without compromising the teaching and ideals of the Catholic faith. By the way, I’m a Lutheran and wish we could handle these issues with such uncompromising fidelity and uncompromising grace.

  • hpoitiers

    Mark is not without a point, albeit skewed by his relatively articulate, fairly well-read, but typically bufoonish style. In this case charity had best pass by the deceased, after a few kind words, in hopeful silence.

  • Pete Mc Nesbit

    It always confuses me how all the queer haters can be so sure that out of all the saints the church still recognizes that none of them could possibly have been queers. Are they as infallible as they assume Rome and the Curia and the Popes who cannonizied them were positively sure that they were all straight? Remember all priests are still the sons of Adam, and are just as likely to bear false witness and murder as was Cain.
    The Lord Almighty is the only one who can see into our souls. Are we sure that Augustine, when he was living a dissolute life of drinking and whoring around never dipped his wick in some unholy hole, that could have been the devilish thing that made his mother prayers work into corralling his lusts. No of course we can not tell if he did or didn’t. And if after he was made a saint and his sins were caught be GOD, how would we know if his sainthood was fraudelent? We don’t and we couldn’t. It isn’t for man to judge as God, because we are NOT God. Although many claim to know what is in God’s Heart. That way leads to the Devil, that unassailable knowledge that WE are right and whatever is different is wrong/evil.