Last Saturday, I spent the evening at Villanova speaking with three impressive and eloquent people. Paul, Dan, and Rilene all have same-sex attraction, and all have embraced the Church’s teaching on chastity.
Their stories are told in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a new documentary from Courage International. The approach is powerful and effective because it completely avoids buzzwords and polemic. It tells three very human, very moving stories.
My article on the film is up now at the National Catholic Register. Here’s an excerpt.
Their stories are unique, as befits detailed portraits of individuals, but the broader contours of their lives will be familiar to many with same-sex attraction. There is a movement into a lifestyle that is embraced with various degrees of acceptance and gusto, a life as a person attracted to persons of the same sex and then an interruption: an epiphany. Something radical and unexpected breaks through.
The most striking story is Paul’s. While driving to get his HIV test results, his sense of impending doom is interrupted by a feeling of peace and comfort and a voice: “Paul, you do not have AIDS because you have too much to do to make up for the way you’ve been living.” He was, indeed, HIV-negative, which was something he never expected, given his number of partners.
These moments are what drove the three to go public with their stories. Paul calls the documentary “a prayer answered. I felt that I came back to the truth very late in life, so, suddenly, I felt that need to use any time I have to express my love to God and my appreciativeness for all he’s done and that he never forgot me during all the decades I forgot him and turned against him. I prayed: Jesus, please give me a few years of strength and energy. It’s not because I don’t feel he has given total forgiveness and mercy, but so I can make up for the lost years when I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him.”
Due to length, I cut some of my interview material that seems worth printing here.
Paul was a member of Dignity (a dissident pro-homosexual “Catholic” group) before he found Courage, and I asked him to compare the two approaches to same-sex attraction. He faults Dignity’s “feel good” approach of affirming that what he was doing was good. “It’s very feel good and everybody loves you and God loves you no matter what you do. It was an affirmation that what I was doing was okay. It made me feel good because I thought I could have it all and be the person I wanted to be, and these people are thinking God is liking the way I am.
“There was never discussion in Dignity about consequences. We were never striving for anything. There was no goal. It was buttressing out entire being in what we are doing. The Catholic Church is more welcoming because it really cares so much that we find God in our hearts and once we do that we do that we follow that relationship. I didn’t feel like anyone [in Dignity] cared about me.”