A Gay Man I Consider a Saint

Some folk who have not read the blog for long or who are afflicted with short or selective memory might form the notion that, because I criticize Bullies for Homosex such as Dan “Hooray for Inciting Rape!” Savage, bullying is all I see in the gay community.

Not true. One of the people I admire most in the world, who I regard as an inspiration and, very likely, as a saint was a chaste gay guy who lived here in Seattle named Perry Lorenzo. You can get something of a sense of the man from his blog. I didn’t know he was gay (same-sex attracted) during his lifetime and only found out about it after his death. Dunno if he lived a life of perfect celibacy or not and, frankly, regard it as none of my business, though my assumption, given all I know about his profound love of Jesus and the faith is that he was faithful in that area of his life as in all the others I ever saw. I don’t see that it’s my job to be the Sex Police of other people lives, be it in Perry’s case or in anybody else’s. All I know is that the guy was clearly a man who loved Jesus, loved his Catholic faith, and taught a huge number of people about it, both gay and straight, in a way that was immensely attractive and uplifting for everybody who encountered him. He was also one of the most learned people I have ever met and a profoundly humble man. He was, for many years, the director of education for the Seattle Opera. Had a brilliant knack for speaking the Catholic tradition to the cultured despisers of tradition here in Seattle. His funeral, which he planned himself as he was dying, was one of the most beautiful and Christ-centered liturgies I’ve ever experienced. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if half the congregation was not Catholic: a testament to his greatness.

Some Catholics (and some of my gay readers) will probably be surprised to hear that I’m not interested in chasing down whether or not he was celibate. Not my business. That’s between him and God. (I had a reader write me in some degree of scandal after I posted on his death because he apparently had a partner. If memory serves, I expressed to my reader a deep lack of interest in that fact since a) Not. My. Business and b) merely living with his partner (and, by the way, I don’t even know if they lived together) is not proof of anything anyway, either about his relationship with his partner, nor about his relationship with God. (Update: since writing this Perry’s friend has confirmed that they did, indeed, have a completely chaste relationship.)

So do I contradict myself, since it’s not a secret that I agree with the Church that homosexual acts are sinful. I don’t see how. If Perry succumbed to homosexual temptation at times (and I strongly believe he would have regarded it as “succumbing to temptation” not “embracing the gift of homosexuality” given his commitment to the Faith), it’s none of my business and certainly not mine to judge. After all, I also agree with the Church that my own acts of gluttony are sinful and even gravely so. 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? On the contrary, I regard him as a role model and greatly admire his deep, generous and true faith. I hope he prays for the Church in Seattle and I think he is (not was, God rest his soul) one of the great ornaments of the Church.

There are other gay members of the Church for whom I have a similarly high regard. Some are celibate. Some, for all I know, may not be. Since I don’t see it as my mission to peer into other people’s private lives, I wouldn’t know. What I know is the fruit of the Spirit I see in their lives. Toward whatever weaknesses they may have, I think hell’s general attitude is summed up by Screwtape’s wise counsel: “Keep from the patient’s mind on the thought, ‘If I, being what I am, can consider myself a Christian, why should I assume that the faults of my neighbor render their faith merely hypocrisy and convention?'” I choose to dissent from Hell’s urging to judge, lest I be judged.

I take this attitude toward people who struggle with same sex attraction. I take it, likewise, with people who are same sex attracted and *don’t* struggle with it. Not my business what they do in their spare time. I take it with Christians and with non-Christians. Though I will happily tell you, should you ask, that I consider same sex attraction one of the myriad forms of concupiscence, I will also point out that concupiscence is not sin. And if somebody embraces this particular form of concupiscence and indulges it, I will say what I say about all such choices to sin: God forgives sin so who am I to judge? Indeed, I have talked to priests who tell me that there are people they counsel in gay relationships for whom it best to allow the relationship to continue for the time being since, for reasons specific to that relationship, it would result in something more destructive to end it. I can completely believe this (which will no doubt shock some of my more conservative Catholic readers for whom scorched earth is always better then accomodating human weakness). There is, after all, often real love present in homosexual relationships, however disordered, and love should be strengthened and perfected, not crushed with contempt. At the same time, as a person who has never even been tempted to this particular form of concupiscence, I don’t feel myself Chosen by God to tell homosexual persons what they are supposed be doing beyond, “Seek Jesus Christ because he is the true source of the happiness you seek.” I suspect Perry Lorenzo would have said the same. So if some gay person’s confessor or spiritual director takes a lenient approach to weakness I’m not going to offer my ignorant opinion to the contrary. God knoweth my confessor has often been lenient and merciful to me.

The only thing I will not do is pretend that concupiscence is a God-given gift or lie that indulgence of sin is really an expression of virtue. Nor will I sit by when a thug like Dan Savage tries to intimidate and bully some defenseless kids into that pretense, or some gay goons beat up people who disagree with them or smash their property. I object to them, not because they are gay, but because they are bullies–exactly as I object to people who bully gays.  But that’s it. My attitude to homosexuality, whether inclination or act, is therefore actually rather benign. If gays wish to live together, or have the benefit of law to protect their property, I don’t think it’s the job of the state to stop them. Not all sins should be illegal. I leave most matters between homosexuals and God and ask only that I not be subjected to demands to celebrate disordered appetite, acts contrary to nature or to pretend that an ontological impossibility is a marriage.

But mainly, I think of Perry Lorenzo, one of the finest Catholics and disciples of Jesus I have ever known and ask his prayers as I pray for him. He is one of my heros.

Update: Welcome newcomers! Please go here before commenting. If you feel compelled to peremptorily assume that I approve of gay sex, gay marriage, gay agitprop, or gay adoption and to denounce me or Mr. Lorenzo without a clue of what you are talking about, go here and save yourself at least some embarrassment.

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  • Thank you

    Fr Ray Blake’s great commentary on the sting in the parable of the Good Shepherd.

    The reason the shepherd is depicted carrying the lost sheep on his shoulders, he argues, is because at the time of Our Lord the normal practice was to break one of the legs of a sheep that wandered off, in order to prevent it from happening again.

    I think you’re being a Good Shepherd.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not a shepherd. Just a lay schlub in the pew talking about how I navigate this matter.

      • EastSideHunky

        Sounds more like Lutheran theology…par for the course of Modernist AmChurch in the nervous ordo.

        • Mark Shea

          Mercy and forgiveness of sin and human weakness are Lutheran? Who knew? Happily, you are not a priest or spiritual director and nobody except your family will ever have to suffer under your pitiless lash. God help them.

          • bob cratchit

            That person^ is using the boring old and pathetic sedevacantist meme.

        • ryan

          u are correct!!!!! AMEN!!!

        • ryan

          U are CORRECT!!! i meant to say!! amen!!. mark shea’s an idiot/modernist/libral/n on his way to hell for spreading hearsy.

          • Helen Westover

            Incorrect spelling does little to inspire confidence in your opinion, Ryan.

          • Bob

            Saying someone is going to hell is terrible and one of the resaons why some Cathloics tick me off…stop the judging about who is going to hell and who isn’t-worry about yourself….

            • DGT

              Then you should be happy to learn that very few Catholics even believe in hell anymore.

          • Mark Shea

            God bless you, Ryan.

      • JimT

        So would you say that the laws against sodomy that permeated Western Christian civilization for practically two millennia were wrong?

        • Mark Shea

          So would you say we need to turn the US into a police state that makes sure everybody is in Church every Sunday? There are laws which are practical common sense and then there are nutty schemes for turning the US into Calvin’s Geneva. You seem to advocate the latter. Do you?

    • ds

      This is so obviously false regarding real shepherding. And in regards to Jesus, he’s no leg breaker.

      • That shepherd story seems to float around without a lot of substantiation. it’s like an urban myth, I think.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Excellent presentation of the teachings of Christ and the Church and what should be our response.

    • Sophie

      This is not the teaching of Christ nor the Catholic Church. 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. Nope. Jesus said that if your brother sins, correct him. That is not judging but caring that he doesn’t go down the precipice of hell. 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. Heck, anybody are still capable of doing good even wallowing in serious sins. We all know that in our own lives.

      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.

      In my own parish community, I have heard of an active couple helping out the parish community, enthused in their love for the Church and Christ bringing a lot of souls to the love of Christ. Since they are immigrants , the parish priest was not aware that their situation was as a live-in couple. When another parishioner found out about it, she was concerned and informed the parish priest bec the couple receives holy communion regularly. What the priest did was to pay them a visit and explain to them their situation, and the necessity to right things with God and refrain from receiving holy communion and to receive the sacrament of matrimony as soon as possible. The couple understood and now are married in the church and still happily serving our Lord. That is true charity towards the couple.

      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.

      This article reminds me that the Enemy, the Devil tactic is to twists things/words of God just as he did when he tempted Christ in the dessert making things looks like it is the ” truth”. He is a master of Deception. The Devil pretends to have “compassion” and his fruits can be seen by confusion masked as “light”.

      Lastly, it is a lack of charity towards this “gay” man if people are thinking that he is a “saint” already. Why? Because we have the tendency to not pray anymore for the eternal repose of his soul. And who knows if this soul is in purgatory needing so much prayers. We will never know so never put anybody in a pedestal bec this is the time that we say that only God knows where he is in his particular judgement and it is but just and merciful to pray for the eternal repose of his soul.

      • Mark Shea

        How do you know he was sinning? What evidence do you have of this from what I wrote? Don’t sprain something leaping to conclusions.

  • Ellen

    I’ve known my share of good gay people (sadly, they are outnumbered by the loud, obnoxious ones). I leave them to the mercy of God. I know only too well that I have my own share of sins and I need God’s mercy desperately.

    • Meggan

      I don’t think they are outnumbered, Ellen. I think that you just notice them more because they are loud and obnoxious.

      • Beadgirl

        Indeed. I know lots of gay people, pretty much all of them secular and/or Jewish, and some of whom are dear friends. Not one of them is like Dan Savage.

    • Ted Seeber

      I knew several good gay Catholics in the early 1990s, it’s how I got involved in AIDS relief activism. Sadly, most of them have passed on to at least the Church Suffering, if not the Church Triumphant. Having said that- whether they were celibate or not- well that’s what Purgatory is FOR isn’t it?

    • EastSideHunky

      We still have to speak the Truth, for it shall set us free. And the truth is we are all sinners AND sodomy is a sin crying to heaven for vengeance for the unrepentant. I don’t see any somodites repenting as much as they are recruiting.

      • Mark Shea

        I know a number of chaste homosexuals. Perhaps you should open your eyes.

        • Helen Westover

          Mark, the issue isn’t about CHASTE homosexuals – I had an homosexual uncle who was one of the holiest men I’ve ever known, and he was chaste his whole life. I still miss him dearly.
          The problem is homosexual ACTS. There is no way to excuse them, and still hold to Catholic teaching. Of course, there is the mitigating factor of compulsion, which can reduce culpability. But the standard must be held.

          • Mark Shea

            Can you tell me where I excused homosexual acts? I could have sworn I’ve said, hundreds of times, that such acts are sinful.

            • DDPGH

              it’s not that you excused… it’s that you disregard the possiblity presented by your post, that Lorenzo was not chaste. You disregard and proceed to declare him a saint, and he may may be, but as you say, you ‘don’t know’ whether or not he was chaste, or even homosexual, or whether his ‘friend’ was a ‘partner’ in the sexual sense, or even a housemate. In other words, as you say, ‘don’t know’ him very well at all.

              • Mark Shea

                I don’t disregard it. I simply regard it as none of my business. What i *knew* of him was that he lived an exemplary life of holiness and integrity attested by me and everyone who knew him and aimed to please God to the best of his ability. I therefore assumed his chastity. At the same time, recognizing that flesh is weak, I considered it possible (though not probable) that he may have struggled and failed in this area. If so, it was between him and God and not my business.

                • DDPGH

                  You are correct – it is not yours nor anyone’s business to know his hidden life whether chaste or not, but it is likewise not yours nor anyone’s business to proclaim sainthood or condemnation. It is our business merely to pray for him, and to perhaps minister to him if so called by God, but otherwise be silent.

                • jpelhamn

                  Whether he tacitly or expressly condoned homosexual acts is decisive, and, because “[t]he book of nature is one and indivisible” (Caritas in Veritate) the business of every human person. Sin affects everyone, mortal sins more gravely. If he is not celibate, yet he expressly, remorsefully acknowledges his failure just as you do the rather less grave sin of gluttony, though in his case a mortal sin which of course precludes Holy Communion, then a Catholic laboring diligently in the vineyard of the Lord might admire him as a fellow laborer. Short of this express acknowledgment, prudence and the certainty of perhaps subtle, but most insidious, scandal, call for rather more reserve. Whether he lives in a state of mortal sin is your business if you love him.

                  • jpelham

                    ..whether he lived in a state…
                    Please, how did he die?

                    • Mark Shea

                      With grace and full of reverence for Christ, offering his suffering to God through Jesus. You should have seen the funeral liturgy he planned. A celebration, not of himself, but of Jesus Christ in the fulness of the Catholic faith.

                      If you now say, “Well, who are you to judge that?” then please realize you are playing the “heads, he’s condemned, tail, he’s in hell” game. You ask how he died? I’m telling you.

                    • jpelham

                      I infer then that you are certain he did not die in a state of mortal sin. If you’ll forgive me, your reply is bit less discreet, or charitable, than evasive. I said nothing about judgment: love, prudence, and scandal are our business as Catholics. There really are not ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ Catholics, just Catholics.

                    • Mark Shea

                      I infer then that you are certain he did not die in a state of mortal sin.

                      Yes. As I general rule, people I consider to likely be saints do not die in a state of mortal sin. I believe this because I knew the quality of his witness and walk as a Catholic, and am aware of no evidence that he was guilty of grave sin.

                    • jpelham

                      If you don’t mind one more question – since most humble, myopic souls such as myself assume that two cohabitating, adult homosexual men are not celibate, did he prudently take measures to avoid scandal, to establish, insofar as he could, that he accepted Catholic morality, and that their relationship was in conformity with it? Wouldn’t his bypassing this most conspicuous issue, if he did, imply tacit dissent?

                    • Mark Shea

                      Why do you assume they cohabitated?

                    • jpelham

                      Would you please correct me? Even so, did he expressly affirm that he accepted Catholic morality? His relationship begged a question, the answer to which has eternal consequences. If it is your conviction that he was celibate, but he was silent about this aspect of his personal life, to Catholics without the grounds of your conviction he evokes the “Don’t ask don’t tell” doctrine. The Chinese have a saying that echoes a Christian imperative precisely: “When in your neighbor’s melon field, do not bend down to fasten your sandals.”

                    • Mark Shea

                      Well, your honor, II never had ocassion to ask him about it due to the thing called “normal human interaction” in which it seldom occurs to me to immediately grill people on whether the expressly affirm Catholic morality. What I can tell you is that he constantly spoke about the truth and beauty of the whole Catholic tradition and never spoke against her sexual teaching, nor any other teaching of the faith. And remember, his audience was *often* the cultured despisers of Seattle. I don’t know if he was silent about his personal life. The obituary would suggest not. What I know is that he was vocal about the Catholic faith, and not in the edited, “of course, the Church is wrong and repressed about sex” way that is common for the Pelvic Left, but with loud and unequivocal love for the whole shooting works.

                      Why are you taking this District Attorney approach? There’s no evidence he did anything wrong and plenty of evidence he had an unedited Catholic faith. Are you seriously suggestin that Catholics need to meet, shake hands and then grill each other and obtain a complete confession of fidelity to the Church’s sexual mores before they can form and opinion of each other?

                    • jpelham

                      I think I understand. Perhaps his character was such that he need not have mentioned it, and would have blushed in the breach. I have not implied “that Catholics need to meet, shake hands and then grill each other and obtain a complete confession of fidelity.” In his case, however, the risk of misunderstanding would have been very great indeed if his disordered proclivity was well known, but not the virtue of his victory over it. It concerned mortal sin. That victory, today, would certainly have fulfilled a principal aspect of his calling. If his failure was only an excess of modesty, I wish mine were so slight. I hope so, and will pray for his soul.

        • Trish Gosling

          I too know many wonderful men who choose an alternative lifestyle and are sweet, kind and more virtuous than I could ever hope to be. This article is wonderful. In the end all that matters is “how did we love”. I am a sinner, perhaps reformed (Lord I pray so!) but I Thank God daily that I am and have been a sinner so that I will not be so quick to judge those who others deem unworthy. Thanks again for the beautiful words. God Bless

      • Ted Seeber

        In comparison to the number of aborted babies souls crying out to heaven, which do you think is the greater sin?

      • Bernie

        You seem to be very quick to judge.

  • “it best to allow the relationship to continue since, for reasons specific to that relationship, it would result in something more destructive to end it.”

    Interesting take. But, correct me if I’m wrong, and assuming that by ‘gay relationship’ they mean one that is physical as well as emotional, isn’t this sort of a roundabout way of saying that it’s better to allow this sin to continue so that a greater good can come of it?

    • A Philosopher

      Or of saying that it’s better to allow it to continue because doing what would be needed to end it would be a positive wrong because of other damage that it caused. Setting aside the specific issue of homosexuality, this is surely a familiar point. We’re finite beings working with crude causal instruments, and we can’t always target our interventions in the world as finely as we’d ideally like.

      • For me it’s the term ‘allow’. I know that was Mark’s phrasing. I just wonder about a person being ‘allowed’ to continue in something that is considered sin. I can’t imagine it really, given the ramifications that are supposed to come with sin. And given what I understand about Catholic pastoral counseling. It could be that another word might be better. But if that word works and is accurate, then it does bring me back to wondering about allowing something that is considered sin so that a greater good may come of it.

        • Mark Shea

          I suggest you talk to a confessor, or even reflect on your own experiences of struggle with long term, chronic sin. The *norm* in my experience has been for confessors and spiritual directors to suggest “baby steps” in attempting to deal with such sin (which is often grave). This is not consequentialism. It’s common sense.

          • Of course baby steps. I know that full well. It was the use of the term allow. Perhaps that was just tossed out there, but while baby steps is one thing, I would never be told I was allowed to continue in the sin. Of course time might be an issue, and if I was working to get out of that particular sin, then naturally the desire is there and time to resolve the issues is fine. But that’s different than being told I’m allowed to continue in this sin, because the consequences of not could be worse. Again, the word ‘allowed’ may simply have been the issue, and the counseling was not actually allowing the sin to continue. That I could see.

        • Ted Seeber

          What are you going to do about it, shoot them?

          Mentioning it is enough. Not letting them change OUR beliefs for THEIR sin is enough.

          We don’t need to become Uganda, sentencing people who spread the HIV virus to firing squad (which always struck me as kind of redundant- why waste a bullet when you could simply confine them to a hospital room with palative care and let nature take it’s course?)

          • Huh? Who is this addressed to?

            • Ted Seeber

              You made a big deal Dave, about the word “allowed”. I was pretty sure Mark didn’t mean it that way- but it seemed to me that you did. So the question is, how do you disallow a sin? How do you prevent a sin from happening?

              The standard Catholic way is to mention it- then forgive and let go. That’s it. That is the sacrament of reconciliation in a nutshell.

              Now, that’s America as well. Other cultures are not so forgiving of sin…..

    • Mark Shea

      No. It’s conceding to human weakness and urging them to take baby steps and work on other issues and sins until such time as that relationship can be altered to conform better to the image and likeness of Christ. I can imagine any number of situations in which that would be reasonable advice. Have you never had a confessor counsel you to take baby steps in confronting a grave chronic sin? The confessor I know typically do that and tell me that they are (very sensibly) trained not to ask the impossible lest the penitent fall into discouragement and despair in their struggle to become holy. Seems reasonable to me.

      • hpoiters

        Take baby steps toward an exit from mortal sin? Are you aware of any priest ever saying, ‘Let us ever so carefully, gingerly, and delicately extract you from the jaws of death, since we know how very hard it is to change habits,” knowing that those jaws can snap shut at any minute?

        • Mark Shea

          Do you have any experience at all dealing with addictions? Any experience or training as a confessor or spiritual director? Or do you just go around comboxes sounding off and tying up heavy burdens for other people’s backs?

          • hpoiters

            Ad hominem is not the trajectory of an answer.

            • Mark Shea

              It is not ad hominem to ask if you have any idea what you are talking about. It’s also not wise to suggest that Jesus was guilty of ad hominem when he leveled exactly that charge at the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Answer the question: Do you have any knowledge or experience as a spiritual director, confessor, or as somebody who works with addiction? If not, why should I listen to you and not to those who do have experience in these areas?

              • hpoiters

                You found fault in neither logic nor assumption. You have stayed current with the themes of the Holy Father. There exists one assured meeting place for discussion, the common ground of universal reason. Do you also require a pedigree?

                • Mark Shea

                  In other words, no. You have no actual training in spiritual direction or with actual pastoral care. You know some basic theological principles and you know how to ride them to death in combox arguments. But you don’t know how pastors actually help weak people apply those principle to their lives because you are more comfortable with diagrams than with weak and fallen people.

                  My suggestion: go here. Talk to the priest. He’s a good Dominican.

                  • hpoiters

                    You argue rather like a Calvinist: “We know through what strange loopholes the human mind contrives to escape, when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from an admitted proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical.” ( Lord Macaulay)

                    • Mark Shea

                      Ironically, it’s you who sound like a Calvinist. They tend to be much more at home with abstractions and diagrams than with people.

                      Look. I agree that you need a firm purpose of amendment in confession. I’m simply also pointing out that confessors routinely make allowance for human weakness. So does anybody responsible for the care of souls. We are weak flesh. Read the link. Your rigorism would condemn even Benedict XVI.

  • Florentius

    “It best to allow the relationship to continue since, for reasons specific to that relationship, it would result in something more destructive to end it.”

    That is amazingly bad advice. It’s like telling an addict to continue in addiction because going cold turkey might be worse in the short-term.

    Sorry, Mark. I can’t follow you here. In my experience, talking to homosexuals about their behaviors is almost exactly like talking to alcoholics about their addiction–and I have done both. If you are addicted to sodomy, the worst thing a compassionate, caring confidant can do is be an enabler who tells you that your vice doesn’t matter.

    It does matter.

    • Thomas R

      The only thing I can think of is that its a person who, at that point, would become suicidal if they ended it. That you have to deal with “first things first.”

      Or that the relationship can continue, but change. What I read of “Courage” some of those people maintained a relationship with their former lovers. It was just a “new” kind of relationship. More “David and Jonathan” than “Queer as Folk”, maybe.

    • Mark Shea

      You don’t have to follow me. I’m not a spiritual director. I’m simply reporting conversations I’ve had. And, as I say, it certainly reflects my own experience of being advised to take baby steps in dealing with complicated, long term, chronic sin. I realize comboxers with absolutely no familiarity with the actual lives of the people under spiritual direction are total experts in those lives and know far more than trained confessors and spiritual directors, but I still have this notion that even a trained confessor and spiritual director might know something. Particularly since, when I think about it, the gentle and merciful approach has generally worked better for me with my own besetting sins than the scorched earth approach that asks the impossible instantly.

      • “I realize comboxers with absolutely no familiarity with the actual lives of the people under spiritual direction are total experts in those lives and know far more than trained confessors and spiritual directors, but I still have this notion that even a trained confessor and spiritual director might know something.”

        The irony here is that you demand that others be gentle and merciful in treatment of those in grave, habitual and often scandalously public sin, while you have a habit of being forthright, sarcastic and brutally honest with those who have committed the comparatively minor offense of disagreeing with you. Seems to me that you recognize the utility of the forthright and strict approach to that extent at least–and I don’t begrudge your right to use it. Personally, I have found stern forthrightness to be a much more effective method–particularly when dealing with men. I am eternally grateful for those who have had the courage to be forthright with me about the teachings of the Church, even knowing that I disagreed. My faith has benefited infinitely more from a couple words spoken forthrightly by a simple priest than from the enabling babble of 100 well-intentioned but weak Jesuits.

        I fail to see how it is ever productive or good, let alone gentle or merciful, to encourage someone to continue in sin.

        • Mark Shea

          Having mercy on human weakness and not demanding more than a penitent can do is not “encouraging someone to continue in sin”. I agree there are times when a wise confessor will tell the half-hearted to knock off the bullshit and repent. But typically somebody in the confessional is there because they are already trying to confront their sin. Having some judgmental jerk kick them while they are down may seem like tough love to a combox jerk who likes to posture about being tough on sin, but it’s seldom what is actually helpful.

          In comboxes, I’m often not dealing with people who are penitent, but with people who are full of crap and trying to justify evil. I try to speak truth to crap in such cases.

          • Ed

            Now your calling him a combox jerk? Good God mark, your proving his point. I like you and this blog, but you really need to take it down a notch when responding to those who disagree with you. Your language is too enflaming to be helpful.

  • JGinn

    A long time ago I saw Bill Moyers interview a certain accomplished writer, who happened to be gay. I forgot the man’s name. I had never heard of him before, but apparently he was quite famous in intellectual circles. The man also happened to be a humble Christian/Catholic. Bill Moyers kept asking about his faith and about why on earth he would ever want to stay in the Catholic Church. The man very humbly answered Bill’s questions and didn’t let Bill bully him. Yes, even though Bill’s questions seemed civilized, I perceived some “bullying.” Moyers could NOT understand this man’s position, but I remember being so touched by his witness to his faith, and I wasn’t even Catholic at the time.

  • John C

    Florentius: Maybe your problem is that you are “talking to homosexuals about their behaviors”. In my experience, persuasion doesn’t work when it comes to compulsive behavior – homosexuality, alcoholism, pornography, etc. What does work is being part of a community, let’s say the Catholic Church, for example. Or Alcoholics Anonymous. It may take many years, or it may not happen at all, but I think that community is the key. So I don’t think Shea is presenting a consequentialist view of the issue. More like getting out of the way, and letting the Spirit do His work.

  • Mark

    Florentius — I won’t pretend to be competent to render any sort of opinion on the matter, but I think Mr. Shea was saying that since the vice in that particular situation is a person, that the vice does indeed matter, and requires some extra delicacy particular to those persons in that particular situation. I didn’t get the sense that Mr. Shea was saying sin didn’t matter, just because it was this particular sin. One thing I know: cigarettes do not cut themselves or drink themselves to death. But people do, because people are not cigarettes. Who knows what the situation was, what gamut of emotion and entanglement was involved, what level of delusion, addiction or (even false) commitment or dangerous pathology was on display in this particular relationship? I think Mr. Shea is merely indicating that sometimes we must leave it up to the physicians how to treat the disease.

  • Andrew

    Sorry, Mark, but your method of approaching this is just wrong. I have stuck with you through a lot of things (ex. your incessant desire to point out how the right fails just as often as the left at abiding by Catholic teaching when in reality the left is much, much worse), but I can’t support your thinking here. I don’t disagree that there are holy people and even saints who have/had homosexual inclinations. That’s fine. But to state that you don’t care about the possibility of them having committed grave mortal sin and that we should just allow the relationship to continue without judging the individuals is a bridge too far. I agree that God is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, but when a sin is so grave that the Church has defined it as mortal, we have a duty to proclaim the truth — after all, one of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish sinners. We should always do so while mindful of our own sinfulness, of course, but also in prayer that the Lord will use us to bring a sinner back to him.

    • Mark Shea

      Where did I say I don’t care about mortal sin? Where did I say that I don’t think homosex is mortal sin? I thought i made it clear that’s exactly what I think. Rather, I don’t think that particular mortal sin is more mortal than my mortal sins so I try to extend the same mercy I get for my mortal sins.

      • David F

        Well stated. It’s too easy to point out the mortal sin I’m not tempted by (homosexuality) and make waves with it than the numerous other mortal sins I am tempted by. However whether your friend is a saint in the true sense of the word, depends on God’s view of his struggle with this grave sin. We are entirely blind to the crucial interior state of your friend. Truly God’s mercy is much greater than human mercy, so it’s reasonable to expect great things from Him, but we just can’t know. Surely there will surprises in Heaven showing God’s mercy is greater than we expect ( if I make it I’ll be one of those cases). Of course there also will be negative surprises, some who we believed were saintly will not actually be saints. We can’t know the human heart except by grace, sure we can observe the fruits of a persons work but even there we can be fooled (as JP II was by Maciel). I devoutly hope your friend here will be saved, I am certain he can be, but what is publicly known of his private life does create enough potential scandal and ambiguity that can’t be wholly ignored.
        To use another example, I’m a fan of Danny Thomas. Unfortunately Danny wrote a letter claiming membership in the freemasons shortly before he died. If the letter was authentic, and he understood the gravity of the membership (unknowable for us today), he could have undermined his good works. I can’t say for certain, but the ambiguity is enough to say that although I believe Danny Thomas performed many works of mercy I can’t formally be sure he was a saint .

  • That depends. To step back and let the Spirit do His work, while saying that the work is to end what is sinful in us, is one thing. But to ‘allow’ something is basically to say ‘It’s OK, go ahead.’ And if that’s the case, then there are issues on several levels.

    • John C

      Sometimes there is nothing you can do, except to accept who the person is, at face value.

  • This is beautifully written, heartfelt to the core, and mirrors my own feelings about gay people. There’s someone in my immediate family who is gay, and outright rejecting them because of who they are is not something I’m inclined to do, and not very Catholic either.

    This is the exact opposite of things I’ve read on conservative Catholic blogs – one even claims that simply giving gays civil protection is a sign of “preparation for Antichrist’s arrival.”

    What an astounding lack of charity and compassion.

    • Mum

      As the mother of a son who believes himself to be gay I am still trying to work out how I feel about Mark’s blog today. I agree with you that rejection is not the solution, not ever. But I also wanted to just say that ‘gay’ is not ‘who they are,’ Gay is something they feel (same sex attraction) it’s not who they are.

      • Mark Shea

        I completely agree.

      • Bernie

        Wonderful Mum, I have SSA and you hit it exactly on the head.

    • Yes — what Frenchcookingmama said. This is a beautiful post of Mark’s, a poignant post about someone who does sound like a gift to the Church and a soul to be admired. Some people feel they have an obligation to reduce other people to whatever trait they themselves most despise — e.g., homosexuality.

      There are indeed plenty of good (and great) women and men in the world who are gay. And there is, as well, a sinner in each and every person on this planet, or at least those past the age of reason. And God is merciful to sinners of all sorts. (Isn’t that the best news ever? It’s certainly good news for me, because there’s just no way I could hope to make it heaven without God’s mercy.) All praise to God, and all kindness and charity to each of our brothers and sisters — all of whom are created in the image of God.

  • Thomas R

    Mostly I think this is really sweet and it’s always nice to see kindhearted posts.

    Yet, being like 50/50 same-sex attracted myself though I am, you maybe go a bit further than I’m comfortable. If a Quaker or a Coquille Indian or something is an active same-sex relationship I might not think they should stop because their understanding of natural law (or what have you) might leave them in a state of ignorance. (Lucky Indians! Just kidding, my days of occasionally feeling bad I mustn’t snag a guy are largely over) I’m not saying it becomes right, precisely, but as I understand the faith intent matters. So to ask them to stop would require them to convert first and I don’t believe in forced conversion.

    And for that matter I wouldn’t want to force any gays, even Catholic ones, to stop as coerced morality is in some ways invalid. And I don’t want to place myself above an active homosexual just because I’m celibate, but sadly not entirely chaste, and he’s not.

    However if a small-o orthodox Christian told me they were in a gay relationship, and asked what I feel about that as a Catholic, I’m pretty sure I would tell them it’s wrong. That although there’s nothing wrong with a man loving another man, or a woman a woman, they won’t ever be a proper romantic/sexual couple in Catholic terms. And if pressed I might say that if they understand the faith, and are competent, they are in a state of mortal sin.

    I love my lesbian cousin, but when she took Communion I was not happy. She became Anglican and “married” a woman. It does matter. It doesn’t make her evil, and I’m not saying I’m better than her, but the situation to me is problematic.

    • Ted Seeber

      Thank you for teaching me about Two Spirit People; though I would not consider them homosexual by the common modern American usage of the term, and they’re certainly NOT outside of Church teaching on the subject.

      There’s nothing at all wrong with a Man loving another Man, or a Woman loving another Woman. Using another person for sex isn’t love. That’s the problem.

      • Thomas R

        It is odd for me though. There was one man I was maybe kind of “falling in love” with once and some things I read indicate you should try for healthy friendship with such person. Yet I did have desires, and he was straight/married, so I wonder if that kind of friendship would really be a good idea. I mean maybe if I got to know him, and his wife, better the sexual thoughts element of it would diminish… But somehow I’m not sure.

        And you’re right the cultures that have “Two-Spirits” and third-genders are a tad different. Some of them almost maintain something like “complementarity” but feel like the couple being somewhat different “gendered” makes a difference.

        Unrelated, but I know people who wonder on how you deal with certain medical conditions and this. Like there’s this jazz singer I read about with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. “Her” visible body was female, that’s how she knew herself, but in her teens she discovered she was internally (and in chromosomes) a male. Would a person like that be homosexual if they married a man? If so wouldn’t it be odd to marry her to a woman seeing as she has, for all intents and purposes, always been female in appearance and interest. It’s interesting.

        • Ted Seeber

          True love has nothing to do with sex. But I wouldn’t know- the way my autism was affected by the anything-goes-sexually culture of the 1970s and 1980s, the closest I ended up to gay was as a lesbian trapped in a man’s body- which works out culturally to rabid heterosexual who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “inappropriate”.

          • Mark Shea

            Of course true love often has to do with sex. Don’t be silly.

  • Chris M

    My first thought is that if one is a glutton, the worst thing to do is to say it’s ok if they move into a chocolate factory. If someone’s a lecher, then moving into a whorehouse is probably not the best way for them to deal with that inclination in a health way. The same would go for a person with SSA living with someone they find sexually attractive or have a relationship beyong platonic friendship. OTOH, there’s also a difference.. gluttony’s object is nonliving (usually) and lust objectifies a person; SSA involved a relationship between two people, however disordered, and therefore should be handled in a more sensitive way which recognizes both parties’ dignity and spiritual health.

  • Esther


    Do you really think it is appropriate or even, to put it more strongly, right, to put up a blog post, the gist of which inevitably leads to speculation about and public conversation about the sex life of a dead man?

    How is that respectful?

    Would you like this conversation to happen, say, about one of your sons and some weakness of his if he were to die? Or your wife? Or you?

    This is ultimately a shockingly self-serving post.

    • Thomas R

      I can understand that. Although he looks to have been pretty open about being a gay man in a relationship with a man. Still I admit some of the wording makes it uncertain on the nature of that same-sex relationship as his boyfriend (it says they dated, and it sounds like they lived together, so it seems fair) described them as “We were monks in love.”


      What he meant by that I don’t know.

      • Mark Shea

        Me neither. Because, you know, NOT MY BUSINESS.

        • Kate

          I believe there will be many gay people in heaven – and that it is quite possible that a gay man could be a saint. That said, the obituary portrays a devout Catholic man in a public gay partnership – and apart from the reference to “monks in love” there is no indication that they were “chaste”. They are not portrayed as friends or housemates. And it is this public identity that makes it most certainly your business (and ours). If they lived as friends not lovers and had privately struggled with keeping that boundary in their relationship – then I would agree – it is between them and God (and their spiritual director(s)/confessors). It is the public nature of their relationship that makes it impossible to avoid a judgement. Not a final “damned to hell” judgment – but a judgment nevertheless.

          • Mark Shea

            “Monks” is your key word there. Give what I know of Perry’s commitment to the truth of Catholic teaching–his full commitment–I see no reason for assuming he dissented on this point. What is remarkable to me is the witness they bore to Seattle’s promiscuous gay community that there was another way to be SSA and happily Catholic. Unless you have actual evidence that their relationship was not chaste, why uncharitably assume it wasn’t?

    • Mark Shea

      Perry did not keep this a secret.

  • CJ

    I bet the abortionists and torture enthusiasts would LOVE to meet this irenic, non-judgmental Mark!

  • The saints say that it’s better to die than to commit even a venial sin. Now obviously we are going to sin anyway, but for a confessor to give advice that it’s “best to allow the relationship to continue since, for reasons specific to that relationship, it would result in something more destructive to end it”, it makes me wonder what could possibly be more destructive than mortal sin.

    Now if it’s talking about the relationship continuing in a celibate form, that’s not a problem at all.

    • Mark Shea

      Part of what confessors do is take into account human weakness and breaking points. It’s just a fact. Have you never received counsel from a confessor concerning some besetting sin that you try to take some baby step toward dealing with it? Well, baby steps *means* that, no, you are not going to make a clean break with the sin instantly.

  • Rachel M.

    I loved this from your article: “God forgives sin so who am I to judge?”
    I think it’s so important to love everyone–this is something I work on everyday; the farther I get from judging others, the closer I feel to God.
    I don’t agree with what you said about laws regarding marriage. Everyday I’m deeply saddened that law has legalized abortion. The law itself doesn’t affect us that know abortion is wrong; but I always think about children who grow up in a world where their government and some of its citizens say that it is okay. Especially those children who don’t receive guidance at home or elsewhere. I believe the same in regards to defining marriage. It will be difficult for a child to grow up in a world where the government and its citizens says same-sex marriage is okay and still recognize it as a sin. It’s important to recognize sin; it’s what puts distance between us and God.

    • Ted Seeber

      “The law itself doesn’t affect us that know abortion is wrong; but I always think about children who grow up in a world where their government and some of its citizens say that it is okay.”

      I am 41. I am autistic to boot. I didn’t know I was autistic as a teenager, I was that high functioning. Abortion became legal when I was 3, so I pretty much had my entire adolescence in this Brave New World.

      Among my generation, pre-marital sex was a given, and pretty much universal. Contraception was used, but if a “mistake” happened, abortion was the default.

      Due to this, people younger than me are missing 1/3rd of their generation, and they’re even worse off- sexual one-hour-stands or “hookups” are now common as young as middle school, Planned Parenthood even has released videos on how to have sex and how to masturbate that are shown in schools.

      This is a severe problem, yes.

      And as an autistic- I came very close in my teens to becoming a sex criminal. Never quite crossed the line enough to be prosecuted for it; but it took until I was in my 30s to learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

      • Rachel M.

        An issue that I’ve dealt with personally, is the use of birth control (aka “the pill”). Growing up as a teen in the 90s and a Protestant, this was just a natural thing…I didn’t know any Catholics, so I had no idea there was even any opposition to birth control. One of my biggest regrets is the two years I used the pill after getting married. It’s difficult when you grow up in a country that says certain things are okay and you have no guidance coming from elsewhere to say differently.

  • Esther

    “Who am I to judge?” “Not my business!”

    So let’s publish a BLOG POST that goes out to THOUSANDS, the net effect will be – obviously – speculation on a dead man’s private life and soul

    That makes *perfect* sense.

    • Mark Shea

      I can’t help it if people choose to do the exactly opposite of what I counsel. But the fact remains that Perry was who he was and I think his very public witness to Jesus Christ and Holy Church–as who he was–deserves to be honored. If fools choose to overlook the main thing in order to speculate on dumb stuff, that can’t be helped. He was still a splendid witness to Christ.

      • Clare Krishan

        on Balthasar had this to say on beauty:
        Beauty is the word that shall be our first. Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach since only it dances, as an uncontained splendor, around the double constellation of the true and the good aone nd their inseparable relation to one another. . . . No longer loved or fostered by religion [or we so-called pious-minded – my addition] , beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man.
        “cor ad cor loquitur” spoke Newman in his quiet tender way, we must be willing to be vulnerable and wounded …

  • CJ


    Your original post didn’t say anything about baby steps. You simply said that priests urge them to let the relationship continue. Not “for now,” not as a baby step, just “continue.”. Without the qualifiers you’ve provided, it does sound consequentialist or indifferent.

    • Mark Shea

      I sort of thought “for reasons specific to that relationship” made that clear. But I will fix it to make it clearer.

  • Marcus

    You may not be a good shepherd, but you are a GREAT schlub!

    • Mark Shea

      damn right!

  • dean steinlage

    A man died
    Same as me someday
    A sinner in need of his Savior
    Same as me everyday
    May the LORD have mercy on his soul
    and ours as well

    • Ted Seeber

      The first post that made sense.

  • Casey

    One of your better posts Mr. Shea. Concupiscence is a major temptation for both heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Seeking Christ first will hopefully give us all the grace to live chaste lives.

  • CJ

    Great post Dean. And since I refrain from declaring myself a saint, I won’t glorify anyone else either. That’s the church’s business. I will pray for the departed and when my time comes, I ask that others do the same for me.

  • Cantorboy

    Dan Savage: Gay Supremacist.

  • Mark,

    I would like to recommend a blog to you and your followers. The author’s posts are worth following. His nome de blog is Steve Gershom. His tag line is “Catholic, Gay, and doing Fine.”


  • Jill

    As usual, heterosexuals assume a position of higher morality than gays, while simultaneously denigrating God’s creations.

    Pathetic, immoral, and absolutely un-Christlike in every way, shape and form.

    I pray for your souls.

    A completely self-serving essay.

    Catholicism is shameful and shameless all at the same time.

    • Ben

      You argument, It is convincing!

    • Mark Shea

      Considering somebody a saint is generally understood to mean that the person is higher than you are. But if you want to refuse to take yes for an answer, that’s up to you.

      • Chris M

        Obviously you MUST approve, Mark! I mean.. REALLY APPROVE!

  • rd

    Excellent post, Mark. I completely agree with you. I’m a parishioner of St James Cathedral, where Perry was well known and loved. We each just have to do our best to follow Jesus Christ, in whose mercy we trust.

  • Thanks Mark. Excellent post. Magnificent post. A beautiful tribute. Thanks Mark.

    • Mark Shea

      Thanks, Terry.

  • Mark,

    Just in case you care what I think. . .what am I saying?. . .of course you do:

    This post gets Fr. Philip Neri’s Stamp of Orthodox Approval. The stamp is in the mail.

    You’re welcomed. 😉

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP (Approver of Orthodox Stamps)

    • Mark Shea

      I would be interested in your commentary, Padre, concerning the remarks I’ve heard from confessors. My sense is that the “baby steps” approach to chronic besetting sin is normative and ancient. What say you?

      Oh, and thanks for your kind words!

      • Mark, yes, a thousand-times, yes! Very few people have the fortitude to leap directly into saintliness. Acquired virtues must. . .well. . .acquired. There’s no magic prayer or golden rosary beads or holographic holy card or correctly assented to doctrinal proposition that will whisk us away from habitual sin and drop us lovingly into the arms of holiness.

        It. Takes. Work. Lots of work, lots of cooperating with God’s grace. And 99.9999999% of us have to do this work in tiny little steps. The first step, unsurprisingly, is to admit that you have a problem. This is where the Shrieking Gay Brownshirts of the Left fail and where the Church is poised to help. If someone comes to me with this particular sin, I always make sure that they understand the Church’s teaching and then lead them through how they plan to address the problem. Never once do I affirm or condone their behavior. Virtue must replace vice and this can be done only through habit. No one simply tosses a bad habit and immediately replaces it with a good one. Think: smoking, over-eating, nail-biting, lying, porn, etc. None of these is easily pushed aside.

        It. Takes. Work. Period.

        Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • Ted Seeber

      I still say we Catholic Bloggers need a modern internet-enabled form of Nihil Obstat- a way to present our blogs to our bishop when necessary for review. I’ve never gotten around to developing one though. Should be simple enough- a database that has a public URL API that can be called, which returns one of three images: “Not Reviewed Yet”, “Nihil Obstat from such and such diocese” and “This post is against Catholic Teaching”

      • Br. Gabriel, OP

        That would be like getting a nihil obstat for a newspaper or journal article. Imprimaters and nihil obstats don’t serve that purpose.

        • Ted Seeber

          I’d certainly like to see articles in Catholic periodicals such as Newspapers and magazines reviewed for orthodoxy as well, even if some people think that isn’t the purpose of a Nihil Obstat. Many more conservative editors understand this and already provide the service, but I’d certainly like to see it more universal- and more official.

          Just think how having a simple graphic in America Magazine would change the tone of the debate.

          It’s just that the blogosphere presents certain OTHER problems, like a severe lack of editors to begin with.

  • Beautiful post, Mark. Thank you. And that’s coming from someone who has even found occasional grace notes in Dan Savage. We are every one of us that field of weeds among the wheat, and from this perspective, down here in the dirt, we don’t always have the same ability to sort one from the other that God’s angels do. Fortunately, he has set them the task of the harvesting. Keep on being your unhypocritical self and challenging the rest of us to avoid confusing ourselves with the Master of the Harvest.

  • Hey Nonny, Mouse

    Some years ago, I was in college, trying without much success to be promiscuous in that androgynous 80s way, and drinking and smoking heavily. Once, in a haze of beer and menthols, I asked a friend from Campus Crusade whether he thought God wanted me to stop being gay. My friend, who had grown up with alcoholic parents, looked at me keenly and said, “I don’t think that’s what’s bothering God most about your life right now, actually.”

    He was, I think, quite right. Not until I put down the bottle could I embrace chastity.

    This *MAY* be the sort of situation Mark was referring to above.

    • Mark Shea

      It’s certainly one possible example. Homosexual sex is gravely sinful. But it’s not necessarily the first thing somebody in a complex web of sin needs to address. Then again, in some circumstances, it may be *exactly* the first thing they need to address. This is why confessors and spiritual directors exist: to help us sort all that out.

  • alicia

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/379/return-to-the-scene-of-the-crime?act=3 is worth listening too (if a little tough to follow) and is why I am actively praying for Mr. Savage to return to the faith.

    • Ted Seeber

      And after reading the transcript of that- I’m praying for his mother in purgatory to be cleansed of her sin.

  • Jason

    Such a crazy issue–truly THE cross to bear in our times. But I agree with you that this fellow sounds like a good man who was used as a tool, even if he was an imperfect tool, for the Lord’s work. He seems like a good fit for reaching out to even broken-er tools. Let us hope he’s in Heaven or en route!

    • Mark Shea

      He was not a tool. He was a child of God. And who of us is not imperfect?

    • Ted Seeber

      Well, maybe in THIS country. Other countries, other cultures, do not confuse love and sex as much.

      But they’ve got other issues. I hear a major problem in Ghana, for instance, is the cultural use of polygamy as a means of retirement for women.

      Do you uphold Catholic monogamous marriage and throw the widow of your biological brother out into the street to die of exposure, or do you bring her into your family?

  • naturgesetz

    Many comments are based on the sentence, “I have talked to priests who tell me that there are people they counsel in gay relationships for whom it best to allow the relationship to continue for the time being since, for reasons specific to that relationship, it would result in something more destructive to end it.”

    It seems to me that the word “allow” is the culprit. After all, priests don’t have the power to compel behavior, so it is not truly a question of allowing or forbidding. It is, rather a question of whether they decide that an individual can be brought closer to God by making an immediate and complete cessation of homosexual activity the overriding issue or by encouraging him to try to grow in holiness.

  • El Padre

    This is just another Mark Shea equivocation mixing apples and oranges. While it is an excellent distinction to point out that temptation is not sin, it is a grave error to confuse overeating with homosexual relations (obviously outside of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony). Venial versus mortal sin is one of the most basic distinctions in our moral teaching and tradition going back to the New Testament itself.
    Furthermore, being raised to the dignity of the altar means that one’s life is worthy of imitation by the faithful. Co-habitating is scandalous whether or not one is actually acting against chastity. As Christians we are to avoid giving scandal. That is part of our teaching once again going back to the New Testament.
    Your omission of these basic points is troublesome at the very least. It either shows a lack of knowledge about such basic teachings of the faith that you should have a pause in continuing your public apostolate as a “Catholic” writer until you complete a remedial course in moral theology, or you are fully aware of these categories and withheld them from your opinion piece thus confusing the faithful about such clear issues as the intrinsic gravity of homosexual acts as well as the avoidance of public scandal in which case you need to remove this piece from the public domain. If it was consciously and willfully done, then you need to remove this from the public domain and get to Confession.

    • Mark Shea

      Gluttony is not a venial sin. It is one of the seven deadly sins. As to the rest, thanks for the advice, but I’d rate Fr. Phil’s take over that of some guy in a combox. I’d also advise a re-read, since you seem to attribute to me a couple of views I don’t actually have.

      • KML

        Mark Shea, “Catholic” Writer. Has a nice ring to it. Carry on!

      • DDPGH

        Acts of gluttony can be venial, even to finishing the eating session with full assent of the will. Acts of homosexual genital activity, will full assent of the will, as are acts of hetersexual, and solitary, genital activity, are always mortal, as are putting oneself in the way of temptation of such activity.

        • Mark Shea
            Which would really be germane if I had any reason to think any of that actually happened. Why do you assume it did?

            Meanwhile, I happen to know that many of my acts of gluttony were not, in my opinion venial. I also know that I was counseled to take small steps and not listen to people like you demanding huge, impossible gestures of heroism about temptations to which you are not subject, but to do what I could. It worked, over time. Why not be heroic about your own sins and not make all these rash judgments about somebody you don’t know?

          • DDPGH

            Why do you boldly say I assume Lorenzo was a practicing homosexual?

            When confronted with mortal sin, the only remedy the Church teaches is repentance, confession, and firm resolution to not sin again. Falling again and again occurs, but not by plan, and is remedied again and again until the fallings eventually lessen and perhaps end altogether, with vigilence. The necessary conditon for forgiveness is acknowledging our sin and firmly resolving not to do it ever again.

            • Mark Shea

              Because you talk as though you think so and as though I was supposed to have done something about it. I repeat for the umpteenth time, I am unaware of anything in his life that was not exemplary of a fully commited Catholic Christian, the thongs of who sandals I am not worthy to untie.

              • DDPGH

                No, I repeatedly say you do not know. I repeatedly say no reader to whom you have just introduced Lorenzo here knows. You say he is gay and you say he is your ‘hero’ and you say he is a ‘saint’ but whether or not he lived a saintly life re chastity you say is ‘not your business’. I repeatedly say it is your business, if for you this brother in Christ is a hero and a saint, to know,, before you declare him publicly a ‘saint,’ whether or not he lives a homosexual lifestyle. It is also your business to pray and fast for him if you love him. If you knew him personally, you would also be obliged to be open to God’s call to intervene should, should, should that be necessary, ie should he be actually living a homosexual lifestyle.

    • Art

      El Padre… initially I thought the same way you did. However, we don’t know the person’s situation. We don’t know what was said between the spiritual advisor and that person. Our due diligence is to remain faithful, speak truth with love.

      I don’t see anywhere where he suggested co-habitation was the right measure.

      Catholic apologetics used to be my passion, and to some degree or extent it still is. Our Catholic faith is amazing! Mark’s point is that those who struggle with a particular sin, can overcome it to reach the heights of holiness. We should all strive for that. We are all a work in progress. Some of us cannot cut habitual sin cold turkey. That being said, that is the ultimate goal is to sin no more.

      Patience, Love, and kindess… all in truth.

    • Ted Seeber

      I would point out the Gluttony is also one of the seven capital sins; one I am guilty of myself. When taken to excess, it is the slowest form of suicide available to Americans today (and many times, overeating is indeed a form of suicide, despite medical advances to the contrary- my own sin in this area has become so serious that I had a Sleep Apnea score of 92 before I got my CPAP).

    • Padre, I don’t see anything in Mark’s post that is particularly scandalous. He’s simply telling the truth, and the truth is never scandalous; in fact, the truth is always pastoral.
      Fr. Philip Neri, OP

      • Ted Seeber

        Can I quote you on that to my pastor?

        • Ted, are you asking if you can quote me on the truth always being pastoral?

          Sure! Go for it.

          Fr. Philip Neri, OP

          P.S. That Wal-Mart post of mine–banged out in ten minutes of frustration–is still the highly viewed post on my blog. . .six years later.

          • Ted Seeber

            He’s had some frustration with this as of late. He’s a young priest in his first pastoral assignment, and I had to challenge him with me starting a Knights of Columbus council in the parish complete with a pro-life committee that needs to calm down somewhat. All of this in a parish that saw itself, starting with being founded by Franciscians, as being *very* liberal and heterodox. I’m sure you can imagine the pastoral challenges THAT creates.

      • Ted Seeber

        2nd reply, just found this wonderful blog posting you did a few years ago:

        • Ted Seeber

          wait, that wasn’t you. That was another Dominican on the same subject whose first name also happens to be Fr. Phil

          • Ted, I don’t know who “Fr. Phil” is. . .I’m Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP and the post you linked to above is mine.

            Fr. Philip Neri, OP

            • Ted Seeber

              So Fr. Philip Powell, OP is just another guy who responded to the 6 year old post. Amazing how things live on on the internet. My name is still taken in vain 14 years later for not responding very ecumenically to a few Oneness Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists in a Usenet Flame War (before the web became socialized, before Blogs were invented- was Usenet).

    • Br. Gabriel, OP

      El Padre,

      I think you are correct to say that the comparison between overeating and homosexual activity is a poor analogy. The proper comparison would be with the person who desires to eat sand. The drive to eat is the same as the overeater. Overeating is a distortion of what eating is supposed to be. But someone who eats sand is eating something that is not helpful. The person is still eating but not eating something healthy. So, fair enough.

      Also, country to what’s Mark has said, just because something is one of the seven deadly sins does not mean that it is automatically a mortal in. The proper name for these seven sins is actually the seven capital vices. Whether they are a mortal sin or venial sin depends on the particular circumstancethat contribute to the act.

      However I think you go too far in your condemnation of Mr. Shea. Well I would not say that it is not necessarily none of my business whether a member of the body of Christ is sinning, because, we are each other’s keeper. It is not correct, however, to assume that two men living together are in a vicious relationship. There is a matter of controversy whether two men who struggle with same-sex attraction can live together in a chaste relationship simply for companionship – for friendship. It’s not a matter that has been completely settled in moral theology. It would be wise to not attack Mr. Shea so strongly on controverted issue.

      As St. Thomas Aquinas put it: seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish.

  • Art

    Mark Shea, I just want to say thank you for posting this. If for anything else, you articulated what I have felt in my heart for numerous years. That being knowing right from wrong in accordance with our faith, but also showing compassion to know that people have different struggles, and we should hold them by the hand… side by side… and not drag them while they are kicking and screaming.

    “If I, being what I am, can consider myself a Christian, why should I assume that the faults of my neighbor render their faith merely hypocrisy and convention?”

    Something for me to chew on for a while.

  • I appreciate the article. Is that how he referred to himself, “gay”? I’m just curious because I don’t refer to myself as “heterosexual” or “straight”. He seemed like a fine person. When you use the term “gay”, it is usually in reference to living the lifestyle. Was there another reason to refer to him as gay?

    • Mark Shea

      I simply mean same-sex attracted. As I make clear, I have no idea if he was sexually active. The term is rather amorphous in present English usage. Since my knowledge of his “lifestyle” is equally amorphous I opted for current English usage.

  • Marc H. Scott

    Mark the wonderful:

    You theology is a little flawed here although it would be perfectly acceptable to Martin Luther


    • Marc H. Scott

      Somehow this was truncated:

      Grace doesn’t lead to a moral life; it covers over
      sins like gluttony and sodomy.

      That’s Lutheranism!

      • Mark Shea

        Who said grace doesn’t lead to a moral life? What *I* say is that grace, in leading us to a moral life, takes into account our weakness and does not demand of penitents more than they can yet bear.

        • DDPGH

          Mark, it may be that I misunderstand you comments. But merely to clarity, the Catholic Church teaches that yes, God demands that we resolve firmly to not sin, and to avoid the ‘occasions of sin.’ Does God bring us to awareness of our sin? Yes. Does God bring us to repentance? Yes. Does God give us firm resolve? Yes. We may fail again and again and again, but God gives grace to repent and resolve anew each time, if we want it. But throughout the whole process, God demands nothing less than full obedience to His law, and it is not our place to lessen that demand for any reason, to say a ‘little continued sinning for now’ in a confessed sin is ok, or to allow for any modifying of His commandments. That said, ‘His grace is sufficient for us’, and ‘ His mercy triumphs over justice.’ He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

          • DDPGH

            your comments

          • Mark Shea

            Yes. I know all that and agree. I also know that God does not ask of us more than we can bear and that standard practice in the confessional takes this into account. Since what I *knew* of Perry was that he was fully committed to the faith, I thought (and think) that what I *didn’t* know should be seen through the lens of charity.

            • DDPGH

              I know what you mean about looking through the eyes of charity, and giving the benefit of the doubt. Very important, and just as rare among us human beings. It is just that if, God forbid, you are wrong, a possibly pre-mature public declaration of saintedness could lead other souls to mistake your intention and think that a practicing homosexual is a saint. You are a known apologist and blogger for the faith, with cred and a forum. Your endorsements have weight. So the benefit of the doubt works well privately, or in whatever situation a bystander’s life could not be endangered. But publicly not so well unless you are able to take back the endorsement, should God forbid you need to, to every soul that heard it.

              • Mark Shea

                In which case, I would reiterate, as I have done a thousand times, that homosexual acts are sinful. But at present, I see nothing wrong with saying, “This man was a good man who lived a holy life that was obvious to all who knew him.”

                • DDPGH

                  Well, your headline reads ‘a gay man I consider a saint’ and the reader’s first take, considering it is your headline, is that this guy is a celibate gay man. But then you state that whether celebracy was a component of his life, you don’t know and moreover shouldn’t know…. I do disagree. If a person self-identifies as homosexual and publicly acknowledges a ‘partner’ then, if that man truly wants to evangelize and catechise, he will make darn sure he is transparent about the rest of his identity, explicitly. Otherwise, no one knows and silence is best. These times are confusing – clarity and truth are the only way to avoid mistakenly leading souls astray.

  • Re the use of the term ‘gay’. Ok. I suspect it can be used so others can know what you are speaking of namely younger people. That is also why I asked if he used it to describe himself as it usually implies something else. Thanks.

  • If I may clarify again. My problem was with the use of the word ‘allow’. I know that sounds picky, but it isn’t. Take gluttony, which has been mentioned, and is certainly a sin I struggle with. I’ve also lost my job. My wife lost hers. We are doing everything in the world to keep above water. During this time, believe it or not, it’s easy to fall back and, say, eat garbage by the ton out of sheer stress. Now, would it be OK for a counselor to tell me that I certainly have bigger issues to worry about, not to fret about the overeating, just try to keep it under control while these other issues resolve themselves? Maybe try exercising to balance it out? Sure it would. Heck, if those issues do resolve themselves, I could see being told to get myself on my feet and then work on this problem. And maybe that’s what the counselors are meaning – while not in any way condoning, and making sure they understand it is a relationship that must stop, there are other problems that are urgent or need addressed or something. But I can’t imagine being told that since we’re struggling financially and bad food is cheaper, we’ll allow you to be a glutton since there are bigger problems. That would suggest that mortal sins are, well, sometimes allowable. Same in the case of homosexuality. To take baby steps or focus on other problems is one thing. But to ‘allow’ a situation that is defined by the Faith as a mortal sin is to basically allow a mortal sin. Not only allow, but allow so that another, greater good could come of it by resolving another, more important problem. And I can’t imagine that being the case. It may have been another word could have been used. I could see that. But that’s the issue I had.

    • Ted Seeber

      Funny, I always lose weight when I’m unemployed. Of course, in the summer I garden when I’m unemployed (to get food for the family at all, my mortgage eats up my entire unemployment and then some) and in the winter I am often found chopping wood (because once again, natural gas costs money and the mortgage eats up my unemployment check).

  • As a confessor, I can tell you that we never “allow” or “forbid” anyone to do anything. We can encourage, discourage, rant, rave, beg, etc. but when you leave the box, it’s you and Jesus; we don’t have the time or inclination to follow you around. Permission from your confessor to continue fornicating is no excuse for fornicating. If you fall for that, well, you’re in deeper water than you thought. And your confessor is in even deeper water, if not completely drowned.
    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • Mark Shea

      Okay. Poor choice of words. What I’m getting at is that I’ve known confessors who did not, for instance, demand that somebody immediately leave a relationship on pain of being denied absolution, because they knew it would destroy the person and their paramour. So they counseled baby steps. Seems reasonable to me. Obviously I don’t know all the details because of the Seal.

      Thanks, by the way, for the feedback.

      • Mark, maybe you and Fr. Philip can clear this up for me: I was under the impression that absent a firm purpose of amendment, the confessor cannot give absolution. It’s not a matter of withholding something he has the discretion to give, but of the matter of the sacrament requiring that the penitent confess his sins with true sorrow and that purpose of amendment. Obviously if a penitent deliberately fails to confess a grave sin (e.g., a married couple deciding not to confess contraception because they reject the Church’s teaching regarding this), the priest may pronounce the words of absolution, but in point of fact the efficacy of the sacrament is putatively damaged by the deliberate failure to confess a grave sin–at least, that has been my understanding until now.

        That being the case, could a person living in an active gay relationship, a person living in a fornicating heterosexual relationship, a person invalidly married yet acting as a married couple, a married couple using contraception etc. be granted absolution if the priest knows this is the case (that is, the penitent has mentioned it within the context of the confessional) and yet has the penitent’s own words to the effect that he has no purpose of amendment for that particular sin? My impression has always been that this is simply not possible–that is, that a priest cannot absolve a penitent who is not sorry for a serious sin. If my understanding is incorrect, I would truly appreciate a correction.

        • Mark Shea

          I’ll leave this for Fr. Philip. I’m not a confessor and I don’t play one on TV.

          • The presumption of the confessor is that the penitent–upon praying the Act of Contrition–is indeed sorry for their sins and intents to amend their sinful ways. What else is possible? I’m a pretty smart guy but my psychic powers aren’t developed enough to read a penitent’s thoughts. If someone out there knows how I can empirically test contrition, I’d love to hear about it. Let’s not forget that the reception of God’s mercy in the sacrament is a powerful means of progressing toward holiness. How many of us receive absolution and then go on to commit the same sins over and over again? The central problem with objections to Mark’s post is rooted in a sinful lack of charity. As a confessor, I take people at their word. Not only am I vowed to this, but I have seen/heard folks reach a point of exhaustion with their sins and actually, permanently repent. The Protestant heresy is that there is a single magical moment when. . .POOF!. . .all desire to sin disappears and until that point is reached, we are not saved. Accepting Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior does not magically erase the life-long habits of sin. It’s a start but it’s only a start. Holiness–as a product of cooperation with grace–is a long, hard task.

            Fr. Philip Neri, OP

            • Add.

              Whether or not absolution goes on to be effective in a person’s life is up to that person. Again, are you–as the absolved penitent–cooperating with the grace of the sacrament? Absolution has been objectively granted but has it been subjectively received?

              • Father Philip, I appreciate what you’re saying, but I think perhaps I can clarify a bit with an example. Obviously, this is completely fictional, but I’m hoping it will make my question a bit clearer:

                Penitent: (in the middle of confession) Also, Father, I was mad at my husband for forgetting to pick up condoms at the store when he said he would. I wanted a romantic evening, and he spoiled it, so I shouted at him and went to bed angry. And I made him sleep on the couch.

                Priest: (asks some gentle questions about the condom use, clarifying the Church’s position re: birth control)

                Penitent: Oh, I know that’s the official teaching. But I reject it. My husband and I don’t want another kid, so we use birth control. I’m due for another Depo-Provera shot, but I’m in between shots so we have to use condoms.

                Priest: (Gently tries again to bring penitent to understanding)

                Penitent: Sorry, Father. I’m not buying it. It’s my choice to use birth control. I want absolution for being angry, that’s all.

                Now, at this point, does the priest give absolution or not? This is what I’m confused about: the idea that a person could be persisting in a grave sin, and the priest could know it, but give absolution anyway on the grounds that “baby steps” are better than no steps. According to my understanding this isn’t possible–that is, the priest in my fictional example would be unable to give absolution. But perhaps I’m wrong?

                My question isn’t about people withholding sins, or falling again and again into the same serious sins–my question is about this idea that a person who is quite openly living a life in which grave sin is rather a big part can still be participating in the sacraments including the Eucharist without that being a problem–that is, he has gone to confession and received a valid absolution despite no intention to amend the grave sin issue, provided that is actually known to his confessor/spiritual director.

                • Erin, you can only be absolved from the sins you confess. Absolution presupposes confession, contrition, and resolve to complete the penance. The standard Act of Contrition makes this clear.

                  In the above hypothetical, the penitent should not receive communion b/c she is not properly disposed.

                  Fr. Philip Neri, OP

                  • I appreciate your patience in helping me work through this, Father Philip. If I may try that patience once more–would, then, the penitent in my hypothetical example receive absolution for the sin of anger she confessed, or would she be at least objectively making a bad confession for which no absolution might be offered, since the priest is aware that this is a bad confession (e.g., that she is objectively guilty of grave sin but refuses to confess it, to amend her life, or to accept Church guidance and teaching on the matter)?

                    Again, I do appreciate your replies here–my generation received so little catechesis on the sacrament of penance, and some of these matters are still a little difficult to understand rightly.

                    • Erin, no worries. . .happy to answer your questions!

                      She would be granted absolution (objectively) for the sins she confesses, shows contrition, etc. . .whether she truly receives that absolution (subjectively) is known only to her and God. Evidence that she has subjectively rec’d the grace of absolution would include a dawning awareness that using artificial contraception is a mortal sin.

                      Withholding absolution is rare. You would have to enter the Box, talk to the priest about your adultery (e.g.), admit that you know it is a mortal sin, explicitly refuse to repent, and then ask for absolution. Why someone would go to confession only to refuse to repent of a mortal sin is a puzzle.

                      Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  • Redd Phalen


    This may be compasion on your part, but your thinking is clearly protestant

    • Define protestant.

    • Mark Shea

      Talk to Protestant Dominican Fr. Phil.

      • Yes, please do. I’m all ears.

  • Costernocht

    One of your best posts ever, Mark. How I wish I’d known of Mr Lorenzo when he was alive. I’m reading and enjoying his blog now.

  • Alan

    Mark, I think if you could write a column on moral relativism, it would really clarify your position.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m against it. There. Done.

  • Wasn’t St. Paul supposedly gay according to certain theologians?

    • Mark Shea

      Everything with a pulse is supposedly gay to certain theologians.

    • Noah D

      Some writers think HAL 9000 was gay.

      • KML

        Wait….he wasn’t? Man, that totally changes the movie for me.

      • Thomas R

        I know many think Arthur C. Clarke was gay and that does seem kind of plausible to me. I mean I don’t know, but I think he outright said he “did stuff” with guys when he was a young man. So I was thinking the theory on HAL was just “the writer was gay, so he’s gay.”

        But then the theory was about “HAL was a character with a secret that drove him mad” which could mean all kinds of things. Also HAL didn’t really have a gender or body so I don’t know how he’d be gay. You’d need another machine and somehow have it be the same sex.

  • My personal belief is we are all valued under Gods eyes. Even though you feel homosexuality is a mortal sin I am hearten to see you could still find value in a man who said he was gay.

  • KML

    Great post, Mark. Mirrors my feelings on the subject almost exactly.

  • What I love about this post most is your willingness to articulate all of this, it isn’t easy to describe what hating sin and still loving the sinner looks like. Truthfully none of us can judge the state if another’s soul. Am I not just as damned as the unrepentant gay person if I am unrepentantly merciless toward him?

    • Based on some of the comments I’ve been reading, I’d have to say no. At least, not automatically.

      • Thomas R

        If you were “merciless” to a gay man, and die before repentance, I think it would be as automatic unless I’m mistaken.

  • Elaine S.

    “I also agree with the Church that my own acts of gluttony are sinful and even gravely so.”
    This may be a bit off topic, and I really don’t want to derail this thread (perhaps this could be the subject of another post), but I really would like to know how does one know when gluttony becomes a grave sin? Does it happen when you reach a certain level of obesity, or when it starts to impact your health or your marriage? If that is the case, does that mean you must confess your eating binges in number and kind like other mortal sins, and refrain from receiving Communion until you do? Or does it mean you should refrain from receiving Communion at all until you have lost a certain amount of weight or even reached your goal?

    • Rachel M.

      As a new convert, this is what I’ve learned while in preparation for the Rite of Reconciliation about mortal sins:
      it must be a grave matter
      one must have knowledge that it is a mortal sin
      it must be committed with full consent (not coerced)

      Abortion would be a mortal sin for me, but perhaps not for someone who has been brought up that abortion is not a big deal and a perfectly appropriate solution for an unplanned pregnancy. As far as gluttony, if there was any question, I would think it should be confessed and one could ask for guidance from the priest and while in prayer with God personally. The Holy Spirit will guide and/or convict.

      This is what I’ve been taught in RCIA.

  • Elaine S.

    As for the topic at hand, I have to agree with the previous poster, that it is NOT easy at all to figure out exactly what it means to “hate the sin and love the sinner” on a day by day basis. This is true of any habitual sin, not just homosexuality or other sexual sins. It would also apply to things like alcoholism or drug addiction.