A Gay Man I Consider a Saint

A Gay Man I Consider a Saint May 1, 2012

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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  • Rosemary

    One of my personal hero was Dr. Thomas A. Dooley, who also was a homosexual. He established Medico, helped millions of people in Cambodia and Laos and wrote books about his experiences there. He was 34 when he died in 1961 of melanoma. He also was a devout Catholic who had beenconsidered for sainthood until it was reported he helped the CIA.

  • Shawn Roush

    As Christians do we have “private lives”?

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. Next question.

      • Catherine

        You do contradict yourself because you are putting up someone as a saint who may not have been one. Who do you think you are to make that sort of declaration? Especially since the sin is so controversial in this time for our Holy Church and for the Priests who stand for HOly Mothers Teaching on it?

      • NDaniels

        As Christians, we do not have “private” lives because we live our lives with one another in communion with Christ.

  • Chris

    I got deleted by a FB friend of 3-4 years that posted this blog onto her page. The article is well written and I found it fully in communion with the CCC. She didn’t agree and made alot of assumptions that I pointed out. I suggested:

    If you have the sinful habit of judging your neighbor, then whenever you judge someone make three prostrations that day with this prayer: “Save, O Lord, and have mercy on him (whom I have judged) and by his prayers, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Do this every time you judge someone. If you do this, God will see your sincerity and will deliver you from this sinful habit forever. And if you never judge anyone, then God will never judge you. In this way you will even receive salvation. (Priest-confessor Sergei Pravdolubov).

    Again, Mark this was a very nice piece and can be well defended via the CCC that some seem not to have a relationship with.

    • Mark Shea

      Thank you, Chris.

  • Virgilio Sanchez

    What can I say? In the new conciliar church Vatican 2, everything goes.

  • What can I say…I am late to the arty but I adored the. And I love that people that hunk this y, as I do, exist in our church. And the comments were, as expected, horrifying. Thank you for writing something beautiful. The.end

  • That was not English, I am on an iPad I shall try again…
    What can I say… I am late to the party but I adore this. And I love that people who think like this, as I do, exist in our church. The last part made sense. The.wnd

  • Rebecca

    Great post, Mark.

  • Ted Seeber

    For those who may be coming here- months later- from Fr. Peter West’s page and what he posted over the weekend, I urge you to open the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read paragraphs 2357-2359 before posting.

  • NDaniels

    The True God desires that we overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be so that we are not led into temptation, but rather become transformed through God’s Grace and Mercy and learn to develop friendships and relationships that are grounded in authentic Love. Words that sexually objectify the human person, such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transexual, gay, etc., are not part of the Language of Love, The Word of God.

  • Common Sense

    It’s this kind of blind condemnation of groups of people that makes me fear organized religion. There is so much hate coming from a group of people claiming only to “love.” You should be deeply ashamed. History will look back at your hatred of LGBTQI people and revile you as we now revile racist individuals, and with good cause.

    • I think you mean LGBTQIZANP

      It’s not good to ignore our pedosexual, zoosexual, necrosexual and asexual community. Come on now, we are supposed to be a tolerant, progressive society!