Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine

(Editor’s note: The following is a post was written by Steve Gershom (a pseudonym) who runs the blog stevegershom.com.)

I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church?

When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I’m gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say ‘locker room’? What were you doing in the women’s…oh.) I’ve always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.

Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first — who doesn’t like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? — but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn’t mean I’m special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, “I guess if it wasn’t that, it would have been something else.” Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: “The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?”

Where are all these bigoted Catholics I keep hearing about? When I told my family a year ago, not one of them responded with anything but love and understanding. Nobody acted like I had a disease. Nobody started treating me differently or looking at me funny. The same is true of every one of the Catholic friends that I’ve told. They love me for who I am.

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I’ve noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?? You must be some kind of freak.

Hooray for tolerance of different viewpoints. I’m grateful to gay activists for some things — making people people more aware of the prevalence of homosexuality, making homophobia less socially acceptable — but they also make it more difficult for me to be understood, to be accepted for who I am and what I believe. If I want open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding, I look to Catholics.

Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn’t let me have those things, not because she’s mean, but because she’s a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I’d tell them: that’s not what eating is for; it won’t nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn’t let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her — I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.

So the Church doesn’t oppose gay marriage because it’s wrong; she opposes it because it’s impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe — made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the picture, and we’re not about to throw out the rest of the picture.

If you don’t believe in these things, if you believe that men and women and sex and marriage are pretty much whatever we say they are, then okay: we don’t have much left to talk about. That’s not the world I live in.

So, yes, it’s hard to be gay and Catholic — it’s hard to be anything and Catholic — because I don’t always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I’ll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.

Would I trade in my Catholicism for a worldview where I get to marry a man? Would I trade in the Eucharist and the Mass and the rest of it? Being a Catholic means believing in a God who literally waits in the chapel for me, hoping I’ll stop by just for ten minutes so he can pour out love and healing on my heart. Which is worth more — all this, or getting to have sex with who I want? I wish everybody, straight or gay, had as beautiful a life as I have.

I know this isn’t a satisfactory answer. I don’t think any words could be. I try to make my life a satisfactory answer, to this question and to others: What are people for? What is love, and what does it look like? How do we get past our own selfishness so we can love God and our neighbors and ourselves?

It’s a work in progress.

______

Used with permission from Little Catholic Bubble Blog

37 Comments

  1. Thanks for this beautiful insight on this tough topic. I love being Catholic, too, with all my shortcomings.

    By Monica | 3 years ago Reply
  2. A true testimony of what a Catholic faith is all about. It’s about how in our own weakness, God manifests His ineffable love towards us, that even if we sometimes forget to acknowledge His existence, He will still be there, patiently waiting for us to accept His will with faith and humility.

    By Maria | 3 years ago Reply
  3. Thank you for sharing this important perspective. You have a wonderful brain and spirit. Maybe the part about John Lennon could be reworded however. Instead of calling him an idiot perhaps pointing out that his “free love” attitude did not lead to happiness as it caused much pain to his very own son when he abandoned him for the “hip sensuality” of the second wife.

    By Siobhan Clare | 3 years ago Reply
  4. I’m so happy that God created you as you are to testify to His love. I believe that in my own life. You said it best, that we all struggle with different crosses and because each of us are as unique as a snowflake, no one person can reach heaven by the exact same path. I pray many souls read your post and have a change of heart. Mine was filled with love for you and I will pray for you as you go along in your journey. God bless!

    By Christine | 3 years ago Reply
  5. God Bless you!! What an absolutely beautiful testimony. Thank you so much for sharing. I wish you peace, happiness and never ending faith.

    By Marie | 3 years ago Reply
  6. beautiful text… you should start writing books and give conferences… you could change the world, blessings

    By er | 3 years ago Reply
  7. So beautifully said! I plan on sharing this with my teenage students in the hope that it will help them personally and with their relationship with the Church. They desperately need more examples of Truth. Thank you!

    By Ileana | 3 years ago Reply
  8. Great testimony. A lot of us struggle with lust and fornication. Reading your post gives me extra strength to live out my new promise of a chaste life. Thank you.

    By Janique | 3 years ago Reply
  9. John Lennon was not an idiot. To call someone an idiot, would not make my God very happy because he loves all of us including John Lennon. He wrote the song imagine, not because he had no belief, but because he wished that people would just LOVE one another no matter what! I enjoyed all of the story, except for that part. How dare you call John Lennon or anyone else for that matter an idiot. I am quite sure that God would not be proud of that~

    By Wendy Porter | 3 years ago Reply
    • Thank you so much for this comment. I was perturbed by this entire article, but that sentence made me angry. To talk about tolerance and then call someone an idiot for not believing what you do is ugly hypocrisy.
      sigh

      By Thanks | 3 years ago Reply
      • Calm down, it was a joke. You do not need to get so fixated on one little thing.

        By Peter | 3 years ago Reply
    • To focus on one negative comment in this beautiful testimony is…. intolerant!

      By Hillary | 3 years ago Reply
  10. You are an amazing person. I am Catholic, and I have many gay friends. You are loved my friend. You are loved.

    By Rebekah | 3 years ago Reply
  11. So well put! God bless

    By Christine Francis | 3 years ago Reply
  12. Beutiful my son is gay i am catholic and all i know is that god loves us
    Blessings to you

    By Sylvia | 3 years ago Reply
  13. We are not to identify ourselves as gay and isn’t that why Pope Francis said to the world when regarding the gay lobby problem…quote: “I have yet to find on a Vatican IDENTITY card the word gay. THEY say there are some gay people here” …….I think he was saying these people struggle with thinking they are gay instead of coming to the truth that they should identify themselves the way God does, as a of a child of God, an heir of heaven, a man or a woman, made in the image and likeness of God. In calling (identifying himself as gay, is to accept that he was born gay). ……To identify yourself as being gay is a very serious personality disorder…….check out this site for instance it says here “The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.” http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=60630

    By Lisa De Ruyter | 3 years ago Reply
  14. Beautifully written article. I would just have to disagree with the allusion to sand. Eating sand is actually harmful to you… the rocks can tear up your esophagus. Being in a homosexual relationship isn’t harmful, it simply doesn’t create life. But neither can old people or sterile people. Does this make their relationships harmful to them? They only have sex for love and pleasure, just like any homosexual relationship. I just want someone to explain that to me… I’m not Catholic, or even Christian, I just want a deeper understanding of the other viewpoint.

    By Lu | 3 years ago Reply
    • A homosexual relationship is “harmful”, as it is against God’s will, and against his intentions. In the Catholic church, sexual sins are mortal sins. (“venial sins” are lesser sins, like lying or disobeying parents or gossiping, while “mortal sins” are sins that cut you off from God, like murder, masturbation, acting on homosexuality, or premarital sex. If one dies with a mortal sin, they, being fully separated from God, go to hell. Dying with venial sins jsut lands you some extra years in Purgatory.)

      Basically, acting on your homosexuality by having sexual relations is a sin, and we want to avoid sin so that we don’t hurt God and so that we remain pure. Also, we want to go to Heaven.

      I’m guessing this is pretty confusing if you aren’t Catholic, here’s a website that answers common questions about Catholicism and homosexuality, it is SO helpful!
      http://www.chastity.com/chastity-qa/homosexuality/homosexuality

      By Annie | 3 years ago Reply
    • I am not a pro but I would disagree with the reply by Annie. I have heard priests discuss this and understand that all sexual sins are not mortal sins. Certainly their would be different degrees from mortal and venial in each category. For instance, a murder from a pure hateful selfish motivation would be closer to evil than a person murdering her beloved child or parent in order to protect them from perceived pain of life. It is misguided and a lack of faith in the goodness of Christ’s saving grace but the sin there is the pain of her hopelessness already experienced and unless repentance eternal. A sexual sin like priest pedophilia is in the mortal category due to it’s depravity and awareness, compared to masturbation which takes you off the direct path towards experience God’s true love, due to ones lack of faith in physical discipline as a way to strengthen the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life. In the end, God is the judge and your conscience is an intuitive north star.

      By Siobhan Clare | 3 years ago Reply
    • You ask a very good question about gay marriage compared to elderly and sterile marriages. I have read where it is all about the bible quote of “flesh made one” and therefore impotent heterosexual couple are not permitted to marry in the church but sterile couples are. This does seem to be splitting hairs and I would also love to hear someone with TRUE knowledge and understanding of Pope John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” respond to this, because all questions are good and important.

      By Siobhan Clare | 3 years ago Reply
  15. I think that this is an absolute valid decision and viewpoint. I am glad you are able to share your story even in a time and place where being gay and celibate may put you in the minority. I think the church can decide not to marry gay and lesbian couples, and that’s fine, it’s their choice. I think that is sad because the church doesn’t get to partake in the celebration of love-but that’s a different story. I would hope that even if people chose not to be celibate that they are still recognized as whole and wonderful and human, and that their choice is respected the way your choice to be celibate hopefully is.

    By elle | 3 years ago Reply
  16. I agree with this article, it is very well written. God made it very clear through his inspired word, the Bible that homosexuality is wrong, just as fornication or stealing is wrong. All of us have sinned, but to live as if it is okay with God is to believe a lie. The following verses are from the New Testament.

    Romans 1:18-32
    But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness…. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

    So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

    That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

    Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. (NLT)

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NLT)

    1 Timothy 1:8-10
    Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine … (ESV)

    By Ron Kangiser | 3 years ago Reply
  17. Thank you for this article. Keep witnessing to the faith! God bless you always 🙂

    By Fatima | 3 years ago Reply
  18. First and foremost, this is not an attack on the writer or his faith. I have no quarrel with Catholics who seek God’s grace through the Catholic Church. My quarrel is with the bishops and church leaders, hence the Church itself. It’s fine that this writer and the Catholic Church have their viewpoint: that gay people should remain celibate and that marriage between two men or two women doesn’t work in the context of the Catholic faith (though I’m not sure it’s ok to teach children this). That’s not the problem. The problem is the Catholic Church’s well funded and active campaign to force non-Catholics to live in accordance with their beliefs by lobbying for laws to legislate their version of morality. What’s worse, is the harm this viewpoint inflicts on children. I grew up with a young man named, who from birth, was obviously gay. We all went to Catholic schools together. He was taught by our Catholic teachers from a very early age, that marriage and monogamy weren’t for him, and that he would either be condemned to a life of lonely celibacy (apparently possible for this writer and some priests, but not for the average person with a normal libido) or a lifestyle of perpetual dating. Being a person with normal sex drive, his path was the latter. This child of God contracted AIDS and died. I blame the teachings of the Catholic Church for his death, as well as the deaths of so many other of my friends. They may have been spared this horrible disease by a life of monogamous and contented marriage; a life actively denied them by a Church intent on imposing and legislate its beliefs and practices on non-Catholics. There’s a word for the act of imposing your will on others to the exclusion of all other viewpoints, while condemning those who disagree: fascism. Thats a harsh word, but if you examine the definition of the word, it fits. This isn’t love. This isn’t compassion. It’s self righteous and arrogant dictation. The Catholic Church is free to believe what it believes, and teach what it teaches; it is NOT free to impose those beliefs and teachings on ME.

    By Julie | 3 years ago Reply
    • Well maybe that young man, May God rest his soul, should not have been in a Roman Catholic school. This is a debate I engage in constantly with non- Catholics at my Catholic school. One cannot expect to come to a Catholic school and not receive a Catholic education. And to say that the Catholic church is the reason the young man unfortunately contracted AIDS is nonsensical. He chose to have unprotected sex and not ensure that his sexual partner(s) were HIV negative. And I understand that you are just speaking from your perspective and maybe you are still hurt and angry because of the death of your friend, but just because you had a supposedly negative experience with YOUR Catholic teaching and school, does not mean that the Catholic church on a whole is at fault. That’s like blaming the government for everything as we seem to always do. And I found it very offensive to say that the author of this article does not have a “normal libido”. Really? It is so sad that we live in a world that tells us we must have sex and living a celibate or chaste life renders us as abnormal. We are not animals. We do not act on every instinct or desire that we have. If we did then we would be having sex with everyone. Just as we choose who to have sex with or not, so too can we decide to live a chaste and pure life.

      By Tremaine | 3 years ago Reply
  19. Steve,

    I know were all called to be saints, but I believe it would be especially awesome for someone like you were to be canonized a Saint someday. How awesome would it be for people with a same-sex attraction to be able to look up to someone who struggled with the same thing as them?! If you know other Catholics who struggle with same-sex attraction, please encourage them to strive more fervently for the Sainthood along with you. Do not be afraid of the path that leads to holiness! When we follow that difficult yet fulfilling path, not only do we draw closer to the Lord ourselves, but we bring others to Him! Check out 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 for more encouragement. I pray that God will continue to bless you abundantly as you continue to do His work.

    By Lizzy | 3 years ago Reply
  20. Beautiful to read – only one thing: Jesus also died for John Lennon 🙂

    By Rebecca | 3 years ago Reply
  21. Hey, you really helped me out by putting this up. I’m 20 years old,gay, and a ‘Cradle-Catholic”; brought up that way since infancy. It really isn’t easy for us, and at times I really wish I wasn’t wired this way. I sometimes look in a mirror and see a guy who’ s been living in fear of what might happen to me in the future; of what I might lose along the way. I sometimes cry about it too. But I never show my sadness to anyone. I honestly am a happy person. 🙂 Just have my ups and downs at times. A good friend once told me that for us guys who are of homosexual orientation just have a different cross to bear than others do. It makes a lot of since too; like the fact on how marriage was made for a man and woman. The Church is not trying to be mean to us, and sadly, a lot of us have that misconception. She’s just following the laws God made; as we all should. And in our case, chastity is a biggie for us. Or it should strongly be. Wil it be easy, of course not. Life never is, but it’s not like God had it easy either when He came down and died for us either. We owe HIm HUGE for that. And your comment of God loving all of us, really got to me. I love to read the bible but when I got to the whole part on homosexuality and stuff, I got scared. I felt like I had disappointed God for being this way. But, not so much anymore. I’m glad to be myself and I’m proud of where I am today. And in all honesty, I think that’s what many of us have to hear. We are all loved and cared for the same way. In God’s eyes, there is no label, its just you. 🙂 So, thanks for putting this up Steve. You really made my day. 😀 I will strive to follow the way of God’s will and do my best in all that I do. And for anyone who falls in the same boat as me, know that there are others like us, you’re not alone in this, and…most importantly, God loves and adores you with all His heart. He’ll never leave you. 🙂 So, keep your head held high and know that you are loved immensely!!! 🙂

    By Dave | 3 years ago Reply
  22. After much thought I have concluded that it doesn’t matter if gays are born that way or not. Does it matter if child molesters or adulterers were born that way? We were all born in a state of sin and wrestle with the flesh from the moment we come into this world. Homosexuality is wrong. You cannot help being tempted, but you can avoid the progression of sin that James talks about in James 1.13-15. Carry on the fight.

    By Christopher | 3 years ago Reply
  23. I’m a Gay male in my 20’s, Catholic and trying to live a chaste life.. An oxymoron for some and it’s not easy…But I’m doing what we’re called to do and that is to pick up our personal crosses and follow Christ. I’ve lived the lifestyle which to a large degree revolves around promiscuity leaving you spiritually empty (and for the tiny minority of gay men who may read this and start accusing me of stereotyping, word to y’all, the figures are there and I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t witnessed it first hand).

    I’ve fallen numerous times on my journey due to temptation, but it’s all about dusting oneself off and running torwards his mercy when my own heart has become blinded.

    Being Catholic is not all airy fairy, it’s about self renunciation, self denial and penance and no one likes to hear that. You want to retain God’s grace, it’s going to cost you, because at the end of the day all we humans really know to do is pay attention to our corrupt minds and let our weak bodies dictate everything forgetting we have souls which live- (forever)! Heaven or hell people, don’t fool yourselves into thinking you’re all going to be enjoying an eternal siesta up in heaven because we all reap what we sow.

    The article resounded and hit me at my core because the writer pinpoints what should be central to every Catholic- the Blessed sacraments, Christ’s presence in every Catholic Church in confession, adoration and communion is where he pours out his love for aching man who constantly offend and reject him.

    When gay peers call me crazy, cynical or when Catholics reproach me and treat me differently, I for one tell them to start praying and pray for them too. I’m not going to argue or explain myself to someone with no notion or knowledge in regards to faith because only God pierces hearts with truth and the rest is simply not my business.

    For the meanwhile, my heart rejoices in knowing that there are Gay Catholics out there who strive to do the right thing in revering Jesus in the sacraments by observing chastity and we all need prayers for strength…unwed people; gay or straight are all called to chastity and this is one challenge every individual faces.

    God bless you all.

    By Zee | 3 years ago Reply
  24. Thank you so much for this context. I really needed this just now, for I feel myself slipping and doubting if I will get back to the “on-fire” spirit God gave me before. The bit about confession is helpful as well. Thank you, for giving me your perspective and thereby opening my heart again to God’s love and reassurance. God bless you.

    By Lindsey | 3 years ago Reply
  25. I have been profoundly blessed and touched by the writers post, yet awakened to my own journey of faith which is constantly falling soo short of God’s glory, humbled by the writer’s honesty and humility(I did not pay much heed to the John Lennon quip)and duly inspired by his steadfast walk in the narrow path of obedience he has chosen. Thank you for bringing it home to all of us who have posted here. It needn’t be soo complicated. Its about choice..choice of obedience or choice of disobedient self serving sinful pleasure. God loves us soo much to grant the grace of discernment.Contrary to an earlier post claiming Catholic Church ‘punitive’ teachings.Enough said. God bless you abundantly and my Novena to Sacred Heart of Jesus for you starts here.

    By Anna | 3 years ago Reply
  26. This article is ridiculous and ignorant. I find it very hard to believe that a gay person has no problems with the Catholic Church when it takes away one of the most basic human freedoms; to express your love and get married. The church is hypocritical when it says everyone is equal and born in the image of God if this really was true then gays could get married. The comment of about John Lennon is highly disgraceful and atrocious, I rather live in John Lennons world then the delusional world the author is living. His views are outdated and ignorant and in today’s society gays should be able to get married. A world where everyone is equal is a world i would love to love in and I’m not an idiot for believing that

    By Anonymous | 3 years ago Reply
  27. I cried after reading this article. My best friend is a lesbian, but she doesn’t know that I know. She’s always been so chaste and never engages in homosexual behavior or acts. Nevertheless, I don’t think she wants me to know. She’s practically family and I thank God for her every night in prayer. We’re both God-fearing Catholics, so I fear she might have internalized homophobia or think I am homophobic. All I want for her is to be happy and be with God forever. I don’t care if she’s a lesbian. I love her so much, she’s my sister at this point.

    By Siobhan | 3 years ago Reply
  28. I have recently began to wonder if I was bisexual. I am so blessed to be Catholic because I know for sure that God and the church will always love me for who I am and that even though this is a struggle for me God is with me. I think because I am Catholic I can be more at peace about this than some protestants can.

    By maria | 3 years ago Reply
  29. This article is exactly why I am looking to leave the faith. Aside from the fact that the Bible and most Abrahamic religions require women to be in a submissive role, Catholicism and Christianity at large completely pushes LGBT folk in a corner by calling them to live celibate, lonely lives where they cannot even date anyone that they have feelings for and yes, have monogamous relationships with, all just to make sex “pure” and solely for “procreation.” This is very repressive and can even put some at risk for suicide for some people after years of staying abstinent and repressing any love they feel for someone, and no I don’t just mean sex. I don’t find this method of living happy or healthy, and just because you have a few examples of celibate people who are gay on this site doesn’t make a difference.

    By Anonymous | 3 years ago Reply

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