While it is true that same-sex attractions are a part of my life story, today I share of myself to defend the Catholic Church. Yes, you read that correctly—defend. I pray that you will open your heart to hearing my voice.
Who Do You Say I Am?
Countless people (yes, even Catholics) try to impose the “gay” identity onto me. They feel that if I want to be honest with myself, I should describe and define myself in that way. Many are quite frank in expressing that if I don’t embrace that identity label, then I must be self-hating, delusional, in denial, mired in shame, and so forth (and really, it’s gettin’ kinda old).
This way of thinking reflects the deeply entrenched (and false) idea that “being gay” or “being straight” is “who we are.” Perhaps this is why people think I must embrace the “gay” identity label in order to live a joyful and fulfilling life. They cannot comprehend that there is another way—a way that I joyfully embrace.
Today I see myself first as a beloved son of the Most High; a brother in Christ. Instead of defining myself according to the attractions I experience (which are merely a facet of myself), I base my identity first and foremost on my relationship with God—while still being honest with myself about the attractions I experience. In choosing to embrace this identity, I have found more joy than I knew was possible!
I got to where I am today by realizing a few key objective truths:
1. Though I don’t choose my attractions, I do choose how I self-identify and define myself. In realizing that, I knew I had to see my attractions and my identity as distinct, if I really wanted to be honest with myself.
2. To be open to growing in virtue is to be open to Christ, while to be closed to growing in virtue is to be closed to Christ. Out of my love for Christ, I knew I needed to fully open my heart to virtue.
3. To seek fulfillment in Christ while refusing to grow in virtue is a contradiction. To seek fulfillment first and foremost in Christ while at the same time embracing an incomplete identity like “gay” or “straight” (identities that are not anchored first and foremost in Christ), will tear our soul in opposing directions. I lived this. Everything boiled down to my own openness to grow in the virtue of chastity. That brought me to realize:
4. The Church doesn’t reject people. Rather, some people reject the Church. Only I can decide whether or not I will be open to growing in virtue, and my decision will reveal the state of my heart. And that brought me to realize this:
5. If we truly love Christ, we will disengage from whatever undermines virtue (such as unchaste activity and incomplete labels that reduce us to our sexual and or romantic desires).
At this realization, I knew I could no longer self-identify as “gay” and still be fully honest with myself. That identity label led me to not see myself first and foremost according to my relationship with Christ. I knew I had to make the choice to open my heart to virtue—and drop that identity label.
If you think about it, self-identifying as “gay and Catholic” is similar to self-identifying as “straight and Catholic.” Both are woefully inadequate labels for the sons and daughters of God—we are so much more!
The identity labels we give ourselves influence what we perceive to be fulfilling, and thus influence how we live. For that reason, we need to focus on the formation of identity—it’s what separates those of us who defend the Catholic Church, from those who aim to destroy it.
What Should We Do?
The Church invites all of us to become the living reasons why someone might desire to see themselves first and foremost through the lens of Christ. However, God’s love will shine brighter through us as the “living reasons” if we strive to exemplify the fullness of virtue ourselves. This is how hearts will be won over for the Lord… I am living proof.
That is why today, I joyfully offer my life to defend the Catholic Church.
Will you help by sharing my voice?
(For more articles on this topic by Andrew and others, click here).
Andrew is a Courage member and contributor to the Pursuit Of Truth Ministries website. He is a speaker and writer, most recently co-authoring the pamphlet resource Sexuality and the Catholic Church, which has been made available for free download. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.