Catholic, gay and living a ‘beautiful life’

| Steve Gershom | June 18, 2013 | 9 Comments

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. 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.

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.

Gershom, a Catholic in his late twenties from New England who has same-sex attraction, blogs about chastity, the Church and his personal journey at http://www.stevegershom.com.

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Category: Commentary

  • southmpls

    Nice job, Steve. Jim Wallis recently wrote a piece touching on many of those same issues.

  • Stephen Joseph

    I feel sorry for you. Self-hatred is a difficult thing to live with even though you are able to sugar coat it to survive in an institution that does not want nor value you as the human being God made you to be. I pray that you find peace with who you are and are able to find love in a committed relationship.

  • Catholic Lady

    Thank you for your faith and love. I am proud to be a Catholic. I am glad to hear you have experienced the love you have and may it continue. I am a single heterosexual female and the church has restrictions on me having sex out of wedlock and I accept it and practicing celibacy hasn’t always been easy but has become very rewarding also. Catholic means universal and I believe that includes everyone and everyone is welcome and loved the same by God.

  • Katie Waddelove Rinker

    That was truly beautiful!!!

  • Joseph Brown

    Thank you, Steve. That has been exactly my experience.

  • Ann

    Wow, that’s really beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  • Frank

    God creates Hell too. Do not forget.

  • Terence Rafferty

    This article is naive, at best.

    Young man, Jesus was incarnated as human being with a body. He was not just spirit. His path to the father was through a fully human life.

    I suggest you go find a nice guy, fall in love — and then let’s see what you have to say.

    • Michael

      Terence,
      I’m sure Steve has fallen in love. Just as I a celibate man have fallen in love with a woman. I recognize that falling in love is part of being human, but its only part. Human beings greatest feat is in his rational powers not his carnal animal side. I don’t ignore my feelings but I relate them to my beloved God. I thank God for beautiful souls especially women. All of life is ordered to God, but its through our body’s right order, obeying our rational powers. Re-study Catholic anthropology and get back to us, and stop following the world. Remember we have three enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. And then we have to remember the fall, that while we were made for the Father, we have fallen and this fallen state has broad implications for how we relate to God, ourselves and others, this is the flesh part. Don’t encourage someone to act on their fallen sinful inclinations as the war between the flesh and the spirit according to St. Paul.