At Nick’s Catholic blog there is the headline: Can someone be Catholic AND Gay? Nick writes:
Unfortunately, it has become common to push the limits with identifying oneself as “Catholic AND Gay,” but this trend is dangerous to the souls of all who are involved.
Nick is correct that it is very dangerous to souls. He gives this reasoning:
The problem can most easily be recognized in the terminology used. When one identifies as “Gay,” that is a public profession that they endorse homosexual culture.
Yes, even if the intent is not to endorse the homosexual culture, it does have the same effect as an endorsement. It acknowledges that there is nothing inherently “wrong” with something the Church has identified as an objective disorder. It’s like saying there is nothing wrong with cleft palate, or that there is nothing wrong with cancer. Both of these occur in nature, but they are still bad, and we should be clear that they are bad. Those who find their identity in disorder are completely missing the point of what it means to be Catholic. I wrote about that in my previous post: A Conversation About Reparative Therapy for Same-Sex Attraction.
My dad was an alcoholic, but he eventually stopped “being” an alcoholic and he stopped identifying that way for good spiritual reason. He decided to give up drinking, when I was about six years old. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and they were very helpful to him in giving up drinking. Eventually, though, he had to stop going to the meetings because they require you to stand up and say, “I am an alcoholic” when you give your testimony. He refused to do this, saying that Jesus had healed him of his alcoholism, and that if he said “I am an alcoholic” then he would be lying about what Jesus had done for him. My dad never drank another drop, throughout his entire life, even up to the time that he passed away from colon cancer in 2000. Jesus truly did take my dad’s alcoholism away from him back when I was a little kid. No one who knew him would doubt that.
It is true that the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program are based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, but I know from my dad’s experience and also in my own spiritual life in dealing with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger Syndrome that it goes too far to require people always to say “I am an alcoholic.” Some people are healed from it completely, as my dad was.
The passage from Scripture that comes to mind for me frequently in this debate is of Jesus walking on water, and St. Peter being able to walk on water as long as he trusted in Jesus. If you are not willing to believe that Jesus is WHO he says he is, then you will never know who you are and what you can do with His help.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When you find your identity in a disorder, you rob yourself of accepting the possibility of being able to rise above that disorder with God’s help. Alcoholics Anonymous is right to ask people to acknowledge that they are helpless without a higher power, but requiring people to continually identify in disorder contradicts that very same truth in that it requires one to believe one can never fully rise above the disorder. With God, ALL THINGS are possible, and God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Regardless of the disorder, whether it is same-sex attraction, Bipolar Disorder, or alcoholism, if we find our identity in that disorder, we erect a psychological barrier in our minds against the idea that God is working through that disorder to heal and redeem us, and to heal and redeem others that can go as far as complete healing, if it is within His will to do so.
This is why my dad refused to say “I am an alcoholic,” but would say that he and his family suffered (past tense) from alcoholism, which he was healed from. It is not just my dad’s experience that causes me to refuse to say, “I am Bipolar.” Rather it is something that I have come to know within my own heart the more I have come to personally know Jesus. As soon as I say “I am Bipolar,” I am saying that I am my disorder and that I cannot be virtuous, no matter how hard I try. I would be giving up on God and on myself by branding myself with the label of disorder, and taking my focus off of God’s will for me and what He has called each of us to become – a saint.
Does this mean that healing from disorder is required to become a saint? No. As I wrote, it is in carrying our crosses that we reach the perfection in Christ that we are called to. So, I say that I “have” Bipolar Disorder, but I am not my disorder. I am not a Bipolar Catholic. I am just a Catholic whose crosses in life are many. Bipolar Disorder is just one of those crosses. I also have Asperger Syndrome, which is a cross for me. Parenting four kids is part of my cross in life. Dealing with late-stage Lyme Disease, which is as painful sometimes as labor pains, is part of my cross in life. Attending Mass regularly is part of my cross in life. Taking care of my chickens, which help to feed my family, is part of my cross in life. When I fell and injured myself, that was part of my cross in life. Sitting here and writing about spiritual matters is part of my cross in life. Doing laundry, cooking dinner and making lemonade for my kids is part of my cross in life. My cross is not limited to just one thing, and neither is anyone’s cross in life limited to just one thing.
I am what God is calling me to be. I am not the laundry. I am not a lemonade maker. I am not Lyme Disease. I am not Bipolar….and no one is “gay.” I am a Christian who carries a cross that includes Bipolar Disorder.