This is one of the most important posts I’ve ever written, but unfortunately, I am confused, exhausted and pre-occupied with the needs of my family, which come before you, my readers. Please try to understand the gist of what I am saying here , even though I know that I am not nearly as clear as I would like to be. Thank you.
There is a divide in the Catholic Church, particularly in the West, on how to address the issue of same-sex attraction (SSA), and this divide is deepening. This divide may possibly even be a factor in the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down. Certainly, there is a divide in the world of Catholic apologetics and evangelization. Ultimately, the disagreement is not just about homosexuality. It just happens, providentially, that SSA is the issue that forces us to grapple with whether we believe that our identity is in Christ or in ourselves. How much (really) do we love Jesus? It is the age-old question of the way of the Cross versus the way of pride. In like manner, the Holy Father’s decision to step down is either the way of the Cross or the way of pride, and this is the same choice our Catholic evangelists have today, as do each and every one of us. We either find our identity in ourselves or in Jesus Christ. We either love who we are now more than we love Jesus, or we want to be what God has called us to be because we love Jesus that much. Of course, it isn’t popular these days to put God first, even above ourselves, and the trick to being successful in media is to be popular. This is why the New Evangelization must not rely on media. It must rely foremost on the truth being preached from the pulpit, and on each of us loving Jesus enough to accept it.
In his resignation, the Holy Father tells us that our identity is in Christ, even as his resignation causes great confusion, such as what I have expressed myself here and here. As I struggle through with understanding the Holy Father’s resignation, it has seemed to me at once an act of humility and an act of pride. It seems prideful in that it seems he is saying no to the path St. Peter chose as our first pope. Peter was in his seventies when he was crucified, upside down, on Vatican Hill. At the same time, it seems humble in that the Holy Father is putting God’s will above himself. The faithful know that the resignation of a pope can only mean that the Holy Spirit has willed it for us. Pope Benedict cannot be both humble and prideful simultaneously, on the same decision. Because of this, in the end, Pope Benedict will be seen as either the greatest saint of our time, or a disaster. A couple of days ago, to my sorrow, I suspected it might be the latter. The more I consider this, though, particularly given some recent revelations, the more I am believing that he will be known some day as the greatest saint of our time. We must either trust in ourselves or in God. Pope Benedict’s decision is a lesson on identity (who we are), and on humility versus pride in that context.
With this resignation, the Catholic Church is going to tread down the path of insanity, or clarity; despair, or hope; death, or life. Faithful Catholics have assurance that the path will be of clarity, hope and life, and that this does not rely on Pope Benedict as a person, but on the Holy Spirit protecting the Depositum Fidei. Faithful Catholics also know that this can only occur through the Cross, which is suffering through aligning our will with God’s will — putting aside our faults and flawed ideas in submission to the will of God. Indeed, the Holy Father is suffering much, and so shall we all, if we know what’s good for us. If you are a Catholic who is having an easy Lent this year, you’re doing it wrong.
What does all of this have to do with same-sex attraction?
Same-sex attraction is addressed spiritually in the same way that any disorder affecting thought processes, such as my Bipolar Disorder, must be dealt with. That is by carrying the Cross with Jesus, understanding that no matter what your subjective reasoning tells you, you must do God’s will. You must align your will with God’s will, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you to do so. The discomfort you experience in rejecting your own tendencies out of obedience to God’s will is a share, your share, of the Cross of Jesus which all have a share in. As we share in the suffering, we share in the redemption. The Cross for people who deal with disorders that affect thought processes, such as same-sex attraction and Bipolar Disorder, is the Cross of understanding who we are in God’s eyes. It is an identity issue. Just as we struggle with maitaining Catholic identity in our universities, so, too, people with issues like SSA and Bipolar Disorder struggle with maintaining identity in Christ. Am I what my brain is saying? (Are we what dissenting Catholics in our universities are saying?) Or am I what God has called me to be? (Will our universities be what God wants, or what the culture wants?) These two things conflict, and one is chosen over the other. Either I will humbly submit to God’s will to be what God has called me to be, which means the Cross, or I will be whatever feels good to me, which is the way of pride.
“I am gay and you must accept that,” is the way of Pride.
“I am a person, made in the image of God, who suffers with same-sex attraction,” is the way of Humility.
Team A in the sphere of Catholic evangelization, refuses to preach the Cross. Team B preaches the Cross. Team A says that Team B is “mean,” “judgmental” and even “homophobic” to expect people to accept the Cross when they are so happy in their ignorance. I submit that the warm and fuzzy, rainbow version of Jesus (no Cross required) is not only a figment of the imagination, but is ultimately the path to suicide. I say that because I have been suicidal when faced with the reality of this division in the Church which shook my faith because it shattered my trust in people I believed to be faithful Catholics. It is no accident that the suicide rate among teens with same-sex attraction is outrageously higher than among teens in general. In both same-sex attraction and Bipolar Disorder, refusal of our identity in Christ truly means — often, if not always – that you will either “die to self” or you will kill yourself.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
I have learned that if you identify as “gay,” then Team A will virtually stop at nothing to make sure that no one, especially a fellow Catholic, hurts your feelings. If you have Bipolar Disorder and are suicidal because Team A’s arguments deny the Cross, you’re ignored as a “drama queen.”
All I can say is, “Thank God for secular mental health care” because the Catholic blogosphere — at least where Team A is concerned – is not the place to find peace, love, and assurance that all have dignity and value in Christ. Rather, it is the place where self-esteem rules, and Jesus is nobody unless He is popular.
I am praying mightily for Pope Benedict and for the whole Church, but in the end, it comes down to each of us. What is more important? Jesus, or your feelings? I sometimes wish you all had Bipolar Disorder for just one day so that you would learn that our feelings are not what determine what reality is. If I am wrong about that, then I should kill myself right now. Further, if you think that our feelings determine reality, then you may as well kill yourself, too, because death is your destination anyway.
Our feelings do not determine what reality is. Your pain is not the pain of Jesus if it is pain that comes from your own pride. Your dignity is ONLY in Christ. Your identity is ONLY in Christ. Know this, and you will not only realize that you must reject suicide and embrace life, but you will be given, through God’s grace, life in abundance, now and in eternity.
God help us.