It's impossible not to be moved by the terrible stories of the five youths who recently took their own lives because they were being harassed as gays and lesbians.  In New York the story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who was filmed having a romantic encounter with another man, which was them live-streamed by his "friends," seemed particularly harrowing.  A despairing Clementi, age 18, ended his life by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge.  Any suicide is an unspeakable tragedy, just as any murder of any kind is a tragedy, but there is something especially sad about a young person believing that their life will never be, or can never be, better.  The Christian heart is, as Jesus's heart was, "moved with pity." 

This rash of deaths has prompted a response, especially on college campuses, and the "It Gets Better" project, which has adult gays and lesbians reminding youth that as one matures "it gets better."  Essentially, it is an argument against despair and suicide.  Sadly, many of the people interviewed speak of overcoming the hatred that they felt in Christian churches, schools and other organizations.

We Catholics, at least as I see it, can do a better job in reaching out to young gays and lesbians.  On the positive side, the USCCB's document "Always Our Children" is a fine start, especially for parents who have homosexual children.  And many large dioceses and archdioceses, like the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, have excellent outreach programs for gay and lesbian Catholics.  And of course on the local level many gays and lesbians feel not only welcomed by their pastors and pastoral staffs, but have become key members of their parishes communities, serving in a variety of roles.  Without them our church would be immeasurably poorer. 

But often the Catholic message to gay and lebian Catholics starts off with the "Thou shall nots" instead of the "Thou Shalls."  We invariably start off with "Thou Shall Not Have Sex" instead of "Thou Are a Beloved Creation of God,"  or "Thou Art a Full Member of the Community," or "Thou Have Much to Bring to the Church."  To what other group is the "Thou Shall Not" our opening line?  For example, have you ever been to a gathering of Catholic married couples where the opening line was "Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery"?  Or a gathering of Catholic business leaders where the opening line was, "Thou Shall Not Steal"?  We are all "loved sinners," as Jesuits like to say, but people--especially young people, especially people on the margins, and especially young people on the margins--should be reminded of the "loved" part before the "sinner" part.  

Simply speaking about outreach to gays and lesbians brings forth such swift and terrible condemnations in some Catholic circles these days that it surely must make the gay Catholic want to say to his or her church, as Jesus said to St. Peter, "Do you love me?"

It's a sad irony, because there is one life-changing resource in the Christian tradition that can transform those who feel unloved--that is, Jesus.  The Son of God reached out specifically to those on the margins, specifically to those who felt rejected, specifically to those who felt excluded from the community.  For Jesus, as the theologian James Alison has written, there was no "other."  And there is much in the Catholic tradition in particular that can help gays and lesbians as well. To begin with, the lives of the saints, which show us how God builds on the individuality of each person to create something wonderful and holy, are powerful messages to all who feel too "different" to be part of the Body of Christ.  (Even specific episodes from the lives of the saints--like the story of St. Francis of Assisi leaping off his horse to tend to the leper, the outcast, and being rewarded with a mystical vision--speak of the Christian call to reach out precisely to those who feel most marginalized.)  The voluminous writings of popes and theologians on human dignity all speak to the great gift that every person's life represents.  Or the Catechism, which states (in a line often ignored) that gays and lesbians must be welcomed with "respect, sensitivity and compassion."  They can also reach "Christian perfection," that is, holiness, says the Catechism

Those places in our tradition might all be good places to start when it comes to outreach, especially with youth (and not just with gay and lesbian youth, but with all who feel excluded).  And if pro-life means trying to avoid anything that will threaten any life, from natural conception to natural death, then we should be finding ways to protect all life, which also means preventing suicides, and preventing gay suicides.  In any event, there is much for us, the church, still to do.

For my part, not knowing what else to do, I wrote this prayer.

A Prayer When I Feel Hated

Loving God, you made me who I am. I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made, in your own image.

But when people make fun of me, I feel hurt and embarrassed and even ashamed. So please God, help me remember my own goodness, which lies in you. Help me remember my dignity, which you gave me when I was conceived. Help me remember that I can live a life of love, because you created my heart.

Be with me, loving God, when people hate me, and help me to respond how you would want me to: with a love that respects others, but also respects me. Help me find friends who love me for who I am. Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

And God, help me remember that Jesus loves me. For he was seen as an outcast, too. He was misunderstood, too. He was beaten and spat upon. Jesus understands me, and loves me with a special love, because of the way you made me. And when I am feeling lonely, help me to remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend. Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them. Jesus encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity, even when others were blind to seeing that dignity. Jesus loved everyone with the boundless love that you gave him. And he loves me, too.

One more thing, God: Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you, that you have a way of making things better, and that you can find a way of love for me, even if I can’t see it right now. Help me remember all these things in the heart you created, loving God.

Amen.

Comments

Jo Castiglione | 10/18/2010 - 12:42am
I have gay/lesbian friends and family.  They would no more ask me to waer a rainbow pin or bake rainbow cookies, than I would ask them to celebeate first fridays.  We plan picnics in the park, pot lucks at our homes, sunday afternoon football get-togethers complete with wings & pizzas.

We talk popular subjects: books, including cookbooks, our pets, home & car repairs, gripe about jobs if we have one, and if we don't, share anything we have.....common every day stuff.  No religion-nopolitics!!  that's the rule.


They jokingly call me Sister Jo, I;ve always got my rosary.  No one takes offense just laughs.  We respect each other.  At the end of the day/night we go home happy and usually pooped out and so full  Give it a try-forget those problems, give thanks for friends & family, clear days, blue skies.  It doesn't take much to be happy-but you need to give it a chance-need it a try!!
mark wenzel, ABD (philosophy) | 10/15/2010 - 9:06pm
Dear Friends,

     The terms heterosexual and homosexual (and their meanings) fall so deeply short in helping us grasp the essential issues before us.  They are terms of exclusion, marginalisation, and stigmatisation.  I challenge us to find terms of inclusion, welcoming compassion, extravagant love. 

     Reta Halteman Finger counsels us to see that our canonical texts ought to be Romans 14 and 15 where Paul discusses what Christians can and must do when facing deep and bitter divisions like the one we’re facing now.  Simply recall the bitter division over whether Gentile ‘Christians’ had first to be circumcised or whether they had to follow the dietary laws so important to the Jews of 1st-century Palestine.  Romans 14 and 15 hold out far more importance about today’s debate over homosexuality than the texts above.  In a real way, we’ve been talking about the wrong texts. A over-long shining of the light on the canonical texts mentioned and briefly discussed above has kept us from the spirit of moral reconciliation Romans 14 and 15 were written to address.  The Church’s fight is about moral repair, not homosexuality.
And so it seems to me that homosexuality is precisely not the issue for us but has been inducted only to conceal the real issue: how we, as people who’ve pledged themselves to following Christ, deal with one another in times of bitter and deep divisions.  Circumcision faded, dietary laws faded, homosexuality, too, shall fade.  The texts we should be pouring over and over and over are Romans 14 and 15.  Re-read them for yourselves.
Inclusiveness is the mark of the activity of the Spirit and it appears that the Spirit has a lot of work to do to bring together the different sides on same sex marriage.  The divisions in the Christian church are deep and bitter.  Here are the words of Myer and Scanzoni (''What God Has Joined Together''):
“When torn between judgement and grace, let us error on the side of grace. When torn between self-certain conviction and uncertain humility, let us err on the side of humility.  When torn between contempt and love, let us err on the side of love.”
There are bridges to be built and, so, common ground to be discovered.  Isn’t it true that there is far more that unites us than divides us?  What possible stake do we appear to have in showing the very opposite?
Best,
mark wenzel
Ann Arbor
Claire Mathieu | 10/15/2010 - 10:05am
?Save me, O God,
       for the waters have come up to my neck.
 I sink in the miry depths,
       where there is no foothold.
       I have come into the deep waters;
       the floods engulf me.
 I am worn out calling for help;
       my throat is parched.
       My eyes fail,
       looking for my God.
  Those who hate me without reason
       outnumber the hairs of my head;
       many are my enemies without cause,
       those who seek to destroy me.

I am a stranger to my brothers,
       an alien to my own mother's sons.

But I pray to you, O LORD,
       in the time of your favor;
       in your great love, O God,
       answer me with your sure salvation.
 Rescue me from the mire,
       do not let me sink;
       deliver me from those who hate me,
       from the deep waters.
 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
       or the depths swallow me up
       or the pit close its mouth over me.
 Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
       in your great mercy turn to me.
 Do not hide your face from your servant;
       answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
 Come near and rescue me;
       redeem me because of my foes.
 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
       all my enemies are before you.
 Scorn has broken my heart
       and has left me helpless;
       I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
       for comforters, but I found none.
 They put gall in my food
       and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
May their place be deserted;
       let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
 For they persecute those you wound
       and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
 Charge them with crime upon crime;
       do not let them share in your salvation.
 May they be blotted out of the book of life
       and not be listed with the righteous.
 I am in pain and distress;
       may your salvation, O God, protect me.
 I will praise God's name in song
       and glorify him with thanksgiving.
The LORD hears the needy
       and does not despise his captive people.
 Let heaven and earth praise him,
       the seas and all that move in them.

Anonymous | 10/9/2010 - 3:56pm
“One must be realistic and acknowledge with a deep and pained sentiment that a great part of today’s Christians feel lost, confused, perplexed, and even disillusioned: ideas contradicting the revealed and unchanging Truth have been spread far and wide; outright heresies in the dogmatic and moral fields have been disseminated, creating doubt, confusion, and rebellion; even the liturgy has been altered. Immersed in intellectual and moral “relativism” and therefore in permissiveness, Christians are tempted by atheism, agnosticism, a vaguely moralistic illuminism, a sociological Christianity, without defined dogmas and without objective morality” (L’Osservatore Romano, February 7, 1981).

John Paul II
Margalo Kostendta | 10/9/2010 - 2:08pm
I think the Catholic response to this situatin is the same as the Catholic response to any terrible tragedy or difficult moral issue.

It's best to speak in biological terms because biology makes no value judgments. Biologically speaking, active homosexuality results in a big waste of sex. From the stand pont of evolution, we have sex only for one purpose. The unitive side of things - love, pleasure, spiritual ecstacy - are just grease for the wheels to get us to mate over and over again and produce the desired result (genetically healthy offspring).

There is obviously something happening in the brain chemistry of homosexuals that has altered their biology somewhat, to the point that they have everything that drives us to have sex (desire for pleasure, being in love) but it is directed in such a way that prevents fulfillment of the utilitarian purposes of sex. Similar issues present themselves with pedophilia (note I am NOT comparing gay people to pedophiles, two very different ethical situations). Pedophilia also involves sexual impulses that will not result in offspring, as the other partner has not reached puberty and the ability to procreate healthfully. 

Because seriously, Mother Nature does not care if you enjoy sex or love your partner. She's all about the sperm meeting the egg.

In reading the reseach, there is some interesting data that points to exposure to very abnormal levels of testosterone-like hormones in-utero (at least among gay men). This is sometimes the result of a stressful pregnancy. I think the Church's teaching about homosexuality being "disordered" will eventually be somewhat vindicated by science that shows it's the result of chemical damage during important stages of fetal development (although I think they're using "disordered" to mean morally disordered and not biologically unsound). Perhaps one day these problems will be preventable through better monitoring methods and a better understanding of genetics.
Mark Davenport | 10/8/2010 - 6:14pm
MomTV - I looked up your link to the Catholic Medical Associaton.  I wonder how many members this association has.  I found the answers to the questions to be simplistic and condescending.  They refer to SSA which is a term created by NARTH and not a term commonly used.  A lot of what they said sounds like NARTH propaganda so I wonder if this is just a small group with links to NARTH.  At any rate, this site didn't seem to me to be very helpful and in fact it seemed to encourage negative stereotypes about gay people.
Mark Davenport | 10/8/2010 - 6:04pm
Brett, in reading your comments you talk about "the cause of their mental illness."  Here you are being dismissive of a group of people.  A group of people that are not considered mentally ill by most. However it appears that you are labeling them in this way. There are many excellent comments here and you would do well to take them in. In particular William Lindsay has shared important knowledge with you.  I hope that you have understood what he has said.  Peace be with you, my friends.
Lauren Carpenter | 10/8/2010 - 2:27pm
I am pleased by the very pastoral approach of Fr. Martin's letter, but am sorry to say that it simply does not go far enough. Until the Catholic Church recognizes  that gays and lesbians can be in loving and committed sexual relationships, gays and lesbian's will feel ostracized by the Catholic church. Until the church stops stating that they way we express the love that God has given us is, ''intrinsically disordered,'' the homophobia that leads to bullying will persist. I agree that being caring and pastoral are ''a good place to start'' but it is only the very, very beginning. 

Fr. Martin tells us that, ''people-especially young people, especially people on the margins, and especially young people on the margins-should be reminded of the ''loved'' part before the ''sinner'' part. ''  But if the Catholic Church ever wants to fully embrace and follow the loving model of Jesus, they will need to acknowledge is that there is nothing sinful at all about the way we as gays and lesbians love each other. You can claim that you love us as much a you want, but you can't fully love us until you love our whole selves, which includes the expression of our sexuality in loving same-sex relationships. Again, I am grateful that Fr. Martin is speaking in a way that allows space for peaceful dialog, but it is my hope that one day he and others in the clergy who proclaim such love for the gay and lesbian community will courageously speak out against the hypocritical approach of ''Love the sinner, hate the sin'' and will finally acknowledge that our love is not a sin. 
Tom Nelson | 10/7/2010 - 6:11pm
Thank you Father Martin for a glimmer of Christianity that too seldom comes from our Catholic clergy. We who proclaim ourselves ''Christians'' too often let dogma get in the way of acting like a Christian. I am a father who raised six children in the Catholic faith. One of those children, my only son turned out to be gay. He heard his father pontificate relevant dogma on sufficient occasions that he concluded he truly was ''disordered,'' and ''inclined toward intrinsic evil.'' His ultimate conclusion, that God despised him and that his family would also if they found out who he really was, led him to suicide. That was long ago. You who seem to worship Catholic dogma so esoterically - I know about that. I once was one of those unwitting dogmalogists -(one who worships dogma) Listen now to me. I would like somehow to convey to you what it is to live a lifetime knowing that as a father, I failed my son. The grief and regret - the pain is unrelenting. Don’t quote  Church doctrine to me. I know all the rules from my sixteen years of Catholic academia. I know the ancient reasons as well. The trouble with all this fine Catholic teaching - it sends a message that discourages critical thinking. It hides the primacy of love. My son taught me about love. Because of him, I came to comprehend those final words of Jesus: ''Love one another as I have loved you.'' Those words have become the cornerstone of my life now. Love. Everything else is trivia. God made us all good. Gay and straight. Only a fool would say that God would create some of us gay, then command: ''During your lifetime, you must never love another human being.'' Such a belief is beyond the loving God. It would be contradictory in the cruelest fashion.
My life’s greatest blessing, my gay son, has transformed my life. My wife and I have been active in PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians And Gays) for more than twenty years. We are currently on the Board Of Directors of the Catholic support group Fortunate Families and co-President and founders of a local PFLAG group. We daily, witness the terrible pain and damage to so many families that rote application of dogma devoid of love inflicts. The current discussion is a small snippet of such tragedies.
Liam Richardson | 10/7/2010 - 3:11pm
Momtv

I have been discouraged by what I have seen the Courage apostolate do with an old friend of mine. It seems that at least some Courage directors rely on creaky neo-Freudian psychological theories (theories that the Catholic Church would otherwise be very skeptical of), to the point of encouraging members to cultivate resentment against fathers and mothers for parenting styles the directors imply gave rise to the orientation with which the members struggle. Such an approach does not seem to come from Christ, however well intended it might be.
M Mtv | 10/7/2010 - 1:28pm
To Fr. Martin:

Father, are you familiar with the organization of the Catholic Church, Courage?

website is www.couragerc.net

Have any of those posting on this site visited that website or taken advantage of the support they offer?



Dennis Duffell | 10/7/2010 - 1:23pm
What an excellent prayer!  I'd like to share this with a lot of other people.  Another reason for keeping my subscription to America... 
M Mtv | 10/6/2010 - 11:50am
I just wanted to share some links that I have found very helpful in our personal struggle.  This first liknk is a very good article from the Church's support organization for those that have same-sex attractions...it is their effort to update the Always our Children document.  I would strongly urge any of you to also take time to review in total the Courage website: couragerc.net which is a beautiful, accepting, loving home for Catholics/Christians with same-sex attractions:


http://couragerc.net/PRAlwaysOurChildren.html

The second is information from the Catholic Medical Association



http://www.cathmed.org/assets/files/H&H%20Selection.pdf

these organizations offer hope, love, support and clearly have the resources to save lives from depression and suicide.  

I have read Fr. Martin's book, LIving with the Saints and highly recommend it as an ideal guide to living as Christ to others.  I am disappointed that so few clergy and Catholics are aware of the work of Courage and fail to refer to them when addressing issues related to our subject in this blog.

  In closing the following prayer:

God of love, whose compassion never fails, we bring you the griefs and perils of people and nations, the pains of the sick and injured, the sighing of prisoners and captives, the sorrows of the bereaved, the necessities of the homeless, the helplessness of the weak, the despair of the weary, the failing powers of the aged.  Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Lord, according to their many needs and your great mercy.  Amen
 
St. Anselm of Canterbury
Liam Richardson | 10/6/2010 - 10:55am
(cont'd)

From this point, I offer comments that one Susan Peterson from Amy Welborn's old blog, comments that were made in April 2005:

''I think one ought to have a bit more understanding of and sympathy for the position a gay person finds himself in. He or she did not make his own sexuality. Whether there is a genetic component or whether it is all family dynamics and early experiences, the individual usually did nothing to contribute to his sexual make up. Yes, I think there are some people whose sexuality could have gone either way, who made some choices to follow the homosexual part of their nature. But for the most part, homosexuals just experience homosexuality as a ''given'' of their being. Now one's sexuality is an important part of the self, of one's self definition and understanding, of ones style of relating to the world even in non sexual matters. So how would you like to integrate into your self understanding that your sexuality is intrinsically disordered and that there is no way it can be expressed which is moral or holy? It is true that all of our sexuality is disordered since the fall, and that it is a struggle for all of us not to misuse it, but still, heterosexuals know that there is a way they can express their sexuality which is holy and good. Even if this possibility is only theoretical, because they choose celibacy, or because for some reason they can't marry, still, they know their desire is ultimately ordered towards marriage, towards something blessed by God. How hard it must be for a homosexual to accept that he has been afflicted with a disordered sexuality, and still believe that he is a good person, that he is basically an ok guy, of worth? God does us want to believe that we are basically of worth, ok, not bad, or worthless. Our sins are bad, but we are of worth, and have to believe it even to aspire to do better. I believe this integration can happen, but it is much, much harder than coming to believe, for instance that ''I am basically an ok guy with a terribly quick temper that I have to learn to control.'' It is much harder because sexuality is so central to one's self understanding. Is it surprising that when people are struggling to believe in their self worth, rather than work through this very difficult integration, they sometimes decide that if they are of worth, their sexual orientation must be a normal and good way to be? Sexuality is something which leads people, sometimes almost forces them, outside their own boundaries, to reach out to others, open themselves up to others. It is of course not the only intimacy and sometimes is a mockery of intimacy, but it does have within it the impetus toward relationship and intimacy. To have to believe one's sexuality is intrinsically disordered also makes it much harder for a person to figure out how to reach out beyond the self and achieve relationship and intimacy. Since intimacy with others is a part of a healthy human life, and sexuality is often an impetus towards such intimacy and since it provides a framework and pattern for relating to others even in relationships in which there is no genital sexual involvement, is it surprising that a person striving towards being a healthy human being who achieves intimacy with others, might take the path of deciding to assert that his sexuality is normal and healthy? To that person it seems that 1 his very being and identity, and 2 his very ability to relate to other human beings, is dependent on this assertion. And note that all of this can be said without bringing up lust. The frustration of lustful desires is ...well frustrating, as well all know...but it is something a person with a feeling of self worth and healthy relationships to others can do. The reasons homosexuals come to feel that they must believe their sexuality is healthy are much deeper than ''they want to indulge their lusts.'' Our society doesn't do a very good job of showing them what healthy sexuality IS ordered to, does it? Without ever saying that what is wrong is right, we should respect the homosexual person, in fact, almost be humbled by what is asked of him or her by God. If some choose a path short of that we need to understand how difficult the path was that they were asked to negotiate, and still be respectful of the person. I don't think one could do a homosexual person any spiritual good without understanding this and having that respect.''
Liam Richardson | 10/6/2010 - 10:52am
To answer Fr Martin's question, coming late into this discussion:

One place to start would be to stop talking *at* and *about* Gay People, but instead to be with them.

Whatever truths are contained in the Church's current teaching about homosexual activity, it's clearly underdeveloped in dealing with people as people (as opposed to people as concepts)

I believe one important dimension of this ''issue'' that is entirely neglected by both clergy and laity has to do with the faculty of love. The English language is sometimes criticized for using ''love'' to denote things that might be covered by different verbs and nouns in other languages. But our language is true to the common aspect of these things.

And so, when people are told by their Church that their faculty of love is not properly ordered, we must consider how that might affect their abiity to love God. And, if we fail to do that, the teaching is rather worthless, pace the sturm und drang about it we see here and elsewhere.

(cont'd)
William Lindsey | 10/5/2010 - 11:06pm
I admit defeat in this conversation, Brett.

I hear you claiming to offer the salvific love of Christ to me and others.

But what I really hear, I'm sorry to say, is meanness, hardness, and venom spewed out in the name of a God who is love.

It chills the heart.

And I completely understand why so many gay and lesbian people distance themselves decisively from the followers of Christ, when this is the "love" offered by many who claim to speak in the name of Christ.

Nothing can reach into the depths of people's souls and do more damage than a message of love that is twisted in this deep, distorted way.  I pray that younger gay and lesbian people, who lack the psychic resources some of us who have lived longer have developed over the years, don't encounter this kind of hate disguised as love.

But even at my advanced age of sixty, I still won't deny that listening to many of my brother and sister Catholics talk about love while they enacts opposite still doesn't cause pain.  Intensely so.

Peace be with you.  And may your heart one day be opened to the reality of the abudant love exhibited by people you dismiss so cavalierly as all about pride and power and unlimited desire.

Meanwhile, God shield the tender psyches of struggling young people from the "truth" and "love" of many of those who claim to speak in God's name!
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 1:17pm
William,
As far as your African American analogy, I think this is instructive.  If the suicide rates were increased in this community, I would not want to assume that this is due to the white man's oppression. 
Andy Buechel | 10/5/2010 - 12:09pm
Thanks for this Fr. Martin.  I do wish to make one small correction, however, for it is salient to the depth of a problem we have in even speaking honestly about this issue.  ''Always Our Children'' is NOT a document of the USCCB.  It is a document of one committee (on marriage and family), which was not approved by the whole body of bishops.  Even such small steps as AOC (which, it should be noted, is not even addressed to gay persons, but to our parents) are not without controversy in the Catholic community.
Anonymous | 10/6/2010 - 9:15pm
Thank you for your post Father Martin. As the mother of a gay son, I recognize the need to reach out to our LGBT sisters and brothers in the church. My child spent years denying his orientation to himself, because he felt it was sure damnation. No one should have to deny a God given gift of sexuality. I know firsthand the damage that the 'you are not worthy' message does. I am a safe house for LGBT youth who have been discarded because of their orientation, and I have had the terror of trying to revive a nearly lifeless child who had attempted to take his own life. We have to work together as church and secular ministers to reach youth who feel they have no options, who feel life will never get better.
My work with Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center gives me opportunities to reach out in ways that my church does not. What a shame. I believe my baptism came with responsibilities, and those include reaching out to all of God’s Children in a way that brings them love and hope. How do we as Catholics respond to this suicide epidemic? Start with in-service for our teachers, to help bring an end to school bullying. Start with non discrimination clauses for our faculty. Start with open forums in our high schools to allow students to report the emotional damage they feel from this kind of terrorism. Give religion teachers the information to allow dialogue in class, so that lgbt feel affirmed.  We have ways  to help, as the largest Christian denomination in the world…. And to do nothing is criminal.  Thank you for beginning the discussion here.
Anonymous | 10/6/2010 - 9:00pm
"Why would anyone accept that deal when they now have other choices?"

This frame of mind is the exact problem in our culture.  It is all about "me," all about my choice, or my "identity."

We live in a theraputic time where all that people seem to want is to be affirmed in their choices - straights and homosexuals are both guilty in this regard. 

It is one thing to say that the sinner should be loved, it is another to say that there is no such thing as sin because you are afraid of offending a group or hurting feelings. 

For a final time, this sentimentality is true not love or compassion...this is not the way of Christ.
MYRNA OHMANN | 10/6/2010 - 4:52pm
Thank you for that beautiful prayer! I intend to copy it and send it to my gay son and all the wonderful LGBT friends we have met over the years. Unfortunately a voice of compassion such as yours is not heard in many places, especially in our Catholic Church. Please keep writing, and those of us who are parents and supporters will keep spreading the real Good News.
Myrna Ohmann
Gillian Brunet | 10/6/2010 - 3:50pm
Brett Joyce, there is no such thing as a ''homosexual lifestyle.''  It is a pervasive myth, but that is all it is. 

Roughly half of my friends from college are gay (or otherwise not straight).  Their lifestyles vary dramatically, even within our group of friends.  Some of them are chaste, and always have been.  Others are not.  The same can be said for my hetrosexual friends: some of us are chaste, while others are (decidedly) not.  Orientation is irrelevant.

The idea that gay people are a Them, can be categorized, can be generalized about... it has no grounding in reality.  The only true stereotype about most of them is that they are heckled and harrassed on account of their orientation.  Many (though certainly not all) are uncommonly kind to the marginalized as a result. 

Gay people are, like all of us, children of God, and as such uniquely created and called to their inidividual vocations.  Please believe me when I say that their lifestyles are as varied as those vocations.
William Lindsey | 10/6/2010 - 3:21pm
Michael K, I appreciate your response to me. 

It doesn't work for me, however.  My problem is with the substance-abuse analogy with which you close your statement.  You say,

"But that doesn't stop us from condemning abuse of drugs and alcohol and trying to help other young people to make better choices. Similarly with someone who gets involved in gangs-we can disapprove of that lifestyle and try to point out the damage it does, while still having compassion for those who become involved in it."

But we're not talking about helping young folks through a crisis involving drug or alcohol abuse.  We're talking about helping them to understand, come to terms with, and celebrate something within their own nature that is good, holy, and life-giving.

We are made to love.  The drive to love is deeply implanted in us.  It is quite different from a drive to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Telling young people who recognize that they are gay or lesbian that they should regard that deeply implanted - and holy and good - drive to love as akin to a tendency to addiction is, to my way of mind, seriously off-target.  And dangerous.

In their approach to young folks who are gay and lesbian and struggling to come to terms with their identity, communities of faith could learn much from those who are gay and lesbian, and who have gone through this struggle and come out on the other side of it.  Communities of faith could learn much from their own members who are gay and lesbian and recognize our nature as God's gift to us.

Unfortunately, all too often, faith communities prefer instead to keep talking about us as if we are not there, and as if we are some lurid, false abstraction that has nothing to do with our real lives and real flesh and blood.  And sadly, young gay and lesbian folks are among those most harmed by these malicious and unChristian games.
Mary Schreiner | 10/6/2010 - 2:47pm
To Michael Reilly: whoa.

Okay, I realize this is a hot topic that involves lots of emotions, and it's easy to misinterpret things written online.  But my point wasn't to disregard homosexuality AS a factor that contributes to suicide.

I actually like Fr. Martin's article.  I just think it's titled wrong.

You wrote, ''gay teenagers, on average, are much more likely than non-gay teens, to kill themselves.''  Correct.  and ''You are not entitled to your own facts.''  What ''fact'' did I somehow assert?  I'm pretty sure everything I said was based on my opinion. 

For instance, it's my opinion that how ''hard'' someone has it during their life can't be objectively quantified, so using the statistic that gay teens commit suicide at a far higher rate than straight teens does not equal 'gay teens have it so much harder than straight teens'.  Correlation does NOT equal causation.

 *My* point was that there are lots of factors that contribute to teen suicide, and Fr. Martin would have been better served titling the article about a Catholic response to gays as a whole, not just the ones who commit suicide, or seem in danger of it.  He should have written two separate articles: Catholic Response to Gay Teens and Catholic Response to Teen Suicide.  Then those two articles could've been combined in a way that demonstrates a full understanding of both issues.

My opinion is that he shouldn't have couched homosexuality in suicide.  Because using suicide as an opening to address homosexuality is a terrible way of doing things.  Most people don't know enough about suicide and its risk factors to realize that not all gay people struggle with thoughts of suicide.  Just as most people don't know enough about homosexuality to realize that not all suicides are committed by closet gays.

Sorry for sounding so...harsh?...in my first response, and probably in this one too.  This is why I hate the internet: you can't hear someone's tone and don't know how they mean the words they say.
Liam Richardson | 10/6/2010 - 2:22pm
Background to my prior comment:

Jesus and Simon had already gone through the declaration (and breaking) of fidelity stage in their relationship. Jesus's post-Resurrection questions to Simon are about something more fundamental.
Liam Richardson | 10/6/2010 - 2:20pm
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Simon: I submit to you and the teachings of your Church.
Jesus: (pauses, waiting for Simon to listen more carefully to his question.)

Michael Kish | 10/6/2010 - 2:08pm
I think this is a profound quandary for the Church.

No matter how ''welcoming'' and compassionate the church is, gay people now have a choice. In most of North America and Western Europe (and increasingly in other places), they can live out their lives more or less as they wish. Maybe not exactly the same as straight people everywhere (yet), but in many places they are an accepted and even celebrated part of the community, and this acceptance seems to be growing (if you believe surveys of young people).

On the other hand, what does the Catholic Church (and other orthodox/conservative Christian churches) offer them? Even at its most compassionate, it commands them to either be celibate for life or try to fundamentally change themselves (which seems to be rarely successful) and/or deny their natures to live a straight lifestyle.

Why would anyone accept that deal when they now have other choices?

Changing the Church's doctrine seems extremely unlikely. It's been taught so consistently and emphatically-if they were wrong about that, why should anyone trust anything else they believe or teach?

So what's in the future?
Does the Church simply let gay people walk away-and then their families, friends, and supporters? That would be a sad diminishing of the Church, and a failure of its claim and desire to be Universal.
Does it essentially give up on the West and become a Third World church (that is until acceptance of homosexuality takes root there, too)?
Or do people continue going to mass but simply ignoring what their church teaches? That's essentially what's happened with divorce, abortion, and premarital sex, after all... but how wide can the gulf between the people of the church and the ''official'' church get before the whole thing falls apart?

I think this is a deeply important subject that the Church needs to discuss and pray about with urgency.

As an aside, I've rarely if ever heard homosexuality mentioned during mass in the local churches I've attended. Perhaps that's because I live in a more liberal area. Or maybe priests would rather just sweep it under the rug than discuss it. But some non-Catholics have the impression that priests are endlessly pulpit-pounding about the evils of homosexuality, and that certainly hasn't been my experience at all. Just an observation, for what it's worth...
Anonymous | 10/6/2010 - 1:55pm
I am with St. Ignatius on this one.  I submit to Christ and the teachings of His Church.
Michael Kish | 10/6/2010 - 1:26pm
I think this is an important and serious discussion that needs to happen within and between the Church and society.

First, I think we should be very careful about making assumptions or thinking we understand the hearts of these young people. Many times their closest friends and family didn't know what was going on. Yes, in some cases we have what looks like an obvious trigger, but we don't know the deeper issues that turned that from a problem to a fatal disaster in their lives.
    Specifically, I don't think we can jump to the conclusion that all of these deaths were caused directly by bullying, and especially, that the Church contributed to that bullying. Were their harassers Catholics? Most young people actually don't care what the Catholic Church has to say about anything, you know...

(This is not to deny that bullying and harassment ARE a problem for many young people, especially gays).

William, if I could respond to your concerns about Bill's post... think about a situation where a young person gets involved in drugs or alcohol, which eventually leads to his or her death. We understand that there are many causes, some outside of the person's control, that can lead someone down this path. We can have compassion for the young person and rightly call their death a tragedy. But that doesn't stop us from condemning abuse of drugs and alcohol and trying to help other young people to make better choices. Similarly with someone who gets involved in gangs-we can disapprove of that lifestyle and try to point out the damage it does, while still having compassion for those who become involved in it.
Anonymous | 10/6/2010 - 1:16pm
It's great to see a Catholic publication of America's stature addressing this critically important issue. Now it's up to Catholics to do so. We all share responsibility for letting gay and transgender people know they are welcomed in and valued by our Church-and by Church, I mean by us. We need to challenge any expession of exclusion or condemnation from our leaders. If ever silence was acceptable, these tragic suicides should move us to know it no longer is. This coming Sunday is Solidarity Sunday. Wear a rainbow ribbon or pin to Mass to make your support for gay people visible. It's a small step, but it's a start. And once you've taken one step, the next one is easier.
William Lindsey | 10/6/2010 - 10:19am
Thank you for the affirmation and welcome, Catherine.  And for your commitment to make a difference in the church.

And for quoting one of my all-time favorite authors, whose book The Hidden Wound has helped me so much, as someone raised in the American South, understand how racial prejudice is taught, how it inflicts deep wounds on us as we internalize it, and how we can and must struggle to understand those wounds and relearn all that we imagine we know about race, after an upbringing premised on prejudice.
CATHERINE GREEN MRS | 10/6/2010 - 10:00am
''In contrast to Jess's face, which, at work, was contemplative, and Rufus's, which was florid and as variable as a baby's, and Dick's, which was gentle and patient, Old Man Hawk's was blank and hard and somehow pinched, as if it had been frostbitten or burnt.''  - Wendell Berry's novel Andy Catlett: Early Travels.

What face do we show to our brothers and sisters in Christ?

What is a Catholic response to gay suicide?  Reading all these comments gives us something of an idea. 

In this article, Father James Martin reminded us, but some seem to have forgotten:  the Catechism states, ''gays and lesbians must be welcomed with ''respect, sensitivity and compassion.''    

I regret for those reading here and those who came for an honest conversation that there has been the opposite shown instead.  I sign this as a lifelong Catholic, a wife and mother.  I hope I can make a difference in my own parish and I ask others to do the same.  


 
Marie Rehbein | 10/6/2010 - 7:56am
Brett,

Apparently, God has chosen not to open your eyes yet.  However, you might note that none of the Ten Commandments prohibits homosexuality-only adultery.  Early in Christianity gentiles were exempted from the Jewish practice of circumcision.  Also, among other things, we do not follow Jewish dietary laws.  Therefore, it is a very questionable claim that Jesus's denial that he was changing "the law" meant that he wished to make Jewish condemnations against men having sexual relations with men a universal standard.

While you are obviously attempting to live according to Jesus's Great Commandment, you should consider the possibility that what you believe to be an attitude of love is really an attitude of intolerance and rejection.  It is admirable that you see a similarity between yourself and others, but it is a bit presumptuous to conclude that because there are similarities there are no differences.  True love would accept the differences and not be only a narcissistic embrace of similarities.
Joseph O'Leary | 10/6/2010 - 1:30am
Someone who describes homosexuality as a mental illness is either ignorant, malicious, or himself mentally ill. I see no other possibility. His soundbite gives a very useful charter to bullies.
Joseph O'Leary | 10/6/2010 - 1:24am
I am with Annie Turner, Joe Murray, William Lindsay here. As a theologian and a human being I have no doubt that the evil of murderous homophobia will never be purged from our church until the clergy have the honesty to say out loud what so many of them believe: that gay affections are good and godgiven and that human beings have the right to live out their sexual destiny in accord with their godgiven conscience. I am appalled, horrified, at the attitudes of Brett Joyce, Eve Tushnet et al., who seem to have left their consciences on the stony altar of ultramontanism or biblical fundamentalism.
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 11:41pm
I am sorry that you take offense, William, but I am not speaking for God - I am simply stating the message that Christ brought to men: He came to bring the sword of Truth to men's hearts.

I find the sentimentality of your position good natured but essentially false and most any man would prefer the temporary pain of truth over the tender compassion of falsehood. 

Marie,

"If I were you I would ask God to give me some understanding of that perspective."

You highlight differences where there are none; I am a human just like someone with same-sex attraction - we both seek God and both have the same basic human experiences.
Marie Rehbein | 10/5/2010 - 11:16pm
Brett,

You write, "Tyler killed himself not because he was bullied (he said his roommate was basically a nice guy), he killed himself because of the anguish and terror of his sin and lifestyle that has been pushed on hi, popularized and glamorized by the dominat media culture."

Brett, if our culture were such that I were expected to be romantic with women, then I would see this as causing me some anguish, but that would be because I do not find myself romantically attracted to women. 

I think you are projecting your feelings onto Tyler.  However, to be truly compassionate you must understand the perspective that an actual homosexual person has.  If I were you I would ask God to give me some understanding of that perspective.

Also, the roomate might have been a nice guy in many respects, but by any standards what he did was a betrayal of trust and quite offensive.  I think such a thing could most certainly have led Tyler to give up on trying to become comfortable with the way God made him.
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 9:40pm
http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Chastity/Chastity_004.htm
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 9:12pm
I was wondering how long this commentary b y Fr. Martin would take...
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 8:06pm
William, Jesus says nothing on slavery or bigamy either but, He did say that He was here to fulfill the law rather than destroy.  Jewish law is extremely clear on homosexuality.

Where do the gay groups possibly get the impression that they alone are excluded from the law that Christ came to fulfill?

Where do they get the impression that they are without sin and therefore can approach Christ in His church on their terms and not His?  He specifially told the sinner - the adulteress - that she was forgiven but that she should sin no more.

This imagined innocence and pride of homosexual movement is not of Christianity origin, it is from the modern liberation movements of our time.  It is not truth, it is simply fashionable. 

Christ calls us to be humble and obedient to the point of death - to sacrifice ourselves!  Not to demand sexual exemptions from the law in the name of individuality or warped sense of "justice."

William, look at the gay movement - it is about power and pride and unlimited desire.  It looks to shut down Christian institutions and speech through court actions across the country.  Perhpas you and other Catholics here who are gay should look to reform their efforts - and the pride-filled nature of their movement - before attacking the Church.

Cally Rehm | 10/5/2010 - 8:04pm
Sean-

If I knew any of these families personally, my first response would be to come with food, prayers and a hug, not a theological discussion. A theology discussion would simply be inappropriate in that time and place.

However, that does not make our general discussion inappropriate. That the death of a young person is a tragedy that we react to emotionally does not mean we cannot also react intellectually-trying to figure out why something happened and fleshing out exactly the Church's message is and how to communicate it. Intellectual rational thought and doctrine is as important to love as spontaneous, emotional and personal actions.

The teaching of Christ through the Church on sexuality is difficult for many people to accept. In my mind, it is appropriate and necessary for us to take time to reflect on how we can best communicate the love of God and the welcome of the Church to homosexual young people while also clearly maintaining the integrity of Catholic teaching on the subject.

-Cally
William Lindsey | 10/5/2010 - 7:47pm
"Like I said, only tough and honest love of Christ can save these kids (and their parents) not matter how hard it is on our liberal mindset."

Brett, Jesus never said a single word about homosexuality.

He did, however, say, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Matthew's gospel also applies to him the messianic prophecy of Isaiah noting that the one whom we await will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick.

Tough and honest love?
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 7:38pm
"The Christian response is love."

I completely agree, Sean.  And of course the parents of these kids are not interested in our discussion at this time.

However, TRUE love - beyond mere sentimentality - looks at the causes of this mental illness and anguish beyond the surface of this problem and looks to prevent more deaths.

True love looks at the roots of this tragedy rather the mere sympotms you are addressing. 

Tyler killed himself not because he was bullied (he said his roommate was basically a nice guy), he killed himself because of the anguish and terror of his sin and lifestyle that has been pushed on hi, popularized and glamorized by the dominat media culture.

You can only prevent such suicides by addressing the cause of anguish and confusion of the soul - i.e. living out of accord with God's love and will - not at the symptoms.

Like I said, only tough and honest love of Christ can save these kids (and their parents) not matter how hard it is on our liberal mindset.
Gabriel McAuliffe | 10/5/2010 - 7:01pm
Thank you, Sean.  God bless you.
Sean Lilly | 10/5/2010 - 4:41pm
"Sean, this post by Fr. Martin is specifically on the question of "the Catholic response" - and that is the debate that is going on.  It is a theological rather than political discussion."

Fine, let's cool it with the theologizing then.  We're arguing back and forth about Church teachings and the nefarious influence of a pro-homosexual lifestyle. 

Five children are dead.  Consumed by their self-loathing. 

I don't see how a Christian response to such a nightmare requires much theological debate.

The Christian response is love.  Love for the children and their families. Love given through spiritual effort (prayer and lots of it) and corporeal effort (sitting with a mother and letting her cry for hours, calling a funeral home, doing the grocery shopping because the last thing they should have to worry about right now is getting dinner on the table).      

Do you seriously think any of those families gives so much as one hoot, let alone two, about what you, I, or the Church thinks about the moral implications of their dead child's sexual orientation?  Our role as Christians in this matter not to elucidate the hierarchy's position on homosexuality.  A bunch of thugs already made their opinion on their children's sexual orientation abundantly clear.  They've had enough opinions for the moment.

We respond with love.  Not judgments.  Not theology.  Just love.  It seems unnecessary to complicate it further.

We might to keep that in mind when it comes our Church and LGBT community in the future.
Peter Lakeonovich | 10/5/2010 - 4:38pm
Brett,

It is settling to see you express your counter-cultural sentiments on this catholic blog - regardless of the reactions of the majority who are clearly infused with the zeitgeist.

It reminds me of the following from Lumen Gentium:

"So it is that that messianic people, although it does not actually include all men, and at times may look like a small flock, is nonetheless a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth, it is also used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth."

I believe you are suggesting nothing more than that our "lost" brothers and sisters, perhaps united with us in the Invisible Church of Christ, be brought into full communion in the Visible Chruch of Christ. 

Let us pray that it be so, for that is the only authentic Catholic response, unity in Christ.
Joe Murray | 10/5/2010 - 4:24pm
A comment was made by a single  straight man on this board that "I cannot say that those with same-sex attraction are treated any different from myself - a single straight male.  They are told not to have sex and so am I." Not quite the same LGBT Catholics are asked to never have sex, in order for us to have sex we must sin against our nature. The straight person on the other hand has the option of marriage which we are denied, and does not have to sin against their nature. That is apple and oranges.

Sadly these are the views that lead young people to think they are less worthy because they are LGBT.

I presume we are all Catholics here.  How do you get to know your neighbor, or even the person in the pew you are praying next to. Presumably you would rely on your experience with that person before you reach any conclusion. 

My hope is this conversation will not end. LGBT Catholics who are teens are just another suffering face Christ among us. We can cling to our differences, or we can engage each other in way that both challenges, educates, and allows us to be present to suffering in the world where ever we find it.

We are talking about  children taking their own lives don't you think it is prudent to ask why? While I agree that praying is important, and so is support for the families; however, I believe justice calls us to make every attempt, if possible,  to make sure this does not happen again


Joe Murray
Rainbow Sash Movement 
Marie Rehbein | 10/5/2010 - 4:23pm
Brett,

There is one important difference between what the Church teaches heterosexual young people and what it teaches homosexual young people.  In the case of heterosexual young people, they must wait to be married and then they can have sex with their spouse.  In the case of homosexual young people, they are not permitted to have physically intimate relationships, ever.
Ann Turner | 10/5/2010 - 4:22pm
Wow, this brings forth really strong feelings from people, and many of us are convinced we are right.  What I can say, as a parent with several young folks in my extended family who are gay-some in committed unions-is that I believe the Church is not standing on the gospel in this regard.  Much as I love our church-much as I agree with Fr. Jim about the mercy of Christ and how this can be a deep resource for gays and lesbians who feel themselves to be on the margins-the Church needs to do far, far more to reach out to the gay community and welcome it in.  Gay unions do not threaten heterosexual marriages: there is not a shred of real evidence to support this.  The whole idea that homosexuality is "morally disordered" needs to be buried 20 feet deep.   Then burned.  Until the Church truly reaches out to the gay community and stops insisting on celibacy for all gays, no matter their unions, it is in danger of becoming irrelevant to this community. And the recent suicide of this gifted young violinist reminds us all of the deep shame that still exists in the gay community and which is terribly dangerous.
Anonymous | 10/5/2010 - 3:39pm
"I think you're not hearing something important in the testimony of your brothers and sisters who happen to be gay: this is that we find the church singles us out unfairly and often cruelly, and treats us in a way distinct from how it treats other communities."

I don't buy it, William.  I always find you to be a gentleman on here and when I speak of "pride, power and sex" I am speaking of Dan Savage and other gay power activitists that use such tragegy to use political correct rhetoric to silence religious traditions as "bigoted."

As for the Church, I cannot say that those with same-sex attraction are treated any different from myself - a single straight male.  They are told not to have sex and so am I.

As for celibacy, Jesus Christ was celibate (and priests and nuns and brothers and single Catholics), so it is not cruel and unusual to require celibacy for the santification of those with same-sex attraction.

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