Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pope Francis' Questionnaire

Assisi, Italy
I guess I'm on a Catholic trend.

I posted this to a website: John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre where they are asking for respondents to the Questionnaire put out recently by Pope Francis - the one that the Catholic Bishops in the US chose to disregard.

The section of Pope’s questionnaire concerning LGBTs contains the following questions:

Question 5 a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

Question 5 b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

Question 5 c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

Question 5 d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

According to official Vatican documents, gays or lesbians are not allowed to have any sexual relationships. They state that gay or lesbian ‘unions’ go against Natural Law and may never equated with a heterosexual marriage.

If you are a homosexual yourself, could you describe your experience in this area? What is it like to be a Catholic and live in a homosexual relationship? Do you feel you are guilty of immorality/ Do you receive any support from the Church?

Here is my response:

Question 5  a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
Yes, in some states of the USA same-sex marriage is legal.

Question 5  b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
Progressive Christian and Jewish congregations are supportive; evangelical Protestant, Mormon, Catholic, and others are not only not supportive, but actively work against what are our civil rights and try to impose their beliefs on those of us of other faiths or beliefs or those of us who do not belong to any religion. That is putting it mildly. Religions, in many cases have become the embodiment of hate and dare I say of evil.

Question 5  c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
As far as I’m concerned, it is way too late for this.
The question itself is disingenuous.
If you must, begin by listening to the stories and lived experience of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender individuals without judgment or preconceived ideas, without an attitude of your knowing us, our lives, our consciences, or struggles, or our identities better than we do.

Question 5  d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
My God, respect the lives of the children and their adoptive parents in the same manner that you insist on respecting life in the womb. Many, but of course not all,  same sex partners adopt children with special needs – unwanted children, sick children, emotionally disturbed children, children born addicted to drugs, - these families are providing love and nurturance. How can this be wrong?

A Brief Recounting of my own Experience:

I am a young, sixty-five-year-old American male and I have bee in a loving relationship with another man for over 25 years (since I was 40). My childhood upbringing was in Catholic schools and I came from a very devout family. I discovered my sexuality gradually from the time I was around twelve to fourteen. At around fourteen I learned that masturbation, (self-abuse) was a mortal sin and I struggled with this through my young adulthood. A priest once refused to give me, a 16-year old, absolution because he said I was not contrite enough and was not serious about changing my ways. I was devastated. I discovered the word “homosexual” when I was about sixteen and read an article in Life Magazine that depicted homosexuals as frightening degenerates. I was fascinated and horrified.

I knew I was a homosexual but I also knew I couldn’t be. I knew I could never act on my desires to have sex with a male. Even though I was not having sex with men, the guilt I lived with around masturbation was unrelenting. I went through several therapists (some were priests) from age sixteen until I got out of college at twenty-two. No therapist ever acknowledged my true identity, instead said things like “you can’t be homosexual, you’ve never had sex with a male,” or  “You’re just shy with women. “ or “you’re an intelligent person, you can work things out for yourself.” My education continued in Catholic institutions through graduate school where I got a degree in Pastoral Counseling.

I even sacrificed what might have been a career in another field in order to study psychology and try to “figure out” how to “cure” myself. I experienced long periods of depression for most of my life, often after making occasional aborted attempts to connect with another man.

Finally, thanks to a co-worker, I found a therapist who was excellent, non-judgmental and who stayed with me for the long haul – more than two years. My long inner struggle finally came to an end with my full acceptance and embracing of my sexuality.

I “came out” at the age of thirty-six; I came out personally, psychologically, sexually, spiritually and politically. It was 1984. This was the most joyous, liberating, deeply spiritual, fulfilling and positive period of my entire life.

One of my first “out” actions was to attend a Mass at the local chapter of Dignity the organization for LGBT Catholics which met in the basement of a community center like the early Christians in the catacombs of ancient Rome. I wept for joy when we sang “…Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh. And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you! Be not afraid. I go before you always…and I will give you rest.” and then “Let us build the city of God, May our tears be turned into dancing, For the Lord our light and our love, Has turned the night into day.”

I became very involved with Dignity because I still needed spiritual sustenance: I was overjoyed that my Church, through Dignity, was finally accepting me, or so I believed. Then, in October of 1986, Ratzinger and JP-II issued “The Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” that called us objectively disordered and self-indulgent. The Catholic Church was now calling my innate aversion to hetero-sex a “more or less strong tendency toward moral evil.” And it accused organizations like Dignity of promoting deceitful propaganda and even suggested that increased violence toward gay persons was almost to be expected in view of new civil rights legislation protecting gays from discrimination.

The document was full of insults. It made the lived experience of Gay, Lesbian and other sexual minorities unimportant, irrelevant and worthless. It reminded me that in the eyes of the church I was considered sinful to my very core, to my very identity. Nothing had changed, except for the worse. This was a blow to both cheeks. This teaching hurt me so deeply, I lost faith in Dignity and in the Church.

Since that time I observe that vis-à-vis most Christian denominations I am anathema. As we LGBT communities advance in our civil rights, Christian religions, and most prominently the Catholic Church, has redoubled efforts to put us down, condemn us, and spread outright lies about us, our lives and relationships.

I now have little use for organized religion of any kind and find their promulgations just as unimportant, irrelevant and worthless as they find me.

As I said at the outset, I have been in a loving relationship for 25 years. Tell me, how can love be sinful?

Yes, sex is involved. But sex is not the most important thing in our lives. (Let me use “our” in the wider, community sense). Not even close. The church makes way too big a deal about sex. People are sexual. People have sex. Grow up. Get over it. We’re way past the days when the church had to control everything and everybody.

For me and my partner and I will say most other same-sex couples, friendship, love, intimacy, companionship, being one another’s helpmate are much more important than sex. Just like most heterosexual couples. We work, we pay taxes, we volunteer, we take care of elderly parents, we teach, we support charities, we plant gardens, we do art and music and science. We sing in your choir, we say your masses, we heal the sick, we counsel the troubled, and we feed the hungry.

But there are those who would say that all we do is tainted.
All we do is for naught.
All we do is cancelled out because of who we are. 
And that all we do is without merit because of how we occasionally stimulate our sexual organs.

Those who discount our lives, who protest our very existence, they are hypocrites, Pharisees.

We hear condemnation daily: from our religious leaders, our politicians, our neighbors.

How can a human being live in dignity when faced on a regular basis with hatred, condemnation, ridicule, violence, name-calling and even the real possibility of being murdered for who we are? In some countries we are imprisoned or even condemned to death.

What makes us so frightful to the hetero world?

Why do you spend so much time and energy and money and spiritual capital in a misguided attempt to destroy us, we who are part of God’s creation and made to exist in His image and through His infinite wisdom?


  1. Wow - I never let what the Catholic church said bother me. Because you see at a fairly young age I had figured out it was all so much hokum.

    It's odd - you'd think I'd be super Catholic having attended Catholic schools for the first 12 years of my education. But the thing was by the age of 8 I had already started putting together that it was all bovine effluent.

    But the real eye opener was high school. I consider my alma mater to be at the time, very subversive. Just the freshmen reading list alone would cause some people to raise an eye. Books like Brave New World, A Kiss Before Dying, Black Like Me, Catcher in the Rye. And the reading during my four years there included Beowulf, the Greek Tragedies, etc. But the one year we studied the Bible - that was enough for me to finally say it was all bullshit. I mean, there are FIVE different stories of the resurrection alone. You'd think there would be some agreement on multiple points but there isn't.

    At the age of 15 I took CCD classes to make my confirmation. In the last weeks we all did a one on one with the priest running the program. I told him I didn't believe in any of it. That faith as such was an alien concept to me. They confirmed me anyhow.

    Oh and fun times - my junior year of high school the priesthood and brotherhood came recruiting. I laughed in the priests face.

  2. TS,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. I assume we are from different generations and based on other things you've written I know you have strong opinions.

    Sometimes I find your choice of words rather unique - that you describe the reading material in high school as "subversive"; I probably would have said "eclectic". It's an interesting slant you give.

    As far as the Bible goes, I've read your comments on that topic before and I just ask why you expect the Bible to be a history and/or science book and denounce it for NOT being literal. Just take it for what it is - I think there is some beautiful imagery in the Bible and some truths that go beyond history and science.

    One would not hold the Iliad and Odyssey to such standards - these ancient writings are meant to convey concepts about humankind's relation to the cosmos and to a dimension of reality that always lies outside of our grasp. Many Greek writers put forth their own versions of the stories - each conveying different ideas and lessons for their audience around a myth or mythologized historical event.

    I would be more inclined to put the writings of Heidegger, or Wittgenstein or even Freud in the category of effluent.

    The fact that there are different versions of the Nativity and Resurrection and everything in between is mostly irrelevant. What I would consider relevant is: "What was the writer attempting to convey and are there truths or principles in those writings that have validity to me and my life?"

    I think there are. As well as in Beowulf and the Greek Tragedies and countless other writings.

    As far as organized religion goes, I am less forgiving. There is no excuse for any religion to take its scriptures or parts thereof, so literally that it becomes its own contradiction; however taking the words and stories as a starting point for deeper thought can be liberating and profound.

    Religion, if it does anything, should be true to those universal principles that enhance and enrich the lives of all.

  3. You go, Frank. Really excellent answers. I spent my teens in a browbeating evangelical church, but the experience was much the same as what you described.

    I loved this: "People have sex. Grow up. Get over it." Right on.

    And this hits the nail on the head: "What makes us so frightful to the hetero world?" A very good question.

    Dunno who reads these things in Rome, but I sure hope this goes straight to Francis's desk. This is exactly what he needs to hear - what the whole church, and all the churches need to hear.


  4. I nominate (and second the motion and elect) you as our reluctant spokesperson.

  5. This is what attracted me to your blog! I too came out in my 30s. I too needed therapy! I have suffered from depression since I was 23! I wonder why? I'm gay! That's why! Love you man. Hugs, Patrick



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