Monday, December 18, 2006


One of my first posts recounted my experience at a dreadful Annual Meeting of my denomination, where the big agenda item was "human sexuality" [i.e., US] and the discussion ranged from the hostile to the deranged. In September of 1999 I wrote a letter to one of the few sane voices at that event, which included this testimony:

as I pondered and reflected on what had happened at Annual Meeting, and upon the possibility that I might not only be recognized as having a right to speak, but might even be asked to speak, I had to ask myself what I might say. And a very peculiar thing happened. The more I thought about speaking to the necessity of carefully distinguishing between "O[pen]" and "A[ffirming]", the more clearly I saw that while I was being offered a chance to validate my own choices and speak my own truth, that chance coincided, not entirely coincidentally, with what began to look like an invitation to condemn others’ choices.

I reflected that I might easily have made another choice in that literal "winter of our discontent" and bitter humiliation so long ago, when I met Christ; I might well have decided to pursue another kind of life. Would God then not have loved me? It is only through his grace that I have come to where I am and what I say is who am I to cast the first stone? And I did feel that I was being asked to cast the first stone. After wrestling with this dilemma, I decided that I had to admit that my own truth could not be the whole truth.

I decided that I couldn’t cast the first stone, or any other; nor could I even let the witnesses leave their cloaks at my feet. If I was to take part in the stoning, it had to be with the men taken in sin. This was an about-face of literally staggering impact.

And this letter is in essence an attempt to explain why I can no longer be your ally in what promises to be a drawn-out, painful experience for many; I fear that you in particular will attract all sorts of small- and evil-minded rewards for your willingness to defend what you see as the clear message of the gospel. Stand fast; the gospel is our rock. It is just that, for me, it is the gospel that has led me away from the desire to validate my own truth and towards something new.

I can’t tell you how painful it was, back in my ill-spent youth, to see that I had been led astray by a belief in the supreme importance of my "self", and to lay aside [or rather, vow to lay aside] that belief along with my willingness to act on it at the expense of others. For years I have mentally associated that belief and that willingness with my [bashful and limited] sexual contact with men.

At the same time, when I fell hopelessly in love and wished to marry, the impediments I felt on my side were not my past loves of other men, but my past loves of other women, even where they were more than botched attempts to bolster my manhood.
And looking back, I have begun to see that most of my encounters with men had been based on mutual attraction and some degree of agape as well as the adolescent confusion of philia and eros, and in fact strongly resembled nothing so much as my relationships with women.

If anything, the subjection of others to my own search for pleasure was far more a characteristic of my relationships with women than those with men. When I look back, while the latter may cause me embarrassment, the ones that cause me pain and regret are the former, in which a loving generosity was more often abused. Because in almost every case, I had entered a level of sexual intimacy on the supposed premise of another intimacy, and in one case at least I had destroyed a real love by allowing my own unripe love to seek a physical expression.

That was sin.

So much for my two bits' worth of wisdom. The following is from Andrew Holloran's contribution to a strange and wonderful book,
Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men, published by Riverhead Books in 1995. Some of it sounded, well, familiar:

The sense of Sin is, of course, missing is some people, keen, more keen, keenest in others. When I drew up a list of my own one evening, I was surprised to see that all of mine amounted to sins that did not include homosexual acts themselves but the consequences of hiding them from people who loved and expected more out of me, perhaps, than I'd given the world. In other words, I suspected myself of shame, withdrawal, and finally that most classic of Catholic sins, despair.

Still, none of them seemed correctable; I hadn't any more faith in homosexuality's virtues, really, than I did in the existence of God --- though the latter was not something I could bring myself to entirely disbelieve, either. It startled me, for instance, in the eighties when a Catholic friend told me as we were leaving church that it was rude to go to mass and not take Holy Communion --- like going to someone's house for dinner and refusing to eat; and that if, as I said, I was troubled by the necessity of going to Confussion first, then I should just go into the woods and confess my sins to a tree. (So that's how things have evolved, I thought. Well, not for me.)

I still took it seriouslf enough to believe that if I received the Holy Wafer on my tongue in a state of unconfessed, accumulated sin --- countless obscene acts, alone and with many, many others --- I'd be doing something profane. In other words, I agreed with Flannery O'Connor who said about the Eucharist: "If it was a symbol, I'd say to hell with it!"

...The sexual instinct waxes and wanes, of course;; St. Augustine wrote his confessions after a life of debauchery. And I'm sure one can lose one's "faith" in homosexuality as well as in God; ending up, perhaps, with a double loneliness. I cannot predict the eventual overview of my life, if one is allowed me; and I know homosexuality at fifty is not what it is at twenty-five. But looking back now on the sins I suspect have characterized my life, homosexual acts are not among them. The way I've treated others because of the conflict between my religion, society, culture and those acts may well be, however.

This conflict is not merely external, but internal as well. Imagine, if you will, the Catholic who retains the sense of Sin without availing himself of the sacrament, which relieves it and absolves him. What worries me most, perhaps, is the sad fact that even if others may be willing to "forgive" gay Catholics their sexual orientation --- family, friends, doctors, even priests --- too often we refuse to forgive ourselves.

Something for us all to ponder, I think.

More Jesus coming up, for those of who wondered where He'd gone while I wrestled with the angel whom the
Far-Flung Voice calls the "demon of homosexuality" -- i.e., ME.

1 comment:

  1. (ugh! I keep losing posts!)

    Interesting book. I always felt that it's a "curse that we too easily cast for ourselves."

    Yet, I know if there is a God, I know there is forgiveness and love for me too.

    Hang in there.