Dear Auntie Seraphic,
[I had a painful, dehabilitating crush on a man named John for over a year, and this is what he told me last night:]
"I'm gay. I just wanted you to know."
And I [had known] deep down that he probably was, but I just didn't WANT to believe it! It was too sad to think that such a nice person with a good heart could like other men [in that way]. I'm not sure how to deal with it in the future, though. I told him that we could still be friends, but I also made it clear that I believe what the Catholic Church teaches in terms of homosexuality. That was the best way I could phrase it at the time in my emotional state.
Now, I know you seem to have a different view on men with SSA than other traditional, faithful Catholics I know. You seem more accepting of them, and seem to think it's OK for them to be as they are as long as they don't act on it. But what exactly ARE your beliefs on SSA? And how do I deal with people afflicted with SSA while still remaining faithful to the Church's teaching? He's the first person I've known well to have it, so this is very new to me. I've talked it over with my mom, and her answer is to just pray and stay friends, which I plan on doing. I plan on storming heaven with prayers for him. Not prayers that he changes, but prayers that he remains chaste. And I think I might tell him to just not tell me anything about his.....inclinations. I don't want to know if he's been out on a date with a man or any such event.
And I think it's really horrible how society treats men with SSA. Men are not accepting of other men who have feminine qualities. If a man doesn't want to play sports or want to chow down on a steak, he's ridiculed by other men. I wonder if that's why men with SSA actually DO get attracted to other men who are like them. Maybe they finally meet someone who is accepting of them as they are, and then think they're in love because it feels so good to be accepted by another man. I dunno, I'm just rambling here. I just wish that men who have SSA did NOT have it, because I firmly believe that they would make many women very happy as husbands. They seem to be very caring and attentive to others' needs, they don't insult other people, they are warm and loving, etc. Sigh, it makes me sad. Such a waste of good men.
Before I say anything, here is the pastoral statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on homosexuality: Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers. All traditional, faithful Catholics in the USA should read it.
I remember the first time a good friend told me he had same sex attractions (he called it being gay). I went home in a state of shock and slept for hours. I wonder sometimes if men with SSA understand what it is like for women who adore them to receive these confidences. Probably they are so worried about rejection and have been thinking about their SSA for so long that they can't get beyond "She'll reject me/she'll accept me." However, in your case, John's revelation does help give you a long-desired emotional freedom, and that is good.
Life is so difficult, isn't it? But then it is so beautiful, too. It is both at once--just as the truth about John is both happy and sad at the same time. The happy bit is that now it will be easier for you to become free from your inordinate attachment to him. The sad bit is that John has SSA, which must not be easy for him at all.
However, it is John, not you, who has SSA, and it is only John who can take care of his safety, spiritual and physical. Of course you should stay friends with John and pray for him, but I don't think storming heaven on his behalf is your job. You can storm heaven with pleas that YOU keep on the straight and narrow path, but you shouldn't storm heaven about someone else's potential sins: this plays right into co-dependency, which is what happens when a person gets overly involved in another person's problems. Make sure you spend time with other friends and in absorbing activities.
It is not a sin to merely experience SSA. Some people have same sex attractions as an adolescent stage, but then others (1% or 2% of men, I believe; Kinsey's claims have been debunked) have it as their primary inclination either from birth, or because of things that happen to them as children, or both. They are not to blame. But yes, as we know, deliberately performing or accepting homosexual acts is sinful. (This includes 'straight' girls french-kissing each other to show off.)
According to the old catechism, "the sin of Sodom" is one of the four sins crying out to heaven for justice. (This includes an-l s-x between 'straight people,' by the way. No-one ever bothers to mention this.) And I do not believe Catholics can, in good conscience, support "gay culture," with its emphasis on sterile sex, party drugs, rebellion for rebellion's sake, deliberately motherless (or fatherless) parenthood and demands for a new social order in which the ancient facts of marriage and reproduction are demoted to "lifestyle choices."
Fortunately, not all men with SSA sign up with "gay culture." Gay culture chews up and spits out men with SSA, exploiting the young and rejecting the old. Recreational drugs are quite a feature, too. So it is not just the American cult of masculinity that is cruel to gentle men. Meanwhile, many men with SSA say that SSA are a small part of their life; their identity is based on something else, like belief in Christ.
There are many, many, many good men with SSA, including some good priests. The great priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins probably experienced them but never, in his holy, long-suffering life as a priest, acted on them. I know at least one living priest with SSA, and he too lives a life of holy chastity. Meanwhile, I suspect I know other good men with some degree of SSA who also live chaste and happy lives.
You haven't mentioned if John is a devout Catholic or not. If he is, his faith will keep him safe if he understands that he is a child of God before anything else. Don't assume that he will have lurid stories you don't want to hear; it could be that John is your friend because you live a chaste, faithful Christian life. There is a great fellowship for Catholics with SSA called "Courage." Click and see if there is a chapter in your college or town, so that if John brings up his SSA again, you can tell him about it. No-one who has SSA should have to join gay culture to find friends and community.
Meanwhile authentic Catholic friendship means loving people with SSA as your friends, as concrete, particular individuals, but not to bow before the glamour of gay culture or put up with "gay" jokes and conversation. (Indeed, young women should never put up with any kind of loose talk.) Sometimes "gay" men adopt feminine language, referring to men (or themselves) as "she" or "my sister" or claiming to be feminine. I find this ridiculous, harmful and disrespectful to women. Men with SSA are men, and they are by nature always more masculine and therefore less feminine than women are. However, once again, many men with SSA do not do these things. They live wholesome, holy lives and have wholesome, respectable friends. They look masculine, and behave in ways that you and I think are entirely masculine. "Masculine," by the way, includes a rather wide spectrum.
I too am sorry that so many good men are made or become ineligible for marriage by SSA. It is a mystery, and St. Paul seems to say it is because of "sin"-- which generally these days is taken to mean that homosexuality, like a host of other sad things (like my weak eyesight), is one of the effects of the Fall. Meanwhile, a few--perhaps only a very few--adult "gay" men do discover that, over time and with strict observance of chastity, their SSA disappear. And a few fall in love with women and marry.
I am wary of pointing this out because thousands of men with SSA have married women, for all kinds of reasons, most of them perfectly understandable, and women have suffered for it. Some were fooled into thinking their husbands never had SSA or had been "cured" or would remain faithful. Some were (and are) dumped flat when the men achieve what marriage helped them to achieve.
Having SSA does not necessarily mean a man is never attracted to women, too, or that he is incapable of begetting children. However, a woman should be wary of marrying a man who has had SSA, unless they both know he is capable of remaining sexually faithful to her for the rest of his (or her) life. So-called liberal elements of society reserve their scorn for men who leave their aging wives and helpless children for other women; they stand and applaud when men leave their aging wives and helpless children in pursuit of other men.
I hope this is helpful. In short, love is the answer--real love that sees a man for who he is in his entirety and desires his good, neither endowing him with the dark glamour of gay culture nor assuming that he is its slave.
Grace and peace,
Comments will be strictly monitored, but anonymous comments of merit will be permitted.
Update: As I half-expected, there was a comment from a non-Catholic in a long-term homosexual relationship who objected very much to the idea that homosexuality is a trial. She does not like the expression SSA. Whereas her views, with which we are all acquainted from the mass media, might not be helpful within the context of faithful Catholic women who love Catholic men (and other men of good will) who experience same-sex attractions, I want to acknowledge that she wrote in.