“By knowing the truth about ourselves and our emotions, we can discover ways to mature and gain the emotional equilibrium and healthy balance we need to take charge of our lives, grow closer to Christ, and share in the joy of His love…Such knowledge is a sure guide to healthy and holy living, for without proper understanding of the important role played by our passions, a person is truly left in the dark. When people are afraid of owning their emotions, they wear a mask. And if a person denies his feelings, he acts them out.”– Taken from “The Freedom to Love” by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P.
When I first “re”-discovered Catholicism, after a faulty maturation in the Faith as a child of the 1970s, and after abandoning all semblance of Christianity for almost a decade, I came back to the Church as a heavily battered and wounded refugee of the gay sexual revolution. For years, I sought solace and the answer to all my questions in the cesspool of sex. Yet, that freedom only brought about enslavement and a deepening sense of loss that always seemed to grow from within. Nonetheless, I kept trying to make things work: going from one partner to another – believing that the next one would make everything else go away, tripping from the New Age to the occult, plunging further into perversity – feeling the pain slip away if only for a few brief moments. Hoping against hope, as I had nowhere left to turn – I inexplicably opened “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.” I read: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” I thought to myself: “Okay…that’s fine with me.” “I am tired and over-sexed anyway.”
At first, staying chaste was easy – I never even masturbated. Sexual thoughts were often ephemeral and short-lived. Although, I was continuously racked with guilt, unable to accept forgiveness from the Father, strangely enough – temptations of the flesh were a thing of the past. Only, I was not at peace. I hated what I did, and I detested myself for doing those things; I could not understand why I went so far astray; why I had fallen so far and so fast. Suddenly, Christ removed this self-loathing pride through a young (only a few years older than myself) and gentle priest who somehow instinctively sensed my inner turmoil. Now, finally freed from the last demonic vestiges of insecurity – I actively desired to know why my life till that point had been filled with such turmoil; surfing the internet – I found the Courage apostolate; first, I read Fr. John Harvey’s authoritative “The Truth About Homosexuality;” often heavily citing studies performed by other researchers and authors – the majority of the lengthy chapters delved into the “why” of homosexuality. At about the same time, I also came across “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality” by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. Both works were a revelation; as Fr. Emmerich wrote, I started “knowing the truth” about myself: the tragic failures in my upbringing, the abuse I had no control over, and my hapless way of dealing with it all.
Second, I attended a Courage “meeting” in San Francisco. I had not returned to the City in several years, before arriving at the Golden Gate Bridge, I pulled my car over to the side of the road so I could vomit. Even though the fear slowly dissipated, I still felt anxious about going back to where I buried once beloved friends and almost lost my own soul. At the Cathedral, where the meeting took place, I found a small room reserved for Courage; windowless and cramped – it all felt slightly clandestine. Regardless, I was happy to know that the Church offered something for those blessed enough to have survived being gay.
I attended regularly for several months; mainly to go to Confession – as the priest was kind and soft-spoken; in addition, after several encounters with unashamedly pro-gay priests – it was a welcome relief to find a Confessor and spiritual adviser who actually upheld the teachings of the Church with regards to homosexuality. As for the group meetings: at first, I found them remarkable as I discovered that others shared my earnest desire to permanently escape the grip of homosexuality and the constant tormenting need to find fulfillment through other men. Their stories were heart-wrenching, but often unresolved. Increasingly, I viewed this practice as unnecessarily tiresome and unproductive. For, a majority of the time concentrated on personal weekly reports, usually concerning a recent fall. As most of the men lived within San Francisco – reminiscences often centered around the temptations of living in the Castro, partaking in gay functions while trying to remain chaste, and periodic relapses back into sexual activity with other men. Often, this scenario of recidivism and return to Courage for Confession appeared repeatedly in several members. By now, I cared deeply for them – and understandably began to worry. Having never gone back to gay sex, I had little to openly share – so, I usually hung back, but always listened with a keen interest. Infused with the knowledge gleaned from the books by both Fr. Harvey and, most importantly by Dr. Nicolosi, I longed to ask the inevitable question: “why.” “Why” do you continually feel drawn to gay sex, or why are you attracted to this type of man or to that particular sex act; why do you keep going back? With “cross-talk,” or interjecting, strictly forbidden, by the time everyone got their turn and we’d gone around the circle – it was time to go. To me, everything appeared unanswered. There was a forced sort of chastity, but I rarely saw healing – and, I seldom saw joy. As I continued to attend the meetings, I drew less and less from them, and I had even less to offer. Despite my growing lack of interest: I still cherished Courage as it offered Hope – that you weren’t alone, and that someone cared. Then without thinking about it – I stopped going.
Outside of Courage, I formed intense chaste friendships with a few of the other members; oftentimes, we would meet at each other’s homes, have dinner, pray the Rosary, and then inevitably talk about our ongoing struggles. But, unlike the Courage meetings – we spent most of our time discussing what got us here: the unresolved issues with our fathers, our continuing and pesky obsession with porn, finding comfort and relief in masturbation. Some dug deep, and made themselves incredibly vulnerable; occasionally to the point of tears. There was encouragement and admissions of similar circumstances experienced by almost everyone; there were even hugs of friendship that further drew our little band of believers together. By talking about it – and finally admitting it: many made peace with the past, forgave those who wounded them, and moved on.
On my own accord, with the help of several knowledgeable and infinitely patient priests, I delved deeper into memories of my own childhood; often horrendously painful, I remembered things I had long buried within my subconscious. Far from inconsequential trials that every boy goes through – these were pivotal moments in my life that unfortunately set up my future swerve into homosexuality: a particular boy who mercilessly teased me – that would later transform into the image of the dominant sexualized male; the sexual abuse by an older girl – that later became fetishized; and the horrific porn images I saw as a boy – that would later serve as a blue-print for my own sexual perversity. In every case, that which I was attracted to as an adult homosexual male had its roots in some childhood trauma. Then, I understood the source of my mis-wired emotions. Repeating what Fr. Emmerich wrote: “Such knowledge is a sure guide to healthy and holy living, for without proper understanding of the important role played by our passions, a person is truly left in the dark. When people are afraid of owning their emotions, they wear a mask. And if a person denies his feelings, he acts them out.”
Gradually, because I knew from where they emerged, those old desires and passions no longer controlled me. They had lost their power. They had been unmasked and I was freed; free from ever repenting them again; as I no longer needed to find male companionship and acceptance, that which I never received as a child, by having sex with other men; I no longer needed to make sense out of abuse by repeating it, trying to take pleasure from it, while making-believe that it wasn’t that bad; and I no longer needed the little bits of escape afforded by a brief slip into born. Through the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ – I am free.