During a January 11, 2018 interview with Fr. Gerald Murray, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN’s “The World Over Live,” discussed with the Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of New York the various issues relating to Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, but at the end of their discussion, Arroyo asked Fr. Murray about a recent statement made by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode concerning the possibility of a Catholic “blessing” for same-sex relationships:
Raymond Arroyo – In Germany, a deputy chair of the German Bishop’s Conference was quoted as calling for the “blessing” of same-sex unions. He said:
We need to think about how we evaluate a relationship between two same-sex people in different ways. Is not there so much that is positive, good and right that can…think about a blessing?
Your thoughts on this.
Fr. Gerald Murray – Well, Raymond, what you said earlier is now extending to a third topic, with divorce and remarriage, contraception and now homosexual activity. He wants us to bless sodomy. He wants the Catholic Church to say to two people who are sodomizing each other, you’re doing something that is pleasing in the sight of God and we want God to bless, we want God to favor this type of activity. This is quite simply a statement of fact – this is a total rejection of Catholic doctrine on the immorality of homosexual activity. For this Bishop to say that is a major scandal. He should repent of it and turn away from it, because he is leading people into sin.
I do work with Courage from time to time, which is the apostolate that helps Catholics with same-sex attraction live virtuous lives. When they wake up and turn on their computer in the morning and read this kind of news – its an insult to them. Its an insult to them, to say: oh, yeah look, the bad behavior that we told you to stop, well, it’s pretty good according to the German Bishop. Ordinary people should not be subjected to bishops contradicting Catholic teaching. This is, if I seem angry because I am, this is infuriating. A shepherd is sent out to lead the sheep to the pure water of Catholic truth. And this man is saying immoral activity should be blessed. He needs to repent of that teaching.
On a personal note – What Fr. Murray so explicitly and honestly expressed here is the truth. Its uncomfortable and unpleasant for some to hear, but it must be said…by someone.
As I learned through experience, male homosexuality will always include at least the possibility of sodomy. According to the CDC, over 88% of gay men engage in anal sex; among younger gay men, it’s over 93%. When I was 18 years old, I arrived in San Francisco after a childhood filled with feelings of alienation and abandonment; the boys teased me at school, my father was well-intentioned, but always busy; I felt desperate and lonely. At the time, the Church offered nothing except a nebulous rather unexplained teaching concerning the primacy of the conscience. Then after much internal struggle, I reached the resolution that I was gay. That first day in the predominantly gay-male Castro District, it was the height of the AIDS epidemic, and I was scared to even sit down on a bar stool in fear that something would rub off onto me. However, I was tired of being alone – and I wanted a friend. Except, I couldn’t help myself once the first man who approached me said something nice. No one ever complemented me before. And, I was his.
In a community, where many young men arrive already with a sense of loss, either from a disinterested or absent father, on account of bullying at school, or because they always thought they were different – the utter absence of the moderating influence exerted by women, causes sexuality in the gay male world to move at a dangerously rapid and reckless speed; as evidenced by the continued scourge of tenacious often antibiotic resistant STDS that appear almost nowhere else in society with the same virulence. However, leading up to the 2015 Obergefell decision, a drastic reinvention of homosexuality appeared in the popular media with seemingly happy, healthy and completely monogamous celebrity couples became the new paradigm of modern gay life. The more erotically charged image of gay men that emerged in the 1970s, represented by The Village People, was methodically removed and curiously replaced by Ellen DeGeneres. From Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” to the recent film “Call Me By Your Name,” homosexuality became about innocent flirtation, experimentation and self-discovery. But where is the truth?
As many young men such as myself had to find out, the reality of gay male sex was far different from what we imagined. It wasn’t anything like gay pornography, it was often messy and painful; it also wasn’t like an incredibly overpowering and comforting bear-hug. It always lacked something; I thought it was because my lover wasn’t quite the right guy for me; there must be someone else waiting somewhere out there. Only, the sense of harmony and complementarity that I longed for in a physical (and emotional) relationship proved an absolute impossibility with another man. For the most part, sex ruined a friendship. Because, the more I cared about, and loved, that person – the greater happiness I wanted for them. At the time, even though I couldn’t understand anything, I knew that there was something wrong with sodomy. In one of my first relationships, I usually took on the aggressive role and typically initiated sex. One day, I remember thinking about what my lover had to endure in order for us to have intercourse: the invasive cleansing of his lower digestive tract. At a time when no same-sex couple could legally “marry” in the United States, even though we had made a commitment to each other, that loyalty did not erase the overwhelming sense of disorder that I felt rushing through me – it only made it worse. So, we went our separate ways. It was simpler to have sex with those I didn’t care about or even know – their name.
A few years later, I was the one on the receiving end of this variant, what some would label “natural,” form of affection. It started out awkward and uncomfortable and then it did get better – for a while. Later, the repeated use of enemas, douching and the constant friction, only semi-alleviated by copious amounts of artificial lubrication, caused my body to react with a series of intensely excruciating yeast infections, followed by protruding hemorrhoids and finally a prolapse of the anus. I became increasingly ill. I was weak, I constantly broke out in a rash, every bowl movement colored the toilet water a bright red. I thought I had AIDS. But I didn’t pull back. Actually, things got worse. Since the beginning of the crisis, researchers have been rightly concerned about the prevalence of continued disease caused by even riskier behavior among HIV positive gay men. Here, I understand why some men in that situation begin to delve even deeper into the gay fetish subculture; they figure – they have nothing else to lose.
When I finally fell down and I couldn’t get up – there was no lifeline button to push. I simply collapsed into my own blood and filth and quickly became resigned to this ignominious death. Yet, for whatever reason, someone I hadn’t thought of since I was boy, rescued me. Our Lord Jesus Christ took pity upon this poor soul and brought me home. Why so many of my friends, who were far more deserving of mercy than I, had to die forgotten in the gutter, I can’t begin to comprehend. Again, and again, my memory of them has almost driven me mad. But my only solace remains in the hope that their deaths were not meaningless. That the truth someday could be revealed.
Almost immediately, I strangely returned to the Catholic Church with an incomprehensible feeling of hope. For most of my life, I disregarded the Church; not because I experienced any sort of bigotry or homophobia as a pre-homosexual boy, but on account of what I perceived as the Church’s ineffectual pastoral response to the social upheaval of the 1970s. The instruction I received: guided by the Holy Spirit, only I could determine what was right and wrong – for me.
But I was an awkward and unsure boy who needed a reassuring and strong masculine presence in his life – I didn’t have one; so, I went in search of my long-lost savior. I wanted a man to rescue me. That’s where I thought my conscience drew me. Yet for some strange reason, before graduating from high-school, I talked in the confessional with a Catholic priest about my uncertainty. He tried to reassure me saying: God made you this way. Subconsciously, I wanted him to say something else. I walked out of that church and never returned – until over 10 years later.
I hoped things were different – they weren’t. Apparently, God was still busy creating a whole new generation of gay men and women. But what about me? I believed, and look where it got me. Is there nothing else? I went to see a priest; I talked with him while a newly inserted suppository leaked and left a noticeable stain on the seat of my pants. The good God that saved me couldn’t have destined me for this? According to this priest – He did. I should go find someone to settle down with, he said.
In response to Bishop Bode’s proposition about the possible feasibility of same-sex marriage blessings, the highly influential LGBT-affirmative ministry Out at St. Paul, located at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City, posted to their official Facebook page the following message:
Wonderful news! Let us continue to pray and act for the Holy Spirit to move in the Catholic Church.
James Martin, S.J., and fellow Jesuit Thomas J. Reese, also posted news of Bishop Bode to their Facebook pages; Reese wrote: “Leading German bishop wants discussion, not silence, on taboo issues…” What exactly is there to discuss? While the sentiment from Out at St. Paul is certainly ill-advised, but I understand why they would react in such a way. Because, like myself, they have been repeatedly told that God made them gay. Martin is a frequent presenter at St. Paul the Apostle; he consistently maintains that homosexuals are born with an inclination towards the same-sex; in fact, he goes further and says that God willed it to be so:
God made you this way. You are wonderfully made, just like Psalm 139 says. You were knit together in your mother’s womb this way, you know, it’s a mystery why you were made this way, but this is part of your identity.
If the LGBT individual believes that, like myself, they are faced with a problem: Do I believe in a God that made me with an attraction for the same-sex, and then judged those same desires to be “disordered,” or do I reject the false teachings of a homophobic Church which mispresented the compassionate Gospel of Christ? Most will discard Catholic teachings rather than accept a twisted creator.
James Martin fuels this misconception when he Tweets the following:
So much suffering inflicted on so many LGBT Catholics by their own church. So much misery from the hands of those who are supposed to be their pastors. We must call this what it is: abuse. An intrinsic evil.
The only suffering being inflicted upon the LGBT community is by James Martin and those gay-affirmative ministries which continually offer a false expectation that the Catholic Church will someday accept their relationships and ultimately “bless” them. This is not only untrue, but it facilitates the continuation of needless suffering. For example, a young “married” same-sex couple from Out at St. Paul earnestly believes:
If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So, we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.
The vast majority of the onus for this confusion rests with the gay-affirmative ministries and the priests and prelates who facilitate their continuation.
During a recent interview, Martin said that homophobia is “one of the great sins of the Church.”
Thank God, I met a priest not unlike Fr. Gerald Murray. He wasn’t perhaps as gregarious and personable as the priest who said that my chromosomes were encoded with a propensity towards sodomy, yet he truly cared in a way that the other priests did not – he respected me enough to tell the truth. Then, it was my decision. What the Catholic Church has to say to the LGBT community is not easily accepted, except by those who have nothing else to lose. For the Church is the last hope of the hopeless. Nonetheless, those who sadly holdfast to their identity, for whatever reason, should certainly not find themselves among priests who insist on patronizing their fears and insecurities by insisting that the “Catechism” is “needlessly cruel” or that particular priests and bishops are “homophobic.” This sort of rhetoric will certainly ingratiate the priest, such as James Martin, to an audience which expects the Church to change in order to suit their misconceptions, but its completely self-serving because the truth is neglected in favor of misplaced compassion and sensitivity.
Lastly, Fr. Murray has finally given a voice to what Fr. John Harvey (the founder of Courage) once described as “the cry of the faithful.” For so long, many men and women with same-sex attraction have had to silently withstand the rejection and outright contempt from gay-affirmative ministries which dominate numerous parishes located in or near large LGBT centers of population: San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Boston, San Jose, and Portland. These faithful souls have been overlooked. If it were not for the Courage apostolate, they would have nowhere to go. Personally, I certainly suffered physically and psychologically when I was a sexually active gay man, but then I could have never imagined the peculiar sort of torture I would one day have to endure in the Catholic Church. Because of what specific priests and prelates have said – I sometimes questioned my decision to remain chaste. I have even momentarily wondered about my own mental health; during an interview with a partnered gay Catholic man, James Martin once said this about his detractors:
I know just for the record that a lot of the people who are critiquing me online are self-professed…former gays. So it’s a lot of former gay people. And I would say that there’s a lot of conflict going on. So it’s sad because what happens is their own junk inside gets focused outwards on people who are actually trying to live a more integrated life.
Comparable things have been said to me for years – originating from a notoriously gay-friendly parish in San Francisco. I know that a similar uncertainty caused a number of fellow Catholics with same-sex attraction to question Church teaching; they eventually joined a gay-affirmative ministry, found a partner, and believe wholeheartedly they are forging a new future for homosexual acceptance within Catholicism.
In a recent interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke spoke plainly about the issue of homosexuality; his words are uncompromising, but in an age of meaningless platitudes, the truth must be professed outloud for those who want (and need) to receive it:
We know that we are dealing with an abnormal condition: God has not created us to have sexual relations with people of the same sex. This is not a discrimination against persons. It is to affirm the truth of Christ, the truth of our faith.
For me, because of the forthright manner of one priest in particular, the Catechism proved rather blunt though largely unproblematic. The brief statements contained inside regarding homosexuality were clear and unequivocal. No amount of sugar would have made that pill any easier to swallow. But it was my choice. And that is the beauty of Catholicism, for even to those who once partook in sodomy or whatever form of sexual deviancy, the Church offers nothing less than “Christian perfection.” Only, we can decide. Priests such as James Martin are committing a great disservice to the LGBT community. For the suffering that they undergo does not originate with the Church, it does not come from God – Our Lord Jesus Christ is Love. But, in a way, Martin and his allies have fulfilled their own anxieties – they envisioned a Church which is evil. Until that Church radically changes, they will have no rest. I know that horrible feeling all too well – I experienced it every day as a gay man. May God have mercy on them, and us all.