See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Faith in Action.



Fr. Jim Livingston on 'praying away the gay'.
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Fr. Livingston is the priest chaplain to the Courage group, known as Faith in Action, in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.  Those who attend the National Courage Conferences would know who Fr. Livingston is.  Father had an excellent piece in the local paper this past Sunday, with a very kind response to a man who earlier had written about his struggle with homosexual inclination or same sex attraction.  The man identified himself as Ron Bates and had made the point that one cannot pray the gay away, while advocating that Minnesotans vote down a proposed marriage amendment to the State's Constitution.
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Ron Bates is a Catholic man who 'married' his same-sex partner.  He was married to a woman at one point and received an annulment, he struggled and prayed for healing from homosexuality to no avail.  Hence his orginal StarTribune piece, Growing up Catholic and gay in Minnesota.
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Fr. Livingston's response.
I am glad for Ron Bates that he was able to overcome the guilt and shame that burdened him for years and find that God loves him. ("I tried for years to pray away the gay. It didn't work," Sept. 1).
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But while I respect Bates' personal experience, I respectfully disagree with his conclusions about same-sex attraction and traditional marriage.
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As a confessor and confidant to many men and women who have homosexual attractions, I can say that people are not limited to the choices Bates offers.
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The plain truth is that people with same-sex attractions experience them differently.
For some, those desires are deeply rooted and long-lasting, while others experience them as symptoms of something else: loneliness, lack of confidence or frustrated childhood bonding with same-sex parents or peers, just to begin the list.
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In other words, some people really do find developmental and environmental roots to their same-sex attractions. And yes, some find release from them through therapy or through the mysterious grace of a spiritual awakening.
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Bates was not able to pray away his same-sex attraction, but some people actually do. And others, while unable to avoid homosexual temptations, still live lives of chastity and virtue by the grace of God and with the help of good friends.
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Marriage to a woman did not work for Bates, but for this you don't redefine marriage. And especially for this you don't tattoo a "GLBT" label onto teenagers who may be simply confused about their life choices. It took Bates 54 years to find his life direction after an imprudent start.
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By the same logic, many young people could be trapped for years with a mistaken gay or lesbian identity, goaded on by our disintegrating, sexually untethered culture.
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Like it or not, heterosexual behavior is rooted in human nature and the universal moral law. Both the body and the Bible witness to this truth in their own ways.
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Traditional marriage is rooted in this ancient if inconvenient truth, and it can't be scolded or legislated away by one misguided generation. History is not and never will be on the side of gay marriage. - StarTribune
Some people do move on.
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Fr. Livingston makes many excellent points that are true and good - his notion about labeling a child or teen as GLBT is so spot on - pointing out how it took Mr. Bates most of his 54 years to find his 'peace' in life.  How many people have been trapped for years believing they were gay because of misinformation or experiences in their formative years which caused them to settle for a label based upon sexual inclination/orientation?  I have friends from school who left the gay scene behind, realizing it wasn't what they wanted in life, got married and raised a family.  Similarly, people like Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute left behind an intensely active gay lifestyle and became a Catholic Priest - he changed.
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Some change - yet the the wound remains.
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More importantly, Fr. Livingston shines light on the fact that some people just might not be able to 'pray the gay away' - that they find themselves burdened with a very real cross, a wound in the flesh, as it were.  Father explains:
But what about the nerve root question that Bates addresses? What do you do when the "gay" just will not go away and your religious standards and traditions just seem to accuse, to point out what you can never do or be? Are the choices limited to either living in shame or just pitching the moral code out the window?
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Many of us can relate in our own way. You were unfaithful and your spouse will not allow you to forget; you have a prison record that shows up every time you try to get a job; you have a weakness for alcohol or spending or food and your life is unmanageable.
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Add your own weakness to the list. Regardless of how it got there, you want to move beyond it, but you can't. Who among us is righteous and qualified to cast the first stone?
St. Paul confided in a letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:7-10) that he had a "thorn in his flesh" that wouldn't go away. What God said to him was not "you're going to hell" or "you are disordered."
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He said, "My grace is sufficient for you." In the midst of his weakness, Paul found both steady direction and contentment in his friendship with Christ.
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My point is this: Whoever you are and whatever insurmountable problem you have, don't jettison your moral compass. Find friends who will support you in truth and virtue.
Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Does anyone here condemn you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more" (John 8:10-11). Minnesota citizens, you can support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions. It's not an "either/or" issue. - StarTribune 
Counter-cultural.
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 Fr. Livingston expresses it well.  Unfortunately the culture militates against everything he says.  Nevertheless there are souls, individuals, who hear the call of the Gospel, who renounce their very selves, take up their cross and follow Christ.  They receive in return, grace upon grace - even after fall upon fall - it is a matter of perseverance and patient endurance.  As Father affirms:  "[God] said, 'My grace is sufficient for you.' In the midst of his weakness, Paul found both steady direction and contentment in his friendship with Christ." 
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And remember, nothing is impossible for God.
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Note:  I do not know Fr. Livingston personally but I have had the grace to make my confession to him in the past, as well as benefiting from his good homilies.  He is a kind and gentle man.

9 comments:

  1. Father Joe12:11 PM

    God bless Father Livingston! I have rarely read an approach to this sensitive issue that is so pastoral, clear and authentically Christian.

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  2. I know Fr. Livingston. He is a Godly man and every word in this piece is so true (my own experience attests to what he has said). His explication is so very pastoral while speaking the truth. I'm so thankful for him and our dozens of Courage chaplains who are faithful.

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  3. Comment from Michael Bayly in 3..2...1....

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  4. I don't think Bayly bothers with what I post any longer.

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  5. Essentially, those who are opposed to Courage/Faith in action doing believe in prayer.

    They are secularists who love stained glass and the smell of incense. Prayer doesn't play much of a role in their lives except when they get into trouble

    Of course, that could have been said about me, too, for the first 60 years of my life. I'm trying hard to rectify that.

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  6. Terry,
    Thanks for posting this. This is so well stated. I do have to disagree with you, Ray--sorry!--I have had practicing gay/lesbian friends who am I deeply convinced were prayerful people. They often said that prayer got them through a very rough start in life. You're likely right that there is a large secular element here, but it isn't everyone. Having said that, I'm not in close touch anymore, but at the time, this same crowd was not much in the "let's redefine marriage" crowd....

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  7. I.C.

    Of course there are large numbers of prayerful homosexuals. They probably don't hang out on blogs and make regular statements against the teachings of the church. So we don't hear from them.

    I'm talking about the homosexuals who are opposed to the Courage/Faith in Action Ministry. Disbelieving that prayer can work, they are virulently opposed to what Father Livingston and hundreds of other fine priests are doing in Courage.

    Courage has worked for many and one of the effects is that they don't run around trumpeting that Courage has helped them.

    What we hear from is from those that didn't give prayer a chance.

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  8. Ray: I go around trumpeting what Courage has done for me, because I feel if I don't, then people won't believe the good that comes of it.
    There are so many in the Church, even priests, who not only have not heard of Courage, but don't understand what it is about.

    While Courage must protect the identities of its members who wish to remain anonymous, there are some of us who 'come out' so to speak about the good the Apostolate has wrought in our lives and for the Church.
    My healing has not been solely for me.

    Jeron

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  9. God Bless You, Jeron. I'll add you to my prayer list. I already have the local priests that I know who are advisers on that list. And I will add, anonymously, the other success stories.

    Thank you for sharing that.


    Ray

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