We just throw ourselves in it.
Lately I've been considering the Gospel story of the 'possessed' young man. The boy was described by his father as possessed, with episodes of falling to the ground, rolling about, foaming at the mouth and then becoming rigid. At other times the demon threw him into the fire and then the water, almost killing him. Christ reprimanded the disciples who were unable to exorcise the demon, or heal the young man, for their lack of faith, their lack of trust, explaining after the healing, that this type can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. Jesus is emphatic that "everything is possible to a man who trusts." [Luke 9:23]
Mystics tell us that Christ is deeply saddened by our lack of trust, he tells them that his heart is wounded by our lack of confidence, and that trust is the vessel needed to receive his mercy, his grace. Yet today we are told many sins are incurable, or that God made us this way... Some inclinations may seem natural, but we forget about fallen human nature and our propensity to sin - which is fallen naturalness. We forget that we need supernatural grace. It is obtained through prayer and the sacraments. Prayer and fasting - fasting from sin first - that is a penance God requires.
In and out.
It is fashionable to disparage prayer today. When scoffers say things like, 'you can't pray away the gay' it can be intended as a disparagement against those who reject the LGBTQ identity and seek to live a chaste and celibate life, relying upon the grace of God.
To an extent, those who say 'you can't pray the gay away' are right, in so far as their focus is misdirected. Whether striving to overcome the gay, or deciding to accept the gay - the emphasis is on a gay identity, an identity based on an inclination toward something the Catechism describes as intrinsically disordered. Even for those who refuse to identity as gay, some may struggle to defend their decision against the world and contemporary culture which says it is senseless to deny their sexuality in the first place. (Chastity is not loved.) It's no wonder so many can be tempted to vacillate in their commitment, sometimes falling in and out of the fire.
Reparative therapy isn't reparation.
(I'll get into reparation later.) We are told so-called reparative therapy doesn't work and is damaging to people. I'm not convinced of that - I think it is important to try and understand what causes a person to be gay - even if one believes himself to be 'born that way'. Those who work in psychology have been very helpful in broadening our understanding of same sex attraction. I'm convinced reparative therapy can help those motivated to seek it, and that it may be successful for some. Others, not so much.
To be sure, I do not believe it is mandatory (nor does the Church) and I certainly do not believe it is the only alternative for those who experience unwanted same sex desire. Not everyone has access to therapy, nor can everyone afford it, and therapists may have their own agenda in mind - bent on success and building a reputation. Likewise, everyone has free will - one can choose not to act on the inclination - relying on God's grace and guidance, perhaps with self-therapy, one can attain a certain freedom of spirit: To the point the inclination is no longer the 'predominant fault', as it were.
At one time or another, many people who actually struggle with same sex attraction focus all their attention upon getting rid of the attraction, avoiding temptation - anxiously worried about sexual sin. They don't want to be gay - or better put - they don't want to commit gay sins. Despite what they say - deep down, they might be just fine with being a little different, and entertain the idea, 'if only it wasn't a sin' ...
So they pray - really, really hard, frequent the sacraments, go to adoration, seek spiritual direction, follow a sort of horarium of prayer, doing all the right spiritual stuff. They suffer through temptation and the near occasion of sin, agonize over falls, anguish over every inclination or attraction, and sometimes pine away in emotional desolation and self pity - self abuse. Some join a group for fellowship and support - but still sleep alone. (That's a Cher song BTW.) In the meantime the world, pop-culture, gays, gay-Catholics are screaming come out, come out, come out and stay out. Be gay because it's now okay.
We have to do more for gays.
We are hearing that a lot these days. Evidently no one suffers as much as gay people do. Science can claim a genetic connection to legitimize the inclination, civil laws can be changed to allow gay marriage - but it doesn't change anything. Because homosexual acts are sinful. Defects and disorders are the effects of the Fall - fallen human nature. Catholics tell you that you need to accept yourself - that the old teaching teaches self hate. Priests and nuns minister to the gay and Catholic, echoing science and the popular culture - theologizing the disorder.
As I suggested earlier, no wonder so many of us second guess ourselves when it comes to acceptance and nondiscrimination. No wonder the Church can sound schizoid as regards homosexual teaching. Churchmen say you can't discriminate while they fire gay employees. So, you start thinking you are wrong in your understanding of Catholic teaching - or that you are going about everything the wrong way. You study, you read the old and new gay-studies, gay literature in the light of Westian Theology of the Body and the witness of gay to straight converts who eventually come back out, accepting themselves as gay. You begin to see the need for getting rid of negative terminology such as mortal sin and intrinsic disorder... And you feel yourself on the threshold of a new freedom, a new acceptance of self...
The temptation to compromise.
Like the crazy kid in the Gospel, we go from our peaceful state of wholesome 'self-denial' and suddenly decide we aren't any better off than we were before. We aren't 'fixed'. We're still miserable, unhappy, and lonely. We slip into the chaos, roll about in anguish; fearing we may compromise, in one final valiant determination - we react - we resolve to get hold of ourselves - to conquer the beast.
Grating our teeth, we resolve to stick to the rules so firmly - we become absolutely rigid. We force ourselves to follow our rule of life, the commandments, adhering with clenched teeth to the letter of the law - and we become rigid. When we are rigid we condemn, we do not love, we are not humble. We can't stand ourselves, nor the others who seem to be so happy with their sexuality. Unable to tolerate even ourselves, we can end up throwing ourselves back into the fire. We hurl ourselves into the old ways of behavior, the old escapes, the favorite occasions, convincing ourselves we will not fall - and yet we are fallen. Our love dissipates like polluted water - flowing down the drain, as it were. We thrust ourselves into the fire and the water, like a demoniac. A fire we didn't start - but it feels as if it is our fire and we feel we belong there.
Falling and rising.
Believe it or not, that's kind of normal. It really is - for fallen human nature. Although, as St. Teresa of Avila said, "prayer is the trapdoor out of sin." So don't disparage prayer.
Yet prayer is not a stern, rigid observance of hours, a hair shirt formula or prescription, much less an appointed therapy session that one follows to achieve this or that. It is rather a relationship, and it is nurtured in and through the sacraments. When we find it, through the joy of being forgiven, we must continue to keep praying and fasting from sin, applying the remedy of confession and Eucharist after every fall. Yet prayer must be free, humble, gentle; a loving attentiveness - filled with confidence in the joy of being loved and forgiven. It takes time to do God's will, it takes time and patience to find healing. Healing is a process. Praying and fasting and avoiding sin while grinding our teeth is not the way to do it. Confidence and love is the way. Allowing ourselves to be loved - just as we are, just as God created us - male and female. The Church teaches that.
"We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else."
Recently I read an article about an ex-gay who married an ex-lesbian, had kids, and now is back - happier than ever that he stopped trying and came to accept that he is gay and that it's the life for him. He's John Paulik and his article is To Straight and Back. He went back - what can I say? Why did he do it? I think he begins to explain it rather well in his own words here:
Luckily, it’s true that across our nation, life is dramatically and rapidly improving for gay people, and it’s encouraging that same-sex marriage has found favor in courts across the land, and is coming to be viewed as legitimate by a majority of Americans, according to polls. - PoliticoThe general acceptance and affirmation that gay is good, or gay is equal to heterosexuality - that general acceptance makes it easier to disbelieve what the Church teaches. As I've been trying to point out in this excessively long post, this general acceptance is the main reason why SSA persons find it difficult to persevere. So many stop and start, until they give up like Paulik.
Paulik is correct when he says, "We are not broken, damaged, inferior or throwaways. We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else."
The Church teaches the exact same thing. It's the behavior that is disordered, the inclination is towards something intrinsically disordered - but they are not listening to what the Church is saying.
Catholics are deeply influenced by that.
Men and women who experience same sex attraction are deeply influenced by this 'new world order' of LGBTQ. Catholics who leave the 'lifestyle' can be persuaded that doctrine has developed (or will develop) in favor of accommodating gay civil unions. Many in the Church are convinced more must be done for gay people, because gay is a sort of gender neutral 'third way'. There is a great deal of confusion generated and the tension is all around us.
Many gay people falter - they go in and out of the Church. Some leave the Church entirely, others give up the practice of the faith all together. Most struggle, rising and falling, and through discouragement, sloth or acedia, fall into compromise. It's very human. Despite all of that, some come back, some keep trying. That is no small grace.
Those who have long struggled know the ups and downs, the ins and outs. We know the hypocrisy, the lying, the cover-ups that can go on. It's amazing that we keep trying, shamed when we do, and shamed when we don't. But it isn't about success, it isn't about achievement.
One guy I know of has returned to the Church - again - with all his wounds showing. He's amazing for that. I recently read something he wrote - I don't have permission to discuss his journey nor what he wrote, but I was deeply impressed by his humility and faith, and his calm resolve to persevere.
Evidently he met someone online and they had a 'chat'. If I read the post correctly, it seems the conversation was unchaste. The Catholic fellow repented and evidently contacted the other person to apologize and make 'reparation' - explaining his struggle to live faithfully and chastely as a Catholic, and how sorry he was.
Not reparative therapy. The man I speak of has traveled a long hard road. He was baptised Catholic in infancy, yet became a Protestant minister, married, came out, divorced, returned to the Church, fell away again, came out again and went to the Episcopal church, and finally returned to the Catholic Church.
He's home now. It seems obvious - to me at least, that he has a new found freedom of spirit - demonstrated by his candor, his confession of faith, his humility ... and more deeply, his sense of making reparation. He's not ministering or evangelizing so much as he is making reparation. He is now, more than ever before, a witness to the Gospel and the Catholic Church - who in the name of Christ calls us all to repentance and holiness.
We all fall and rise, but we need to avoid compromise.
(My apologies for such a long rambling post. It's a personal reflection and may not make sense to readers - and I may be wrong.)