Saturday, April 13, 2019


A reflection.

I never got the impression Courage Apostolate was about conversion therapy or anything like that.  My impression was and is, that it's about support for those who seek to lead a holy life in accord with Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage.  Support, prayer, chaste friendship, and the sacraments to sustain the person.  Very simple.

I also think that looking for a cure, to have the inclination taken away should not be the focus.  I say that having gone through so many years of making that prayer, going so far as therapy for unwanted homosexual attraction.  I started at a Protestant therapy group, and it wasn't easy, since I am Catholic.  Long story short, it wasn't pleasant.

Next I went to another group which was ostensibly a sort of recovery group for sexual addiction.  I did it secretly, only one or two of my friends knew.  I did out-patient - paid for out of pocket, because I didn't want insurance or my employer to know.  (Several celebrities did in-patient in the same facility at the time.)  I found it helpful, it was there that I found out I was not to blame for early childhood abuse and sexualization.  I also understood that I had been 'raped' despite the fact I thought it was consensual.  (The therapist did not embed any false memories, as I have heard from others in similar situations.)  I left therapy when the therapist insisted my problem was being Roman Catholic and my attempt to live a chaste and celibate life in accord with Catholic teaching was complicating my life, and all I needed to do was accept my sexuality.

Fortunately, I soon found an excellent spiritual director at the time, whose background was psychology and mystical theology.

Lord grant me strength to endure this struggle.

It was a very creative time for me, nonetheless.  The fierce temptations, the struggle, the rising and falling was not only humbling, but in retrospect sanctifying, in so far I was at confession just about every three days or so, and spending hours before the Blessed Sacrament.

Recently, I've been pondering that closeness to Christ.  It seems to me when I became preoccupied, unsettled by temptation, I fell more easily.  I lost my peace, became anxious and as the temptation increased, sensuality overwhelmed me.  In retrospect, I realize my focus was skewed by my desire to be free of the sexual inclination - to be delivered from homosexuality.  I was sure that everything would be alright if that happened.  Now to some extent, I think I was convinced I was controlled by the inclination, that it was 'fixed' and that if I could 'get over it' I'd have an easier time of living chastely.


So often my friends, therapists and a few confessors, told me I had to accept myself.  I had to accept my sexuality.  In good conscience I couldn't in the sense they encouraged me, which would mean living an openly gay life, including sexual acts.  However, that acceptance idea is not all that wrong - especially when outside influences sometimes insist that you are not 'born that way'.  I don't believe I was born that way, but I do know I'm frequently labeled and put into a category of person defined by sexual preference.  Most of you know what I'm saying.

Regardless, self-acceptance is indeed key.  Alcoholics admit they are alcoholic.  Gay/SSA people can admit it as well.  In real life they usually say 'gay'.  If they say they are not, that's fine, but the world doesn't believe that, and many, many religious people still hear 'gay' when someone says, 'SSA'.  That's not so bad though, since one can always boast that one is persecuted.  Don't complain though.

Not long ago, I came across some things I had underlined and noted long ago from the Saying of the Desert Fathers - which can and should speak for itself, although I wrote this long preface to help explain their significance in my experience.  I'll note them, and let the reader think about them.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Ammonas said that for fourteen years in Scetis he had been asking God day and night to give him strength to control his temper.

They said of Sarah that for thirteen years she was fiercely attacked by the demon of lust.  She never prayed that the battle should leave her, but she only used to say, 'Lord, give me strength.'

Poeman said about John the Short that he asked the Lord to take away his passions. So his heart was at rest, and he went to a hermit and said, 'I find I am at peace now, with no war between flesh and spirit'.  The hermit said to him, 'Go and ask the Lord to stire up a new war in you.  Fighting is good for the soul.'  When the conflict revived in him, he no longer prayed for it to be taken away, but said, 'Lord grant me strength to endure this fight'.

Just a note.

What I am proposing is not to ask for temptations - let that alone.  Sometimes we can deceive ourselves, and passively entertain the temptations for the bit of sensual delight they can cause, even while praying the Lord to take them away.  Sometimes we fall because of that.  What I'm saying really is we need to pray for strength, for fortitude - that is courage - to endure and persevere.  "Lord, grant me strength to endure!"

And when you fail - go to confession.

One day the Lord will tell you, "I freed your shoulder from the burden ... you called in distress and I freed you." 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

People disagree with Emeritus Pope Benedict blaming the '60's.

1968 saw revolution across the globe, from France 
to Mexico and Prague to the US.

"Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom." - Benedict XVI

Older Catholics should understand what Benedict was talking about.  Yet many are taking issue with it.  I have a feeling what he had to say is not enough for them, and if it is too much, many will want follow up explanations, they want footnotes and links to documentation to back up his statements.

I left a comment on Fr. James Martin's FB page drawing his attention to Charles Curran as well as the Jesuits who dissented from Catholic teaching on artificial contraception, and in the '70's, Catholic teaching on homosexual behavior and same sex unions.  Reading Benedict's letter, I felt I understood what he was saying and recognized many of his references.  

Actually one man, Charles Curran has been credited with changing Catholic education in the United States.

Did he ever!  How many studied at Catholic U and went on to teach elsewhere?  In seminaries, colleges, high schools and so on.  How many became bishops?  They call it a 'coup' which completely changed Catholic education.
Curran had been clashing with the Vatican over his relatively liberal views on sexual ethics since an event twenty years earlier that Father Peter Mitchell calls “a crucial and defining moment in the history of Catholic identity in the United States.” Mitchell takes readers through this “defining moment” in his new book, “The Coup at Catholic University.” 
As the author explains, Curran was the embodiment of a mentality that was quite prevalent in the late 1960s: “That religious authority was in direct conflict with freedom, that dogma was the enemy of free thinking and that any kind of moral code was somehow hindering people from making free choices.” - Source
I'm astonished that many people seem to forget what the world was like in 1968.

One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children.

Fr. Martin downplays what Pope Benedict wrote, as do others, citing the John Jay Report, yet  Karen Terry of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and principal investigator of the Bishops' study pretty much blames the 1960's as well:
So what does explain the rise in abuse? A major reason, she says, was the 1960s. 
"There's a sexual revolution, there's an increased amount of drug use, there's an increase in crime, there's an increase in things like premarital sex, in divorce," Terry says. "In a number of factors, there's change. And the men who are in the priesthood are affected by these social factors." - Source

So let's not be too quick to dismiss Pope Benedict's letter.  I suggest reading, meditating, reflecting and pondering what he had to say without self-referential cynicism.  How soon people forget the past, which allows the abuse to continue and become legitimized.

Germany's left has its own tales of abuse.
 One of the goals of the German 1968 movement 
was the sexual liberation of children. 
For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, 
creating a climate in which even pedophilia 
was considered progressive.- Source

Ratzinger knew what was going on then, and as Pope Emeritus, he knows of what he speaks now.

Do not dismiss Benedict's claim, "Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate."  Just Google it - there is ample evidence, and in some places, even a link to homosexuality.  The British PIE (Paedophilia Information Exchange) movement sought support from the homosexual movement, just like NAMBLA in the United States was associated with the Gay Rights movement for a time.

The most shocking of all is Germany's Green Party support, which began in the late 1960's:
In the late 1960s, for example, a prominent sexual researcher named Helmut Kentler created a pilot program in which he arranged for illiterate young teenagers to move in with three known West Berlin pedophiles in the hopes that they could then learn to live “proper, unremarkable lives.” In a later report he explained that he believed the “three men would do so much to help ‘their’ boys because they had a sexual relationship with them.” - Source
The Green Party no longer supports paedophilia - but the fact that it could and did publicly is shocking.

Anyway.  Read Benedict's letter, disagree if you want to, but I strongly suggest you do some research on what he has to say.

On a lighter note ... More Crackpot Headlines:

"Catholic Exchange calls communist crank Dorothy Day 'holy,' compares her to Catherine of Siena"

I saw it on Canon212.

I dunno.  It made me laugh.

Actually, I always thought Dorothy Day was more like St. Catherine of Genoa, but I can see a kinship with Catherine of Siena as well.

I think Steve Skojec is going after Frank Walker now, a good sign that Skojec is distancing himself from the extremists.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pope Benedict writes, The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse.

"The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality..."

It is important to note that Benedict wrote "at the invitation of Pope Francis, the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences gathered at the Vatican to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church." [...] "Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text."

I could be wrong about that, but I don't think Benedict was acting in any way to damage Pope Francis nor the work undertaken by the bishops to exact reform.

That said, Benedict traces the origins of the scandal to the cultutal changes in the 1960's, especially as it concerned sexual morality.  He confirms for many of us, things we already knew - he addresses the problems candidly.  I can not help but see agreement between Benedict and Pope Francis, though each man has a different method or style.

Like Pope Francis*, Benedict points to the accuser, mentioned in Scripture, namely the Apocalypse and the Book of Job.  The Accuser is the agent attempting to discredit the Church, to destroy it, to make it apostasize and form a 'new' church.  Benedict writes:
The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us. 
It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. - Letter
I love how Benedict concludes the essay:
"At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!"
Praise God!

One cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church. 
Whom does the office of the accuser belong to? Who is he that the Bible calls the great accuser - the devil! And those who spend their lives accusing are - I won't say children, because the devil doesn't have any - but they the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil. 
Well, when things are not right, one has to report the defects to correct, but when you report the defects, you make known the defects, you love the Church. Without love is something from the devil. - VR

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

No one who comes to me will I ever reject.

Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me. - John 6

I love the readings from John's Gospel for this week.  Today's reading is stunning, because Jesus speaks openly, revealing that he is I AM.  Since Sunday I have been pondering his message of merciful love, when he told the woman caught in adultry, 'neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.'  Jesus came not to condemn, but to save.  This is Truth.  

Yesterday I discovered that Sr. Consolata Betrone has been declared venerable.  She was a Capuchin Poor Clare from Italy, a mystic in the spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux*, to whom our Lord revealed the desires of his Sacred Heart: Confidence and love.  (To learn more about her, go here.)

He stressed his mission to save souls, teaching her a prayer, an act of continual love, "Jesus and Mary I love you, save souls."  He warned against passing judgment, and therefore, condemning others, assuring Consolata that 'no one who comes to him will he ever reject.  "The way my heart feels toward souls: though they be ugly, soiled, filthy, my love considers them always beautiful."

"My parental heart is wounded by every severe judgment, reprimand, or condemnation, even though based upon truth, and how much comfort, on the other hand, is afforded me by every act of compassion, indulgence and mercy?  You must never judge anyone; never say a harsh word against anyone; instead console my Heart, distract me from my sorrow, with eager charity, make me see only the good side of a guilty soul. [...] if you only knew how much I suffer when I must dispense justice!  My Heart needs to be comforted; it wishes to dispense mercy, not justice!" - Jesus Appeals To the World

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. - John 3

I like to read quietly and slowly and rest on the Gospels during Passiontide.  What they reveal about the Sacred Heart is echoed in Jesus' words to his friends, which can help one to understand our times better.  When we find we don't quite 'get it' and in the midst of confusion, we can say, "Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!"  Followed up with "Jesus I trust in you!"

Therefore, how can we doubt, and continually sadden the Holy Spirit and the Heart of Love?  Ven. Consolata helps us find and hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church, in and through that little, yet powerful prayer, "Jesus and Mary, I love you, save souls!" Repeated over and over from the heart, the Heart of Jesus cannot reject.

The readings and the Gospel in these last days of Lent are so important for us, this year especially.  We need to learn from the mistakes of the Apostles, the first bishops, who expected a political coup from Jesus, even though they were told that he must suffer and be rejected.  Today bishops and priests and laity expect the Church to triumph over her enemies, many are like the disciples, ridiculing the failures of the Pope, condemning his actions, his faulty diplomacy, and reluctance to condemn.  Yet that is how Christ himself acted, that is the example Christ gave to his disciples, revealing to us in every event, "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice."

Venerable Consolat Betrone, pray for us.

Do not look to be consoled,
   - rather seek to console.

No one who comes to me will I ever reject.

*Sister Consolata  saw herself as one of the legion of even smaller souls which Saint Therese of Lisieux mentioned in the account her life, Story of A Soul. 

Monday, April 08, 2019

Is sacred art depicting male saints embraced by Christ ...

Amplexus of St. Bernard

If he clings to me in love
I will free him,
Protect him 
for he knows my name.

Homoerotic or not?

I came across that discussion on FB yesterday and left a comment, which was a mistake because I think it was an intellectual discussion over my head - so I removed it.  It involved another discussion on another site, a closed group, so I wasn't informed of what had been discussed.  So how could I contribute intelligibly?

The homoerotic dimension of religious art has often been a topic discussed by Catholics online - especially gay Catholics - even if they are just SSA and chaste and celibate.  Likewise, straight Catholic men strongly object or react to this kind of stuff.  It reminds me of the embedded phallus on the Crucifix of San Damiano story documented by Michael Calace in his film Rape of the Soul, which I wrote about here in 2010.  He claims, "The heavily marketed original San Damiano crucifix that St. Francis of Assisi prayed to and which he said spoke to him, clearly depicts an erect penis with testicles, and has been copied and redistributed throughout the world."  (source)  Calace, touted as an art expert and an experienced Catholic religion teacher stated, "The church continually showcases the previously closeted San Damiano crucifix as a key symbol distinguishing the post Vatican II church, thus standardizing debauchery in the priesthood, while misleading and abusing faithful Catholics who have suffered severely." (source)

Apparently these innovative art-history commentaries are attempting to link the so-called 'embedded  sexual imagery' and the 'homoerotic' dimension of centuries old paintings to the sexual abuse scandal in the Church.  Desperate times call for desperate measures - but don't transfer your personal fears onto ordinary people, and more importantly - on students.  (Calace is referred to as an 'experienced Catholic religion teacher.)

Amplexus of St. Lutgarde

Chaste and pure.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That's what they say, huh?  Truth be told, and something many of us forget, 'what is received is received according to the mode of the receiver'.  Thus when we interpret art or when we seek to  interpret mystical matters, we often do so according to our own bias, way of thinking, or taste - and sometimes we project our fears and prejudices into the debate.  I think many people do that.

As I attempted to say on FB, this is such a complex issue and I agreed with something Melinda Selmys pointed out saying if there is a homoerotic component to some of the art, such as that which depicts the amplexus of certain male saints, it is not pornographic.  What I meant was, if the viewer interprets the scene or emotion in that manner, it is more or less neutral, and personal opinion.  It doesn't lead to lust, or at least it shouldn't.  In fact, it may be the disposition of the beholder, especially in our day, which is the cause of such an apprehension or interpretation.

Nothing to get worked up over, especially for spiritual persons, since in the spiritual life the purgative way purifies and elevates the senses and one moves beyond that.  This stuff needs to be understood supernaturally, me thinks. John of the Cross writes about spiritual lust and 'impure' movements in prayer. So it's not surprising, especially for those who are not 'spiritual'.  (I say that in the sense of 1Cor.2:14 - 'The natural man ...cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually.)  

Doubt of S. Thomas - John Granville Gregory

Jesus, lover of chastity. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, lover of us.  Have mercy on us.

The sensual man is the one who occupies his will with sensory things...

That said, I'm not sure how those concerned Catholics would handle stories of saints such as Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos de Seña - his experience kind of turns the mystical marriage thing on its head, in so far as it mirrors the spiritual nuptials of S. Teresa of Avila.  As for the amplexus theme depicted in the lives of the saints in art, both male and female saints enjoyed this favor, and like the Bernini sculpture depicting the rapture of Teresa, which many liken to the expression typical of orgasm, of course we are going to depict it and view the supernatural event in more or less erotic terms. Thus, when it comes to men, everyone wants to call it homo-erotic.  

Spiritual Marriage of S. Rose of Lima

On the other hand, some saints were
raised to 'transforming union' 
in mystical marriage
with the Divine Infant Jesus.

Yet it is what it is, either in literature, in the Bible, or in art, we face human limitations in depicting the mystical marriage of the soul with Christ.  Yet it is what we are called to, union with Christ in God.  In a sense, the amplexus or embrace of Christ, the probing of the wounds of Christ by the saints is not all that different from the moment Christ took the hand of Thomas, inviting him to place his hand in his side.  Some contemporary artists have represented this in a homoerotic fashion perhaps, but that is an error.  (I'm not suggesting the example shown above is homoerotic.)

Anyway, I've written about this stuff in the past, so I won't spend a lot of time on the subject.  If perchance a person sees it another way, as St. Paul writes, "if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you."  We hope.  There really are contemporary examples of homoeroticism in the manner saints and Biblical figures are depicted in art.  I don't deny or defend that, but I think some of the fine art of the past is interpretted that way according to what we've been exposed to today.   We've lost our way.  As a culture, we are caught up, even blinded by sensuality and lust.   As the Prophet Daniel exclaimed in Today's first reading: 'beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience.'

Fantasy scene from "The Devils"

Unfortunately, this is how some artists 
eroticize and corrupt the meaning
of the amplexus, or embrace of Christ.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Veiling of Images for Passiontide.

I wish.

As a sign-symbol it worked better than all the felt banners, dried branches and rocks, and rough hewen crosses the Liturgical Environment Team could throw at us.  In some churches with really bad modern statues and art, covering them would be an act of mercy.  Just saying.

Something more to offer up.