As a Catholic and a homosexually-oriented man, I am deeply grateful to the Catholic Church for her position on homosexuality and homosexual acts. Catholicism, almost alone among Christendom’s churches, refuses to patronize homosexuals with a watered-down gospel or brutalize them with a message of irredeemable hostility. The Catholic Church loves me and all the men and women like me who live as homosexuals. She looks at us as the adults we are and says that we, too, can cooperate with the Holy Spirit to sanctify our lives and "approach Christian perfection" (CCC 2359). She confidently calls us to sainthood and to the narrow road that will bring us there.
I did not recognize the value of this teaching easily. From the ages of 21 to 28, I lived life as a gay activist, accepting and preaching the message the gay community offers today: Active homosexuality, as long as it is practiced "safely" and in "commitment," is no worse than heterosexual activity under the same guidelines. Scriptural or other moral teachings that argue otherwise are simply out-of-date and were probably authored by "homophobes." No one, least of all a church, had any right to tell me how to live my life, and I speedily went about accumulating the things that made up a "successful" gay life. I took a lover for a long-term relationship, bought a condo, got on the fast-track at work, and vacationed at gay resorts. My friends were gay, my relationship was gay, my workplace was gay-friendly, and my life seemed filled with youth and pleasure. But I was not happy.
My heart tossed restlessly, as Augustine’s had also, and every new pleasure sought brought only sharper pangs. After having so much of what the gay world took for granted, I found it wasn’t enough. In the early spring of my twenty-eighth year I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and began to explore what taking up my cross meant. That exploration led me, with fits and starts, to the Catholic faith, where I have lived, gratefully, ever since.
The Church’s teaching on the homosexual orientation and chastity have been two great liberators on my journey, and it’s appropriate to amplify upon them. Much of the uniqueness of the teaching on homosexual orientation stems from the absence of the determinism that characterizes so many other positions. Men and women with a homosexual orientation are not automatically candidates for either praise (on the grounds of their being "oppressed") or damnation (on account of inherent sinfulness). Like everyone else, they can choose good or evil. This is a teaching filled with respect; it recognizes us as children of God and not mere beasts subject to instinct alone.
The Church’s corollary position, that homosexuals are called to chastity, contributes to this teaching’s unique expression of grace because of what it teaches about love. Contemporary culture is filled with counterfeits to love. We say we "love" food, "love" our pets, "love" the outdoors, "love" our parents and children, and "love" our spouses. But so much of the time we do not love them as much as what they can do for us. We love food for its taste, pets for their companionship, the outdoors for its beauty. And we often bind up our love for parents, children, and spouses with conditions and tinge it with self-interest—particularly if a couple has brought artificial contraceptives into their marital life.
This is clear to me in the contrast between life before committing to chastity and life afterward. When I was homosexually active with my partner, we sometimes would call our sexual acts "making love," but it was not so much love as utility. Each made the other, with his consent, a means to an end. But that is not love, and it contrasts sharply in my experience after committing to chastity.
All of us want, and deserve, to be accepted at a deep emotional level for who we are, not for whether we can fill another’s needs. Paradoxically, this kind of emotional commitment suffers most when sex becomes part of a friendship. Chaste love can be difficult at times, but so can all living in truth. I give thanks to God that the Catholic Church understands this well enough to teach it, and I am grateful for an organization called Courage, which exists to help homosexuals live out this teaching. Over the course of my years in Courage I have made more and deeper friendships than I ever did in all my time actively gay, and I am convinced that the Courage witness will help our culture come to a deeper understanding of the true nature of love.