Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"

In a powerful op-ed in today's Star Tribune Ron Bates documents his journey growing up Catholic and gay.

I have to say that I believe it's the sharing of these types of stories that have the greatest impact on people's views on homosexuality and marriage equality. They're definitely
changing hearts and minds. And to be sure, they are testimonies of courage and grace, and sharing them requires a brave vulnerability.

I mean, it's risky being that honest, and scary acknowledging to others the struggle, pain and missteps of one's journey to authenticity. But it's worth it.

I truly believe that the vast majority of people relate and respond positively to such vulnerability and honesty. Such qualities transcend sexual orientation. We all have to struggle in some way against forces that attempt to discount, belittle and/or deny aspects of our humanity. And people are making the connections:
any type of discrimination is wrong; we all require self-acceptance and love to flourish.

Which brings me to another important point: the ability to say: "This is the way God made me and it is good!" is the most basic difference between being "gay" and being, in the words of the Vatican, "same-sex attracted." The profound damage, the spiritual violence, that is done to people when they are instructed to deny this ability to accept themselves, to love another sexually, and thus to grow and flourish as human becomings, is truly tragic. It's also a scandal, to be sure.

So, yes, I definitely recommend you read Ron's piece in its entirety. Following are those sections of it that most resonate with me.


Born in rural Minnesota and raised on a dairy farm, I grew up in a devout Catholic family.

While attending St. John's Prep School in Collegeville, I confessed to a priest that I was attracted to another boy who slept across from me. The priest responded that if I ever acted on that, I would go to hell.

As a sincere Catholic teen, I did not act on my attraction but started a harmful journey of self-loathing and personal destruction. I didn't know what "homosexual" or "gay" were, but I understand "queer" and thought it was evil and perverted.

. . . For years and years, I would prostrate myself on the floor and ask God to change me. Maybe if I just pray more, fast more, do more "works of charity," the male attraction will go away.

After more than 30 years of trying to "burn" the evil out of me, I finally came out at age fifty four. God finally broke through to my heart of hearts and said, "I love you just as you are. You are praying for healing, but you are not sick!"

Our God does not change. God is God always. And God was with me always. After all the self-hatred and foibles of life, God was still there waiting for me.

At that moment, the shame and guilt I had felt for years left – once and for always. If Pope Benedict had been standing right there to tell me I was "disordered," I would have said to him, "You are wrong. God made me and loves me just as I am." . . .

– Ron Bates
"Growing Up Catholic and Gay in Minnesota"
Star Tribune
August 31, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Getting It Right
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Forms of Courage
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men – A Discussion Guide
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
The Challenge to Be Ourselves

Image: Artist unknown. (But I chose to entitle this work "Courage and Grace"!)


Mareczku said...

Another excellent commentary. Thanks.

Joan said...

Excellent, Michael. Thanks for sharing it.