Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Testimony of Courage and Grace: "In Finding Myself, I Found God and My Voice"

There's a very beautiful and powerful op-ed in today's Star Tribune by Chad OLeary in response to what's been called the "soft bigotry" of Roman Catholic priest James Livingston's recent piece entitled "Some People Can Pray Away the Gay."

I challenge anyone to read Chad's heartfelt response and seriously suggest that actual gay people (and others who have moved past the impoverished teachings of the Vatican), experience their sexual orientation as a reality somehow separate from themselves as persons; or that such a deep and complex reality can be reduced to certain sex acts. Such a hard line distinction and juvenile fixation on "acts" is totally divorced from both the reality of people's lives and what science tells us about sexual orientation. And as Chad says, it tells us far more about the clerical caste of the church than it does about sexual orientation. I long for the day when this clerical caste gets over its own sexual hang-ups, it's own "unhealed wound," and opens itself to the beauty, wisdom, and truth of LGBT lives and relationships. Until then, we have to keep encouraging and sharing stories like Chad's. That's how the church, the people of God, will continue to grow and change in love and acceptance.

Following is Chad's op-ed in its entirety.


Trying to Pray Away the Gay
Sets One Up to Fail

By Chad OLeary

Star Tribune
September 19, 2011

I would like to thank the Star Tribune for printing the Rev. James Livingston's commentary ("Some people can make the gay go away," Sept. 12). I think that it sheds more light on the state of the Catholic Church than it does about same-sex attraction.

To say the least, I am very skeptical of Livingston's claims. I wish that he would have provided insight into the techniques he uses, solid statistics about the "successes" he sees, and the quality of life for these men and women after having graduated from such therapies.

I would respectfully suggest that the Catholic Church look within if it is serious about sexual wholeness. After growing up Catholic and attending an undergraduate and graduate school with a seminary, I can say that it is hard to build credibility when many within the ranks of church leadership are running from some question of sexuality in their life.

I would also respectfully request that the church consider what it is truly saying by offering a reparative ministry.

I was tormented as a teen because of my perceived homosexual traits. While the flying punches bruised my body, the sense of disorder presented to me by my church wounded my soul. I was told that the church loved me as long as I changed the core of who I was. This lead me to kneel on rocks while praying novenas until my knees bled, and I was even told by one priest in the confessional to drink eight ounces of holy water once per day.

Being told that I could "pray it away" set me up for what I could least afford: failure. I considered myself a failure in the eyes of God and, at the age of 14, sat with a bottle of aspirin by my bed considering ending it all.

After seven years of youth ministry within the Catholic Church, I know firsthand that there are teens on the brink of ending it all, who see themselves as disgusting anomalies for wanting to love someone of the same sex and build a family with that person. I think that perpetuating this self-loathing is the epitome of sin.

It was in seeing these kids suffer the way that I did that led me to the painful decision to leave the Catholic Church. Livingston makes it clear why I do not have a home in the Catholic Church unless, essentially, I admit that God made a mistake. I have more trust in the Holy Spirit than that.

In finding myself, I found God and my voice. I am a very proud gay man with a deep spirituality that no one can take away from me. I have a partner whom I love greatly, and God is at the center of our relationship. It took many years, but I am so glad that I couldn't pray the gay away.

And to young Catholics out there: It gets better.

Chad OLeary lives in St. Paul.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"
Soft Bigotry
More on the “Soft Bigotry” of Fr. James Livingston’s Recent Op-Ed


bobfett11 said...

So how is the Church making things better for young gay Catholics? It seems to me like there is at best a policy of benign neglect.


colkoch said...

I've always wanted to do a study of these reparative therapies to find out what the numbers of 'successful' graduates are versus the number of suicides. It would not surprise me if the suicide rate was higher because as Chad O'Leary points out, for a devout Catholic this 'pray the gay away' is a set up for failure.

Anthony Venn-Brown said...

beautifully written simple heartfelt letter. Chad is a wonderful ambassador for our community.

Anonymous said...

Chad writes with great respect -- I just feel enraged that a fellow priest should write such callous, smug, pharisaical tripe
Joe O'Leary