Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Who Are We To Judge

images6KOROS4GRecently, I was asked to be part of a Catholic Q&A panel along with two priests for an evening of beer, pretzels, and theology. With ingredients like that, it was bound to be a fun evening, and it was. I was honored to be asked to take part, as both priests were faithful and articulate.  The format made for an evening that was as challenging as it was interesting. We had no prep time, as the questions were presented to us with an immediate expected response.  Due to the packed house, we received two hours worth of questions from a very broad spectrum of issues. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Any Q&A involving the teachings of the Catholic Church will soon attract controversy, and after about an hour into the evening, this event was no different. Our moderator drew a question that I knew would be coming: “My son is gay and is happy. Who are you (or the Catholic Church) to say otherwise?” A deafening hush ensued. Everyone’s gaze transfixed on the dais where my clerical colleagues and I were expected to attempt an answer. The question was worded so as to provide no easy escape. How does one question another’s experience without sounding utterly judgmental? The question’s wording implied that no objective moral standard could justly condemn activity that makes for a happy man. Fortunately, I was the last one to reply.

Each priest responded well, I thought, by pointing out that we don’t judge people but acts, and that God wants our happiness, too. He knows best what makes us happy as He is the one who designed us. Therefore, He sets the terms on happiness, not us, and He has condemned homosexual activity outright (see Rom 1: 18-ff, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:10.) These were very good points. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I could go the direction of explaining objective moral norms and the God-given meaning of sex, but needed more time to organize my thoughts so as to answer the question properly. Plus, I knew that I needed to keep my responses brief due to time constraints.  Since the question appealed to human experience as the standard for moral evaluation, I decided to fight fire with fire.

Many years ago, when I was single, I volunteered for 18 months with the Missionaries of Charity at a home for men dying with AIDS, called Seton House. Mother Theresa herself chose Denver, Colorado as the location for this AIDS home, and sent 8 of her sisters to run it. The vast majority of the infected occupants were homosexuals.  I volunteered every Monday night. My job was to stay awake with the men all night while the sisters slept, so that the men could be cared for round the clock. I was basically their mom; I bathed them (bed-ridden patients often lose all track of time so a 3am shower didn’t seem so odd to them,) changed their diapers, fed them, gave them water, held their hands, prayed with them, talked with them, sat with them, shared my life with them, and they shared theirs with me. I formed wonderful friendships with many. I got on up-close and personal look at their life style, and I heard many sad and sordid details that the current media propaganda fed public are not allowed to hear. The lives of so many of these men were immersed in vice. Most struggled with addictions: alcohol, drugs, gambling, and sex. Some had lovers who had yet to contract AIDS, even though the relationship was supposedly monogamous. Many exhibited compulsive behaviors involving their sexuality. Many struggled with honesty, and would often tell a lie even when the truth might serve them better. They all told tales of anguish and dysfunction within their families, especially with regards to their relationship with their fathers.  Many had been sexually abused as an adolescent. I realize this may not be true for every homosexual person, but there was a discernible pattern in the lives of these men that was more than mere coincidence.

I remember several of them telling me that they had never before experienced the kind of love that they received from the sisters.  One of them even made me promise to relay his message to young people as to the dangers of drug use. He blamed his predicament on his cocaine addiction. His homosexual life style was tied to a life of hedonism that grew out of his drug habit.

I shared some of these stories to the crowd that night at the Theology Q&A. I then told them about the beautiful ministries of Courage, a Catholic ministry of healing to homosexual persons, and Desert Stream Ministries, an inter-denominational and international ministry started almost 30 years ago by a former gay activist and current friend of mine who lives in Kansas City and who recently converted to Catholicism, Andrew Comiskey. Each ministry aims at sexual healing for the whole person, and has members who tell a different story of their same-sex lifestyles than this woman’s homosexual son. If we are going to evaluate same-sex choices based on personal experience, I told the crowd, then it seems that we need to hear from all of the voices, voices that are either being ignored or intentionally drowned out by the media. Many of these voices are even attacked and bullied by the gay community because their story doesn’t fit the narrative created by the gay lobby.

When we were finished with our explanation, we received a hearty round of applause. When people hear the Catholic side of the story told with compassion, it speaks to their heart and reveals the truth.

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6 Responses to “Who Are We To Judge”

  1. Bob Matulis says:

    Troy, I appreciate your response to the question and found it accurate and effective.

    I am trying to learn to be more effective in my responses to the issues of the day. Even if I am correct on an issue, what good is it if my argument hardens someone’s heart rather than enlightens it?

    Here is my take on this question:

    Is being “happy” why we are here on earth? Holiness is a far higher calling in life than “happiness”. When Christ picked up the cross for us he wasn’t “happy” but he was sure being loving! True and everlasting happiness can only be found by following God’s will.

    When we pick up our daily crosses and carry them it can be quite difficult – and make us unhappy at the time. For example, cleaning up an accident from a sick child at 3AM does not make me happy. However, the long term joy and happiness from being loving father trumps the difficulties by a long shot. I believe the pursuit of pleasure is akin to lighting paper. It flashes bright and gives off a lot of heat … but only for a short while. On the other hand, faithfully following God’s will and accepting our crosses is like burning embers. The heat the glowing embers provide may not arrive as quickly as the heat from burning paper, but the heat they give is enduring. Just like holiness.

    This applies to all of us including heterosexuals and homosexuals.

  2. Jim says:

    Thank you Troy for your candid article. It’s interesting, my good friend used to be the live-in aid at the same Missionaries of Charity House in Denver. I remember visiting him a few times and was always touched by the humanity there, both in the patients and the sisters. I can relate also to your experience of many people in the homosexual community dealing with past issues. I worked at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, where I was one of three straight men in the whole place. It was wonderful to get to know other men and women struggling with SSA and be in dialogue with them about the Church’s real teachings on the issues. But I agree, many of them dealt with alcoholism, had abusive pasts, etc. The humanity I saw made me realize how much we need to pray for those dealing with SSA. They have crosses to bear much like we do, so in the end we’re all struggling towards happiness. And at the end of the day true happiness consists in holiness.

  3. Stephanie says:

    An alternate explanation for the misery you witnessed is that these men were ostracized and never able to live their lives openly and be true to themselves. I find the theological arguments against homosexuality more compelling, but they require a mature faith to accept, and community faith is weak these days. The gay lobby may be wrong, but I don’t doubt that they consider themselves to be compassionate.

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      Stephanie, thank you for your comment. I have four problems with your assertion. 1.) The men mentioned in my article were very open about their sexual life style, lived comfortably in their communities, and were very true to acting on these choices. That’s why they were at Seton House. 2.) Gays have received nothing but approval, support, and acceptance from the media and public for at least 15 years, but still exhibit anguish mentioned in my article. 3.) I am a white, middle-class, pro-life Catholic, and left-handed to boot! None of the things that make me who I am and matter most receive public approbation, and are often attacked openly. I am not in anguish, however. 4.) The constant message I have always heard is to avoid forming an opinion of myself based on what others think; instead, form it based on why I think and what I know to be the truth. This message is applicable to every person, homosexual or otherwise.

  4. Derek says:

    Thanks, Troy. It is clear that you were led by the Spirit in that response. As teachers, we must recall often that questions arising from an emotional and experiential place deserve only a response that identifies truth through experience. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  5. Ross says:

    Excellent article. I enjoyed it and thought your response to the ‘gotcha’ question was provided by the Holy Spirit because it does give a fuller picture of the challenge facing people with same sex attraction.

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