Hang Together

Hang Together

Somebody asked me the other day why Adoration is the one thing I can hold on to.

Context for the question: I’m a hot mess. Without going into specifics, celibacy1 has not been exactly my forte lately. There was a guy,2 and now there isn’t. And although in some ways it ended extremely well, and although a decade and a half of now done darkness3 taught me how to keep a pretty even keel, there’s a hole in my life now, and the hole bleeds.

Celibacy never quite felt like a gift; or anyway, that’s not how I remember it. It feels good to tell yourself that celibacy is a gift, because that makes up for the wrongness of it. It feels good to say, Well, I’ve been denied one thing, but I’ve been given another. Whether I ever actually felt this way, I can’t be sure. I do know that I sometimes pretended to.

On good days or good months, celibacy felt like a calling. Now it feels like a waste, a shame, like something unnatural. Like something — to make a kind of mean joke that my fellow Catholic celigays will get — disordered.

Catholicism isn’t my favorite thing right now. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. But I absolutely can’t get rid of it. I’ve walked up to the ledge more than once, seeing if I could chuck it over, but I’ve kept finding that if it goes over the ledge, I go with it. It’s my center of gravity. Or, to shift the image, it’s got its hooks in so deep that if I tore it out, I don’t know what would be left of me. It’s not too late to find out, of course. But the thought terrifies me.

But still, I keep finding myself at Adoration. No, that’s giving myself too little credit. I go to Adoration, on purpose. I try to make it through half an hour. I sit, I journal, I read, I seethe, I mutter, I cry, I sometimes even try to be quiet and listen. I can hardly stand to crack open a Bible, I’m just so damn angry. But I can sit.

Listen, I could just go be another kind of Christian. If you want to be a Christian and marry a man, you’ve got options, and more of them every day. What does Catholicism have that thousands of other denominations don’t?

I’ll tell you. The Eucharist. It’s that simple. Where, to whom else3, am I going to go for that?

I feel safe in front of the Blessed Sacrament. To be clear, when I say “safe” I don’t mean “at peace” or “comfortable” or “content” or “optimistic”. No, just that: safe. Safe to feel what I’m feeling, safe to not pretend to be feeling anything else. Safe to be honest. Or maybe it is peace: the kind Jesus meant when he said Not as the world gives do I give you peace. If this is what’s called peace, it’s a funny name for it.

A gay priest told me recently that he sat down in front of the monstrance once and, even though it was habit to say “Jesus, I love you”, found that he couldn’t say it. He didn’t mean it. So instead he said “Jesus, I don’t love you.” He said the same thing every time he sat in front of the Sacrament for the next year and a half. Jesus, I don’t love you. It’s a very good prayer. And after a while, he didn’t have to say it anymore, because it wasn’t true anymore.

This is my prayer at Adoration. Jesus, I’m angry at you. Jesus, I don’t trust you. Jesus, I don’t even know if you like me, and I don’t know if I like you. Jesus, I don’t know who you are.

It’s a good prayer. Maybe it’s not as good as “Jesus, I love you” and “Jesus, I trust you”, but it’s better than saying those things and knowing that, secretly, you don’t mean them at all. That you can’t even imagine what it would be like to mean them. Better honest rage and honest hurt than feigned love. Feigned love always turns to resentment in the end.

I don’t know why I believe in the Real Presence. And I don’t believe in it, not always. That belief flickers in my heart like a lamp with a loose wire. But I believe in it as much as I believe in anything that I can’t see. I believe in it as much as I believe that love is at foundation of the universe; that love is the final reality.

But there’s no reason to believe in the Real Presence if I don’t believe in the Church. And that’s why I do believe that the Church teaches the truth, that she can’t stop teaching the truth, sort of the same way I can’t stop believing her. She has the truth in her heart, and she can’t tear it out, no matter how rotten she becomes with hypocrites and parasites and mediocrities.

It’s a curse and a blessing, this infallibility. If she teaches the truth, we get the good parts along with the unpleasant parts. The comfort and the wonder and the majesty, right along with the parts we don’t want to hear. We get her teachings on sexuality — which, listen, don’t try to tell me those are the good parts, not right now, it’s just not the time — but we also get the Blessed Sacrament.

If the Church is so vocally, definitively, insistently wrong about something as big as human sexuality, then there’s no reason the Church should be right about anything else, or at least no more frequently right than anybody else. If the Church isn’t infallible, then she’s just one among thousands of Christian Churches, good in some ways, bad in others; right for some people, wrong for others.

Sure, she’s got some good art and some stirring music and some quaint ceremonies: blah, blah, blah. So do the Hindus, so do the atheists, so did the Dionysian Mystery Cult, probably. You can find that stuff anywhere there are humans. Maybe the Catholic stuff is better than the other stuff, maybe it isn’t. That’s not the point.

If I follow the teaching of the Church except when I dislike it, if I follow it only when it makes sense to me — if I decide to believe in this doctrine but not in that one — then either I’ve picked the wrong church, or I’m not following Jesus at all. I’m only following myself.

It all hangs together, or it all falls apart.

1 Or, more strictly, continence. The one where you don’t have sex.
2 Actually, in the interest of honesty, a bunch of guys, but only one of them was The Guy.
3 See Carrion Comfort.
4 See John 6:68.

71 Comments on “Hang Together”

  1. Becca says:

    This is heart wrenchingly authentic.

  2. Joe says:

    If we all could be so honest…

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty.

  4. Rose says:

    Thank you for your amazing transparency. I prayed those prayers, too. For years. Actually I would go to Confession to confess that I wasn’t at all sorry. But eventually I was. And eventually I fell deeply in love. He was waiting for me.

  5. Ken Skelton says:

    Your prayer is the prayer many of us have, thank you for daring to share these words. The truth can be ugly, but Christ can handle it. Prayers for you and your continuing journey.

  6. Irena says:

    This is so beautiful and raw and heartbreaking.. Thank you for being willing to share your struggles with such honesty…You are in our prayers!

  7. Molly says:

    I’ve been following you for a few years, and I’m an alcoholic and sex addict in recovery. Thank you for this

  8. Terence Campolieti says:

    What an amazingly beautiful and completely honest article! I needed to read this at this moment in my life. Bookmarked. God bless. Pray for me as I will for you. ❤

  9. LeeAnne says:

    Anyone with a heart reading this would wish to take away your suffering, but of course can’t. So, instead, I’ll send much love to you during your suffering.

  10. Ellen says:

    You’re amazing. And so, so honest.

  11. Don Yarvice says:

    You don’t know how happy I am to read this – I thought nobody else felt that way but me. I read many other blogs that make it sound so easy. It’s refreshing to know someone else feels the same way I do.

  12. Maura says:

    “That belief flickers in my heart like a lamp with a loose wire. But I believe in it as much as I believe in anything that I can’t see. I believe in it as much as I believe that love is at the foundation of the universe; that love is the final reality.”

    This is gorgeous writing. I will pray for you, even in the midst of my own doubt whether prayer does anything. Thanks for your honesty and I hope that your suffering will become more bearable.

  13. A. Reader says:

    “Jesus, I’m angry at you. Jesus, I don’t trust you. Jesus, I don’t even know if you like me, and I don’t know if I like you.”

    At times I have complained in much the same words, especially the “I don’t even know if you like me”! Adoration helps. The silence gives me focus, a voice.

    Much of my twenties has been spent swinging between continence and, well, it’s opposite. One month I was saintly and virtuous, enjoying the freedom and responsibility of the gift of celibacy. Next month I was on the slippery slope into internet misuse and masturbation, and subsequently having to muster the courage, amid guilt and confusion, to approach Confession.

    After basically a decade of to-ing and fro-ing like this, the realization dawned on me that all these conflicts came down to one awkward and challenging question: “In the final reckoning, who do I love more: Jesus or a potential partner/boyfriend/husband/whatever?” There was only one way I could answer this ultimatum, excruciating as it was.

    Like you, I couldn’t go church shopping. Catholicism has the Eucharist, the Real Presence. Its doctrines are stubbornly consistent, which has been one of its greatest assets and biggest obstacles to me. Unlike protestant churches and modern social sciences, which are only centuries or decades old, respectively, Catholic thinkers have been analyzing human behavior for millennia. So even the Church’s most uncomfortable doctrines contain the salve of truth, matured through centuries of observation and reasoning. Knowing that the Church’s reasoning pre-existed my experience, and that it will also outlive it (unless I’m still around for the Second Coming), is little comfort. But still. In more difficult moments it can be reassuring to know this.

    None of this has miraculously altered anything. Some men are still really hot! But it has helped me to accept what I can’t change and to move on to a great extent from painstakingly over-analyzing the whole gay and Christian thing.

    I will pray for you!

  14. Christine says:

    I prayed for you in adoration today. I’m a teacher and bring my theology classes, so that was four times of adoration with you as a major intention.

    Once again, you write in such a way that your own experience portrays something that so many others can relate to, even if we struggle in different ways and with different teachings. When I was in college, I was depressed and suicidal for a long time. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would let me die and have it not be my fault. I was disappointed every time I crossed the street and a bus stopped at the crosswalk instead of running me over. Given that God wasn’t letting me die, the thing I wanted most in the world was to be able to kill myself, but I believed my Catholic faith so I couldn’t. Even when I wanted to stop believing I couldn’t. For years, even after I stopped being suicidal, I resented my faith for preventing me from killing myself. For a long time, I wasn’t suicidal but wished I had killed myself “when I had the chance” (I don’t know what that means but I thought about it in those terms). I knew the Church was right, and at some level I even understood why, but I was angry that I wasn’t able to do what I most wanted to do because I had chosen my faith instead. 10 years after the depression started, I’m now very grateful for my faith, and very grateful that I didn’t kill myself. It took a lot of time, and even more grace. Even if it takes a long time, I hope you’ll get to a place of peace even when your faith prevents you from doing what you want to do more than you want almost anything else. It’s a hard place to get to, but a great place to be.

    And I don’t want this to come across as holier-than-thou (any peace and gratitude I have now is was certainly not gained due to my own virtue) or as if I’m saying “I can totally understand” because your situation is so different (after all, being suicidal was not part of my identity like being gay is part of yours). I don’t even know if what I’ve said is helpful or hurtful. I hope it’s not hurtful. That part of your post just resonated with me so much, and I wanted to let you know that.

      1. Nicholas Bradshaw says:

        Let me be simple- I think perhaps you should spend a little time with Our Blessed Mother, Talk with Her.

  15. Dawn says:

    ❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼 Thank you.

  16. Micaela says:

    “It all hangs together, or it all falls apart.”

    That statement is as true as anything I’ve ever read about the Church. I’ve had that thought before, but never been able to articulate it as such. You’ll be in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.

  17. Angelique says:

    An interesting thing happened this week. I listened to a priest share his authentic sufferings with his vocation, and I, a wife and mother of 5 felt I completely could relate. I again felt that reading this. Different vocations, different paths, but ultimately trying for the same destination.

    Thank you for making me feel a little less alone.

  18. Tiffany says:

    I’m so thankful for your candor and insistence on logic/reason even when it seems to damn us from the pleasures we feel so authentically drawn to. As a drunk (and this parallel I so deeply hope isn’t taken too strictly), I must only preserve myself from the first drink. More correctly, seek that preservation from God because I don’t always even desire the solution. But! I can do the footwork. K matter how I feel about it. I do grieve, occasionally, longing for my ‘real self’, the familiarity of my passions and the recklessness I wish was still available to me. (It has been 18 years. Exactly half my life…)

    In my experience, the carefree elements are never really returning. I can persevere in a life without chemical oblivion (not the same as longing for human union, please forgive my clumsiness here) because I’ve decided that the price is too high. In recovery I was taught that we can have anythjng we want in this life, if willing to pay the price? I can now fast forward through any notion of a drink to the effects, and just for today I prefer to avoid them.

    You’re becoming a saint. That threatens the other side, and our Enemy will use every illusion to weaken our resolve. I pray for you the same thing I ask for myself: submission to God’s will. I can only really hope to be as brave/vulnerable as you’re willing to be publicly — thanks for writing!

      1. Tiffany says:

        Certainly. And thank you for the reminder that the Eucharist contains all creative hidden power in the universe. Our perception is almost unreliable! I’m touched by your devotion to the Truth, at such a painstaking price. Pretty badass, really.

  19. John Musselman says:

    Your last line reminds me of the Orthodox priest I met in Raleigh — born and bred an evangelical — who told me that for him it’s either Orthodoxy or atheism.

  20. Sister S says:


    Nothing is permanent in itself. Death is not permanent. We look forward to the resurrection. It’s hard being celibate in a culture that not just values sex or marriage, but idolizes them, worships them.

    Christianity never idolized marriage, but saw it as a covenant that points to the lasting union of Christ and the church, where transformation and sanctification takes place. As a preparation to live out the total self-gift of the Trinity.

    The vows were never meant to be an end in themselves, but a way forward towards the kingdom of God.

    Remember. God alone fulfills.

  21. Wow. Thank you so much for your honesty. As a straight woman I relate–no really, I do. I would never be so brave to say (or type) this aloud, but I’m glad you are brave enough. I’m glad you are real enough. Thank you for being vulnerable. I get you. I will pray for you.

  22. B says:

    You break my heart Joe. I was celibate for half of my 20s, my entire 30s, and half of my 40s. But what I thought was was virtue turned out to be deprivation. No intimacy, no affection, no touch. Now I am happy for the first time in my life with a strong, attentive and guileless man. But even so, as much as my man and I rejoice to have found other, the Lord remains the most beautiful lover I can ever hope to have, and one day we will run into his arms and he will hold Dave and me close forever. He is the only one who knows me,and he suffuses me with beauty and awe and can’t wait to shine on with him, showering each other with ineffable love. What I used to understand as longing is nothing compared to my growing longing that I will one day abide forever in the center of the sacred heart.

      1. Laurie says:

        Thank you for sharing!

    1. Sergio says:

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  23. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your experiences. Your words remind me of something one of my church’s leaders said:

    “Because for us, like Christ, these temptations are far more tantalizing in their nature than the more hostile versions pursued by barbarians, let me comment briefly on them.

    ‘If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.’

    Whatever else Satan may do, he will certainly appeal to our appetites. Far better to play on natural, acknowledged needs than struggle to plant in us artificial ones. Here Jesus experiences the real and very understandable hunger for food by which he must sustain his mortal life. We would not deny anyone this relief, certainly we would not deny the Son of Man. Israel had its manna in the wilderness. This is Israel’s God. He has fasted for forty days and forty nights. Why not eat? He seems ready to break his fast, or surely must soon. Why not simply turn the stones to bread and eat?

    The temptation is not in the eating. He has eaten before, he will soon eat again, he must eat for the rest of his mortal life. The temptation, at least the part I wish to focus on, is to do it this way, to get his bread—his physical satisfaction, relief for his human appetite—the easy way, by abuse of power and without a willingness to wait for the right time and the right way. It is the temptation to be the convenient Messiah. Why do things the hard way? Why walk to the shop—or bakery? Why travel all the way home? Why deny yourself satisfaction when with ever such a slight compromise you might enjoy this much-needed nourishment? But Christ will not ask selfishly for unearned bread. He will postpone gratification, indefinitely if necessary, rather than appease appetite—even ravenous appetite—with what is not his.

    Sexual expression is also a high and holy physical gratification we were designed and created to enjoy. It is as natural as it is appealing. It is given of God to make us like God. But it is not ours without price. Not instantly. Not conveniently. Not with cozy corruption of eternal powers. It is to be earned, over time, and with discipline. It, like every good thing, is God’s right to bestow, not Satan’s. When faced with that inherent appetite, a disciple of Christ must be willing to say, “Yes, but not this way.” In time, with love, after marriage. The right and proper and sanctified physical relationship of a man and a woman is as much a part—indeed more a part—of God’s plan for us than is the eating of our daily bread. But there is no convenient Messiah. Salvation comes only through discipline and sacrifice.”

    The Lord will bless you for your integrity and example. Hang on for us!

    1. Thank you for this reflection. I don’t think it’s entirely relevant, though, for someone who seems to have no other licit option but to be continent, or at least attemptedly continent, for his entire life. As an argument against casual sexual connections, I think it works rather well, though.

      1. Anonymous says:

        The commenter’s observations are relevant. Imagine if you will, a couple in which one spouse can no longer engage in conjugal relations. The other spouse has no physical limitations in this area. Continence is the only licit option for the rest of their life because the covenant of marriage is binding.

        1. Yup, that’d be relevant, but it wasn’t what the commenter was talking about.

  24. abc says:

    Honesty is duly noted and appreciated. Sadly you’re, once again, a proof of failure of all those “orthodox Catholic” gays. I’d venture and claim it’s about all gays trying to fit into the Church – whether they’re “orthodox” or “liberal”. Sooner, or later you’ll leave, because ultimately you desire something forbidden by the Church. I know it and you know it too. You try to dress your struggle as some kind of a “heroic act”, but in reality you made a choice some time ago. You don’t have courage to fully embrace it yet.
    I haven’t been here for quite some time, but have to be honest – I have never bought what you tried to sell as a “Catholic miracle.” It may hurt you, but it seemed pretty phony to me from the moment you started floating around the Catholic blogosphere. Some Catholics tried to make you feel better about yourself and themselves in this process as well.

    1. I’m not sure what choice you think I’ve made — the choice to embrace my sexual orientation? the choice to embrace the Catholic church? something else? — or what “Catholic miracle” you’re referring to; it’s certainly not a phrase that I remember using. In any case, I can’t take an accusation of cowardice or phoniness very seriously from someone who gives a fake name and a fake email address.

      Mine is on the “About” page if you feel like dropping me a line.

      1. abc says:

        I may send you an email, why not?

        It doesn’t matter what my nickname or email address here is. You don’t think I wouldn’t tell you, what I wrote here, in your face, do you? Believe me, you’d be in for a big surprise. You seem to be a nice guy, and I won’t be mean to you.
        You were “marketing” yourself and were “marketed” by Catholic media as an example of tranformative power of God’s grace. You went through a tranformation for sure. From a struggling, humble Catholic to a leftie, gay hipster. And no, I think you truly believed what you claimed to believe at that time, but life is what it is, and everything has been verified. You knew you couldn’t reconcile two different world, and yet you tried and failed miserably. You’re a good man fighting wrong fight. I can safely assume that your mental problems come from, to a large extent, from trying to be Catholic and gay at the same time.
        What “choice” you ask? When you decided to come out, you’ve made this decision to give up on Catholicism. Not instantly, but gradually. I’m not a gambler, but I’m pretty sure and could bet on it, that you’ll soon be publishing public statement on why you’re leaving, decrying homophobia, hate and whatever you can come up with.

        1. It’s funny, but after two comments by you, I’m still having a difficult time telling whether you’re someone who hates Catholicism, or someone who hates homosexuality.

          1. abc says:

            Hate? How did you come up with hate? I’m Catholic and don’t hate Catholicism, nor homosexuality in general, or you in particular. Try something else. Instead of refuting anything, you make it personal, even though I don’t know you in person. From my web search it seems that’s what you and your allies always do attack the person, like in the case of deacon Jim Russell who dared to criticize you; he substantiated his claims pretty well, but he still was attacked personally.

            And as I wrote, will try to drop a line or two by email.

          2. Okay! You’re welcome to email. It probably won’t be very edifying for us to continue the conversation here in the combox — somehow combox conversations never seem to be edifying — so I’ll leave it at that.

    2. Tiffany says:

      What would be the miracle, exactly? The promise that we can rise above and love chastity more than our desires? If so, sign me (rad trad Mother of six with all kinds of slutty tendencies at my core ~ tendencies which I’ve pursued inside and outside of my marriage, but have left me bereft of true union every time) up! Do you reject the glamor of evil? Empty promises? I must come to the end of my own power every time before submitting to God’s will in my life. But He delivers.

    3. Kris says:

      Hey abc, I think that was pretty heartless of you to write. Confession exists as each of us falls and struggles and that reliance on God may be difficult, but it is this suffering that helps foster a yearning for God and to be in relation with Him. God called Joseph to struggle in the ways he writes so eloquently and his blog has opened my heart and mind to a dimension of suffering that I never would have had access to. Suffering is our universal language and understanding each other’s struggles develops love. It is odd to say, but following Joseph for years online, I feel like I know him personally like a lifelong friend as his writing is so raw and honest. His fervor for the Church as an Orthodox Catholic is laudworthy and even if he were to one day fall away, which I highly doubt, I wouldnt take it against him and pray for his return.

      1. abc says:

        Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t heartless. It’s a matter of a subjective perspective. I know what Confession is and what it is for, but I think that this issue goes deeper than this. You can pretend that something isn’t what it really is for so long. Finally, you won’t be able to hide from the truth any longer. And I’m pretty sure that our host is finally realizing this eternal truth.
        It’s true that suffering is to an extent universal, but ultimately it’s pretty intimate and we have no access, as we’re not others but only ourselves, to other’s inner realm. Obviously he’s struggling and in no way should I diminish his struggle, but at the same time we should be honest about it as well. It’s all fine and dandy when you have your own family, when you have someone to love. You may be going through hell, but at least there’s someone for you to rely on. And what about those who are single? If you’re straight, well there’s always hope for you, but if you’re not? Orthodoxy can help you only that much, but sadly it won’t offer you much needed support, warmth of human touch, or kind words. Occassionally, you may get that from others, but what about your daily life?

  25. Mim says:

    “Celibacy never quite felt like a gift; or anyway, that’s not how I remember it. It feels good to tell yourself that celibacy is a gift, because that makes up for the wrongness of it. It feels good to say, Well, I’ve been denied one thing, but I’ve been given another. ”

    Oh man. This…this is so true.
    Trying celibacy for real after not bothering is really damn hard. I’ve got a lifetime of “Chastity! It’s THE BEST! Yay!!!!” behind a period of not giving a damn because, well, sex feels good…and then a wake up call.

    Thank you for your honesty. Because it makes me feel like maybe- just maybe- struggling doesn’t have to mean I’m a bad catholic. Struggling and failing and going to confession weekly-bi weekly even!- with the same stupid things doesn’t have to mean I’m a bad catholic. Sitting at home over a cold cup of tea angry at God because everything…doesn’t have to mean I’m a bad catholic. Admitting that, yup, I’m not straight (despite all outward appearances) doesn’t make me a bad catholic.

    I’m not glad you have holes and wounds and hurt.
    But I am glad you share that.

  26. abc says:

    Have nothing against discussions in comboxes, but also nothing against email discussions. An email has already been sent as promised.

  27. Melissa says:

    You and your sister are at this point the only Catholic writers I retain respect for – because you’re willing to be so painfully honest. Thank you for sharing.

  28. Martin says:

    This is exactly what I feel in the depth of my heart. I’ve been sitting in front of a broken mug that is my heart, shattered into a myriad of pieces, and can’t move any further. Perhaps your way is the way to go. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so glad that you’re around. Take care.

  29. R says:

    Thanks for this, Joey. Last time I read it I really needed to hear it, and then I totally forgot about it, and what do you know, today I needed to hear it again. I remember my mother pointed out that line “to whom else shall we go?” as being so crucial when nothing else makes sense. Right now it just doesn’t make sense to me that God could possibly exist, or exist and be good. But of course if He does, then everything else follows logically from that. And like you describe so well, I’m too scared to throw away my belief in him and see what happens.

    1. I love you, my dear, and we will both get through this hard time! I’ll see you soon.

  30. Marci says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    For some reason it reminded me of when I was struggling to accept the church’s teachings on homosexuality a few years back. I always had a devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. I never doubted that, but on one particular occasion in front of the Blessed Sacrament I had an indescribable intense feeling and knowledge of God’s presence in the host and his complete omnipotence. It only lasted a few seconds because the experience was so incredibly overwhelming I probably could not have handled any more! In that moment he confirmed to me that he is the Alpha and the Omega–and truly present in the host.

    I had no idea why God gave me that experience–I had never doubted his presence in the Eucharist–but it led me to the thought that Wow! The church is right in her teaching on the Eucharist. And if she’s right about that–and, truly, what a CRAZY thing to be right about–then she’s right about all she teaches–including sexuality (which is far easier to understand than the Eucharist).

    Whenever I have doubts about anything I stay with the church beause of the Eucharist. Where else would I go?

    Please hang in there! Living chastely is hard–seemingly impossibly sometimes–for most every person on Earth–gay, straight, single, and married. We’re all together in this! God bless and keep you!

  31. Josee says:

    I went to Mass this morning and finished with a rosary for your intentions and those that struggle with this particular desire. It haunts me though. My son has come out, and it has been very difficult for me. Your statement has aroused a great sense of compassion for the suffering experienced with same sex attraction, the longing for companionship. I am also in awe of your recognition of the great gift of the Eucharist which I interpret as a consolation for your fortification. I wish I could relieve this suffering. What a sorry thing I am that someone as beautiful as you would have to witness to this in order for my heart to be stirred. Please read Fr Barron’s reflection for the 13th day of Advent. “The season of Advent reminds us that God sometimes completes his will only after a long period of time. So, like Abraham, we wait.”

    1. Thank you very much for your prayers! I will say a prayer for you and your son.

  32. Joe hoare says:

    I think we must pray for each other deeply and regularly. Never forget that the state of celibacy is requested of all hetrosexual people when not married.
    There are also many people who live single lives not through their own choice, not all are born sexually attractive or have the ability to attract others.
    We live in a World now that is hyper sexualised ,kids are now exposed to things that previous generations would be appalled by.Sexual gratification in every form
    Is now seen as a right and acceptable even among some Christians ,
    To be blunt ,we are in a battle probably one of the biggest battles in the worlds history.As such Christ is asking us to bear witness, be humble like little children and let him lead us, sometimes even when we are blind and just have to trust.
    We have a calling and are being asked to be brave he never said it would be easy but the rewards will be immeasurable .its time to take up our crosses and lead by example without too much introspection, time is short and there is much to do, people to help and souls to save .by offering our sufferings for others we can achieve much. It’s not all misery ,there is also joy.
    Apologies for being so preachy ! Please pray for me
    P.s Our Lady never fails

  33. Daniel says:

    I get together with a few other guys to pray the rosary every couple of months. We’re all Catholic gay men (with a good proportion of Italian heritage and bits of Irish or Mexican thrown in there). We’re each at different places with our sexuality, but we know that the Catholic Church is the church Christ founded and she is the steward of the Truth. Too often we look for windows in our theology because we’re afraid to go through the door, but perhaps that’s because we know there are windows in every house, or is it our own concupiscence? in the end, I would plead for you to cling to Him. Cling to Him, and ask His mother to comfort you. I don’t want you to lose your faith, it’s more important than your failings, real or otherwise. For us Catholics, and really for all humanity, to love is to will the good of the other. I want that for you. Merry Christmas.

  34. Grace says:

    Thank you for your very honest post. I’m so frightened right now. My husband sent an article written by you to my email inbox. With little digging, I found your blog. What you write here is so terrifying to me. My husband has been searching diligently for help for our 12 year old son. I, on the other hand, want all of this to go away. Parenting has a lot of challenges, but this is one I don’t want. I’ve never even wanted to put myself in the shoes of my son to even think about what he’s going through. Our son is so distraught at times and goes to confession sometimes weekly and biweekly. My husband takes him and talks to him and prays for him. I pray for him, but I resent having to take him to confession because I don’t want to admit what he does. I also don’t pray for him like I should. I pray that all this is a phase and will just go away. I believe our son is too young to know what he feels is same-sex attraction. I want so many things for my son like holiness, a normal celibate life, a vocation to priesthood, or a vocation to be a loving father. I love my son so much for his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his good looks (he’s crazy handsome like his dad!), and for his academic and physical abilities. But I want all of those things in the mind & body of a straight male. I am crying while I write this because I’m so terrified I’m accepting this for my son and I don’t want to! Please pray for him and pray for me, his mother, so I can accept God’s will for his life whatever it may be. My son deserves two parents that support him and love him unconditionally no matter whom he is.

    1. Dear Grace,

      Thank you for your very heartfelt reply to this. I received your email, so I will respond by email.


  35. Janet Smith says:

    Joseph, This is a sublimely beautiful piece for it’s honesty and truth. And you have provoked others to be beautifully honest. What I have to say here has neither the profundity nor beauty of the remarks above but I feel prompted to offer this.

    I love your remarks about sitting in front of the Eucharist and telling Jesus you don’t love him. I heard a priest speak on the psalms who stated that the psalms make it clear that it doesn’t matter how you talk to God, as long as you do. That has sustained me a great deal. Honesty will always get us closer to God than any inauthentic piety.

    Now from the sublime to the ridiculous – I have also found wisdom in a song by Elvis that when interpreted to mean Christian love has served me well: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” It is so much more fun and exhilarating to love the delightful and charming and captivating people that come our way but there is something even better in the long run in loving those who come our way and don’t delight, charm or captivate us. Feeling more Christ-like is a better feeling than “being in love.” Took me forever to figure that out.

    When I was younger and craving love and wanting that special relationship and being perplexed about why I was single and without children, I found it helped to call one of my married friends and ask “How are things?” After a 20 minute conversation or so, I began to realize that the biggest cross of those who are married and have children is that they are married and have children and the biggest cross of those who aren’t married and don’t have children is that they aren’t married and don’t have children.

    I suspect that someday you will either find a chaste love that will make that aching hole ache less or you will be so filled with love of God, you will want that hole to get bigger so it can hold more love. God bless you!

  36. Robin says:


    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts- you have no idea what a gift this has been to me. You see, a little over a year ago I walked away from the Catholic church and went home to my Protestant roots. Since then my heart has hurt and longed for the Church that I loved so much. Christmas for me was the pits. Nothing compares to Christmas Eve Mass.

    My story is pretty wacky. There was a woman I was interested in who was Catholic and she invited me to do ashes with her on Ash Wednesday in 2009. Being obsessed with her I’d of gone to get a tax audit with the IRS together but instead we went to get our foreheads smudged. I began attending Mass the next Sunday and the long and short of it is by September the relationship blew up and I decided I was done with gay life. I repented of homosexual sin and went forward with plans to become Catholic because by then, I was hooked on Mass.

    Although my heart was totally into the Catholic Church my brain was short circuiting with many of the dogmas- mainly the Marian ones and for sure, Purgatory. But after I nearly getting kicked out of R.C.I.A. I had an encounter with Jesus and believed with all my heart the Catholic Church was His gift to me. And what a gift it was. The fact that I could go to church seven days a week and receive grace was beyond wonderful. I usually went to three week-day Masses but there were time I did more. Saturday night became “Date Night with Jesus.” I’d get to Mass at least an hour early to pray and hang out with Him. I even started wearing dresses again.( OMG!) The highlight was always receiving the Eucharist. When we would pray, “Just say the word and my soul shall be healed” I really believed it. Well, the craziest thing happened. I GOT HEALED!!! (Pardon my yelling- it still excites me.) The Lord freed me completely from all homosexual desire (and of course when the desire goes, the behavior usually becomes a thing of the past.) There were other gifts of healing sent my way such as the Unbound Ministry and Theophostic Prayer and a small inner healing group that I was part of. And the Friday night prayer meeting at Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor was amazing beyond words. But above it all was the Eucharist.

    But as I shared my story, I soon realized it wasn’t something folks were all that excited about. Other SSA people in the Catholic Church were still SSA and they were receiving the same Jesus I was in the Eucharist. I was told the desires would return. (It’s been 7.5 years- I’m still waiting.) It was suggested I was defrauding folks and that I am still attracted to women. (Honest- really- I’m telling the truth.) I was rebuffed by priests who didn’t want me to come to their parishes and share my story. Well, sadly one day I concluded that I must be wrong about the Eucharist. I honestly believed if the woman with the bleeding disorder could touch the hem of Jesus garment and be made whole, those same healing mercies were available to me in the bread and wine. Yet I began to reconsider this as I was one of the few who had been healed while others around me were still dealing with attractions for their same sex.

    Loving the Word of God, as soon as I repented in Sept. of 2009 I began listening to protestant radio which was mainly sermon after sermon after sermon. And in my quiet time I devoured Scripture. I have now come to believe it was through the Word of God I encountered the Living Christ and this is what set me free. When Paul spoke of homosexuals in 1 Corinthians 6:11 and stated, “And such were some of you,” I actually believed it. And in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when it said that being in Christ made me a new creation, I shouted, “Hallelujah!” and accepted it to be gospel (which it absolutely is.)

    Anyway, I’m probably breaking some rule by writing all of this to you on your post but really, Joey, I feel free now to move forward. I have been feeling so bad for letting down the good folks that loved me and help me get free from all that held me captive but from now on instead of focusing on those 25 people, I’ll keep in mind the 2500 who are more than likely happy I left. I never meant to annoy anyone (although I’m sure that I did.) It appears folks are more touched by those who are angry with the Lord for the hand we have been dealt. I was always much too happy about getting a new hand from Him. But I must admit to feeling with the Church for not being willing to tell the truth about homosexual desire- that it can be overcome. I feel peeved that they are so reluctant to proclaim that the risen Christ still heals, delivers and sets the captives free. I thought that’s what the Eucharist was about but I guess I missed the boat in understanding what it meant to have my soul healed. Like I said, it had to be all those great sermons I was listening to.

    Oh well, what do I know? I’m just that silly Protestant who hung out with the Catholics for a season, took things too literal, believed to the point that I got on a lot of people’s nerves and at the end of the day had to leave. I will always love the Church but now I remember why I left. Really Joey, thank you so much for this. I feel at peace now.

    God bless you.

    1. Dear Robin,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story.

      I know how difficult it is when you share you story with someone, and they start to tell you, “No, it must have been some other way!” So I try never to do that. I take you at your word when you describe your journey. How wonderful that you were able to encounter Christ in such a profound way!

      Although your same-sex attraction was removed from you, I do not believe that this is the case for most people. I certainly know of any number of Christians (Catholic and otherwise) who have prayed for decades with great faith that they would change. I would never tell them that their lack of change was because their faith was not great enough.

      In my own case, a decade or so of prayers and other efforts towards changing my orientation were entirely unsuccessful. Still, I would never say that those efforts were wasted.

      I do believe that the risen Christ still heals! But I believe that he heals different people in very different ways.


  37. Robin says:

    Yes, I have certainly heard from most folks that the desires remain no matter what they do to be free from them. But even if it is a lifelong battle, are we supposed to stop pursuing freedom and victory? There are so many wonderful ministries available right within the Catholic Church. Do we nothing to offer a 13 year old that thinks they are gay beside celibacy (which is a gift, by the way and not one that every person had been given.)

    Anyway, don’t close the door to being free from the desires. I’m not that special. I think the Lord wants to do His the same thing in the hearts of many who are wounded.

    1. I think we will have to agree to disagree, but I’m very glad you have found peace.

  38. Alex says:

    There is a special place in hell for you. My ex read one of your posts about keeping celibacy for the church on a teen website before he killed himself. No gay man can ever have peace with the church. Cursed to a life of loneliness and forbidden from marrying the one you love. And after all that crap you said you are still out living promiscuously, while my dead virgin boyfriend rots in the ground. Please delete everything you’ve ever posted anywhere before you kill anymore beautiful souls.

    1. I’m so sorry. You must have loved him very much.

  39. Amy says:

    Wow. Beautiful. Thank you!

  40. Ben Trotter says:

    Dude, I was so pissed after reading an article (I’m pretty certain it was you, as it was by ‘Steve Gershom’ lol) in LIfeteen. I came looking for you to rip you a new one…however after reading this (and being a gay and very lukewarm Catholic), honestly I was surprised reading what you had to say. What you communicate about your feelings toward the church, toward Christ (at times, I understand it is not permanent)…finally someone is speaking my language. I tell my friends I am a misotheist just to try and get them to understand why I want to punch God so hard. Thank you for your honesty. I have lost my desire to tear you a new one.

    1. I can appreciate the desire to tear me a new one, and I think I’d feel the same if I read that article today. Thank you for reaching out.

  41. Juliana says:

    I realize this post is old news, but there isn’t really place for this on any other.
    I have been raised Catholic, and my father has been a great faith mentor to me. We are a rather ordinary Catholic family, as far as things go.

    However, there are two developments that have really made me think much longer and harder about the morality of sexuality than ever before. Firstly, I have just gone to college. Not just any college, either. I attend the college in Iowa that is most known for being open to people of all sexual and gender identities. My roommate conforms to neither norm. I could never explain why, but I could never see people of other sexual orientations as anything but just another person. I saw the apparent hostility of the church towards these… minorities. Yet, in my church, I didn’t see that hostility present. The Church is of course the same, but people’s biases and prejudices follow them wherever they go and whatever church they are in, unless they make that choice to leave them behind. Here at college, in a different church on a campus full of all sorts of non-conforming identities, I am relieved that there is no blatant hostility between the LGBTQ+ center and the local Catholic church. Almost all of my new friends, who of course look to me like normal people, are something other than straight.

    The other more important factor in my thinking happened as a result of research for a story I’m writing. One of my characters I knew would be asexual, so I did research to find out what exactly that would mean for them. That’s when I realized that the situations and feelings that aces described were things I could relate to. I realized, in short, that I was asexual.

    Of course, this is by no means the same struggle that Catholics of other sexual orientations have. Yet I still worried obsessively that calling myself an ace would change who I was, or more importantly, that it might somehow affect my relationship with God. Of course, both were completely ridiculous. But as I worried about myself, I reminded myself of a very important notion. Hate the sin, not the sinner. I thought about the morality of human sexuality just about every day, and not by explicit choice. Eventually, I wrote four pages worth of an essay to myself, just to drill into my head that I had no reason to dislike myself or any of my friends just because of sexual orientation. In short, the essay came down to this, which I am sure you must have realized yourself; Identifying as other sexual orientations is not a sin if it is the truth. The sin is using it as an excuse to do things which are already sinful.

    When I wrote those four pages, I was saddened by the fact that I had not met anyone who had even attempted to be accepting of themselves and devout in their faith, without ignoring parts of the truth in their faith. The fact that you have attempted such a feat is something to be proud of. But just because something is right, that doesn’t mean it will be popular or easy. I have often wondered if I even have faith at all or if it is still just the leftover habit my father instilled in me.

    To get to the point, I’m writing this for one reason that I haven’t actually mentioned. I want you to remember that it’s ok to stumble, or to not know where you should go, or if you should be going anywhere at all. It’s ok to feel like you’re disconnected, because sometimes, it’s times like that which do the most in developing who we are. Just as I know there is forgiveness waiting for my friends to find their spiritual life, there will always be forgiveness waiting for everyone on the other side of a rough patch.

    Please continue to share your experiences. I appreciate your willingness to talk about the hard parts of sustaining faith in the long term.

  42. Angela says:

    Touching and emotionally moving piece. It always seems the posts where we are honest about our feelings rather than trying to push ourselves to be the model we feel we’re expected to be. I’m not gay, but I got married and discovered I had vaginismus. Even though I went through treatment 7 years ago, I still have the stupid emotional hang ups that screw with my husband’s and I’s sex life. It’s shaken my faith so much and yet I’m just like “Wow this is a really stubborn faith.”

  43. Rachel says:


    I’m discerning religious life in a convent and going through a particularly difficult time with the celibacy thing. I’ve been celibate for years, but every once and a while, a painful wall of loneliness will sweep over me. I know it’s not the same as what you’re suffering, but I hope you know that you’re not alone when these moments happen. I’m a just a newbie, but I know that even experienced nuns and religious battle with loneliness.

    I don’t know if you’re still struggling with this, since this is an old post. But reading this gave me comfort because it also lets me know that I’m not alone.

    Loneliness can, in a strange way, be a form of deep intimacy with the Lord. No one knows more about loneliness than Him. People turn away from Him and reject Him all the time. It must also hurt Him when people lie to Him and are not honest about their feelings with Him. That’s why I think your honest prayers are so powerful. We don’t have to feel love to be loving, we only have to act. Being there in front of the Eucharist is action. Even though you may not feel sentimental, you are still loving Him.

    Being lonely with the Lord is a sublime meditation. He has felt all the pain in your heart. No other human can provide that level of intimacy.

    I will pray that the Lord strengthens you and comforts you during these times. You have a beautiful cross, though I’m sure it doesn’t always feel that way.

    May God bless you and keep you.
    – Rachel

  44. Ken says:

    I am so thankful for you. I recently had this conversation with my husband about why I couldn’t be anything other than Catholic and that it really all boiled down to the Eurcharist. Everything else is just so much pablum.

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