Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Response to An Ex-Gay Cradle Catholic


When people react to and condemn Father James Martin, I learn a lot more about those who are reacting than I do about Father Martin.  Father Martin is a lightening rod for all of those who believe that gay people basically make the choice to be gay and that all gays could become straight, or at least leave the gay lifestyle and live celibate lives,  if someone just laid out all of the rules of the Church to them and basically said, "Straighten up and fly right" (pun intended).  I am really amazed at how often I hear this line from "ex-gays".

The latest to push this line of thinking is Robert Oscar Lopez, who published an article on stream.org entitled, "As an Ex-Gay Cradle Catholic, I Know the Devastation That Awaits Those Who Follow Fr. James Martin."  Mr. Lopez tells us that he was brought up in a liberal Catholic environment and was never informed of the dangers of sexual sin.  As a result, he became a promiscuous gay man, the blame for which he lays directly at the feet of "liberal Catholics":
I grew up in a Catholic milieu that was nothing if not gay-friendly. And I paid quite a price for that.
First he blames his liberal gay mother who did not take him to conservative churches.  Then he blames a nun who called God "she."  He tells us he was sure Christ founded the Catholic Church. and "I was also sure it was okay to engage in homosexual sex."  Mr. Lopez became sexually active at the age of 13, and by the time he was 28, he says he had sex with over 200 men, "the vast majority of whose names I still do not know."

Interestingly, Mr. Lopez later contradicts his claim that he did not know homosexual sex is a sin when he tells us "I went to confession."  There seems to be real cognitive dissonance going on here.  He claims he believed that there was nothing wrong with homosexual sex, and yet he confessed this act to a priest.  However, he says he continued in his life of promiscuous sex because:
No priest responded to my description of graphic gay sex with anonymous partners by saying, “Stop doing that.” Many people I met at church encouraged it. Priests told me to say a certain number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys and I would be clean until next week. The pastor in my home church raised no serious objections to my gay promiscuity.
Mr. Lopez was obviously a very troubled and confused young man. As he says in his article, he was trapped in sexual addiction, calling it "the lifestyle that held me captive." The very definition of an addict is one who lives in his own reality, seeing the world through the prism of his addiction. There is no doubt in my mind that the priests in whom Mr. Lopez confided reacted to him with compassion and mercy as they do with any sinner in the confessional. But Mr. Lopez, in the throes of his addiction, interpreted the lack of condemnation as a statement of approval.

I cannot speak to Mr. Lopez's statement that "many people I met at church encouraged it." I suppose it is possible.  People are at all different levels in their beliefs.  However, I believe that Mr. Lopez is once again interpreting lack of condemnation as a statement of approval.  He seems to believe that approval consists of saying anything short of: "You dirty rotten sinner.  You need to change or you're going to hell!".

Mr. Lopez's misinterpretation of the reaction of priests is obvious from his statement that "Priests told me to say a certain number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys."  Why would a priest tell Mr. Lopez to pray to be "clean" if he had done nothing wrong?  Mr. Lopez also tells us that "The pastor in my home church raised no serious objections to my gay promiscuity."  Notice that Mr. Lopez says that the pastor raised no "serious" objections.  It is obvious from this statement that Mr. Lopez's pastor did raise some objections, but Mr. Lopez, seeing the world through his sexual addiction, was able to just blow off those objections.


Mr. Lopez finally realized something was wrong when he developed cancer and began to physically deteriorate.  He says he also fell in love with a woman "that prompted me to break out of homosexuality." He said he left the Catholic Church because "I’d never heard the priests or other Catholics I met take a biblical (or traditional Catholic) stand against the lifestyle that held me captive."  We know from his other statements that this is not true.  There were priests who had reached out to him with compassion and mercy, but Mr. Lopez ignored them and chose his addiction.

Mr. Lopez continues with his story:
I chose to be baptized at a Chinese Baptist church in Los Angeles. By then I was already married for seven years and had a daughter. Prior to that, I was unable to convict myself fully of my sin and finally surrender to Jesus Christ. I had surrendered my religious fate to the smiling, “welcoming” priests I met in liberal Catholic circles, thinking that was enough. The church as I encountered it failed to bring me into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It seems obvious to me that Mr. Lopez had never really accepted any teaching of the Catholic Church. If he had truly believed that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, he would never have left. If he had ever prayed as he was instructed by the priests to whom he confessed, he would have found that "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." If Mr. Lopez had listened to his pastor and his "non serious" objections to promiscuous sex, he would have tried to break free of his addiction. If he had even taken the time to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he would have known exactly what the Church teaches with no way to wriggle out of it. If he had done any kind of investigation, he would have found Courage, a ministry that is all about helping gay people come out of their lifestyle.

Mr. Lopez went on to write about various Catholics he has known who are all over the map in their beliefs, and how confusing this is. Here is a newsflash to Mr. Lopez: Catholics down through the centuries have always been all over the map in their beliefs. The Church is a big net, and you will find people of all stripes and beliefs in the Church, at different stages in their spiritual growth. But do we follow other people, or do we follow Jesus Christ and the pure, unvarnished teachings of the Church? It seems Mr. Lopez judges the Church not by Jesus Christ and her adherence to Him, but by various people in the Church.

The purpose of Mr. Lopez's article is to condemn Father James Martin and his outreach to the gay community. However, nowhere in his article does Mr. Lopez give any direct quotes from Fr. Martin. Mr. Lopez just lumps Fr. Martin in with all of the other "liberal, godless" Catholics that he has known throughout his life. As Mr. Lopez tells us:
Father James Martin, SJ, has attracted a national following by calling for the Catholic church to apologize to the LGBT community. He claims to support the Church’s traditional, biblical teachings on sexuality, but also hints broadly that on gay issues the official teachings haven’t been “received.”
This statement by Mr. Lopez is absolutely correct, and my question is, why does Mr. Lopez have such a problem with this?  The Catholic Church has definitely ostracized the gay community in the past, and it has been very hurtful to many thousands of people.  I wonder if Mr. Lopez is aware of the reason for Fr. Martin's outreach and ministry to the gay community.  In Father Martin's own words:
Last year, as most people know, there were 49 people that were killed in a massacre at the Pulse nightclub which was a largely gay nightclub in Orlando. After an event like that, people express their sympathy publicly, public figures, politicians, and normally bishops express their sympathy. For example, Hurricane Harvey bishops came out and expressed sympathy, some of the events in Charlottsville people expressed their sympathy, including bishops. But in Orlando, very few bishops bothered to talk about their sympathy for the LGBT community, and even when they did, they didn't mention the words “gay” or “LGBT.” It made me realize that even in death, LGBT people in the Catholic Church are largely invisible. As a thought experiment, imagine if that massacre had happened in say a Methodist Church, or a Presbyterian Church, God forbid, you would have every bishop in the country saying we stand with our Methodist brothers and sisters. We stand with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters . They would be going to Presbyterian and Methodist churches, etc., etc. So the fact that I saw none of that really made me realize it was time to talk more publicly about my advocacy for LGBT Catholics.
Gay people were most definitely treated as second class citizens in the Catholic Church. They were never allowed to be who they were. They had to hide their true selves. We don't do that to any other group. Fr. Martin wants to change that. He doesn't want to change Church teaching. He wants to change our attitude toward gay people. Mr. Lopez says he was able to leave that lifestyle and is now married with a daughter. Most gay people cannot do that. Being gay is not a choice, any more than being heterosexual is a choice. That is why we have Courage. Courage doesn't try to change gay people. Their goal is to help gay people live chaste lives.

As Fr. Martin says, he is not talking about theology. His whole goal is to help the Church learn to respect gay people as people. He believes that once this is achieved, then we can go on to discuss theological issues:
So we're not even there yet talking about theological issues. We're at the stage of just dialogue and listening. And that's one way to dialogue [calling people by the name they choose, i.e., gay.]. So I came in and we were talking, and I was totally disrespectful to you, how could we even have a conversation about difficult theological topics, So that's kind of the first level. Just treating people with very simple Christian virtues enables us to get to the next level, which is sort of more substantive conversation about different theological issues.
I don't agree with everything Fr. Martin says.  But his ministry of reaching out to the gay community and showing them respect, mercy and compassion is a vital one.  Our job is not to convert people.  As mortal human beings, we can't convert anyone, not even ourselves.  We plant the seed, but God gives the growth (I Cor. 3:6).  Our job is to bring people to a loving God, but how can we do that if we don't love them first?  That is the message of Fr. Martin.

Just telling someone what is right and wrong does not change people. They must know that you care about them as a person, that you have respect for them. People will not listen to condemnation. They will only listen to love. That is why the people in Jesus' time heard him. For the first time in their lives, they heard the message of love, something they never received from the other religious leaders they had known. That is the message of Father James Martin.

I do hope and pray that Mr. Lopez will find his way back to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, as he says he once believed. I hope Mr. Lopez will come to understand that mercy and compassion are not the same as condoning sin. I hope he will find that to have a truly personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we must find Him in the Holy Eucharist, which is only in the Catholic Church. I hope Mr. Lopez will learn the true meaning of these words from Our Savior:


7 comments:

  1. Um, what would Michael Voris have to say about Robert Oscar Lopez? What would Robert Oscar Lopez have to say about Michael Voris?

    Catholic in Brooklyn, do you think I'm too obsessed with Michael Voris? I've been thinking about buying e-editions of two of his books via Amazon's Kindle Store.

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    1. You know Voris would love Lopez. Voris loves anyone who bashes the hierarchy of the Church. Lopez no longer identifies as Catholic, so although he might like some things Voris says, he wouldn’t like the fact that Voris would consider him a heretic for leaving the Church.

      I really think you need to let go of Voris. He is nothing but a huckster. He does nothing to spread the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. His whole thing is bashing the Church. Why spend any time on him? He has nothing to offer you.

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  2. Um, has Robert Oscar Lopez ever appeared on "The 700 Club"? Too bad the cable channel now known as Freeform has to air it.

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  3. CIB: I wanted to wish you and all your blog readers a Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you! And may you have a blessed and merry Christmas!

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  4. Catholic in Brooklyn: I really love the message that you have here. I am a priest, and I was raised in a traditionlist (perhaps even sedevacantist) family setting, and I appreciate the message very much that you have about traditionalist errors, and your defense of Pope Francis. I know what you are saying, beliece me. But I miss a little bit of charity towards persons. I know its a difficult line to toe. But continue to be a ferocious defender of the God of Love. That message, which is your message inspires me indeed. I would also like to know who you are.

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  5. I didn't know God gave out round-trip tickets.

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