“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
My previous blog on Pope Francis garnered a lot of attention and comments, much of it critical. I think this is mainly because I refuse to perceive Francis in the colors the world would like to paint him: as either a liberal or a conservative. For, I believe these labels have no place in the Church; where you are truly a Catholic or you are not. But, I went back to the entire interview and reread it. This time, the above section stuck out to me. On this point, I think the Holy Father has said volumes. First off, specifically in my own life, as a person who was once involved in homosexuality and the most deviant sub-cultures of humanity, I have never felt that the Church went particularly out of its way to welcome me back. Now, how did I come to sense that lack of hospitality? Well, the first place a sinner, if they were ever Catholic, usually goes back to – is the Confessional. As a teenager, just beginning to question my sexuality, my experiences in confession were horrendous. In hindsight, these priests were sorrowfully malformed and tragically disconnected from the Truth. They all told me to embrace my “orientation,” only, in the era of AIDS, to be careful. At that point, what they said hardly mattered. I suppose it was my last gasp before sliding into hell. It didn’t help. By the time I was 19, I had made my first gay porn film. The furthest thing from my mind was the Church. I had a new god and new temples in the worlds of sex and within the environs of San Francisco and The Castro. Here, I found acceptance, and what I thought was love. For a decade, I never thought of the Church. By the Power of the Holy Spirit, even though Satan had abandoned me, and I was being carried away to damnation, the light of Mercy from Our Lord Jesus Christ somehow reignited in my conscious. The first thing I did – I went to Confession. By another action of Grace, I knew of a solidly Catholic priest in a nearby parish. As a formerly possessed person, I instinctively recognized who the Faithful priests were. Sadly, during the 1990s, I had come across some trolling Catholic religious in the gay bars and discos; yet, never thought a thing about it. Now, as satan trembled inside me, I was face to face with the incredible authority of God’s healing power. In the interview, the Pope understands this significance: “the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that.” The priest I spoke with that day – did all this. As I found out later, he had received about the best formation and religious education the Church could offer. And, like the Holy Father, he was expressly devoted to Our Lady. He articulated the gravity and seriousness of what I had done, but, at the same time, was filled with joy that I had returned. It felt good. Sadly, not everyone has access to such noble and stalwart priests; as I receive letters from men daily that have been led astray by priests who simply do not uphold the basic teachings of the Church. On that front, these priests, and those they influence do nothing to help their gay brothers and sisters, since they see them as not in need of help. They simply allow them to stew in their corruption and overwhelming sense of loss. On the other end, though their numbers are much smaller, are clerics, paid-talking heads, and professional Catholics, and their followers, who endlessly extoll the evils of promiscuity and homosexuality, but, rarely, if ever, offer a gesture of kindness. For them, it’s about intellectual prestige and rote rhetoricism that never dips into real human action or charity. For this, we must pray. And, chiefly, for a bountiful harvest of good and loyal seminarians and priests, who have “courage.” As they are ministers of the Lord’s Sacraments; we must support and sacrifice for the holy ones, who are often persecuted, and make even more reparations of those who have been deceived.