Detroit Free Press has an article about a Courage seminar at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Other than failing to mention that Courage is Vatican-approved (I tweeted to them about this), it is a fair piece that shows both sides of the issue. I want to point out that, as usual, the crux of the issue is identity. This issue of identity has a suicide component.
The Nelsons, 84 and 73, respectively, were both widowed and each has a gay son. Tom Nelson said his son attempted suicide because of messages like the one Courage promotes.
“They’re asking people to not be who they are,” said Linda Nelson.“They’re not asking anyone to change. They’re just asking them to acknowledge their sex and not act on it and there’s where the problem comes in.”
Long-time readers know my personal background on this. I am always torn about whether to talk about it because of the accusations that fly when I do. It’s not that I’m afraid of false accusations. Rather, it makes me wonder if I am failing to make the case.
When this issue first came up with me was when my own spiritual director publicly took the side of those who say that it is okay to ID as “gay.” This shook my faith and I ended up in the crisis unit, suicidal.
I do not have same-sex attraction (SSA.) I do have Bipolar Disorder. I am also on the autism spectrum which brings additional challenges. Bipolar Disorder and SSA, at least, are similar crosses in that both involve your brain telling you to do something that is wrong in the context of “who” you are. We all are human beings created by God and we are created to follow His will. People with SSA and people with Bipolar Disorder are both born with a condition wherein their brains are telling them to do something contrary to God’s will. I can testify that in the case of Bipolar Disorder, this is not normal temptation. It is the result of a disorder in the brain that comes with delusion, wherein one is not in touch with reality. With SSA, the brain is telling you to be sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. With Bipolar Disorder, the brain is bringing you suicidal ideation. One in five people with Bipolar Disorder commit suicide. Homosexual acts are grave sin. So is suicide.
If my thoughts define “who” I am, then I am a goner. When my spiritual director, the person I trusted most about what the Church says about things, offered that one can find his identity in homosexuality, I literally lost my mind. I not only wanted to die, I wanted to be the one to end my life. It still shakes me to think of that episode.
People in charge of teaching Catholicism need to understand that when they say you are causing suicide by teaching what the Church says about identity, as in the quote above from the article at Detroit Free Press, they are saying the opposite of the truth. You are asking people to “not be who you are” when you tell them that their identity is in a disorder. As the Church rightly says, homosexual attraction is “objectively disordered.” In that context, it refers not to a medical disorder but to what is disordered in relation to God’s will for humanity. Suicidal ideation is also objectively disordered. I have experienced suicidal ideation. It does not make me a “freak” to be cast out. Neither does SSA make anyone a freak to be cast out.
This is serious business. “Who” are you? Are you what your brain is telling you? Or are you what God says you are? We could not be more close to the core of Christianity: that there is a God, that He made us, and that we should follow His plan for us, not our own plans. The people at Courage can tell you, as was shared at the seminar in Detroit, when you follow God’s plan, there is joy. There can only be joy in doing the will of God. Any Catholic should know that. Any teacher of Catholicism MUST know it.
It is not true to say that Courage is “asking people to not be who they are.” It is true to say that if you tell someone their identity is in something that is objectively disordered, such as same-sex attraction or suicidal ideation, then you are, without even realizing it, encouraging suicide in them. There is only hopelessness in what is apart from God’s plan for us. In His plan for us, there is joy and peace in knowing that we are walking with Him along our journey.