Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
Mother Yes | Andrew Comiskey

Mother’s ‘Yes’

For the last five years, I’ve wondered why the Church begins each year on January 1st by honoring Mary as Christ-bearer, the one who surrendered all to bring forth the Savior of us all. It’s beginning to make sense: our salvation hinges upon that ‘yes’, just as the life of every person depends on a mother’s consent.

That ‘yes’ took on new meaning for me as I started this year celebrating my amazing mother’s 90th birthday in Long Beach CA. Mom has lived to give to her four children and countless others; her only ‘gift’ request was to be surrounded by her four kids in the family home (same one we all grew up in–who can say that?!). Over two days, we prayed and reminisced together, taking our cues from the extraordinary Phyllis Comiskey who leaves Betty White in the dust.

Mom’s determination to choose life started early, with her birth mother (I’ll call her Sue). Social workers removed Sue as a child from an unsafe home; as a young teen, she found work as a maid in a wealthy home where the son of the house impregnated her. Shamed and cast out, she gave birth to Phyllis in a poor boarding house where she lived alone.

According to an intrepid social worker who researched Phyllis’ origins, 16-year-old Sue was a devout Catholic whose only prayer was for her child to be raised in the Church. Too young and poor to raise Phyllis, Sue placed her in an orphanage. After one long year, a Protestant family adopted Mom, not quite up to her mother’s specifications, but permitted because of their devout faith.

Mom combined faith with a spirit of adventure and industry. She wanted more for her life than the regional confines of the upper Midwest; she worked hard and scored a scholarship at the top woman’s college in St. Paul. She then rejected the offer of a local marriage in order to move to post-war Los Angeles.

There she met my Dad who did not share her faith but the same intellectual curiosity and high regard for the dignity of all people. Discontent with my Dad’s choice of a Unitarian church where his fellow educators socialized, my Mom moved us kids to a traditional Episcopalian Church. She wanted us to know the gift of God in Christ, a witness made easier by her own extraordinary self-giving.

All of us kids remarked on the myriad ways she simply gave to us: verbally, materially, constantly and equally. She secured us in love.

Still, all of her love could not spare us kids from getting caught up in the sexy, druggy idolatry of a CA beach town in the sixties. Dead in sin, all her children needed to get saved. My brothers preceded me in living faith and my mom, seeing the ravages of ‘gay’ life on her son, urged me to reach for more as my brothers had, to say ‘yes’ the One who could guide me onto solid ground.

I followed her lead; her ‘yes’ to God, daily and often under duress, paved the way for all my sibs to say ‘yes’ to God. Even my Dad surrendered to the Source of her faithful witness three days before his death 7-years-ago.

Mom asked us kids what we desire for ourselves if we achieve 90-years. Big if. Nevertheless, I want to follow her example of saying ‘yes’ daily to God. She fulfilled the prayers of her poor birth mother whose only hope for her child was Jesus and His Church. I want my ‘yes’ at 90-years to answer my mother’s prayer for me and to emulate her ‘Marion’ example—surrender to God and generous self-giving that makes a way for others to know Jesus’ unfailing love.

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Enkindling Hope Andrew Comiskey

Enkindling Hope

‘A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for himself alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle

Like you, I tend to fear what may come out of my mouth in ‘polite’ society. A fire burns in me constantly that longs to enkindle the hope of transformation for anyone serious about Jesus Christ. Good news yes, and scandalous too.

While at a well-heeled Christmas party with new neighbors last week, the subject of a particular Catholic theologian—Richard Rohr– came up. Rohr lost my respect a while back when he shifted his anthropology and began to recognize the ‘LGBT’ set as an ethnic group in need of rights rather than repentance unto the transforming love of Christ Jesus.

This theologian has now unwittingly blocked the way for men and women to open themselves to the new life Jesus has for them. Instead, his worldly thinking limits them to sexualizing their own gender, a direction that forever frustrates God’s will for their good lives.

In a flash, I thought of all the young women and men with same-sex attraction whose aspiration to walk in chastity is hindered by churchmen like Rohr who have become worldly in their thinking. The path of a generation needs to be cleared! We remove the weeds through the fire of truth, spoken in love. When well-aimed and timed, such fire enkindles hope for a life that surpasses ‘gay love.’

Fire burned in me. Amid the tinkling of wine glasses and well-tailored holiday wear, I knew that I had to basically undress and tell the whole truth of what Jesus can do for persons like me. I gently broke into the conversation and said that while I appreciated much of Rohr’s work, ‘I fear he is blocking the way for a generation to know the truth that can set them free.’

The woman, a college professor, interrupted me with some bogus worldly wisdom—‘Since the beginning of time, there has been the same % of gays everywhere on the planet…’ I quietly refuted her (such data does not exist) then redirected the conversation back to the truth of the Gospel—‘Jesus opens a door that cannot be shut for persons who knock for a way out of homosexuality and this is how He did so for me…’ Because my tone was respectful and my content deeply personal, she listened and left with ‘I see this now in a whole new light.’

That light is nothing less than the Gospel, which will remain hidden toward persons who will perish (2Cor. 4:3) unless people like you and me enkindle hope with the truth Jesus has entrusted to us.

Theologian Karl Barth says it best: ‘Something often flames up in our soul that we would like to call out to all people—a question, a complaint, a word of defiance, a rejoicing, a stark truth—something of a sort that a person cannot keep to himself once it is there…It saddens us to see people coming and going, all in so much dullness and error when we have something to tell them that would help them…Our talk is such a wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words…Whatever does not grow out of God produces smoke, not fire. But that which is born of God overcomes the world (1JN 5:4). We need only to speak with our fellows on the basis of faith. As long as our words do not arise out of faith in God’s power, we will remain mute. Only faith can speak. But faith can speak! Our ears must be opened then our mouths.’

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story

Glory Stories: How to Tell Yours and Make Jesus Known

Nothing conveys God’s love better than telling our stories of God’s unfailing love. Our surrender to His on the Cross has become for us the threshold for a new creation; He broke our low ceiling and opened for us an eternal horizon. Yes, we had other options: gay selves and relationships, even ‘gay marriages’ and becoming another gender. His love summoned our surrender.

As we enter into the last few days of our 40-days of prayer, we realize we can become an answer to our prayers. We can make Him known by making known how He is actually setting us free.

Rocky Delgado and I had the privilege of sharing our stories for a large gathering of Catholic priests. As you may recall, Rocky’s same-sex attraction devolved into him identifying as a woman, winning drag shows and nearly expiring in that culture of death. Christians stood in the gap for him; they prayed and fasted and included him in their community until he was ready to surrender to Jesus. At 20-years-old, he began the long road home that continues today. Rocky is not a Catholic. But as he shared, waves of mercy rolled out upon that sea of beloved black-robed men in a way that they perhaps had never experienced. A well-told testimony of mercy can be more effective than a scholarly catechism.

How do we best tell our stories? After 35 years of giving mine and training the ‘Rockys’ of this world, I offer you 10 points.

1. Use the Cross as your structure; ensure your story lines up with Jesus’. The irresistible love of the Father, surrender to the Cross (many variations here), then the new life that arose and is arising. If you are avoiding the Cross in your brokenness, please do not testify. We want to know Him more, not be confused by your artful dodging.
2. Tell your story only if the gains are time-tested. We are all vulnerable to relapse. Bear witness of self-control only if you have some. Otherwise, the enemy will successfully knock you off your public platform.
3. If you share about other persons, especially family members, make sure they know what you are saying about them. They may not agree on your take of history. But talking it out will soften any tendency to vilify others. You lose people when you speak in melodramatic ways of family members.
4. Balance the gory with the glory. Be clear about the brokenness in your life but do not amp it up. What is evil will speak for itself. Give the corollary of how Jesus is turning around foul things with His just, merciful love.
5. Be specific and share experiences that convey the essence of your pain and your healing. People remember well-told memories more than psychobabble and Christian lingo. This is an art. You will get better at it.
6. Describe a restoration that includes a variety of interventions. No one thing set you free. Consider the host of encounters and disciplines that helped you. Yes we know Jesus is healer. How did He heal you? Be specific.
7. Tell us the benefits of healing. What are you now free for? In other words, make a case for why I should go the way of the Cross with my brokenness.
8. Describe a process that continues to this day. You are never done becoming a good gift. You are saved and getting saved, chaste and becoming chaste.
9. Anchor your hope in Jesus with His body. Of course we all have experiences of the church’s failure. But you would not have hope today if not for some Christians. They are the healing church for you. Unite Head and Body.
10. Tailor your story to context. Trim it according to time constraints. Be led by the Spirit to share snippets to someone in need NOW. You are good news.

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firmfoundation

On this Sure Foundation, a Fountain

Report on Family Synod

Last month I addressed a group of Catholic leaders in Rome on the transforming power of Jesus’ love, through His Church, for persons with same-sex attraction. That was on the eve of the Family Synod, a group of 270 bishops from around the world who deliberated for three weeks on a host of family issues with an eye toward pastoral care. I’ve only read excerpts of their final report so I offer you this limited reflection.

Drawing upon Scripture and Church tradition, this concise report will be a helpful document for the Church as she rises up to fulfill a range of responsibilities for the families of the world. No small world, no easy tasks. I am grateful for the clout wielded by bishops from Asia (our beloved Filipinos), South America (blessed Cordoba), and namely Africa, whose Cardinal Sarah opened our one-day event in Rome and whose leadership there mobilized many bishops to refuse the liberalizing tendency of some western bishops. The poor cannot afford to wage ‘gay marriage’ wars or worry about gender reassignment costs; they bring us back to first things–helping a man and woman make it work it for the kids they create.

Alleluia. I joined the Roman Catholic Church because she remains the sole, coherent global institution that upholds the beauty of man and woman as God’s image on earth, and marriage as earth’s immovable foundation that must be restored and strengthened for the good of everyone on the planet.

On that basis, the synod report offered only one paragraph (#76) on persons with same-sex attraction. While reiterating the fundamental principle of respect for persons bearing that burden, with special sensitivity to the needs of family surrounding the struggler, the report stated that ‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ The Church is the Rock. She is immovable in her anthropology and commitment to real marriage.

But her foundations require a fountain, an evident gusher of mercy for persons ravaged by the idolatries of our day. Will we as the Church be Jesus for the Samaritans around us who will keep drinking from polluted wells until we make ‘living water’ real to them? Our truth is sure. Let mercy arise for the lost and least.

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av

Open Door to Chastity: Beginning Again in Argentina

‘See, I have placed before you an open door that cannot be shut’ (Rev. 3:8).

The free and demanding door to chastity cannot be shut. It remains eternally open because God is the doorkeeper and He loves to usher His children into sexual wholeness. Wholeness is chastity: the integration of our spirituality and sexuality that frees us to accept the solid ‘gendered’ gifts we are, guarded by self-control and thus liberated to be generous and impartial in love for others.

Many people gathered at our ‘Aquas Vivas’ conference last weekend in Cordoba Argentina. Brave men and women filled the Sacred Heart auditorium and dared to hope again for chaste lives. Their innocence struck down but not destroyed, they knocked and Jesus became for them the open door to chastity.

Roderigo confessed a heart of stone due to a dad who fathered three families and left his mother bereft. He cried over her suffering for years until his heart hardened and he walled off the Church and his own commitment to chastity. This weekend a light dawned. Much as he hated his dad, he realized he was following his path. He wants more: he wants the chaste way of life only Jesus can show him.

My part in his process? Roderigo figured ‘if Jesus could help a homo change, there must be hope for him.’ So be it. I was helped by a beautiful team of Cordobans (and three saints from the Vineyard in Santiago Chile) who run Aguas Vivas there, each with a distinct witness of how Jesus made them faithful. Each person’s witness of hope proved hopeful to all. Personal resurrections, well-expressed, inspire new life in everyone.

This open door in Cordoba had special meaning for myself and Aguas Vivas leader Maite Rodriguez. For ten years until 2011, Cordoba had been the base for Aquas Vivas in South America. We relied upon a team of Pentecostal saints there; Cordoba became a ‘home away from home’ for me and I fell in love with its rich history and warm people.

When I became a Catholic over 4 years ago, the Cordobans could not in good conscience tolerate this change. They refused my leadership and the door closed. My last trip to Cordoba—an effort to build an ecumenical bridge–failed dismally. I left in grief and supposed I would never enter her splendid Spanish gates again.

When Desert Stream/Aquas Vivas regrouped to equip Latin America with a more thorough ecumenical approach, the first group to apply for our training in Mexico City was from Cordoba. Notably, one of the priests from a Catholic charismatic community there came with several lay persons and led the way by diving into the healing waters himself. Three years later, the Cordobans have emerged as an inspired, trustworthy team. Maite and I relished the welcome they gave us and look forward to ongoing partnership with our new family in Cordoba.

While we were there, we had the privilege of meeting the bishop who oversees the group. He loves Aguas Vivas and encouraged us ‘to release the waters’ to all persons, not only Catholics.

The bishop understands that chastity is a gift and a goal for all persons seeking freedom. Chastity is an open door for each Christian, an open door that cannot be shut because He is the gatekeeper. How grateful we are to re-enter the gates of Cordoba and make known once more the ever-open door.

‘Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through His body…let us draw near to God with full assurance of faith, having our hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience, our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to our hope, for He who promised is faithful’ (Heb. 10: 19-23).

For a pdf of the prayers for the Return to the Father 40 Day Fast please click here.

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