Former gay activist says Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction is distinct from other teachings
The B.C. Catholic
In the eyes of the world, a Catholic with same-sex attraction has two options: live "out and proud" with a homosexual identity, or sit in the pews silent and isolated.
Alan and Theresa Yoshioka say there's a third alternative: acknowledge your SSA and receive support to live chastely. And they're helping to reach some of the Church's most vulnerable members.
The Yoshiokas, who are writing a book about the whole Church being called to support persons with SSA, recently brought their message of hope to the archdiocesan pastoral centre, high school classrooms, parishes, Catholic After Hours, and the Vancouver chapter of Courage/EnCourage.
Courage is the official Catholic apostolate for persons with SSA. Within that outreach, EnCourage is the official Catholic apostolate for the loved ones of persons with SSA. Alan is a member of Courage Toronto, and together the Yoshiokas co-facilitate EnCourage Toronto.
Given that Alan is a former "out and proud" activist who in the mid-1980s wrote Canada's first campus newspaper column on homosexual and lesbian issues, the couple have a unique perspective on same-sex issues.
After more than 15 years in a homosexual lifestyle marked by promiscuity and rage, Alan first returned to Christianity, then gave up the homosexual lifestyle, and eventually became a Catholic.
He had almost a decade of celibacy before marrying Theresa, and was prepared to do whatever was God's will. Through the combined experiences of unconditional love, support groups, therapy, and both Marian and Eucharistic devotion, Alan came to a place of healing and developed significant opposite-sex attraction.
Responding to popular doubts about the marital capacities of a husband like Alan who experiences some continued SSA, Theresa assured the 50 pub attendees that their marriage is delightful.
The Yoshiokas were keen to take difficult questions, aware that audience concerns carry the weight of great personal attachment. They appreciate that when Alan shared his struggle, his parents were quick to assure him they loved him and he would always be their son.
That message, the Yoshiokas say, is fundamental and cannot be repeated often enough.
But Alan's parents, a Protestant clergy couple, made mistakes too. Alan wishes his parents had carefully distinguished between "deliverance from (his) gay lifestyle" and "deliverance from same-sex inclinations," when they were "praying for his deliverance from homosexuality."
Three years after Alan had "come out," he found out his parents were praying this prayer, and that his father, who was fighting a brain tumour at that time, regarded his illness and impending death as an offering to God for this purpose. This was roughly in line with Catholic teaching on redemptive suffering, and Christ's lesson about prayer and fasting.
At that time Alan was incensed by his parents' prayers, seeing their intercession as an attack on his identity and sexuality. Years later, he has come to appreciate the good in his parents' efforts and to honour his father's passing as the ultimate sacrifice.
Theresa, who was well-informed of Alan's past prior to their courtship, understands and supports him and has joined him in his efforts to help those struggling with SSA, in themselves or a loved one, to grow in the faith.
They share more of their unfolding story on their blog, The Sheepcat.
Both converts, Alan and Theresa are convinced of the validity of Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction, and value its distinction between the person, the inclination, and homosexual acts.
To maintain that precision, they avoid using "homosexual" as a noun: it is unclear whether it refers to a person with an inclination to commit or a person who commits homosexual acts.
From their forthcoming book the pair shared a part called "Ten Ways that a Catholic Pastoral Approach to SSA Differs from a Classical Ex-Gay Approach." Where "ex-gays" who act out sexually can be expelled from some evangelical churches, a Catholic who stumbles is encouraged to go to confession and keep attending Mass.
The Yoshiokas are emphatic that Alan's experience isn't typical. "Our aim is to explain the Church's teaching on SSA and to share my testimony as an illustration of God's transformative power," said Alan.
"My personal (circumstance) doesn't imply that everybody who experiences SSA has to get married. This isn't the only option."
Theresa added that the Church celebrates celibacy, and everyone should love, respect, and support single Catholics.
"For parents to force children into their state of life is a violation of the Fourth Commandment; anyone pressuring someone in that area would infringe upon individual conscience and freedoms."
Parents and other loved ones may have to grieve their dreams of marriages and grandchildren, she said, in order to see their children as God sees them.
Courage offers five goals for members: chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and serving as a good example. The goals seek to help members "live chaste lives in accordance with the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality."
Courage's annual conference will be held in Emmitsburg, Md., July 19-22.
Vancouverites can connect with Courage/EnCourage by contacting Father William Comerford, CSsR, at 604-916-6192, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.