Realism, Happiness, & Gay Catholics

A friend once told me that expectations lead to unhappiness because disappointment inevitably follows from the world’s lack of conformity to our desires.

So it’s better to be a realist.

Still, reality can be a hard pill to swallow. The Catholic Church, for example, has particular stances on particular issues. And those of us raised Catholic, but who have strayed from the flock, may sometimes think: I could still be Catholic, only if…

Ben Brenkert wrote a piece for the Washington Post entitled, “I thought I could be a gay Jesuit priest. I can’t believe how wrong I was“.

It would be ignorant of me to make a snide remark about his naivete, as some commenters did. The desire for acceptance is all too human, and this includes believing it really can happen.

No longer being Catholic, I don’t think I have the right to say what the Catholic Church should or should not be. Their acceptance of homosexuality is not to be expected anytime soon, nor is it reasonable to expect that a 2,000 year old religious institution is going to accept the dictates of a liberal secularist viewpoint less than a half century old.

I say this not as justification of the Church’s position – after all, I agree with the the liberal secularist view of homosexuality – but simply as realism.

The Church has a right to define its position, and those like myself who don’t like it have a right to leave, as I did.

I don’t mean to imply that this is an easy choice. It is not. There is a disorientation that results from leaving one’s community behind. It is, to borrow a phrase from Dan Barker (evangelical preacher turned atheist), psychologically expensive.

Brenkert writes,

Over time, I realized I could not be part of an institution that hated me… I’ve since left the priesthood and have pursued a different religious life with the Episcopal church.

He had the courage to take matters into his own hands, and this is no easy choice. But in identifying as a victim, the choice he made is important: a key element of victimhood too often is helplessness, which is to say it’s others who need to change. Getting out of the victimehood rut means making choices for oneself.

We cannot control anyone else’s behaviour. But the expectation that we should be able to leads only to unhappiness because it’s unrealistic.

Such a viewpoint is typically called victim blaming. But it is not. I am not saying one is at fault for the original situation, but rather that one does have the ability, if one so chooses, to reclaim one’s power of action.


One thought on “Realism, Happiness, & Gay Catholics

  1. I realize this is a very delicate topic, as it touches a lot of people in their very alive scars of rejection.

    I cannot ignore that in multiple religious circles, many of those catholics, there is a big chunk of intolerance and rejection for gay people. But, that’s not what Catholic church teaches about homosexuality.

    The core of Catholic teachings about homosexuality is described in the words of paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    Sadly, many men and women, even in the very inner circles of the church struggle in following these teachings.

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