Withdrawing from ministry in the Catholic Church
by Darren Theoret
The following is the letter I emailed to my friends, family and Catholic Church officials advising that I have decided not to become ordained as a Deacon. It is dated 16 January, 2008.
When I rededicated my life to the Lord, I was 19 years old and living a very high-risk lifestyle. I was trying every vice in order not to feel the pain of being different from societal norms. You see, since I was a young boy, I knew that I felt things and saw things differently than other boys. As I got a little older I found the word for it. It turns out that I was gay whether I liked it or not.
When I came back to the church, I was told that God loved me just the way I was but that He had a plan for my life which included curing me of homosexuality and making me a straight man with a super testimony that would bring many people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This happened in a Pentecostal church in Montreal.
I was 19 and had just experienced a wonderful touch on my life from the Holy Spirit and I believed everything that I was told - that as I turned control of my life over to God, He would fix my sexuality. The same-sex attractions never went away so I figured that I wasn’t doing all the right things or saying all the right prayers. All I knew was that I could no longer talk about these feelings as I was being groomed to be an ex-gay minister.
There are many groups around North America who offer this false hope to gays who want to follow God and be good Christians. I was the director of one of these ministries, Liberty Fellowship, here in Ottawa back in the 80’s. Liberty Fellowship was under the umbrella of Exodus International, a collection of similar ministries. We had as many as 40 men and women in our group. To my knowledge, only one man was able to make an adjustment to a heterosexual orientation. The rest of us could not.
I even went to New York to meet with Fr. John Harvey and Benedict Groeschel who were rolling out Courage, the Catholic version of Exodus. The position of Courage is that some people, through no fault of their own, are burdened with a homosexual orientation. In order for these individuals to remain in good standing with the Catholic Church, the Church insists they must remain celibate the rest of their lives with no hope of any intimacy whatsoever.
I didn’t feel that was an answer for me. I didn’t feel that God would create me as a sexual being to deny me any opportunity to express myself in a legitimate, fulfilling relationship. Only a sadistic monster would do that, not the God of Love.
So during this time, I did try and date women but as much as I appreciated them as individuals, there was no sexual attraction so none of the dating relationships lasted very long. And I kept having the fear of marrying someone and ending up ruining their life because I am not straight.
The feelings of helplessness were overwhelming at times. I kept myself busy with every ministry, committee, group or cause that I could find to keep myself pre-occupied so I wouldn’t remember how lonely I was. I cried myself to sleep often wondering what I had done to deserve this situation.
I kept praying, “God, I know there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t know how to fix it. Please have patience with me and heal me.”
I recently have come to the end of my patience with this prayer and started more risky prayers like:
“OK God, what’s going on here? How could you do this to me? Do you take some kind of pleasure in seeing this suffering?” And then I would say sorry really quickly and the whole thing would keep repeating itself."
The Church promised me something it could not deliver - a change in orientation. Then the Church required too much by insisting that I live without a loving, fulfilling relationship. It is my considered opinion (for what it’s worth) that the church is not sufficiently motivated to really understand same sex attraction, explore the mind of God on the subject or to provide practical pastoral care for those of us who are gay and Catholic.
I have a very good conscience about all the efforts and attempts that I have made to be what the church would like to see. I have come to the conclusion that if I continue this way, it will kill me and as much as I love the church, I don’t feel that that love is reciprocal for openly gay Christians.
I have recently been doing research on the whole topic and in a nutshell here is what I have discovered.
- Most people who attend ex-gay groups do not change into straight people.
- Those who became straight were usually bisexual to begin with.
- Ex-gay groups are responsible for damaging thousands of lives including suicides, self-hatred, and sense of failure when they cannot change as expected.
- The expectation for individuals to change has caused many innocent gay Christians to become rejected by their church, family and friends just because they could not perform the impossible.
- People are reluctant to leave these groups due to social pressure from the church who demands that they become straight or leave their church.
- That there is a large community of people who have successfully integrated their gayness and their Christianity.
- There are many church groups, who after much dialogue, prayer and study of the facts, now embrace gay Christians as full members.
- There are many, many well adjusted same-sex couples who live in mutually supportive, loving relationships, even as Christians.
- All scripture verses that are used to condemn same-sex unions are either mistranslated, misused, taken out of context or don’t fit with the entire Christian message of redemption for all. They are usually referring to temple prostitution, pedophilia, straight people “indulging” in gay sex for kicks or sexual abuse. There is no scripture against committed, loving same-sex unions.
- Until the 13th century, from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person of the same sex, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.
I have written this and sent it to those I thought needed to know or who would wonder why I have decided to withdraw from the deaconate program. I don’t feel that the Catholic Church is ready to welcome an openly gay Deacon and I am at a point in my life that I have to accept myself and make the best of an unwelcome situation.
I shake my head when I hear people say that homosexuality is a choice people make. What kind of crazy person would choose to be hated and despised?
These scriptures keep coming back to me.
“My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”
The burden the church places on gay people is not light or easy and so cannot be from God.
“If you ask God for an egg, will He give you a scorpion? Even you wicked men do better than that!”
If I ask for love, will God condemn me?
“You did not receive the spirit that makes you slaves to fear, but you received a Spirit of sonship whereby we cry Abba.”
I will not continue to live in fear of what will happen if the church finds out I’m gay and a Deacon. And I will not listen to anyone who wants me to feel shame or guilt. I have worked harder at this than anyone has a right to ask. For 26 years I have tried to change. I think its time to take the hint that my orientation is not changeable. I have sought the face of God and His will for my life daily and I am satisfied that He is well pleased with me.
I am still single at the time of this writing but I am open to the possibility that God will provide an appropriate partner as I continue to serve Him.
I know that this is awkward for a lot of Christians to accept and I know that the church does not support this kind of thinking. Well, I’m sorry, but I employed my God given intelligence and conscience to come to this conclusion.
I also realize that this decision will cost me my standing in the church, my ministry in the deaconate and many friendships that I value. That makes me very sad. It is my hope that those of you who love me enough will take the time to pray and ask God to reveal His heart on the matter. I have and I received the answer that God accepts me as a gay man if I remain responsible to live out the gospel the best way I can.
If this has been helpful to you, I’m glad. If it has caused you concern, pray for me. I’m not interested in changing the church or persuading anyone’s opinion. I am simply sharing my experience and explaining how I have come to be in this painful situation.
It is funny though. Over all these years (and still) I have always had a strong sense that God loves me and has a purpose for me. God uses me every day to touch lives and I expect that will continue. I don’t need a title to serve God. I felt that I have good contributions to make to the church and I am disappointed that that likely will not happen now.
You know, its easy to say, “Jesus, I trust in You!” when everything is going well. I have the challenge of trusting Jesus while the majority of the church would condemn me as an immoral deviant.
Many of you who know me well know that I am Spirit-filled. I am reminded of a “word” I received very early. The Spirit said to me, “There are many who are willing to serve Me and be successful. Are you willing to be a failure for Me?” I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean, but I have never forgotten it.
I remain your servant,