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By Matt Abbott
Op/Ed

The Rev. Richard Perozich of the San Diego diocese, currently ministering in Honduras as a Maryknoll priest associate, has helped those Catholics who suffer from same-sex attraction live chaste lives. Father Perozich was head of the San Diego diocese's chapter of Courage (www.couragerc.net), an apostolate that "extends the Church's invitation to experience the freedom of chaste living" to those with the homosexual inclination.

Father Perozich was gracious enough to offer me his (slightly edited) observations on the homosexual inclination, certain "ex-gay" ministries and the focus of Courage:

The formation of the homosexual identity

"Men and women with same sex attractions come to a point of self understanding in different ways. Some common experiences psychologically are as children, distancing from peers of their same sex, fear of rejection by same sex peers, avoidance of interactions which form proper non genital relationships such as sports for some boys and common activities in which girls come to acceptance of self and one another. Not an insignificant number experience sexual abuse from a person five years older or more, further damaging sexual identity as male or female.

"Some with hypersensitive feelings begin to own and identify with the taunts that they are less than valued for being a boy or a girl. They withdraw relationally into their own worlds. A low self esteem in relation to others of the same sex promotes gender emptiness, in insecurity in one's gender with accompanying feelings of emotional dependency, jealousy, hurt, comparisons. An intense gender attraction for members of one's own sex flows from this.

"If this continues, sexual attraction in adolescence is the result. When this is expressed through fantasy and reinforced through genital behavior alone or with others, homosexual identity can result: looking for other homosexual persons, redefining oneself according to sexual feelings, and defensiveness -- all of which we see in practicing or promoting homosexuals.

"These feelings and this automatic reparational process to counter psychological immaturity are in conflict with society's morality and ethics, with the spiritual life, with the deepest emotional and psychological core of the person. Since he or she cannot live forever in conflict, the facile resolution of the weak person is to re-identify as homosexual and live out the life. To do this, one must condemn society, religion and anything that opposes the choice.

"The stronger choice is to embrace one's gender as male or female and all that is proper to it, recognize the difficulties which lead to homosexual feelings, and fight to resume the journey toward manhood or womanhood. It will not be an easy fight, especially if the reinforcement through sexual acting out has been strong. The homosexual feelings may never go away, but they can be mastered so that non-sexual relationships with both sexes can be learned -- and even development of sexual interest in the opposite sex for some.

"Why men and women reject homosexuality

"As a man or woman with same sex attractions begins to mature emotionally, spiritually, morally, ethically, psychologically, socially, he or she often begins to sense a disconnect between the attractions with their related behaviors and the authentic self. Sometimes a dissonance is triggered by a frustration in relationships, a break up in a sexual relationship, a religious conversion, shame of one's behaviors, fatigued at performing sex without satisfaction in order to try to satisfy developmental needs, anger for allowing oneself to be deceived by 'sexperts' into believing homogenital sex brings peace in oneself, refusal to be defined by others according to sexual desires.

"For those who reject religion, it is easier to be deceived by the language of practicing homosexuals into believing that one is 'gay,' 'born that way,' 'immutable,' 'normal,' necessary to express to be fulfilled as a person. A non-religious person with same-sex attraction who would reject this might identify himself or herself as an 'ex-gay.'

"For the Christian, and particularly for the Catholic man or woman, this characterization is deceitful and disingenuous. The Catholic Church teaches that everyone needs to accept his or her sexuality and all that accompanies it. Implicit in the teaching is that sexuality is male or female; explicit is that the differences are oriented toward marriage and the complementarity of male and female.

"Sexual desires for the same sex are not a part of the created goodness, but rather an overlay experience which stifles personal growth and natural sexual desire for the opposite sex. Despite propaganda to the contrary, homosexual desire remains an 'evil,' a 'disordered attraction.' The Church cannot acknowledge the unproven claims of genetics or hormones, but does regard the psychological genesis of the attractions.

"As a people of faith, we speak in terms of faith. A person is a man or a woman, not a straight or a gay. The latter is the vocabulary of people who have embraced homosexual desire. As is all aspects of human behavior and desire, we speak in terms of redemption and salvation: of being bought back from selling ourselves to things which are not of God and being rescued and from falsehoods, from bad behaviors, from dominance by desires, the ways of the world, and the devil.

"In the human person sexuality is a powerful force in need of God's redemption and salvation. In terms of natural law, sexuality clearly reflects complementarity oriented toward marriage and children.

"Men and women with same-sex attraction experience multiple conflicts from their interior feelings and exterior standards. Many want change.

"Reparative therapy is an approach to resume the journey toward sexual maturity guided by a competent psychologist-specialist. Its goal is relief from domination by homosexual desire, and the possibility of developing normal heterosexual desire. Usually it is motivated by religious belief, frustration with the homosexual lifestyle, and an interior conflict involving who one is and with what one is doing. Since the memories and effects of previous experiences remain in people, the homosexual memories will remain, but can be dominated and overcome.

"Exodus is an umbrella organization of Protestant Christian groups. Frequently the motivation to abandon homosexuality is religious. Each group has its own approach which usually includes a personal relationship with Jesus, opportunities to share feelings, experiences, and guidance by those who have been able to become free of dominance by homosexuality.

"Courage is a Vatican approved organization of Roman Catholics with same-sex attraction who are trying to live in accordance with their faith. Its five goals are:

"1. To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality.

"2. To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction and frequent reception of the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist.

"3. To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences and so ensure that none of us will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.

"4. To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible, but necessary in celibate Christian life and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them.

"5. To live lives that may serve as good examples to others.

"To accomplish this, among other techniques are the 12 steps adapted for Courage:

"1. We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

"2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

"3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood him.

"4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

"5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

"6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.

"7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

"8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.

"9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

"10. We continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

"11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of God's Will for us and the power to carry it out.

"12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

"Success is measured slowly. It takes time to throw off old attitudes, understandings and behaviors. Masturbation and pornography have to go. Control of fantasies has to be learned. Seeing oneself as worthy of being the man or woman one is created to be and being part of one's gender needs to be learned by those with same-sex attraction while it comes naturally and automatically to most people.

"Is it worth it? Yes. The greatest obstacles are placed by those who remain trapped in homosexuality. Their attitudes as victims, their hate for those who have achieved some success in abandoning homogenital sex, their continued emotional immaturity of jealousies, inordinate emotional attachments, hurts and comparisons all remain. And they think this experience of life is what everyone else feels, except the object of attraction is different. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

"Also, psychology has abandoned homosexuals due to pressure from those who practice the sex.

"All in all, one can be free, but it takes work. And the work is well worth it."

________________________

Matt C. Abbott is a columnist for and/or contributor to Catholic Online (www.catholic.org), TheConservativeVoice.com, MichNews.com, Opeds.com, CatholicCitizens.org, Speroforum.com, and other sites. He is also an occasional contributor to "The Wanderer" Catholic newspaper. He can be reached at mattcabbott@hotmail.com.

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