41 A FIRST STEP OUTSIDE OF THE VILLAGE
RECENTLY IN L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, there has been, at least in the English edition which I receive each week, a continuing series on the pastoral challenge presented by the world-wide phenomena of an apparent increase in the incidence, and acceptance of, overt homosexuality.
The striking fact of this series is the solid pastoral compassion ( love ) and the equally solid orthodoxy (truth) setting before the eyes and hearts of all people Church teaching of revealed truth about the dignity of the human person and the holy mystery of human persons being endowed with pro-creative capability.
While in the early stages of the healing process, begun under the guidance of my spiritual father, I could not have articulated the following, I was becoming aware of the same facts:
The homosexual condition is difficult, sometimes tragic, and not only because of the obstacles it can encounter in society and the injustices of which it can be victim, but also because of its narcissistic quality. This quality is expressed in the continual attempts at ‘self-recovery ‘ and in searching for the ‘better self ‘ or the ‘ missing self ‘ in another person. [cd-1]
This latter point about the attempts at self-recovery, seeking the missing self, would for years be a type of false-start distraction for me.
To be sure, during the same period, I would indeed embrace the call to chastity, return to the faith and sacramental life, and discern my true vocation and so forth.
But in a strange way, rather than seek Christ in and for Himself, there would be a degree of seeking to find in a relationship with Christ, in the life of grace, even in discernment of vocation, a type of self-recovery, of finding the missing-self, which would significantly interfere with what true conversion is ultimately about: I NO LONGER LIVE, CHRIST LIVES IN ME!
The homosexual approach is really one of identification and possession. According to Miller it is easier for two homosexuals to regard each other as narcissistic extensions of themselves than to be involved in mutual exchange. [cd-2]
This, especially in the early stages of conversion and healing, is extremely difficult to face, because the intricately crafted illusion of mutuality, of giving to the other in same-gender relationships, belies the self-centered and other devouring truth.
It means accepting that beneath the intricacies lies the chasm of sheer loneliness which is the stillborn child of the constitutive non-complementarities inevitable in homosexual so-called, in reality pseudo, unions.
Only Christ can fill the void — and it is, as in the actual beginning — the Spirit Himself who hovers over the void and re-creates, restores, Christ and His Life within us.
If not only those who struggle with homosexuality, but with any form of other involved sexual adventurism, of self-gratification, be humble, that is truthful, all such activity will then be confessed as the idol-worship narcissism search for the self from whom I have become split, beside whom I walk, in dark ignorance.
The common notion of the Greek myth about the god Narcissus is that he fell in love with himself — which is true to a point. The point being he fell in love with what appeared as his self-reflection when he gazed into the water. In fact what he saw was a distorted ( by the very nature of the refracting reality of water and light), and inverted ( the mirror principle ) image of himself, a false-self.
That is the tragedy of narcissism.
It is not even love directed towards the real self — rather it is a disordered love directed towards the false-self. Ultimate egoism!
Socarides says without hesitation that in a homosexual relationship each partner plays his role, ignoring the complementarity of a sexual union, as if the act were consummated in ‘splendid isolation ‘ from the other individual, simply as a stratagem for portraying a one-sided emotional conflict. Every homosexual encounter is primarily concerned with disarming the partner by means of seduction, prayer, power, prestige, effeminacy or masculinity, in order to derive satisfaction then from the loser. [cd-3]
This should be so obvious as to not need comment.
However it is bound to be vehemently denied because, if accepted, then the whole infrastructure of the so-called gay culture begins to unravel — the whole point of the ‘ bar-scene ‘, for example, is to go ‘ cruising’, that is to seek out a sexual conquest.
Hans Giese rightly stresses that the ‘foreground ‘of the homosexual syndrome comes from ‘clinging to the self ‘. The move towards the other is not completed, while the move towards one’s own sex is shorter, less costly, simpler; but, since one fears the risk of failure, to take this step involves a new risk, that of egotism. Bergler also maintains that the dominate note is always emotional detachment from the other and the focusing of interest on mere gratification. [cd-4]
Here we have a vital key to the extremely dangerous practice of suggesting an attempt at heterosexual marriage as some type of ‘ cure’, and, equally the danger of admitting persons to consecrated life who have not at least shown a free and peaceful acceptance of the gift of chastity — for that egotism will express itself in non-genital forms such as materialism, authoritarianism, gluttony, tv-addiction, alcoholism etc.
Since the root cause of homosexuality is a non-completeness of being, the ‘ cure ‘ is the restoration of, that is the completing of, the real person.
Hence true conversion, which may include therapy, a profound sacramental and prayer life, the vigilance of fasting, these are crucial.
No less crucial, especially for the soul struggling to hold on tight to the hand of Christ the Healer leading us out of the village of sexual disorder, of incompleteness as person, and very crucial for all pastors of souls, who are the bringers of the gender-blind, wounded, to Christ, is to embrace with humility the possibly very long, try and try again, aspects of the healing pilgrimage to the far outskirts of the village.
Kardiner notes that the majority of these experiences are due to casual encounters and are ‘ one-night stands ‘, i.e., the essential element is the value the experience has for the imagination and not the lasting human relationship. This easily leads to the desire of arousal for its own sake, to repetition and finally anonymity, the discovery of the other not being worth the effort….In short, for the homosexual there is the proximate danger of falling into such anonymous, repetitive and even more demanding sexual behaviour that it becomes a kind of addiction……[cd-5]
An incident from my own life illustrates this point.
Being a true addict I also became addicted to more incautious forms of anonymous encounters and found myself one evening in the clutches of a sadist with a knife at my throat.
I survived the ordeal, but it did not lessen my addiction.
With every grace of conversion and healing the soul is invited to trustingly join Christ in the desert where He Himself battled and defeated the tempter.
It is Christ who wages the greater battle in the spiritual warfare encountered by every soul. Seeking to actively participate with Christ, which is to co-operate with Christ’s healing action, each soul must willingly embrace the battle, and endure, by the gift of grace, grace of perseverance and trust.
Satan, who has long claimed the soul for his own, will, of course, seek to discourage, frighten, entice, cajole, and seduce the soul back from intimacy with He who is our Life, our Light, the Way and the Truth. Satan wants to drive the soul back into the dark ignorance.
Some words of encouragement and wisdom then from those early great spiritual warriors, the Fathers of the Desert:
A brother asked Abba Agathon about fornication. He answered, ‘Go, cast your weakness before God and you shall find rest.’ [ce-1]
Abba Theonas said, ‘When we turn our spirit from the contemplation of God, we become the slaves of carnal passions. ‘ [ce-2]
The following shows how priest-confessors must not only be compassionate but willingly take on, help carry the burden, of humble and contrite hearts — it is the mysterious and blessed vocation of being a co-struggler:
It was related of a brother who had committed a fault that when he went to Abba Lot, he was troubled and hesitated, going in and coming out, unable to sit down. Abba Lot said to him, ‘What is the matter, brother? ‘He said, ‘I have committed a great fault and I cannot acknowledge it to the fathers.’ The old man said to him, ‘Confess it to me, and I will carry it. ‘Then he said to him, ‘I have fallen into fornication and in order to do it, I have sacrificed to idols. ‘The old man said to him, ‘Have confidence; repentance is possible. Go, sit in your cave, eat only once in two days and I will carry half of your fault with you. ‘After three weeks, the old man had the certainty that God had accepted the brother’s repentance. Then the latter remained in submission to the old man until his death. [ce-3]
Another aspect of the above example is that once we have confessed our sin, received absolution, we must not only fulfill the penance given to us, as act of our co-operation with grace, but we must enter the struggle for purification, inner healing, release from inner-vows — a struggle which may be brief or of long duration — praise to His Holy Will in all such matters — and also we need to remain humble, docile, in true, trusting, acceptance of the directives from, obedience to the guidance of, a holy spiritual father.
The final example shows what to the overly sensitive modern, rationalistic mind may appear as pretty rough justice! In truth, it is our failure to comprehend the raw reality of spiritual warfare — the struggle to overcome our tendency to sin — that may cause some to miss the point of the example that follows. Here, truly, the heart needs to listen.
The point is basic — confession of sin, struggle to repent and open our beings to purification and healing by the Holy Spirit — the restorative power of the Holy Eucharist — communion of love — for the point of conversion is that we be restored to Christ so that: I NO LONGER LIVE, CHRIST LIVES IN ME.
The length of any struggle should never discourage us.
The victory is Christ’s.
Christ IS our co-struggler, for He struggled and overcame temptation, sin and death before, and for us.
Christ IS our salvation; our healing; our communion; our Way, Truth, Life.
Christ IS everything.
Our joy: to struggle.
He has come that His joy may be in us so that our joy may be complete.
Christ’s joy is that He has accomplished our salvation.
Abba Phocas also said, ‘When he came to Scetis, Abba James was strongly attacked by the demon of fornication. As the warfare pressed harder, he came to see me and told me about it, saying to me, “Tomorrow, I am going to such and such a cave but I entreat you for the Lord’s sake do not speak of it to anyone, not even my father. But count forty days and when they are fulfilled do me the kindness of coming and bringing me Holy Communion. If you find me dead, bury me, but if you find me still alive, give me Holy Communion.” Having heard this, when the forty days were fulfilled, I took Holy Communion and a whole loaf with a little wine and went to find him. As I was drawing near to the cave I smelt a very bad smell which came from its mouth. I said to myself, “The blessed one is at rest. “ When I got close to him, I found him half dead. When he saw me he moved his right hand a little, as much as he could, asking me for the Holy Communion with his hand. I said to him, “I have It. “ He wanted to open his mouth but it was fast shut. Not knowing what to do, I went out into the desert and found a piece of wood and with much difficulty, I opened his mouth a little. I poured in a little of the Body and the Precious Blood, as much as he could take of Them. Through this participation in the Holy Communion he drew strength. A little while after, soaking some crumbs of ordinary bread, I offered them to him and after a time, some more, as much as he could take. So, by the grace of God, he came back with me a day later and walked as far as his own cell, delivered, by the help of God, from the harmful passion of fornication.’ [ce-4]
Perhaps, you the reader are not in bondage to any sexual sin, to any kind of fornication.
Whatever the sin struggled with, whatever the addiction, whatever the doubt, whatever the depths of bitter-roots or the tenacity of inner-vows, Christ IS the only Way, the only Healing, the only Truth, and our only true Life.
In the Roman Liturgy, the central act of faith, the sacred celebration of the summit of sacramental, of faith life, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Before the reception of Jesus Christ, in His Real Presence, in the reality of His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, priest and people proclaim out loud together a vital prayer — do we contemplate these words enough — do we utter them from the depths of our being as the opening wide of the doors of our being to Him?: LORD, I AM NOT WORTHY TO RECEIVE YOU, BUT ONLY SAY THE WORD AND I SHALL BE HEALED.