Masturbation: Advice to a Catholic Teenager.

I was touched by a letter from a young man, struggling with the issue of masturbation and Catholic teaching. The letter gives no indication of his sexual orientation, and there is no reason to think that he is gay (or that he is not). His concerns however, are applicable to all Catholics, especially when young and vulnerable.

With his permission, I publish below his full letter, leaving out his name and geographic location, followed by my full reply. Continue reading Masturbation: Advice to a Catholic Teenager.


When “Gay” Becomes “Peoplewhostrugglewithsamesexattraction”

From “Eye of the Tiber”, which says it is “breaking” Catholic News – so you don’t have to:

Diocese Of Gaylord, Michigan To Change Its Name To Peoplewhostrugglewithsamesexattractionlord, Michigan

Peoplewhostrugglewithsamesexattractionlord, MI—Parishioners in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan are being asked by their new Bishop, Steven Raica, to begin referring to themselves as Peoplewhostrugglewithsamesexattractionlordians.

The news came just days after Raica was installed Bishop of the flamboyant Roman Diocese. Raica told parishioners during his first homily as Bishop that, basing his decision on Sacred Scripture, that all Catholics residing in Gaylord, should not act upon their citizenship and to henceforth avoid the term Gaylord.

“I don’t care whether you believe that you were born in Gaylord, or whether you simply woke up one day to find yourself living here. We are more than mere citizens of this city…we are children of God, who calls us to fulfill His will and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties we may encounter from being from this region of the country.”

Raica went on to say that, although acting upon their citizenship by means of voting or running for office in the city is contrary to natural law and therefore cannot be approved, he assured Catholics living in the diocese that they can still serve a purpose.

In the end, Raica said that being from Gaylord ultimately does not satisfy the desires of the heart. “I’ve heard from many family member of those living here, asking if I could help their loved ones move back home. But this is not a simple fix. As the saying goes, ‘you can take the man out of Gaylord, but you can’t take the Gaylord out of the man.”

At press time, former Major League Baseball player Thosewithhomosexualtendencies Perry has come out in favor of the proposed name change.

via Eye of the Tiber .

“Cancer” (or not): Hearing the News

It’s an extraordinary experience to be told, quite unexpectedly, that you have cancer – or in my case, maybe not. (Is a GIST cancer? That depends on who you speak to). I’ve learned a lot about the condition over the last eight months, including the terminology.

Gist - liferaft
Source – Life raft group ( )

Continue reading “Cancer” (or not): Hearing the News

Meals With a View: Family Joys at Lake Garda

A week ago, I returned from a magical fortnight’s holiday with family in Switzerland and Italy. The background is that as I was under medical advice not to travel to South Africa, my daughter Barbara in Johannesburg decided to bring her family to her sister Robynn in Switzerland (canton Zurich), where I could join them. Then, we all crossed the Alps to Italy, where they had taken a villa in Portese (part of San Felice del Benaco), right on the shore of Lake Garda.

Cleansing the Temple–and Our Bodies and Minds–of Idols

Bondings 2.0

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for the Third Sunday of Lent are: Exodus 20: 1-17; Psalm 19: 8-11; 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.

Today’s Gospel reading is sometimes referred to as the “Cleansing of the Temple” and is an episode recorded by all four Gospel writers.  John the Evangelist says that Jesus “made a whip out of cords” and drove the money changers and animals out of the temple area.  I imagine Jesus might have shocked his friends and followers by acting in such a forceful way.  At the very least, his words and actions never fail to discomfort me.

Jesus is obviously upset by what he sees, but why?  Explanations are many and varied.  Some commentators suggest he was upset by the…

View original post 423 more words

The prayer of Tobias and Sarah (Tobit 8:4-8)

In preparation for the Rome family synod 2015, the bishops of England and Wales have invited Catholics to reflect in lectio divina on a selection of biblical texts, and in the light of their reflections, to answer a set of questions about their experience of marriage and family life.

In the second of the selected texts, we read about the prayer of Tobias and Sarah before their marriage, in Tobit 8:4-8.

Jan Havicksz. Steen ca. 1626 – 1679 Tobias’ and Sara’s Wedding Night

In my application of lectio divina to this text, the two lines that particularly spoke to me, with the reasons,  were:

‘It is not good for the man to be alone;
    let us make him a helper like himself.’(v,6)

Indeed, it is not good for man to be alone. We all need a companion, a “helpmate” , to assist us in our daily tasks, to support us in times of difficulty, and to shore our joy in the good times. This line mirrors a similar line in the creation story of Genesis 2: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”  As John McNeill has pointed out (in “Sex as God Intended”),  the reference to “helper” is gender neutral: it could be a same -sex partner, and need not necessarily be construed as a wife. In this particular statement of the principle in Tobit, gay men will be interested to note that this is even more explicit – I will make him a partner like himself.

In my life, I experienced for many years the comfort, joy and support of such a companion “like myself”, a same – sex partner who  shared with the routines of attending to household tasks and resonsibilities, the care of children when they were with us, and we accompanied each other through several major life stages: deaths of parents and other relations, marriages of my two daughters, and crises in careers.

What was striking in this relationship was how much it was a genuine “partnership”, in a way that just did not apply to m


“grant that we may grow old together” (v.7)

Pope Benedict once noted,  when addressing Italian local government officials, that one of the values of marriage, is that it relieves government of many financial obligations – for example, that of caring for the aged. At its best, marriage ensures that instead of depending on the state for care, ageing couples can rely on each other and their children for that care, in the comforting situation of a family home.

It is iniquitous of the Church to expect gay men to be deprived of that family support when they need it most. We too, need companionship, love and family support as we grow old.

The questions suggested by the English bishops for further discussion .  with my responses to some, were:

  • How might Sarah and Tobias have felt on their wedding night, knowing Sarah’s history?
  • How do you think Sarah’s parents felt leaving their daughter in the bridal chamber again? Can you describe a time when you felt something similar?
  • What does it mean to walk in trust with the Lord?
  • When have you and/or your family had an experience of God’s mercy?
  • What part does prayer play in your daily life?
  • How has prayer helped you and/or your family?

The key questions to draw the conversation together might be:

  • How does this story ‘speak’ to us about our ‘call’ to be a family?
  • How does it speak to our ‘journey’?
  • How does it speak to us about our ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ as a family?
  • What support do we need from the Church?
  • What is already available? What needs to be developed?
  • From our family life experience, what do we offer that could enrich the life of the Church?

The faith of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 12:1-9)

The text  describes  how Abraham was called by the Lord to leave his country, his kindred and his father’s house, and journey to a new land – a call which he dutifully followed, together with his household. This passage from chapter 12 is only part of the story. The continuation in the opening of chapter 18 describes how as a result of his hospitality to three strangers (angels in disguise), he is given a promise that Sarah will conceive a child, in spite of their advanced age. Then in chapter 21 the child, Isaac, is born,

Jan Provoost – Abraham, Sarah, and the Angel (Source: Wikimedia)

The phrases / verses that “speak” to me:

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham is the one in this passage who is called by the Lord, but in fact we are all called to holiness. Just as the Lord says to Abraham that he will bless all who bless him, and curse all those who curse him, we should understand that we too are addressed in the same way, if we follow that call.  As gay men in the Church, we know what it is to be cursed by those who assume that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron, an impossibility. The Lord promises that such curses will themselves be cursed. But many of us have also experienced a welcome in church, “blessed” by welcoming parishes and other groups. Those too, will be blessed.

And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Just as Abraham embarked on a journey to the promised land, we too are on a journey to full inclusion in the Church. Just as his journey was conducted in stages, so we too must understand that our own journey to inclusion will not be concluded in a single step, but will take many stages, some of them difficult.

Here are the bishops’ questions, with some responses:

  • What does it mean for Abram to ‘have faith’? How does Abram listen to God? How does God challenge? What does God promise? How do the family respond? What are their hopes?
  • What hopes do you have for your family?

My hopes for my family are the same as others – that we can continue to flourish, enjoy each others’ achievements and celebrations, and support each other in times of difficulty or sadness. 

In addition, we hope for something other families do not think about – that we can be treated by society, and especially by the Church, with the same dignity and respect as other, more conventional families.

  • What are the ways in which your family ‘listen to God’?

In the past, my partner and I participated together in a CLC (Christian Life Community) group, meeting weekly and sometimes in formal retreats to reflect on where we have God in our lives, and using techniques from Ignatian spirituality to  discern the path He was wanting for us. 

In addition to numerous valuable insights we found about our daily lives, we also found through these evenings and weekends of prayer together, profound affirmation of the value of our relationship

  • What ‘impossible’ things happen in families? In our families, how do we show our ‘trust’ in God and in one another in tough times?

Sometime after my (formal) marriage had broken down, and I had started a new, same – sex  (informal)  marriage, my ex – wife began to make it extremely difficult for me to see my children, and absolutely impossible to see them in the company of my partner.  In this, she was egged on by her family, who were convinced by Catholic teaching that our relationship was obviously sinful, and so I would be a morally unsuitable influence on the girls. As any father will know, to be deprived of access to one’s children is extremely painful, as it was to me.

The outcome however, was the reverse of what mother and her family had intended. As the girls grew older, they insisted on not just access to myself, but even asked to come and live with me – and my partner – , instead of with their mother (which at different times, each of them in fact did, for a period).  Today, they and their own children both have far stronger relationships with me and my partner, than they do with their mother.

As for the fears about my supposedly “poor moral influence”, I take immense pride in the conclusions of my younger daughter. While living with us for some of her high school years, she compared the example she was seeing in our relationship, with what she observed in her classmates’ families . Looking back later as a young woman, she concluded that the grounding in morals and values she had received from our same – sex relationship, was in fact superior to that of many others raised in more conventional families. On that basis, she has stated in print and on-line that “Gay parents? I recommend them” , and has told me that when she sees a young child out with two dads, her instinctive response is “lucky kid”.

  • What does having children, or not having children, bring to a family?

More important that what “having” children brings to the family, is what “raising” children does. 

  • What promises do we make to each other in families?
  • Through this story, what can we know and believe about the promises God makes to us in our own family lives, whatever our circumstances?

The key questions to draw the conversation together:

  • How does this story ‘speak’ to us about our ‘call’ to be a family?
  • How does it speak to our ‘journey’?
  • How does it speak to us about our ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ as a family?
  • What support do we need from the Church?

For queer families, what we need above all is simple: acceptance and appreciation that same – sex couples can and do, make as good a job as others in raising children. Even though such couples are obviously not capable of creating babies, they are definitely capable of the more challenging task or raising and guiding them to maturity.  Many such couples are successfully engaged in that task, either with the biological children of one partner, or with adopted children.

It is hurtful and offensive to those parents, and especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to raise children whose own biological parents have failed them, that the Church opposes gay adoption and claims, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, that children are somehow harmed when raised by gay parents. 

For the sake of the children, It is essential that the Church should now end its hostility to gay adoption. 

  • What is already available? What needs to be developed?
  • From our family life experience, what do we offer that could enrich the life of the Church?

How to be happy, Catholic and gay