The Church must lose her “seeming bashfulness” and find the nerve to consistently preach the truth of the Church’s doctrine on human sexuality, individuals with a history of same-sex attraction have said.

Speaking on the eve of the Synod on the Family, they offered views rarely heard due to ideologically-driven rights movements taking precedent in the media and elsewhere.

Four of those who have had experience of SSA discussed challenges and expectations regarding the upcoming synod at a teleconference Thursday.

The teleconference also coincided with the publication of ‘Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction’ – a book published by Ignatius Press in which psychologists and counselors explain various ways of affirming those who experience same-sex attraction, and of leading them to experience the power of Christ’s healing love. 

Andrew Comiskey, a former homosexual and founder and director of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, a multifaceted outreach to the sexually and relationally broken, said:

“The Church must not losing her nerve with regards to her very wonderful and challenging offering of chastity to all her members. If the Church had a proper understanding of sexual wholeness (which means reconciliation to our bodies and to our genders and to the gifts that we are to persons of both sexes), if she had the nerve to speak the truth of her foundation and did so consistently to all persons, she would have much more authority to address persons with the particular kind of disintegration, if you will, that one faces with same sex attraction.

So to me today the greatest challenge of the synod and of the Church is not to lose her faith in her own inheritance in regards to the freedom chastity affords to all of her members including those with same-gender attraction. I come from that background. I’ve found the Catholic Church’s offering profoundly life giving, and at the same time necessarily restraining, but out of that restraint a kind of fruitfulness and love for others which is remarkable. I don’t know why we don’t have confidence in that anymore.”

Three others who have had same-sex attraction and appear in the film on this theme called “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” also spoke. David, a Catholic therapist and a former practicing homosexual, said:

“I was miserable in living an active gay life. Now I have found tremendous hope and joy in life in Christ, in living the Church’s teaching, in living a chaste life. I think chastity got a real bad rap. Chastity not about noes, it’s about yes’s, saying yes to authentic love and saying yes to Christ.”

Rilene – a former atheist who was once in a same-sex relationship, said.

“We’re in a situation, where I live in California, where the issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, ,same-sex relationships, affirming same-sex behavior, is making up the issue of our time, the hot issue of our time. It makes me very sad to see [this], because we couldn’t have got here, to this place, if we hadn’t over the last 100 years torn away the foundation of society, marriage and family. Many of us have been damaged by divorce and the abandonment of children as a good of our society. I think many of us feel like we’re victims of that, that destruction of the family. The issue of homosexuality in our context is now a result of tearing away of that foundation. So my hope for the synod is that we find many creative and valuable ways to increase the value that we place on a family and marriage in our society.”

Paul, a former international male model and homosexual, told the teleconference:

“As a person who had his eyes opened because of God’s compassion and love, I feel I have an obligation to reach out to others with compassion and love for them, especially my brothers and sisters living the same lifestyle I lived for a lifetime. But also it wasn’t just the love and compassion of God I believe that opened my eyes. It was the truth of the Lord.

Because of this, in addition to love and compassion, I feel an overwhelming obligation to put the truth out and lay out what it meant for me and also the truth of what the Church can do for us. I [was in a group] that let me do what I wanted to do… If I was told it was okay to continue doing it and it was okay with God, and that’s where I find the problem because there are people inside the Catholic Church who are uneducated about the truth. They hear in the media, they see more things on television, radio and the movies and they think that suddenly it becomes God’s word. It’s false compassion.”

Daniel Mattson, a single Catholic man who lives with same-sex attraction, has found great freedom in the teachings of the Catholic Church and through the universal call to chastity. He is one of three people profiled in the documentary film “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.”:

“As I look forward to the synod, my greatest hope is that the Church loses her seeming bashfulness in proclaiming the truths and goodness of her two thousand year old history, on the truths and dignity of the nature of man, and what leads to human flourishing. I always viewed the commandments of God as a young man as limits placed on my freedom and I always was looking outside the bounds of God, thinking freedom was there. Then I realized … the commandments of God lead to the blessed life. I have found great freedom in the Church’s teaching and one of my great frustrations is that those of us who want to proclaim that truth are rarely heard… I hope one day the media will start paying attention to us who are really voiceless… I want to teach the Church's teaching on chastity from the mountaintops of the world.”

Some have wondered why Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio and Ignatius Press are hosting conferences on this subject (they are to hold another in Rome today) when the synod is about marriage and the family. Homosexuality is not relevant, critics argue, as the homosexual lifestyle has nothing to do with, and is destructive to, the family. Nor are such relationships considered to be in any way marriages. Some believe it is even playing into the hands of same-sex rights lobby groups who want this issue to be placed within the field of family and marriage.

Father Fessio, founder and editor of Ignatius Press, said this is a “very important issue, it’s great it’s got attention, and great that this Holy Father has been able to gather such attention to it.”

But at the same time, he acknowledged that “real problems of marriage and family are multitudinous”, and that questions over Holy Communion for the civilly divorced and remarried and whether the Church should bless same-sex unions “have become central in eye of the public." But these are "really peripheral to what the synod ought to be doing, because it doesn’t effect the large majority of families which are in trouble in our world today," he said.

He added that this conference is “on the periphery,” and noted that “time and again” Pope Francis has been telling us “to go on to the periphery and so here we are.”

Because the issue has become “neuralgic and central, it’s important to have a conference in which truth and love meet,” he added. “We’ve heard a lot about compassion, mercy and love of course, which we must be living in our lives, but if it is not based on fullness of truth, it’s false compassion, false mercy and therefore false love.”

He continued: “Since this has become an issue that has moved from the periphery to the center on the part of the synod, we think it’s very important not only to have a conference, to have these speakers speak on their experience on what true love means and living the truth in love, but also beyond the conference, to have all he resources there.”

This is why “we have all the books and the video there, for people after the conference, to prepare themselves for the synod and also just to answer these questions for themselves in the succeeding months and years.”