VATICAN CITY — With the pastoral care of homosexual persons on the agenda of the synod on the family, one man with same-sex attraction has appealed to the synod fathers to protect the Church’s teaching on this issue.
“I would love [the synod fathers] to know that we exist, that we are so concerned that culture is going to change the truth in the Catholic teachings about same-sex attraction,” said Paul Darrow in a recent interview with CNA.
Darrow, whose story is featured in the 2014 documentary Desire for the Everlasting Hills, produced by the Courage apostolate, had given his testimony at an Oct. 3 conference aimed at reaching out to bishops preparing for the synod.
As he recounts in the documentary, Darrow became involved in the New York City gay scene in the 1970s, working as an international fashion model. After years of moving from one partner to the next, maintaining hatred for the Catholic Church, he settled in Sonoma County with his partner, Jeff. He attributes his ultimate conversion to Catholicism to Mother Angelica, after coming across one of her programs on EWTN.
He is now a member of Courage, an apostolate that offers pastoral support for men and women with same-sex attraction. Courage organized the Oct. 3 event and is active in prison ministry and the pro-life movement.
The question of homosexuality has arisen several times over the course of the three-week synod.
Paul Darrow spoke to CNA about the synod, homosexuality and his conversion to Catholicism. The text of the interview is below:
What do you want to communicate to the synod fathers?
In a nutshell, I would love to communicate to them that there is a group of Catholics, men and women, who care so much about the Lord that they seek in every way to follow the Lord’s teachings: a group with same-sex attraction. And this particular group — many of us are Courage members — who love God so much, we’re not asking for him or for the Catholic Church or for the synod to make any changes regarding the teachings on same-sex attraction.
Having lived that lifestyle for a lifetime, I’ve been at other places in my life where I would have loved to say: Well, it would be great if same-sex marriage was accepted by the Church; it would be great if they would not have a problem with people who are not monogamous; or it would be great for the Church to accept promiscuity …
I would love [the synod fathers] to know that we exist, that we are so concerned that culture is going to change the truth in the Catholic teachings about same-sex attraction.
Having been informed by your past experiences, what does it now mean for you to love another person?
When I was 6 years old, I thought I was in love with Linda Dixon. We promised that we would marry each other. When I was 13 years old, I was in love with another girl. But I also really liked these guys. So, as we all know, who we loved at 15 or 14 or 13, in a lot of cases, in most cases — although there are exceptions — we weren’t really mature enough to understand what love really meant. So, having lived the homosexual lifestyle in a very promiscuous, self-indulgent, self-serving way, I thought I was in love with so many men. I realize now that it was, of course, the conquest, because as soon as a man loved me back, I was looking for another man.
It was an immature love. I’m not saying in any way that people with same-sex attraction are immature. But I’m saying: Basing love, as much as it is in the homosexual lifestyle, as much as it is based on sexual intimacy, makes it immature.
Now that I’ve opened my heart to Jesus and have become a devout Catholic, I realize I wasn’t even capable of loving anyone except myself.
I realize in hindsight that, when I was a child, I knew true love. I really knew how to love somebody, like my mother. But that type of ability to really be able to love somebody evaporated when I fell into the same-sex attraction lifestyle of just using people and manipulating them. I had a manipulative type of love. I loved them as long as they would think I was wonderful, as long as they would do what I wanted to do. Again, that wasn’t love.
Now, my love has changed.
… Now, when I [do prison ministry], I literally love these men as human beings, because so many of them were in a situation that so many of us could be in if we had just followed our desires just a little bit more.
I just understand now what love is. My heart was really closed to true love, to real love, selfless love, until I realized that Jesus had selfless love for me. That changed everything.
Groups like Courage offer pastoral care to persons with same-sex attraction in the context of the Church’s teaching on chastity. However, there are other groups who believe pastoral care should include support for those living in homosexual relationships. What impact does this latter approach have, especially on young people who are still unsure about their sexuality?
A word comes to my mind, and it’s counterculture... [which] means going against the culture.
Some [of these other groups] I’m familiar with. I’ve been part of some of those groups before I came to the Catholic Church, many years ago. I call these other groups “counter-Catholic.” Each one of those groups, as I look at them, are asking the Catholic Church to do something that is for their benefit — not for their spiritual benefit; not for their spiritual growth — rather, simply because it’s a worldly thing they want to have incorporated into the Catholic Church.
Some of these groups would like to have gay marriage approved by the Catholic Church, because they feel: We’re together; we love each other, etc. They just want it to be sanctified by the Church. They’re requesting something that makes their life easier. They’re not requesting to carry a cross, like husbands and wives who are faithful to the Church have to do every day; carry a cross for their children, put their children’s benefit before their own out of love for their children; put their wives’ needs before their own because of their love for their wives, etc.
From my experiences from these types of groups, they just want us to change for them.
The thing that amazes me is that there are so many churches that have given in since Martin Luther’s time. There are so many churches that accommodated people’s desire to not follow the teachings of the Lord. I think I would prefer that they go to other churches and change the other churches. They’d probably have better luck at it, because the other churches seem to cave in more easily ... whereas our Church has been true for thousands of years to truth.
If that were to change, many people [like myself] would be so devastated, because then it takes the truth out of our Church, and our Church wouldn’t be the Church that we love.
Many among the Millennial generation, including otherwise devout and well-formed Catholics, have a difficult time understanding why the Church teaches what it does on the question of homosexuality. Based on your life experiences, having lived this lifestyle, why do you think younger people have such a difficult time?
It’s the younger people, but it’s also the parents, the cousins, some of the sisters and brothers, the whole family unit. When someone comes to a family, especially a young person, and says: “I have this thing that is different, and I want you to accept it; it’s the way I want to live because I was born that way,” the family caves in because they love their children so much. Even if it isn’t in their own family, they know children like that in other families, and they will think: “What’s so bad about that? Why can’t the Church just accommodate them? They’re good people. I know them. They take care of my grandmother. They feed my dog. They bring me things when I need help.”
But again, it’s one of those situations that has nothing to do with truth. Where do you stop going down that slippery slope? You could be one step away from saying: We want to be able to have abortions. We want to be able to have birth control. All of these things are about human desire. But the value of life, and the purpose of a man and a woman, the purpose of marriage, the purpose of the Temple of the Holy Spirit being our body, those things aren’t changing.
It’s communication. They need to hear it from people who do understand, who can speak about it, people like myself who’ve lived both sides. If they only knew how much we love them!
What message would you give to a young person struggling with sexuality, perhaps having dappled in the homosexual lifestyle?
[It depends] if they were a Christian, if they were Catholic, if they believed in God. I heard a very wise priest once, who’s a theologian at a Catholic university. Someone asked him a question: “A lot of these fellows are older; these women and men who are living these chaste lives. I’m 22 years old. Are you telling me that I have to go an entire lifetime without sexual intimacy?” The response was: “No, you cannot have that type of intimacy because that’s not the type of intimacy that Jesus ever spoke about.” That is so crystal clear. Now, if it’s an atheist, it would have to be a different approach.
But that makes it very clear, very black and white, why it’s an issue.
Hopefully the parents and the teachers who understand the truth would educate themselves to: What exactly would you say, and what are the mistruths?
Hearing about God’s incomparable love, endless mercy, had a lot to do with me thinking the Catholic Church wasn’t maybe as bad as I thought it was and maybe led me to hate the Catholic Church a little less than I did.
The more I heard about that love, and mercy, and compassion, the more I understood it. Then, when I went into a Catholic Church,and saw all of the love and compassion, and how different these people were living than the people I hung out with most of my life, it opened up my heart. But that would have fallen short had I also not learned about the spiritual truth, and the spiritual truth really does exist.
They’re not mutually exclusive, but a lot of people think that it has to be all about love and compassion. But ([or example, they] can have love and compassion for a woman who [goes] through an abortion. It’s such a sad thing: They need to be loved, and need to have compassion, but somewhere, somebody should probably tell them a little bit about life. But also, God often intervenes.
You can change on a dime once you hear the truth.