From Homosexual Activist To Committed Catholic
ARLINGTON, Va. — Massachusetts will begin issuing marriage licenses to members of the same sex May 17. David Morrison is not surprised.
“We have reduced marriage in many instances to contracepted partnerships with some financial advantage,” he said, adding, “Is it any wonder that same-sex couples want a piece of that legal pie?”
Morrison readily admits he is homosexual. In the 1999 book Beyond Gay, he describes his transformation from homosexual activist to committed Catholic. He now writes and speaks to audiences seeking to understand the Church's position on sexuality, same-sex attraction and chastity.
His transformation began in the midst of a crisis. Desperate and despairing, he offered the only honest prayer he could at that moment in his life: “Lord, I don't even know if you exist, but if you do, I sure need you in my life.”
Suddenly he experienced a profound, deep awareness of a presence in the room. “Jesus was there and he loved me,” Morrison writes in the book.
He spoke to Register correspondent Nona Aguilar from Arlington, Va.
After your experience of Christ's presence, you write that you rose from your knees with more questions than answers. Where did you go for answers?
I looked for a church. I knew no one to ask, so I opened the yellow pages and started scanning. I narrowed my search to an Episcopal church; I felt I could count on Anglicans to be friendly toward a homosexual activist. I was right. At Trinity Episcopal in Arlington, Va., everyone had a story; everyone had a past. Nobody scorned me because of my homosexuality; one way or another, we were all there because of Jesus.
For a time you held to the beliefs of so-called homosexual Christianity, which are positions you no longer hold. What happened?
At a certain point, I felt I had to “come out” to my pastor. After telling him everything, including the fact that I was a homosexual activist, I was powerfully struck by what he said to me. “David, if you need me to affirm what you do in bed, I can't, because I think that's sin. But if you need me to affirm you as a brother in Christ, I can do that. Anyone who confesses Christ is welcome here.”
I could live with that, especially since I hoped to help educate my pastor and fellow congregants out of their “backward” ideas. But by the end of the year, it was my ideas that changed.
What sparked the change?
I read The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Confronted with Christ, Bonhoeffer makes clear one has but two possible choices: either to follow and serve or to walk away. To my deep, bone-shaking horror, I realized that I had begun to walk away.
For example, in preparation for my baptism, I began to read the Bible carefully to understand, as best I could discern it, what sex is for in the mind of God. Over and over again in Scripture, God's witness is to a fully human sexuality that includes sex drive and tenderness, orgasms and eggs, passion and possible parenthood. In short, fertility matters! It can't simply be discarded from the sex act as irrelevant or meaningless. The homosexual “theology” I had signed on to didn't stand up to this fuller understanding of sex. To hold on to its misunderstanding would be a form of “walking away.”
I also began to comprehend what love really means vis-à-vis interacting with other people: It means doing the right thing, which is not always the comfortable thing. Love, Christ and real faith demanded that I cease treating my partner, or anyone else, as an object for sexual evaluation or pleasure.
When I reached the point that I could no longer ignore how I was leading my life, I had to make the choice Bonhoeffer described. One Saturday evening, I wrote a final note to some of the people I knew from our homosexual “theology” initiative to explain why I had to withdraw. The next morning I went to my partner, whom I loved deeply and was terrified of losing after so many years, and told him that I loved him, had made a decision for chastity and wanted to find a way to work this out together.
We did, but it was hard. He was confused and upset about where I was coming from and what it would happen to us and our relationship. Through a series of graced moments, over the course of a year, we concluded that our relationship meant far more than merely what happened in the bedroom.
Are you still in touch?
Very much so! It's been more than a decade and we are the closest of friends. Neither of us could have imagined how much richer, intimate and meaningful our relationship would become once we were both chaste.
Were you a Catholic at that point?
Not then, but after I began living a chaste life, I saw things even more clearly. I also learned about Courage, the Catholic organization that supports and helps same-sex-attracted people to live chaste lives.
Other organizations for same-sex-attracted people, such as Integrity, which is Episcopalian, and Dignity consider chastity irrelevant. It's not irrelevant; it's central! I saw that the Church understands sex as pertaining to the whole person, not just to his or her sexual inclinations. Soon after that, I sought instruction.
What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?
The fact that we are debating it at all indicates how badly we have treated marriage up to this point. We have lost sight of marriage as a vocation, as much of a vocation as the priesthood or religious life or the Christian life overall for that matter.
Like all vocations, it calls for us to die to ourselves, which is never easy to do. …
I hope the debate occasioned by the same-sex marriage fight helps spark a deeper comprehension of marriage overall. Even if the forces in favor of defining marriage as between a man and a woman win in the coming legislative and legal contests, there will still be a lot to do. Winning that battle will mean the patient has been revived with the electric paddles on the floor of the emergency room, not that he or she walks smiling out of the hospital cured of terminal illness.
Nona Aguilar writes from New York City.
- May 16-22, 2004