The Value of Experience as Spiritual Self-Defence

I referred yesterday to a post on Nihil Obstat in which Ned O’Gorman paints quite a depressing picture of the difficult position in which the established church puts us LGBT Catholics. He refers specifically to how some people enter heterosxual marriage to maintain some form of acceptance. As this goes directly to my own experience, I responded immediately with a lengthy comment.  Later, I realised that much of this is also fully relevant to the ongoing theme I am trying to develop, and that you might like to know a little more about me, so I repeat my comment here:

“It is undeniable that the established Church puts us in a difficult position, and that too many people simply evade or avoid the issues. I was one of those who married (very unwisely) ‘to maintain a place in church and society’. The irony is that it was during those years, when I was trying to live faithfully within the bounds of Catholic teaching on sexuality with all its restrictions, that my faith life was sterile, leading to a gradual disconnection from the church, and to a 10 year flirtation with agnosticism.

My return to the church came only after setting up a committed relationship with another man. I then developed an active faith life, and an exploration of prayer and spirituality, far richer than anything I had ever experienced while operating within the bounds of official teaching. Later, since developing an active participation in an explicitly LGBT Mass, and especially since I started blogging on the subject, I have been led still further, to readings in theology, church history and ministry that I would never previously have gone into.

St Ignatius teaches us to trust the ‘movement of spirits’ as we discern them deep in our hearts, by prayerful reflection on the experiences of our own lives. My own reflections on experience confirm that I have most directly felt God acting in my life,  when I have lived honestly, as a gay man, not in what was (for me)  the pretence of straight marriage.

O’Gorman is too pessimistic. There is no need at all to feel ‘abandoned’ by the Church – just by the Vatican. There are increasingly many supportive priests, even including some who will indeed bless same sex unions, and many other ways of finding support in faith – not least through a an expanding network of welcoming parishes, a publishing explosion on LGBT theology and spirituality, and on websites and blogs such as this one, my own, and many others.

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