Joseph’s letter to the bishops is here. These are extracts from his journals:
From my personal journals
My homosexuality and my acceptance of it do not appear to me to have led me away from God, or at least, my desire for God. It seems to have done the exact opposite. I seem to want to be with God more and more; I experience Him more as total goodness, acceptance, mercy, compassion…Because of Leo, I have learned to love, to be emotionally and physically intimate with another human being and because of that, I am more intimate with God.
Because of my relationship with Leo, I am far more centered and calm; far more selfless and giving; far more in awe at the goodness of God and creation…I have come to the conclusion in my life that God is very much present…I am far more at peace.
I suppose that my journals over these many years have voiced the…desire to become holy and to allow God’s life in me to take hold…I tried to be holy by following what my Church defined as holy – either celibate in singleness or faithful in a heterosexual marriage (or as a religious priest, brother, or monk). The virtue of chastity could only be lived within these parameters….
…the Church does not acknowledge the possibility that our gay relationships are ones of love and that they can lead a gay person to true sanctity…
My vocation is not that of a religious priest, brother, or monk. My vocation is as a gay man in relationship with Leo and this relationship includes God. In fact, I have often mentioned in these journals that my vocation is to be in “relationship with Leo AND with God.” I remember many years ago dancing with Leo on New Year’s Eve. At one point, I held him in my arms and consciously invited God into our relationship (not that I hadn’t invited God before then). We were and are a threesome. My relationship with Leo intensified my relationship with God and my relationship with God has had significant influence on my relationship with Leo.
Help me, Dear God, to live my gay contemplative vocation with dignity and grace and keep me always reaching out to you. For all eternity, I want to be with You and with Leo. Amen.
Readings of the Day
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above.
They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.
Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said, “send me!”
Brothers and sisters, I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one abnormally born, he appears to me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
I have always liked the first reading because I saw a picture of the seraphim touching Isaiah’s lips from the Bible my mother had when I was young. And now I suppose I can identify with Isaiah in a way. Not that I’ve seen visions or heard voices, but that I am a man of unclean lips and I have sinned in many ways because of these lips – in gossip, back-biting, hurtful words, etc. Like Simon Peter in the Gospel, I am not perfect. Isaiah seemed to feel the same way. And yet, what did God do? God purified Isaiah in order for him to do God’s will – to be a prophet and speak in God’s name to the people. When God asked “who will go for us,” Isaiah said yes.
And saying this, has God asked me to live my life as a gay Catholic man in relationship with God and with Leo? Yes, all the signs are that God has. Has God asked me to stand before the Bishops and tell my story? Yes, all the signs are that God has. Have I told God that he can use me as he wishes? Yes, I have and all the signs are that God is using me.
In Corinthians, Paul tells the people that God appeared to him as God did to many before him, many who were more worthy to hear the message of Jesus’ radical love. And Paul acknowledges this, saying that he was “abnormally born.” No one knows what Paul meant by this phrase, but obviously Paul thought he was one of the least likely men to have been touched by the Lord. And, in spite of everything, Paul says he is to preach this story of incomprehensible love to his fellow Jews and to the Gentiles.
Sister Mary, Father John McNeill, Sister Noreen, Mark _____, etc., have all told me that they see my writing the American Catholic Bishops the story of my life as a gay Catholic man in relationship with God and with Leo as a ministry to which I have been called. I have accepted that this is so. In many ways, I don’t seem to be the one to write them as I have not lived a pure life or even a virtuous one considering my angry and promiscuous past. I am not the one to do so because I have lived so much of my life with feelings of inadequacy, sometimes very strong ones. And yet, I do write the bishops; I do stand before them telling the story of my past and how God has touched my life. I do stand before them, disagreeing with Church teachings on homosexuality and, at the same time, reflecting God’s life within me.
In the Gospel, after Jesus had taught the people, probably a radical message of love above the law, Jesus asked Simon Peter to go out for a catch. Simon, having worked all night and probably being very tired, told Jesus that there was little chance of having any success, of catching any fish. Simon did what he was told, however, and lowered the nets, catching so many fish he needed help in gathering them if the boat wasn’t going to sink.
In writing the bishops, I have no guarantee of changing their minds on the subject of homosexuality and gay relationships. They are the gate-keepers of traditional morality and their vision, to use one word, is to keep the unity of Catholic Christians in condemning our relationships. And yet, here I stand as one gay man proclaiming in a small and very “silent” way through writing that God has affirmed me and my relationship and that the bishops need to listen to my life and the life of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters.
So God, you may use me as you wish. I am living this gay, contemplative, and committed vocation that you have called me to live. As Sister Mary has said, this vocation is already deposited in the Body of Christ and in the Church. You may also send me into the midst of these bishops and I will proclaim your goodness to me and my partner Leo, two gay men in relationship with each other and with God. I don’t see that it will result in many changed minds, but you are responsible for the results, not me.