There's a choice beyond living in shame or living immorally.
I am glad for Ron Bates that he was able to overcome the guilt and shame that burdened him for years and find that God loves him. ("I tried for years to pray away the gay. It didn't work," Sept. 1).
But while I respect Bates' personal experience, I respectfully disagree with his conclusions about same-sex attraction and traditional marriage.
I am the lead chaplain for the local Courage/Faith in Action group. Courage/FIA is a confidential support group for people who have same-sex attraction and who want to practice the virtue of chastity as understood by the Catholic Church.
As a confessor and confidant to many men and women who have homosexual attractions, I can say that people are not limited to the choices Bates offers.
The plain truth is that people with same-sex attractions experience them differently.
For some, those desires are deeply rooted and long-lasting, while others experience them as symptoms of something else: loneliness, lack of confidence or frustrated childhood bonding with same-sex parents or peers, just to begin the list.
In other words, some people really do find developmental and environmental roots to their same-sex attractions. And yes, some find release from them through therapy or through the mysterious grace of a spiritual awakening.
Bates was not able to pray away his same-sex attraction, but some people actually do. And others, while unable to avoid homosexual temptations, still live lives of chastity and virtue by the grace of God and with the help of good friends.
Marriage to a woman did not work for Bates, but for this you don't redefine marriage. And especially for this you don't tattoo a "GLBT" label onto teenagers who may be simply confused about their life choices. It took Bates 54 years to find his life direction after an imprudent start.
By the same logic, many young people could be trapped for years with a mistaken gay or lesbian identity, goaded on by our disintegrating, sexually untethered culture.
Like it or not, heterosexual behavior is rooted in human nature and the universal moral law. Both the body and the Bible witness to this truth in their own ways.
Traditional marriage is rooted in this ancient if inconvenient truth, and it can't be scolded or legislated away by one misguided generation. History is not and never will be on the side of gay marriage.
But what about the nerve root question that Bates addresses? What do you do when the "gay" just will not go away and your religious standards and traditions just seem to accuse, to point out what you can never do or be? Are the choices limited to either living in shame or just pitching the moral code out the window?
Many of us can relate in our own way. You were unfaithful and your spouse will not allow you to forget; you have a prison record that shows up every time you try to get a job; you have a weakness for alcohol or spending or food and your life is unmanageable.
Add your own weakness to the list. Regardless of how it got there, you want to move beyond it, but you can't. Who among us is righteous and qualified to cast the first stone?
St. Paul confided in a letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:7-10) that he had a "thorn in his flesh" that wouldn't go away. What God said to him was not "you're going to hell" or "you are disordered."
He said, "My grace is sufficient for you." In the midst of his weakness, Paul found both steady direction and contentment in his friendship with Christ.
My point is this: Whoever you are and whatever insurmountable problem you have, don't jettison your moral compass. Find friends who will support you in truth and virtue.
Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Does anyone here condemn you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more" (John 8:10-11). Minnesota citizens, you can support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions. It's not an "either/or" issue.
* * *
The Rev. James Livingston is a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He is the lead chaplain for the local Faith in Action support group, a prochastity ministry for men and women with same-sex attraction.