God has an order to His plan, says woman with same-sex attraction

LISA JOHNSTON | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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God has a definite order in life, which simply cannot be undone.

So when the conversation turns to homosexuality, Vera, who asked that her last name not be used, feels that acting out on same-sex attraction goes against God's plan for humanity.

Vera understands this well. She lives with same-sex attraction.

In 1982, Vera, who lives in Staten Island, N.Y., joined Courage, a Catholic apostolate founded in New York in 1980 to serve as a spiritual support group for individuals with same-sex attraction. She was the first woman to join and later became a personal assistant to founder Father John Harvey. Twenty years ago, Vera founded the Courage Reparational Groups, which are designed to pray for healing and spiritual conversion of individuals living with same-sex attraction.

Vera said her attraction to women goes back to when she was 8 years old. "I actually was aware of having an emotional need for women," she said. As a Catholic therapist since 1988, Vera said years later, she realized that even at that young age, it was not possible to pinpoint an orientation, "but the need for a male or female to bond with a same-sex figure is important, even at 8 years old."

Vera grew up in the 1960s and '70s, a time of sexual turmoil for much of the nation. She also was living in New York, a diverse community that embraced same-sex attraction. She eventually sought emotional-based relationships with other women and entered into a long-term relationship with a woman while she was in her 20s.

Vera also pointed out that she was raised in a Catholic household, but her family never made her to feel as if same-sex attraction was wrong.

"My parents were not prejudiced one way or another," she said. "I think it was my own conscience that told me this was not right. It was God's grace. I knew it in my heart, even when I was in the heat of this relationship with this woman and loved her."

After their relationship fell apart, Vera asked God to help her through her pain. "I wasn't going to church at the time," she said. "But within six months of that pain, of explaining it to God, I had a conversion."

It was 1975, and Vera had visited her aunt, a woman religious living in a convent in Maine. The Charismatic Renewal has just started to take off, and Vera had befriended a fellow sister in her aunt's convent. She eventually revealed to the woman religious her struggle.

"I was telling her my pain, and what I was dealing with," she said. "It is a real psychological struggle. You can understand when homosexuals say they feel marginalized."

Vera eventually turned her heart toward God. Someone in the Charismatic Renewal told her, "'only Jesus can help you.' ... It was like Jesus walked in the door. I had such a powerful sense of His presence. And His presence was all love and mercy. I cried for two hours. This presence of God finally came into me."

The current culture has torn away any sensibilities to accommodate individuals with same-sex attraction who don't want to act on their desires, she said.

"There's a real sense of intimidation. There's a lot of levels to this, but it's become too polarized. The Church's teaching on this is very balanced. We understand that the person isn't sinful, the desires and attraction are not sinful -- it's the behavior. If only (society) can accept that, but they don't want to hear it."

When it comes to same-sex marriage, Vera said the concept goes clearly against what God has ordered through His creation of man and woman, and how they are designed to work together through the Sacrament of Marriage. In a Christmas address to members of the Roman Curia in December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the gift of humanity, and the concept of how gender does matter.

Through self-giving, he said, "does man ... discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child -- essential elements of the experience of being human are lost." Noting a study from the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, Pope Benedict also said that the attack on the structure of the family -- mother, father and child -- is much deeper than we might think.

"To this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society," the Holy Father said. "The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature."

"As a therapist, I tell my clients that God has an order in life that we can't undo," she said. Through honoring marriage as between a man and a woman, children are given their right to a mother and a father, and that their development depends on having both a mother and a father. "Gender does matter in this issue," she said.

"I understand the sentiment of saying leave (people with same-sex attraction) alone, but you can't when you know a deeper reality, and you know it's not really fair to them. God wants so much more for them."

Vera said God created humans as physical, psychological and spiritual beings. "We have to feed the body, the psyche and the soul," she said. "What matters most is the spiritual nature. But when you say yes to all these things, to indulge in all the appetites, we're doing harm to ourselves and blocking growth of the soul. We're here for God -- God made us to be in union with Him."

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