New film illuminates Catholic view on same-sex attraction
Catholics with same-sex attraction talk about their personal struggles and the comfort they find in Church teaching in a new documentary that shows Christian love as the “third way” in controversies about homosexuality.
“Those with same-sex attraction aren’t being asked to do anything different than a heterosexual,” one Catholic man, David, said in the movie “The Third Way.”
“We're all called to chastity, every single one of us,” he said.
Melinda, a Catholic convert, said that she gave up her same-sex relationship when she became Catholic. “I knew that if I became a Catholic the homosexuality thing was going to have to go,” she recalled.
“And I told God I was okay with that, because I was falling in love with my Creator. My identity and my relationship with God just seemed more important than my identity and my relationship with my girlfriend.”
The 38-minute documentary was directed by John-Andrew O’Rourke of the Indiana-based Blackstone Films. Father John Hollowell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was its executive producer.
The film features Catholics with same-sex attraction alongside commentary from Catholic speakers like Sister Helena Burns and Chris Stefanick.
Joseph, a Catholic layman, said he first opened up about his life and his experience with same-sex attraction in the Catholic confessional. He expressed his gratitude for the priest who responded to him.
“He made himself available to me in a way that nobody else ever has. He was very truly a father to me, and continues to be one. There is nothing I can do to ever repay him for that.”
Fr. Michael Schmitz, a priest serving in Michigan’s Diocese of Duluth, explained in the film that Catholicism follows a different path that rejects both the total condemnation of people and the affirmation of same-sex sexual activity.
“We do not in any way hate or condemn or fear or want to isolate you,” Fr. Schmitz said in the film. “At the same time we can’t embrace everything that you choose. So we’re going to choose this third way. And that third way is love. We’re going to love you.”
“You belong here with us. You can share with us your struggle, you can share with us your attraction, and we’re still going to love you.”
The Catholic men and women with same-sex attraction talk in the film about their faith and their lives.
Some talk about their problems fitting in while growing up, feeling different and experiencing significant loneliness or harassment from peers. Some recount a difficult past, including parental or sexual abuse.
Fr. Schmitz emphasized church condemnation of unjust discrimination and bullying, saying the “Church makes it very, very clear. All men and women experiencing same-sex attraction must be treated with compassion, dignity, respect.”
Fr. Hollowell, the documentary’s executive producer, told CNA that the film aims to tell the stories of “people who experience same-sex attraction and yet nonetheless find great comfort in the Catholic Church's teachings on that topic.”
He said that Catholicism rejects both the “hedonist culture” that says “do whatever you want, have sex with whomever you want, you’ll be fine,” as well as the approach of “the Biblical fundamentalists who say simply having a same-sex attraction means you are a sinner.”
The priest said he was motivated to make the film because of his experiences as a new priest teaching theology at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis.
“As I went through my first year of teaching, I was surprised to see how open most of the young people were to the teachings of the Church. However, I'll never forget how hostile most of my seniors were when it came to the Church's teaching on homosexuality.”
At first he had no compelling material that would help his students understand Church teaching. He soon discovered essays by Catholics who live with same-sex attraction.
“I realized that I needed to put these stories on screen since so few people read essays anymore,” he said. “I set out to look for a way to let the people who live with same-sex attraction and yet nonetheless embrace Catholicism tell their stories.”
The documentary was a crowd-funded project, drawing 879 contributors over a 20-day fundraising period.
Bishop Christopher Coyne, the auxiliary bishop of Indianapolis, gave guidance to the film, Fr. Hollowell said. The film has the endorsement of Fr. Paul Check of the Courage apostolate, which ministers to Catholics with same-sex attraction.
Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland, New Zealand, the secretary of the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference, has said he plans to use the film in his country to minister to Catholics with same-sex attractions.
“The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially for such a controversial topic,” he said.
“The Third Way” may be pre-ordered on DVD. It is viewable online at the website of Blackstone Films, www.blackstonefilms.org.