Michael Voris’ “FBI (Faith Based Investigation) into Homosexuality,” a 94-minute video he recently released on his website ChurchMilitant.tv, was not easy for me to watch. It is harder for me to review. I’m tempted to rip into its bloody meat and leave behind a mangled carcass as a warning to others who might desire to make something similar. To do so, however, would be to misunderstand what Voris’ presentation is, what it is for, and how it needs to be addressed for the Church to speak to the LGBTQ community.
Voris’ work is certainly not unique. It falls towards the extreme militant end of the Catholic spectrum, but most of the material he presents will be familiar to any viewer who has followed this debate over the past decade. His work is important because it brings together in one place all the negative tropes and stereotypes that animate the Catholic opposition to the sinister “gay agenda.” In doing so, it reveals the deep sense of grief that the American Church must grapple with to become effective in ministry to homosexual people.
We cannot begin this process without first understanding how Voris’ approach looks to people who don’t already agree with him. Voris believes that he is evangelizing, helping to lead homosexuals to Christ, and telling the truth in charity. At several points in his presentation, he openly addresses the homosexuals in his audience and pleads with them to accept Christ in order to escape eternal hell-fire and be happy forever.
But no homosexual would be persuaded by this film. I believe in and defend the Church’s teaching, and gave up lesbian sex over fourteen years ago; even so I found the presentation utterly alienating. It assumed I would be horrified by pictures of gay couples snogging in the park, and I would feel lovingly corrected by images of Sodom in flames.
Voris tells us that the future of our civilization is imperiled by the “social juggernaut” of homosexuality, and that militant homosexual activists seek nothing short of “total domination and control” as they try to “collapse the value of the human person into a deviant sexual lifestyle that means nothing but a lifetime of misery.” To someone who is familiar with the gay movement and has friends in the LGBTQ community, it comes across as paranoid, hysterical, and alienating. To folks who call the Village home, it looks like raving homophobic lunacy.
Yet Voris’ argument becomes understandable, and even relatable, if we read it in terms of the psychology of grief. It opens with denial: People who experience same-sex attraction are not sure that they’re 100 percent gay, the words “gay” and “lesbian” are misleading because they suggest a false immutable identity, NARTH (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) has identified the causes of homosexuality and it can be cured. We know what’s causing this, and if only gay people would cooperate we could make it go away.
The presentation then moves into anger. A handful of militant gay activists and twisted sexologists have manipulated the American people into considering a perverse lifestyle normal. Freud, Kinsey, and Harry Hay are to blame for corrupting our civilization and leading poor, ordinary homosexuals down the primrose path to hell. In this they have been aided and abetted by a wide variety of characters, from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. The current situation is the result of widespread negligence and cowardice, which a malicious cabal of insane sexual predators has leveraged to their advantage.
From here, the show moves on to bargaining. Voris seems to recognize that it will not be possible to turn the situation around without throwing a bone to the ordinary homosexuals who are being deceived and endangered by mass media manipulation and corrupt education. So he offers homosexuals a home in the Courage ministry, where they will escape the loneliness and isolation they feel within the larger Church by struggling together to become victim souls.
Finally, a sense of hopelessness, regret, fear, and uncertainty permeates the entire production. In the end we are promised that if we fight, we can save the souls who will otherwise burn in hell—but there’s nothing to give us hope that such a fight can succeed. The production clings desperately to sentimental images of Christ and the court of heaven, and to platitudes about needing to focus on God, and how it will be “alright forever if you choose to reach out to Christ.” This hope, however, is unconvincing because they have no realistic plan for putting it into action. Instead we are offered the usual recourse of Catholics in hopeless situations: pray, strive, look for a miracle, stick to your guns, and don’t give up.
What is missing is acceptance. I’m sure that a lot of Voris’ audience would find this suggestion repugnant. Acceptance would seem to mean giving up, abandoning all hope of saving the civilization we love. How could anyone accept the total breakdown of society as we know it? The answer is two-fold.
First, the apostles themselves faced this dilemma on the night that Christ handed himself over to suffering and death. Peter couldn’t accept it. He tried to talk Christ out of it, proposed that maybe they could live on the mountainside with Moses and Elijah rather than going down into Jerusalem, offered to die alongside him, and finally drew his sword and tried to prevent his Lord from being taken away. When Christ told him, on no uncertain terms, that he was going to suffer as his father had intended him to suffer, Peter was thrown into confusion and despair. By the end of the night, he had denied his savior thrice. John the beloved, on the other hand, seems to have understood and accepted the crucifixion—and it was his acceptance that allowed him to be present to receive Christ’s last commission and final words.
Secondly, it is only after acceptance that we can rebuild. The Church in America understandably finds acceptance difficult. In Europe, the death of Christendom is a clearly established fact, the Church has had several centuries to grieve, and the hierarchy is ready to start building a new life for Christianity in the third millennium. In America, the dream of one nation united under God—a Christian nation in which men harmoniously work together in life and liberty pursuing happiness in accord with the natural law—is still alive in the hearts of many Christians.
Divorce, abortion, and now gay marriage are the positive proof that people, allowed the autonomy to pursue happiness without interference, will generally choose to pursue it in ways that contradict the divine law. These are all new developments, however, compared to humanism, secularism, and Protestantism in the old world. The French Revolution, which in many ways spelled the definitive end of European Christendom, was contemporaneous with the American Revolution, the founding dream of which we now mourn. The Church in America must move on very quickly, while the corpse is still, as it were, warm on the table.
Moving on isn’t all that difficult for someone like me. I’m a queer Canadian girl, born in the eighties, raised in a liberal Anglican tradition and educated within a gay-positive public school system. Even though I have since adopted the Catholic faith and chosen to pursue a heterosexual marriage, my knowledge of what older American Catholics have lost is vague and largely theoretical. Occasionally I encounter a little pocket of the community that used to exist, and I’m filled with a sense of longing and nostalgia, the way that a child feels when she sees the photograph of a father who died in her infancy.
For folks like me, however, the feeling that “‘tis not too late to build a newer world” overwhelms any need to pine for the past. The call to a new evangelization is exciting: We’ve crossed the threshold with hope, we’re not afraid, and we’re ready to undertake brave new experiments in the art of loving and preaching the gospel.
From this perspective, the LGBTQ community is no different from Corinth or Athens. There’s no reason to expect the native population to be pre-catechized, to have laws that correspond with the Mosaic code, or to know the fundamental principles of the faith. The key is to discern which of the idols we can use as St. Paul used the altar to the unknown god in the Areopagus, to figure out which pagan poets and philosophers we can quote in order to speak the gospel in a new way. It’s mission territory, not lost ground.
For those who remember the past, or who grew up in the last remaining bastions of the old Church, it’s not so simple. Their grief is still fresh. Older Catholics often tell me that I don’t understand what it was like to live through Vatican II, that I don’t get what it’s like to grow up in a Christian society and watch it fall to pieces all around me. I believe them. What they feel is legitimate, and the Church has to provide a safe place for them to grieve.
The difficulty is to make room for their grief without compromising the efforts of the new evangelization. Grief is, of necessity, a heart-wrenching and often irrational process. When Achilles holds Patroclus’ broken body, he cannot turn to Hector and enter into rational negotiations or constructive dialogue. If he engages with Hector at all the engagement will be violent. The stabat mater cannot march out, “fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array.” She must first bear her grief. Mary, standing at the foot of the cross, did not rebuke the Pharisees or try to convert the Roman soldiers. She withdrew into the silence of her heart and she wept.
We have to recognize, then, that people cannot bear the burden of grieving in public—especially when the thing they grieve is the object of widespread ridicule. The apostles themselves did not go out into the streets proclaiming the gospel the moment Christ was taken down from the cross. They retreated into the upper room, out of sight of the mockers and revilers, to a place where they could support one another. Once the grieving was over, once they had accepted the new, different, resurrected Christ, had put their hands in his wounds, watched him ascend into heaven, and drawn together in prayer, then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and able to go forth proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Melinda Selmys is the author of Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism. A regular columnist for the National Catholic Register, her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including This Rock, The Catholic Answer, and New Oxford Review. She blogs at sexualauthenticity.blogspot.com.