‘Desire of the Everlasting Hills’: A Powerful Witness to Catholic Teachings on Same-Sex Attraction

Last Saturday, I spent the evening at Villanova speaking with three impressive and eloquent people. Paul, Dan, and Rilene all have same-sex attraction, and all have embraced the Church’s teaching on chastity.

Their stories are told in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a new documentary from Courage International. The approach is powerful and effective because it completely avoids buzzwords and polemic. It tells three very human, very moving stories.

My article on the film is up now at the National Catholic Register. Here’s an excerpt.

Their stories are unique, as befits detailed portraits of individuals, but the broader contours of their lives will be familiar to many with same-sex attraction. There is a movement into a lifestyle that is embraced with various degrees of acceptance and gusto, a life as a person attracted to persons of the same sex and then an interruption: an epiphany. Something radical and unexpected breaks through.

The most striking story is Paul’s. While driving to get his HIV test results, his sense of impending doom is interrupted by a feeling of peace and comfort and a voice: “Paul, you do not have AIDS because you have too much to do to make up for the way you’ve been living.” He was, indeed, HIV-negative, which was something he never expected, given his number of partners.

These moments are what drove the three to go public with their stories. Paul calls the documentary “a prayer answered. I felt that I came back to the truth very late in life, so, suddenly, I felt that need to use any time I have to express my love to God and my appreciativeness for all he’s done and that he never forgot me during all the decades I forgot him and turned against him. I prayed: Jesus, please give me a few years of strength and energy. It’s not because I don’t feel he has given total forgiveness and mercy, but so I can make up for the lost years when I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him.”

Read the whole thing.

Due to length, I cut some of my interview material that seems worth printing here.

Paul, from “Desire of the Everlasting Hills”

Paul was a member of Dignity (a dissident pro-homosexual “Catholic” group) before he found Courage, and I asked him to compare the two approaches to same-sex attraction. He faults Dignity’s “feel good” approach of affirming that what he was doing was good. “It’s very feel good and everybody loves you and God loves you no matter what you do. It was an affirmation that what I was doing was okay. It made me feel good because I thought I could have it all and be the person I wanted to be, and these people are thinking God is liking the way I am.

“There was never discussion in Dignity about consequences. We were never striving for anything. There was no goal. It was buttressing out entire being in what we are doing. The Catholic Church is more welcoming because it really cares so much that we find God in our hearts and once we do that we do that we follow that relationship. I didn’t feel like anyone [in Dignity] cared about me.”

Muslim Professor Murdered for Supporting Christians

Christians and Muslims lived side-by-side for centuries before the ISIS hoards descended upon Mosul.  Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, a law professor from the University of Mosul, knew this well, and spoke out against the persecutions of Christians. He paid for his principled stand with his life when ISIS forces killed him.

From Vatican Insider:

Chaldean website ankawa.com – one of the news sources that offers the promptest updates on the inferno Christians are experiencing in Iraq – announced the news. Amidst the ocean of tragedies currently being witnessed in the Middle Eastern country, the website did not want to let this act of great courage go unnoticed. Professor Ali ‘Asali knew what he was risking: everyone in Mosul knows that in Raqqa – the Syrian city which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized last year –there are many human rights activists who have paid for their opposition to ISIS’ acts of intolerance with their own lives. But Al ‘Asali was nevertheless unable to stand by in silence.

And so are many other Muslims, who have launched the “I am Iraqi, I am Christian” campaign in response to the letter N’s written on the walls of Christian homes in Mosul. Yesterday some of them turned up outside the Chaldean Church of St. George in Baghdad, with a banner displaying the slogan and posted a picture on Facebook.

The same article reports that the infidel tax (jizyah) for dhimmis (non-Muslim, second-class citizens), which some Muslims portray as reasonable, is $450 a month: an “impossible sum” for the people who have to pay it or die.

In other news, ISIS torched an 1800-year-old church. At least no one was inside. This time.

If the story of Mahmoud Al ‘Asali is true, then he is a hero and a martyr for two faiths. God bless him and all like him.

And, through our tears of grief and rage, may we also recall that for Christians, martyrdom for the Truth is a blessed thing, as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry observes:

And yet. Yet. Yet there must be joy.The Pauline hope, the anticipation of the Eschaton: yes, in the fullness of time, every knee will bend, every mouth will proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and every tear will be wiped from every eye. And in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the martyrs will reign as gods in unimaginable joy, their glorified wounds illuminating the new Heavens and the new Earth.

But there must also be joy today. Because for as hard as it is for us in the Modern world, for us who are still infants crawling on the path to sanctity, as Christians we must view martyrdom as an occasion of joy and thanksgiving. Happy are you when you are persecuted for my sake, the Lord tells us. Happy are you when you receive the great privilege of being an icon of the Cross, a mirror of God’s glory revealed in the form of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, of being totally faithful to the Teacher.

Through my tears, I must rejoice, for joy is the proper response of the Christian to martyrdom: joy of testimony, joy of fidelity, joy of Christlikeness, terrible joy of the Cross.

May all Christians give perfect testimony of the total love of Christ and give glory to God in the centuries of centuries.