I'm 15, gay, and a Roman Catholic. (I think you already have an idea what this is all about).
I have finally come to terms with my sexuality and all that stuff, but there's still one thing. I did some research and my findings were as follows: The Catholic church is not against homosexuality, nor against chaste homosexuals, but it opposes sex outside the bonds of marriage (whether it is gay sex or straight).
Here is an extract from a message I received on the message board at www.catholicyouth.com: "There is the kind of love that the Greeks called Eros, the love of flesh, the corporeal love. You are asked to give this up, and that is hard. But it is not something that is only asked of gays. And then there is the spiritual love, Philia. An "expression of love" is never wrong. I express my love of my friends, male and female through prayers, friendship, and times of fellowship. I do not have sex with them. Yes, sex is an act of love, but it is so much more. It is an expression of the covenant between man, woman, and God, it is the portal of life.
"It is NOT the only way to give and receive love.
"What God asks, and yes, it is hard, yes it is a terrible cross, but what he is asking you is to forgo human sensuality and devote yourself to only him."
I'm confused, torn apart, hanging between what my nature tells me and the church does (mind you I'm a VERY Christian person, and if God really wants me not to have sex, I think I'll be able to manage).
The question is: What am I to do? Is this really what God wants or just what the Catholic Church based in Rome thinks is right? Why did God make me gay, if he doesn't want me to have sex with those I'm attracted to?
Basically, I seek your advice and personal opinion.
p.s. What would your answer have been if your son asked you this question?
This is probably going to be a very long response, because there are so many issues in the questions you raise, but here goes.
First, congratulations on coming to terms with being gay. I know that can be difficult for many people, particularly if you have a strong religious background. Accepting, and loving, who you are is a very important step and will give you additional strength in facing the issues that remain.
I was also raised as a Roman Catholic, by the way. I went to Holy Cross High School in River Grove, Illinois -- an all-boy, Catholic school that, although it was anything but diverse, did have a remarkably liberal attitude, which perhaps was a phenomenon of the times (I graduated in 1976). I mention this so you know that I have some idea what it's like growing up in a religious environment, and in particular, the Catholic Church.
You will find that most organized religions today still condemn one thing or another about being gay. Some, like the Southern Baptists, are at the extreme and will say that you are destined to Hell. Others take what they believe to be a more liberal approach, saying that they "Hate the sin, but not the sinner," which frankly, is just as bad, in my opinion.
As a religious person, you most likely have faith that God created you. And given that, it's important to then understand that means that God created everything you are, including being gay. Including your sexuality and all that makes possible, too. None of this is evil, and anyone who would suggest otherwise is frankly absolutely wrong.
As far as I know, God has never said to anyone today whether it is right or wrong to have sex, of any kind. Many people point to the Bible, but remember, it is simply humanity's interpretation of God's word, from an oral history passed down over thousands of years, and then eventually voted upon (you may not be aware of this, but there were more than four Gospels, and based on a vote around 350 a.d., if I have the date right, a couple of them just didn't make it in the final document). Bottom line with all of this is that when someone throws the Bible at you, it's only weight is others' interpretation.
At one time, as recently as 150 years ago, the Bible was used to support the practice of slavery. It has been used to repress women, even today. When it's put to such use, it becomes a tool of power and politics, and not the vehicle of spirituality for which it was intended.
Remember also that the Catholic Church is made up of the church hierarchy (pope, bishops, priests, etc.) and the parishes. You are likely to find that many parishes in the U.S. have a very enlightened view when it comes to accepting, and celebrating, their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parishioners. It is usually those in Rome -- a very conservative, and much older, group of men -- who condemn so many things related to sex, related to equality of women, and related to homosexuality. And on this issue, I will say flatly, they are wrong.
Something like 500 years ago the Catholic Church condemned Galileo for heresy. They acknowledged their error just within the last ten years, and issued an apology. They condemned Ptolemy for his heretical views of celestial mechanics, something we now take for granted and learn in elementary school. The Church can be wrong, because, after all, it is merely a collection of people, subject to all of the foibles of humanity.
My advice, Bobby, is this...
Appreciate who you are. Celebrate the fact that you are gay and how that will allow you to see the world in a different way. Enjoy being able to have a boyfriend, falling in love with another guy. When the time is right for you and whoever you are with, and it's something you both want to do, enjoy having sex with another guy and do not have one shred of guilt. God created you as you are, and with the potential to enjoy life in exactly these ways. Rejoice in these abilities and in this potential.
Look also for a way to reconcile your religious beliefs with your sexual orientation. Unfortunately, many gays wind up rejecting their religions, because of the hateful views they preach. Some move to other religions that are more accepting, such as the Metropolitan Community Church (which was founded by a gay man to minister to gay and lesbian people), the Unitarian Universalist Church, the B'hai, or the Quakers. And others have formed organizations within their mainstream religions to provide support and acceptance; the organization Dignity serves this role for Roman Catholics. (You can find local organizations at http://www.queeramerica.com/). You may find that others who have tread the same path you are now on may be a good source of acceptance, and guidance.
You asked what I would tell my foster son, as well. (He and his boyfriend were here for Thanksgiving and I mentioned your letter to him, in fact.) And the answer is simple: I would say exactly the same thing I am saying to you, because my hope for him (and you) is to explore all of life's possibilities, to become the person he wants to be, to leave the world a better place, and to feel good and enjoy all of life along the way.