Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This is a guest post for Courage by Fr. Bernardo Collera, a Filipino SVD Religious Missionary Priest who used to be assigned in Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City, Philippines. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Counseling Psychology at De La Salle University, Manila. Fr. Collera used to do counseling and psychological work in the seminary and Sarnelli Center for Street Children at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran. He also used to teach Psychology subjects in the seminary and accept counseling and psychological assessment for most clientele. He received his license as a professional guidance counselor on September 28, 2008. [Note: The highlighted portions of the letter are made by Fr. Collera for emphasis.]
Thanks for introducing yourself, at least your name. I knew about Courage through my classmate _____ (forgot his name na, but he looks bulky and speaks with a soft voice) who was the one who mentioned your group in our classes in DLSU. Since then I have referred people who'd come to confession to look into your group for some support system in their journey towards conversion, meaning abstention from SSA-oriented activities because these have been piercing their well-being. So far, none has come back to me to share their experiences. Well, in confession, people who admit their SSA activities usually stay inside their closets. I just hope they did go to Courage and learned whatever for their own peace of mind and well-being.
As regards your request for me to state my "opinion on what (I) think is the best approach in dealing with people with SSA", I keep the following principles:
1. People with SSA are persons, loved as much as anyone else by God. In Christ Jesus we have been granted back our dignity as beloved. God loves us as we are. Hence, I keep utmost respect for each individual with SSA and treat them the way I treat most people.
2. This is the background of information or bias that I have about gay people if you wish: I noticed, have read (forgot my sources though), and even heard in conferences during my formation years (before priestly or sacerdotal ordination) as well as in academic classes that people with SSA and who actually do SSA-oriented activities do these things because at one point they made a choice to do so and BE SO. They were teased and cajoled to be one because of their effeminate ways. Becoming gay and doing SSA-oriented activities were ways to finally satisfy or fulfill the wishes of people around them. Other motivations for developing such SSA or gay identity included developing "a sense of conquest" over the powerful male who happens to be his object of obsession or desire." I remember the cases mentioned including gay people who pursue sports guys (meaning those who actively play basketball or baseball, those with muscular bodies) as doing so with a view of conquering or becoming more powerful than they who have the body. Especially if these were the guys who bullied him (meaning the SSA or let me just say it - bakla).
In one of the lecture sessions I had with fellow formators, the lecturer mentioned that there are SSA's who have an unconscious desire of developing their own bodies but may be confronting their own sense of helplessness, maybe due to years of being looked down, laughed at, and being socialized the lady-way, as well as the fact that one's body may be really thin and weak. Since the sexal encounter is the only way of getting closer to a person who has the goal of becoming as muscular as possible, this sense of conquest becomes the entry point in the direction of one's bodily development. Sad to say though that homosexual encounters become a stigma that further debilitate the pursuit of the unconscious goal. Homosexual encounters thus became an obstacle rather than steps in the right direction. There is a pleasure component in every sexual activity that usually leads to repeated similar encounters, until the gay and the lover tire off, in pursuit of a deeper angle of the relationship. Hence, I think people with SSA need to look deep into what they get by going into same sex or homosexual encounters (Ano ang nakukuha mo sa pakikipagtalik sa isang katulad mong may kargada?) This is known as the teleological meaning of acts, meaning "every behavior we do always tends towards achieving a sense of homeostasis or sense of balance." (Ang bawat kilos, isip, gawi o kahit na pakiramdam ng bawat isa sa atin ay laging nakaumang (directed towards) sa isang nais maabot), the goal or purpose or reason for behavior which provides a sense of power or well-being in one's self. When answered, there can thereby develop the alternative-seeking process through the critical question: Is this the only way to achieve that goal? Meaning: Is the homosexual encounter the only way of achieving that goal? This is the way out of this neurosis-bent behavior. I mean by neurosis as the state or habit of doing the same thing in view of the same end. Getting out of this neurotic cycle requires self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Having a supportive group to listen and not judge one's sharing can be therapeutic because everyone is in the journey of learning more about ourselves and finding better ways of being and achieving our well-being. The presence and awareness of a loving God can already be the first boost. We all know that we have been given freedom to choose our ways of being. I believe that God's will is that we learn to choose only those ways of being that strengthen us and not disempower us from being someone beloved. Kung ang gawang bading or to be plain about it: If homosexual encounters keep us from realizing our full value of being loved, other ways are available for the one who so wants to make a change for the better. This becomes particularly heroic when the choice out of homosexual encounters is due to one's love for Christ and the desire to really live one's Christian or Catholic faith. It's a long and arduous process, but the reward is just great: Discovering who we are as beloved, discovering more about what we can yet do as strengthened by our faith and the Christian Spirit. This can be a very humbling experience. But I always keep this line Jesus said in the Gospel of St. John: The truth will set you free.
May God bless you in your pursuit of holiness and integrity. Take care.
Thank you, Fr. Collera, for your clear and deep insights about SSA. This can be a great help to all of us who continuously seek ways to address our issues in light of Christ's teachings. God bless you in your ministry.