Daniel Mattson, author of Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, recently served as the keynote speaker and received the “Public Witness Award” at the Ruth Institute Awards Banquet, June 15, at the Brick House in Lake Charles, La.
Mattson, whose story was featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills, told the audience that as a man who is attracted to the same sex and is celibate, he is not supposed to exist. “I’m supposed to be celebrating at a parade, not here,” he said, referring to June being Gay Pride Month. The journey to what he now calls the “happiest time of his life” was difficult and tumultuous, he said.
Mattson, after years of struggling with same-sex attraction, became involved with the Courage apostolate, and witnessed the joy in the lives of many members, men and women. He eventually returned to the Catholic Church because of Courage, and was followed by his entire family, with one of his brothers becoming a Catholic priest.
Following the awards dinner, Mattson sat down with Catholic World Report and answered a few questions.
CWR: One criticism that has been leveled against Courage from some Catholics who have same-sex attraction is that it uses techniques based on Freudian psychology that the Church condemned long ago. As a longtime Courage member, what are your thoughts on that?
Daniel Mattson: Courage is based on the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church on chastity, and our God-given sexual identity, not Freud.
Since the beginning of the Courage apostolate, there was criticism leveled at it from all sorts of people, for a variety of reasons we don’t always understand.
The people who are in Courage have found it to be one of the greatest gifts of the Church to them. What’s driving that criticism is painful and mysterious to those of us who have found freedom and healing from the ministry.
CWR: How do we keep kids from being influenced by our permissive culture?
Mattson: You have to be very careful what you allow in your home, you have to monitor your computer. Computers should always be in a public place, not private. You should never allow cell phones in bed. Let’s be honest—[Satan] goes around the world like a prowling lion, seeking souls, and his easiest access is the cell phone.
Don’t give in to the pressure. You have to discern with each child whether he or she is wise enough to handle [a cell phone]. I’d recommend delaying it as much as possible.
There are good parental controls—parents need to educate themselves on that.
CWR: Is our culture suffering from too much sentimentality right now when it comes to love?
Mattson: We are suffering from sentimentality. Slogans like “love is love” are really meaningless, ultimately. People don’t even seem to know what love means anymore. That creates our opportunity in the Church to present a much more attractive alternative.
CWR: How do we reach Millennials and other young people with the Gospel?
Mattson: We have to use [the] communication tools that young people use. Using social media today is essential to evangelization. We have to be winsome and confident that we have the truth, because we really have what people are looking for—let’s tell them about it!
CWR: As far as the culture goes, do you think things will get better, stay the same, or worsen?
Mattson: I personally think we are on a downward trajectory, which means we have to be more serious about the mission that we are on, and to think back to how Christianity exploded in the first few centuries of the Church. Instead of being pessimistic, let’s be optimistic and bold about what God wants us to do to turn this culture around.
CWR: What is the best way to witness to our gay neighbors?
Mattson: First of all, let’s not view our neighbors as gay, or any letter of the LGBT alphabet. Instead, we need to view them as God sees them: as beloved sons and daughters of God. The key to evangelization is the same as it is with anyone else: building relationships with them and loving them and investing in their lives, because evangelism always follows from relationships. The key is the example of the woman at the well. They started with a drink of water together, and then evangelism came after that.
I wouldn’t bring up homosexuality to them. I’d let them bring it up first, and then focus first of all on the love that God the Father has for them. All evangelism must begin with that fundamental truth.