One of the earliest memories I have of Franciscan University, which is the school in Steubenville, Ohio where I teach, took place one evening years ago while leaving my office to go home. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a wise and holy priest who founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and who himself went home (to God) in 2014, was giving a talk in the chapel to an overflow audience of students. So many, in fact, that a hundred or more were lined up outside hoping to get in. “What is he talking about?” I asked a student. With a big smile on his face, the young man shot back: “Chastity!”
Not long after that, Fr. Groeschel and I met in a TV studio, along with a couple of my colleagues. Our conversation was about homosexuality and the essential rightness of the Church’s position. We all agreed that while she opposes it because it is disordered, those who practice it are not to be despised; they are to be treated, rather, with dignity and respect. Love the sinner, in other words, but hate the sin.
Fr. Benedict said something else that day which struck me so forcibly that it has stayed with me ever since. It was a brief exchange he recounted with a young man who, while acknowledging same-sex attraction and the accompanying sins he’d committed in order to gratify it, nevertheless urged Father not to forget him. “I’m in a kind of hell, Father. And someday I may want to get out of it. Until I do, please promise me two things: Don’t give up on me and don’t throw away the map!”