I have a few heroes in contemporary America, folks who are not afraid of speaking and living Christ's Truth, in season and out, no matter the cost, no matter the derision they face, and when there is no (worldly) personal gain. These heroes speak that Truth in love. They don't seek to hurt souls, ever, but only to help them attain Heaven.
Joseph Sciambra is one of those personal heroes (though he barely knows me and likely does not know how highly I regard him).
Day in and day out, Joseph works to reach those caught up in pornography and homosexuality, as he himself was for many, many years. He was not only an active homosexual in the San Francisco area (Castro district), but he was also an amateur gay porn star who fell into the occult as well.
When I first heard/read about Joseph, I admit my initial reaction was admiring but dismissive. His story was so "over-the-top," so extreme. A gay porn actor in San Francisco? A man caught up in perversion, sexual violence, and even Satanic influence? I believed it all of course (I am not naive to what Satan can do to a soul, and how easy it is to spiral downward into boundless depravity), but I didn't think someone like Joseph could be relatable to others.
But I friended him on Facebook, and I kept reading his posts and watching his videos. I began to look at his blog. This was not a man who dwelled on the sickness and evil that permeated his own life for so many years, but rather a man actively ministering to those still caught up in darkness.
Joseph not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk by meeting with and talking to the men at the gay street fairs and "pride" events in California, often to his own detriment. He still suffers many health effects from his years in the brutality of the gay/porn lifestyle, and he is weary, both in body and soul. He cannot get volunteers to go with him to these gatherings anymore. Some will go once, but not again -- it's simply too overwhelming. There are many of us who pray for him now, but almost no one who will accompany him into the heart of it all.
And yet he never stops reaching out and truly loving those who are so lost, those who are in the place where he used to be. He is right there, ministering to the walking wounded, i.e., the gay men (and women) who need the light of Christ so desperately:
Joseph is doing all of this while at the same time trying to alert the Church in America that her outreach to the gay community is largely ineffective, counterproductive, and even harmful: The "gay ministries" in too many dioceses seem to affirm the "gay" rather than point toward repentance, redemption, renewal, and the joy of salvation found in obedience and surrender to Christ Jesus.
So much of what he says, and warns, falls on deaf ears.
Joseph does not get asked to speak at Catholic conferences, he does not get asked to advise those in gay ministries (even though he has so much wisdom and experience!), he does not get profiled or consulted by the major Catholic news outlets. It's baffling and confounding. The more I get to know him, the more I scratch my head at how this gem of the Church can be consistently ignored.
Some might argue that his story and all he encounters now is too gritty, too explicit, too graphic. The details of his life in gay porn and the gay community are dark and ugly, yes, even to the point of physical revulsion for those who are exposed to it. And yet... we know that when the subject is abortion, for example, we Catholics do not shy away from the ugly truth of it. The wonderful Abby Johnson speaks all over the nation at diocesan events, even though the details of abortion are gruesome, violent, bloody, deadly, heartbreaking. That she and others speak, and are welcome to speak, is as it should be! It is right and just that the evil of abortion is exposed.
Why, then, are the rules different when the sin is homosexual activity? Why do we not wish to see, and why do we even sugarcoat (or celebrate) this particular sin?
If you follow Joseph (and I encourage it), you will see that he gets frustrated and disheartened. He is often burnt out. And yet, somehow he keeps going. I'm not going to lie -- I worry about him and so do many others. He needs massive prayer coverage (his ministry is incredibly dangerous, spiritually), and he needs friendship and physical support as well. He carries a heavy burden that most of us cannot imagine.
For months, I'd wanted to read his full story, which is laid out in his book, Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality, and the Occult, and this past month I finally did. I highly recommend it, not for its literary perfection (it really deserves a professional editor and publisher) but for its content, insights, wisdom, truth. His is a powerful, tragic, and ultimately hopeful journey, one that every Catholic, especially every Catholic parent, should understand -- especially in this age of pornography. But be warned: It is not for the faint of heart, and not for overly sensitive souls.
Joseph is two years younger than I, and I found myself nodding along with his description of his Catholic upbringing and the poor catechesis that our entire generation received in the '70s and '80s. Some of his words were eerily similar to my own story, and culturally I knew exactly what he was talking about at all times. We both went off the rails, morally, and so when he spoke of his own dark years, I recalled where I was at the same time, my sins just manifested a bit differently.
His book is available on his website (click here), or you can get the Kindle edition (click here).
And now I want to lay out where Joseph's true courage comes in, a courage that is only possible when one's soul is full of the grace of Christ and when one is willing to take whatever consequences may come.
As I said above, we have a big problem with "gay ministry" in the Church today.
Joseph unceasingly calls out the scandals in our Catholic parishes. Scandals that harm the very souls he is trying to help save and that are not, for whatever reason, addressed and corrected. Just a few examples:
In the Diocese of San Jose, there is a longtime LGBT ministry leader, Young Adult ministry leader, Mass Coordinator, Eucharistic Minister, and Lector who is "married" to his same-sex partner.
In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, there is the longstanding, ongoing, and truly inexplicable scandal in practice and leadership positions at Most Holy Redeemer parish, including with the Parish Manager (if you scroll down, be prepared to be heartsick at what you see). In another parish, the bulletin directs parishioners to a retreat led by an outspoken pro-gay "rights" activist priest. And honestly, I don't have words for the fact that the man in this article is a candidate for Deacon (Holy Orders!) in the diocese. How can this be? I feel sick to my stomach when I consider it.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, there are leaders, including speakers at the 2016 and 2017 Catechetical Congresses, who celebrate "gay" and confuse the faithful about grave sin. There are even altars draped in "rainbow pride" colors. A mother whom I know personally pours out her heart about what she encountered when trying to find help and support for her lesbian daughter. Joseph is one of the only people who would hear of her heartbreak and would tell her story.
|There is never a time when the "gay pride rainbow" is appropriate on the altar of God.|
(St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Long Beach, CA)
In the Archdiocese of New York, one parish's official LGBT outreach recently celebrated the Supreme Court's gay "marriage" ruling; this Facebook page of St. Francis of Assisi LGBT outreach is full of "love is love" and rainbows, including "Pre-Pride (event) Mass" and a link to a hospital that does transgender surgery.
|St. Francis of Assisi parish, New York City|
Parishes in Boston, New York, Hartford, Atlanta, Sacramento, Chicago and elsewhere confuse the faithful and contradict the teaching of the Church on homosexuality and the seriousness of sexual sin, which has eternal consequences. Christ came and suffered and died to save us from grave sin; how can Catholics downplay or celebrate sin? How can those who celebrate gay "marriage" be in leadership positions in our dioceses, especially in ministry to those with same-sex attraction? It is unconscionable.
Joseph is also one of the few people (and the only one I've heard lately) who is being honest about the health risks and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases inherent in gay sex acts right now in 2016. He is one of the few people who explains the real reason that gay men leave the Catholic Church (and it's not because the Church is harsh and mean).
I have so much more to say about Joseph Sciambra and his ministry, but I hope that I have given you a glimpse into the heart and mission of this wonderful man. Please, stand with him. Please, support him. Men with his strength and courage are few and far between, and while it's a lonely place to be, let's make it a little less lonely.
Friend him on Facebook. Buy his book. Read his blog. Pray for him.
God bless you, Joseph!