Religious principles and values provide meaning and affect personal identity. They may also conflict with intimate needs and desires.
This article examines how gay Catholics manage conflicting areas between their sexual and religious selves. Eight Polish gays with a Catholic background, who identified themselves as strong believers, shared their experiences during semi-structured interviews that were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Results showed that internalization of the principles taught by the Roman Catholic Church triggered a conflict when participants became aware of their homosexuality. This study alerts mental health professionals to specific risk factors associated with experiencing a religious conflict, and offers guidelines for counseling and further research.
This article will explore how religious socialization affected the formation of gay identity of Polish gay Catholics.
Literature shows that "Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity" toward homosexuality are complex and may vary even within the same religious tradition. While some religions show little concern about the sexual life of lay practitioners or remain positive about homosexuality, most mainstream traditions are openly against homosexual acts Helminiak, Some studies indicate that negative religious beliefs about homosexuality, shared by the community, can arouse prejudice against sexual minorities and contribute to experiencing the religious group as oppressive.
For instance, Barton describes religion-driven challenges faced by sexual minorities brought up in fundamentalist Christian communities, where homosexual acts are perceived as a sin against God and condemned. Some of the potentially traumatic experiences reported by gays, including evident bullying e.
Engaging in homosexual relationships can be even more problematic when it leads to open persecution and penalty. Yet, merely changing environment does not automatically solve the problem if gays have managed to endorse and identify with religious beliefs stigmatizing homosexuality.
Acquisition of religious values and beliefs conflicting with sexual identity involves identification with significant others who represent these beliefs.
This can also take place in seemingly liberal, multicultural contexts if gays are raised in families where homosexuality is rejected based on religious principles.
When these relationships contain both positive and oppressive elements, this can create high ambivalence, and certain unconscious mechanisms can be used to keep positive and negative experiences apart. Because of attachment to a significant other, the child mimics his or her behavior and, later, attacks his own parts of self that had previously been directly or indirectly attacked by the oppressor.
It was long ago observed that the interaction between the individual and the environment e. This, on the other hand, lead to negative religious coping, such as punishing God reappraisals or interpersonal religious discontent Pargament et al. Experiencing a conflict between ethno-religious and gay identity can significantly impact health and well-being.
They also fear rejection from family, clergy, and the religious community. Such findings should alert mental health professionals about specific risk factors experienced by sexual minorities who are affiliated with churches condemning homosexuality. Literature shows that gays and lesbians use various strategies in their attempts to resolve their inner conflict.
Various authors mention prioritizing one of these identities while repressing the other. For instance, Schnoor described how some traditionally minded Jews try to reject gay desires which interfere with their Jewish lives.
Another study by Mark showed that some gay Orthodox Jews seek sexual conversion therapies because they feel great pressure to conform to communal norms, and experience intense guilt and betrayal if they fail to fulfill them.
On the other hand, some gay individuals may do the opposite and reject religion, become apostates, or declare themselves atheists. There is, however, little information on how people perceive the costs of repressing either spiritual or sexual parts of their identity, what psychological mechanisms they use to Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity resulting intra-psychic tension, and how this affects their well-being.
Rodriguez and Ouellette noted that many gays and lesbians have strong feelings about their religious beliefs and sexual identity, and refuse to sacrifice reject either part of their self.
They may use compartmentalization, a short-term coping strategy to reduce intra-psychic conflicts associated with multiple, incompatible identities, by de-emphasizing one of them, depending on the context. However, Jaspal and Cinnirella questioned the suitability of this strategy for those for whom religion constitutes a whole meaning-making system, informing their life narratives and other identities. Various authors also mention revising religious beliefs and re-interpreting religious scriptures as a way of resolving the conflict.
It is possible that a similar strategy could be used by Christian gays, who are taught that it is the sinful act and not the sinner who should be condemned. Gay people reconcile their sexual and religious identities on a social level in different ways. Brekhus identified three main types of strategy in which urban gays in America manage their homosexual identity: Lifestylers build their self-image primarily upon being gay and they prefer to socialize exclusively in LGBT circles.
Commuters lead a conventional life in the suburbs, from which they escape to satisfy their social and sexual needs with other gay people. Integrators, on the other hand, treat homosexuality as part of themselves. Their sexual identity diffuses other identities, e. Flowers and Buston note that, in sociocultural environments of compulsory heterosexuality, it may be especially difficult for gay people to disclose their sexual Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity. For instance, gay Jews in the study of Coyle and Rafalinpreferred not to disclose their sexual identity within their Jewish community and, like commuters discussed by Brekhusoften avoided discussing relationships or sexuality-related issues, and kept a very low profile.
Some complied with community expectations relating to heterosexual dating, or simply lied. In Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity countries, such as the Islamic republic of Iran, there is a significant prejudice and discrimination against sexual minorities, and homosexual acts are prosecuted.
For this reason, contextual factors should be thoroughly examined to understand how sexual minorities integrate various parts of self, how they express these parts, and what problems they may encounter. Contemporary studies which analyze these problems are limited in scope and number. Those that exist have been primarily conducted on the American continent or in Western Europe, where there is high cultural diversity and sexual minorities enjoy more rights.
No empirical studies have been found regarding Eastern Europe or the Middle East, where some countries are still significantly influenced by religion, and it would be beneficial to broaden our knowledge about experiences of LGBT people living in these areas. Poland is an interesting showcase for the study of attitudes toward homosexuality with reference to religion.
There are no laws in the country against homosexual activity; the state does not recognize same-sex unions, marriages, or allow adoption by same-sex couples. Values and norms in Polish society are strongly affected by the Roman Church. Forty-four percent of young respondents aged 18—24 still report participating in holy masses, religious services, and other events organized by the Church, at least once a week Boguszewski, In recent years, however, there has been a visible and steady decline in religious involvement of youth.
Catholic principles seem to affect the way people perceive homosexuality and think about LGBT involvement within the religious community. Roguskain her sociological report, shows that Polish Catholics do not want the church to change its attitude toward sexual minorities. Despite that data show that there is a growing acceptance among Polish Catholics to living out of wedlock, pre-marital sex, homosexuality in general, divorces, and using contraception.
However, no studies exist on how sexual minorities in Poland who identify themselves as Catholics cope with anti-gay sentiment in local communities or how that affects their spiritual practice. Such problems are of special interest to professionals studying human sexuality and how it affects well-being. This explorative study is an attempt to fill gap.
It aims to explore personal experiences of gay Catholics associated with their religious socialization, discovering their sexuality, and finding ways to express Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity sexual and religious self. This study was conducted in Poland in and This methodology was selected to build a deeper understanding of how gay men, brought up in Polish Catholic families and with strong faith, developed their gay identity.
Pietkiewicz and Smith explain that IPA combines ideas driven from phenomenology, hermeneutics, and idiography.
Samples in IPA are small, homogeneous, purposefully selected, and data are carefully analyzed case-by-case. Willig highlights that small qualitative studies may generate hypotheses that can later be tested by methods of the hypothetical-deductive paradigm.
Participants in this research described their religious socialization and its impact on how they experienced their homosexuality, experienced intra-psychic conflicts and attempts to resolve them.
The first author IP is non-Christian and, despite living in Poland, did not have a Catholic upbringing. His knowledge about Catholic values and norms comes from mass media and interaction with the environment where the majority is Catholic.
He is also an academic teacher and certified psychodynamic psychotherapist, with substantial experience in counseling and providing psychotherapy services to gay people representing various faiths. He could thus bring a more clinical perspective into the analysis. The second author MKS is a psychology graduate who has been significantly involved in religious practices and the study of the Catholic doctrine, which gave us a valuable understanding of the phenomena participants referred to. Five of them had higher education, two of them secondary, and one was still a student.
All were Caucasian, Polish, and brought up in families where religion played an important role in everyday life. All were significantly involved with the Church and regularly participated in religious practices at a young age and during adolescence. They all took religious lessons, attended events organized by the Church; two served as ministrants Experimenting with homosexuality in christianity one was involved in a Catholic youth group.
All participants declared that spirituality and relationship with God was an important aspect of their lives, but five reported lesser involvement with religion in adulthood. One was in transition to the Evangelical church. Four participants currently had a relationship with another man. Only four had disclosed their sexual orientation to family.