Interview with Fr. John Hollowell – On Homosexuality and “Unnatural Law”

When I first encountered Fr. John Hollowell, he was busy subverting the world's largest abortion empire. It was last February, and Planned Parenthood had just launched their "I Have a Say" video campaign. The campaign was meant to encourage contraception advocates to speak up in support of the infamous HHS mandate, uniting their voices with Planned Parenthood.

Unfortunately, the abortion giant didn't expect people like Fr. Hollowell to also participate. The young priest submitted a provocative YouTube video which noted that "all people have a say in our country...[and because] my parents chose sacrifice over selfishness, I too have a say." It also described the beauty and freedom found within the Catholic Church's teachings on human sexuality.

His video spread quickly, and it eventually garnered more views than any other entry in the campaign. And when I say more views, I don't mean just a few dozen more. I mean three times the views of any other video, including the one made by the President of Planned Parenthood.
 
I Have a Say Campaign
 
Since then, Fr. Hollowell has continued to promote the Church's holistic sexual understanding. His newest project is a crowd-sourced documentary titled "Unnatural Law?" which is designed to clarify the many misconceptions about the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. The film has already raised 90% of the needed funds but the campaign ends in just three days. If you can spare a few bucks, please chip in!

Here's Fr. Hollowell explaining the project:

And here's more information from the film's official website:

Anger. Frustration. Hatred. These are the common emotions of thousands concerning the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Is the rage justified? Or is it misguided? What does the Church really teach about homosexuality.
 
Produced by Blackstone Films, "Unnatural Law?" will be a 20-30 minute documentary film. Through the use of a powerful story, beautiful imagery and moving music, "Unnatural Law?" will dispel misconceptions about homosexuality and unveil the Church's truly compassionate and forward-thinking position on the issue. It will consist of poignant interviews with leadership figures in the Church, Catholics who live with same-sex attractions and find great joy and freedom in the Church's teaching on the subject, and leading mental health experts from across the country.
 
The final product will be released in late 2013 and distributed primarily via the internet, so that anyone can see it, whenever, wherever, for FREE.

Fr. Hollowell graciously agreed to discuss his new film and the general confusion surrounding the Church's teachings on this controversial topic.
 


 

Q: From your view as a priest, what are the biggest confusions surrounding the Church's teaching on homosexuality?

 
I think the biggest confusion is that good, faithful Catholics are often told very aggressively what it is that their Church believes by people who don't truly understand our positions or our reasons for those positions.

The Church's teachings on homosexuality and same-sex attraction are layered, nuanced, scientific, and based on authentic psychology. But most Catholics have not had the position stated to them clearly and articulately, so when those outside the Church seek to tell Catholics what they believe, most are unable to respond.
 

Q: You chose a documentary-style film for your "Unnatural Law?" project. Why that form instead of a book or YouTube video or blog post?

 
Great question! I'm convinced that a concise documentary film is the medium that will have the largest impact. There are lots of good books out there on the subject already. Lots of great and faithful bloggers have done wonderful blog posts trying to help people understand the Church's teachings on homosexuality.

But there is a big problem with the ways faithful Catholics are trying to explain ourselves. This is the Twitter generation and so we want things short, concise, and clear. To get a lot of people to read a book would be considered nothing short of miraculous. As a Catholic blogger, as much as I like to deceive myself sometimes, I know most Catholics don't read blogs.

Yet people today will watch a video if it is well done. It it is made with the quality and professionalism they have come to expect from Hollywood films, people will give it a try. It also helps if the film is concise, not rambling all over the place but focuses on the message it's trying to present.

I looked at other options but remain convinced that a passionate, professional, high quality, 20-25 minute documentary video is the best way to help turn the tide in our country on this key issue of homosexuality.
 

Q: The film's title suggests you'll focus on the 'natural law.' What is that and how does it apply to homosexuality?

 
"Natural law" is an ancient philosophical/theological concept which says that there are things that all human persons know to be right and wrong, regardless of whether they believe in God. "Natural law" also has a slightly different usage where it refers to the fact that people have a nature, and if we do things that are against our nature, we can't help but be miserable. Both of these usages stand against homosexual activity.

The title of the film is something we kicked around for days when we fist began. I should say up front that we aren't completely wedded to the title. Some have expressed concern about it, and so we're open to other ideas or suggestions. But we chose it because we believe it might get those who are hostile to the Church to take a moment to see what the video is all about.

"Natural law" is a term that a lot of people experiencing same-sex attraction find offensive, so we thought putting an "un" in front of it might give individuals who despise the Church's teachings pause to wonder "what is this video about?" The question mark at the end is also very important for our title as it will hopefully cause people to wonder what direction the film is going in.

Again, as we move forward, we’re open to a new title surfacing. We hope to keep praying on it and listening to suggestions as we move through shooting and editing.
 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who, on the one hand, experiences same-sex attraction while, on the other hand, wants to follow the Church's teaching?

 
My advice would be to listen to the many other Catholics out there who also experience same-sex attraction, and nonetheless find the Church to be a source of great comfort, compassion, and guidance. There are some great authors out there who have written powerfully about their Catholic faith and their same-sex attraction, and so I would steer people towards them.

People don’t listen to authority much anymore, so I would put them in touch with someone who is from their same situation in life who could help them see through all the confusion that is out there about what the Church actually teaches on this topic.
 

Q: Suppose you had a platform to speak to millions of people, Catholics and non-Catholics, who are angry and hurt by the Church's position on homosexuality. The catch is that you can only deliver one sentence. What would you say?

 
I say this compassionately: you don’t really know what the Church teaches on this topic nor do you know why the Church teaches what it does, but if you watch our documentary you will be absolutely amazed and completely surprised.
 
'Unnatural Law' Poster
 


 
In addition to Fr. Hollowell's upcoming film, I also suggest these great resources for anyone struggling with, or wanting to learn more about, the Church's graceful teachings on homosexuality:

Books
- Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality: New Paths to Understanding by Fr. Lou Cameli
- Homosexuality and the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions by Fr. John Harvey
- Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism by Melinda Selmys
- The Courage to be Chaste by Fr. Benedict Groeschel
- The Truth of Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful by Fr. John Harvey

Blogs and Websites
- Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine
- Courage
- Sexual Authenticity
 


 
Be sure to check out the "Unnatural Law?" website, and consider tossing a few dollars their way.

If you liked this discussion, you'll find several more on my Interviews page. Subscribe free via feed reader or email and ensure sure you don't miss future interviews.
 

 
  • Luke Arredondo

    Hey Brandon, you might also look at a work by David Morrison, called Beyond Gay. Not sure if it's still in print but it's a great story of a man who at one point debated Christians and loathed the Church's position regarding homosexuality but eventually found that the only way to live with dignity was to live chastely. Great read.

  • Guest

    After watching Fr. John's classes on homosexuality on youtube, I hope and pray that he adopts a less academic approach in "Unnatural Law," should it come to fruition. While there is certainly merit in ensuring that the fullness of Catholic teaching is presented, most young Catholics in my experience are aware of the moral nuances of Church teaching on homosexuality; they reject it because the pastoral approach (that is, Church teaching in practice) on this issue is too far removed from the collective experience of gays and lesbians in their own lives.

    I think an examination of the Church-approved Apostolates (Courage, EnCourage, etc.) would be very useful here. I do not doubt the good intentions of those who run the apostolate, but the simple fact of the matter is that its approach is too wedded to outmoded "ex-gay" psychology to effectively counter the Dan Savages of the world. As long as this conflation of psychology with philosophy continues, the Church is going to be playing defense on this issue. There is no reason for that to be the case; we have the Truth on our side. I hope Fr. John is willing to explore that in his movie.

  • Dan Crofts

    Keep up the great work, Fr. John! I'll be praying for you, and will try to make a donation if I can!

  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy