"The Lion’s Heart" has something to attract and discomfit people at nearly every point along the spectrum of religiosity and sexuality.
Just as the movie Brokeback Mountain paved the way for widespread acceptance of homosexual love affairs, the novel The Lion’s Heartis poised to do the same for the Catholic view of homosexuality. Almost certainly the first of its kind, this gay Catholic romance novel was written by Dena Hunt (also author of Treason) and published by Full Quiver Publishing, a small Canadian company dedicated to promoting Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (“TOB”), mainly through the medium of fiction.
The love affair between the two main characters, Paul and Max, is real, raw, and tragic. Paul is an art gallery director comfortable in his homosexuality, but vaguely dissatisfied with his life of one-night stands. Max is the husband of an art gallery employee and father of two children. When the two men meet, Paul is drawn to Max because of Max’s maturity, stability, and deep-rooted intuitive grasp of the values of marriage and family. With deft skill, the author depicts a romance that is tasteful rather than crude. As the relationship between Paul and Max progresses, the affair erodes the qualities in Max that had made him appealing in the first place. Max’s views on love, parenthood, and society descend into a torturous confusion that even Paul cannot abide. “Falling in love with a man does not justify re-writing all of history,” Paul argues. But for Max, it does.
The Lion’s Heart is part of a growing effort of faithful Catholics to reach out to the gay community. As conceded in the recent video "The Third Way," featuring TOB experts Chris West and Jason Evert, the Church could be doing a much better job of welcoming those with same-sex attraction. The idea of “love the sinner, hate the sin” does not resonate with those conditioned to believe that what they do is synonymous with who they are. Since serious hatred itself is a sin against the Fifth Commandment, perhaps we should dispense with the language of hatred altogether. There is a similar problem with the terminology of disordered attraction. It shuts people down and makes them unwilling to listen.
The Lion’s Heart acknowledges that homosexual desire feels like normal desire to those experiencing it, and homosexual love feels like true love. Where The Lion’s Heart sharply departs from the secular viewpoint is its message that true love requires what’s best for the beloved, and in the case of homosexual love, as dramatically depicted in the story of Paul and Max, what’s best for the beloved is to walk away.
The book is endorsed by the Executive Director of Courage International, the Catholic organization dedicated to helping people with same-sex attraction lead a chaste life. Despite, or perhaps because of, its fidelity to Church teaching on homosexuality, Courage comes under intense hostile pressure from some Catholics and non-Catholics alike. For example, Courage made it into the news recently as the focus of a controversy involving Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. The school had arranged for speakers from Courage to make a presentation about homosexuality to parents. Some prominent gay alumni objected, however, and the presentation was postponed indefinitely.
As public acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual relationships increases, the Church’s message of chastity and self-denial, as proclaimed by groups like Courage, gets thrown by the wayside. When confronted with the open homosexuality of a friend or family member, many people respond by encouraging those with same-sex attraction to enter into love affairs in the mistaken belief it will bring them happiness. This increasingly common reaction took center stage in 2013 when