TIGARD — Twenty-five years ago, Paul Darrow would march in New York’s gay pride parade. He’d pause with peers outside St. Patrick Cathedral to shout obscenities, hoping to interrupt Mass. Catholicism was the enemy.
Now, Darrow counts nothing more thrilling than bowing his head and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
“It was sex, drugs and disco — did I mention rock and roll?” said Darrow, a former fashion model who spoke April 4 at St. Anthony Parish here. He discussed Courage, the spiritual support group that led him to rejoin the church and embrace chastity.
Despite dating rich and famous men, including a professional football player, Darrow was miserable and empty in his former life. But in the past five years of abstinence, prayer and communal service, he has grown joyful.
“Courage increased my hope of being able to break free from my lustful desires that were just enslaving me,” said Darrow, who lives in South Carolina and volunteers for prison ministry.
The Archdiocese of Portland is starting a Courage group for people who experience same-sex attraction and who desire to live in accord with Catholic teaching. The church does not classify a person’s sexual inclinations as sinful, but condemns acting on homosexual urges and wants to show a faithful path forward.
“We are so much more than the sum total of our inclinations and personal desires,” said Darrow, echoing church documents.
Darrow told an audience of 45 people that he has never seen same-sex attraction as his sin. Rather, it was self-indulgence.
About three quarters of those on hand to hear his talk were pastors and parish workers who want to minister to people with same-sex attraction.
Calling sex addiction more difficult to overcome than a heroin habit, Darrow says he has remained completely chaste for five years. He no longer sees others as sexual objects, he said.
Darrow “is a living example that God’s grace is more powerful than the greatest of human temptations,” said Miriam Marston, coordinator of family life and faith formation at the archdiocese.
Darrow, who stopped practicing Catholicism as a teen, reclaimed belief shortly after getting apparently miraculous news from a doctor — despite near-epic promiscuity in New York and San Francisco during the 1980s and 1990s, he did not contract HIV.
On his way to the doctor’s office for test results, he heard an inner message that seemed to come from beyond — You do not have AIDS because you have too much to do to make up for the way you’ve been living.
The reversion to faith didn’t happen all at once. It came in starts and stops.
Eventually, Darrow came to accept that sexual intimacy belongs in marriage between a man and a woman. It just made sense according to nature and God’s plan, he explains.
Darrow says gay rights advocates are hostile toward Catholicism because they have an inner sense that the church stands for the truth. “We all need courage to swim against those humungous cultural waves that are smashing against the sanctity of marriage and the sacredness of the body,” Darrow said. “As a former advocate of that lifestyle, I know all too well the determination of those who want to create a new normal in order to undermine our Catholic and Christian faith and beliefs.”