Unnatural Law? An Interview with Fr. John Hollowell

A particular “hot-button” issue facing contemporary American culture concerns homosexuality and the Catholic Church. 

The general position of the Catholic Church on homosexuality is fairly well-known: homosexual acts are a sin and the inclination to these acts is intrinsically disordered.

Despite the above formulation, many people do not understand why the Church has taken the position it has on homosexuality.  Fr. John Hollowell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, has observed this and has decided to do something about it.

Working with the Catholic media organization, Blackstone Films, Fr. Hollowell is producing a short 20-30 minute documentary entitled “Unnatural Law?  What the Catholic Church Really Teaches about Homosexuality.

Fr. Hollowell and Blackstone Films are seeking donations to help make this documentary a reality.  Please make sure to donate!

Catholic Lane recently caught up with Fr. Hollowell and interviewed him concerning this documentary.  Our questions are in bold.

Fr. Hollowell, what Diocese are you from?

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis

How long have you been ordained?

3.5 years

What led you to the priesthood?

In college I started reading the Bible for a few minutes a day and over the course of about a year and a half I felt like God was calling me to the priesthood.  I was all ready to tell my family and friends when I was going into my senior year of college, but of course I met a girl!  That certainly put a wrinkle in things for a while, but I ultimately felt like God was putting before me the two vocations and saying “I am offering you marriage or the priesthood, and I am asking you to choose priesthood, but I’m not forcing it.”  I chose the priesthood, and I have been thankful for that every day of my life so far!

What sort of pastoral work/ministry have you been involved both prior to and after your ordination?

Out of college, I taught math for two years and coached football and track at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.  That was a great experience because I had the opportunity to live on my own and pay bills and so forth.  After ordination to the priesthood in June of 2009 I was assigned to teach theology and be the chaplain for Cardinal Ritter High School.  I was still able to put my coaching to use as a priest, helping coach the football team at Cardinal Ritter as well.  Since July of this year, I have been assigned to Annunciation Catholic Church in Brazil, IN.  It has been such a big change, but I have absolutely loved every day of ministry here in Brazil.  I feel like being a pastor of a parish is really what God called me to do with my life, and it feels as natural as riding a bike!

What is the documentary that you have proposed to make and why have you chosen Blackstone Films to produce it?

The documentary we are trying to raise funds to make is called Unnatural Law? and it is an attempt to articulate the Church’s teachings on homosexuality in a way that is artistic, beautiful, powerful, compelling, compassionate, truthful, and convincing.  We hope that it will be something that can help draw more people to the Church, not turn folks away. 

What interested you in the topic of homosexuality and the Church’s teaching?

I maintain a blog and have worked a lot with young people, and I am convinced that our teaching on homosexuality is understood by very few Catholics today.  If Catholics don’t understand the teachings, then we certainly can’t be that surprised that the rest of society is confused by our teachings, and, as is even more frequently the case, hostile to the Church.  As I’ve looked around for a few years, I’ve realized that this is the issue right now, and it is very difficult for a lot of Catholics.  We hope to help clarify, both to Catholics and to the larger society, what we actually teach…and why.

I partnered with Blackstone Films because they are an emerging Catholic film company that does amazing work!  I’ve worked with Blackstone Films on smaller projects, and I have been extremely impressed with their knowledge, their love for the Church, and their creative abilities.  Blackstone pours quality into everything they do – from the music, to the lighting, to the editing…I am confident that if we raise the funds for this project, then people will be blown away by the final product that we are able to give to the world.

In your promotional video for the proposed documentary, you mentioned that you found it “difficult to access” the Church’s teaching and that you were “digging in obscure places to find the answers to my questions.”  Can you elaborate upon these statements, perhaps beginning with saying what made it hard to find the Church’s teaching and where you were looking?

I believe most people would say they understand that the Church doesn’t consider the attraction a sin but considers acting on that attraction to be a sin.  The problem is that not a lot of Catholics (let alone non-Catholics) know why the Church teaches that.  Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote so beautifully and clearly about the psychology of attraction, but not many people have read his work because it is difficult and academic (I’m speaking here of “Love and Responsibility” which is his philosophical work which would later evolve into his papal “Human Love in the Divine Plan: A Theology of the Body”). 

It was also a struggle to find anything on issues like same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.  I found brief statements about marriage being the fundamental building block of a society and so forth – but nothing I could find was able to make the case to a person who doesn’t care what the Church has to say.  I had to do a lot of digging and pulling arguments together from all over the place that would help explain why we taught these types of things.  It is these findings that we want to put together in a documentary to share with everyone else in a way that they will digest it.

In tandem with the above, you further stated that when you did find the Church’s teaching, it (the teaching) was very beautiful and not being spread.  There are many books on the topic and organizations dedicated to helping people understand homosexuality from both a clinical and Christian perspective.  Have you discovered something that can be considered “revolutionary” and that will change the discussions?  If so, can you share some of this information with our readers?

I think what will be revolutionary about the film is the combining of all that the Church has to say to our society in one place where it is succinctly stated, presented, elaborated on by the important players in the discussion, and presented in a way that will draw people in.  There are a lot of good books out there – most people don’t read books.  I’ve seen some decent stuff on EWTN and online and so forth, but most people don’t watch those types of things because they aren’t always artistically appealing, or they seem “cheesily” made.  Another problem I’ve seen in other attempts to present to the world our teachings on this subject is that the points being made are long-winded and tend to be hard to follow and lengthy.  We believe that what is revolutionary about our project is that it gets to the point in a clear, articulate, and beautiful way and is easy to follow.  I believe strongly that it will help Catholics understand better what we believe, and hopefully it will help non-Catholics understand our teachings better as well.  We think the window is closing on our opportunity to tell others about what we believe on this crucial issue, and we believe that if we don’t start doing a much better job, we could be in serious trouble in the American Catholic Church precisely because we failed to let people know what we actually believe. 

Thank you very much for your time and your responses, Fr. Hollowell.  Know that we here at Catholic Lane shall pray for the success of this documentary both financially and within the hearts of all who watch it.

Once again, Fr. Hollowell and Blackstone Films are seeking donations to help make this documentary a reality.  Please make sure to donate!