Catholic World Report Interview:

Visit a street fair in San Francisco’s Castro district and you’re likely to meet Joseph Sciambra, 45, wearing a “Jesus loves you” t-shirt and handing out copies of his book,Swallowed by Satan. It tells the story of how, as a boy growing up in a lax Catholic family in Napa, California, he became addicted to pornography.

Sexually confused at age 18, Sciambra made his way to the Castro, a “gay mecca,” and immersed himself in the gay lifestyle for 11 years. He lived it to the extreme, even acting in gay porn. But rather than the happiness, acceptance, and fulfillment he sought, he found a life of misery.

With the help of Courage, the Catholic Church’s ministry to people with same-sex attraction, Sciambra embraced chastity and returned to the practice of the Catholic faith. Today, he makes a modest living running a Catholic bookstore in Napa, and devotes himself to a personal apostolate helping those in the gay lifestyle, “to offer them the hope that there is life after being gay,” he says. Sciambra also blogs regularly and shares his story in both the Catholic and secular media.

He recently spoke with CWR.

CWR: Some people argue that pornography does no harm to the viewer or to society. You believe instead that it was a factor that led you into a self-destructive gay lifestyle…

For the whole article, click here.


This new convert sent me a nice e-mail thanking me. I asked if I could share it on my blog. He agreed but asked to remain anonymous and I agreed. He said, “I converted because I lost all the discussions I had with a Catholic workmate – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. One problem – my Protestant relatives. How do I explain going Papist to them? I ended up sending this email (in which I site you as one of the reasons I went to the dark side, hence, this email to you.”

So, here goes the e-mail:

And now… for something completely different.

  Funny you should mention ‘bars’ in your email and ask if I had any, because I have a doozy. You might want to get yourself a cup of tea for this one.

  In my readings and such it became apparent to me in the spring, (probably just after I last wrote to you), that to study Scripture on my own was ok, but that I needed to belong to a fellowship of believers – a denomination of some kind. I can’t remember how I came to this conclusion, but it made sense and I thought it was a good idea. So off I went.

  The first thing I found was that I had 33,000 choices! I thought it was a misprint, but no – there are an estimated thirty-three thousand Christian denominations. I’m sure some of those are quasi-Christian cults like the Mormons and the JW’s, (and their many offshoots), but still, that’s a lot to choose from.

Another thing is that there would have to be a church in Edmonton, which I figured wouldn’t be too much of a problem because a city of a million people should contain most of the usual mainline denominations. (If Jim Bob’s Church of Jesus Christ in Monroe, Alabama is the true Church of Christ, then we’re all out of luck!)

  So I began reading the small print to this or that church. There were, (for the most part), many points I could agree with, but invariably there was a ‘poison pill’ in there somewhere. Maybe they didn’t have an Ellen White or Joseph Smith, but I would for sure come across a doctrine that I could not stomach. (Gay ‘marriage’ is one of them, which for me wipes out most Canadian churches, including the one I was baptized in – the Anglican.)

  My evangelical workmate filled me in on his Church, where the Holy Spirit is alive and everyone is jumping all over the place. I listened, but in the end that’s not my idea of worship. (For me, Jesus is God – not my fishing buddy.) (My opinion, of course!!) I thanked him for the invite and continued on.

  My journey was good fun – I was learning about different denominations and what they believed, but at the same time I was also coming to grips with the fact that you can justify almost anything, (morally or theologically), and still consider yourself a ‘Christian.’

  Another thing that was starting to gnaw at me was, (for the lack of a better word), truth. Christ is the Truth. But does any one of the 33,000 have a complete handle on His teachings? Are they all, (at least in some part), right? Are they all, (at least in some part), wrong? I wanted one that taught the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – but I was beginning to think that the best place for that might be back in my living room.

  And that’s another thing that bothered me. I might debate myself on the way home from work, (or brushing my teeth), but in the end I usually agree with myself. Myself and I perfect for each other. And that’s what I saw in all these denominations – parishioners staying in a particular denomination until they hear something they don’t like, and then off they go across the street to another denomination.

Then they’re happy, until they hear something they don’t agree with. Then off they go. Again and again and again. I’ve even read of new preachers coming into a church and teaching doctrines that completely contradicted the views of the previous ministers. So if you don’t agree with the teachings, sometimes you don’t have to go across the street – you can just replace the minister. None of this made sense to me.

  I was getting so exasperated that one time at coffee I said to my other workmate, (Simon the RC), “I’d even consider your church just because of its stance on moral issues.” As soon as I said it I couldn’t believe I said it, but, (what the heck), I thought it would be fun to dig up one of the many ‘poison pills’ that church had to offer. I couldn’t wait to get home.

  But instead of going to one of my websites, I wanted to find a Catholic one and use fodder from that to skewer my workmate – who I like a lot, but, well… business is business.   

  It didn’t take long to find a site called ‘catholic bridge.’ The guy who runs it is a Canadian, so I figured at least I’d have that in common with him. He’s a lay person who is a convert and wants to explain Catholicism to people who are interested – and from what I could tell, that usually meant hostile Protestants!

  It was laid out really well, with all the good, juicy subjects there for the picking – so many, in fact, that I ignored Mary and jumped on a somewhat obscure one – Replacement Theology.

  Unfortunately, Sue, I was surprised to find that I sort of, somewhat, kind of, didn’t totally disagree with what the guy wrote. So I picked another, with the same result. Then another. For the rest of the evening, I may not have totally agreed with what I was reading on subject after subject, but once I was filled in on what they actually believe and practice, (as opposed to what I had always assumed they believed and practiced), I had to admit that there would be no poison pill that night.

  Sue, I think you can see where this is going. I’ll skip all the lectures, debates and shows that I’ve watched, the articles I’ve read, and the all the discussions I’ve had with my two workmates over the spring and summer. Try as I might, (and as crazy as this sounds), not only could I not find my poison pill, but I was beginning to see how the whole thing fit together – and it fit together beautifully.

So, (after much contemplation and prayer), I have decided to become Catholic.

Sister? You ok? Have a sip of tea. I can explain.

  I can explain – but I won’t be discussing any points of theology, as that can be done by simply visiting the website I mentioned earlier, (catholic bridge), or a much better one, Catholic Answers. An explanation of doctrine can be done by them.

  There are two people in particular who were very influential in my decision – Dr. Scott Hahn, (former Presbyterian), and Steve Ray, (former evangelical.) Their stuff is all over the Internet, and if you want an insight into why I’ve gone this route, their testimonies, lectures, debates and interviews would go a long way in shedding light on my decision.

   Also, The Journey Home, (YouTube), also played a large part. Converts discuss how they made their way to the Church, from atheism, Islam, evangelical Protestantism – you name it. You won’t agree with their final destination, but at least you’d understand how they got there.

  How I got there mirrors many of the guests on that show. Something makes them curious, so they ask questions. They get answers that make sense, so they ask more questions, get more answers, and finally they read the Early Church Fathers. Then they join the Church. That seems to be the pattern.

  I found the most interesting shows to be the ones that involved evangelical missionaries or pastors, because of their theological training, and deep, deep distrust, (or outright hostility), to Catholicism. And then to watch their antipathy vanish into the air was fascinating stuff.

   Sister, I simply wanted to find the path, (no matter how roundabout), that was best for me, regardless of the outcome. And believe me, (like guests on the Journey Home), this is the last place I thought I’d end up.

Best wishes to all and God Bless,

New Convert  :-) happy


At the age of three in 1974, our family moved to Austin, TX. The first thing my parents did was join a wonderful Episcopal Church in which I spent my entire childhood. My parents were diligent about bringing me to church every Sunday and making sure I “robed” as an altar server/acolyte. My mother grew up Methodist, a denomination with historic connections to the Church of England (Anglican). My dad was a cradle Episcopalian who was spiritually formed by the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

At the age of five, I was accidently burned from the flames of a candle. My injuries were so severe that I spent three months in hospital rehabilitation and salt baths. I was thankful that my dad caught the fire in time and rolled me on the ground to extinguish the flames.

My parents stayed by me and loved me through that difficult time. After three days, the doctors were not certain that I would survive, but by the grace of God, I survived and even thrived. I remember that our dear Episcopal priest visited me regularly at the hospital, and my best friend Holly kept me company as I healed and recovered at home.

My Episcopal Church family prayed over me regularly and supported my parents in a number of ways for which I will always be grateful. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church at the age of nine though I didn’t fully understand what confirmation meant. I thought it was something everyone did at a certain age.

In the 1970s, girls started serving at the altar (see picture) in Episcopal churches across the nation. This was happening in other parts of the Anglican Communion, but the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) became the gateway for modern innovations, such as the ordination of women to the priesthood, something that had never been practiced in historic Christianity.

In 1983, at the age of twelve, I loved serving at the altar with a new a godly Episcopal priest until I graduated from high school in 1990. That priest expended much time and energy at the national level trying to protect our parish and diocese from the inroads of modernism, pro-abortion, and gay activism. The Episcopal Church was attempting to be “prophetic” by introducing women’s ordination, radical changes to the Prayer Book (1979) and idolizing “diversity”.

Girls serving at the altar tended to lead us in different directions. Some sought ordination. Others simply wanted to be near the presence of the Lord. Thankfully, for me, altar service lead to loving Jesus and the Eucharist Feast.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 9.46.34 AM
Me as an acolyte/altar server in 1980.

In the late 1970s, I experienced changes in the liturgy and the worship music. Both were more contemporary in style and in the language. This is the time that women’s ordination started, and it was the Episcopal Church USA that opened the doorway to this dangerous modern innovation. I didn’t understand that women’s ordination to the priesthood was not Scriptural and that it departed from the historic Christian faith.

Throughout my elementary and middle school years, I picked up on certain doctrines about salvation, baptism, and Communion. I was taught that salvation was ongoing and that someone could fall from grace if they gravely turned away from God and never repented.

Although I didn’t know what sins of grave matter were, I heard occasional references to the Seven Deadly Sins. I was also taught that water baptism was required for salvation and that the elements of Communion somehow changed at the altar, but I wasn’t sure how that mattered. I didn’t understand that one’s heart needed to be prepared to receive Communion, that sins should be confessed and fully repented before receiving the Eucharist. General words of confession became less and less evident with the 1979 Prayer Book.
I didn’t know at the time how serving at the altar would have such a great impact on my Christian faith. It instilled a steady attraction to the altar and mostly to Jesus Christ. I cannot thank my parents enough for getting me to the acolyte room on time at least twice a month and Church every Sunday because being an acolyte profoundly shaped my faith
After my ten years of altar service, I earned this custom-made James Avery cross. It is now on a rosary that I use regularly to pray.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 9.48.32 AMIn my teen years, I experienced moderate to liberal teachings from the youth leadership on sexuality at the Austin Episcopal diocesan-wide level. This was the trend in other Episcopal dioceses as well. Sadly, throughout my active church involvement, I never opened a Bible or learned much about the Christian faith at my church youth group. Thankfully, parts of the 1979 Prayer Book retained Scripture which I memorized and have never forgotten. This played a huge part in my later faith journey.
In 1990, I moved into the freshman dormitory at Baylor University. I was soon approached by Evangelical Protestants who lead me to a radical conversion experience. I had never seen or heard of Billy Graham or his style, but this all woke me up to God’s Word and reading the Bible for the first time.

To read the whole story with many more pictures, click HERE.

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“An Interview with Catholic Apologist Steve Ray”

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Islamic Convert to the Catholic Faith on Journey Home

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Love these kind of e-mails: Back to the Catholic Church

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