I think the world of Eve Tushnet

She is a brilliant, faithful, celibate, gay Catholic who writes here on why she is Catholic in a culture that stands agog at how “gay” and “catholic” can go in the same sentence.

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  • So do I. I wish she would take comments on her Patheos blogs.

    • moseynon

      Yes, there have been times when I have regretted that we can not add our comments. However, I think her experience with online comments has not been favorable.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Likely. Sticking to Church teaching frequently subjects one to enfilade from both sides, and this is especially true for this issue.

    • Rachel

      Considering the sort of comments that were made at the bottom of this article (it was published in the Atlantic) I understand why she probably doesn’t want comments on her blog. UGH! Why is it that every time an article of a religious or a moral nature is published, the combox atheists must take over good chunks of the comments? It is so tiresome. Every article, youtube video, etc that I’ve seen brings them out and they are so boring. They bring up the same fallacies every time and sadly they are VERY, VERY hostile as in hurling hateful insults and wishing that every believer would be wiped off the face of the earth. Yes, sadly, at the end of this lovely article that Eve published, there were some that said hateful things of this sort. They certainly aren’t helping their “cause” any by souring EVERY combox :(.

      • Yes, I think I understand why she doesn’t, if the hostility is her issue. But I think most of her blogs are not on gay issues. She’s an incredibly smart person. I enjoy reading many of her cultural and art (art including literature and music) observations. I did a quick scan of her recent 20 or 30 blogs, and maybe three or four or gay related. I don’t really care about commenting on those, but it would be nice to comment on the others. Maybe she could be selective in which blogs to allow comments.

  • David

    She still has a long way to go and provides a lot of confusion for people- the very fact that she identifies herself as “gay” or “queer.” Even if someone is celibate or more acurately contintent, if they still see nothing wrong with their attractions and infer they are normal or a part of God’s plan, that is quite misleading. This gives the impression that same sex attraction is fine as long as you refrain from the sinful behavior, which seems to be a common error amongst even orthodox Catholics today. She is someone who suffers from same-sex attraction, from the homosexual disorder; she is not “gay” or “lesbian”, and all that such terms erroneously connotate. We must use the correct terms to point out the truth, and the minute we use the language that is the cause of error and confusion we have done a disservice.

    • chezami

      So it’s not enough that she lives in obedience to Holy Church and defends her to the world. She has to be punished for her temptations?

      • vox borealis

        I’m not sure that’s what Chris is saying. I think he’s saying that her use of LGBTQ lingo (e.g. self-identifying as “gay” or “queer”) is problematic in itself, as these terms are explicitly rejected by the Church (as I understand it).

        I too was not 100% thrilled with her piece. It seemed to boil down to: “I got baptized before I really understood Church teaching, but I still follow the rules, but I’m holding out for when the Church changes its approach to gays.” Now there is nothing wrong with that per se, but the language can be confusing, as it verges on sounding like she wants the Church to change its teaching with regard to same sex attraction. I’m not saying she wrote that, but I can see where this paragraph might rankle some readers:

        I spend a lot of time these days working with people who are trying to make the Church a home for gay people. It’s painfully far from that now. I’ve written about possible approaches to counseling in Catholic schools; anti-bullying efforts; my problems with some of the language the Church uses about homosexuality; repressive ideas of gender which would leave no room for St. Francis and St. Joan; and shame-based therapy and bad psychological theories.

        • David

          Exactly. After reading this quote I think her approach may be rather problematic and hostile to a Christian or even a sound philosophical approach: using the term gender, utilized versus the term sex to claim that it is a fluid concept versus the fact that there are only two sexes; inference that St. Francis was homosexual or effeminate or what? Inferring that Catholicism has repressive ideas about sexuality and needs to “get with the times”. Bad psychological theories- is she referring to the fact that same sex attraction can sometimes be cured by legitimate therapy?

          If you go to her site and look under her heading of “Resources on God and homosexuality” there is only one reference, from the USCCB for parents of homosexuals, and the rest are ambiguous if not pro-homosexual attraction pieces. It is inexplicable that there are no Church documents or recommended works such as those of Fr. John Harvey!!! She seems to be half in the world of homosexual activism and repeats many cliches and terms thereof.

          • I think you are overstating the “problems” in her approach. For example, I tend to use “gender” in place of “sex,” not because I believe in the fluidity of gender or that it is a better term, but simply out of habit — where I come from, and in the environment I grew up in, “gender” was synonymous with “sex” and there was no ulterior motive for that.

            I also think you are inferring way more than what she implied in the text. You don’t know what specifically she meant by “bad psychological theories,” for example, so assuming she meant theories that actually work, or even that you believe actually work, is unfair to her.

            Finally, I’d point out that just as she might have “baggage” or biases from her experience, so you might have some too which is coloring how you interpret what she wrote. In other words, give her the benefit of the doubt, especially when focusing on a short excerpt filled with very generalized ideas.

    • jaybird1951

      Some or many use the term ‘gay’ to refer to anyone who is homosexually inclined. However, to me it refers to the sexually active who accept the agenda and lifestyle as opposed to those who may or may not be active at times but fight against the temptation. .

      • Newp Ort

        That’s not what it means to Ms Tushnet. Shouldn’t she be able to define herself as she wishes, considering she is the one living her life as a faithful gay catholic? Why should she limit herself by the misconceptions of others?

        • vox borealis

          Isn’t there a danger is saying that someone should be allowed to define him/herself as s/he pleases? What if I decide to define myself as African-American even if I am not, because I decide the term has a different meaning to me?

          All terms are defined by a larger community or lese they have no meaning (though of course, communities often wrestle with and debate terminology).

          • Newp Ort

            That is a good point, but it isn’t like she is making this term up from whole cloth.

            I get the uncomfortable feeling that people want her to identify as something besides “gay” because they want her to effectively stand up and say “i’m homosexual, but not one of THOSE homosexuals.”

  • Erica

    Eve didn’t have comments on her Blogspot blog -ever. So it’s no surprise that she wouldn’t have them on Patheos.

    People should read Terry Nelson of Abbey Roads on this. He really gets it and articulates the problems w/Eve’s perspective with great charity.

    As pointed out, the problem is that what the Catholic Church teaches is not exactly “Gay orientation is a mysterious and intriguing gift that alerts us to the experience of the “other” but gay sex is wrong for right now.” No, what the Catholic Church teaches is homosexual desires and orientation are DISORDERED. That there is something amiss and broken and yes, wrong with someone who cannot orient themselves to the opposite sex in the way God intended (per Genesis) and who instead feels as if he/she can only “mate” with a person of the same sex. That if a woman desires to “mate” with another woman – in all senses of the term – and has no desire to “mate” with a man – there is something amiss. We don’t know why, but no, that is not normal and is a problem.

    There is no intrinsic sinfulness in that disorder, just as there is no intrinsic sinfulness in being bipolar or schizophrenic. But as with any of those, it results in a false understanding of reality which then can lead to sin – despair, selfishness, etc (speaking of the other two examples).

    It’s not enough to leap to her defense by saying,”So it’s not enough that she lives in obedience to Holy Church and defends her to the world. She has to be punished for her temptations?”

    This is EXACTLY the kind of discourse that gets Mark on the road to rhetorical problems. Is anyone saying that? Anyone “punishing” her? No – people are looking at what the Church actually teaches and comparing it to what she publicly states about the Church and homosexuality and asking pointed questions as to whether they indeed, match up. Deal with the arguments – not your caricature of the argument. Again, read Terry Nelson. He gets it, and is quite articulate and honest in his posts on this.

    • Greg B

      Erica, as Beadgirl suggests below to another poster, I think you’re overstating the problem – at least with respect to this particular article.

      Stop and consider for a moment the minor miracle that this article represents. It’s a piece that explicitly states that the author is Catholic, holds the orthodox Catholic position on sexuality (that sex is rightly reserved to opposite gender relations) and that there is good reason for doing so…published in a SECULAR news magazine! (Seriously?!?) Is the piece theologically flawless? Maybe not. But where did you get this from: “As pointed out, the problem is that what the Catholic Church teaches is
      not exactly ‘Gay orientation is a mysterious and intriguing gift that
      alerts us to the experience of the “other” but gay sex is wrong for
      right now.’ No…” It’s not in the article.

      As you yourself say, “Deal with the arguments, not the caricature of the argument.”

      Eve’s argument is that there are two types of love in the world – opposite sex and same sex. Same sex relationships and marriage do not coincide, in Eve’s mind. Period. I don’t see a “for now” in the article anywhere.

      Is your issue with her suggesting that the Church needs to do a better job of caring for people with sexually deviant orientations? Because she’s absolutely right about that also. Catholics tend all too often to break down into one of two types when it comes to sexual immorality – those who hate the sin and hate the sinner, and those who love the sinner and their sin along with them. Those of us who, with the Church, denounce sexual deviance need to do a better job of caring for those who are afflicted with it, lest in the end, we be found to be “clashing gongs”, “clanging cymbals.”

      If this piece were published in the National Catholic Register, perhaps you’d have a little room for taking Eve to task over statements like, “the Church is supposed to form your conscience, not supercede it”; although there is a sense in which this is true too. But given the context…how can you not fail to appreciate, as I said at the beginning, the minor (major??) miracle that is this article?

      • Erica

        I’m not convinced, from anything Eve has ever written, that she is in fundamental agreement with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality itself, as stated in the Catechism and expressed for two thousand years at its essence – that a woman’s sexual and “coupling” desire for other women is a disorder, not another variation of love that is just different. And I’ve read her for years. The truth she has always powerfully expressed is an Augustinian one -that all of our loves point to the Greatest Love – even those that come out of sin and disordered affections. They all have the power to move us to God, somehow. But it is a very fine line between this recognition of how God reaches through even our brokenness and sin to the stance of ignoring the “disordered” part of homosexuality in favor of just “different.”

        • Greg B

          And, again, had Eve written on homosexuality “catechism style”, the article would never have made it to print. (Minor miracle that it made it to print as is.) Because she wrote the way she did, in language that is more familiar to the general public, there are tons and tons of people out there who are going to reassess their view on homosexuality in favor of the orthodox stance.

          A twelve ounce glass with 6 ounces of water in it – half empty of half full? If you insist on picking one or the other, then you’re missing the point.

          There are two ways to look at sexual desires – a list of dont’s and a list of do’s. Authentic chastity involves both. Eve could suggest that homosexual “inclinations” are just evil, period. But that a) wouldn’t do justice to the fact that it’s not the sexual desire itself that’s the problem, it’s the particular object of this desire in cases like hers (and in many cases of disordered heterosexuality as well) that is problematic, and b) that’s only half the story. “Ok,” many would say. “So, I know what I CAN’T do/desire…Now what? I don’t that know that there’s a way to stop desiring entirely, so what do I do with my affection? Apparently, I’m in a lose-lose situation and God just plain hates me. I’m a freak, I guess.”

          Follow me?

          • Erica

            My point is that it’s my view that she doesn’t write “catechism style” because she doesn’t buy it. She says outright that she has problems with the language the Church uses about homosexuality. Well, the language says what the language says. I honestly don’t think -again, after reading her for years – that she believes that her lesbianism is “disordered.” I think she sincerely believes that marriage is for male/female (after all she’s worked for pro marriage groups, duh), but that doesn’t mean that homosexual desire is necessasrily a negative. She really does dance around the issue.

            People hate, hate, hate to put homosexuality in the mental illness category, but actually it makes a lot more sense and actually makes it easier to talk about, categorically and in terms of personal consequences. When you put it in the same category as chronic depression, you can see that the desire and perceived need doesn’t necessarily have to be put in the “God made me this way, I’m awful” framework.

            And let’s not forget about sodomy, which for thousands of years, has been condemned as a very serious sin. The desire to commit sodomy is not just a matter of different shades of a beautiful rainbow. It is a deep urge to commit a quite serious sin. Was all of that just….wrong?

            Point: Does Eve believe the traditional Catholic teaching on homosexuality, from top to bottom, root to branch? After reading her for years, I don’t think so, but she can correct me if I’m wrong.

            • Greg B

              Erica, not trying to belabor any points here. I sympathize with your desire for orthodoxy. And I grasp what you’re getting at and suspect that the answer to your question immediately above is actually yes – even if she does not articulate her belief the same way a lot of the rest of us would. I could be wrong. In contrast your own experience, this is the first article I ever recall reading of Eve’s. But given only the context of the article in question…

              Just for the sake of discussion at this point – What is the practical difference between “believing that homosexuality is disordered” and believing that the Bible is clear that sexual expression is reserved for (heterosexual) married couples?

              It sounds like what you’re saying is that “Eve doesn’t seem to grasp that homosexuality is a problem/disorder.” On the contrary, what *I* get out of the article is that she does indeed appreciate this point; she just chooses to articulate it in a largely positive, rather than negative way. (And by positive and negative here, I don’t mean “good” and “bad”. I mean, a way that’s constructive and focuses on what she CAN do with the hand of cards she’s been dealt versus focusing on what she can’t do or has to denounce. See the half full, half empty question above.)

              If what you’re suggesting is that Eve is basically saying out of one side of her mouth that “Of course marriage is only one man, one woman”, and out of the other side of her mouth saying, “It’s ok for me to essentially pretend that I’m married to someone of the same sex in my heart, though,”, I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment of her position.

              Again, I could be wrong. But that’s my interpretation of the article as it stands all by itself.

              • Erica

                It is quite common among the “gay Catholic” crowd to praise marriage between a man and a woman as a fabulous thing that makes nice babies in a natural way and at the same time to praise singular love and sexual expression between a man and a man and a woman and a woman as *not a bad thing because it’s love.*

                What I’m saying is that I don’t think Eve would put it as saying different things out of different sides of her mouth. She would see them as consistent. That because of biology, marriage is marriage between a man and a woman, but that a woman’s desire for a woman as a singular soul mate will not ever be marriage-like, but at the same time is not problematic, just different.

                Again, my issue is not really with Eve. My issue is with Mark who presents stuff uncritically than says YOU ARE PUNISHING HER when you start to ask questions of her position.

                • Greg B

                  After carefully re-reading Chris’s post, Mark’s response, and then your reply to me immediately above, I guess I would offer two concluding thoughts:

                  1) Sometimes it’s ok to let people do their own thinking. Or, in other words, if Mark’s blog was clearly one that proposed to officially teach the Catholic faith (some facet of the catechism essentially) in every post – and this, no less, to folks who would consider themselves “beginners” or “novices” as opposed to being more “advanced” in their theology, then perhaps a little more discretion (/clarification) on articles like the one in question would be in order. But given the fact that this blog is not (correct me if I’m wrong) restricted to such a scope, and is designed for adults who should be at least relatively well informed in their faith already…*shrug*

                  Again, as one who is well-informed on his faith, I thought Eve’s article was excellent (NOT as a piece fit for something like the Register that has no flaws of any kind in it, but for what it was – a secular publication.) Part of its excellence was precisely the fact that it was the Catholic case for sexuality couched in terminology that is more understandable to the general public than something like the catechism would be. Not to put words into Mark’s mouth, but I suspect this was precisely his analysis as well, and he implied as much by “uncritically” endorsing the article.

                  Chris then came along and seems to have demanded perfection. “No, the article does more harm than good,” he seems to reply to Mark. “I mean, for example, she identifies as a lesbian…” (which, while I understand the reasoning behind the criticism, is extremely common right now and not as problematic at this point in history as Chris makes it out to be). Mark’s reply to this may have been a little overstated, but then again so was Chris’s criticism of the article, in my humble opinion.

                  2) You said, “…a woman’s desire for a woman as a singular soul mate will not ever be
                  marriage-like, but at the same time is not problematic [to Eve], just different.”

                  And here’s where things get tricky…What does “soul mate” mean precisely? Not really intending to perpetuate this discussion for another week. Just trying to point out that the dividing line between “loving” someone and “being in love” with them can sometimes be very hazy. And, of course, we all have friends that we “love.”

                  The fact that Eve has committed herself to celibacy tells me that the truth is clear to her – men and women were made to complement the other sexually. The same cannot be said of two women or two men. Period. End of story. If it were not so, then she would have said as much: “Hey people. ‘Marriage’ in the proper sense can only refer to a man and woman, But, hey, I don’t have to be ‘married’ to have a ‘loving relationship’ with my partner…” Know what I mean?

                  Peace be with you.

  • Elmwood

    Not a fan of the “gay” modifier for catholics. At the very least, we should be embarassed about this affliction, which is inherently disordered (but not inherently sinful). It’s a very personal matter which should be kept personal. If homosexual acts are sins that cry to heaven, why should we be so lighthearted even about the desire for such sins?

    • Steve P

      Guess what? Lots of our sinful inclinations are disordered… Unless you are going for the distinction that heterosexual lust and gluttony are at least sins more in keeping with nature. But the rest of your comment doesn’t follow, then.

      I think it’s a pretty powerful thing to drag this discussion out into the light, defending Church teaching in a hostile arena. The same could be done for the sins of lust & greed, and these can pe personal, too. These conversations NEED to be out there to challenge the prevailing culture!

      I see nothing “lighthearted” about Eve’s treatment of the topic; quite the opposite, in fact.

      • Elmwood

        I disagree with the practice of identifying one’s self by a sexual orientation disorder and I think that goes against the dignity we are given created in the image of God as man and woman. And as you say, homosexuality is inherently disordered whereas inclinations or temptations of lust and anger are not necessarily. We all have pasions that we must overcome and channeled to seek divine things.

        We are all sinners that need the Lord’s mercy. We are all tempted by the devil in individual ways.

        • Steve P

          On the one hand, I see it as a useful shorthand, though not entirely without problems, to identify as a “gay Catholic” or similar label. The fact is, it is an enormous topic that needs to be addressed precisely because of the avalanche of public opinion seems to be sweeping people away. “How can you Catholics be against Love?!?”
          If one were writing about a struggle with alcohol or gambling or porn or anger or whatever, I don’t know that it would be out of place to say, “I am a recovering alcoholic Catholic”. There would have to be 250-500 words of explanation for Eve to try to get across what she communicates to most readers with just a few words. I don’t read it as some attachment that she still has to her “gayness”, or deliberately undermining her dignity, by simply using that terminology.

  • Anna Dawson

    Lol it took me four times reading the title to make sense of it. I kept looking for the rest of the sentence, seeing ‘the world’ as the subject rather than a descriptive. Durr. But yes, Eve Tushnet is a remarkable lady.