An Interesting Letter from a Gay Reader

He writes:

I meant to write you after your mea culpa, but it appears someone else beat me to it. I’m happy that you’re asking about the possibility of more effective pastoral outreach to men and women in the Church who experience same-sex attraction. I think, however, the invitation for another approach in the comments section, particularly by those experiencing same-sex attraction, is an invitation for those men and women to paint a bullseye on themselves. I know I’m not especially interested in proposing something else and having to defend it from every strained, hypothetical scenario a paranoid mind might contrive. I think, for some, there will always be a reason not to try something new, and it will always seem preferable to those same people for those making the proposal to just conform themselves to the status quo.

That said, some of the things I’d like to see are the following:

1. Deemphasize the reliance on psychological models of same-sex attraction. There is nothing, to my mind, that has poisoned the outreach to those with same-sex attractions than this. It has allowed too many to conflate the theological and psychological meanings of the term “disorder,” allows limitless rationalizations for nearly any type of discrimination and has absolutely no bearing on the Church’s promotion of chastity. To my mind, every etiological theory that has been proposed ought to be accorded the type of respect that C.S. Lewis attempted to illustrate with the theory of vitamins: if it doesn’t work, drop it. My supposition, from a casual glance at the state of general regard for the Church’s teaching on this matter, is that it’s been a disaster and has allowed that teaching to become linked to vastly overstated claims and outrageous therapeutic procedures.

2. Allow for the use of the terms “gay” and “homosexual” used as a noun. There are few things that I can think of that are more arrogant than the idea that the use of one of these words, in casual conversation, gives anyone a window into a person’s ontological self-definition, the quality of his commitment to chastity or his fidelity to Church teaching. This is simply not always the way these words are used in the common culture and, without explicit evidence to the contrary, no one ought ever assume that this is how they’re meant.

3. Canonize a gay saint. Those with same-sex attractions need the concrete example of someone who has known the unique and often lonely struggle they endure and has come out of it successfully. To say that there may be some anonymous gay saint is woefully insufficient as it invites the making of an imaginary construct suited to encompass whatever faults an individual would rather not work on. If the only other example you can point to is a few smoldering corpses beneath the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, then you’ve utterly failed to communicate anything other than a wrathful God.

4. Be able to offer a tangible alternative to the life offered by homosexual activists.  The fact is that the moral theology of same-sex attractions is a mess, governed mostly by the armchair speculations of those who’ve never known a moment of same-sex attraction in their lives. As a result, virtue, in the lives of those men and women with same-sex attractions tends to be abstract and hyper-spiritualized, void of any corporeal dimension. Too often the message is communicated that to the extent that the body represents anything other than an avenue for sin, it points to an eschatological reality that a homosexual has been granted no subjective hint of. In contrast, the gay community offers intimacy, companionship and, even if statistically unlikely, the possibility of a stable family.

5. Never use the Theology of the Body as an apologetical tool for same-sex attractions unless you are also prepared to answer some of the grim, unsavory implications that flow from it. The fact is that John Paul II’s series of talks doesn’t explicitly mention homosexuality, nor is it designed to other than to propose a Catholic vision of human sexuality. That vision states that the proper use of the sexual faculty will always be total, faithful and fruitful, even in the celibate state as practiced by priests and religious. The person with same-sex attractions, however, is saddled with a degenerate sexuality (see item 1) and while he may pantomime the celibate state, it will always be qualitatively different. While the priest’s or religious’ celibacy points towards eschatological man, the celibacy of the homosexual person appears to point right back to him and his brokenness. Taken to its logical end, the only thing the Theology of the Body offers those with same-sex attractions is a beautiful vision of sexuality that they themselves are too depraved to participate meaningfully in. Shallow though the alternative offered by the gay community may be, the parched will settle for meager offering of a shallow puddle if they think the river is out of reach.

6. Actively promote Courage as a social outlet. It never ceases to amaze me how sparsely attended every Courage meeting I’ve been to is. The list of active chapters that Courage lists online is horribly out of date, many having disbanded. Even in dioceses with active chapters, finding meeting places and times is a hassle; they’re not in any bulletin I’ve seen, nor are they announced from the pulpit or listed on the parish or diocesan website. If Courage really is the great thing that so many online seem to believe it is, perhaps, once away from the keyboard, you ought to stop behaving as though you’re ashamed of it.

Anyway, those are my preliminary suggestions. I realize that many are vague and negative, but I think that sometimes that’s needed. Given the track record of the past 30 years, it may be time to stop everything we’re doing and critically assess the effectiveness of what we’ve done so far.

As somebody who has no interior experience of this sort of attraction, I would be particularly interested in hearing from gay readers who are attempting to live as a Catholic disciple of Jesus.  If straight readers could restrain their impulse to refute, correct, rebut or otherwise stick their oar in, I would appreciate it.

  • David

    Absolutely spot on!! #4 is an issue that I have long thought about. #4 and 5 are really a double whammy. I am not sure what positive program or position I can offer. I just know that in my own life all of this letter rings very true. I know, believe and love the Church’s teaching on sexuality. I can and have taught it to others. I have been helped by counseling, inner-healing prayer and been part of starting a Courage chapter. The issue doesn’t go away.

  • Sally Wilkins

    I think as a Church we need to recover the whole of our teaching about chastity (which is not the same as celibacy) and be truly counter-cultural in our witness to the gifts and the tests of human sexuality. It is way too easy to focus on the behaviors of a minority group most of us can “other” and ignore the behaviors of the majority with whom most of us identify. As it is we have swallowed the modern, western notions about the role of sexual behavior in personal development and fallen into the twin traps of believing that intimacy = sex and continence = repression. In so doing we implicitly condemn not only gay people but also many who are disabled, elderly or even simply single to a life of desperate loneliness.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      Amen to this. Our vision of chastity needs to be as clear and concrete in our minds as the vision of what makes a good football player or a good violinist. As it is, it feels like all of us single people are urged to become good football players by not playing baseball.

  • FAB

    If none of the “straight” community does it right, then ,with all due respect, why arn’t you doing something about this; whatever you, in your position, might think better? If “courage” isn’t doing it, then you come up with an idea. These are people trying to help you, and you don’t like the way they are doing it? Fine, come up with something else. You may be the start of some great movement of help for SSA individuals.

    • Notquite Archimedes

      The term “SSA” sucks. Most who are attracted to members of the same sex are incapable of selfless love toward those same people. In fact, it is in their nature. Using the term “SSA” denies this capability of selfless love.

      • S. Murphy

        Are trying to say that the term SSA denies or fails to account for gay persons being able to love persons of their own sex selflessly? Or are you trying to say that gay/SSA persons *can’t* love persons pf the same sex in a selfless manner?

        • Notquite Archimedes

          The past 30 years of my life are proof that gay people can and do love in a selfless manner. Unfortunately, when we do, we can’t consider ourselves Catholic.

          • chezami

            Sure you can.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’d agree that you CAN. I would disagree that a non-chaste same-sex relationship does. There is a difference.

            Some of the most generous and caring men I know are same sex attracted.

            • Tom

              What exactly do you mean Theodore? That a non-chaste same-sex relationship doesn’t?

              Does unchastity irrevocably taint a whole RELATIONSHIP? Or is only the sex (maybe 30 minutes a few times a week for many couples) controversial and unchaste? But is the whole human relationship and love at that point invalidated? Just because of one morally problematic expression?

              This is something BIG I’d add to the list regarding how the Church needs to reach out to gays (and indeed the question of sexuality generally): distinguishing between loving human RELATIONSHIPS, and the sex acts which the may or may not contain (the latter question being, really, none of our business one way or the other.)

              In a word, we need to welcome gays PERIOD, including gay couples, not merely the qualified category of “certifiably chaste gays” or something like that. Public unorthodoxy is one thing, and more problematic, but if people are discreet about their private doubts (as many straight people are!), then there should be no “virtue test” for accepting people, or expectation of a pre-emptive renunciation of misunderstandings that might arise through jumping to conclusions (or which might even be happening but no more of our business than if that married couple over there is on the Pill).

              If there are gays in church, they should be accepted and welcomed both as people and as couples. If those people do controversial things privately, or if the relationships contain problematic things privately, this should not be assumed (there’s a double-standard here certainly; do you assume a “boyfriend and girlfriend” are fornicating? Many probably are, but people’s minds don’t jump to the bedroom), and should be an issue left between them and their confessor and/or spiritual director.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Yes, unchastity irrevocably taints a whole relationship. That’s the reason sexually active couples find that they often can’t stay friends after a breakup.

                Unchasity, whether hetero or homo- should be avoided at all costs.

                As for welcoming gays- I tried that back in the 1990s. This gay marriage thing changed that for me- they tried to force their lifestyle on me, and I’m done with defending them.

                • Tom

                  Well, all sin harms relationships to some degree. But does it harm them beyond repair? Are you saying any relationship that contains any sin should be cut off even at the expense of losing all the good things in the relationship? Then every marriage should end on account of bickering and anger, and every friendship on account of gossip. No relationship is without sin, just like no person is without sin, except I suppose the relationship between Christ and His Mother. But most people would see a greater good in love that would indicate in favor of maintaining a stable relationship (and trusting grace to deal with the sin gradually) than to destroy it entirely. Certainly, almost every priest I have known (including very conservative ones) have told me that this is the approach they take with divorced-and-remarried couples (“Try to live as brother and sister, at least try. But don’t put any time-frame on success, and don’t break up ANOTHER family merely on account of slip-ups, nor punish yourself for them either as long as you go to confession.”)

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    I am saying that sins against chastity are special. Even Jesus allowed for divorce in the case of infidelity.

                    Interesting take on that- don’t break up another family merely on account of slip ups.

                    No relationship is without sin, true. But sins against chastity are sins against love itself, and drive a sword into the very heart of any relationship.

                    • Tom

                      This seems overly hysterical. Experience itself speaks to profoundly redemptive aspects even in many very “irregular” [sexual] relationships, and the sexual sin does not seem to destroy them any more nor any less than any other type of sin

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Are you counting the incidental damage to people outside of the couple? Or, are you, like many progressives in the last 40 years, discounting family, friends, and children in your analysis?

                      A huge part of the reason why infidelity and fornication is so harmful, is because it affects more than one relationship profoundly. Sure, the couple at the center it affects the most, but it also affects just about everybody else who knows the couple, out to the second degree of friendship.

                      Only suicide is more selfish from my understanding. And suicide is kinder- grief counselors tell us a death is easier to recover from than a divorce.

                      Don’t minimize the depth of the sin just because we live in a society that claims it isn’t a sin.

          • S. Murphy

            I apologize – judging by your reply, you read my question as rhetorical. It wasn’t; I really didn’t understand what you were saying. Until I looked at it on a slightly larger screen, noticed the quotation marks.

            I have no doubt, myself, that gay people can and do love unselfishly. And I know a couple who do so in a relationship that probably isn’t chaste. They do call themselves Catholic; and since their spirituality includes Eucharistic adoration and the rosary, I wouldn’t call them anything else, whether or not they may be waiting for the Church to conform its teaching to their lives rather than the other way around.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              You just hit the nail on the head for me. I’m not bothered by the specific sin. I’m bothered by the expectation that the Church should change dogma to support a sin.

      • Irksome1

        I think it’s a stretch to say that the term “same-sex attraction” (SSA) precludes the possibility of selfless love in those experiencing it. That may be the conclusion someone arrives at based on his or her reading of psychology or theology or whatever. Still, the fault would therefore lie in the person making that conclusion or, possibly, the source material.

        • Notquite Archimedes

          Before Cardinal Ratzinger became Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, homosexual orientation was never called “objectively disordered.” Rather only homosexual acts were. (See the 1975 CDF declaration http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfcertn.htm ).

          In 1986 Cardinal Ratzinger introduced this “objective disorder” in the cynically titled “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.” The letter said
          “In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

          (See http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html ).

          This theology precludes the possibility that someone with a homosexual orientation could see chaste selfless love for another as an expression of that orientation. Rather, he or she must live with a degree of self-hatred as part of obedience to the Magisterium.

          • Irksome1

            Well, at least that position is arguable. Mind you, I’m not sure I agree with you, but I can definitely see how Ratzinger’s words could be taken that way.

            • Notquite Archimedes

              Thank you. I disagree with the position completely, and that position has been a stumbling block in my relations with Catholics for 30 years.

              • Jeff

                Don’t some people just HAVE to live sometimes with what you are calling “a degree of self hatred”?

                If someone experiences deep and exclusive attraction to young children which they didn’t ask for and don’t want, what are they supposed to do? “Seek healing” by denying a problem?

                Whatever one thinks of homosexuality in particular, there will be human conditions of desire for bad things which will be very difficult for those trying to live them.

                • Notquite Archimedes

                  “Don’t some people just HAVE to live sometimes with what you are calling “a degree of self hatred?”

                  No. After his death, I found out one of my professors in college experienced and exclusive attraction to children. He lived his life so that he was never around children; he never committed an offense against a child. He was the best teacher on the faculty. I am sure his life was extraordinarily difficult, but he didn’t need to hate himself.

                  • Mephibosheth

                    What a profound story; he sounds quite remarkable. I’m curious how, generally, his burden was disclosed. A journal? A confidante who disclosed after his death?

                  • Alias Clio

                    I’ve heard of other such men: I believe that the English writer T.H. White (The Sword in the Stone; The Once and Future King) was one of them.

                    Meanwhile, I think you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase “objectively disordered,” which I agree was unfortunate in that it lends itself to such misunderstanding. An “objectively disordered desire” simply means a desire directed at the wrong object. Homosexual desire is objectively disordered insofar as it directs the longing for sexual fulfillment at the wrong object, in the same sense that people who develop a sudden compulsion to eat grass suffer from an objectively disordered appetite.

                    What “objectively disordered” does NOT mean is that homosexual persons are, by some “objective” standard [i.e. scientifically, or medically, or logically], disordered.

                    • Alias Clio

                      Put this another way: an obese person who eats normal food does not suffer from an “objectively disordered” appetite because food – not grass, or cotton wool, or teabags – is the object of the appetite. The disorder is not in the object, but in the degree of, and indulgence in, the appetite for food.

                      I suppose some people might still find the phrase offensive even when interpreted in this way, but it is less condemnatory than many appear to believe.

                    • Notquite Archimedes

                      I don’t think you’ve read what I’ve written or consulted the source documents I’ve posted. They define the term and illustrate that the intent was to legitimize the marginalization of homosexuals in the larger society. (See also http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19920724_homosexual-persons_en.html .)

                    • Alias Clio

                      Clearly we understand these matters differently.

                      I have indeed read this material before. I do not see that it confirms your views of the phrase “objectively disordered”.

                      What I was attempting to say was that the phrase did not *change* the Church’s outlook in the sense of making it more severe. You, on the other hand, appeared to think that it represented a new low point in the Church’s approach to homosexual orientation.

                      Not so: calling it “objectively disordered” was an attempt to distinguish between such conditions as skin colour, which is in no sense a disorder, and sexual orientation, which is, given the principles of the Faith. If homosexual desires were not, in the eyes of the Church, a condition that could result in grave moral evil if acted upon, there would be no sense in defining homosexual activity as a sin in the first place.

                      To return to my food metaphor: a taste for eating spicy foods is not “objectively disordered”. A taste for eating grass is, and requires medical intervention if it is persistent and ongoing. I am not attempting to say that I think homosexuality requires medical treatment, only arguing by analogy that it is a disorder of the object of one’s appetite, and because it has the potential to do harm (moral as well as physical harm in the case of homosexuality) it cannot be regarded by the Church as morally neutral, any more than eating grass is medically neutral.

                      On a more personal note: I can’t speak for the Church, but I as a faithful Catholic have no wish to marginalize gay people. However, I do think that some ordinary precautions are in order, as those documents to which you linked suggest, but the gay rights movement apparently rejects all of these out of hand.

                      For example, I no more think that gay men should be allowed to supervise pubescent Boy Scouts than I think straight men should be allowed to supervise Girl Scouts of that age. No point in setting people up for temptation, even if they have previously spotless records. That includes priests, by the way. (On the other hand, I think that gay men might make excellent teachers for teenage girls…)

          • said she

            Like those of us with other disorders (alcoholism, gluttony, etc.) are exempt from living with “a degree of self-hatred as part of obedience to the Magisterium”?

            Cardinal Ratzinger was reflecting the times – in which the self-identification is rampant. I don’t see that he was promulgating any new theology. He was presenting the ancient teaching in modern lingo.

            • Tom

              There are no “ancient teachings” on “being gay” because sexual orientation is a modern construct. That doesn’t make it invalid (though it does mean that any sort of “gay essentialism,” positive or negative, is naive and wrong). But the Church’s teachings have always been about sex acts, not about the much more recent, broader, and nuanced construct of “sexual orientation” which is a sociological and psychological reality that has all sorts of aspects that are to great degrees removed from the question of genital expression or lust of any sort.

        • Tom

          Indeed, the Catechism and the 1986′s pastoral letter’s language only really make sense if “homosexual tendencies” or “inclinations” are understood to mean something like “a desire for gay sex acts specifically.” However, our modern concept of orientation is much broader, and much more of a mixed bag, and not nearly so focused on sex acts as on (romantic) love and on the, again, much more broad concept of “attraction” (which, one should note by analogy to heterosexual attraction, is NOT necessarily reducible to “a desire to have sexual interaction with that person”).

          Until conservatives can wrap their heads around the nuances of the construct or orientation and can speak cogently about being gay or straight in a way that isn’t so artificially scholastic and teleological…it’s going to hurt gay outreach so much, and make the conservatives look like fools (and, indeed, like perverts themselves who “protest too much.”)

          I remember I saw on a blog the other day a commentator said something like, “I hate this gay agenda! Every day in the news I have to hear about it. That I must daily, hourly visualize the acts of homosexuals, images of
          which come unbidden, from every angle, is wearying beyond belief.” To which someone else replied, “I manage to catch lots of gay-related news without visualizing ‘the acts of homosexuals’ unless the ‘acts’ are things like practicing law, mourning loved ones, raising children, hosting tv shows, serving God.”

          Justin Lee wrote two very good posts on this issue of the reductionism of homosexuality to sex:

          http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/41726126968/tmi

          http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/33704172633/can-you-feel-the-sex-tonight

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’m to the point where I’m beginning to strongly dislike romanticism in general- heterosexual or homosexual doesn’t matter.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Why would you be “incapable of selfless love toward those same people”? Truly selfless love does not involve sex at all.

  • Suzie

    I hope it’s ok if I “stick my oar in” as a parent of a young man who just disclosed that he is gay. As far as #3, that would be tough since men in the past would not have made their same-sex attraction public, would most likely not have left writings about it behind. I would not want to see someone canonized on the belief that everyone “suspected” the person was gay. But I’ll tell you what I think: God raises up saints for our times, and I’m am beyond excited to see that he is working on making saints out of so many gay people. Now is the time, and men like the one above is on that path. Thank you,thank you for writing this and for being an example of how to live a joyful life. How incredibly ironic that God is using the gay community to teach the rest of us about chastity.

  • Liam

    My observation about Courage considering a friend who has been a member is that the spiritual directors in at least a few chapters seem to rely on creaky neo-Freudian-inspired ideas about etiology (especially the easy-to-explode distant father hypothesis) so heavily that people end up being angry at their parents and neuralgic about self-disclosure (a neuralgia that does *not* come from God, but from another place); I can see why people who embrace chastity would avoid at least some chapters, and that may explain why Courage is struggling.

  • Alexander S Anderson

    Unfortunately, we may have to wait a while for #3. Prior to the mid-19th century and the “psychologising” of homosexuality, same-sex attraction was seen by most Christians as just another temptation. No one experiencing same-sex attraction before then would have identified as gay or any sort of equivalent, because the category didn’t exist yet. So there probably is a canonized saint that we would call “gay” today, but we’ll never know, as not every saint wrote a “Confessions”, and he probably would have rejected the label had you explained it to him. This means, of course, that we have to wait for the canonization process for a more contemporary person, which unfortunately will take some time…

    • Notquite Archimedes

      Plato’s symposium mentions the myth of the androgyne, which describes heterosexual and homosexual orientation. The notion of sexual orientation isn’t new; rather, it was something erased from history.

      • Alexander S Anderson

        This is true but trivial. You’re still unlikely to find a saintly medieval monk reading over the Symposium and going “this is me!” The reality is that “orientation” is part of no Christian anthropology prior to ~1850.

        • Notquite Archimedes

          Thanks for clarifying your point. The notion of orientation is not a recent invention. Rather, it wasn’t evident in Christendom because Christendom adopted a Jewish narrative rather than a Hellenistic narrative on the subject.

      • Nordog6561

        And Alcibiades had WAY too much to drink.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Saint Joan D’Arc was at least a crossdresser. She was executed for it.

      • jaybird1951

        Not for “cross dressing” however.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          Yes, IIRC she was executed for witchcraft/heresy because of her “voices.” I’m not so sure it’s accurate to say that she crossdressed either. There was such a thing as armor tailored for the female form in medieval times, since women sometimes did have to get involved in war. St. Joan most likely wore such special armor. Though I’m not sure about the hair-cutting thing; that might have been unusual.

          • Beadgirl

            The trial was for heresy, but I think the ultimate conviction and execution was because of her dress, perhaps because there was insufficient evidence of heresy? At least, that’s what I recall.

            • Rosemarie

              +J.M.J+

              I think witchcraft and heresy were interrelated in people’s minds at this point. During the High Middle Ages those accused of witchcraft were not executed since it was considered mere superstition, a sin to be dealt with in the confessional but not a crime. Then during the Late Middle Ages the authorities began to see witchcraft as a form of heresy which is what opened the way for witch hunts from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, roughly. If witchcraft=heresy and heresy=treason against a Catholic state then witches could be executed by civil authorities in said state.

              EDIT: Oh yeah, there was some kind of issue with her wearing male attire in prison (possibly to prevent rape). She agreed to wear female attire at first but then returned to male attire, some even claim that her women’s clothes were stolen by those who wanted her executed, thus giving her no choice but to put on the male clothing again. Still, I don’t think that was the *real* reason she was executed; her captors wanted her dead and would’ve used any excuse to accomplish that.

        • Gabriel Blanchard

          Yes, it was witchcraft and heresy, which were beginning to conflate themselves in the Medieval mind at that time. Charles Williams, one of the Inklings, has a very illuminating review of the circumstances in his book “Witchcraft.” Her attire was indeed that of a man, and she kept her hair cut short — those things were also cited in the sentencing, particularly as elements of her supposed relapse into heresy.

  • Laura Lowder

    #3 – Canonize a gay saint. — You may have to be the first, my friend. God bless you in your endeavors to remain faithful. —- and thank you for an honest commentary, and for being willing to accept personal responsibility.

    Of course, being gay isn’t just about whom one wants to have sex, is it? It’s really about one’s orientation to the same and opposite sex in every dimension. Consequently, we also do a grave disservice to our gay brethren when we talk only about chastity while failing to foster a wholesome respect and affection between the brethren, combating misogyny inherent and rampant in homosexuality, and generally strengthening the whole of the human soul.

  • tj.nelson

    Wow! Someone I actually agree with. Except for a couple things…
    Alexander Anderson is right – the psychologizing happened in the mid-19th century – before that a sin was a sin was a sin – and one must remember, temptations to lust take many forms.
    Nix the gay saint emphasis. Plenty of saints suffered from temptations to lust, or resisting attacks upon their virtue. I can think of several saints who are good patrons for gay people – but not because they were gay. We read about the vice in the writings of monastics and saints, proving people have suffered through these temptations and engaged in the sin, thus there would be penitent saints – but until our times, no one stood up during Chapter and said, “Hi, I’m Terry and I’m a recovering gay/ssa/homo.”
    As for gay/ssa confusion, I understand the new rules – but the distinction are one more thing to make fun of. SSA is kind of dumb, kind of convoluted. Most people are attracted to the same sex – not in a sexual way of course. Think of the kid who wants to grow up to be just like his dad or favorite sports hero, or the girl who wants to be as glamorous as her favorite model? Now, since the pope said gay, let’s just say gay, or stick with homosexual inclination, but don’t hijack another term.
    For me, I don’t like the ID card idea. If that is the case then maybe people should start identifying themselves as a disabled Catholic if they have a disability, or a sightless Catholic if they are legally blind, or a fat Catholic if they are morbidly obese. Anyway – there is not enough space here to make a more detailed comment – so maybe I’ll post on my own blog.

    • Notquite Archimedes

      Once upon a time I was a bigger homophobe than you are.

      • tj.nelson

        How did you change that?

        • Notquite Archimedes

          When I got cancer the first time (testicular cancer) and was cured, I felt that I was disappointed in not dying. I was tired of disappointing God in merely being attracted to members of the same sex; I had sworn never to have sex and kept that oath for some years. i thought He might release from this condition, and I became angry with Him for not doing so. I saw how wrong this was and began to reassess the relationship between my sexuality and my religion.

          God and I made a separate peace. I was allowed to love another selflessly and to see God’s love for me in it. That was how I learned to accept an aspect of myself that I’d been taught to hate. I kept my oath, but God gave me the grace to live it, well, gracefully.

          • tj.nelson

            Thanks for responding. That is a beautiful grace.

            I’ve struggled all of my life – I should write the story. I expected healing too – travelled Europe as a pilgrim seeking a cure, entered religious life, tried to live as a hermit. Met someone – fell in love, tried to integrate it with my faith – my conscience wouldn’t let me. My partner understood, accepted the fact that we could remain together and live celibately. That is when it all came together for me – yes – selfless love was born. We’ve been together for 35 years, at least 32-33 of them chaste and celibate.

            I don’t really tell anyone how to live their lives, I usually just discuss what and how I’ve handled things. I have a lot of baggage, so to speak, but I feel amazingly whole and at peace. I can really say with you:

            “God and I made a separate peace. I was allowed to love another selflessly and to see God’s love for me in it. That was how I learned to accept an aspect of myself that I’d been taught to hate. I kept my oath, but God gave me the grace to live it, well, gracefully.”

            To be honest, I’ve never been happy being gay – but I’m happy and at peace with God, and my best friend/partner.
            Thanks for sharing your story with me.

            • Rosemarie

              +J.M.J+

              tj.nelson: Thank you. That was beautiful.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    I’ve been a gay Christian for thirteen years (counting from when I realized I was gay) and a gay Catholic for five and a half of those years. This letter was music to my ears; the writer is insightful and lucid about the pastoral and PR problems attending the Church’s handling of this issue. Apologies for the long-windedness; hopefully it’s helpful at least.

    I would particularly emphasize 1, 2, and 4. 1 may possibly have done the most damage through the often irresponsible and dishonest operations of many ex-gay organizations, and 2 is the one I happen to find most annoying because of the triviality of what’s at stake, but I think 4 is where work may be most badly needed. The descriptions of celibacy from those advocating the Catholic doctrine of chastity for gay people are incredibly vague and general, and frankly they sound pretty hollow. This isn’t to say that they are not sincerely meant, but that the way they are said — and by whom — has a shallow ring to it. Celibacy as a gay Catholic winds up coming across as a sort of vegan substitute for the richness of Catholic marriage and family (and it isn’t only lesbian and gay believers who are made to suffer because of this: a straight friend of mine, a very godly unmarried woman, has said that the Church comes off as a commercial for marriage sometimes). I don’t believe that celibacy need be this way; but we need something more than “This is the right thing to do, and the right thing may be costly but it’s meaningful.” Not only is that (while true) not very informative, it provides us nothing to anchor ourselves to when we see gay friends having dinner with their spouses or raising children together — or, for that matter, when we see our straight friends doing that. We need active support, participation, and purpose, not a platitude.

    Of 3, St. Aelred of Rievaulx is known to have been gay (though of course he didn’t call it that), but to my knowledge that is nearly the beginning and end of the list. Hunting for a sympathetic patron on this can be tiring work — not that the other saints wouldn’t sympathize, of course, but that you’re looking for someone upstairs who not only loves, but understands and incarnates how to follow Jesus in this.

    5 I am ambivalent about. I do recognize the inestimable value and beauty of Bl. John Paul’s work and its commentaries, of which I have found Christopher West’s helpful. I have noticed its dearth of attention to homosexuality too, though; it sets forth a more reasonable and intelligible model of why heterosexuality is exclusively moral than a simple natural law syllogism or appeal to the Biblical prohibitions, and that isn’t nothing; but it isn’t very much either. Nevertheless I would love to see its interior logic worked out so as to produce a life-giving understanding of specifically gay chastity, which overlaps considerably with celibacy in general but has certain distinctives — as that, unless current canon law is changed, it will not normally coincide with a vocation to the priesthood, or that we must find some way to deal with a sexual desire that is intrinsically rather than accidentally misdirected, or that our celibacy is largely involuntary. (It wouldn’t hurt to have a better understanding of mixed-orientation marriages, too.)

    As for 6, I am honestly really leery of Courage. I’ve never been to a meeting — I looked into it for my first two or three years as a Catholic, and as this author says, they’re really hard to find, and the distances can be insane (when I was at Maryland in College Park, the closest one I heard of was in northern Virginia, and DC is not exactly lacking in either gays or Catholics). My acquaintance with it is therefore indirect, so take what I say with that proviso; but I’ve yet to run into anything *that Courage says about itself* that makes me particularly eager to touch it with a ten-foot pole. It has ties to ex-gay organizations (now universally vituperated and discredited), is insanely hostile to coming out, has nothing to say about homophobia except that it’s a conspiracy to silence those opposed to the gay movement, and I could go on. If Courage is simply for Catholics who want to live with same-sex feelings and doesn’t wish to concern itself with the relationship between the Church and the world at large, then I suppose all that is fine, though as I said it has no appeal to me. But if the Church wishes Courage to be one of the main elements in the Catholic-queer dialogue, then it needs a serious overhaul — one that is willing to take account of the virtues as well as the defects of the gay movement, and one that is willing to apologize frankly for the harm sometimes done by Christians to gay people (one thinks of the recent brutalities in Georgia and Russia, or of the horrible penalties for homosexual conduct in the Medieval and earlier Modern periods). This isn’t to say that Catholics should have to take responsibility for things we haven’t done, or that our good deeds (like the advocacy of the Archbishop of Kampala against the Ugandan anti-gay bill) should be ignored, but that the triumphalist rhetoric about the Church’s love for gay people should be dropped.

    • Irksome1

      Fascinating. Though, concerning Courage, I wonder if your concerns have more to do with 12-Step subcultures in general than Courage itself.

      • Tom

        I don’t think his complaints are mutually exclusive.

        The problem is, really, that Courage IS a 12-Step program at all!

        Being gay is not at all the same as addiction. Some gay men might have sex-addiction and, in a Catholic context, want a safe space where they can discuss specifically homosexual sex-addiction separate from their heterosexual counterparts.

        But recommending Courage as THE ministry for gay Catholics is essentially to assume we are all lust-addicts, or that homosexuality is something to be “quit,” or that there can be no positive dialogue with the gay community other than in helping people escape it.

        Plus, one of the great ironies is that part of AA’s whole power is in self-identification, in “owning” one’s issue: “I’m Tom, and I’m an alcoholic.” And yet god-forbid anyone identify as “a homosexual” or something like that in a place like Courage.

        Courage seems to assume that the only pastorally relevant issue for gay Catholics is the struggle for chastity (and for “non-identification” with a “bad” subculture) and doesn’t address at all that lots of gay Christians’ problems are coming from Christians, not gays, and that there are plenty of issues we face and need to bond over that don’t particularly have to do with sex acts at all.

      • Gabriel Blanchard

        That’s quite possible. I’m not intimately acquainted with 12-Step subcultures, but it makes sense to me that Courage would be characteristic.

    • Rosemarie

      +J.M.J+

      >>Of 3, St. Aelred of Rievaulx is known to have been gay (though of course he didn’t call it that)

      Some speculate the same thing about St. Paulinus of Nola since he wrote loving poems to a man named Ausonius. Others dispute such claims about the saint’s orientation, so it is by no means certain and I am not saying he was definitely gay. Of course, if he was I’m sure he was chaste; a man can love another man chastely.

      • Gabriel Blanchard

        True that! And something I wish was better understood. I mean, hey, if Maritain and his wife could manage a Josephite marriage, I don’t see why two men or two women couldn’t have a … what would one call that? A Davidite friendship, maybe? Probably there is no ideal title. (Sidebar: it’s a pity that so many things that would have been great vehicles and analogues — David and Jonathan, adelphopoiesis, &c. — have been adopted as stock arguments for revising the Church’s teaching instead of implementing it.)

  • Notquite Archimedes

    Let me say this before I get banned. Thank you for the effort to be decent, Mark.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I like #6. I’ve recently had the question if I’d accept a homosexual man as a Knight of Columbus, my answer was an unqualified yes.

  • Art

    “The person with same-sex attractions, however, is saddled with a
    degenerate sexuality (see item 1) and while he may pantomime the
    celibate state, it will always be qualitatively different.”

    I will say that I find this offensive, but only because it is absurd.

    Almost all people are capable of having some attraction to those of the same sex. There is very little if any cut and dried sexual orientation in the world, contrary to what some might claim. And reading modern concepts of sexual orientation into other cultures, of which the past is one, is an absurdity. The kathoey is not the same as the gay man, who is not necessarily the same as the pederast, who is not necessarily the same as a cross dresser.

  • Mephibosheth

    SSA Catholic in the house. Responding to the author’s brilliant and cogent points, somewhat in order:
    Regarding psychological models: I’m glad he said “deemphasize” rather than “do away with.” There has been over-psychologizing at times, and often in a way that seeks to fit every man or woman with SSA into a particular mold. But the live-and-let-live approach he advocates here needs to extend in both directions. Individual models about SSA development may help individual Catholics with SSA deal with our issues, but to declare that “it’s been a disaster” is as extreme as the extremism he decries.
    Regarding the word “gay”: If by “allow” you mean “don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about,” then, fine. I know what you mean, when talking to you individually, when you say “gay Catholic.” But I still think the Church must emphasize that “gay” is an identity that is completely a cultural construct, going beyond a predisposition towards certain sexual acts, and that self-identifying in that way is ultimately limiting and self-destructive (notwithstanding the media frenzy that the word passed the Holy Father’s lips).
    Regarding points (3), (4), and (6): As a single SSA Catholic, I think one of the best things that could happen for pastoral/parochial ministry to SSA Catholics is for married SSA Catholics to speak out. I believe that many Catholics throughout history, both married and in consecrated celibacy, experienced some degree of SSA in their lives. But prior to a century or so ago, in the absence of our modern pornographic and homo-sexualized culture, they simply dealt with it (or not) as one temptation among many. I am involved with a non-sectarian SSA support group where I know many married men with SSA, but most of those men are Orthodox Jews, Latter-Day Saints, or Evangelicals. On the other hand, as a Courage moderator, I constantly get calls from married SSA Catholics who are too afraid to come to a meeting because they can’t face the risk of someone in their parish knowing about their struggle. We are clearly missing the mark in our catechesis somewhere. As far as the “gay saint,” I believe he (or she, or they, or many) has already been raised to the dignity of the altar. I care not to speculate which one(s) had a past in sodomy (a word worth recovering), or the inclination toward it. Such prurience is part and parcel of our horn-dog society.
    Regarding TOB: This is a little whiny. “Taken to its logical end, the only thing the Theology of the Body offers those with same-sex attractions is a beautiful vision of sexuality that they themselves are too depraved to participate meaningfully in.” Actually, that’s “the only thing” it offers ANY person. TOB is one facet of the beatific vision and how it plays out in our sexual identity. We’re all wounded, broken, depraved, including sexually. And even the best-lived marriage (or best-lived celibacy) still has flaws, temptations, and wounds whose redemption must be worked out with fear and trembling.

    • Irksome1

      Just a few quick thoughts:

      I don’t think I see very much difference between your position and the author’s position as articulated in the letter. To the degree that a particular psychological model helps, it may be good. Nevertheless, greater care ought to be taken distinguishing success in therapy from the virtue of chastity. It’s a big problem that Courage is often mistaken as synonymous with reparative therapy since it discourages some who may benefit from peer support from attending and distorts the Church’s teaching on the matter. It’s not a mistake that when John Heard was blogging as “Dreadnought” that he asked whether Courage had a “NARTH problem.”

      It’s true that the label “gay” can be an impediment to growth in Christ, but that’s true for nearly any label. Labels like “Republican,” “capitalist” or even “pro life” can become impediments the minute they take precedence over the label “Catholic.” Focusing solely on the perceived misuse of the word “gay” is both selective and counterproductive.

      I agree it would be interesting to see more individuals in mixed-orientation marriages speak out. I would, however, point out that the men and women calling on the phone, too afraid to go to a meeting aren’t being irrational. Disclosure comes with consequences, not only for the individual in question, but also his/her spouse and children. I might point to suggestion #1 in the original letter as one reason for this, perhaps you can name others.

      I note, in passing, the irony of what seems to be the indifference towards the possibility of a gay saint coming from a moderator for a Courage group. Courage, at its best, encourages its members to draw strength from each other’s shared experience in facing the challenges inherent to practicing chastity. Isn’t that exactly the function a saint is supposed to serve? If it’s not important to know the saint who’s shared in the struggle of same-sex attractions, why would it be important to know the guy next to you at a Courage meeting doing the same thing? Granted, we must avoid the error of the queer theorist who suddenly finds same-sex attraction in every historical figure he admires, but I don’t think that’s what the letter’s talking about when it says “canonize a gay saint” rather than “find out which saints were gay.”

      As for the Theology of the Body, while it’s true that no expression of sexuality in fallen man can be free of all wounds and errors, that’s far different than saying a particular sexual inclination is ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil. The connection between TOB and same-sex attractions is underdeveloped such that one of the foundational theses of JPII’s talks, that subjective experience will confirm objective truth, may never be true for those experiencing same-sex attractions. I wouldn’t characterize that as whining, but rather, a big problem that needs to be addressed instead of dismissed.

      • Mephibosheth

        Irksome,if those are your quick thoughts, I fear your deep ones!

        “Courage is often mistaken as synonymous with reparative therapy”—I smiled at this,because my experience has been with Courage brothers and sisters who are nearly all opposed to RT. It doesn’t surprise me at all that your experience is the reverse, different times and places have had different emphases (and I remember Heard’s blog well). But Courage is not so monolithic.

        We will I’m sure always disagree about the word “gay”. I submit it is impossible for that word to have the neutrality of even such words as “Republican” or “capitalist,” especially in juxtaposition to “Catholic.” I believe its persistent use, particularly by those who experience the cross of SSA themselves, particularly without significant clarification, borders on scandal.

        Of course married SSA Catholics are not irrational to guard their anonymity. My point is that they are far more numerous than most non-SSA Catholics would imagine. Until there is a greater appreciation for that, it will only continue to strengthen the notion of a gay/SSA “identity” rather than of SSA as a cross which is irrespective of marriage or paternity.

        I am not at all indifferent to the idea of a gay saint; as I mentioned, I am convinced they already exist. But the parallel to the sanctification of Courage members makes my point. The irony is in the nature of Courage itself. We gather because of the common
        issue of SSA. But the more we focus on SSA (which we can’t even seem to agree upon), rather than our sanctification, the more useless frankly we become to each other and to Christ’s kingdom. I suspect what you and the original author are saying is “canonize a Courage saint.” To that, I would plead indifference. I hope fervently for the sanctification of all my Courage brothers and
        sisters—I question whether holding onto the label “gay” (or even “SSA”) is an impediment to that.

        “Subjective experience will confirm objective truth, may never be true for those experiencing same-sex attractions.” If the subjective experience an SSA Catholic seeks is same-gender sexual
        expression, or conversion to opposite-sex attraction, then it will not be true. But if the subjective experience sought is interior chastity, how can it not be true? Believing otherwise misses the point of TOB. Believing that an entire class of people (especially that to which one belongs) is excluded from the message of TOB, is
        what I consider whiny.
        Pax et bonum…

        • Tom

          “We will I’m sure always disagree about the word ‘gay.’ I submit it is
          impossible for that word to have the neutrality of even such words as ‘Republican’ or ‘capitalist,’ especially in juxtaposition to ‘Catholic.’
          I believe its persistent use, particularly by those who experience the
          cross of SSA themselves, particularly without significant
          clarification, borders on scandal.”

          The problem with this position of yours is the “always.”

          It’s one thing to hold a certain prudential opinion about language. It’s quite another to be so absolutist about it, as the thing about prudential judgments is that they come from and apply to circumstances which are contingent, which change.

          Your position actually may have made a lot of sense in, say, the late 60′s. The connotations attached to “Gay” were a LOT more controversial and subversive and ideological then. People who claimed that label at that point were not simply saying something neutral about their attractions, very often.

          But the thing about language is that it evolves and changes. Today, “gay” in itself means no more and no less than that someone is attracted predominantly or exclusively to members of the same sex as such. Forget about “temptations to acts” even, “attraction” cannot be reduced to that. For a man, gay means being a guy who loves guys in that special way that everyone who has ever understood a crush or infatuation or even just someone “catching your eye” understands. For a woman, lesbian means being a gal who loves gals.

          The only real connotation beyond that which “gay” has anymore is the sense that, if you claim the word for yourself, it probably means you are not self-loathing over this issue and see it as in some way redemptive or a positive aspect of your personality (though obviously it is still used as an insult when directed against other people). At the very least, it means recognizing oneself as constructed (even involuntarily, it’s just a social fact) as “the same as” them, as “those people” who are known as gay, and who have cultural associations and a social sub-network attached to them by similarity of experience, even if any given individual is not particularly a part of this or that aspect. There is an involuntary affinity that one cannot deny, because the experience of attraction puts one into the same social category as “those people.” Attempts to deny a “gay” identity seem like attempts to wash ones hands of those Others and spurn them. But in one way considered as socially important, they are You!

          In itself it implies no particular philosophy or ideology of sexuality or homosexuality.

          Seemingly denying the nuance of the possibility that language has (or even just COULD) evolve to the point where “gay” was just as neutral as “SSA” or “homosexual” or something more clinical like that…is seemingly essentializing a word or having some sort of weird idea where a mere linguistic token is beyond redemption forever somehow.

          • Mephibosheth

            Tom,
            I judge you both misread and read too much into my post. My “always” was hyperbole, but it was directed toward my gentle disagreement with Irksome, not making a statement about the immutability of language. Of course I acknowledge that words and language change. But while it is hubristic to claim that the meaning of words do not (or will never) change, I submit it is equally so to pronounce prematurely that they have changed.
            Linguistic evolution happens in terms of centuries, and we are far too short of that. Yes, even in the last 50 years, the connotations of “gay” have changed, but it is abundantly clear that there is very little consensus on those connotations (just as there is little with “SSA”). Until more time passes, I think it is a dangerous word (as I said, “without significant clarification”) for widespread use in the Church.
            I think I am on the side of the Magisterium in that. The Vatican’s instruction on seminarians with SSA directs that candidates for orders who have experienced SSA must not only be abstinent but cease to identify with the gay culture. There are similar ideas in the document on pastoral care for those with SSA. Language being the currency of culture, this suggests that applying the “gay” label to SSA men seeking ordination is oxymoronic. As the word “gay” is commonly understood in AD 2013, a “gay priest” is impossible. Likewise, even now, considering oneself a “gay Catholic” is far too dangerous—and of no lasting value.
            Speaking of defining words, how on earth did it come to pass that men and women with SSA who reject the label “gay” for themselves must be declared “self-loathing”? I find that presumptuous. I do not see SSA as a “positive aspect of (my) personality,” because it’s not an aspect of my personality at all. There is a difference between sexual identity and personality. I love my personality. I experience SSA as the symptom of wounds to my sexual identity, wounds which are being brought to the Cross for their redemption. It is in no way “self-loathing” to reject a label that doesn’t fit for me. What ever happened to self-determination?
            I am certain that the connotative meaning of “gay” can and will change. But as it is most commonly used now, its meaning has been determined exclusively by the culture, not by faith, tradition, or theological discernment. Using a “Shea-ism,” forcing us to accept that definition, or the use of a label, is linguistic brownshirting.
            Pax et bonum…

    • Gabriel Blanchard

      I like this, but I’m hesitant about some of it. To begin with, I object in the strongest possible terms to the assertion that sodomy is a word worth recovering; I think the application of the Genesis passage regarding Sodom to homosexuality in general, is a radically incorrect interpretation (despite its historical pedigree, dating, I am given to understand, to the reign of Justinian), particularly in light of the fact that other Biblical references to Sodom — notably those in Ezekiel — don’t reference sexual sin of any kind. However, I realize that this was pretty peripheral to your remarks.

      About TOB, of course it presents an ideal that cannot be lived perfectly by anyone in a fallen world. However, I think it is true, and should be acknowledged, that for those whose dispositions are anything other than heterosexual and cisgender, the burden of it weighs heavier than on the majority. This doesn’t say anything about truth and falsehood or about right and wrong — I’ve said already that I categorically accept the Church’s teaching. But, while the cross of homosexuality can be and has been exaggerated, and while it doesn’t present an insuperable obstacle to either holiness or happiness, its distinct character and frequently attendant suffering should be recognized, if only for practical purposes. Making chaste homosexuality sound as easy as any other moral project could have disastrous consequences (not that I take you to have been trying to make this sound easy!). And of course, it is one thing for someone who identifies as SSA to speak this way; it would be another for, say, a happily married parent to say the same thing to a gay Christian committed to celibacy by the necessities of conviction rather than by wholly voluntary sacrifice. Like I said, I treasure TOB, but I think this is an aspect of its teaching that is, not defective, but unsatisfying, as it has been explained and extrapolated (to date, anyway). I’d very much like to see a further development of its wisdom in this particular area.

      • Mephibosheth

        Thank you, Gabriel, for your thoughtful reply, and for your appreciation of nuance and what is peripheral. I gained a lot of insight from your articulation of the distinction between what is universal in TOB and what is particular to those who experience SSA. The fact that my cross is different from another man’s does not mean that it is more burdensome, or unbearable. “Not defective, but unsatisfying”–rings very true to me. Ironically, I think in some ways chaste SSA Catholics have more to teach non-SSA Catholics about TOB than the reverse. Perhaps someday that will change.

  • George Day

    If anyone would like to read it, this is the testimony of a former gay activist for the Vatican Commission currently investigating the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje. That person is me, and I can be contacted at george5s5g12s@yahoo.com. Here is the link to my testimony http://medjugorje.ie/george-day.html

  • Adam L

    I would agree with the first point insofar as psychological explanations of homosexuality are beyond the competency of the Church and can distract from its true mission. And the explanations that are often offered in these discussions are overly simplistic and create a stumbling block to outreach. However, I would also add that the attraction doesn’t exist in a bubble, and having an understanding of the larger context may be important to ministering to individuals, but this should be done on a case by case basis, with a proper appreciation for the complexities of the issue.

    I also agree very much with points 4 and 5. The perception is that all the Church offers homosexuals is a big “No”. Simply offering “celibacy” without concretes and giving little or no attention to the need for intimacy (including physical) can be hard to hear, especially coming from those who do not experience homosexual attractions.

    • Daniel Lee Fee

      Though I am as a gay man outside the ‘Catholic’ community – the active back and forth concerning such a supposedly heathen/heinous speech habit like calling oneself ‘gay’ helping to demonstrate my ‘essential-ized’ ‘out-sider-ness’ ? – I really resonate with the point about what living without genital same sex intimacy can possibly mean in the dominant religious negative contexts.
      I should also say that nine years spent in intensely rigorous (exgay) church life and counseling only served to make my preverbal/nonverbal human self comprehensively hate-able (the equation amounting to something like, my self-my body = I hate, period).
      I read the author’s comment as going in similar directions: ” Too often the message is communicated that to the extent that the body represents anything other than an avenue for sin, it points to an eschatological reality that a homosexual has been granted no subjective hint of.”
      No amount of intellectualizing could finally erase, avoid or sufficiently disguise the core equation to categorical bads that so far makes the explicated Scholastic Magisterium tick.
      Fact is, a guy like me can hardly begin to contemplate this rigorous highly touted doctrinal compliance without having to bite some very hard, very difficult bullets.
      Imagine living your entire adult life being touched by utterly nobody who cares about you in anything more than a handshake, a brief hug that only highlights your comprehensively embodied isolation, and of course, the pitiful hand on the shoulder that also confirms everything else in which you/your body will never be destined to participate.
      The foundational readiness to be held, known, and loved cannot so easily be reduced to ‘bad’ so that a strong renaming/redefining accomplishes all the real life feat.
      Only my proctologist – stage four prostate cancer (enriched by multiple bone mets colonies) occasioned that quite surprising ‘intimacy’ reminder by going where doctrine adamantly will not go. The air tight church life bubble around a gay man’s body is suffocating, dehumanizing, and most of the average day’s time, something nearly akin to being sandpapered from the inside mucosa outwards.
      Not much of a surprise then, that so many of us objectively disordered gay guys just are not ‘up to the task.’ Bravo to all the apparently otherwise religious people who find the bubble sanctifying or whatever? One fervently hopes they are free to some extent from the afore-mentioned sandpapering.

  • Tina

    I’m a Catholic woman who’s occasionally but primarily
    emotionally/romantically attracted to other women. I’m also trying to live as a faithful and chaste disciple of Christ.

    Here are my reflections on the points listed by the letter writer.

    Point 1: Some people, myself included, benefit from the various insights of psychology on possible factors contributing to the development of same-sex sexual attractions. I appreciate anything that might help me to gain in self-knowledge and understanding. I never expect and would never assume that psychological factors would provide a “one-size fits all” explanation of same-sex attraction because everyone’s life experiences are different and each person’s personality and they way they perceive things is different; nevertheless, I’m grateful to hear different theories and ideas in this area to learn what may apply to me. As the author of the letter says, if it doesn’t work for you, then by
    all means drop it – but don’t deny your brothers and sisters the chance or opportunity to examine these theories for themselves. A pastoral counselor/advisor would be remiss if he/she didn’t at least make people with same-sex attraction (or any other potential challenge) aware of the various bodies of research that look into the possible causes of a soul’s difficulties/temptations.

    I agree that we need to be careful to distinguish between philosophical and psychological uses of the term disorder because yes, there often is a conflation that occurs with the word “disorder” in those two disciplines, but the solution is not to banish all mention of psychological theory.

    Point 2: Regarding the notion of allowing for the use of the term “gay” or “homosexual” as a noun, every person is already free to refer to himself or herself however he/she wishes. I prefer to use the rather lengthy term “person with same-sex emotional/romantic/sexual attractions.” Yes, I realize it’s easier to use the term “gay”in everyday conversation. I don’t get bent out of shape if my friends use it, and I certainly don’t assume they lack a commitment to chastity if they use it, but I personally draw the line when someone tries to introduce that language into Church documents and/or the pastoral program of an official Church ministry.

    Certainly all human language fails at a certain point when we’re trying to communicate eternal and divine truths, but we would only muddy the waters if we deliberately chose to incorporate into Church documents terms that even the
    body of people its meant to describe can’t agree upon. Some same-sex attracted people think the term “gay” is completely neutral and a descriptor no different than eye-colour or national identity; others see it as the construction of a false identity
    around an objectively disordered inclination. Theological and pastoral documents which deal with weighty issues in great depth should aim to use language as precisely as possible. Slang terms are inappropriate for theological/pastoral
    documents dealing with Catholic anthropology and the mystery of the human
    person.

    Point 3: I personally know several same-sex attracted people who I believe are living saints. I would be happy if any or all of them were one day officially canonized. I myself would probably never refer to them as “gay” saints, because they themselves don’t self-identify as “gay” – they do self-identify as “same-sex attracted” (some of them do so publicly), but not as “gay.”

    Point 4: I find the “tangible alternative to the life offered by homosexual activists” primarily in the company of those who strive to live the five goals of Courage and also in the company of any friends who seek to follow Christ or at least strive to be people of good-will. A faithful Catholic life is itself a tangible alternative. But we ourselves have to start living that life more deeply in order to make it tangible to others.

    Point 5: I’m no expert on Theology of the Body, but I know it’s helped many same-sex attracted friends gain a better understanding of the nature and purpose of sexual relations according to God’s plan. Eschatologically, same-sex attracted people who choose to live chastely out of love for Christ are still a great sign of
    God’s Kingdom, especially in today’s world, for the simple reason that we’re striving to forego worldly pleasures, by placing all our hope in Heaven and the bliss of spending eternity with Christ. Yes, this is different from the renunciation of those who are disposed towards marriage yet give it up for the sake of the Kingdom – but we are still renouncing something: we are renouncing the fulfillment of objectively disordered sexual desires for the sake of the Kingdom. Our witness brings light to the truths of the Church’s teaching and to the eternal life in Christ to which we are all called.

    Point 6: I completely agree with the promotion of Courage as a social outlet and also as a spiritual support group. Yes, many chapters are in need of strengthening
    and better leadership, but I always say that each Courage group is as good as
    the particular members and their Chaplain make it. I once shared with Fr. Harvey that I found the three pillars of Courage are: a) the spiritual support meetings themselves, b) the solid Catholic spirituality we’re encouraged to embrace in every area of our lives, and c) the fellowship/community/friendships that sustain us between and outside of meetings.

    I would encourage those who see deficiencies in the Courage apostolate to consider what the Lord may be asking you to do to strengthen this ministry. Courage has always been a very grass-roots ministry, growing from strength-to-strength as various individuals, lay people and priests, discern their particular role in this ministry. Like the Church at large, Courage is imperfect, as its members are imperfect; at the same time, Courage the organization is committed to faithful obedience to the magisterium. With all our faults and imperfections and
    personality differences, Courage members are called to strive for holiness,
    joy, and peace as we aim to develop a life of interior chastity in union with
    Christ. We’ve had the great blessing of being founded by a good, holy priest who was a sound moral theologian and a compassionate spiritual father (I believe he will one day be canonized). I agree that now is a good time to critically assess our weaknesses because we do have them, but I also think that in the first 33 years, a very solid foundation has been laid. Where we go from here is up to the Holy
    Spirit and us.


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