SSA Saints: To Canonize or Not to Canonize?

Ron Belgau sends this along:

Why the Church and the World Need Celibate Gay Saints

Excerpts:

“If the Church wants to speak credibly about homosexuality it must be prepared to speak “in the first person,” just as it has recently made an effort to teach the truth of Christian marriage by canonizing married saints and encouraging first-person experiential accounts of living out the Church’s teachings on marital love.”

“Christians need role models to whom they can relate if they are to successfully pursue holiness, and gay and lesbian Christians are no exception to this. This is why the Bible provides us many examples of holy men and women from Noah to the Apostles, whose lives Scripture exhorts us to study and imitate (Heb 13:7). This is why Christian tradition has bequeathed to us so many colorful lives of the saints, to show us that every kind of person can become holy.”

Meanwhile, Terry Nelson over at Abbey Roads thinks it’s a bad idea.

My personal inclination is to side with Ron Belgau’s post, but that’s just me.  Ultimately, it a question the Church will have to haggle out with input from the people affected by the attraction.  I just think that having some role models of saints who lived chastely with SSA would be a help for those striving with it, particularly when those trying to do so keep hearing from the Purely Pure Spiritual Police that even their attempts to live faithfully are not enough.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    Isn’t this all just hypothetical anyway? What are they going to do, search for someone who was gay and then canonize them? Or what?

    • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

      You -or someone- might believe that the Church has some sort of mechanical detector of saints, that finds candidates to canonization irrespective of our human (legitimate or not) interests. You know why religious orders have a (probably) disproportionate amount of canonized saints? Because they are interested in having them.
      What we want to find does not determine what we find, but influences it.
      If we decide that we’d need a gay saint, we’ll probably find him.

  • Dave G.

    Well, what Saints do we have who were canonized because they struggled with sexual attraction? I would say use those as examples. If we have saints who were primarily defined by their sexual struggles, look at them and compare.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    St. Margaret of Cortona or St. Augustine struggled with sexual issues. They weren’t gay though and I think that’s what these people are saying, they have to be gay.

  • Barbara Fryman

    I’ve heard that the priest who died on 9/11 was SSA, but chose his priestly duties over his inclination. While I know little about his life, he is a martyr, isn’t he?Wouldn’t that qualify him for canonization?

    • vox borealis

      Is he martyr? No, probably not according to its strict definition, since he did not die for his faith.

      • Barbara Fryman

        Well he died in his roll as chaplain for the NYFD, which means he was in harms way specifically because if his faith and the practice of it. I don’t know, I’ve heard it qualifies, but I’m no cannon lawyer.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          Some might argue that the 9/11 terrorists acted out of odium fidei (hatred for the faith), since they hated *everything* about the West, including its Christian patrimony (Al Qaida doesn’t call us “Crusaders” for nothing). Despite America being a secular state, radical Islamicists still see us as a Christian nation, since they don’t make the distinction between religion and everyday life that is so common in our culture. So, in their minds, they weren’t merely attacking buildings or a country, but “infidels,” non-Muslims.

          Perhaps that could mean that some of the victims that day (Christian ones, at least) died a martyr’s death, since they were targeted as Christians and were killed out of hatred of Christianity. Though that’s probably still debatable; just tossing the possibility out there.

        • Roki

          He died in the practice of his faith, but was not murdered on account of his faith. So, I think “martyr” is probably out.

          That said, he died doing saintly deeds, so promoting his cause may still be a good idea.

    • Josephine Harkay

      I remember that priest; he was the only victim of the terrorist attack shown dead. He may have died a hero, like a soldier in battle, but that will not make a soldier a martyr. – By-the-way, if I were a priest with same-sex attraction, I would take my secret to the grave (except my confessor would know about it).

      • chezami

        Yes! Gay people have to be punished even if they are obedient to Christ! Their temptation–alone–is so vile that they cannot be loved or supported in their struggles. Their entire interior life must be shrouded in darkness and silence. Cuz we really love them and care about them and stuff.

      • Barbara Fryman

        Saying what you would do is silly since God asks us to reveal ourselves according to His plan, not theoretical ones. As far as I know Fr. Judge didn’t go around wearing a Rainbow collar, but he did reveal an experience in seminary that solidified his choice of the priesthood.
        I’ve already said I’m not a canon lawyer and can’t adequately determine what makes a martyr, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn military, firehouse or police chaplains who die in service are deemed so. If they are not, well, I trust the Church enough to accept that as well.

        • Josephine Harkay

          I am a senior citizen and have been a practicing Catholic all my life. I still maintain that we definitely can have secrets in our hearts that only God knows about. (As a married woman, would you publicly declare that you are sorely tempted to commit adultery? Or say that you wished a mentally defective child had never been born?) Of course you may, but certainly you don’t have to.) And yes, I reserve the right to discuss theoretical problems. So, let’s agree to disagree; God has room for all of us. – I like the fact that you also reveal your full name.

          • Barbara Fryman

            We can, but sometimes God asks us to share to help those who need help. I may have mistook your statement about what you would do as a judgement on what Fr. Judge should have done. We can’t know his heart, but we can see his acts, and no one ever has said that he acted outside his vocation. He died in service to that vocation. I hope he is a saint enjoying the perks of heaven.

            • Josephine Harkay

              Indeed, greater love no man has…..

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    I am probably oversensitive on the subject, but Nelson’s post seemed quite unfair to me. Admittedly there are people who are trying to revise the Church’s doctrine on sexuality, and some of them want to prove from Church history that there is a basis for doing so; but that is true of basically every doctrine — there’s always someone who doesn’t like it and someone who has (or thinks they have) a counterexample from Christian history. To imply that the mass of us who want a saint who can act as our official patron are doing so in order to distort Catholic morals is unnecessary and prejudicial.

    • Dale

      Perhaps I have misread Terry Nelson’s article, but I am don’t think he is opposed to the idea of a saint who is known to have struggled with same-sex attraction. Nelso expects that such saints will be eventually named, and even seems to approve of this. What he objects to is retconning past saints and declaring them to be gay, when they didn’t identify as such nor did they write about their struggles with same-sex attraction. Nelson seems to be leery of forcing a narrative on the lives of these long dead saints.

      Perhaps a bit ambivalently, he does seem to approve of saints who are identified as a gay patron. Quoting from the Abbey Roads article:

      “If there is anything good about gay people claiming particular saints as their patron – if indeed they have devotion to them, which also means seeking to follow their example – then the Holy Spirit may have greater access to their conscience as it were, and perhaps better able to correct it. The saints are powerful intercessors and God always draws good out of evil.”

      Nelson’s promises to write about saints who would be good patrons for gay individuals, though he doubts any of those past saints identified as gay. For a saint who is identified as gay, we will need to look for those who are canonized in the years going forward.

  • vox borealis

    The entire approach seems to completely miss the boat with the canonization process. In order for the Church to canonize someone, there needs to be evidence of at least two miracles as a result of the (future) saint’s intercession. This is the critical evidence that the saint is, um, a saint (i.e., in heaven and interceding for us in the Communion of Saints). Of course, the Pope may waive requirements, but in general this is bad idea.

    Now, the local diocese could make it a point to seek out SSA individuals who are identified as Servants of God and recommend them to the pope, such that they are declared Venerable. The local church can encourage prayers to that individual on the expectation that s/he is in heaven and the hope that a miracle will occur. So maybe that is what the author means: the local church should go out looking for “gay saints.”

    But I’m not sure the Church should ignore the canonization procedure, snap its fingers, and “make up” a SSA saint simply as a PR move or to make a role model for a particular identity group.

    A last thought, I am a little uneasy with the idea of creating saints for identity groups. Oh sure, there are patron saints of various professions, etc., but that strikes me as a little different. And in the entire catalogue of saints surely there is one or a few whom SSA people can look to as examples to follow, whose own struggles with sin or whose lives of heroic virtue translate to their own lives. The danger I see in going out looking for saints to appeal to this or that specific identity group is that it may have the affect of validating that identity group’s self-definition at the expense of their identity as belonging to the Church.

    • Aaron Taylor

      What makes you think the author was advocating that we should “ignore the canonization procedure”?

      • vox borealis

        I just read the quote provided, and the author seems to think that saints are canonized specifically to teach certain lessens to certain people (in the author’s example, the church has “has recently made an effort to teach the truth of Christian marriage by canonizing married saints”). By extension, the author seems to promote that the Church should up and canonize some gay folk as models for SSA Christians. Both the statement about canonizing married saints and its implication for canonizing “gay saints” appear to misunderstand the canonization process, and only make sense if one sees the making of saints as purely a process of finding good role models of X behaviour for Y group. Such an approach could only work if the canonization process as it exists now were waived or modified.

        I’m not saying the author was *advocating” the ignoring of the canonization process. I’m saying that the authors perspective seem to indicate a failure to understand the canonization process.

        • Mariana Baca

          But that is the thing — part of the point of canonization *is* to provide examples of holiness to the People of God. Canonization does require miracles, obviously. But it requires a lot more than that. Money, investigators, time, publicity for people to pray for the intercession of that particular person, validation of miracles, etc. Those things require both time, money and investment. A reason a lot of religious orders have many saints is that they have a built in team of people for praying for their intercession, continued publicity, documentation of their life and work, etc. It is much easier. A married couple has a lot less of that. A single person even less sometimes. Making a special point to devote time of investigators and promote “Servants of God”/”Venerable” (titles do not require miracles, but is first/second steps) that showed heroic virtue in their lives who were gay and celibate does require effort of the Church, who makes the “Servant of God”/”Venerable” determination.

      • vox borealis

        OK, having read the entire piece now, Aaron, it is not clear to me what you are advocating, if anything. The article’s set up is that it is hard for SSA Christians to understand or accept that there have been no homosexual saints in the 2000 year history of the Church (and of course, you could push that beyond 2000 years, since there *are* Old Testament saints). But why is this hard to accept, given that the concept of homosexuality per se is a relatively recent one?

        Then you conclude by stating: “But, sooner or later, someone is going to be a gay saint, and the first, baby step along the road to having gay saints is for people to know that gay Christians exist who are trying to seek God’s will in their lives.”

        This may or may not be true. I have no idea who *will* be a saint, because I don’t know who’s going to heaven, to whom prayers of intercession will be verified as efficacious. I suspect you are correct. But what if you are not? So what? As I wrote before, it strikes me as problematic that there must be a specific saint for every given self-defined identity group, and if there isn’t, the Church should go out and scare one up.

        • Aaron Taylor

          All I’m saying is that it would be helpful, in principle, to homosexual Catholics (and homosexuals who might be thinking about becoming Catholic) if they had some chaste, homosexual saints as role models. I really don’t see what is so “problematic” about this. I did not say that the Church should “go out and scare one up,” and I don’t know where you got that idea from.

          • vox borealis

            I must have misunderstood the point of your piece. My confusion stems, I think, from this line: “[the Chuch] has recently made an effort to teach the truth of Christian marriage by canonizing married saints”. By my reading, this seems to imply that the canonization process is largely about finding saints that fit a certain profile, to teach lesson X to identity group Y. I don’t think that’s how it works, maybe you don’t either, but that is what I took from the piece.

            • Aaron Taylor

              I’m aware of how the canonization process works, but there are
              thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of Servants of God out there
              who will never make it to official canonization. Naturally, everyone who does make it to canonization is holy and deserving of sainthood, but do you really think that the fact that the Church chooses to prioritize the causes of particular people at a particular time in its history has *nothing* to do with truths the Church wants to teach? Do you really think that the fact that an unusual proportion of lay saints and married saints
              were canonized during the pontificate of John Paul II had, for example,
              *nothing* to do with the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council on the
              apostolate of the laity or the emphasis of said Pope on the importance
              of the marital vocation?

              That said, I find it difficult to believe that your confusion stems simply from a misunderstanding about the canonization process. If I had written a post arguing that we need more married saints, or more saints involved in the world of corporate business, would you still have posted comments warning us all against the “danger” of having saints that appeal to “self-defined identity groups,” and that such a move “may have the affect of validating
              that identity group’s self-definition at the expense of their identity
              as belonging to the Church”? From what you’ve written here, it seems more like you have a problem with the general idea of a same-sex attracted saint than a specific bone of contention about how the canonization process works.

              • vox borealis

                Do you really think that the fact that an unusual proportion of lay saints and married saintswere canonized during the pontificate of John Paul II had, for example,
                *nothing* to do with the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council on the
                apostolate of the laity or the emphasis of said Pope on the importance
                of the marital vocation?

                Cause or effect? Is this the work of the Church (i.e., the human Church, the pope and bishops, etc. wanted to emphasize a certain teaching) or God (i.e. God has chosen this time in history to give us an unusual number of saints with a given calling or profile)? I have no idea, and I don’t presume to know, and I don’t presume to know who or what kind of saints we will have in the future.

                From what you’ve written here, it seems more like you have a problem with the general idea of a same-sex attracted saint than a specific bone of contention about how the canonization process works.

                You are wrong. The topic is you’re point of emphasis, not mine. I tend not to scour the saints looking for one who is particularly like me, or fits some profile or conforms to some identity group. I’m married, and yet my favorite saints are not married. I have a given profession, and yet I am most attracted to and look for inspiration in saints very, very different from myself, who did very different things professionally and (often) vocationally in their lives.

                If I had written a post arguing that we need more married saints, or more saints involved in the world of corporate business, would you still have posted comments warning us all…

                I don’t know what the hypothetical me would do, but in general I think we don’t “need” X, Y or Z kinds of saints, nor should we look for X, Y, or Z kinds of saints, to speak to A, B, or C kind of people. We need saints. Period.

                • Aaron Taylor

                  Why separate the work of God from the work of the Church he founded to continue his work on earth? The answer is clearly “both.”

                  • vox borealis

                    Why separate the work of God from the work of the Church he founded to continue his work on earth? The answer is clearly “both.”

                    I don’t separate them. Surely God works through human hands. But there is a difference between the recognition of SSA saints flowing from God through an organic process (for lack of a better term), than a ham-fisted policy devised by bishops (or whoever) to find X, Y, or Z hyphenated saints to appeal to A, B, or C hyphenated Catholics.

                    • Aaron Taylor

                      Just what is your problem here? Let’s say, hypothetically,we had a homosexual person who had been confirmed, via the ordinary canonical process of investigation, to have lived a holy life, and this person had two properly investigated miracles attributed to their name. What would be your objection to having this person canonized? Let’s suppose, further, that such a canonization might “appeal” to homosexuals. What on earth would be wrong with that? It’s almost as if you think Catholicism should be made as deliberately unappealing to homosexuals as it possibly can be.

                      Why would a decision by the successors of the Apostles that a canonization of this or that homosexual person would provide a good role model for homosexual Catholics necessarily be a “ham-fisted” decision?

                    • vox borealis

                      Because I don’t agree with looking to saints *because* they are hyphenated, or in a policy of canonizing saints *because* they are hyphenated to appeal to hyphenated identity groups. I feel the same way about, for example, Canadians (I happen to live in Canada,but this applies more broadly) who want more “Canadian saints”, or who feel a particular affinity to Canadian saints because they are Canadian. I don’t like the idea that some pundits tossed around, that the cardinals should elect a pope from Africa or South America specifically to appeal to folks from this or that continent or country. It all smacks of modern identity politics and seems to undercut the universality of the church. I think such a position tends to emphasize the hyphenated identity more than Catholicity.

                      I don’t *need* a saint whose hyphenated identity cleaves close to my own ethnic or political or national or sexual identity. In fact, I have little interest in finding Saint Vox of the 12th century…I don’t feel deprived nor do I see the need for the Church to go out and find such saints to satisfy my own identity politics grafted onto my Catholicity.

                      Let’s move back to the specific and come at this from another angle. Another commenter mentioned that St. Augustine struggled with sins and temptations of a sexual nature, and wrote quite openly about this. I too as a younger man struggled with sexual temptations, as I assume most young men do. Do I care if Augustine was chasing boys or girls of both? Not one bit. Maybe he was “gay”, maybe he was not? He still stands as a profoundly good exemplar to follow for redemption and chastity. Heck, he didn’t get married and I did, yet I can still relate to Augustine and look to him as an example to follow.

                      Let’s he assume he was not gay. Why should it matter to SSA people that Augustine was not “gay” (basically a 20th century identity category that can only be used with difficulty and revisionism with any figure from the more distant past)? Why is it so important to have a specific saint who fits a certain identity profile, unless it is the identity that one wishes to affirm.

                      Let’s say, hypothetically,we had a homosexual person who had been confirmed…What would be your objection to having this person canonized?

                      I would have no problem with that. But your article *seemed* to me to say more than that. It seemed to say that such an outcome was necessary. It seemed to imply that SSA Catholics somehow can’t relate unless such an overt exemplar existed. It seemed to imply that the Church should go out of its way to “find” such a saint, just as (according to you) the Church did in canonizing a bunch of married saints after VII. MAybe that was not your intent and I misread your piece. But that is what I took from it, and that is what I have a problem with, and I don;t know how many different ways I can explain that.

                      Let’s suppose, further, that such a canonization might “appeal” to homosexuals. What on earth would be wrong with that?

                      As I have tried to make clear, I have no problem with this per se, though I do find problematic Catholics who cannot see past their own potentially narrow identity politics and hyphenated self-definitions. I’d like to think that, say, a black Catholic can find something worthy to follow in St. Francis of Assisi, that a man can find Dorothy Day inspiring, and so forth. Really, I don’t think the Church *needs* to find a saint of any particular hyphenated identity, nor should (ideally) Americans, or gays, or women or Latinos or gamblers or porn addicts or any other particular group *need* a saint who was just like them.

                      In sum, your piece seemed to me to argue that the canonization of gay saints was some necessary step in the life of the church—I don’t agree at all, because I think it comes at the saints from the direction. But again, maybe I missed the point of what you were saying.

                    • Aaron Taylor

                      I simply said that the Church’s claim that gay people are called to holiness is something that, if it is to be more easy believable, needs to be illustrated in the lives of actual homosexuals who were/are actually holy, who can act as role models to others. It cannot be limited to just words in the Catechism, because the human person is not just a disembodied brain influenced only by ideas.

                      I made this suggestion simply because I want homosexuals who are already Christians to remain in the Church and become holy, and for those who aren’t Christians to become so, and for them also to become holy. I’m sorry if actually being interested in same-sex attracted people’s souls is committing the sin of playing “identity politics.”

                    • vox borealis

                      I’m sorry if actually being interested in same-sex attracted people’s souls is committing the sin of playing “identity politics.”

                      I’m interested in all people’s souls, SSA or otherwise. Maybe you’re right that SSA Christians (or non-Christians) will be more likely to accept the Church’s claims if there are “gay saints” to serve as role models. Maybe. But I stand by my main contention that I am leery of the underlying assumption that “gay Christians” can only (or mostly or even more easily) relate to “gay saints.”

                      And as I said, what you have just commented here was not what I took from your piece, which seemed to me to be saying something different.

                    • Aaron Taylor

                      You’re right, gay Christians cannot relate *only* to gay saints. People aren’t one-dimensional, and a gay Christian can’t be reduced merely to their sexuality. We can all relate to *all* the saints, whoever we are, simply on the basis of our common humanity. But it’s still the case that a homosexual saint would be of particular help to gay Catholics in seeking holiness in the particular area of their lives we are talking about here.

                      Even if I had just come right out and said that gay people need a special gay saint for their own little identity group (which I didn’t say), why would that be so controversial or un-Catholic? We have patron saints for almost every “identity group” (to use your terms) imaginable: gamblers (St. Cajetan), thieves (Ss. Nicholas and Dismas), archaeologists (St. Helena), comedians (St. Genesius), divorced people (St. Helena again), prostitutes (St. Nicholas), witches (St. Cyprian). I could go on forever. The point is, having particular saints as patrons that particular “identity groups” can relate to is embedded in our Catholic tradition. To get “leery” about the idea of a *chaste* gay saint when we have saints for witches and prostitutes is, frankly, ridiculous.

                      This will be my final message on this thread. Good day and God bless.

                    • vox borealis

                      First and most importantly, I’m pretty certain the various patron saints came after the fact. I don’t think the Church sat around thinking, “boy we really need a gambler-saint the gamblers can relate to. Let’s go try to canonize a gambler saint. If we don’t have a gambler-saint, the gambler Christians will have a harder time relating to the church teaching on gambling.” Which is what you rpiece seemed to argue for, as I said, though maybe I misinterpreted it (as I said.)

                      Second, I doubt that “gamblers” or archaeologists” (I did mention professions in another comment) compare with “gay” or “homosexual” with respect to self-identity, especially in the current context.It’s a silly comparison, and I think you know that. Lastly, not all of the patron saints you mention were members of the “identity group” they patronize. St. Helen may be credited with finding relics of the True Cross, but she was hardly an archaeologist in any modern definition of the word. St. Francis of rome is the patron saint of auto drivers despite living in the 15th century, long before there were cars. Somehow the “auto driver identity group” copes with this sad fact.

  • Stu

    Bad idea and looks like political correctness.

    When the debate to lift “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was raging, there was a political cartoon that show three flag draped caskets with the question, “Guess which one was gay?” The point of course being that homosexuals have indeed given their lives to this country. But ironically, now with DADT being lifted you will know exactly which ones were homosexual because that will be what is stressed.

    Looking for a so-called “Gay Saint” to canonize will have the same effect. It will always be about that person “being Gay” and not about simply being Catholic.

    • Irksome1

      I think avoiding canonizing someone who experienced same-sex attractions is just political correctness for a different ideology. What ought to matter, first and foremost, is what is true, not what happens to be tactically convenient. Nor do I think that the likelihood of some playing identity politics with this sort of thing is that big of a concern, unless you mean to suggest that one can easily separate a saint from the way he or she lived his or her life.

      • Stu

        I didn’t say avoid it. I take issue with looking for it.

        The Church will give us the Saints we need, not the ones we think we want.

        • Irksome1

          I guess, then, the question becomes whether a gay saint is something the faithful need. On the evidence, I would say the answer is “absolutely, yes.”

          It’s not a mistake that people like Joshua Gonnerman have written articles in First Things. It’s not an accident that Daniel Mattison was invited to speak on Catholic Answers. I doubt it was identity politics that made Elizabeth Scalia invite Eve Tushnet to blog here at Patheos. Courage is not promoted by the Church merely so that men and women with same-sex attractions can have their own special club. All these things point to the need for the faithful to see the ideals of the Church lived out and embodied by real, tangible men and women.

          That’s what a saint is. To imply that on the issue of same-sex attractions, this may not be “needed” is to fail to see the signs of the times and, in fact, minimize the import and relevance of every testimony on this issue thus far given.

          • Stu

            I see the ideal lived out in Our Lady. And yet I am a man.

            I see any push for a homosexual saint to be contrived. I don’t believe the process needs our help in that regard. God has it under control.

            • Irksome1

              It’s difficult to understand what you might mean by this. Any push, including, I suppose, a petition by a bishop? The testimony of close friends and associates that brings the cause to the bishop’s attention?

              And what, exactly, is contrived? You haven’t offered the example of any particular case, so are we to believe that the cause for canonization of any individual who experienced same-sex attractions is necessarily contrived in itself? Or, is the idea that such a person could exhibit heroic virtue in service to God contrived? If, as the Catechism states in paragraph 2359, homosexual persons can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection, what is contrived about formally recognizing those instances in which it happens? Or, do you mean to say that the expectation that this could ever happen is, itself, contrived?

              Honestly, do you have anything substantive to offer in support of your resistance, in principle, to the idea that a man or woman might be formally recognized to have achieved admittance to the Beatific Vision beyond vague references to “contrivance,” “political correctness” or some other obfuscatory term generated in a think tank?

              • Stu

                Looking specifically for a “gay saint” is contrived. The Church should just recognize Saints as they have always done. No need to make special effort looking for some particular “sin du jour”

                You keep wanting to make this about those who suffer from SSA. Indeed, those who have that challenge and abstain are to be commended as is anyone who doesn’t succumb to sin.

  • Irksome1

    Terry Nelson does seem to have a point, in that the news of a “gay saint” has a high likelihood of being misunderstood. I mean, how will Brian Williams report it? Further, lest we flatter ourselves into thinking that such misunderstanding is only a feature of the progressives, let’s pause to reflect that Nelson himself admits to having missed an important bit of the letter he was responding to.

    The question is whether such inevitable misunderstanding is reason enough not to canonize such a saint. I’m not sure what the answer is here, but it can’t be that mere misunderstanding is enough. After all, Vatican II has been woefully misunderstood, but I’m not ready to call the Council a bad idea.

    We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what the relative positive and negative outcomes may be, but we do have the testimony of a growing number of men and women, experiencing same-sex attractions, who are saying this would benefit them in their walk with Christ. I’m not willing to tell them their wrong, much less dictate to such people what they do and do not need as though, arrogantly, I understand their condition better than they do.

  • Mark.

    There was chatter at the time of his beatification that Bl. John Henry Newman must have been homosexual, what with wanting to be buried in his best friend’s grave. I haven’t seen any solid evidence, but maybe he’ll be considered a patron saint for the SSA if he’s canonized, evidence or no evidence.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins admitted to intense homosexual attractions, but although he was a great poet and suffered a lot in his life and showed great humility, I don’t know if he showed heroic virtue. Maybe. Worth starting a cause?

  • HornOrSilk

    Well, we have saints who suffered and died for the sake of virginity — and they are used to promote purity. I think if there is someone who was homosexual but chaste, if there are other reasons which suggest their sanctity (miracles), then they clearly can be used to also represent the authentic Christian calling for those who are homosexual. We might have gone beyond the idea of “patron saints” for all kinds of activities because we don’t have guilds, but when you look to such patronages, you will see all kinds of groups we might wonder about (like thieves) have their patron. With the sexual issues of the day, a homosexual saint who is chaste would be a good counter-revolutionary signal to the world. And yes, saints often are recognized for this kind of concern.

    If we worried about misunderstandings and how people can abuse what we do, there would be no Bible.

  • Michaelus

    Of course the fact that there are actually no saints – officially canonized or simply objects of popular devotion – who openly “suffered from SSA” might give one pause to think a bit…..

    • HornOrSilk

      Of course there are no saints who used the internet in the 21st century might give one pause to think……..

    • Irksome1

      Indeed, it may. The question would be whether such an omission causes someone to think about this with the mind of the Church rather than just the flawed mind of the world.

    • Mariana Baca

      Despite what the culture today wants us to think, SSA is pretty rare. And, because it wasn’t thought of an identity, there are likely saints out there that struggled with impure thoughts now and then, and we don’t know what the content of those thoughts are. Especially for monks and nuns, devoting their life entirely to God and not to romantic relationships, it might just not be mentioned much explicitly. I don’t write down my sexual fantasies or lists of sins for posterity, either.

      We can similarly ask: how many saints were autistic/aspergers? That was not really a diagnostic criteria until recently. We can try to post-facto diagnose saints with it, but it won’t necessarily be accurate (not comparing autism with SSA, just saying something about modern conceptions/terminology of conditions nowadays). Doesn’t mean autistic people can’t be saints. Or that autistic people have never *been* saints.

      Similarly, people try to post-facto say X person’s same-sex friendship was sublimated sexual attraction or that person’s struggles were impurity could refer to homosexual thoughts, but we don’t really know.

      • Michaelus

        Right – hence “openly”.

        • Mariana Baca

          What I mean is that it shouldn’t give one “pause” because:
          1) this is a very small segment of the population, and thus probably just not represented in the sample set “canonized saints” — until recently there were few married, non-celibate saints, too, despite being a huge segment of society.
          2) the idea of openness about SSA is new — doesn’t mean no saints would have done it if it was common at the time. It just wasn’t a thing. Could even get you killed or imprisoned.
          3) Plus, segments of the population most commonly sainted have little reason to discuss any of their sexual preferences, straight or gay, because they are vowed to celibacy.

          None of these reasons have anything to do with whether it is moral or immoral to be open about SSA/gayness/whatnot.

  • Randy Gritter

    Canonizing a SSA saint is a bad idea unless you have a REALLY good candidate. But then canonizing anyone is a bad idea unless they are a really good candidate.That is why they have that bit about heroic virtue. If God gives us such a gift then the church should recognize it. She cannot try and manufacture such a thing herself.

  • SteveP

    At the risk of being identified as a member of the “Purely Pure Spiritual Police,” it is God who makes holy as only God is holy; holiness is not pursued as it cannot be claimed. How a person self-identifies is not relevant.

  • Disgusted in DC

    St. Aelred of Riveaux was claimed to be a celibate homosexual back in the day. If that is so, we already have one in the calendar. And, Benedict Groeschel speculated that there were lots of saints who were homosexually-oriented (or SSA – that horribly reverse politically correct term for people who hate the word gay – - before SSA came into vogue they liked to use the fake diagnosis “SSAD” out of spite and malice. We certainly have our misogynist saints that couldn’t stand women. St. Fiacre was one. There was an English monastic who had a similar aversion (Oswald?) If we can raise misogynists to the altars, we can raise “teh gay” too.
    As an aside, the people who get all worked up in a lather over “gay” often remind me of the fearsome Knights Who Say “Ni.” If I keep on repeating the word “gay” will they crumple to the ground in madness?

  • Dan C

    I think of Tom Dooley. I am unaware of his embrace of chastity though.

  • vox borealis

    Meanwhile, Terry Nelson has just today posted something of a different take on the same subject: http://abbey-roads.blogspot.ca/2013/09/on-becoming-saint.html

  • Josephine Harkay

    A saint has to practice all virtues to a heroic degree after his/her conversion. Only his/her confessor has to know what sexual temptations he/she was facing. Being celibate for a heterosexual is not the same thing as chastity for a homosexual/lesbian; the latter condition was for a long time a psychosexual disorder; it is only now that liberal medical science has “cured” it by declaring it to be also “normal.” It the Church canonizes a man who has publicly admitted to homosexual attraction, as it was said before, he will be known not as a “saint” but as a “homosexual saint.” Then we may also need a lesbian saint, a bisexual saint, or even a transgender saint. I don’t think this is a good idea.

    • chezami

      Always important to make sure gay people get the message that it’s not enough to be obedient to Holy Church’s teaching. They have to be punished for their temptations too.

      • Josephine Harkay

        Ask any Catholic priest and he will tell you that temptation is not a sin; even Christ was tempted.


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