Sexual Morality is for Homosexuals … and Everyone Else

Patheos blogger Eve Tushnet wrote an excellent article about being gay and Catholic a while back. I think it provides food for thought for all of us since the truths she discusses apply equally to every person, gay or straight. Here is what she had to say:

The biggest reason I don’t just de-pope myself is that I fell in love with the Catholic Church. Very few people just “believe in God” in an abstract way; we convert, or stay Christian, within a particular church and tradition. I didn’t switch from atheistic post-Judaism to “belief in God,” but to Catholicism: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, Michelangelo and Wilde, St. Francis and Dorothy Day. I loved the Church’s beauty and sensual glamour. I loved her insistence that seemingly irreconcilable needs could both be met in God’s overwhelming love: justice and mercy, reason and mystery, a savior who is fully God and also fully human. I even loved her tabloid, gutter-punching side, the way Catholics tend to mix ourselves up in politics and art and pop culture. (I love that side a little less now, but it’s necessary.)

I didn’t expect to understand every element of the faith. It is a lot bigger than I am. I’m sure there are psychological reasons for my desire to find a God and a Church I could trust entirely: I don’t think I have a particularly steady moral compass, for example. I’m better at falling in love than finding my way, more attuned to eros than to ethics. Faith is no escape from the need for personal moral judgment; the Church is meant to form your conscience, not supersede it. There are many things which, if the Catholic Church commanded them, I think would have prevented me from becoming Catholic. (More on this below.) But I do think it was okay to enter the Church without being able to justify all of her teachings on my own.

At the time of my baptism the church’s teaching on homosexuality was one of the ones I understood the least. I thoroughly embarrassed myself in a conversation with one of my relatives, who tried to figure out why I was joining this repressive religion. I tried to explain something about how God could give infertile heterosexual couples a baby if He wanted to, and my relative, unsurprisingly, asked why He couldn’t give a gay couple a baby. The true answer was that I didn’t understand the teaching, but had agreed to accept it as the cost of being Catholic. To receive the Eucharist I had to sign on the dotted line (they make you say, “I believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches” when they bring you into the fold), and I longed intensely for the Eucharist, so I figured, everybody has to sacrifice something. God doesn’t promise that He’ll only ask you for the sacrifices you agree with and understand.

At the moment I do think I understand the Church’s teaching better than I did then—but check back with me in a few years. Right now, the Biblical witness seems pretty clear. Both opposite-sex and same-sex love are used, in the Bible, as images of God’s love. The opposite-sex love is found in marriage—sexually exclusive marriage, an image which recurs not only in the Song of Songs but in the prophets and in the New Testament—and the same-sex love is friendship. Both of these forms of love are considered real and beautiful; neither is better than the other. But they’re not interchangeable. (Read the rest here.)

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I have a strong suspicion that all opposition to Catholicism lies in this paragraph:

    “At the moment I do think I understand the Church’s teaching better than I did then—but check back with me in a few years. Right now, the Biblical witness seems pretty clear. Both opposite-sex and same-sex love are used, in the Bible, as images of God’s love. The opposite-sex love is found in marriage—sexually exclusive marriage, an image which recurs not only in the Song of Songs but in the prophets and in the New Testament—and the same-sex love is friendship. Both of these forms of love are considered real and beautiful; neither is better than the other. But they’re not interchangeable. ”

    They are not interchangeable indeed.

  • Bill S

    “The true answer was that I didn’t understand the teaching, but had agreed to accept it as the cost of being Catholic.”

    This is not a very smart thing to do. How can you accept something that you don’t understand? Is blind acceptance the cost of being Catholic?

    “To receive the Eucharist I had to sign on the dotted line (they make you say, “I believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches” when they bring you into the fold), and I longed intensely for the Eucharist, so I figured, everybody has to sacrifice something.”

    Again. Not a smart thing to do. You don’t have to sacrifice your ability to make rational decisions for yourself.

    • zai

      Bill, I hope you understand that the idea there is this:

      you accept the things you don’t quite get about the faith because the faith has already convinced you in other areas. As a former protestant, I didn’t get the marian doctrines, but I was sufficiently convinced about apostolic succession, the roles of scripture and tradition, the Eucharist etc. That was enough for me to cross the Tiber.

      Further, that isn’t the stopping point. You don’t become Catholic and stay the same. If you do that, you’re doing it wrong. You have to seek, pray, etc. and ‘lean not to your own understanding.’ That is, you need to be humble and accept that, in terms of certain questions, you are out of your depth and need guidance. I personally have more of a connection with the Mother of God than before and hope I continue to grow.

      Remember, the Church is actually a hospital and you do not need to know everything about medicine to submit to a doctor, do you?

      Lastly, what about Eve’s decision was irrational? It seems perfectly rational to me. She was not jumping completely in the blind. being foggy on certain details is not the same as just jumping into a dark place.

      • Bill S

        “Lastly, what about Eve’s decision was irrational?”

        The default position should be skepticism, not blind faith. But I know that’s not the way it goes. We are told to believe, then understand. Once you believe, you can rationalize just about anything. Science tries to disprove a hypothesis in order to determine if it is true. religion accepts things as true and then rationalizes why they are true. Not a good, sound method.

        • zai

          Bill,

          My point was that Eve’s decision was not BLIND faith. Faith comes from Latin, yes? Fides. It basically denotes a type of trust, when you trust someone or something, you do not have to do so from the get-go. I am a convert and can attest to that. You reach a certain point and it becomes about trust.
          I do not see why the default position should be skepticism (I again assert that faith is not necessarily blind). Is this your approach to everything? Are you skeptical of your own reasoning skills? Are you skeptical of the state of your relationships? If not, why are you not skeptical of those things? Is this just a “religious” matter for you? Why should you believe anything?

          For the record: if science is the only thing that can bring us truth, it is a very limited truth that renders human life problematic, if everything can be deduced to the physical world, and the physical world is made up of forces and particles that we cannot see how is it that we are even conscious? Would it not be illusory?

          • Bill S

            “if everything can be deduced to the physical world, and the physical world is made up of forces and particles that we cannot see how is it that we are even conscious?”

            Funny you should ask. I am skeptical about the Neodarwinism of the new atheists. Consciousness could not have come from random mutations and natural selection alone. I an reading Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel, an atheist. This doesn’t lead me to Catholicism, though. But I am starting to re-believe in a supreme being.

            • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

              That’s a start, Bill. Personally, I am well aware that, if I had ever lost faith in Christianity/Catholicism, I would be more agnostic than atheist. There are simply too many things pointing to a deity. I would likely be a bit of a deist. I am a philosopher and there is a lot of finagling going on regarding consciousness and experience. Look up epiphenomenal qualia, if you ever get the chance.

    • Dave

      Because you rationally come to the position that the Catholic Church has been invested by Christ with the charism of truth, and you realize that you yourself have not been invested by that charism. So you, very rationally, suspend judgment in those areas where you and the Church are at loggerheads, and do further investigation.

      If one is never able to question their own beliefs, and consider that they might be wrong and do further investigation, they will never grow.

  • ocarol500

    I clicked on for the original article by Eve Tushnet and got a 404 … page not found. Would like to read it.

    • hamiltonr

      That’s an internal error with Patheos’ server. Just keep clicking and you’ll get to it. (It’s a good read.)


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