Everyday in Every Way the Days are Gay & Gay & Gay

That headline is too cute by half, and I know it, but given all the First Things columns I’ve written trying to wonder-out and puzzle-out and anticipate the subject of Modern Concepts in Sexuality (and where and how the Catholic Church’s teachings soar or fall flat, largely depending upon how they are taught), and the recent Supreme Court DOMA decision, it does seem like for any story I read — about anything — I read five touching on an aspect of homosexuality and faith, and most especially, gay marriage.

It is the issue of the age, and for the church, one that will challenge her standing as both the taproot and centering pole of Christian teaching. The world wants a confrontation, even if the church does not, and it can only end in one of two ways: either it will move the church to change a most fundamental (and very mystical) teaching in order to suit the times — and thereby send the message that “truth” really is a relative and changeable, not eternal, thing — or it will create a chasm between the Roman and orthodox churches (both small-o and large) and the world that will bring about a time or serious persecution and suppression.

I’m not alone in thinking this way:

SULLIVAN: It still allows every state to make their own decisions.My worry is that there will be an overplaying of our hand, and that people will try and force this more quickly than we really should. What I’m proud of so far is that we have done this the right way. We have done this state by state. We’ve done it legislatively, we’ve done it through arguments, through that kind of — what the founders wanted us to do. Make our case bit by bit, persuade more and more people and move that forward.

SULLIVAN: . . .And I don’t want anybody’s religious liberty, I want that to be defined as maximally as possible. We do not threaten and we should never threaten the conscientious beliefs of those who disagree with us, but we should welcome their freedom because it’s our freedom too. And so I’m very concerned, actually, that we may become intolerant of people who believe homosexuality is still sinful. And we have to — we have to live by …

ZAKARIA: You want to be tolerant of their intolerance?

SULLIVAN: Yes. Because I think in the end that’s the only way to solve it.

“Tolerant of intolerance” used to mean a simple (and necessary) respect for individual consciences.

Anyway, a great deal of what I’m reading is eye-opening for me. For instance, I never actually understood that some people, upon learning that a family member was gay, actually tried to “pray the gay away” until I read this tragic story, which caught my eye as it passed through my twitter feed with the note: “there are so many errors here, but rather than point them out, let’s just pray for this family in their pain.”

Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person.

I agree, there are lots of errors — enough to offend gay sensibilities, Christian sensibilities alike. And I agree, pray — this article had to be difficult to write. And it made me really grateful that, as Terry notes, here, the Catholic church does not seek a change in anyone’s orientation.

Personally — and I’ve taken some flack for this, particularly at First Things — I’ve never gotten the idea that homosexuality is a thing that can be or is meant to be “changed.” As five year olds, our little gang included a boy who was daintier than any of the girls; as I grew up, family members came out. It was just the way people were: different. I guess to my way of thinking — and I don’t write as any sort of authority on anything — it always made sense that being created differently meant being called to live one’s own office (not a “better” or “worse” office, by the way, but one that is as difficult as any other) and discerning God’s purpose. God’s meaning in our lives is the rub. At its core, it always seems to be about surrendering to the mysteries of love by plundering its depths in all of the surprising, difficult, self-abnegating and never superficial ways God allows, because they are the means by which he reveals himself to us, including by the great — and counterintuitive — revelation of the cross.

Interestingly, while attending a Catholic media conference that followed hard on the DOMA ruling, so many faithful, obedient Catholics with whom I spoke expressed two hopes: first, that the church can find a better and more effective way to communicate that her teaching — seen by the world as nothing but hate and bigotry — is rooted in that counterintuitive, mysterious love, and then that the church can develop a means of recognizing love as love, and then teaching it to flourish within the mysteries of agape.

The second hope may actually answer the first.

Reading that will shock many, I know, which is why most of those conversations seemed to require a drink-in-hand.

An unsigned piece over at American Catholic addresses the issue with poignancy and insight:

When rage meets rage, the Devil has met his goal. . . How can we be proactive and not reactive? A simple insight into the general Catholic response to the “problem of homosexuality” lies in parish life. When one thinks of ministry that involves “family life” how quickly do we think of homosexuality? Not very quickly, I’d imagine. Why isn’t homosexuality considered a part of family life ministry? Homosexuals have families, are apart of families, and parents often have a hard time dealing with the revelation that their son or daughter is homosexual. It’s a family issue. So why do we hardly talk about it?

It’s a good question. A few days ago I got this email, which suggests to me that we feel insecure about how to talk about it:

I have read the Catechism several times in regards that we are to treat homosexuals as other people made in the image of God. This I completely understand.

The thing I am having difficulty in is what do I do in the future if I meet a same sex couple who are “married” or want to be. Do I say to them that this is wrong? How do we show that we are just not giving in by being friends with them and that is it? I have been struggling on how to act like a Catholic on this. I do not just want to [acquiesce] and be told to accept it but I have not read anything on how we respond to homosexuals that are in a relationship.

Not being a scholar, I did my poor best to answer:

Think it through step-by-step: Scripture is clear that Christ is the judge, not us. He makes clear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love takes primacy over judgement because, once again, Christ Jesus is the judge, not us. It seems to me, then, that our charge is to love everyone, including our gay friends who have taken this step; love them first as people, as created creatures of God. If we cannot do that, then there is no hope that they might become amenable to hearing one word about Catholic teaching, or considering it fully. If we always start first with love, not judgement, we cannot go wrong. Another way to think it through is to ask ourselves: what would Benedict do? What would Francis do, if they were introduced to a same-sex couple? Does anyone think that, in meeting them, either of these popes would be anything but gracious and loving to them? Does anyone think they would pull back, and begin to preach at them?

No, they wouldn’t. They would treat the couple just like anyone else they were being introduced to, because on the most fundamental level, they are just like anyone else: faulty, flawed, weak, self-interested children of God, in need of mercy, and doing the best they can with as much grace as they’re ready to accept. The same could be said of any of us.

And after meeting either pope and being seen and loved as such children, don’t you think that couple might be more open to pondering deeply the messages of the gospel and the teachings of the church?

We are living in a complicated era, where distortion, misdirection and euphemisms are the rule, not the exception. Love is more powerful than any of those things; love can cut through them. The English have a saying: “begin as you mean to continue,” and it seems to me simple love must be the anchor we must throw out first, and then rely upon as the world and the church come face-to-face in this tsunami-sized clash of fundamental understandings.

And too, at some point, we’ll have to wrap our minds around the idea we’ve adopted, as a society, that attraction must always (and quickly) become focused on physicality — what Frank Weathers calls “The Idol of the Orgasm” — and the other idol, the idol of having our every desire instantly met through rationalization. Their combined worship has shortchanged all of humanity, whether we are gay or straight.

We submit to that shallow idol so quickly that companionship, real intimacy and other depths of love often go unexplored to our great detriment. Idolatry is destroying us.

Mark Shea:
Interesting Letter from a Celibate Gay Reader

Eve Tushnet: I’m Gay, but not switching to a church that supports gay marriage

Simcha Fisher: Ex-Gay? Is that even a Thing? Interview with Stever Gershom, Part I

Frank Beckwith: Anthony Kennedy in Plato’s Cave

Terry Nelson: Is Church Guilty of “Pastoral Failure” toward homosexuals?

Acts of the Apostasy and Jane the Actuary Come to Patheos!
Anchoress is CPAC “Blogger of the Year?” Get OUT!
You Want Dignity? You Should Have It. So Should Everyone.
Thomas Merton is a Time Lord!
About Elizabeth Scalia
  • vox borealis

    Notably absent from the list of related links is anything from the wonderful and relevant site Abbey Roads. Wherein, in response to the concern that the Church needs to do a better job pastorally with respect to homosexuals, the “gay Catholic” author says, well, no: http://abbey-roads.blogspot.ca/2013/07/mass-chat-so-is-church-guilty-of.html.

  • MeanLizzie

    Really? You mean like that part in the text where I wrote: “And it made me really grateful that, as Terry notes, here, the Catholic church does not seek a change in anyone’s orientation.” — with the link and all that?

    If you want to know what the links link to, you have to use them. :-)

    That said, I hadn’t seen that particular piece of Terry’s and am glad you showed it to me so I CAN include it.

  • MeanLizzie

    Darned algorithms. Write about “gay” you get “gay” ads. I haven’t seen any yet but if you see it again, pls send me a screen cap and the url to where the ad goes, and we can impact how many/few come through. Thanks. In the meantime, if you can’t do that, for some reason, you can just hit “refresh” and the ad should change.

  • vox borealis

    Whoops, I missed the in-text link. Egg-on-face.

    For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with Terry. I don’t think the Church can, really, do a better job teaching what it teaches about homosexuality, or to reach out more to the gay community in a way that will satisfy its critics, short of the Church changing its teaching. My own pessimistic view is that the Church should, in fact , stop trying to “reach out”, which seems only to have the effect of causing confusion or watering down the message. Rather, the Church should just teach loudly and proudly that homosexual sex is sinful, in most cases probably gravely so.

    Let’s face it, the Church lost this battle in terms of popular culture, as it has with so many issues but especially those to do with sex and sexuality. But this is only the beginning. The catacomb times are coming. No use waffling. Better to go down stating the unchanging truth clearly.

  • MeanLizzie

    I think that piece from American Catholic makes a good point, though in that we can be more pastoral, perhaps, in how we teach about homosexuality in the family. That’s the place to really try to teach our teaching: within family, ministering to family, so families feel they have some connection to church rather than to the zeitgeist. Right now, when ppl discover someone they love is gay, it’s just a tumble directly into the popular culture side of things b/c so many ppl (MOST) think “oh, well, the church hates gays.” I think it’s a big mistake to not reach out to families early; it may well be the way to finally make our teaching better-understood. Telling ppl to read “always our children” is really not enough. It’s too little, too late.

  • Mandy P.

    In re: the American Catholic article linked. I am honestly not quite sure how we get past the “silence” the author talks about. In many way the Church is in a damned if we do/damned if we don’t position. While I think the author’s example of having the plight of same sex attracted people a listed amongst our publicly read prayer intentions might touch some hearts, I think the biggest reaction would be negative. I would not be surprised in the least to see outrage and public outcry at any church which did so and that church being declared as backward and unloving. The problem is the societal acceptance of the sexual act as the defining part of one’s person and denial of such is now believed to be a denial of one’s humanity. Rightly or wrongly, this is what it is. And no matter how much we declare that we love ALL people regardless of their personal struggles, because we cannot affirm the acts associated with this struggle as good and pure we are always going to be fighting an uphill battle.

    Look, I’m a heterosexual, married mother of two. While I have no animosity towards homosexual persons, even on an individual basis it is hard to walk the line between loving someone and tolerating their differences versus drifting over into acceptance and approval and encouragement of behavior. I’ve personally struggled with situations where you love a friend who is homosexual but cannot attend a “wedding” or something similar and it destroys the relationship. No amount of, “I love you, but” helps there no matter how gently it’s phrased.

    The only suggestion I have as to pastorally caring for persons afflicted by this issue (including loves ones, etc) is maybe those who are bearing that cross need to lead the way on this. I don’t mean that flippantly and Lord knows we don’t want to place anymore burdens on people. But, you know, the reason that American Catholic piece is so effective is because it is written by someone who has a lived understanding of the issue that, let’s be honest, most people simply don’t. Even those of us who have a greater than average number of friends and relatives who are same sex attracted cannot really understand this particular cross because it is so different than our own (and frankly, my own struggle with food and gluttony sounds downright stupid in comparison). It’s very easy for heterosexuals to say that a homosexual has to remain continent, never marry, and never have children. It’s also very easy for that heterosexual person, who does not have to face those same challenges, to be dismissed. I think it would be less easy to dismiss coming from someone who made that choice and lives it and is joyful in The Lord even through the pain that must necessarily come from that choice.

  • MJ

    How to deal with this in practice, though—for example, do you attend gay weddings or not? Are they equivalent to a heterosexual pseudo-Druid ceremony involving magickal rocks, no skin off our noses, or does attendance give scandal by giving the appearance of support?

    I have been to some weddings (not same sex) that bothered me a lot. I still do not know if I should have gone or not.

  • SteveP

    Elizabeth: you write: “We are living in a complicated era, where distortion, misdirection and euphemisms are the rule, not the exception.”

    The Church praises the Father through liturgy: Liturgy of the Eucharist, Liturgy of the Word, and Liturgy of the Hours. Invite your neighbor to Liturgy – that is a
    fine response to the commandment directing us to love God with all our strength
    and love our neighbor as our self. Everyone has the right to stand in the assembly and praise God. Help them exercise that equality. Social Security Survivor benefits are a distraction.

  • boinkie

    As a doc, I’ve treated too many miserable wives whose husbands married them to “cure” their same sex impulses, so gay marriage seems to be a good thing.

    But what no one is discissing is the idea of gay marriage as marriage: faithful to one’s partner, without outside hanky panky. Andrew Sullivan says it does not include such faithfulness to one’s partner..

    On the other hand, when heterosexuals start to push chastity, I’ll be impressed, I nstapundit’s remarks on Ann Althouse’ blog post LINKare the
    most depressing thing I have read this week.

    Another undiscussed item: no one wants to discuss the high percentage of sexual molestation of our children, especially of gay children (10 percent of heterosexual and 25 percent of gay teenagers have had “intercourse” below age 13, according to the CDC LINK,, also see:link check table 63).

    It’s the monogamous relationship,that has been destroyed by the sexual revolution, and our children are suffering from the promiscuity at so many levels. But when my kids were growing up, we heard exactly one sermon on this (by a visiting priest)…

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    What’s with all this hand wringing and navel gazing? The Holy Spirit has set the Church’s response to this a couple of millennium ago through the magisterium. If the Church changes with the wind on this then the whole Catholic
    Church is a farce. It would cause such a split that the church would not be recognizable or functional. It would destroy my faith—not in God—but in the Church. I’d probably move over to the Orthodox.

    What would I do if I met a same sex couple? I mind my own business unless I’m asked. And if asked I tell them I think a marriage doesn’t make sense unless it’s between a man and a woman. You tell them the Truth, with a capital “T.”

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    That was a brilliant blog by Terry. Thanks for linking it Vox. You don’t see him hand wringing. Personally I believe that the gay extremist are intimidating the more sensitive types. The division over this is mostly in their imaginations. Most devout Catholics don’t support gay marriage and would be shocked if the Church changed on the issue.

  • Norcalo

    Yes, the battle is really a battle, maybe not lost yet, but the vehement people on the other side are intent on coercing a blessing upon their actions, from people who cannot or will not give it, and they will eventually resort to force, I think.

  • Will Duquette

    One of my co-workers is a lapsed Catholic. One of the first things he told me when the topic of religion came up is that he and his wife were not church-goers; as he put it, smiling, “Yup, I’m going to hell.” Seems to me that this is a similar situation to learning that someone you know is in a gay relationship. Or to any other situation in which someone is objectively living in sin. In each case I have to love the person and hate the sin. But that doesn’t mean that I need to proactively catechize them on the subject, or that I need to vigorously register my disapproval. My co-worker knew perfectly well that I would disapprove of his abandoning his faith. He knew perfectly well why. Beating him over the head with it would have availed nothing.

    It does mean, I think, that I mustn’t lie to them. If asked, I need to speak the truth in love. I mustn’t say that it doesn’t matter; it does matter. If asked to clarify, I will need to be able to explain why it matters.

    Jesus told the woman taken in adultery to avoid that sin. But first he saved her life.

  • Lee Johnson

    The world is not interested in correctly describing the actual Catholic teaching on homosexuality. It’s not a problem with communication. They need the strawman, and they will go right back to it.

  • Brian English

    “Andrew Sullivan says it does not include such faithfulness to one’s partner..”

    As does Dan Savage, who admitted in a 2011 article in New York Times Magazine that in the six years he and his “spouse” had been married, they had had nine other sexual partners (you get the impression from the article that most were by Savage).

    “While I think the author’s example of having the plight of same sex attracted people a listed amongst our publicly read prayer intentions might touch some hearts, I think the biggest reaction would be negative. I would not be surprised in the least to see outrage and public outcry at any church which did so and that church being declared as backward and unloving.”

    And this explains why this appears to be a problem without a solution. The pews at Church contain people who have committed, or are committing, or will commit,
    a wide variety of sexual sins. However, none of these people are insisting that the Church has to change its teachings in order to accommodate their sins.
    On the other hand, the gay couple that strolls in with their two kids created through the use of surrogate mothers are not just looking to be tolerated. They are not looking for anyone to pray for them so that they can live the chaste lives described in the Catechism. They are demanding that the Church and each one of us declare that what they are doing is right, and good, and blessed by God. Now, when faced with that ultimatum, what are we supposed to do?

  • Adam Frey

    One concerning point is, well, at what point are we allowed to rage (at the behavior more than the person, difficult though that is to distinguish)? I know that people mock the slippery slope, but what will we say when the next strike comes to God’s plan for marriage and we see people openly demanding tolerance for polygamous or incestuous unions? (“Bob’s taken his third wife. I don’t approve, but well, I love him and I’ll continue to welcome him and his three wives at the pew.”) Already we see what Justice Scalia warned of a decade ago: there’s a sharp and noticeable rise in “Why not polygamy?” in the press.
    I don’t disagree that charity and love must prevail, but surely at some point the Church as a body must be allowed to state, “Here and no further.”

  • MaryRoseM

    You are right about the influx of gay, gay and more gay “issues” popping up every day one way or another. Just when did this become a National obsession? It has, though by gay activists who are single-minded in their attempt to make gay civil “marriage” legal everywhere. Honestly, I don’t think that will be the end. The next attempt will be directed at religious groups. As Christians we are called to treat everyone with love and respect regardless of their sexual orientation. I don’t think, however, that most homosexuals will ever accept that as Catholics we have a right to believe that homosexual acts are sinful. On the contrary, we will be continue to be called hateful, homophobic, intolerant, you name it. It will not be enough to have a same-sex “marriage” recognized on the civil level. What they ultimately want is for the Catholic Church to change and they will continue in their attacks. We are not changing, thank God! Faithful Catholics understand that homosexual acts are sinful because God has told us this. Many people join the Catholic Church because of its constant teaching on faith and morals. Many Catholics need to catch up to the converts and all of us need to be more vocal about supporting traditional marriage and the teachings of our Church.

  • Brian English

    And the next attack on the Church will be attempting to use the Supreme Court’s decision in 1983 involving Bob Jones University to try to strip the Church of its tax exemption when it refuses to alter its teachings and perform same-sex marriages.

  • Skay

    The politically correct ACLU backs the rainbow flag being flown on public property that is all about how people have sex–but fights another. Tolerance for some but not others.
    How would they feel about a flag with a Christian cross and a nativity scene on it?


    I believe this is really more about adoption – particularly since some are now saying upfront that even though they will get “married” they will not be monogamous.
    What is the point?
    A family member who I dearly love was-in the past-involved with the gay lifestyle.
    It brought this person nothing but unhappiness.

  • Frank

    The physical act of sodomy is the sin.
    No one should give a damm what your “feelings” are or what your “orientation” is.
    If two men wish to copulate in each other’s rectum, that’s their business as long as they keep it their business. But, no amount of law can ever make it marriage and no degree of social acceptance can ever make it right.
    God’s church can never equate the sacrament of matrimony with sodomy.
    This entire discussion, here and in society, completely and deliberately misses the substance of the matter.

  • Victor

    There’s so much that “I” want to say about this topic but seeing that I didn’t become a priest like my mother dreamed of, I’ll simply say that I’ve at least finished reading your book Anchoress and now must take a little time to die, “I” mean digest all the blessing that this interesting book has brought to “ME”, “ME” and “ME” now.

    What me, myself and i want to say to our good Catholic leaders about this post is too long to mention here so I’ll just wait until “I” start my third blog but in the mean time, i will just try to summer, “I” mean summarize “IT” in a Canadian song for now.


    Go Figure brothers and sisters in Christ! :)



  • Frank Elliott

    The difference is that adulterers, usurers, and those who ate meat on Friday before 1970 aren’t subject to persecution as gays and lesbians are whether they are chaste or not. Your analogy falls short.

  • Frank Elliott

    Let me help you finish that sentence. “I love you, but” I want you to live and die alone.