Should “New Homophiles” Be Allowed their Stories?

I love this about Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher, whose story reminds us that we do not know as much as we think we do:

[In 1273, on the feast of Saint Nicholas, Aquinas was celebrating Mass] when “he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the Summa Theologiae unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”
Butler’s Lives of the Saints

Apropos of today’s Memorial for Aquinas, the Office of Readings excerpts a portion of his sixth conference on the Creed — on the suffering and death of Jesus: “Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross, and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.” He lists some of them: Love, patience, humility, obedience, and detachment.

The reading inspired my piece at First Things, today. Pondering the crucifix — which teaches us everything, if we let it — it seemed to me that there was another virtue we could add to Aquinas’ list: the virtue of understanding who and what one is, particularly within the concept of obedience. It is a virtue within a virtue, so to speak.

It was Jesus’ precise understanding of himself that propelled his own obedience, even through personal weariness and his Gethsemane terrors. Found within the temple, he asks his shaken parents, “where else would I be?” At a wedding in Cana, he gives in to his mother, while reminding her “my hour has not yet come.” Throughout the Gospels the evidence of Christ’s self-awareness comes to us through his own words or the acknowledgement of others: He is a man (John 4:29); a son (Luke 2:48); a friend (John 15:14); a lamb and sin-sacrifice (John 1:29). His who?—“The Christ” (Mark 8:29). His what?—the Word (John 1:1); One in being, with the Father (John 10:30).

For that matter, most of the apostles are presented as both who and what. Matthew, the tax-collector; Nathaniel, the “Israelite Without Guile”; Thomas, the skeptic; block-headed Peter, foundational Rock. Others come into the story and are never named. We don’t know who they are, but we know what they are as they meet Christ: the leper; the adulteress; the Samaritan woman from whom he asks a drink. These scenes are particularly interesting, because an encounter with Jesus is an encounter with Truth, so he does not try to pretend that the leper is not a leper; he says, “be healed” and tells him to show himself to the priests and be ritually cleansed. Jesus does not tell the woman she is not an adulteress; he says, “go and sin no more.” He does not tell the Samaritan woman that she is living well; he tells her sins before disclosing his identity to her.

Meeting Christ dramatically alters the lives of each of these people, and yet in order to tell their stories, they must declare to others their whole selves—claim themselves as both who and what. The healed leper is perfectly healthy, and yet he must identify himself as a leper in order to be a witness to others. The adulteress later (we believe) returns with expensive nard and as she anoints Christ’s hair and feet, her weeping is a public declaration of her who-and-what, and God’s mercy. The Samaritan woman says “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” After talking with Jesus, her excitement is so great that she drops all pretenses about her past or present state.

What has all of this to do with the “New Homophiles” of my headline? You’ll have to go over to First Things, to find out.

Related
The Mommabear of the “New Homophiles”
The Pappabear (via TJ).

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Gloria

    I have read your First Things article and I think you are making a mistake. The leper and the adulteress in the New Testament do not have a permanent status or orientation as leper or adulterer. Indeed, the point of the Biblical stories is that these persons cease to be a leper or adulterer.

    The Catholic Catechism recognizes that sin can be rejected or abandoned by the sinner. A temptation or desire for a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex is described in the Catechism as a disordered “desire.” A Catholic with a disordered desire should, therefore, not fall into the conceptual error of thinking that his or her desire is an orientation because an orientation seems to imply a state of permanence or a permanent state of being.

    I am not a psychologist, but I have noticed that the homosexuals I have known seem to perseverate in their thinking and desires. Perseveration is the holding onto of a desire or thought over a period of time, and is considered unhealthy, no matter what the desire or thought. Any desire or thought–about sex, food, weight, enemies, etc.–can become unhealthy and be considered disordered if a person perseverates in it and is never helped to learn how to quit perseverating. Perseverating over one’s weight leads to an anorexic orientation, which then APPEARS to be a permanent orientation to this life-style. I suspect we, as a society, are making a mistake therefore when we conceptualize homosexual desire as an orientation, rather than as a sequence of desires that a person is perseverating in. What the sinner needs to stop doing is perseverating–the particular desire may be directed at the same sex, the opposite sex, food, children, body image, etc. In short, a person is not a homosexual (a state of being), but is a person who happens to have repeated desires and the person holds on to the desires, rather than relinquishing them. Please correct me if I am wrong anyplace in the argument I have presented here. Thanks.

  • Heather

    I think the difference is that for people with strong tendencies in this regard, it affects more than just the objects of one’s temptations to lust. Reducing sexuality simply to a particular set of temptations to sin ignores how profoundly it affects one’s relations with one’s fellow men and women as a whole.

    Yes, it involves an inclination towards a particular type of sexual sin. But it also affects how one forms and maintains non-sexual friendships and acquaintances as well because your identity as male or female and another’s identity as male or female affect how you interact with each other, and when one’s inner “gender complementarity wires” are crossed, as it were, it affects that even when there is no actual sexual temptation involved in the interaction.

    It doesn’t just come up when someone looks at someone of the same sex with lust in their heart. It also is involved when someone looks at members of the opposite sex and consistently does NOT feel any attraction to them (which is neither a sin of omission nor of commission nor a temptation to either).


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