A Crisis in a Teapot: Why Gay Catholics Can Never Be Good Enough

A Crisis in a Teapot: Why Gay Catholics Can Never Be Good Enough August 18, 2015


I am absolutely sick to death of Crisis Magazine’s hit-pieces against the small handful of LGBTQ Catholics who are attempting to live faithful lives in accordance with the teaching of the Church, and to defend those teachings in the public square.

The most recent comes from Deacon Jim Russell, a long-time veteran of the anti LGBTQ Catholic brigade, and it’s a rather childish character assassination of Joe Prever. Joe, formerly known by the alias “Steve Gershom,” spoke at this year’s Courage conference and managed to get up Deacon Jim’s nose by making jokes on Twitter. For reasons that I cannot fathom, Crisis Magazine considers it to be “news” any time that a gay person who publicly defends the Church’s teaching on homosexuality says anything that might be received with umbrage by the Crisis readership.
Russell cloaks his remarks in a not-very-convincing veneer of obligatory “charity,” but he’s basically sounding a tired refrain: the only people who should be allowed to speak up in public about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality are people who are firmly in the closet, don’t identify as gay, never have any frustrations with homophobia in the Church, never critique discredited psychological theories about the origins of homosexuality, and, apparently, never engage in gallows humour on the internet.
There are two clear problems with this approach. First, it means that you can’t have visible, on-going public witness. I know of exactly one person in the Catholic community who fits Deacon Jim’s criteria for someone who should be allowed a public platform to talk about their experiences as a Catholic with SSA, and who is actually willing to do so even remotely publicly. I don’t know of anyone under the age of 40. There’s a huge difference between being willing to stand up and give a 45 minute testimonial at a Courage conference, and being willing to be poster-child whose every word, blog entry, and Tweet may be scrutinized and dissected in the conservative press.
In a single anonymous testimonial, anyone could come across as Deacon Russell’s SSA Catholic dream-child: “seasoned, settled, certain, and integrated…[Embodying] the fullness of the faith regarding SSA.” I know this, because I used to give those testimonials myself. Joe Prever used to give them too. We didn’t stop because we somehow became less mature, we stopped because we became more honest.
It’s this honesty that seems to bother Deacon Jim. A lot of the “scandalous” tweets that he quotes from Prever are just Joe being honest. Sometimes painfully so. What Joe offers, and what Russell can’t seem to stand, is a glimpse of what conservative Catholic discourse about homosexuality looks like to people who are actually gay. His words are a very uncomfortable mirror in which the ineffectual self-congratulation of conservative Catholic “outreach” to the LGBTQ community is revealed.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about this seriously. Prever is not an activist. He’s not a heretic. He is deeply supportive of Courage, and thinks that there should be Courage chapters in more Catholic dioceses. He’s a gay Catholic who believes in the Church’s teachings, and who has taken a great deal of flack for defending those teachings in public. He’s reasonably supportive of reparative therapy, and even has positive things to say about organizations that are seen as unadulterated (and dangerous) lunacy by everyone except the most conservative of the conservative.
This is the young man who should be no-platformed by the Church? Umm? Just how small and exclusive does Jim Russell want his echo chamber to be?
Apparently pretty freakin’ small. As Russell writes, “Simply said, being “gay” is not enough; being a “gay Catholic” is not enough; being a “celibate, gay Catholic” is not enough. And even being a “chaste, celibate, gay Catholic” is not enough.” In order to have a public existence in Jim Russell’s Church, you have to be a carefully groomed mascot for Jim Russell’s pet theories about SSA and Theology of the Body. Anything less and you should be silenced – both for the good of the Church, and for your own good.
Any splinter, no matter how small, in the eye of a chaste celibate gay Catholic must be pointed out immediately for public castigation. Especially should the chaste celibate gay Catholic have the temerity to joke about the log in the eye of straight Catholic commentators on homosexuality.

Photograph courtesy of Joseph Prever


Note: The F word has been replaced with one of its more innocent synonyms as a result of a very reasonable request by a reader. I apologize to anyone scandalized by its use.

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