Eve Tushnet has been blogging about being a celibate gay Catholic since the term “blogosphere” was shiny and new, and though I haven’t followed her career closely I’ve been aware of her presence in the Catholic world for a long, long time. Thus, when I had the opportunity to receive a review copy of her book Gay and Catholic I jumped at it.
I should probably begin by saying that this book was not written with people like me in mind. I’m straight and happily married with four kids. The book is written for those like the author: gay Catholics* who are determined to live according to the teachings of the Church, and hence are leading a celibate life. And the point of Tushnet’s book is simple: you need to define the purpose of your life in positive terms, not negative terms—in terms of the pole that attracts you, not in terms of the pole that repels you, that you are seeking to avoid.
Picture a mariner trying to avoid sailing his ship to New York. No matter where he goes, he’s got his eyes fixed firmly on New York, on the thing he’s trying to avoid. Tushnet’s suggestion is that the gay Catholic find the thing they truly seek, and pursue that. After all, you’ll never sail to New York if your destination is Sydney.And Tushnet (quite rightly, in my view) finds that thing to seek, that attractive pole, in the idea of one’s vocation or vocations; and this advice applies not only to gay Catholics but to all of us. God, amazingly enough, likes to work through the Body of Christ, His Church, which is to say through each of us. Each of us has contributions we are uniquely suited to make—that we are, in fact, called to pursue; and it is in pursuing them that we will find our deepest fulfillment and satisfaction, and our own unique way of following Jesus Christ within the Church and Her Teachings.
And then, the book is also especially useful for folks like me. I’ve had limited day-to-day contact with openly gay people in general and with celibate gay Catholics in particular. It gave me a view into Tushnet’s world, and showed me that world is rather more complex than I’d expected. It’s hard to treat the person in front of you as a person when all you have is a stereotype.
* Please insert whatever adjective will make you happy; we all know what I mean.