“Church of Gay Abandon”: I’m Interviewed by the Sydney Catholic Weekly

“Church of Gay Abandon”: I’m Interviewed by the Sydney Catholic Weekly December 4, 2014

Some headline writer was having a long day there. Anyway I thought this turned out well:

What do you like about being Catholic?

The central thing for me is the Eucharist, including Eucharistic adoration and processions like Corpus Christi. Also the saints and artists: St Francis, St Aelred, Dorothy Day, Oscar Wilde, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, El Greco, Dali.

I like the fact that there’s a saint for everything, St Lydwina the patroness of figure skating etc, and the gallows humour of the saints, St Lawrence the patron of rotisserie operators.

The casual acceptance of the “bad Catholic.” The kneeling, the theology of suffering, The Imitation of Christ, Spanish painting of the Counter-Reformation era. The Pogues. I like incense; I like many hymns.

What do you struggle with most in being Catholic?

I get defensive of the Church in a way which is more about my own ego and sense of “belonging” than about the well-being of the Church Herself. It becomes a sort of “yay our team, boo your team” thing.

Usually criticism of the Church is for Her own good, whether it’s intended for that purpose or not; our job as Catholics is to listen when people express their pain or anger at the Church, not only because they’re usually telling us something we need to hear but because our first job is always to love those who are hurt.

I also struggle of course, as everyone should, with the evidence of catastrophic sin and corruption in the Church.

And the less-horrific cultural problems like the rationalism of at least US Catholic culture -not everything needs to be a natural-law theological argument! – and the legalistic jargon.

“Venial sin” vs “mortal sin” is a useful distinction and one I’ve relied on to understand my life and needs (e.g. *how* to get back into right relationship with God after I’ve sinned), but it can also obscure the deeper spiritual truths of sin, penitence, and mercy.

The tacky hymns are awful. Tacky churches too – a friend of mine referred to the church where we became catechumens as “the intergalactic ashtray”. Why do we do this to ourselves? …

Why do you regard being gay as integral to your identity? Does being gay, in all its myriad variations, represent a certain kind of giftedness? Do you regard current Church teaching – that same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered, for example – as toxic?

I don’t know that I’d say being gay is “integral” to my identity – it’s a cultural construct, like being an American, or being a journalist or an alcoholic.

It gives you some important information about where I’m coming from; it’s a statement about which stories have resonated with me as I’ve tried to understand my experiences.

Being gay has brought a lot of gifts with it: Being part of a marginalised and mistreated group has been a good correction to my own worldview as someone who grew up with a lot of privilege.

I think my lesbianism has coloured my friendships and service commitments – not at all in the sense that I’m attracted to the women I serve, but in the sense that I knew I needed to be of service *to women*, in solidarity with women – and those relationships have been gifts as well.

The Church’s teaching *in its fullness* is beautiful and rich: the history and theology of honour for same-sex devoted friendship, for example; the praise for celibacy and virginity as ways to devote oneself entirely and directly to God. We never hear about that stuff, though! We only hear the prohibitions. And a theology which is just no, no, no really is toxic. If you think God has no plan or future for you except loveless, lonely self-denial, of course you’re going to despair.

On the specific question of “intrinsic disorder,” I still struggle to understand what that even means, but more importantly, I think in contemporary culture the language of “disorder” is misread.

We’re used to hearing it in medical and psychiatric contexts: eating disorders, attention deficit disorder. And so we immediately think of psychiatric attempts to “cure” homosexuality, which have done so much harm over the years. I strongly suspect there are better, more illuminating and less confusing ways to articulate Church teaching.

more (what’s “soft-conservative”? is that an Aussie thing?)


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