Sane Melinda Selmys…

Sane Melinda Selmys… May 23, 2012

…replies to insane Robert Sungenis declaration that it is impossible for gay people to be chaste.

It’s a consolation to know that Sungenis has already profoundly marginalized himself with his crazy anti-semitism. I can’t for the life of me understand how anybody can believe that the gospel, which is intended for the salvation of every human being in the world, would essentially tell one class of people, “Your form of temptation is not merely temptation like *my* temptations. Your temptation makes Jesus reject you. Leave.” Sorry, but that is not merely uncatholic. It borders on blasphemy and declares that Jesus is powerless to save those with same-sex attraction. God is bigger than that.

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  • Andy, Bad Person

    It borders on blasphemy and declares that Jesus is powerless to save those with same-sex attraction.

    Oh, Mark. You’re so understated (how many times have you been accused of that?). This doesn’t border on blasphemy; it’s overtly blasphemous. It’s simply hard to believe that anyone takes Sugenis seriously.

  • I’ve been reading and reading the last few weeks as this topic has dominated so much conversation. One thing I’ve read over and again is how the Church needs to come to grips, somehow admit to its role in how folks with SSA have felt, or been treated, or something. I’d like to know just what has the Church done that needs changed?

    I’ve been coming to Catholic churches for almost eight years, and in all the homilies I’ve heard, I’ve not heard the term homosexual mentioned one time. I’ve heard many homilies, in many different parishes, in different states for that matter. I’ve not heard it mentioned at all. What exactly is the part of the Church’s approach to the issue that’s been the problem that several have alluded to?

    Plus, I saw this in the linked article:

    “[Gayness] is a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender”

    What does that mean? Is there nothing wrong with SSA itself? As long as it is not acted upon, there is nothing wrong with SSA? Are there other temptations or disordered appetites where this is also true? I’m not sure from the Catholic POV. Again, it just hasn’t been mentioned in any setting I’ve been part of, so just trying to work it out.

    • Gary Keith Chesterton

      As I understand it, temptations are neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. Temptations amount to unbidden thoughts and feelings. One cannot control such things, one can only respond to them. It is in the response that our praise or blame is to be found.

    • Kirt Higdon

      I agree with what Dave G has to say. The closest I’ve heard to any mention of these issues in a homily was an Irish priest referring to gay marriage as “rubbish” and “utter nonsense” to a predominantly Korean congregation. That’s a tiny fraction of one homily in my entire life, which is now approaching its 8th decade. As far as the quote from the article which Dave presented, that is exactly the type of stereotyping which leads to people being carelessly labelled as gay. I was once called gay for referring to Spanish as a “pretty language” and my youngest son called gay (by some gays) for referring to a “pretty sunset”. How many are aware that use of the adjective pretty now is considered a sign of SSA?

    • Ted Seeber

      Yes. As long as it isn’t acted upon to excess, the attraction to calories is a good thing that is a part of our shared genetic history that keeps human beings alive. But in a culture where food is no longer scarce, it can become the mortal sin of gluttony which causes obesity which in turn causes a variety of health issues that due to American irrationality in health care systems, becomes extra cost for everybody.

      I see homosexuality as being close to my own gluttony for that reason.

    • Adam L


      I think what Melinda is getting at with that quote is that SSA doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s imbedded in and arises out of a complex psychological network of attitudes, ways of seeing things, how you relate to others of either s*x and self-image, etc. These are things that are deeply imbedded and make up a significant part of one’s personality. A heteros*xual person will also have such a “network”, albeit different in significant ways. It may be that as a heteros*xual you haven’t given this a whole lot of thought, but I’ll guarantee you most of those with SSA are keenly aware of it, whether they be actively gay or a practicing orthodox Catholic. I doubt that there are many heteros*xual young men who, when they hit puberty, ask themselves why they suddenly find themselves attracted to members of the opposite s*x. Just saying.

      I think this may be a big part of the problem. I think there are many heteros*xuals who take their own s*xuality for granted and therefore have a tendency to view SSA as something isolated. Therefore when homosexuals hear Christians objecting to homos*xual acts and saying that SSA is objectively disordered, they see it as an attack on their entire personhood. And those like Sungenis don’t do anything to dispel that fear.

      And as to not hearing much about homosexuality in church during homilies, that may itself be part of the problem. If the only time a SSA Catholic hears about homos*xuality is the occasional denouncement of gay marriage, that isn’t terribly encouraging. I’m not asking that the Church change its teaching or back down from this important issue, but some recognition of homos*xuality beyond that and some positive encouragement would be helpful. I think perhaps a stronger emphasis on the following would go a long way:

      a) that SSA Catholics do exist and ought to be made welcome
      b) that they can/do make important contributions to the Church beyond just as examples of chastity to other homos*xual persons (as important as that may be)
      c) given their circumstances and what is being required of them, that they be given support and understanding in pursuing a celibate lifestyle

      Those are just some of my thoughts on the matter. I hope I was able to better help you understand some of what Melinda was getting at and why people with SSA feel as they do.

      • Adam L

        I apologize for the self-censorship, but the spam filter was giving me a hard time.

      • It seems to me that this is an excellent summary. Thanks, Adam L.

    • Thomas R

      I’m not sure entirely what she means, but I think she means gayness leads to an appreciation of the same-sex they may be used for good. This is something that did not occur to me for most of my life and I’m not sure how to make it work.

      Still the men I’ve been SSA for have fairly often been the kind of men I don’t relate to in other ways. I’m not very “manly” but for some reason my SSA tendency have often drawn me to fairly strong/athletic types or military. Maybe the idea is that I can transmute that into genuine empathy and compassion for men I might otherwise be indifferent toward? That maybe a part of me longing for that means there’s a part of humanity my heart has been too closed toward and was suffering due to? I’m not really sure. Or sure how to make that work, but it’s an interesting notion.

      Mostly I’ve just found the value in it to be humility. I sometimes tend to think I’m better than other people so maybe God has seen fit to allow SSA in me, and two manic episodes, to humble me.

      • Adam L

        Ditto to a lot of what Tom says above. I’ve had similar experiences to what he describes. As I indicated, I think I at least have an inkling to what Selmys and Gonnerman are getting at. However, I would like to see this idea a bit more fully developed. Perhaps they do in some of their other writings. I think we need to use some caution, however, in emphasizing this idea of homosexual specialness (I’m also thinking of that Voris video that was posted yesterday), especially in light of what Tom mentions about an over-inflated sense of self.

  • SteveP

    Mark Shea: I do not care that Gonnerman self-identifies as gay; I resent being taken to task for not being “family” by someone who seems to value being “gay” more than being an adopted son of the Father.

    • Mark Shea


      • SteveP

        Mark Shea: Selmys responded to Sungenis who was responding Gonnerman’s First Things article which said members of the Church are poor at being family to gay folk. That is the charge: you are a poor brother. Sungenis says “Oh yeah? Well you’re not really chaste.” A dumb response to be sure.

        Now Gonnerman is explaining the value of his gayness rather than detailing the accusation.

        • Out of curiosity, what do you mean by “detailing the accusation?” That I should respond? In what way? When I say “I believe thus, and strive to live my life accordingly,” and someone responds “You’re lying,” it’s not clear that there’s much I can say; “No I’m not” would be a waste of breath, since Sungenis would not believe it.

          Or do I misunderstand your phrase?

          I would also note that FT had requested the followup specifically on identity questions by the time the Savage piece had been up for 12 hours, which is why I wrote it.

        • Hi, Steve;
          Could you clarify what you mean by “detailing the accusation?” I have expressed my commitment to chastity. Sungenis has said I am lying. I’m not sure what I can do, except to say “No, I’m not,” to which the expected rejoinder would be “Yes, you are.” I don’t know how that would be valuable.

        • Joshua Gonnerman

          Hi, Steve;
          I gave a selection of problems in my piece: half-hearted response to the Uganda bill, half-hearted response to bullying, too-quick promotion of reparative therapy (though I don’t suggest rejecting it altogether). As to the identity piece, FT asked me to write specifically on that question within a few hours of the first piece going live, so I was largely restricted by that.

        • Joshua Gonnerman

          Also, I am leaning towards submitting a third piece on a more positive perspective on ways to respond pastorally to gay people, FWIW. That may be of more interest.

          • SteveP

            Joshua Gonnerman: Thank you for the response. I do look forward to another article as, to be honest, I am baffled as to how, at Liturgy — I might be the man standing next to you — we can partake of the Sacrament which is Unity yet walk out the door and no longer be brothers in Christ, for one or both of us do not actively protest legislation proposed in Uganda for Ugandans.

            • Surely, we’re all used to having fairly significant disagreements with our fellow Catholics on some issue or another? The fact that we say different things doesn’t rupture our sacramental unity, it just means that the church’s voice is polyphonic! Or perhaps its just a reminder that all the world is still groaning for redemption. Or perhaps both. But it’s pretty much par for the course!

    • Hi, Steve,
      Could you explain what you mean by “detailing the accusation?” I have said I am committed to chastity. Sungenis has said, “You are lying.” I’m not sure what I can do with that, except say, “No I’m not,” to whch the obvious rejoinder would be “Yes, you are.” I could add the fact that I am a virgin, but again, that claim could be similarly dismissed as a deception. That cnversation does not see, to me to be a productive one to have, particularly since Sungenis is a largely discredited extremist already.

  • Nick


    What is the difference between someone identifying as “Catholic and gay” or “Catholic and Nazi” or “Catholic and racist” as long as none of them acts upon the respective sinful inclinations?

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Simply put, there is much more to being gay than there is to being a racist or a Nazi. The latter are opinions, while the former is not a lifestyle, but a part of who a person is.

      I’m the first to denounce activists who act as if Gay is what they are and all they are, but it’s myopic to pretend that it’s not a real, actual part of their lives.

    • Mark Shea

      You mean *besides* the fact that the former is an emotional appetitive temptation rooted in forces often beyond his control which he can virtuously resist with the help of the Spirit and the latter are freely chosen ideologies repugnant to God and embraced by the will? Not a thing. There is no such thing as a Nazi orientation or a racist orientation.

      Do you always talk such rubbish? Do you have a Rubbish Talking Orientation?

    • Thomas R

      If a person has racism rooted in them due to early-childhood conditioning, and can’t entirely remove it, maybe a person could say they’re “Catholic and racist” if it’s a self-criticizing statement. If by it they meant “I don’t want this racism, but I admit this baggage is in me and I fight against it plus try to treat everyone right.” If a person was raised in an insular white-supremacist world I think it’s possible some elements of racism would be difficult to erase, at least in the short-term. And if they were struggling with “opposite race repulsion” I would hope they find healing and overcoming from this grave disorder. But even then it is a bit different than SSA.

      Now Nazism is an actual ideology that contradicts Catholicism. “Gay” is not necessarily an ideology. I think some SSA use the “gay” term because it’s just what we knew and comes to mind easier. I’ve at times refer to myself as a “celibate bisexual”, when discussing sex/relationship issues, because I think that’s essentially just saying I have both attractions. I don’t mean it defines me anymore than being under four-foot-tall or self-absorbed or whatever defines me. Meaning it does, a little, but I’m not joining some community by saying it.

  • Nick

    Hello Mark,
    I have two comments:

    (1) I’m not sure how ‘official’ or ‘theological’ your description of “emotional appetitive temptation rooted in forces beyond his control” is, where did you get it? It seems you’re describing a disorder, particularly emotional. But if that’s the case, that should apply to any number of sexual/lustful temptations which man is commonly prone to (e.g. polygamy), not just being gay.

    (2) I think there is such thing as a racist ‘orientation’ as you’re defining the term. By the very fact races have historically lived separately and wars often happen along racial lines, I’d say that’s a far more common ‘orientation’, particularly when fostered by environment.

    • Andy

      Racism is “fostered by the environment” which you said – being gay is not, in fact, I would suggest that in some quarters being gay is actively denounced by the environment, I am not referring to the church, I am speaking of the general environment. The racial wars would seem to be more a matter of pride or a desire to free from someone else – WWII was about pride and feelings of superiority; Viet Nam was about fear of communism, the invasion of Iraq was about anger and deceit. I think that it is natural to have pride in one’s heritage, but it takes an environment to grow that pride into feelings of racial superiority. I do not think that you can equate the two.

    • Mark Shea

      Nick: You’re being silly. A person feeling a sexual attraction to somebody is simply not doing the same sort of thing as a person who is embracing some nutty theory of Aryan superiority. Do you ever wonder why it is you are so eager to find a way to condemn homosexuals who are, in fact, attempting to live according to the Church’s teaching despite their temptation to do otherwise? Does it bother you even a little, to tell a chaste Catholic who is trying to obey the Church that he is indistinguishable from a Nazi or a racist? How’s that log in your eye?

      • I’d question whether homosexuality even necessarily always constitutes a “temptation to do otherwise.” It’s not necessarily anymore something to be “struggled against” than heterosexuality is something to be struggled against for a celibate. It can’t be reduced to its lusts. Lust is what needs to be struggled against. Homosexuality does not = lust-for-sodomy however. Sometimes it includes that (often because a habit has been developed of either actively engaging, or engaging in fantasy). But I think a person could still be meaningfully called homosexual without having any lust. Someone could have their concupiscent passions entirely ordered by grace in the Unitive Way of Perfection in their spiritual development…and still be gay.

  • Nick

    I think you’re missing my point. You say this is about “a person feeling a sexual attraction to somebody,” but why does this not apply to every kind of sexual attraction? To limit it to the same sex is an artificial limitation. Most people feel a sexual attraction to others, including those they’re not married to, of all ages, races, looks, and fetishes. I see no reason why Catholics struggling with peodophile temptations don’t have a place at the table of virtuous resistor. I see “Catholic and chaste gay” as on par with “Catholic and chaste pedophile”

    • Andy

      Quickly being a pedophile is against the law, being gay isn’t. Also being a pedophile is classified as a mental aberration, being gay isn’t. That type of false comparison is at best sad.

      • Mark Shea

        It’s the drive to condemn and marginalize people who are trying to be faithful that is the disgusting Pharisaic note in Nick’s whole prosecutorial method of approach. God help him on That Day if the measure he uses is used against him.

    • Mark Shea

      Catholic with pedophile temptations who resist them *do* have a place at the table as a virtuous resister! You don’t seem to grasp the difference between temptation and sin. You are essentially arguing that people with forms of temptation that frighten you are abandoned by the love of God. Your God is too small. You need to learn about concupiscence. Go to the Catechism and do a search for the word. Precisely where the battle of virtue is fought in the moral life is in the resistance to conscupiscence. Heterosexual temptations to fornicate, homosexual temptations, pedophilic temptations are all forms of concupiscence. Concupiscence is *not sin*. Honest. Read the Catechism.

      • Thank you for that, Mark! I remember once reading a blogger bare his soul and confess his attraction to children, and my heart broke for him. That was an act of bravery beyond anything I know.