Question about “Defining Oneself by One’s Sexuality”

Question about “Defining Oneself by One’s Sexuality” January 22, 2014

A reader writes:

Is it uncharitable for me to say that it seems really shallow for one to define oneself by one’s sexual proclivities, whether you’re L or G or B or T — or even H? Is this another example of people filling their unrecognized but innate desire for religion, for something to believe in? I remember reading an article that put forth the notion that everybody has that desire and has to fill it in some way, even when they reject the idea of faith in God.

I would appreciate your take on this before I start asking the initial question whenever confronted with alternative lifestyle issues.

Depends on what people mean by “define oneself”.  Somebody who makes their sexuality the monomaniacal focus of their life—whether homo or heterosexual—is living a disordered life.  There are millions of heterosexuals whose lives are completely defined and dominated by a disordered obsession with sex, lived out in an endless life of fantasy, porn, serial relationships and so forth.

That said, it is also often the case that homosexuality is bound up with narcissism in such a way that one’s “sexual identity” is treated as the central fact about who one is. (People can make almost any aspect of their life the central fact about who they are, defining themselves by ethnicity, income, sports team, Star Trek fandom, music preference, body alterations, political tribe, religious tribe, web browser preference, cat loving, marble collecting or you name it.  Fallen man is an idol making machine.)

We should, however, be cautious about assuming that simply because somebody frankly acknowledges that they are gay that they are making it the central fact of their life.  I know any number of gay folk who live in fidelity to the Church’s moral teaching, but who don’t shy away from saying frankly that they are gay, that their appetites are what they are, and that this does not mean they have to indulge those appetites.  I think this is simply being honest, as when an alcoholic says frankly that he has a disordered attraction to alcohol or a glutton is frank about his tendency to desire to eat too much.  I think that some Catholics, uncomfortable with so much as hearing about this particular disordered appetite can be swift to shush all discussion as “defining oneself by one’s sexuality” in the way a teetotaling fundamentalist tries to declare all discussion of alcohol sinful.

I think this is unwise since it communicates to the faithful homosexual that it’s not enough for him to be obedient to Holy Church.  He has to repent even his temptations.  The Church does not tie up for us the heavy burden of guilt for our temptations, only our sins.  Indeed, the Church tells us that when we meet the challenge of our temptations with obedience we are being virtuous and our Father is pleased with us.  No small part of why homosexuals get the message that God hates them is this curious double standard, reserved only for them, which says that when a heterosexual resists the temptation to commit fornication or adultery, he is a heroic saint, but when a homosexual successfully resists temptation he is still guilty of feeling tempted and must not speak of it lest he incur the charge of “defining himself by his sexuality”. I think that is a perfect formula for inducing despair in the homosexual who genuinely wishes to follow Christ.

Hope that helps!

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  • Dave G.

    I wonder. Some good points there, and one of them made me think of a discussion we were having with our sons a while back. One of them asked if there was a time when you weren’t really gay unless you did something about it. That no matter what, no matter what you said or what you desired, you weren’t gay until it happened.

    The statement about alcoholism and gluttony made me think, since I’m exposed to both in my life. I know people who struggle with alcoholism and I personally struggle with gluttony. And yet, none of us say ‘I’m an alcoholic’ or ‘I’m a glutton’. We ‘struggle with alcoholism’. We are ‘recovering alcoholics’. We resist (or fail tor resist) gluttony. But I’m not a glutton, unless I’m packing down 10 Big Macs or four pepperoni pizzas in a sitting. Then I’m a glutton.

    I wonder if that’s part of the difficulty. I dunno. Maybe some today use those terms in the way gay is used. When I thought about it though, I couldn’t think of anyone who said it just like that (I’m an alcoholic! – unless they currently are and are trying to beat it). So maybe there are those who assume the phrase ‘I’m gay’ means ‘I’m living it out’. That was a question my sons had, and I don’t know enough about how it was treated in years gone by to answer that question, but it got me to thinking.

    • Eve Fisher

      Dave, you’re right – the only people I know who say they’re an alcoholic are those who are trying to recover from it, while those who are lost in the disease don’t admit it, “they don’t have a problem.” I would think that anyone who says they’re gay in a church setting is probably trying to cope with it according to the teachings of that church. Or just trying to be up front because let’s face facts, gossip runs riot, and there are probably a lot of people saying behind their hand, “Well, he seems a little light in the loafers to me…”

      • Gabriel Blanchard

        Quite. It’s all very well to say that nobody knows anyone’s orientation unless they disclose it, and technically that’s true, but nothing will prevent people from making multitudes of assumptions, true and false, plausible and dubious, all the time. My own preference is to quash those assumptions with the facts, because I find them tiresome — not that I think everybody does or needs to feel that way; obviously there are few things so deeply personal as this, and no one should feel obliged to come out.

    • Stu

      So maybe there are those who assume the phrase ‘I’m gay’ means ‘I’m living it out’

      It does. When you hear of someone being heralded in the media for proclaiming “I’m Gay”, is it ever in the context of not “living it out?”

      Now compare that to someone in the media spotlighting their admission of being an “alcoholic.” Is that because they are proud and living it out?

      • said she

        This! Exactly!

      • Mark

        I have no idea, Stu. When people say I’m Gay in the media I have no idea about their sex life. Rarely is there a corollary “and I just love all the gay sex I’m having!” So why do you jump to conclusions.

        Yes, often it’s in the context of introducing a significant other. Maybe you have moral reservations about that too, I dunno, but either way love/relationship is not sex. When someone introduces you to his “girlfriend” do you assume this is a declaration of sexual activity? Do you assume (even though they aren’t engaged) that they will be married or that they conceive of their relationship as all about a rush in that direction? Very often they’re just current companions and that question hasn’t even entered their minds yet.

        So why the double standard, Stu?

        • Stu

          When someone introduces me to their girlfriend, I do assume they are sexually attracted to each other and that they will one day marry and have sex or unfortunately may be doing so now before they are married.

          When someone identifies as “gay”, to me that that means they have embraced the lifestyle. Experience bears this to be generally true.

          If someone identified with suffering from SSA, then I would assume they are doing their best to remain chaste.

          It is, what it is.

          • Mark

            But I think most people would find your assumptions jumping the gun. I know “good catholic girls” who were waiting until marriage but had a series of “boyfriends” before marrying because you don’t necessarily the first person you date. No ones mind jumped from their relationship to hypothetical future or contemporary sex acts. Were they “sexually” attracted to each other? I assume they were attracted to each other as a man or woman, but was this attraction the same as “wanted to have sex with” or “tempted to have sex with”? I don’t think the question even occurred to anyone, but I’d have to posit no; they were waiting until marriage and only wanted sex with a spouse, they did not wind up as spouses so I assume their desire did not settle on sex with each other. Was it a “temptation”? Obviously if it was it was remote enough so as to not make dating a near occasion of sin and hence immoral.

            But no one even parses these questions this way when it comes to straight dating. It’s simply a non-issue. But when it’s gay, everyone’s mind in the conservative world makes this jump to sex in the conservative world as if everything is so finely determinate.

            If you’re making all these prurient assumptions about couples and ultimately reducing everything back to sex, I think you’re the sex obsessed one. The gays aren’t lying when they say that (in spite of many supporting sexual libertinism) this is mainly about love, relationships, and identity, and that sex is not the essence of it at all.

            • Stu

              And I think most people see folks proclaiming themselves “gay” when they are living the homosexual lifestyle.

              It is what it is. And most of the time it’s a very reasonable assumption and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s what you do with that assumption that matters.

              • Mark

                And most straight twenty somethings are living “the straight lifestyle” which is similar at that point in terms of the promiscuity.

                Your argument here is almost like saying “Don’t call yourself black; most self-identified ‘blacks’ are poor and criminal. Use ‘dark-skinned ethnic african'”

                Frequency notions are not built into words; they’re built AROUND them.

                • Stu

                  Now you are resorting to just plain crazy talk.

              • Mark

                Yes, Stu, and most people proclaiming themselves “Workers” or “Labor” would have been communists at one point. But that doesn’t mean that “worker” meant “communist.” Connotations are not denotations and in this case I’m not sure “sexually active” is even a connotation as gay so much as just a feature of the general social imaginary in which both “gay” and “straight” are going to be interpreted.

          • irena mangone

            Please I must live a sheltered life but what is or who are SSA. also have never met any homosexual people . But hopefully would not jump to conclusions that they were sexually active just as I don’t with any other heterosexual people I don’t think oh they are having sex must avoid them they all stand before God and we all will be judged on how much we loved our fellow humans AgApe not eros

    • Mark

      But your examples prove just exactly how gay is conceptually different: no one says “I’m an alcoholic” until they’ve hit rock bottom in terms of frequent heavy drinking.

      People say “I’m gay” long before they have sex and, indeed, little boys and girls have crushes and fall in puppy love long before they even know what sex is!

      This is the problem with the “gay as a particular temptation” paradigm: attraction does not of itself constitute “a temptation to have sex with.” Straights know this about themselves and their attractions (or very possibly they’ve never even had to consider the question), but then this double standard when it comes to gays.

      Gay is much more often likely to mean “Man, I kept taking ‘second looks’ at that guy across the room. So cute!” than it is to mean “Hey, I was super tempted to jump into bed with him; good thing I resisted.”

      Straights know all attraction (even among the married to people other than their spouse) is not lust or reducible to an “inclination” to certain acts. Same thing for gays. This is why I think it’s a mistake to assume that the catechism’s “inclinations” are coextensive with the broader concept of “orientation” (about which social construct I’m not entirely sure they understand yet).

  • kirthigdon

    I don’t discuss my own temptations in public lest they be an occasion of sin for others and more of an occasion for me than they already are. And I am especially wary of others who are constantly discussing their sexual temptations of any variety. As far as assuming that the temptation implies the sin, if someone described himself as a thief or an adulterer, I’d assume that he actually stole things or committed adultery, not that he was merely saying he was tempted to do so.
    Kirt Higdon

    • Bryan

      I disagree because I think you’re confusing definitions. Being ‘gay’ or a homosexual simply means that one is exclusively (some would say almost exclusively) physically/sexually attracted to members of their own sex. One can be gay even if they’ve never acted on those feelings. Similarly, one can be heterosexual even if they have never been in an actual relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

      The analogy to thief or adulterer would not be to the term ‘gay’ but rather to something like ‘gay and sexually active’ or something of that sort.

      • Stu

        I think those definitions depend on who you ask.

        When I encounter someone who self-identifies as “gay”, the assumption has always been that they are living a homosexual lifestyle.

        • Grace

          Rather uncharitable assumption, I would think, especially given the fact that the majority of people, gay, straight or otherwise, realize their orientation long before they’ve actually had sex. Surely your own experience bears this out? The desire precedes the act, or there would be no act. Therefore…

          • Stu

            No, it’s not uncharitable. It’s what I believe the word means given how it is used in society.

            • Grace

              It is uncharitable when your homosexual, celibate brothers and sisters in Christ say, “That’s not what the word means in every context, my friend, and it’s certainly not what I mean by it when I call myself a gay Christian/gay Catholic,” and you say, “YES IT IS AND I WON’T HEAR OTHERWISE.” It’s practically the definition of uncharitable.

              • Stu

                If I had actually said that, you might have a point.

                • Grace

                  It might not be what you’re saying verbatim, brother, but it’s coming across loud and clear that you have no interest in any definition of “gay” besides “engages in gay sex/lives the gay lifestyle,” even when an alternative definition is not just more charitable but more accurate.

                  Of course society uses your definition fairly often, but it also uses the definition we’re discussing here (gay = desires, not actions), otherwise what on earth do newspaper articles mean by talking about gay preteens? Surely a same-sex attracted 12-year-old isn’t… I don’t know… talking with a lisp, voting for progressives, attending gay pride parades, clubbing, and having unprotected sex, or whatever else you think is included in the “gay lifestyle.”

                  The point is, we use words in lots of ways, and when dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to strive to actually UNDERSTAND, rather than ASSUME.

                  • Stu

                    What I am reflecting upon in reality. If you want to go on a personal crusade to correct everyone who equates the word “gay” with living a homosexual lifestyle then such is your choice. But reality is, no one can control the meaning of the word and predominantly it means exactly what I have put forth.

                    No matter how you choose to use the word, it’s going to be a loaded term. Some here want to equate it to being an “alcoholic” and that just like we shouldn’t assume that an alcoholic is drinking that we shouldn’t assume that a self-identified “gay” person is engaging in homosex. Well that comparison brings with it the recognition that just like alcoholism is a disordered appetite that needs treated, so is homosexuality. Of course, that starts to get people all in a wrinkle as well.

                    So, because of the way society uses the term “gay” I do
                    assume that when someone makes a point of leading with that term to identify themselves, that they are living that lifestyle unless they clarify. That’s how I see the term being used contrary to what a few people in comboxes say.

                    • Heather

                      Stu, the thing is your average homo sapiens who is past puberty and not yet dead is sexually active. Most people who self identify as “gay” are likely sexually active. Most people who self identify as “not gay” are also likely sexually active. If someone tells you they are a practicing Catholic, you should charitably assume that they are attempting to live their life in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

                      The word “gay” in common parlance means being attracted to the same sex, whether or not they act on that attraction, and it is the most common term for it.

                      Are there Catholics who are attracted to members of the same sex who don’t like the word gay? Sure. But there are others who find it a helpful term to explain why their way of thinking about and relating to their fellow humans (in both romantic and non-romantic terms) tends to be atypical.

                      Let people describe themselves in the terms that they are comfortable with. If they eventually decide they want to distance themselves from that particular label, that should be up to them, not up to someone using “SSA/gay” as a shibboleth.

                    • Stu

                      “The word “gay” in common parlance means being attracted to the same sex, whether or not they act on that attraction, and it is the most common term for it.”
                      That’s what we are disputing. If someone wants to call themselves “gay” then so be it. I’m not disputing their right to call themselves anything under the sun. But they don’t get to control what the word means to others. That’s the reality of communication.

                    • Mark

                      The only people I’ve ever met who interpret “gay” as acts rather than attractions are conservative Christians who seem to have a big investment in insisting it means that and trying to argue (all self-fulfilling like) to make it mean that for some reason.

                      Look it up, Stu, on urban dictionary. Put out a question on yahoo answers. Something like that. For everyone else, gay and SSA mean the same thing. Only certain conservatives want to obfuscate because they want to be able to claim the hate “gay” (which is merely the social construction of same-sex attraction) without seeming

                    • Stu

                      Urban dictionary? Yahoo? Are you serious?

                      How about you look up the origin of the word “gay” in referring to homosexuals in an etymology dictionary. You may be surprised it has been used to denote heterosexual fornication as well.

                    • Mark

                      I suggest more pop cultural sources because you said you were concerned with how the word is actually used currently in common parlance.

                      And the common man understands it to describe sexual orientation. Nothing more, nothing less .

                    • Stu

                      This common man doesn’t regardless of what yahoo says.

                    • Mark

                      Stu…who exactly would we have to ask to prove to you that you’re understanding the word wrong? That people understand it a DENOTING attraction only, even if they imagine it in the context of other connotations, associations, or social context that affect their assumptions or stereotypes without being essential to them?

                    • Melinda Selmys

                      Almost all chaste gay Christians/Catholics include the word “chaste” in their self-identification. Given that modifying adjective, what possible confusion could there be?

                    • Stu

                      Well, that too is up for debate on this blog. I have been told by others here that such modifiers aren’t necessary and that I shouldn’t expect people to use them.

                      But if someone identified themselves as a “chaste gay Catholic” I would indeed understand what they meant even with my opinion on the word “gay”.

                    • Heather

                      “But they don’t get to control what the word means to others.”

                      Isn’t that exactly what you are trying to do here? Control what a word means?

                      You’ve explained what the word means to you. But it’s not the common understanding of the word outside of some very limited circles. Most people understand the word as meaning “attracted to the same sex” not necessarily “sexually active with the same sex.”

                      If one group is going to be allowed to decide what the word means, I’d go with the group who actually self-identifies by that word, rather than a group that has an ideological axe to grind.

                    • Stu

                      No, I’m not trying to control the world. I’m simply reflecting on how people can and do perceive it. And that has been the common understanding of the word except for recent attempts by homosexual groups to make it more inclusive for reasons of their own. So your claim that “most people” see it the way you do runs counter to what I have witnessed. It is what it is.

                      Are you Catholic? If so, I’m sure you have had to explain to a protestant that while Catholic pray to Mary they don’t worship her. But that is because to most protestant the word “pray” is equated with worship when the origins of the word are more discrete. Therefore, as a Catholic, you need to be aware that your prayers to Mary, even though you know what they mean, may mean something different to another group. It is what it is and you shouldn’t be surprised when confronted with the question, “Why do you worship Mary?”

                      I would submit identifying yourself by a sinful inclination is just a bad practice overall and will always bring with it these challenge no matter what identify word you choose. Much better to simply call yourself “human” and/or “Catholic”.

                    • Mark

                      Stu, it’s conservative Christians who want to equate “gay” with alcoholism. People on the street do not. Hence why everyone but you seems to understand that “gay” is not a declaration of sexual activity status.

                    • Stu

                      “People on the street?” Who are they? The same ones that equate homosexuality with the amount melanin in your skin.

                      And while you may not equate the word “gay” to living a homosexual lifestyle, many people do. It is what it is.

                  • said she

                    Show me a sitcom with a “gay” character who has chosen celibacy, then maybe we can find a point of discussion.

                    But, if you ask the man on the street, he’ll equate “gay” with “engages in homosexual activity”.

                    Language reflects culture. It changes and morphs to reflect the culture that uses it. “Gay” used to mean “merry”. Today, it’s “cool” to be “gay”, and that most certainly indicates homosex activity in the minds of most people who choose to use the word.

                    Let’s get about our job of changing the culture until it becomes one that matches what you’re claiming. Of drops the word “gay” altogether, due to this common misunderstanding. I prefer the term SSA, which describes which way the compass points without indicating any actual motion in that direction.

                    • Mark

                      Stu, show me a sitcom with a character over the age of 15 who is STRAIGHT and celibate…

                      There is a cultural assumption that all adults are sexually active. It has nothing to do with homo/hetero

        • Irksome1

          Whose assumption? Certainly not society’s, since the way that the word “gay” is used in the larger culture can mean many things. Therefore, what objective evidence would any such assumption be based on?

          • Stu

            Same as your “objective” evidence.

            • Irksome1

              But your own objective evidence is self-contradictory. You begin by conceding multiple definitions for the term “gay” depending upon whom one is talking to. If you really believe that, then no assumption can logically be warranted based on the use of the word “gay” alone. That you make an assumption anyway appears to be objectively unjust, and therefore uncharitable. There must be some other objective evidence that you’re relying on to “always” arrive at the same assumption. Let’s have it.

              • Stu

                Well, no. I recognize that people have their ideas on what it means but go with the overall prevailing use of the word.

                • Irksome1

                  I’m not sure I know what you mean by “prevailing use” or how you arrive at what it might be. The only survey I could find on the subject was this one by the Gay Christian Network. Interestingly, it suggests that were someone to identify himself as “gay” to you, that you’d likely be exactly wrong to infer anything about his sexual activity. At the very least, the survey highlights widespread confusion surrounding the term. Incredibly, even Daniel Mattison’s argument against the use of the term “gay” does so on grounds other than any presumed sexual activity from the individual using the term. In the absence of any objective evidence that I could find, and wishing to deal with reality as it, in fact, is, I ask again how it is you justify any assumption about anyone using the term “gay” to describe him or herself when objective evidence implies it would be grossly uncharitable to do so.

                  • Stu

                    Prevailing…as in what you almost always encounter. Even the etymology of the word “gay” to refer to homosexuals suggests it means one living a homosexual lifestyle. Now indeed, you will find a contemporary effort by the homosexual community to expand the use of the term to apply to even the most remote individual who may have homosexual temptations but that is a political effort.

                    So again, when I encounter someone who makes it point to identify themselves as “gay” I assume they are living a homosexual lifestyle. It is what it is and I am not alone in thinking such. It has nothing to do with being charitable or uncharitable but simply reason based upon experience. The charity comes into play by not judging them or the state of their soul.

                    I just assume people identify themselves as humans or for Catholics, simply “Catholic”. We all have our own challenges and crosses to bear. No need to identify ourselves with those disordered appetites but instead define ourselves as human made in the Image of God.

        • Gabriel Blanchard

          I’ve occasionally encountered this, but honestly I believe I’ve encountered it from other gay people least of all. About the only people I’ve known who have assumed that I’m sexually active because I use the word “gay” are fellow Christians. For the most part, I have found using “gay” to be the least ambiguous way of speaking about myself to most people. Admittedly they may be surprised that I’m (trying to be) celibate, but the impression I get is that that has more to do with our culture’s assumption that sexual satisfaction is necessary to happiness than because of anything to do with being gay.

          • Stu

            “I’m sexually active because I use the word “gay” are fellow Christians.”
            But that is reality. We can talk about how things should be but society, in general, promotes the understanding that gay=homosexual lifestyle.

            Now that being, if I meet someone who calls themselves “gay” I certainly don’t press the issue. I hope they living a chaste life and leave it at that because indeed it is not my business.

        • Melinda Selmys

          Right, but then the problem is that you are assuming that another person is committing a sin. I believe that Catechism defines this as “rash judgement.”

          • Stu

            No, it’s not rash judgment. It’s all part of reasoning and how the world “gay” is typically used. Now, if I assumed that they are engaging in homosexual acts and that they understand such behavior is a sin and therefore I state that they are going to “hell” then that would be rash judgment. I’m only commenting on what the word conveys when I hear it based upon my experience.

            That’s why I think the word is a terrible word and would recommend that anyone who is challenged with homosexual temptations to not identify themselves by their particular challenge anymore that someone who has a compulsion to fornicate should call themselves a fornicator. If they are Catholic, then simply call themselves “Catholic”.

  • Spastic Hedgehog

    I wonder what “defining oneself by ones sexuality” looks like in practice. It makes me think of some of the letters several Catholics wrote about living with SSA that were hosted on patheos sometime last year. One in particular talked about how awkward he or she felt talking to the well meaning old ladies wanting to play yenta after mass. If that person tells the yenta about his or her experience, is that “defining oneself by ones sexuality” or just being honest? I don’t see any problem with anyone saying “This is my experience as a __________ Catholic” and we see it all the time in these comboxes. Does that mean people are “defining themselves” by their geographic area, liturgical proclivities or gender? If not, why is discussing ones experience living as a chaste catholic with SSA different?

  • $2346491

    I think that anyone gay or straight that defines oneself solely through sex obviously has issues. I also don’t think that my gay friends in long term committed relationships define their relationships solely through sex. There is much more to a marriage than just sex; there is romantic intimacy. Gay people aren’t capable of having such romantic intimate feelings or forming such relationships with people of the opposite sex. They form them with those of the same sex. These feelings cannot be expressed through sex per Church tearchings but it doesn’t make having intimate romantic feelings a bad thing. For instance, it shouldn’t be sinful or the cause for scandal if a gay teen wants to take a gay friend to the prom. None of the teens, gay or straight, should be engaging in sexual activity.
    I think that many gay Catholics even those practicing chastity object to the idea that they are “intrinsically disordered” and that they should deny who they are or be ashamed of it. For my gay friends, denying who they are has caused them quite a bit of psychological harm. It is also different from someone who has an actual psychological disease like alcoholism. Alcoholics are harming both themselves and others through their addiction; gay people aren’t harming anyone through their attractions. Those romantic attractions just cannot be expressed through a sexual relationship.

    • kirthigdon

      Well, an alcoholic who does not express his inclination by actually drinking alcohol is not harming himself nor anyone else either.
      Kirt Higdon

      • $2346491

        For an alcoholic, drinking alcohol is always harmful. They cannot actually drink alcohol in moderation. No one has convinced me that a commited gay couple having sex is harmful in the same way that an alcoholic drinking a beer is harmful. (Nor the personal harmfulness of a straight married couple deciding to use the Pill or act out kinky sex fantasies or two divorcees getting remarried or my all time favorite.. two baptized Catholics getting married in a courthouse rather than a church.) The best argument to the Church’s rules on sex is that they are important to society as a whole and that is why they must be upheld, but it isn’t harmful to the individual in the same way that overindulging in alcohol is. In fact, people are social beings, so one could actually argue that it is good for gay people to form close monogamous relationships in the same way it is good for straight people.
        Secondly, there is much more to a marriage than just sexual desires. There is romantic intimacy as well. Gays in long-term romantic relationships are looking for more than just sexual gratification; like straight people, they want long-term intimacy and companionship. They cannot get that long-term intimacy and companionship with someone from the opposite sex. There have actually been beautiful heterosexual relationships in literature and history that have not been centered on sexual intimacy (Aberforth and Heloise). Gay people cannot have that sort of intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex even one without sexual intimacy. There is nothing wrong with the romantic intimacy, just expressing it through sex.

        • Stu

          No one has convinced me that a commited gay couple having sex is harmful in the same way that an alcoholic drinking a beer is harmful

          It’s objectively a mortal sin. How more harmful can you get?

          • $2346491

            For an alcoholic, having a beer is harmful to themselves and their bodies and to their relationships with other people in their lives. They might get in a car and kill others. They might end up in a position where they get mugged, raped, or killed. A gay couple who has been monogamous for twenty years doesn’t have the same personal ill effects nor does it cause harm to others that an alcoholic can. The closest thing would be other irregular relationships. For instance, a Catholic engaged couple choosing to get married at a Caribbean resort rather than a church is also living in mortal sin. Again, I’m not seeing the personal harm associated with how they want to arrange their wedding similar to the harm caused by an alcoholic, but it is still considered a sin with the Church.

            I think that the best argument that can be made against gay marriage, eloping couples, and remarried divorcees is that it could cause a breakdown in society at large if sexual relationships and marriages outside the Church’s narrow definition of marriage are permitted. (For instance, it could encourage people to have children out of wedlock and increase the poverty rate.) Therefore, gay people, divorcees, etc. must give up their own personal happiness to maintain the appropriate social order. But the harm associated with these relationships is very long-term cause and effect in contrast with the immediate personal harm that an alcoholic can cause himself or herself or others.

            • Barbara

              Gay people very rarely have children out of wedlock – and straight people have been doing that since long before “gay marriage” was even an idea.

              So I’d suggest that “having children out of wedlock” cannot possibly be blamed on “gay marriage.”

              • $2346491

                I don’t think that it is a direct cause or effect either. I’m just trying to posit a way that the Church can defend its teachings on marriage without making it seem as though gay people are psychologically damaged or addicted. I don’t personally think that a gay individual is harming himself/ herself or others so the only way it can be defended is if the Church argues that its narrow definition of marriage is needed for the good of society.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  However, it is not the Church’s narrow definition of marriage, it is God’s definition of marriage, as confirmed abundantly by scripture. All the Church is doing is transmit Jesus’ teaching, after all; she did not make up her definition of marriage on her own.

                  • Mark

                    God doesn’t define words, really.

                    Framing the debate as “what’s the true meaning of ‘marriage'” is to trivialize the whole question absurdly as merely semantic.

                    It would make much more sense to start from the (necessarily heterosexual) one-flesh union and say “This is special and different in some important ways” rather than arguing over the evolving semantic field associated with a particular label.

                  • $2346491

                    Okay.. perhaps He doesn’t have a wide definition of marriage, but I think that He has a wide definition of family. Not everyone is going to have an Ozzie and Harriet 1950s nuclear family.

              • Irksome1

                I’d hesitate to say that gay people “rarely” have children out of wedlock. Certainly that’s not true as a matter of law, but if you’re talking about some form of committed relationship structure, I’m still not sure that’s the case. I’ve never seen any statistics on single, gay parenting situations. I have, however, seen a lot of anecdotal evidence about children being raised by single, gay parents (mostly women).

                • Barbara

                  Perhaps I should have said, “Gay people rarely have children by accident.”

                  The point I was making is that gay parenting is generally carefully planned, because that’s the only way it’s going to happen. I was thinking of the entire phrase above, “it could encourage people to have children out of wedlock and increase the poverty rate.”

                  People who plan for having children are thinking ahead, by definition.

                  See this article, for instance: “ “Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals, Goldberg said. “That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.”

            • Stu

              Do you believe that engaging in mortal sin damages an individual?

              • $2346491

                I don’t believe that a long term gay couple engaging in sexual activities has the same detrimental effects to others or themselves as drinking too much alcohol. And I really don’t see how a couple eloping rather than getting married at a church is harming anyone at all.

                I think that it can be argued that the institution of marriage as defined by the Church is more important than any one person’s happiness. As such, gay people are called to live chastely just like people called to a religious vocation are called to live chastely.

                • Stu

                  Do you believe that engaging in mortal sin damages an individual?

                  • $2346491

                    I don’t think that gay marriage is as damaging to an individual as alcoholism.

                    • Stu

                      Do you believe that engaging in mortal sin damages an individual?

                    • Melinda Selmys

                      I think the reason you’re getting the non-answers that you’re getting is that you’re asking a problematic question. There are 3 criteria that a sin must meet in order to be mortal, and it’s objective nature is only one of them. I was in a gay relationship for many years, and I never had the slightest inkling that I was doing anything immoral — I had been taught that I was behaving rightly and, through no fault of my own, I had never been exposed to reasonable arguments against gay sex. There was definitely nothing resembling “full knowledge” that I was behaving wrongly. I think that we make a mistake when we assume that gay couples are in mortal sin: as Francis says, “Who am I to judge?” I don’t know whether a person has full knowledge or full consent of the will, therefore I do not know if they are in mortal sin.

                    • Stu

                      Well, in this particular case I don’t think I was getting an answer because the individual I was questioning wanted to avoid the issue. I base this on past experience.

                      But to your point.

                      Engaging in homosexual acts is still objectively grave sin. Church teaching would affirm that. And indeed, I was using the term “mortal” a bit loosely to highlight that. However, what is at issue is whether the individual is culpable given whatever reason, such as in your case, knowledge. But even with that ignorance, such sin does harm us spiritually and that overall
                      was really my point. Indeed, I would never judge the state of one’s souls in any matter like this, but I also
                      believe that notions of the poster that I was responding to that downplay the harm of sin with casual dismissals (What does it hurt?) are shortsighted.

                      Given your thoughtful candor in this, I will share my bottom line on this topic.

                      I don’t care if someone is challenged by homosexual temptations. Now I have said that before and people think I am being callous but they don’t understand my
                      point. Of course I have empathy for anyone who is battling a particular sin but the fact that it might be homosexuality is no different to me than general fornication, theft, etc. It’s a sinful temptation like many others that afflict us all. We are no different in that regard which I why I think efforts to categorize people as “gay” to be demeaning. They are fellow human beings created in the Image and Likeness of God and not to be defined by an inclination that is part of our fallen nature.

                      And to speak to some of my other points in this thread, if a friend or acquaintance wants to share that challenge with me and ask for support. I’m there. I can do that (have done that). But I’m not calling them “gay” because that to me means someone who has embraced the lifestyle. I will call them brother or sister.

            • AnsonEddy

              See, but that’s ultimately the problem when you start tearing down the exisiting barriers to sexual intimacy: you can’t predict just what the social repercussions will be. I am a biologist by training and we biologists sometimes make glib, reductionist remarks like, “Your life is just a conspiracy on the part of your genes to reproduce themselves:” Apart from being an indictment against the shared sense of humor of biologists, the glibness of this jokes reveals a very profound truth: we know that our lives are more than the mechanical processes that we can observe in a laboratory. There is a deep and abiding mystery right at the heart of what it means to be alive. There is truth, beauty, love, all of the transcendent things that make life deeply meaningful. Nevertheless beneath it all we still see the mechanics at work. And we know that those underlying mechanics reflect bigger truths, such as sexual intercourse would not exist were it not for procreation. We would not have wonderful things like orgasms were it not for the fact that these orgasms are designed to transfer genetic material from one person to the other for the purpose of genetic recombination and offspring. And so we evolved this process. But we didn’t just evolve the physiology. Our psychology evolved it in tandem. Not just our bodies, but our minds grew deep desire and longing (after all the conspiracy that your genes were undertaking would need you not to be only able to DO it. They needed you to WANT to do it.) And so the mind and body worked subtly and in tandem with each other to pull off this great conspiracy. But as you pointed out, we are social animals. We live in societies, and we evolved social conventions for sex, to mutually protect one anothers interests in how these activities occurred. We are still living through the collapse of the whole Jenga tower when we decided we’d rethink those social conventions about marriage, monogamy, social taboos, etc… and we’re still trying to protect our favored taboos, but as Mark points out, those too have numbered days. We still object to forcible rape, but it’s only a matter of time before we start pondering what makes THAT social convention so special. Afterall, sexual intercourse is no big deal and not itself tied into the great mysteries of what it means to be a human being, it’s just sex, so how can it now be such a BIG DEAL if she wasn’t up for it at the time, no harm no foul? Sex is just sex precisely until it isn’t, but we live in a scary world where all of the distinctions are arbitrary. If sex isn’t deeply anchored in the wonderful mystery of how life begins, it becomes destructive.

              • $2346491

                “We would not have wonderful things like orgasms were it not for the fact that these orgasms are designed to transfer genetic material from one person to the other for the purpose of genetic recombination and offspring. And so we evolved this process.”
                As I mentioned above, an engaged Catholic couple eloping in Vegas or going to the Caribbean is in as much a state of mortal sin as a gay married couple. However, this couple can definitely create new life through their sexual acts.

                “And so the mind and body worked subtly and in tandem with each other to pull off this great conspiracy. But as you pointed out, we are social animals. We live in societies, and we evolved social conventions for sex, to mutually protect one anothers interests in how these activities occurred.”

                For gay people, this isn’t the case. It is actually harmful for gay people to enter into marriages and live closeted lifestyles. It has been shown to cause depression and other mental disorders. Not to mention the fact that the lie and the closeted lifestyle can actually harm others. Their spouses and children are harmed by having a spouse who is living a lie. When they inevitably slip, they do so in an anonymous fashion (think gay bath houses or trysts) which can lead to spreading of sexually transmitted diseases.

                There is no way to “pray away” the gay or have conversion therapy. Gay people will always be gay people. Just because they aren’t ever going to become straight married people, that doesn’t mean that they are diseased, damaged, or addicted. It doesn’t mean that they cannot form intimate friendships; they just cannot have sex as part of those romantic relationships. It would be valuable for the Church to do more to help gays form such relationships and communities rather than labelling them as damaged, deviant outcasts.

                “We still object to forcible rape, but it’s only a matter of time before we start pondering what makes THAT social convention so special.”

                It is really offensive to compare a consenual relationship between to adults to rape. Rape is a sin because one person is forcibly violating another person. It is harming another person. The consequences associated with allowing gay marriages are incredibly hypothetical as you argued. That is much different from the immediate and direct consequences associated with forcibly violating another person.

                • AnsonEddy

                  I didn’t say that gay people should marry straight people. I don’t think they should. Nor do I think they should “remain closeted”. What I said was that sexual intercourse is deeply tied to the very mystery of what it means to be a human being, and trying to divorce sex from it’s procreative aspects can only portend grave consequences since we are poking around at the very foundations of what it means to be a human being. I also didn’t say that forcible rape and homosexual sex were equivalent. I simply noted that both are deviations from traditional social mores regarding sexual behavior. But I do think there is a cognitive dissonance at work that sex is both no big deal and people and the Church shouldn’t worry so much about, but at the same time a huge deal if both parties have not reached a significant meeting of the minds. And I think it is potentially calamitous to our society if we can’t revive the notion that sex really is a pretty serious endeavor and hugely consequential for the persons involved and is something the Church and parents should spend a great amount of their concern on, because I worry that the alternative will be to resolve the cognitive dissonance in the other direction and conclude that sex really isn’t that big a deal and that non-consensual sex is akin to a non-consensual handshake.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  Seems to me that a romantic committed relationship between 2 gay people would very often be a close occasion of sin, which should be avoided… It is not hard to get carried away by emotion.

                  • $2346491

                    I have gay friends and many have poor and estranged relationships and a few were actually disowned. That was quite common about 15 or so years ago. So they don’t have that love and support from their own families and parents. And now the Church is telling my friends that they cannot create their own relationships and families. Why exactly would people want to be a part of the Church again? So they can commit themselves to being a lonely, friendless bachelor who ends up having their dead body found by the janitor a week later because someone complained of the smell from their apartment. I’m sorry, but unless someone in the Church thinks of more creative way to reach gay people than shrieking hellfire and mortal sin than I’m not sure why gay people would want to remain with the Church. I see nothing wrong with people setting up alternative families.

            • AquinasMan

              Anything that harms the institution of marriage, harms my marriage. Anything that supports it, supports my marriage. It’s very much a ripple effect, because social attitudes are extremely contagious. If there is no definition for marriage, then there’s no “reasonable” purpose for shackling oneself to a piece of paper only to get overtaxed and eventually drawn-and-quartered in a divorce court 5 years later.

              As someone who is involved with marriage prep, I can confidently predict that, within five years or so, only a small minority of engaged couples will understand that marriage isn’t just the adult version of “goin’ steady”.

              But an alcoholic who acutely damages his liver is not, in turn, altering civilization (there’s a “potential” to directly harms others), but gay marriage certainly makes my marriage of even less value to my neighbor… And these people (hetero and homosexually amoral), will be ruling over us all. Not okay.

              • $2346491

                And gay people are still going to be out there and still exist even if they cannot get married. They aren’t going to suddenly turn straight and get married. Society has to get used to gays being open and identified as gays rather than closeted and pretending to be straight (or encouraged to enter the seminary.)

                And yes, you can argue that marriage should be paramount in society. This is the hypothetical that I made. However, it is a theoretical notion of harming one’s neighbor. One could argue that gays identifying as gay whether or not they wish to get married has harmed heterosexual marriage. However, no sane person (including the Church) is suggesting that society promote conversion therapy or begin arresting people for being gay. They are just called to live chastely by the Church. It isn’t a harmful psychological disorder; it is just a different calling.

                Since humans are social beings, the Church shouldn’t discourage gay people from forming long term relationships. As my gay friends have told me, there is nothing wrong with them having romantic “friendships”; they just aren’t to have sex as part of these relationships. It strikes me as a better idea than telling gay people to spend their lives alone. There is nothing wrong with these long-term partners deciding to get social guarantees as part of these relationships, so that spiteful parents/ relatives cannot take over medical care, etc.

          • Either it’s mortal sin because it’s very harmful, either it’s very harmful because it’s mortal sin. You can get -at most-one of the implications (going from the most evident to the less one) but surely not both.

    • I think that many gay Catholics even those practicing chastity object to the idea that they are “intrinsically disordered” and that they should deny who they are or be ashamed of it.

      This is the heart of the debate in our culture. Is same-sex attraction a problem, like alcohol addiction? Or is it a personality feature, like introversion/extroversion?

      It is difficult for many to see how same-sex attraction is a problem because it is difficult for many to see how same-sex activity is harmful. The Church argues that it is harmful on a number of levels: physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and ultimately spiritually. Popular culture points to the emotional satisfaction and psychological relief many gay people experience in treating their same-sex attraction and/or activity as a normal personality feature. Because our culture values in-the-moment experience above almost everything else, this latter view seems to be winning out in terms of how most Americans think about homosexuality.

      This is why the Church’s language of “intrinsically disordered” is so offensive to many people – whether gay or not, whether Catholic or not. They come from a worldview that considers sexual attraction to be a matter of personality, and not susceptible to disorder. Therefore, it feels like a personal attack, and a matter of unjust discrimination.

      Ultimately, it all comes down to the basic understanding of human sexuality. Start with the Church’s premises (which most of humanity shared till the late 19th century), and you arrive at the Church’s conclusions. Start with the premises of the Sexual Revolution, and you arrive at modern popular culture’s conclusions. But few people seem interested in examining and debating the first premises of the argument.

      • $2346491

        I have gay Catholic friends, around my age (early 30s.) They have been harmed by the Church’s definition of homosexuality as “intrisically disordered.” They were brutally teased at parochial schools and many have estranged relationships with their parents. One even had his parents put him in a conversion therapist place. Intrinsically disordered means “damaged goods” or somehow in need of therapy to make them straight. They are all fine with who they are.

        Most are no longer with the Church because of their experience. A few, including one couple I know, are trying to live within the Church’s teachings on chastity.

        As for the damage of same sex relationships, please tell me how a long-term gay relationship, even one that involves sex, harms the person physically, emotionally, socially, or psychologically. I don’t see how it does in the same way that an actual addiction, like alcoholism, does.

        The Church can make an argument that the idea of marriage is so important that any relationship outside of marriage harms the social order. However, this can be done without calling people “diseased” or damaged. The catechism could still convey the whole idea of human sexuality and say that gay people cannot be married or in sexual relationships without disparaging people as “intrinsically disordered.”

        • You really ought to view the public health statistics that are relevant to your question in order to answer the physical part. I would say that homosexuality does not harm in the same way as an addiction does. It is its own thing and should be treated separately, though successful techniques that happen to work across categories should not be disparaged.

          I would go the other direction in terms of intrinsic disorder and not be so shy on adopting the label elsewhere. Gluttony might be a good place to start (if only because it is one of my personal weaknesses). Were the intrinsic disorder of homosexuality, say 0.5% of the frequency with which the phrase intrinsic disorder were used by Catholics, I think that homosexuals might feel less subject to a double standard.

          Let’s face it, the fall of man has made a mess of the human condition. Homosexuality is only one item on a long, long menu.

          • Stu

            Yes, all of our bad appetites are “intrinsically disordered.” I think this term was specifically used for homosexuality only because there are people asserting that it is a normal inclination. It was the Church simply saying that such wasn’t the case.

          • $2346491

            “You really ought to view the public health statistics that are relevant to your question in order to answer the physical part.”

            Which have to do with gays not living in long-term relationships. Notice that I mentioned long-term relationships. Of course, closeted gays having anonymous trysts or openly gay people living in a subculture that isn’t integrated into the mainstream and encouraged to form monogamous relationships are going to get more sexually transmitted diseases. The same thing happens to straight people who choose to bed hop.

            “It is its own thing and should be treated separately, though successful techniques that happen to work across categories should not be disparaged.”

            Conversion therapy or any other treatments for homosexuality don’t work and are harmful.

            “I would go the other direction in terms of intrinsic disorder and not be so shy on adopting the label elsewhere.”

            We are all sinners. None of us are damaged or diseased.

            • I was thinking along the lines of seeking to avoiding temptation would be an example of something that would work both in the case of addiction and homosexual sex.

              What’s the addiction equivalent of conversion therapy anyway? I seriously don’t know.

        • I agree that the Church’s rhetoric has hurt and offended many gay people – especially the way the “intrinsically disordered” language has been applied to gay people almost exclusively, as if it were a distinguishing feature of same-sex attraction and/or activity.

          The Church – meaning all of us, laypeople and priests and bishops alike – needs to find better ways of articulating why sin is harmful. For that matter, we need to find better ways of showing the joy and happiness that virtue and life in God brings. As Pope Francis says, we need to be consistent in talking about sin, forgiveness, and grace, focusing on Jesus Christ rather than harping on a few “easy target” sins.

          That said, I am convinced that same-sex activity does harm a person on all those levels: medical and public health statistics show that same-sex intercourse (especially male-male) is physically harmful; emotionally and psychologically, I would argue that it sets up false expectations for oneself and for others; socially and relationally, those false expectations play out in relationships based on illusions, which are both hurtful and harmful when they are exposed, or when they are defended in the face of facts; spiritually, the falsehood becomes a barrier between oneself and God.

          However, these are the harms done through same-sex activity. I do not believe that simply having same-sex attraction is harmful, any more than any temptation is harmful. On the contrary, like any temptation, it is an opportunity to draw closer to God by relying on his grace and mercy. Therefore, there is nothing “wrong” with having a gay orientation that is not also “wrong” with every other person damaged by original sin. We each just have a different kind of wrong that we are tempted to.

          • Sus_1

            “As Pope Francis says, we need to be consistent in talking about sin, forgiveness, and grace, focusing on Jesus Christ rather than harping on a few “easy target” sins.”

            It was wonderful when Pope Francis pointed this out. If you think of mortal sins in numbers, gay sex would be low on the list in terms of how often it happens compared to all the other mortal sins committed. But yet there are many Catholics that focus on gay sex and never say a word about heterosexuals and their mortal sins involving sex. I think they feel justified because of the ick factor.

            There is a huge double standard. It astonishes me when Catholics want to deny this. The Church needs to instruct us all in this regard. Pope Francis might be the guy that can do it. I’m very hopeful and am praying that he speaks out with instructions.

            The attitudes displayed towards gays really discourages me in my faith.

          • Diana

            “especially the way the “intrinsically disordered” language has been applied to gay people almost exclusively”

            Yes! If people are going to understand that phrase properly, we should see it used in other contexts. Many other sinful appetites are “intrinsically disordered” and could stand to be described that way.

            • This may be true in the context of a moral theology class. I’m not sure “intrinsic disorder” has any place in popular discussion or public debate of moral issues. The philosophical groundwork one has to lay in order to understand what the phrase means (and what it does not mean) would take too long.

              I’m increasingly convinced we need to start with the notion of intrinsic good. Honestly, I think western culture has lost a clear notion of what “good” really means. I think the reason “sin” has lost its meaning (except with regard to second-hand smoke) is that there is nothing to sin against. The reason sex is infinitely malleable and infinitely permissible is that we have lost sight of what makes sex good. This is one reason John Paul II’s theology of the body is so popular.

              But we need to somehow show one another what is at stake: the full glory and beauty of the human person, an image and likeness of divinity, alive with a life divine. Only then does sin make sense. Without glory, sin is arbitrary legalism.

              • Mark

                Let’s remember. Homosexual sex acts were called intrinsically disordered. The “inclinations”…were called “objectively” disordered (ie, having a disordered object)…not “intrinsically” as was used for the acts.

              • Diana

                Well, I like precision in language, and am comfortable using terms out of moral theology, but you’re probably right that it shouldn’t be the language used in, say, newspaper articles or pamphlets. My guess is that the Catechism writers and so on are using their most precise and accurate technical language simply because this is one of the places where popular culture and Church teaching are so sharply at odds,.

                I also fully agree with your last paragraph there. That IS, it MUST be our goal.


            • $2346491

              How about instead of calling anyone intrinsically disordered we just all admit that we are sinners? The only special class of sinner who gets called intrinsically disordered in the catechism are gay people. There are ways to express the Church’s teaching about gay marriage without suggesting that gay people are a special class of sinner.

              • Diana

                I think that’s part of the problem: The Church’s teaching on homosexual acts calls the ACTS “intrinsically disordered”. The people, like you and me and everyone, are just sinners.

                I think we aren’t fundamentally at odds. I was only suggesting that if we’re going to use that language regarding homosexual acts, we should use it for other acts that are equally disordered. You advocate discontinuing the language entirely. Both solutions are aimed at _stopping_ singling out the homosexual act as UNIQUELY disordered. It is exactly the case that gay people are NOT “a special class of sinner”, worse than all the others. My sins put Christ on the cross, whether or not that particular one is on my list.

                And calling a _person_ Intrinsically disordered is (1) incorrect and (2) not helpful to the extent of cruelty.

        • irena mangone

          Correct mr if am wrong but I think I read somewhere that people are born this way something n the DNA genes or chemical imbalance not sure but if there is a skerick. Of truth in this how can it be called intrinsically evil God does not make. Junk. Ok it’s against God law but if hey ar born this way . Please what is the answer . May be if there was equality in the law, for insurance wills etc, those poor souls who are trying to live by the rules need our help not abhorrence and also when we speak of heterosexuals we don’t automatically think of their se. Lives which could also be. Horrendous so why when we speak of homosexuals we automatiically think of their sexual behaviour and not as human beings first

        • Scott

          The Catechism doesn’t say that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.” It says that only homosexual acts are. It doesn’t say that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered.” It uses that term only for the act. It does describe the inclination as “objectively disordered.” That is very specific language. It means that the inclination is disordered in its object. In other words, it is not ordered towards its proper object, i.e., to people of the opposite sex. The terms in the Catechism are specific and have a specific meaning. You have mischaracterized them in your comment to the point is distorting what the Catechism says.

          • $2346491

            I am not distorting the language. The Catechism singles out gays as “damaged” in a special way. This is a special stigma that no other class of sinners is given. No one else including those with specific addictions are singled out in a similar manner. The Catechism could convey the message that gays can’t marry or have sex with each other in a way that doesn’t stigmatize them. The wording “intrinsically disordered” isn’t needed to convey the Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

          • Melinda Selmys

            To be completely fair to Illinidiva, it took me 7 years of being really deeply engaged in questions surrounding Catholic/LGBTQ issues before I got to the point where I understood what the Catechism was saying about this. She’s not mischaracterizing. She’s just using language the way that normal English-speaking human beings use language. It’s the responsibility of the Church to put Her teachings in a way that is accessible to folks without a theology degree.

    • I believe that you are arguing for the impossibility of platonic romance. I’d have to see evidence before I’d swallow that notion.

      • $2346491

        No. I’m actually saying that gay couples should be encouraged not to have sexual relationships but remain in commited relationship. I have a friend doing just that.

        • I’m not entirely sure what you mean by a committed relationship. We all should be encouraged to love but that’s not something that is limited to one sex or the other. I am committed to starting a business but that doesn’t rightly fit in the concept of commitment you seem to be putting forward. What does commitment mean in a chaste relationship and why should gays as opposed to others be encouraged to remain in them?

          • $2346491

            Two gay men/ women can have a romantic attachment to each other and can even live together. They just cannot have any sex with each other per the Church. It is a romantic gay relationship without the sex. The Church is fine with a remarried couples living like brother and sister, so why can’t gay couples live brother/brother and sister/sister.

            • This is not an area of concentration for me. Where does it say that two men cannot live together chastely?

  • Sus_1

    “I think that some Catholics, uncomfortable with so much as hearing about this particular disordered appetite can be swift to shush all discussion as “defining oneself by one’s sexuality” in the way a teetotaling fundamentalist tries to declare all discussion of alcohol sinful.”

    Yes!!!! Best sentence that I’m going to read all day!

    • Stu

      But let’s also consider that some Catholics react this way because they are uncomfortable playing the part of “confessor” in any way or form for any particular sin. I suspect most who are challenged with homosexual temptations are probably aware of this.

      • Sus_1


      • Tom Leith

        So don’t play the confessor — be a brother.

        • Stu

          Not everyone is comfortable hearing about the challenges of others one-on-one, evne if it is a friend. This is true no matter what particular sin may challenge you. You may have a friend who does not have the gift of being able to hear such things from you. So, be a brother to them and don’t challenge them to that with which they can’t handle.

          • Eve Fisher

            True friends can hear anything from one another. If they can’t, they’re not true friends. Love bears, believes, hopes, endures all things…

            • Stu

              Even friendships have limits and understanding is a two way street. We are all humans with weaknesses and for some that is not being able to do well hearing the sins or temptations of others.

              • Melinda Selmys

                But saying “I’m gay” doesn’t have to be about sin and temptation. I mean, one common reason I’ve encountered for chaste homosexuals publicly explaining that they are gay is that they’re tired of people trying to set them up on dates with opposite-sex singles. It’s like if a friend says “I’m on a diet” they’re not saying “extend yourself beyond your comfort zone and take up the cross of gluttony with me, o my brother.” They’re just saying “Don’t invite me out for ice cream.”

                • Stu

                  Sure, that can certainly be the case as well. My only point, was that some people out there might ‘shush” the conversation because they simply aren’t comfortable hearing about the intimate challenges of others even if it is a close friend. It’s not that they don’t love or care for their friends, rather they themselves just aren’t gifted to hear and help with such things.

          • I think you meant to say something different than what you actually said. If you’re uncomfortable “hearing about the challenges of others” how do you get through the pastor’s sermon during liturgy?

            • Stu

              No, I said what I wanted. Hearing a sermon about sin in general can be much different that having someone bear their soul to you if you aren’t comfortable with such things.

              There is no harm in recognizing this. We all aren’t cut out for the same things in such regards.

      • $2346491

        Perhaps we should refrain from lecturing others on their sex lives. If it is harming other people close to them or harming themselves, then it is fair game. Otherwise, I think that it is important to live and let live.

        • Stu

          I’m not sure how your remark is relevant to what I said.

          • $2346491

            Yes it is…. How about you don’t lecture gay people.

            • Stu

              What are you talking about?

              • $2346491

                I don’t think that you should go around telling gay people that they are sinning or as you say “playing confessor.” The only time to correct someone is if they are harming themselves or others.

                • said she

                  says Illinidiva, as she is blatantly correcting Stu

                  • $2346491

                    People really don’t like busybodies.

                • Stu

                  Again with your strawmen.

                  Go back and reread what I presented. I am speaking to the fact that some people are uncomfortable even when their friends share intimate details about their lives, especially in regards to personal sins or challenges. They feel like they are being put in the role of “confessor” and don’t know how to handle it. I’m simply pointing out that not everyone is capable of hearing about someone who is challenged with homosexuality which is another reason they may attempt to “shush” such discussions.

                  And BTW, engaging in sin is harmful to us. Especially mortal sin. Do you believe in mortal sin?

                  • $2346491

                    Yes.. I believe that mortal sin is when someone violates the Great Commandment to love God and love others as we love ourselves. The Ten Commandments spell out times when we don’t love God, don’t love ourselves, and don’t love others. Overindulging in alcohol is actually a good example of where people are harming themselves and potentially harming others. I’m not seeing the same direct harm associated with Gary and Steve a gay couple getting married. The only argument that makes sense is that it harms society as a whole, which is very hypothetical and way down the list of sins that I am concerned with.

                    • Stu

                      “The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex. The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. A clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts, is in jeopardy. . . . Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a ‘move’ of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

                      -Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio

                    • $2346491

                      And he rightly got slammed for using those harsh, ugly terms and apparently learned from the experience. Kirchner used it to discredit Bergoglio on the things he really cared about, poverty and corruption in Argentina. I haven’t heard anything about how gay people are the spawn of Satan over the past ten months and have even heard some forgiving words, like “Who am I to judge.” No doubt that Francis is against gay marriage, but tone matters alot. Not calling people Satanic is a good start.

                    • Stu

                      Where did he call any person the spawn of Satan or individual people Satanic? Again with the strawmen on your part.

                      These remarks are wholly consistent with “Who am I to judge” which referred to an individual challenged with homosexuality doing his or her best to live chaste as we all should.

                    • $2346491

                      Oh.. Bergoglio basically inferred that they were the spawn of Satan in his letter. I wasn’t talking about you; I was responding to something that he can be rightly criticized for and has adjusted. And it is hard to meet someone at a certain place when you start out with ugly demagogery. As I said, even gay people living chastely find the phrase “intrinsically disordered” or the idea that they are the spawn of Satan to be offensive.

                    • Stu

                      No, he implied no such thing though you have inferred it wrongly.

                      Tell the truth and shame the Devil.

                    • $2346491

                      Yes, he did suggest that the gay marriage bill was the “work of Satan.”

                    • Stu

                      Yes, that is what he said. Not even close to your initial mischaracterization of his words.

                    • $2346491

                      Which means that those gay people who were supporting the bill were helping out Satan. If he still thinks like this, perhaps Francis and Obama will have more to talk about than I first thought. They could discuss how to best disparage and demagogue their political opponents during public policy debates.

                    • Stu

                      Yes, they were helping Satan. Quite different than being the “spawn of Satan” or outright “satanic” as you inaccurately claimed.

                    • $2346491

                      Actually, quite close in my book.. Helping out Satan means being Satanic or the spawn of Satan.

                    • Stu

                      Thankfully, we aren’t playing by your book.

                    • $2346491

                      So basically.. You think that this is helpful dialogue. Jose X who is gay says that he and his partner Juan have been together for seven years and would like to be married. They don’t want any children. Their main reason for being married is that they don’t want Jose’s family, who disapproves of their relationship to interfere with any future plans. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires writes a letter suggesting that Jose and Juan’s desire for legal protection of their relationship is the work of Satan. Jose and Juan both come from Catholic families and know that gay sex is wrong, but they also are confused about why their sin is so evil that it is the scourge of Satan. Also, the couple doesn’t really see the Archbishop condemning Jose’s mother who disowned him at the age of eighteen. Apparently, she isn’t working for Satan despite her desire to rid herself of her son.

                      Perhaps, rather than condemning Jose and Juan as Satan’s helpers, then Cardinal Bergoglio could have explained the Church’s teaching on gay marriage in a level and adult way and why the Church feels that it is paramount. I’m still waiting to get a humane and pastoral explanation of Church teaching that doesn’t involve them being intrinsically disordered or Satanic for wanting simple rights, such as hospital visitation rights. Perhaps the Church teaching on gay marriage could be explained without invoking Satan as then Cardinal Bergoglio did, ordering a exorcism (Paprocki, bozo of Springfield did), or deciding it was the end of civilization (Cardinal Burke). I’d wish that someone, anyone, would give a rational explanation of the position.

                    • Melinda Selmys

                      Hi Illinidiva,
                      I agree with you absolutely that the appeal to a “Satanic” agenda or “the downfall of civilization” does absolutely nothing to forward the discussion in a productive way. I do think that some people have tried to express the Church’s teaching without becoming hysterical. As I would see it, the problem is that there has been a general loss of respect for fatherhood/motherhood over the past fifty, sixty years and this does result in practical obstacles and real-life difficulties for couples with children (see, for example, some of the anti-child diatribes and initiatives of the “child-free” movement. Or just the fact that you get lambasted with nasty stares if you take an infant out in public and said infant behaves like a normal child and not a chia pet.) Celebrating marriage as a particular way of honouring people who choose to give of themselves in perpetuating the species is a social decision that makes a lot of sense: it’s a way of establishing as a community that we support the perpetuation of the species. When marriage becomes focused on the couple, without reference to children, we lose the social benefits that arise from a public decision to laud and support couples in their determination to commit to one another and to the next generation. The difficulty, I would agree, is that we also need to honour and respect the right of gay and lesbian couples to have access to hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and other important legal considerations that are totally appropriate for people who have committed to sharing their lives.

                    • $2346491

                      This makes sense to me as an explanation against gay marriage. However, I haven’t heard many of the religious and community leaders against gay marriage speak in such rational terms. Then Cardinal Bergoglio’s description of gay marriage as the work of Satan was over-the-top hyperbole. It is also concerning that the opponents of gay marriage think this language is commendable. I don’t know how many times that quote from Bergoglio has been posted approvingly by opponents of gay marriage when I commented on inappropriate tone and language used.
                      The letter itself is really quite odd and out of character. I’ve heard speculation that Bergoglio might have felt pressure from Rome to take a harder line in cultural debates and use harsher rhetoric. Bergoglio was probably viewed suspiciously by Benedict’s allies and he did have a group of political enemies in the Curia. Whatever the reasoning, I hope that he now disagrees with the tenor and wording he used in 2010 and would describe his opposition to gay marriage using different wording now.

  • stevegershom

    Oh my gosh, Thank you, Mark. As a celibate gay Catholic, let me say: You have nailed it.

  • Frater Gymnos

    Thank you.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    Thank you so, so much for this. I can hardly express what a refreshment it is to read these words; I’m touched. If we knew each other I’d hug you (but, you know, not in a gay way).

    • chezami

      Used to be a theatre major. Seen it all. 🙂

  • Mark

    Well it’s a good start. Now we need to work on moving them towards an understanding of Gay that is not reducible to a particular form of “temptation,” at least not anymore than being poor but wanting a nice car is a “temptation” to steal, or being angry is a “temptation” to kill.

    • Mariana Baca

      This is a good point. Well ordered or not, heterosexual people aren’t “tempted” to have sex with everyone on the street that they are not married to. Nor are all people who find pornography titillating tempted to watch it all the time or even want to. Someone can have “inclination” or tendency that is towards something that is not good without it being necessarily a particular temptation at the moment.

      Someone is gay even if they are not actively desiring sex with anyone at the moment, or even find anyone they could have sex with attractive. It is hard to draw parallels.

      • Mark

        I’m not even talking about “active” temptation at any given moment. I’m saying it is a mistake to define gay as “inclination to homosexual sex acts” at all.

        • guest

          Really? I am confused then, because I have never, ever seen or heard the term in any sense other than to denote a sexual attraction to members of the same sex. If it isn’t an inclination to homosexual sex, what is it?

          I realize these conversations get heated, so I want you to know this is a completely sincere question.

          • Mark

            It’s an attraction to members of the same sex. I’m not sure what “sexual attraction” means, unless that just means “an attraction based on maleness or femaleness.” But it’s quite a leap from there to actual sex acts.

            • guest

              I’m having trouble with this fine distinction. Back in my single days, I had guy friends and female friends. I was attracted to all of them, but what distinguished my boyfriends from my other guy friends was the sexual attraction I felt for them – which meant I was interested in having sex with them, regardless of whether I acted on that desire.

              Now, I find myself far more attracted to females as friends than males. I have more in common with other women, have more to talk about with them, find them more comfortable to be around. By your definition, I would be sexually attracted to them, because my attraction to them is based on their femaleness, yet I don’t want to have sex with them. In my experience, sexual attraction is just that – sexual in nature, the inclination or desire to engage in sexual acts with a person.

              • Mark

                I think that’s an overly scholastic or naively essentialist view of how emotions work.

                One of the odd things that has always struck me about the Catechism’s passage on homosexuality is where (in calling them objectively disordered; ie, having a disordered object) it defines homosexual “inclinations” as “ordered towards” [the intrinsic disorder of homosexual sex acts]. But using the language of “ordered towards” almost implies something like that…homosexuality has some sort of natural object. But if one doesn’t believe homosexuality is a natural category ordained by God in the first place…how can it have any sort of objective telos like that?

                It seems strange that, when trying to explain that homosexual orientation cannot be reduced to sex acts, conservatives will even point to the catechism and say “Look: the catechism says it is ordered towards gay sex.” But doesn’t such a position involve a sort of tacit assumption or concession that homosexuality is, in fact, an “essence”? I mean, if you define homosexuality as “an appetite by definition ‘ordered towards’ gay sex”…you’re basically saying that there is in fact an appetite having that as its telos. But Catholics do not believe in total depravity; we do not have any appetites whose natural object is evil. The only things unambiguously “ordered towards” evil are determinate intentions of the human will, freely chosen.

                So I have to assume that the Catechism’s “inclinations” can only mean the lust for gay sex acts, but not the broader concept of orientation, as I don’t think orientation is “ordered towards” anything. I don’t think emotions are “teleological” like that.

                I tend to think emotions are mainly phenomenological. They’re experiences. They are not bootstrapped to any one end or goal that they are intrinsically ordered towards. They are defined by their causes, not by some sort of determinate telos. By “where they come from,” not by “where they’re going.”

                Take anger for example. What is anger? It is an emotion caused by perceived injustice. But what is anger “ordered towards” in terms of concrete act? Well…it isn’t, specifically, until you determine it. It is an emotion. I think it would be a mistake to say anger is “the emotion ordered towards violence or killing” or something like that. Certainly, violence is ONE of the scripts in the horizon of possibilities opened up by the emotion of anger. But it’s certainly not the only one. One could also just scream and yell. Or sit and stew. Or redress the injustice constructively. Or sublimate it into creativity. Etc etc. Anger is an experience. It’s not necessarily “going” anywhere in particular.

                I think emotions work this way generally. Look at sadness. It is an emotion caused by loss of some sort. But there is no concrete behavioral end towards it which it necessarily tends or is ordered. People “use” or “respond to” sadness in a variety of ways.

                Likewise with attraction. Attraction is caused by beauty or attractiveness, physically and personality-wise. In the area of gender specifically, the attractiveness can take on specifically “sexed” values: a beautiful woman, someone attractively masculine, etc. These things draw us to people, but not necessarily to “do anything” in particular.

                You raise the other common point that we all might be attracted to men or to women AS men or women. That even straight women are attracted to other women’s femaleness AS friends, for example, or that straight men are attracted to their heroes or role-models FOR the very fact of their specifically masculine charisma or whatever. Very true! I think this is the start of a great revelation, which is that, at the end of the day, attraction is attraction, love is love. Moderns seem hung-up on the idea of “speciating” the sort of love that occurs in marriage as “essentially” different some how…but let’s remember that Aquinas defined marriage as simply “the greatest friendship.” I’d propose that, very probably, people are dealing here with differences in degree, and not nature. It’s simply that at a certain level of perceived attractiveness or degree of intimacy, heterosexuals include the one-flesh marital union. At that point, that becomes an appropriate expression of that degree of love or intimacy.

                But I don’t think the experience of “attraction” implies sex anymore than anger implies violence. Little children have crushes on each other and get into puppy love well before they know what sex is. When we speak of attraction, even attraction based on sex (male/female) all we mean is that someone makes us happy. Looking at them makes us happy. Spending time with them. Physical affection of SOME sort. Whatever.

                I would not posit, then, that gay attraction to men is “essentially” different that straight male attraction to men. The difference is one simply of degree and predominance of the experience. As a gay man, I experienced attraction to men to a pre-eminent degree. I experienced it more frequently too. In “essence” it might have been merely a difference of degree, but social constructs create categories where there is really a spectrum (just look at Race; skin-color is really on a spectrum, and yet Race is “essentialized” categorically). Saying “I’m gay” doesn’t mean some sort of new essence of experience, it may just be a difference in degree. But when a difference in degree is different enough from the mainstream, when my attraction to men turned out to be several ‘standard deviations’ more intense than the average guy’s…it made sense to analogize it to straight male romantic narratives and frameworks surrounding women. It meant that the company of men was prioritized for me in the way straight men prioritize eventual partnership with a woman. You might even just view it as a question of priorities like that: gay men put a priority on friendship with a “best friend” ultimately rather than a wife.

                Some, of course, express it inappropriately through sex acts. Perhaps an understandable temptation given how the script and imagery has been drawn partly from heterosexual romance (which has been bootstrapped to sex and marriage; though it wasn’t always, see: “romantic friendships.”) And yes, attraction of a certain intensity and within certain boundaries tends to, on account of ONE of the possible “uses” of intimacy being mating, lead to sexual arousal in the face of certain boundaries being crossed.

                But the point is, in itself, I wouldn’t look at sexual orientation or “attraction” as being ordered towards anything in particular in terms of concrete behavioral manifestations. Those are chosen by the person. But love and attraction are what they are, and ultimately they are a unity, not a variety of distinct essences or “types” of love. The different “types” come merely from the relative composition of different elements to the experience, different sets of scripts and imagery whose horizons are opened or suggested by the experience.

                Everyone knows what the “warm fuzzies” are. They do not necessarily make any sort of bee-line to sex acts.

                • Paul Adams

                  I don’t know, this seems “over-scholastic” to me. We are sexual beings, are we not, whose sexuality is “ordered” ultimately to the reproduction of our species, or to participating in God’s creative work. We, the mating couple, are a single reproductive system (unlike other systems such as digestion) and, just as such, in the image of the Creator.

                  In this sense, sexuality is ordered to procreation. Of course not all sexual attraction leads to mating (nor all or most mating to procreation even when the act is procreative in nature), but without it, the species would presumably die out. Some are addicted to sex of various kinds, as you say, as some are addicted to alcohol, while some are relatively indifferent and others have good self-mastery supported, one hopes, by Church and culture. But some kinds of sexuality or sexual desire are, precisely as sexual desires, intrinsically disordered in that, in their very nature they separate sexual desire from its telos, the procreation and education of children. That is, either the addictive nature of the desire or the desire itself may be disordered. Or both.

                  As to the question of defining ourselves by our sexuality, as you say it depends what one means. In the case of sexual disorders, like other disorders (cancer, high blood pressure, deafness), we should try to use ‘people first’ language. That is, one may be a person with a sexual or other disorder, but that does not mean the disorder has to define the person. Admittedly, referring to someone as an individual with such and such a disorder can be clumsy when, for instance, one might refer to someone more simply as a blind man. The problem arises from letting the blindness define the man.

                  • Mark

                    I think this is an overly narrow notion of “sexuality.” To say we are “sexual” beings is ultimately just to say we are social beings who are marked by the fact of sexual difference.

                    Consider the catechism: “2332 Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.”

                    Sexuality affects ALL ASPECTS of our affective life. Procreation/marriage is, as it were, the paradigmatic case, but sexuality also concerns “in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.”

                    • Mark

                      This isn’t so difficult, and should be intuitive. As a gay man, that means that my capacity for intimacy is simply more attuned to great intimacy with a man. Call it “chemistry” if you will (it’s literally brain chemistry), I simply am programmed in such a way that my “motivation” (endorphins released in the brain or whatever) to be caring and selfless is going to be much more activated by certain males (just like certain looks or personalities in women are more likely to evoke such a drawing-out-of-the-self-for-another in straight men). It doesn’t mean I can’t care for or be selfless with women, but I think most people would know that this being drawn out in love actually makes us

                    • guest

                      Again, Mark, what may be intuitive and obvious to you contradicts what I have seen and experienced in my own life. I only know 3 gay couples well enough to know anything about their intimacy, but all three of them are sexually drawn to each other and sexually active.

                      My niece ( who was heterosexual through high school, through her first marriage and birth of her child and then a few years after her divorce claimed she had changed and is now gay – she says she was exclusively attracted to men as sexual partners but is now exclusively sexually attracted to women) – is in a civil union with her partner and currently trying by IVF to conceive a child. My friend at work lives with her partner and refers to her as her spouse and another coworker has a somewhat long distance relationship with his lover and they spend every weekend together.

                      Your experience as a gay man seems very different from the experience of the gay people I know, as their orientation is most definitely toward a sexual relationship with a member of their own sex.

                    • Mark

                      Your point doesn’t contradict what I’ve said at all.

                      I never said that sex isn’t one way that people might decide to express attraction. Certainly, it is a manner that suggests itself to many people with more or less frequency.

                      But that doesn’t mean that this is what orientation is essentially “ordered towards” in some reductionist manner.

                      For example, most people I know who have gotten angry at some point…have in that state of anger screamed or yelled or said something mean or even gotten violent. These are expressions of anger, yes, but anger as an experience

                    • Mark

                      …is not defined by those expressions.

                      Gay people certainly have temptations to lust and unchastity, and many give in (just like straights). My point was that gayness/homosexuality is not defined by or identifiable with or reducible to or essential usable as these temptations. Gays have sexual temptations (duh), but the gayness itself is not the temptation, and those temptations are not the essence of gayness.

                      (More later; my phone deleted something else I had).

                    • Mark
                    • ObiJuan

                      Justin Lee thinks sodomy is a virtue, not a vice (read his Side A manifesto). He is our very wayward brother. I would not recommend his writings.

                    • Mark

                      Poisoning the Well is a logical fallacy of course. Justin Lee’s Side A status is neither here nor there when it comes to his analysis of the linguistic use of gay or homosexual or the nature of sexual orientation, all of which ideas can be held by people on both sides of that aisle.

                    • OBJ15

                      If one believes that God blesses homosexual acts (which is blasphemy), how can you say that belief is “neither here nor there” when it comes to the analysis of sexual orientation? It is entirely consistent for someone who thinks sodomy is a virtue to also think that homosexuality is not disordered. This is not hyperbole or fearmongering, read Justin Lee’s Side A manifesto.

                    • guest

                      Mark, go back and read what you wrote above. You have backtracked and contradicted yourself. Also, read what I actually wrote and you will see how you have exaggerated and misstated what I said – in bad faith, really, as my focus on sex was directly in response to your argument that being gay had absolutely nothing to do with being sexually attracted in the sense of wanting to have sex.

                      Bottomline, you are trying to create tortured distinctions which make absolutely zero sense in your efforts to convince that sexual temptations have nothing to do with gayness. As a heterosexual, I know that sexual temptations toward men absolutely have to do with my heterosexualness – otherwise I would be asexual.

                    • Mark

                      Second, I’d like to summarize, for clarity, how I see this exchange as having proceeded.

                      It started with the idea that “Gayness is a temptation to sin like any other. A cross (or maybe more properly a ‘thorn in the flesh’) that people need to struggle with/against, not view as something good or to be celebrated.”

                      I countered that this only makes sense if “gay” or “homosexual orientation” is understood as, specifically, an inclination to participate in gay sex acts or somehow ultimately reduced to that element.

                      “guest” then says something like, “Well of course that’s what it’s about, gays are having sex with each other all the time!”

                      However, as I’ve pointed out, this is something of a non sequitur. It would make sense if I had claimed something like “Gay has nothing to do with sex acts.” But I didn’t say that. Obviously homosexuality and heterosexuality have “something to do with” sex in the same way that anger has “something to do with” violence, inasmuch as violence is one expression of anger (the most extreme, perhapds) and inasmuch as lots of violence in the world comes from anger as a motivating force.

                      But saying that violence and anger are conceptually linked like this…is different than saying that anger or violence are defined in terms of each other, or that anger is objectively “ordered towards” violence or reducible to that expression. Indeed, some anger is righteous (violence much more rarely so). It is not “guilty by association” with violence. Well same thing with homosexuality, heterosexuality, and the various expressions of those that are morally problematic.

                      One thing that I found baffling about “guests” response was how much it focused on sex. Ok, here were some gay people having sex. Not terribly surprising. But the way “guest” speaks, it is as if these peoples whole relationships and lives (and certainly their “gayness”) is defined by the sex their having, as if that is the defining expression. In reality, I’m sure it takes up a very small amount of time and energy total in their lives compared to other expressions of their sexuality. Making coffee for their partner is an expression. Watching movies on the couch is an expression. Working extra hard on a special hand-made gift is an expression. Going to their partner’s family’s house on Christmas is an expression. Pointing out that gay people and couples are often having sex (duh; so are boyfriend/girlfriend straight couples) is not at all proof that this is the only expression of homosexuality, or the most common in terms of time dedicated, or the most important, or that all the others are somehow ordered toward that one as if everything everyone does in relationships is all about getting to the next sex act. THAT seems a very sex-obsessed perspective, if you ask me.

                • guest

                  Most of us agree that sexual attraction, whether homo or hetero, does not necessarily lead to sex acts or constant sexual arousal. I understand the gist of your argument, but I disagree with your definition of sexual attraction as essentially nothing more than the preference for the companionship of one sex over the other. I believe there are in fact different types of attraction, not merely degrees of attraction.

                  In the example I used above about female friends – my platonic attraction to women as friends/companions only serves to highlight the very different, sexual, attraction I feel for my husband. The very nature, or origin, of the attraction is different, not simply the intensity or degree of the attraction.

                  The sexual part of me – emotionally and physically – is attracted to the sexual part of him in a way that simply doesn’t occur with females. You describe homosexuality as a man putting his priority in his best friend rather than a wife. Having a husband and a best friend I would say the two are completely different and not interchangeable at all. I think people struggle with your argument because it so clearly contradicts their life experiences.

                  • Mark

                    I understand your objection, but I think it ultimately depends on social constructs. “Romance” is certainly a script or set of imagery that is different than our script for “friendship.” However, we should also realize that this is historically contingent, and that what sorts of relational scripts we have are ultimately social constructs. Indeed, “romance” itself is historically much-changing construct (that during the medieval “chivalric” period had *ahem* little to do with marriage) and up through the 19th-century was not bootstrapped to marriage/genital relationships:

                    There is no doubt that the attraction gay men feel for other men is of the intensity that, in our culture, evokes this script (which for the past 100 years or so has been used mainly only in conjunction with genital relations). There is also the fact that gay attraction is physical to a degree that our attraction to our friends generally is not (though that’s not to say that a straight person cannot “appreciate” the beauty of members of the same sex to some degree).

                    I understand the “different types” objection, but I’d argue that ultimately love is love (Catholic theology, as well as most modern psychological models of emotional states, only admits of a very basic “palette” of passions of which all other more complicated or nuanced emotional experiences are only a particular combination or specification) and that the perceived difference is a difference related to socially constructed scripts or imagery that different levels of intensity or whatever invoke.

                    And yet at the end of the day, these things are much closer to each other psychologically than most people would like to admit. This is the origin of very strong taboos, probably, to prevent one script from “bleeding into” another. There are strong (and good and necessary!) taboos against incest, because otherwise the love of parent for child and degree of physical intimacy they share early on could “overflow” into perverse places. Likewise, this seems to be the origin of the sort of “macho homophobic disavowal” that exists in groups of straight guys being bro-ish with each other: the homoerotic undertones are often just below the surface in male-space (to gay men, as well as most good literary critics, this is ridiculously obvious) and so there have to be these strong (but ultimately artificial; though that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing) barriers or taboos in place to keep the two scripts separate from each other even though, on a basic psychoemotional level, they’re “next door neighbors and their yards share a common fence.”

            • Mariana Baca

              If that is what you meant, that is what I meant — there is a difference between being heterosexual and being tempted towards having heterosexual sex. It is more a preference/inclination/etc. than an active temptation at all times. Someone can be homosexual and not especially lustful.

  • SteveP

    “I know any number of gay folk who live in fidelity to the Church’s moral teaching, but who don’t shy away from saying frankly that they are gay, that their appetites are what they are, and that this does not mean they have to indulge those appetites.”
    If Liturgy is indeed the pattern of life eternal, perhaps there is a reason that our recollection prior to the Confiteor is silent; our dis-orientation, whatever appetite of ours blocks our adherence to the first commandment, is generally forgiven afterward.

  • Alex

    I’m almost exactly a year late here, but Mark–THANK YOU. I’m grateful, as a celibate gay Catholic, for your words, but I think they’re a gift to the Church, not just us “few” within the Church. I was starting to despair that anyone else understood this, let alone could articulate it well.