…on Fr. James Martin’s new book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.
As I have mentioned in the past, my habit with regard to temptations I do not experience myself is to refrain from handing out free advice. In this, I am consciously imitating C.S. Lewis who followed the same policy since he resented officers during the Great War who gave such free advice to troops in the trenches experiencing temptations and horrors they knew nothing about. I will state the Church’s teaching and I make clear I believe and accept that teaching (in this case, that sexual acts are made for marriage between one man and one woman. Period. Full stop.) Therefore, homosexual acts are sinful, as are (far more to the point) any heterosexual acts outside marriage.
But beyond that I don’t go for the very good reason that I do not experience homosexual temptation and can only guess at the trials and crosses gay people bear. Who needs me to stoop down from Olympus and lecture people on stuff with which I do not have to deal?
I have noted in the past (and incurred the immense malice of the Perfecti) that there a number of faithful, chaste gay Catholics who have my deep respect as they strive to live out the Church’s teaching in a world where the Greatest Catholics of All Time make life hell for them by regarding their temptations as sin (a flatly false reading of the Tradition) and by accusing them of being fifth columnists and seducers of the Faithful. These Inquisitors tend to be the same stone blind Pharisees who also attack the pope at every turn and who have fallen down in adoration of Donald Trump–a man who embodies the seven deadly sins. I think faithful gay Catholics should look at the prudence-free Phariseeism of these bigoted bullies as a badge of honor. And I think such faithful gay Catholics are voices we need to carefully heed in understanding the way forward for the pastoral engagement of the Church with the gay community.
For, of course, the Church’s mission absolutely extends there and the simplistic Fortress Katolicus approach of the Greatest Catholics of All Time (“Stop being gay or go to hell–and that includes you chaste, celibate gays”) is, well, not optimal.
Some time back, I read Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, which I found a useful primer on the whole issue. Eve is authentic about who she is and sacrifices neither honesty about her sexuality, nor fidelity to the Church’s teaching. She shows it can be done. So do a number of other gay Catholics.
(And yes, I talk like a normal person and say “gay Catholic” because the term “gay” refers, in ordinary English parlance, to anybody who experiences homosexual attraction, whether or not they act on it. The silly practice of treating the use of “gay” as a some kind of litmus test of orthodoxy (“You said ‘gay’ and not ‘same-sex-attracted’! You are Not of The Body!”) is something only a small cadre of hot house orchids do. I’m interested in talking to ordinary people outside the hot house, not in passwords and shibboleths for Fortress Katolicus.)
As an outsider to the question, and as one who comes at it primarily from the standpoint of thinking about the Church’s evangelistic mission, I will say this:
In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell points out that the journey of discipleship to Jesus Christ always begins with a basic bridge of Trust. Something about the Church or Jesus or a saint, or even something as simple as a song or a picture or a movie or a memory of Christmas from childhood–something–creates a small bond of trust between a human being and Christ in his Church. If trust is assaulted and destroyed, you can forget your dreams of making a new disciple of Jesus.
And, in fact, not a few Reactionary Catholics *like* the idea of driving the Impure away from the Church and making it, as the phrase goes, “small and purer”.
But this is not what the Church calls us to do. Hence Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel which bids us leave Fortress Katolicus and go out into the world to call everybody–including gays–to “come and see” how much Jesus loves us. That is what Cardinal Tobin was doing in welcoming gays. And, with extreme predictability, he was denounced for doing so by the Perfecti at places like Church Militant.
Here’s the thing: Yes. I get it. Homosexual appetites (like my own disordered appetites for food) are disordered. Duly noted. But here is what has never happened to me in my life: I have never ever ever entered a Catholic Church and had somebody tell me I needed to be weighed before having the gall to dip my finger in the holy water. I have not read a single article arguing that yes, gluttons are, in theory, loved by Jesus, but that those who are scandalously living lives of obesity should not be allowed to approach the Eucharist. Nobody makes the case that priests and Eucharistic ministers should be allowed to quiz me on how hard I am *really* trying to cooperate with grace and refuse me the Eucharist if they deem me not up to snuff.
Only one kind of temptation is the focus of this kind of stuff and only one kind of Catholic routinely gets treated as The Enemy Within even when he or she has made clear that they seek to be disciples.
Given that kind of treatment by the Perfecti, what possible sort of bridge of Trust can the average gay person build? It’s why I regard people like Eve as possessed of a heroic measure of charity for her brethren and faith in Our Lord. But most people are not heroes and such treatment will quickly make clear to most gay people “You are not wanted. Get lost.” If they do, in fact, get Lost, Jesus has a lot to say about millstone neckties for those who sent them away.
So on the whole, I prefer imperfect attempts at building rickety bridges of Trust than perfect attempts at building impregnable Fortresses that look less and less like the Kingdom of Heaven and more and more like Isengard.