I’ve been finding it difficult to write here lately (and I think I know why; if anybody wants to pray for some repentance for me, I’d appreciate it). But I’ve been working on a book, and several of the chapters are at least fully drafted. So I thought I’d steal from my future self—at least, I hope finishing this book lies in my future!—and share a selection.
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It was particularly noteworthy to me that much of the criticism that Side B Christians drew was not for any supposed unchastity, but for much more amorphous charges of “identifying with sin.” Charges that seemed to boil down to nothing more than using LGBTQ terminology instead of describing ourselves, on every occasion and in every circumstance, as “struggling with same-sex attraction.” The fact that we so painstakingly explained the meanings of the words we were using, and why we were using them, rarely made any difference. In other words, we were being taken to task over something that neither Scripture nor the precepts of the Church actually defined as a sin. It was not now obedience, but conformity, that was being cast as the standard to uphold; not faithfulness to Catholic teaching, but approval of the attitudes of Catholics. “Making straight people uncomfortable” appeared to be what they really objected to. However nicely fellow believers treated me to my face, it was beginning to seem as though the love and acceptance they professed was a niceness without much substance behind it. A niceness that not only asked me to be celibate, which I was prepared to attempt (or at least acknowledge as my duty), but to be silent. And that I would not countenance.
At times, it got very close to home. I started going to one parish purely for its enchanting liturgy, not particularly expecting to make any friends; I relied mostly on my writers’ group for Christian fellowship anyway, so that was no skin off my nose. Even so, over time, I started to get to know people at the parish, and I thought I’d gained wholehearted acceptance after a few years of quite pleasant involvement in a couple of ministries. I even gave two lectures on Catholicism and gay issues in the October of 2016, following the mass shooting at Pulse. At the time, it seemed like they had been well-received, and prompted some good Q&A.
But I received a nasty shock a couple of years later. Someone from the parish indignantly reposted something on social media—a remark of Fr. James Martin’s, suggesting that St. John Henry Newman might have been gay. Not suggesting that he was sexually active, you understand, or dissented from Catholic teaching; just that he might have been attracted to men. What really scared me here was not so much the original poster, but one or two people who reminisced in the comments about the days when we’d have had Fr. Martin jailed or executed for suggesting such a thing.
Now, I expect they were joking or exaggerating. But even hearing someone joke about murdering a guy for being nice to people like you is pretty upsetting—especially when it’s only been a few years since a guy famously walked into a gay bar and murdered a bunch of people like you for real. And the fact that “those days” they were reminiscing about never existed is irrelevant: even if speculations about a saint’s sexual orientation are tasteless (a subject ripe for discussion), they are not heretical. What counts is, these were people who knew me. People I liked, and who seemed to like me. And this was what they thought of people like me.
I expressed my discomfort. This prompted several people to fall all over themselves explaining why this had nothing to do with me, because I was one of the good ones.
Gee thanks! Good thing that what happens to other LGBTQ people doesn’t matter, as long as I’ve got mine! I took my courage in my hands and told them frankly that, first of all, no, I wasn’t one of the good ones; and second, that shouldn’t be the criterion they used to gauge people’s human dignity. I half expected to be asked to leave. The original post was deleted and apologized-for in a matter of minutes—which was a nice gesture, to be sure. But at the same time, with it went both my confession and my attempt at defending the dignity of queer people in general. Comfortably glossed over once again. Anybody who wanted to admire the gay man heroically living his witness to the Church’s teaching could do so without the impediment of my real life, or the real lives of the gay people they seemed to wish so badly would just disappear.