Lesbians “showing affection” at a ballgame ignites controversy

Lesbians “showing affection” at a ballgame ignites controversy June 5, 2008

An usher from Safeco field in Seattle asked a lesbian to stop kissing her date, because she was making another fan uncomfortable. (See CNN for more on the story).

This is now happening more and more often now. Last year, I was with my dad and my brother buying fireworks for New Year’s and there were two girls in their 20s kissing and being affectionate. Most of the displays of affection were not necessary and even if it would have been a heterosexual couple I would have been uncomfortable. Regardless, I was really uncomfortable that there were two girls doing this and I am sure they noticed, because I can only imagine the look in my face. My brother who is eighteen shrug his shoulders and told me that he sees that in school all the time. As a woman and hopefully a mother some day, I don’t blame this particular fan who was uncomfortable who had her kids with her. I mean, what do you say to your children? Even if they don’t ask about it, they are seeing it, right? If it would’ve been me at the baseball game, I know I could not have watched the game comfortably and would’ve had to leave the game if I had children with me.

Now, that being said, I know much discussion has sparked in the comboxes at this blog with regard to same-sex marriages. I’m on the camp that we should not just sit there and do nothing about it based solely on the argument that as Catholics we should only worry about the sacrament of marriage and not how the State understands marriage. I understand that even without the State sanctioning same-sex marriages we would still be exposed to displays of affection by gay couples or perhaps having them adopting children. That would happen anyway. But, at the same time, if law and public policy are supposed to provide ways to ensure the common good, then its understanding of marriage must better be a correct one. Otherwise, how can it ensure the common good? This is a question that, I acknowledge, I must do more research on. I usually like to read more about a topic before I take an “official position”. But, at the same time, I am writing this based on my “gut feeling” and as a concerned person who is entering marriage soon and will also perhaps be a parent soon. In all honesty, as a perhaps future parent, I cannot imagine having to expose my child to unnatural behavior and having to explain it. I know the camp is quite divided in the comboxes and I only raise the question because it has been on my mind and I want to know what you think and help my (our) thought process on this issue.

Any thoughts?

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  • jonathanjones02

    The state has a strong interest in promoting marriage as a union between one man and one woman. There should be rights and privileges granted to getting married and staying married. Marriage is the very foundation of a functional and decent society.

    Law can shape culture and influence human behavior, as we have seen with Roe v. Wade and the wide availability of contraceptives. Therefore, for starters: 1) make divorce harder, and end no fault divorce 2) a Ramesh Ponnuru-style massive increase in tax credits for children 3) refuse to legally redefine marriage

    Our religious Sacramental arguments in favor of marriage are right and good, but the secular arguments are significant as well, as a matter of experience and empiricism.

  • My wife and I went to a Wisconsin Badger football game about 5 years ago. It was our last time there. There were no PDAs that we noticed except possibly with a blown up woman doll being tossed about the student section, but there was enough vulgarness and crudeness that it was no longer enjoyable. We ended up leaving early in the 4th quarter. I still wouldn’t mind taking my children down to a Milwaukee Brewer game, but it isn’t anything I’m all excited about. More and more places are not intended for children, so the little money I have will just remain in my pocket.

  • MZ,

    I agree. In fact, we are already talking about things we would like to do with the children once we have them and they would have to be at the park, museum and so forth (cheaper alternatives!), but even in those places, you run across people (of course) and you see reflections of what has become acceptable in society and we can’t avoid it.

    The other concern that I have is children at school. For instance, my child may become really good friends with this other child that has same-sex parents and he/she may want to go to this child’s house and play there and what not… how do I explain to my child WHY they can’t be really friends with this other child? That’s what concerns me.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    It depends whether people are just giving each other a little kiss or whether it’s full-blown tonsil hockey. The latter in public is just low class. Apart from the fact that the existence of gay couples doesn’t shock me, children really don’t care unless they’ve been predisposed. They’re just curious. Regular affection is perfectly fine, regardless of the ‘orientation’. Just keep the hot and bothered at home, or as the old saying goes, get a room. Gay couples have the same right to be affectionate as everyone else. This is, supposedly, a free country.

    Our children will have gay great-uncles – who are getting married this summer after having been together for 20 years. It’s really very 1950s to be appalled to see gay folks in public.

    Let me close with the perfect quote by the fantastic Damien Rice, who says exactly what I think, only much better. It’s not a matter of morals but of intimacy:

    We might kiss when we are alone
    When nobody’s watching
    We might take it home
    We might make out when nobody’s there
    It’s not that we’re scared
    It’s just that it’s delicate

  • We don’t let our kids go to other kids’ houses except for things like birthday parties, so we really haven’t confronted it. Other parents seem comfortable allowing their kids to come over to our house though, but it is more common for us (more so my wife) to organize play dates and stuff with parents present.

    We have been pleased so far with our children’s friend selection. We haven’t really given them any guidance there. I suppose they may have grown accustomed to some things with play dates although due to moves and what not their friends have generally not originated from those play groups.

  • Phillip

    “full blown tonsil hockey”

    Now there’s an image I didn’t need.

    But I’ll have to say children do notice even small things. Given that, they’re bound to question homosexuals kissing or issues in school and you have to have a ready answer. Generally we tell our son that there are people who choose to do the wrong thing. It is up to him to do the right thing.

  • Phillip

    Now can I get a different color for the square that came with my comment. Brown doesn’t overly suit me. Maybe this one will be better.

  • Katerina

    But I’ll have to say children do notice even small things.

    Oh yes! I remember when I was little… I embarrassed my parents many times when I pointed out things like: “why are they sleeping in the same hotel room if they’re not married?” when their co-workers and their girlfriends happened to do that and we happened to stay all in the same hotel during my dad’s seminars.

    Brown doesn’t overly suit me. Maybe this one will be better.

    You’re stuck with brown! I think it keeps the same graphic for each person at least in individual posts.

  • Dale M.

    I guess I am not overly bothered by gay or lesbian PDAs. We don’t hesitate to explain to our kids about street lights and the fact that yellow means “slow down and stop” but that many people instead speed up or blindly go through the intersection. A lesson in right or wrong isn’t such big deal, or is it?

  • Gerald Augustinus

    The other concern that I have is children at school. For instance, my child may become really good friends with this other child that has same-sex parents and he/she may want to go to this child’s house and play there and what not… how do I explain to my child WHY they can’t be really friends with this other child? That’s what concerns me.
    You certainly don’t know just HOW offensive that is. It’s really not that different from not allowing kids to play with ‘that colored boy’. Not to mention that it wasn’t the kid’s choice anyway. It’s really odd coming from someone who’s usually, if anything, TOO sympathetic. I can certainly see why gay people growing up strictly religious in the traditional sense would get seriously messed up, heck my wife could write a book, based on her clinical experience, just on the hurt gay Catholics have suffered.

  • Phillip

    It seems I am stuck with brown. Maybe I’ll adopt a Carmelite spirituality

  • Liam

    My sense from the CNN story is that it was fairly ordinary PDA according to contemprorary urban America standards, being overinterpreted (it’s not exactly uncommon for gay/lesbian PDA to be overinterpreted – touches become “gropes” and brief kisses become “making out”).

    There will be no shielding children from it unless one lives far away from anywhere. Once a minority refuses to have its lives defined restrictively by a majority, there’s no real going back – the social convention is not only broken but nullified. It just often takes a majority quite a while to realize it.

  • I don’t really see a problem with PDA’s between gay people – if you get a “Mommy, why are two women kissing?” -type question, just answer, “Well, some women prefer to be with other women, but we Catholics don’t believe that’s a good idea. Now, who wants ice cream?”

    I live in Berkeley, right across the bay from San Francisco. Last time I was in the Castro district, I didn’t see any obnoxious PDA’s among either hetero or gay couples. Mostly discrete hand-holding, etc. Blowing this whole thing up into a Menace to Civilization (in a world torn apart by war, abortion, torture, famine…) just seems exceedingly strange to me.

  • Katerina

    Blowing this whole thing up into a Menace to Civilization (in a world torn apart by war, abortion, torture, famine…) just seems exceedingly strange to me.

    It’s not the PDA that I’m necessarily referring to as very problematic or as a menace to civilization. I do see a deficient definition of marriage by the state as a concern that affects the common good, which is what we all should be striving for.

  • Liam

    Well, while different polls of course yield different results depending on many variables, here’s a news story from today that shows where things appear to be headed if anything:


  • There is a difference between affection and exhibitionism. PDAs generally fall under the latter. I don’t worry about my kids asking why two men are holding hands. For whatever reason my kids don’t really ask about that stuff. A generation ago, one would have assumed the two men were just good friends. I wouldn’t worry about my children seeing two men kiss in a cultural greeting. If my kids attempted to imitate that, they might see some odd reactions. What I mind is exhibitionist behavior. While being a little exhibitionist at the beginning of my marriage, we have grown out of it.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    I saw that poll, too – Liam, it’s inevitable – younger people overwhelmingly favor equal rights. Heck, 56% of weekly church goers do

  • I have to wonder about the methodology of the USA Today poll and how its questions were phrased. For instance, recent polling in California (not exactly known as a conservative cultural bastion) shows 54% of voters backing the constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage on November’s ballot, with only 35% opposing it.


  • Liam


    It seems from the news story that it was affection overinterpreted as exhibitionism.

  • Blackadder

    In the poll, 63% of respondents said that same sex marriage was “strictly a private decision” that should not be regulated by the government. Proponents of same sex marriage, however, don’t want same sex marriage to be a strictly private decision (which is what it is now). They want it to be a state sanctioned decision (the other option in the poll, btw, was apparently that the government had the right to “prohibit or allow” same sex marriage, so claiming the poll as evidence of support for state sanctioned same sex marriage is highly problematic at best).

  • Liam,
    By all appearances this is a woman who hasn’t shied away from exhibitionism.


  • Liam


    Ah, then, I expect if she had been exhibitionist she would have been yearning to be proud to say it.

    But I am inclined to believe her statement that they had briefly kissed and did not grope. Why? Because if she were aching to make the point, she would ahve been unapologetic about doing it.

    So, I am inclined to think what happened got overinterpreted – a situation I’ve seen happen with some regularity.



    That was my initial read until I read how the questions were constructed and answered. Your strict-construction interpretation is strongly belied by them.

  • Our kid will be taught that gay people are pretty much just like everyone else and that sadly a lot of people, even in our Church, are afraid of homosexuality for pathological reasons.

    He or she will also be reminded that he or she was born in the magical land of Canada, just a block from what is affectionately called the Gaybourhood, and that because of this he or she has a mission to help his or her fellow Catholics to be a little more loving.

  • CCC
    “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. ”

    Well, I don’t have any problem saying unequivocally that homosexual PDA is offensive to me. Damn the polls, every last one. If I’m consigned to the 1950’s or 1550’s or 250’s so be it.

    When the homosexual rights movement and those who support it gain greater political clout and any expression of the Church’s clear teaching is defined as “hate speech”, when faithful Catholics are ostrocized, when my “rights” to declare what I believe to be in conformity with natural law and Catholic teaching are stripped away, and when I am led to my humble cell, Gerald and the rest of his cafeteria can lock me in tight so I won’t be a threat to an “open and tolerant society”.

    From Catholic Exchange yesterday:

    Catholicism – A Hate Crime in Canada?

    “If one, because of one’s sincerely held moral beliefs, whether it be Jew, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, opposes the idea of same-sex marriage in Canada, is that considered ‘hate’?”

    The question was not rhetorical. Nor was it theoretical. Fr. Alphonse de Valk, a Basilian priest and pro-life activist known throughout Canada for his orthodoxy, is currently being investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) — a quasi-judicial investigative body with the power of the Canadian government behind it. The CHRC is using section 13 of Canada’s Human Rights Act to investigate the priest. This is a section under which no defendant has ever won once the allegation has gone to tribunal — the next stage of the process.

    Most defendants end up paying thousands of dollars in fines and compensation. This is in addition to various court costs. Moreover, defendants are responsible for their own legal defense. In contrast, the commission provides free legal assistance to the complainant.

    What was Father de Valk’s alleged ‘hate act’?

    Father defended the Church’s teaching on marriage during Canada’s same-sex ‘marriage’ debate, quoting extensively from the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals. Each of these documents contains official Catholic teaching. And like millions of other people throughout the world and the ages – many of who are non-Catholics and non-Christians — Father believes that marriage is an exclusive union between a man and a woman.

    The response from Mark van Dusen, a media consultant and spokesperson for CHRC, shocked me. I have interviewed van Dusen in the past and he has always struck me as an honest person willing to field tough questions on behalf of the commission. If he feels an accusation against the commission is hogwash, he states so plainly. If he feels the CHRC and its personnel are being unfairly tainted, he states so boldly.

    Yet van Dusen did not dismiss the question out-of-hand as I thought he would. “We investigate complaints, Mr. Vere,” he said, “we don’t set public policy or moral standards. We investigate complaints based on the circumstances and the details outlined in the complaint. And …if…upon investigation, deem that there is sufficient evidence, then we may forward the complaint to the tribunal, but the hate is defined in the Human Rights Act under section 13-1.”

  • What was the specific complaint against de Valk? Priests cannot get in legal trouble in Canada simply for “defending Catholic teaching” on homosexuality. There has to be more to the story.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    As it happens, I blogged about that atrocious CHRC today. I’m very much an advocate of free speech and find those developments horrid.

  • mjolsen

    “affects the common good, which is what we all should be striving for” — You don’t seriously believe that only your views, or even only majority views define the “common good” do you? What about the idea that when ANYONE is denied equal rights with the rest of us, the common good suffers.

    I think you need to know that according to the best science so far, homosexuality and heterosexuality seem to be determined by minute (and uncontrollable) hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. So how is the common good served by making life hell for the minority?


  • CCC
    “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (No. 2358).

    I only ask that the same respect we are required by Catholic charity to extend to those individuals with homosexual tendencies would be in kind extended to Catholics and other Christians who disagree with the homosexual lobby’s promotion of a disordered lifestyle.

    If some of you want to stick you’re heads in the collective sand and think this is about “being nice” to people, well, wait and see how nice we and our children will be treated in 20-30 years. Wake up.

  • That should be “your”

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Michael I,

    The pictures of Toronto bring back my university memories.

    I heard they closed the big Sam the Record Man down on Yonge, a few block near the Cathedral, the Catholic Truth Society Bookstore, and the area about which you speak.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    I only ask that the same respect we are required by Catholic charity to extend to those individuals with homosexual tendencies would be in kind extended to Catholics and other Christians who disagree with the homosexual lobby’s promotion of a disordered lifestyle.

    Well, they don’t want to keep you from getting married. Obviously, people aren’t going to be fond of those who think of them as immoral, disordered and so forth. The Catholic Church – as an institution – is campaigning against gay marriage and gay civil unions wherever it comes up for debate. Just this week, the Austrian bishops came out, with some fire and brimstone rhetoric, surprisingly enough, against a law that’s in the works that’d grant gays something very similar to marriage. From what I’ve seen, the church has opposed any legal recognition, whether it’s called marriage or not. Since a growing majority of people doesn’t view homosexuality as immoral, people increasingly view this this like the ‘separate but equal’ advocacy of yesteryear. Without the stigma, there is no justification for inequality. And, the stigma is vanishing fast. I’ve witnessed it in the time I’ve lived in the USA – Ellen coming out was a huge, huge deal a decade ago, some advertisers dropped ads and so forth. Nowadays, nobody cares. Therefore, since the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin” approach frequently doesn’t quite work, the view that homosexuality is immoral increasingly reminds people of those lunatics with the ‘God hates fags’ placards. It is a transvaluation of values – what used to be moral is increasingly viewed as immoral.

    What it means for gay people who come of age without the stigma, the self-hatred, the repression is clear – more stability, less pathological behavior. Fewer foot-tapping in restrooms looking for a quick, secret fix etc. The government is or should be interested in stability, which marriage, at least frequently, brings. If you’re not ashamed, you’re less likely to be secretive and twisted.

  • “… the view that homosexuality is immoral increasingly reminds people of those lunatics with the ‘God hates fags’ placards. It is a transvaluation of values – what used to be moral is increasingly viewed as immoral.”

    Um, so, the Church should take it’s cues and teach a transmutable “faith” based on ever changing social norms? Is that your point? Or is it more that you’re concerned that if you hold fast to Catholic teaching you’ll be looked at like a F’in weirdo? What ever happened to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”. Too passe?

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    I am really really struggling with this. I understand Gerald’s point, only sketched here but spelled out at some length on his blog. I too have gay friends. I’m too much of a chicken to call them “people with SSAD” to their faces.

    I also believe the Church is correct in her teaching, summarized above. Was St. Paul wrong in his various condemnations of homosexual behavior? I don’t think so, but I have too much compassion for people to tell them that their desires are intrinsically disordered. That they are called to chastity like everyone else. Or is it simply that I am too cowardly to say so? I am a coward. I am afraid to be thought a fool for Christ. I know that the Church is in the world but not of the world. I know it. But I am afraid. I go along to get along. In my heart I know it’s wrong.

    Chastity can certainly be very very very hard. My wife has lost all sexual desire, not too uncommon in menopausal women. What am I supposed to do? I am just finally starting to make some progress against years of habitual masturbation. I don’t want to start up again now. That means that unless my wife is willing to accomodate me, I’m stuck. It’s extremely unpleasant. Now I’m supposed to agree that homosexual couples cannot engage in any genital acts at all? I agree that the teaching is true, because I (1) accept the authority of the Church to teach in these matters and (2) I follow the reasoning and agree it is sound. Still, I both lack the courage to say so and cannot for the life of me imagine a situation where it would not be deplorably mean and just plain rude to say so.

    I am too attached to the world and to people’s opinion of me. Okay, fine. But under what circumstances can I come out and speak the truth without looking like a hater? Gerald? Any suggestions? Anyone???

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Um, so, the Church should take it’s cues and teach a transmutable “faith” based on ever changing social norms? Is that your point? Or is it more that you’re concerned that if you hold fast to Catholic teaching you’ll be looked at like a F’in weirdo?
    I just tried to explain how this all came about.

  • JB

    Thanks for sharing Gary.

    I think you lay out the pastoral difficulty well. I don’t have any answers. I do not any gay friends, but if I did I’m not sure how I would or should respond. I shall attempt to lay out some thoughts which may or may not be cogent, clear or consistent.

    Should our response not be similar to our response to a teenage girl who has gotten pregnant? We should love and support her in raising the child, but also admonish her sin and help to grow in virtue. ( This would obviously hold true analogously for a teenage boy who has become a father.)

    Homosexuality is a little more difficult because, for most of us, it is not clear how we should help them to grow in virtue, and because society tells them they have done nothing wrong.

    If we want to be critical or the abuses against the sanctity of sexuality committed by homosexuals, we must be consistent and be just as critical about the abuses against the sanctity of sexuality committed by heterosexuals. Often times this is not the case. Many many people who are “offended” by homosexual acts shrugs off premarital sex, oral sex, etc. as something that everyone does.

    Homosexuality must be an incredibly heavy cross to carry. We must do our part to help them carry their cross. We should not bury them under their own cross.

    We need much love, wisdom, and prudence in dealing with this issue and in educating our children in the midst of it.

    Returning more specifically to Katerina’s post…

    I’m not history buff, but weren’t many of the early Christian families (esp those in Rome and other pagan areas) raising their Christian children amidst a pagan culture in which it was moderately acceptable for grown men to have sexual relations with boys?

    What about the prostitution cults of the OT?

    Perhaps we can find examples of the holy men and women living in analogous times who responded charitably and evangelically.

    I’m not sure.

  • Gary — There are probably no easy answers to the conflicts you are feeling. But the good thing is that they seem to come from your love — love for your church, and love for the gay people you have know. Have faith that the spirit will somehow help you if you continue to approach these problems with love. I see nothing in the Gospel that calls for cruelty.

  • Liam


    Well, one helpful thing for anyone to remember (and this is probably among the things most easily forgotten, even by those charged with the teaching office in the Church) is that it does the Church’s teaching no service to speak of gay and lesbian people in reified ways, as if somehow they were in another room or family or place. Doing so only undermines the credibility of the teaching in the ears of the intended audience as a sign that it is at best half-developed. If you were to discover your only young child were gay or lesbian in sexual orientation, what would you say and not say (I am always amazed at some on the Internet who act as if they might never end up finding themselves the parent a gay or lesbian child)? How would one harness humility to the service of truth and charity? Et cet. Having a clue that this is what needs to be done is the first important step of many.

  • ES

    I am a little saddened, and somewhat at a loss for words, but I feel the need to try and say something.

    First, I am gay. I read all the comments wondering whether men and women such as myself are anything but objects–things–to be categorized and diagnosed (with the exceptions of Liam and Gerald and a few others) so that we can be kept at a distance. I found myself wondering how men and women could be afraid of people like me.

    Second, I am a teacher of Latin and Greek at a high school. I am around kids all the time. I work to help them realize their talents, to believe in themselves in the face of their challenges, to open their eyes to history. Many of them choose me as a mentor–most of them are boys, all currently straight boys–and yes, they know I’m gay. They tell me of their lives, sometimes of their love interests. I’m there to try and help them grow up, and I take very seriously the trust they and their parents place in me.

    Sometimes, a kid latches on to me and I have to wonder: “Is this kid gay?” It’s just part of my attempt to understand the student. It’s not something I can ignore. For those who haven’t had to grow into a realization that you are the monster that you were taught to fear, you have no idea how it feels, even in an increasingly accepting world, to wake up to this fact. There are doubts about how friends and family will react, will there be acceptance or rejection. I fear for these boys, because they often have found rejection and seek affection in dangerous places. So I do wonder, and yet, I never ask the kid. Usually, the kid is straight. Most of the boys who’ve come out to me have never been my advisees. So, if you’re wondering whether I recruit, no, I don’t. Gay people happen–we just are. But how we grow as people is just as precarious as how anyone else grows. And these kids need adults in their lives who can help them grow and mature in a healthy and responsible way–and they don’t need to see that kissing in public, which is quite acceptable for straight people (whether you like it or not)–isn’t acceptable for them.

    I would also say that the mother or father who tells a child that it’s just wrong is creating a problem. Your child could grow up to be gay or lesbian and have a very clear sense of how you feel. Put yourself in a position of having years of teaching that suddenly, upon sexual maturity, turn into a weight of parental condemnation of one’s deepest feelings, in essence of oneself. What that clear teaching turns into is a clear sense that your parents find you despicable. This isn’t hypothetical: it happens every day. And it drives many adolescents to attempt, or succeed at, suicide.

    I guess part of what saddens me is how my difference allows many to turn me into a symbol of evil or danger or sickness without even knowing me first. I would like there to be informed judgment first–but maybe that is precisely the danger: if we aren’t kept at a distance, it will quickly become clear that we aren’t freaks.

  • Yes, there have been gay people before. The sexual exhibitionism present in many schools and other places is a far more recent phenomenon. We have a woman who appeared on a television show with numerous make out sessions with multiple partners – feel free to click pictures from the link above. She works at an establishment that is known as risque. A mother and child and an usher independently concluded she was engaging in exhibitionism. I can understand the tribal instinct to defend one’s own. Really I can. Gay folks, those sympathetic to gay folks, and even exhibitionists, I will still respect you in the morning if you don’t feel the need to defend this tart.

  • SAF

    Can’t really be friends with this child?
    Please re-think this.
    What Michael said, too.

  • Saul


    Nice comment. Nice illustration of empathy, introspection, and weakness.

    If it helps, remember that this is an age-old problem. What do you say to the starving poor who steal; who you know must steal to survive? Knowing that you, with much less than survival at stake, easily succumb to sin.

    As for civil same-sex marriage, Katerina, I agree with you that it can get complicated and requires quite a bit of reading – I recommend the marriage debate web site and the writings of Margaret Somerville for a secular argument against same-sex marriage.

    For example, Gerald’s argument about the benefits of removing stigma makes sense, except we’re not really sure if removal the stigma will actually change internalized marginalization. Certainly there are examples where attempted removal of a persecution complex has made things worse by setting up false dichotomies and false expectations.

    The whole idea of group victimhood can be, in my opinion, counter-productive from a Christian point of view. Or even from a Buddhist point of view. Or secular! Among other things, it sets up and us vs them mentality, asking for but not granting empathy. Indeed, justifying what would otherwise be unjustifiable in the name of victimhood.

    As for the personal digital assistants, again, it’s part and parcel of living in a different society. Nothing new, and nothing that should be viewed with the exceptionalism lens.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    God bless you and your courageous heroism.

  • “I guess part of what saddens me is how my difference allows many to turn me into a symbol of evil or danger or sickness without even knowing me first. I would like there to be informed judgment first–but maybe that is precisely the danger: if we aren’t kept at a distance, it will quickly become clear that we aren’t freaks.”


    Perhaps my rhetoric in this thread contributed to your sadness.
    I must make clear that what I am primarily opposed to is a strident “gay culture” where the lifestyle is promoted almost as a holy virtue and even superior to heterosexuality, where it is shoved into peoples faces to shock and offend, where any sense of traditional marriage and family is looked upon with disdain, and where the Catholic Church and teaching is the Great Enemy #1, and where any opinion to the contrary is labeled as bigoted and hateful.

    I think that those with homosexual tendencies have a great cross to bear, and one that don’t have any experience with. And for that reason, I am not one that should be giving you any advice as an individual who struggles in this way. I have my own sins to struggle with and atone for, and in that way I see you most clearly as my brother, not as some freak of nature. Bless You.

  • Perhaps we can find examples of the holy men and women living in analogous times who responded charitably and evangelically.

    Homosexuality is not analogous to prostitution and pedophilia. Sorry.

    ES, thank you for your comments.

  • Katerina — Well, you knew this one would light up the comboxes, eh?

    I think the comments above seem to cover the ground, and for what it’s worth I will just say amen to what Gerald and Michael I have said.

    But I will add that even if you disagree with this, and from what you have said it seems fairly clear that you will continue to do so, If for no other reason than your own sanity, I would encourage you to worry a bit less about protecting your children from contact with all of those things you deem immoral or “unnatural.” (My fingers resist even typing the word — it must be unnatural.) You simply won’t be able to do that anyway. And as a father of two, one entering deep, deep into adolescence now, I’d also advise you to give up on the idea that you actually know what is right and proper. Even if you do, they will not always be inclined to listen. Really, my only consolation as a parent is accepting that the job is completely impossible. Ultimately, you just need to be committed to be there with your love when they need you. The rest is up to God, and God with great wisdom made children resilient.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Eh ? What’s wrong with oral sex ? Don’t knock people’s hobbies.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    The concept of sexual orientation is a rather new one. In the past, certain acts were forbidden. I think the Catholic approach is based on that – that it’s something one shouldn’t do, as opposed to something one is. Now that we have an understanding of orientation, the Church says, well, the orientation isn’t sinful, but don’t you act on it. Given the change in Catholic views of sexuality from “Eww gross” (St. Augustine) to “ok for reproduction” to seeing a unitive and, gasp, pleasure aspect, it certainly wouldn’t seem impossible to change based on new insights. But, hardly any Catholic couple does the NFP stuff and that hasn’t been changed, so I’d think it’s rather impossible
    that it’ll change. A taboo upbringing, sex laden with guilt and shame and sin is exactly what produced molesting priests. To make matters worst, the abusers frequently went for the most devout victims who were in ‘awe’ of the priest and easy victims to religious duress.

  • Peter John — I accept that your intentions are good, as I accept that the Church is sincere when it teaches that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

    But if you really wish to embrace ES as your brother, I think you are going to have to deal with the obvious — your (and the Church’s) intention to treat gays like ES with love, respect and compassion is in profound conflict with the formulation that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.” As any gay Catholic will tell you, the mores and practices that flow from such a formulation will inevitably cause pain.

  • The concept of sexual orientation is a rather new one. In the past, certain acts were forbidden. I think the Catholic approach is based on that – that it’s something one shouldn’t do, as opposed to something one is. Now that we have an understanding of orientation, the Church says, well, the orientation isn’t sinful, but don’t you act on it. Given the change in Catholic views of sexuality from “Eww gross” (St. Augustine) to “ok for reproduction” to seeing a unitive and, gasp, pleasure aspect, it certainly wouldn’t seem impossible to change based on new insights.

    Gerald, if that’s your summation of the Catholic teaching on sexuality, you’ve got homework.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    Right you are. For what its worth and dispute the work’s still chic and hip status and many deep faults, M. Foucault’s History of Sexuality is an eye-opening work in this regard. While I object to a strict socal constructivist view of sexuality, these is much to be said foran acute sensitivity to the manners in which conceptions of sexualityoperate and are manipulated in discourses of power.

  • kibblesbits

    I’m glad I am raising my children to be loving, tolerant Christians. That’s all I have to say.

  • ES

    I owe a word of thanks to Mark, Michael, and Peter, although I’m not sure that I deserve any such term as “courageous heroism.”

    Regarding Peter’s comment about what he’s against, I would still urge some level of understanding. Sexuality is a messy thing–for everybody. I do not consider being gay a cross, although I do consider myself lucky to have had people who guided me and helped me so that now I have a partner and am not as angry at what I still take to be an injustice. Or maybe I am as angry at certain times, but I don’t express it with sexual license.

    Most gay teens, however, don’t have guidance. In fact, most teens, regardless of their orientation, don’t have guidance. Except for one thing: by the simple fact that straight kids are in the majority, they have societal norms. It all seems so natural for straight people to grow up, get married, and have kids, since that is what they grow up with.

    Yet, for gay and lesbian kids it’s different. Every member of a minority group (with the exception of glbt and some physically or mentally disabled people) are born into their group, with their traditions and role models that give a sense of belonging and identity. Gay and lesbian teens grow into a sense of who they are, and what most gay and lesbian adults of today grew up in was a world that taught them to hate themselves. If they are responding in anger, there’s probably a reason.

    But this is not, in my experience, how most gay and lesbian people feel about traditional marriage. Instead, we look at it and say, “Hey, it’s an institution that has worked for straight people, so why wouldn’t it work for us?”

    I can’t help but gather, however, from my cursory reading of Vox Nova that most people here feel that, regardless of the range and complexity of the glbt community, there is still no place for any of us in the institution of marriage. We are barbaric and uncivilizable. Saul is my favorite example of this stance, where ignorance is turned into an argument for the status quo, while his comfortable position as puppet master and social engineer (should we remove the stigma or shouldn’t we–will the beasts act more human then?) is revealed.

    But, again, maybe if those like me stopped being spectacles of disgust and became people with real live and real feelings and real stories, there wouldn’t be this debate.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Christopher – not ‘ex cathedra’ teaching but views held by famous theologians, people in general and so forth. Augustine’s negative views weren’t mandatory but nonetheless influential. Heck, some wanted to prohibit certain positions. As far as official teaching goes – did not NFP and its predecessors actually constitute a liberalization at the time ?

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Michael and Mark agreeing with me on the same day. It’s good I have iCal now ;o) *marks day*.

    Oh and, to make Mark even happier, I think Santorum’s creepy.

  • Prince L,

    I disagree. The fall of man and the reality of sin have caused disorder (and disorders) in this world. That is the lot of life from a Catholic perspective. There are physical, emotional, mental, psychological disorders … that we can see all around us as a result. Our newborn son (our blessed third) we have just found out has Noonan’s Syndrome, a physical (and possibly mental)disorder. It will likely cause him emotional distress and pain as he grows older to not be seen as “normal” by his peers nor feel “normal”. He was born that way. He can’t change it. It will cause him pain. It is a cross that he was born with that he will have to bear.

    What is so offensive about categorizing an inclination or behavior as “intrinsically disordered”. Certainly homosexuality is only one of many that could be labeled as such. Just because something is labeled as “intrinsically disordered” and is likely to cause the person who bears it some measure of pain and distress is not reason enough to reformulate it as something holy or good or noble. It is just simply what it is, one among many intrinsic disorders that all of us bear to a greater or lesser degree and in a variety of ways in this valley of tears.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    I qualify, right you are in many regards, particuraly since I do not accept that repression and taboo are the main or only cause of priestly abuse of minors or all sexual ills. These are crucial distinctions between types of defenders, and (probably more) often their are power issues that trump sexual ones in these transgressions.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Mark – no, not the only cause, but it plays a big role – overall psychosexual immaturity frequently results in relating to minors. But, to act on it requires malice on top. I didn’t mean to exculpate them.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    I knew we’d agree here, but I did not want others’ being easily dismissive…

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Peter J, the difference is that no one will be morally indignant regarding your son. There’s a widespread moral condemnation attached to homosexuality. And what people regard as sexual transgressions elicits far more condemnation than many a matter of life and death.

  • Katerina

    I’d also advise you to give up on the idea that you actually know what is right and proper.

    So no need for a moral compass, huh?

  • Saul


    I make no suggestion that gays are uncivilizable. BTW, I am gay and black, but I thought I’d let the content of my comments stand on their own.

    I suppose the larger point I was trying to make is that the case against civil same sex marriage is not all based on disgust, hatred, and ignorance. Rather, there are do exist rational arguments made by decent, well-meaning, and knowledgeable people.

    However, the widespread perception that it’s all bigotry does, as you suggest, show that there is indeed bigotry which of course results in the anger and dysfunctional behaviour you talk about.

    But we get beyond that via _mutual_ empathy, don’t we?

    We’re all social engineers on this question. As Eve Tushnet writes, we should take pause as we engineer.

  • ES

    I think that this is going to be rather faltering, but I’m going to try and respond to Peter’s question to Prince L. about the degree of offense given by the term “intrinsically disordered.”

    I hope that we are all agreed that no one is intrinsically sexually ordered–everyone, in other words, has to struggle to come to grips with sexual urges that occlude the value of other people and ourselves. Whether straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, we all deal with this.

    Straight people, however, have had a long history of working out what an ordered sexuality looks like for them. They’ve been allowed to speak for themselves, to create institutions, and to guide others toward a proper enjoyment of being sexed. They have literature and philosophy, films and plays where their experiences are explored and worked out for their own edification and for their children.

    Gay and lesbian people, however, have not had this chance. Instead, we have had our lives categorized and stigmatized as shameful and undesirable, our desires quarantined as merely beastly and having no connection with love. We’ve been silenced (and worse). We are talked about, but not to. Ultimately, we are not known and yet everyone has an interest in having the value of our loves and desires known and despised.

    The offensiveness of the term “intrinsically disordered” is that is comes out of a history of ignorance. At least, that is its particular offensive to me.

    In addition, it has caused pain in men I have met, for they believed it. They took a description of themselves made by men who had done no work to understand gay or lesbian people, and they tried to make sense of their life with such a description. That is its offensive to many.

  • The fall of man and the reality of sin have caused disorder (and disorders) in this world. That is the lot of life from a Catholic perspective. There are physical, emotional, mental, psychological disorders … that we can see all around us as a result. Our newborn son (our blessed third) we have just found out has Noonan’s Syndrome, a physical (and possibly mental)disorder. It will likely cause him emotional distress and pain as he grows older to not be seen as “normal” by his peers nor feel “normal”. He was born that way. He can’t change it. It will cause him pain. It is a cross that he was born with that he will have to bear.

    I think linking disabilities with “the Fall,” i.e. linking them with sin, is problematic. Your son’s condition has nothing to do with human sinfulness.

    I also think linking personal trials and pain with the cross is problematic. The cross is about persecution that comes from following Christ. Sickness, disease, a hard-to-deal-with boss, etc, are not “crosses to bear.”

  • Katerina

    I think people are missing the point of my post (probably reading only the first two paragraphs). The PDAs are just a symptom of what is soon going to become a norm due to a growing acceptance of same-sex marriages in this country.

    I am not saying that I would not teach my children to be compassionate towards gay individuals. Not at all. I believe we are all made in the image of God. Please, do not translate my concerns about introducing a new understanding of marriage in society as homophobia, because that is an unfair representation of the underlying concern I have presented.

  • I’d also advise you to give up on the idea that you actually know what is right and proper.

    I agree with Katerina… not sure about this piece of advice.

  • ES


    Thank you. I disagree that we are all social engineers. Engineers stand on the outside and know what they are controlling, whereas we are all in this together, worked on as we work.

    I fail to see how the refusal to extend marriage to same-sex couples isn’t a declaration of their standing on the outside of civilization–especially from an Aristotelian perspective, where marriage is the foundation of the polis. I do not mean to suggest that people are making arguments about our inferiority out of bad faith or out of irrationality. As far as I can see, the arguments grow out of a sense of fear based on ignorance. But since when do we not do something that is right–extending the institutions of civilization to responsible adults–in the interest of the majority who are more secure and stable? You, as a black man, are, I imagine, familiar with such arguments on other fronts.

  • Katerina

    I apologize, because I think I need to make my point clearer (I was at work and had to write something quickly)…

    I’m working on a post where (I hope) to make an argument around the importance of the common good and its place in this argument in particular. My main concern here has to do with same-sex marriage from a theological and social standpoint.

    I would assume that as Catholics, from a theological standpoint, we can all agree that same-sex relations do not have a place in God’s plan as heterosexual marriage has based on Scripture alone. An understanding of human persons as the imago Dei may also lead us to the same conclusion. That being said, how “OK” it is for a Christian to say: “whatever you do in the privacy of your own home is your business and doesn’t bother me” and take that approach for same-sex marriages? Where does the common good fall here? Did we just throw it out the window?

    Those are my main concerns.

  • Katerina


    I understand that some categories or labels perhaps may be offensive to some. I understand that, but help me here: if homosexual relations are not “unnatural” or “intrinsically disordered”, what are they? I think we need to get a consensus on categories and terminology before we go on, because I think that is the heart of the matter here.

  • ES


    I would say that two men or two women, in a loving committed and sexual relationship, are living a normal life. There might be infidelity–that would be disordered. But they can monogamous–that would part of the description of what an ordered life together for a same-sex could can look like.

    I am not of the view that biological reproduction must justify human sexual activity, which is the current stance of the Catholic Church. Our bodies are part of our whole selves, and they are much more than just storage containers for eggs and sperm.

    So, I would say, why do you need a label for my sex life? What is the label you have made for yours? Why is it that straight people are so interested in having these labels for things that don’t even apply to them, and then they don’t even have a label for themselves?

  • Gerald Augustinus

    Katerina – not letting your child befriend another child because of its homosexual parents – how can that not be viewed as homophobia ?

    Furthermore, I’d think that – if you meant it the following way – ‘compassion toward gay individuals’, in the way of a ‘special’ compassion is also, while well-intentioned, rather patronizing, because, most of all, gay people want to be treated like everyone else. They don’t think they warrant special compassion since they don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.

    ES – figuring out a modus vivendi is indeed a challenge. Given the frequently secretive nature and social stigma, it must have been hard to live ‘normal lives’. I am quite sure though that in the not too distant future there will be no need to ‘come out’ or a fear of being ‘outed’ anymore, except in some religious or ethnic circles.

    I was just in Paris. I visited the grave, among others, of Oscar WIlde (I put photos up here: http://closedcafeteria.blogspot.com/2008/04/immortal-mortals.html )

    If you look at the grave of Wilde you’ll see countless lipstick prints and inscriptions. It has become a ‘pilgrimage’ site – I saw gay couples there, I saw a woman break out in tears – for gay people this is very much like, say, the fight to get women the right to vote (also considered unthinkable) or to end segregation. Gays have their own narrative, their own battles, their own milestones and icons. There is no sinister ‘agenda’. What people want is acceptance. The average gay person doesn’t want to “destroy marriage”, rather she wants to be able to do it, too. And it all started on a New York Sunday morning in 1969, when a ‘bunch of queers’ didn’t want to take the abuse by police anymore. This event is known as the Stonewall Riots.

  • ES

    sorry for all those typos. I’m getting rather sleepy.

  • That being said, how “OK” it is for a Christian to say: “whatever you do in the privacy of your own home is your business and doesn’t bother me” and take that approach for same-sex marriages? Where does the common good fall here?

    I’ll be frank: I have problems with the Church’s official view on homosexuality. Above, I indicated my views to some extent. That said, I always think about sex and marriage in terms of the sociality of human beings and the common good. So I oppose the kind of thinking which “approves” of homosexual relations by saying “whatever you do in the privacy of your own home is your business and doesn’t bother me.” The liberal individualistic view looks at relationships in this “individualistic” way: the couple cut off from the rest of society. As a Catholic I believe sexual and marriage relationships are connected to the wider community. I also do not like the “privacy” approach because it reinforces the idea that homosexuality is something that should remain hidden.

    As far as where the common good comes into play, it is not obvious to me that the existence of homosexual relationships is somehow opposed to the common good. Of course, we should promote marriage and fidelity, and I agree that they are in many ways the foundations of society. But I fail to see how a greater acceptance of homosexual unions is threatening to the common good, to monogamous marriage as an institution, etc.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    How does a homosexual offering himself/herself permanentally to another life partner equate simply with doing anything in the privacy of one’s home”?

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Sorry Michael, I was stll writing as you posted…

  • I was just in Paris. I visited the grave, among others, of Oscar WIlde

    Speaking of Oscar Wilde…

  • Saul


    It’s simply a declaration that heterosexual and same sex marriage are _substantially_ different enough that they cannot be the same institution.

    You may see these differences as minutiae (like racial differences, for example) that can easily be abstracted away in order to get at the true essence of marriage. Others see them as fundamental differences, given biological, psychological, and social differences between the sexes.

    It’s not something we can sort out in com boxes, but one thing we ought to be able to sort out is that arguments such as this are not based on a sense of fear or ignorance.

  • The statement of difference is not without moral judgment however. The language goes to show that. We are supposed to ‘protect the sanctity of marriage’ – that implies that gay marriages would be unholy. We are supposed to ‘defend marriage’ – from gays supposedly ‘besmirching’ it. It’s not a question of definitions, the rejection of gays being able to get married is caused by people deeming them immoral, if not repulsive.

  • Thanks to Michael, Gerald and particularly ES for your eloquent replies re: “intrinsically disordered” — nothing I could add.

    Katerina (and Michael) re: So no need for a moral compass, huh?

    Not my point at all. Just aiming for some self-deprecating levity that I see now didn’t quite hit the mark. (Well, I do seem to have deprecated myself).

    I know right from wrong, and have and will work hard to teach this to my children. But experience, particularly the experience of parenting, has taught me some humility and respect for complexity. And I will hold that humility, respect for complexity and above all unqualified love are essential to any functioning moral compass.

  • Prince – That makes more sense now. Thanks.

  • ES I am quite moved by what you have shared here. Thank you.

  • Katerina,

    It’s a difficult question and I don’t think we have a good enough grasp of homosexuality from a theological point of view. I think that Theology of the Body is insufficient.

    I’m not sure about not letting your child not be friends with a child with homosexual parents. I think the best thing is to educate your child to make right judgments about reality. So yeah, he may be exposed to such things, but what is important is that he can judge what it is and why it is not right.

    As for the common good, I think that thin concepts such as “right” and “wrong” are insufficient. We need thick concepts: unselfish, chaste, just, etc. Now, we cannot simply think that we should allow the state to permit homosexual civil unions. I think Christians have to go about it by looking at it from a communion point of view. We are against homosexual unions because it educates the heart improperly, it allows and promotes an illusion, that homosexual unions can strive towards “one flesh” (the non-separation of sexual union and reproduction). It just cannot. What we need is first and foremost a vision of communion that can only be attained by union with Christ. When this happens, then every social and political issue can be judged whether it promotes authentic communion or not.

    The hard part is when you know people who are gay. In fact, your first child may very well be gay. What is important is to educate your children in their religiosity, that is, becoming attentive to the fundamental needs of their hearts. Certainty about their hearts, a good relationship with their Destiny, will make them free from common mentalities and give them a greater capacity to adhering to truth and goodness. Again, I think the issue here is a question of freedom. What exactly is freedom?

    This is a very difficult topic…my two cents…

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    ES wrote: I hope that we are all agreed that no one is intrinsically sexually ordered–everyone, in other words, has to struggle to come to grips with sexual urges that occlude the value of other people and ourselves. Whether straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, we all deal with this.

    Ain’t it the truth. It’s been a pleasure reading so many thoughtful comments.

  • SB

    Michael I — Surely someone who constantly beats people over the head for disagreeing with non-binding Church opinions re: the Iraq war would himself agree with the Church in all of the rest of its binding moral teachings. But it seems that where sexual liberalism contradicts the Church, you side with sexual liberalism (just as you side with political left-liberalism when it contradicts anarchy by calling for bigger government).

  • MJO

    I wonder had this blog been around in the 50s and 60s, if the author would have written about the discomfort she felt at seeing a white woman and a black man showing affection to one another in public? I understand that some displays of affection in public are a bit too much, whether by straight or gay people, but certainly this author would not have written a post if a man and a woman were showing their affection for one another.

    It saddens me to think that when gay people are finally accepted into society, history will once again look back on the Catholic Church as being on the wrong side of right.

  • Considering the author, who isn’t me, isn’t considered to be in either racial group but in a third, my guess is that she wouldn’t fit your paradigm. This is much like the commentary above about this site’s attitude on homosexuality, a topic that has been broached roughly three times in over 800 posts and more often comments about legal developments in the efforts to have states recognize gay marriage rather than homosexual behavior.

  • I wonder had this blog been around in the 50s and 60s, if the author would have written about the discomfort she felt at seeing a white woman and a black man showing affection to one another in public?

    Where I come from we didn’t have segregation like America does, so no, I wouldn’t have thought that.

    Please read the post and my comments in its entirety.

    It saddens me to think that when gay people are finally accepted into society, history will once again look back on the Catholic Church as being on the wrong side of right.

    Homosexuality has been around for thousands of years. The Catholic Church has been around for a while as well. What has changed now?

  • Jeremy

    I just feel the need to point out that the purpose of marriage is not to legitimize a sexual relationship. The purpose of marriage was create a family unit for the raising of children. Many of the laws we have regarding marriage are orientated towards that end. The real question is not if we should expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, the real question is ‘Should we expand the definition of marriage and how should that definition be expanded?’. Could someone please explain to me why same-sex couples should be recognized, and polygamous ones shouldn’t?

  • JB

    Homosexuality is not analogous to prostitution and pedophilia. Sorry.

    MI, I agree. I was kind of free writing just to get some thoughts out (It helps me digest the topic) and thus was certainly guilty of some of ES’s critiques. Had I thought ahead andrealized that a homosexual person may be reading what I was writing, had thought about it as pertaining to persons, I would not have written so irresponsibly. (FWIW, I was not trying to compare homosexuality with prostitution and pedophilia, but was looking for witnesses of saintly people living in that culture and responding with love. NEvertheless it was inappropriate comparison. I apologize.)


    I appreciate your honesty and candor. As someone who has hardly ever experienced serious discrimination of any sort (except mildly for my Christianity in college and high school) I can only imagine your sufferings. I sincerely apologize for the pains I may have caused you or others due my own failures in love.

    That being said, I think Saul and Apolonio are pretty much on target here. I think Eve’s articles to which Saul linked are clear and convincing. However, I do think the Theology of the Body (along with personalism and Trinitarian theology) lays a sufficient foundation for a proper understanding of sexuality.

    Regarding the concept of the common good in relation to all this…I think Apolonio is right on. The common good is not merely the common good for right now in America, etc. The Common Good is communio, freedom for membership in the Mystical Body of Christ. And I think sexuality is an integral part of how image God, as individuals and as a communion of persons. I think the Bible very clearly places (heterosexual) marriage as the honored sacrament, institution, etc. which most fully expresses and images the communio personarum in the Trinity and the Church’s communio with Christ.

  • ES,

    Your contribution on this post is highly significant — if only people would take the time and reflect on what you’ve said. Your words have application to every moral predicament.

    At bottom, the burden of your challenge rests on the shoulders of those who would judge as outsiders a predicament they do not understand. You are to be commended for relating your story. More people need to listen to the stories of those who are willing to share them. If they did, they wouldn’t reveal as much nonsense as they do.

    As you’ve indicated, things are not as simple as an objective observer would imagine. The “lived experience” is very different from what disengaged people conclude it to be. A person’s life is a concrete reality. Every personal reality involves contradictory principles and passions that have to be measured and reconciled as best as they can be measured and reconciled.

    Yet, no matter how hard one tries, imperfection is always the outcome. And, despite the joys that attend one’s decision, it is imperfection that is most deeply experienced. And so, each person yearns for more than they get. They continually try to improve their lives. They continue to strive … and strive … strive. Their life is a restlessness in search of rest.

    What is especially significant in your story is the human face you put on homosexuality. A person is unique. They live in a concrete predicament. Their composition is unique. Their person is unique. They have a unique destiny. They come into this world and struggle to do the best they can with the uniqueness they have been given. But, more often than not, their struggle is made all the more difficult due to the indifference that others extend towards them.

    In fact, the real issue in the homosexual debate — as it is in so many of these moral debates — is the radical indifference that is displayed by outside observers. Why is there so much indifference? From what sinful place does that indifference issue forth? How is it possible to reconcile Indifference and Mercy? Perhaps, if we would just turn the table for a moment, we’d understand just how wrong we as a society can be when we judge others! We too easily display Arrogance rather than Mercy. Too easily, we resist the input of Grace. For this reason alone, our judgments can only be wrong.

    There is a human face to all forms of existence and behavior. The girl who faces the prospect of having to choose whether or not to have an abortion also, like everyone else, has a life that extends into the past and a life that projects into the future. The same is true for the young boy who joins a gang, or the homeless person who roams the streets. Ninety-five percent of abortions have to do with aloneness, alienation, social and economic needs, cultural factors, and the fear that attends all these passions. The same is true for the homeless person and those who participate in gang life. The girl who faces the prospect of having an abortion is face with a reality that is neither abstract nor detached. The same is true for the gay person who struggles make order in his or her life. Each person confronts real challenges. They are real people with going through “lived experiences.” Each person in such a predicament cries out for loving relationships. But more often than not they get in return highly inflamed moral judgments and further existential isolation and aloneness. When such a person thinks that matter cannot get worse, they tend to get worse. But, if we respond to a person’s needs with indifference, we become diminished as a people. America becomes diminished as a promise.

    Too many people on this site have only a vague appreciation of what is entailed by the moral act. They confuse the moral act with moral reasoning. The simple truth is that moral reasoning is only part of the moral act. An important part, yes. But only a part. Moral reasoning by its very nature is universal and abstract. It is removed from the concrete. In the completed moral act, moral principles and moral reasoning are made concrete. But in being made concrete they are admixed with contingency. And in this mixture, contingency acts to resist the universality inherent in moral reasoning. What we get is the best we can get. And it is left to each person to decide — in their own unique halting way — what that best is.

    There is no reason to get excited about the use of the term “marriage” in the debate over gay marriage. Catholics judge marriage to be sacramental. Civil unions, despite being nominally designated marriage, are not sacramental. They are what they are –civil.

    Likewise, Protestant marriages are not sacramental. They are what they are — and whatever they are, they are not sacramental.

  • JB

    Furthermore, it may be help to consider all of this in light of the Balthasar quote which Henry recently posted.

  • Brian Killian

    “Gay” is not an ontological category. Human sexuality is not play-dough, it is not a blob of clay for us to mold and shape however we like (and we couldn’t even if we tried). Human sexuality has a structure, a permanent one. The gay marriage crowd treat this issue as one of equality and rights, but it seems to me to be an attack on traditional marriage, and perhaps more deeply, the real target seems to be the normative nature of sexuality that is implicit in traditional marriage, and as a married man and a father, I resent it.

    That being said, modern heterosexual marriage, in so far as it is based on a contraceptive mentality, is also an attack on traditional marriage. And gay marriage was a done deal when our society embraced contraception, even though it took several decades to unfold, because it was really contraception that equalized all sexual relationships.

    But hetero or homo, lust is not acceptable for Christians. And contraception is motivated by lust, just as all homosexual activity and much heterosexual activity is impelled by lust. The great tragedy of our times is the rejection of the idea and the reality of chastity.

    “Permanence”, “monogamy”, terms like these have no metaphysical foundation in sexual relationships based on lust, including gay marriage. Permanence is grounded, naturally, in the fact that intercourse leads to children and family, and therefore requires long-term relationship, and theologically it’s based on the relationship of the man and woman being itself related to the mystery of Christ and his Church. Christ is always faithful to his bride, the Church and so the husband must be faithful to his bride, because their marriage is an “image” of the Church. None of this can be related to gay marriage. Gay mariage talk can only be a parody of traditional marriage.

    Is there anything more than lust to human sexuality? Is there an objective meaning to sexuality? These are the real questions, because if lust is all there is too it, than yes, why not gay marriage? But if there is something more, than gay marriage becomes very questionable, and homosexual activity itself becomes questionable (if it can ever escape lust). If it can, than how?

  • Brian Killian,

    So gay marriage is all about lust? Homosexual relations are all about sex?

    Gay is not an ontological category? Is traditional marriage in the US an ontological category?

    The “gay marriage crowd” — are you speaking here of the “rabble”?

    “Permanence” has no metaphysical foundation in sexual relations based on lust … Are you saying that lust is not a part of a sacramental marriage between man and wife?

    Is a Protestant marriage a real sacramental marriage? If not, why recognize it?

    “gay marriage becomes questionable? if there is something more. Isn’t traditional marriage questionable because there IS something more than is found in traditional marriages in the US.

    After all, only two our of five kids in the US live with both parents until the age of 18. Isn’t there something more than traditional marriage in the US??????

    Abstractions — whether moral or theological — don’t help at all. They detract from getting an understanding of the issues.

  • OK but tell the heterosexual couples to stop showing affection as well. For the truth about gay marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue: http://www.OUTTAKEonline.com The truth will set them free…

  • RCM

    “Likewise, Protestant marriages are not sacramental. They are what they are — and whatever they are, they are not sacramental.”

    What? Is this correct? I thought both Baptism and Marriage when done in a Christian format are sacramental.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    Should people marry after child bearing years in your worldview, as there are according to you no grounds for permanence then?

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    You are right.

  • I’m finding myself questioning, mostly as a result of what ES expressed here, whether homosexual acts per se are intrinsically immoral.

    Matrimony has a certain foundation which may or may not be compatible with homosexual relationships. BThat said: having sex with someone you love, in the context of a committed, monogomous relationship – is intrinsically disordered?

    The Catholic argument, as I understand it, is that sexual relations are licit only when the act is both unitive and generative (terminology?). Homosexual acts obviously can’t result in a baby, and thus are judged disordered. I’ve probably missed a bunch of stuff, but that’s the gist, correct?

    The Church’s intellectual rigor is both a great strength and a great weakness. The weakness is that when discussing things such as whether gay people are “disordered,” the abstraction involved misses the lived experience of being human by a wide margin (as I think Gerald Campbell was getting at).

    I’m having a hard time expressing this, mostly because I have never really thought about this in depth (I’m not gay, so I’ve never had an occasion to really think this through before.)

    Sexual expression (between married people, say) can mean different things, depending on the context. Sometimes it’s, “Let’s make a baby” – sometimes it is providing mutual comfort and stress relief, sometimes it is an expression of reconciliation (“make-up sex”)…and so on, ad infinitum.

    The way teachers (both religious and lay) has discussed sexual morality, in my experience, has seemed awfully mechanical and almost rote.

    One particular incident comes to mind. There was a Dominican who was pastor of our parish, and he got into it with another instructor in RCIA. The topic was mortal sin and how common it might be; he was of the opinion that it is very common. The example he used was this: “A married man has sex with another woman, and then dies in a car accident before repenting. Isn’t he guilty of mortal sin?”

    His answer was yes, and, on a purely abstract level , I suppose I’d agree. But, there is a huge missing piece there; context, circumstances…the humanity of our theoretical cheating husband and partner.

    Fill out the story a little more, and things get a good deal muddier. Let’s call the guy Gary Smith, and let’s say he’s been having real problems at home. Due to an un-diagnosed mental illness, his wife Mary has come to secretly believe that his sexual advances are merely a pretext to murder her, rather than the expression of love and desire they really are. He’s just moved to a new city, and so has no friends he can share his painful situation with.

    There is a woman named Julie in the office, who is his “type” and with whom he’s working closely. There is a chemistry between them that makes them a good team for his company; however, there is also an attraction that neither one of them is really consciously aware of. So one night, during a business trip to Chicago, he stops by her room to get his laptop for a presentaion the next day, there is a sudden, overpowering “me-Tarzan-you-Jane” moment…etc.

    Is he guilty of (i.e., culpable for) the mortal sin of adultery? I’m glad that’s God’s call and not

  • (continued) mine…

    I know gay people, who love each other, and whose sexual expression seems to come from a loving place. It’s hard to call that a sin.

  • Is it “the same as” sex between a man and wife? Depends on what the man and wife are doing, and why.

  • RCM

    Michael I, I hope you submit yourself to the Holy Spirit found in Church teaching. That is the only way we can be assured we are not following ourselves, but God. The Church is very clear in HOW Catholics are supposed to feel about gay relationships and larger society.

    God’s ways are NOT our ways. Period. And His ways have been cause for scandal for many many many people regardless of culture and time. He is the stumbling block.

    It seems that there is a group of Catholics here who think A) if we follow Church teaching then B) gay people suffer. I think we can make a strong case for we can follow the Church teaching without making gay people suffer.

    And yes, I have thought about what would happen if my child was/is gay. I would love her and tell her that God has a plan for her like He has for all of us and that each one of us are in a struggle to overcome our inclination to sin. Together, in the form of community and with access to the sacraments, as JPII taught us in Vertitatis Splendor, we CAN overcome our sinful nature. I would do her no favors by telling her to do her own thing and forget Moral Law as if God doesn’t exist or has not spoken on sinful behaviors that we can read about in Scripture and Tradition.

  • But it seems that where sexual liberalism contradicts the Church, you side with sexual liberalism (just as you side with political left-liberalism when it contradicts anarchy by calling for bigger government).

    I don’t side with sexual liberalism at all. I actually spoke to that issue above. Nor have I said that I have taken sides against Church teaching on sexuality.

    While I have problems with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, I think some openness to homosexual relations could potentially be incorporated into the Church’s existing teaching. I do not advocate throwing out Church teaching on sex.

    Furthermore, while I have these views, I accept that currently the Church will not see homosexual relationships as sacramental and I submit to it without making a huge fuss. If change is to come, it will happen slowly for sure.

    However, I am in disagreement when the Church says that the state cannot “change” the definition of marriage. The state does what it wants and the Church should mainly focus on its own definitions and practices. Of course, not without some concern for the larger world, but the Church simply cannot control what the world does. The world’s definition of marriage is ALREADY different than that of the Church (contract v.s covenant). SB, the world’s definition of marriage that you want to protect is ALREADY rooted in sexual liberalism.

    Michael I, I hope you submit yourself to the Holy Spirit found in Church teaching. That is the only way we can be assured we are not following ourselves, but God.

    Generally speaking I agree with this, but we both know that there have been cases where ecclesial movements from below have actually been the ones who have been “following God.” My views on homosexuality are not about “following myself” (I’m straight, married, kid on the way, etc.) but precisely about “following God” as I know Him to be.

  • Mark DeFrancisis,

    I believe you are wrong here.

    it is my understanding that a Protestant marriage is not sacramental. I may be wrong.

    Perhaps someone could clarify this.

    Where’s Henry Karlson?

  • Liam


    What else would you say? That’s pretty abstract. You’d need a lot more to get through. This is the area the Church’s bishops are providing little help on.

    What I see developing in praxis, even among many of the self-styled orthodox, is that definitions are shifting (as with usury and slavery and a variety of other thing where cultural contexts created many more facts to deal with than had formerly been understood) and the elements of salient subjective facts that are taken into consideration in terms of gravity of individual culpability are increasing significantly. This is all of a common pattern when a moral issue that has formerly been considered in fairly blunt, abstract ways gains a great deal more granularity in widespread experience. Some will smell the smoke of Modernism in this, but I am not convinced that is so.

  • Katerina

    I know gay people, who love each other, and whose sexual expression seems to come from a loving place. It’s hard to call that a sin.

    Take that up with Augustine himself (and Aquinas!)

  • Protestant marriages are not defective in form. They are not Sacramental. This means an annulment cannot be sought for defect of form as long as neither spouse had been Catholic. Pretestant marriages are not seen as illicit unions and are presumed valid.

    The issue is being partially obfuscated in that right is being used. The State is not impeded by the Church in its actions. The Church would however argue the State does not have the right to recognize marriage between man and man or woman and woman.

  • Put another way, Protestant marriages are recognized in the natural order per reason and form. Homosexual marriage is not.

  • SB

    By the way, Michael I: “Priests cannot get in legal trouble in Canada simply for “defending Catholic teaching” on homosexuality.”

    Says who? Lots of people get investigated in Canada just for their speech. http://www.mackenzieinstitute.com/2008/jihad-010108.htm If the USA had the same policies, you’d be in legal trouble on a regular basis.

  • Take that up with Augustine himself (and Aquinas!)

    Good advice. I’d also like to take it up with you, the other folks here, maybe gay friends willing to talk about it, maybe even wrestle with my Spiritual Director over the question.

  • Katerina

    Good advice. I’d also like to take it up with you, the other folks here, maybe gay friends willing to talk about it, maybe even wrestle with my Spiritual Director over the question.

    Of course. These are questions that need to be reflected upon very deeply, because otherwise we make baseless accusations. The comments made by ES, especially, have been very helpful, so it is nice to have someone “from the other side” who is willing to talk about it like he did.

    I’m going to try to find a good history book that covers the topic of homosexuality and history and see the effect of the rise of Christianity on the issue. The little that I have read says that the early Christians rejected altogether homosexual relationships and that’s how it has been throughout tradition (Aquinas and Augustine). John Chrysostom even thought persecution of homosexuals was “OK”, which of course we all reject today. Anyway, maybe I can fit a book around this topic in my summer reading.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    I believe that a marriage between two baptized Christians is a sacrament, unless it is a Protestant marriage done including one Catholic partner, without a dispensation of form.

  • Thanks MZ.

    So Protestant unions are not Sacramental. And yet, they are valid as far as they go in the natural order, i.e., according to reason and form. But, in important respects, they fall short insofar as they are not Sacramental. This ‘falling short’ need to be explored further in open conversation.

    The Church — Catholic Church, here — is not being asked by the State to recognize homosexual marriages. Nor is “the State is impeded by the Church in its actions.” The State can decide a course of action, apart from the Church’s teachings and do so without interfering in the integrity of the Church itself.

    Clearly, homosexual marriages are not Sacramental; nor are they deemed valid by the Church in the natural order, either per reason or form. But they can be, and in some instances are, deemed valid by the State. Furthermore, there is a growing acceptance of this practice. Such acceptance will continue to develop well into the foreseeable future.

    Now since homosexual marriages are outside the Catholic Church — for natural and supernatural reasons — and are not deemed integral as an institution, what threat do they pose to the Church? At the same time, they obviously nurture certain principles that enrich the relations between individuals. Perhaps it is time to begin to highlight this potential for human improvement rather than simply paint the entire phenomenon as the presence of pure evil — which it is not.

  • Mark DeFrancisis,

    Would you disagree with MZ (above)? He has spelled out what I have long been taught ( or, at least, believed I had been taught).

    My point in saying what I did is to underscore that there are problems with marriages everywhere. The exclusive focus on the growing practice of “gay marriage” seems to overlook the philosophical and theological fractures that exist all around. It is also to overlook the pitiful state of the institution (notice here, this is a secular institution) of marriage and the family in America.

    Homosexual marriages will not be recognized by the Church. They are being recognized by the State. But, apart from that, they pose an important question: do they serve some purpose short of what we can expected from an integral marriage, whether that marriage is only natural or Sacramental? I believe they do offer such good, and we should be opening to learning precisely what that good entails. To simply assign lust, and blah, blah, blah, to homosexual marriages — without even knowing what’s involved in them — is simply wrong.

    I know from a public health perspective that the stability such relationships can bring to the lives of individuals would curtail the spread of STDs. This is only one social benefit of such a practice.

  • There are plenty of complications, I would agree Gerald. In many respects the Church doesn’t see herself as defending her own rights so much as she sees herself defending the rights of the Family. In particular you have the rights of children to be raised by their natural mother and father.

    I hate to do history, because it invites a large tangent. Traditionally, the State wasn’t seen as the guaranteor of family rights. Family disputes used to be adjudicated by the Church courts. This was the case in Quebec even into the 1900s. The conflict is arising again with Muslim immigration. In particular, many Muslims want familial disputes resolved under the Sharia courts. Now that the ecclesial courts are no longer binding, much of Catholic life is more complicated, just on the heterosexual side. Specifically, there is a real mess addressing previously married people who wish to enter the Church. What is my point in this diversion? My point is that civic claims effect more than the individuals involved.

  • Katerina,

    “The comments made by ES — especially — have been very helpful, so it is nice to have someone “from the other side” who is willing to talk about it like he did.”

    It’s amazing how a person’s story acts to temper the passions. I’ve often thought that the story of a person like ES is a vehicle through which the Holy Spirit tempers our judgment and our lives. Flannery O’Connor write about the Holy Spirit in this way.

    It would be interesting to have to bear witness to the stories of those who’ve confronted the choice of having an abortion or not.

    It is only in these concrete circumstances that the full complexity of the moral act can be discovered and appreciated. Too often, abstractions alone serve as the basis for discussion. The concreteness is missing altogether. Yet, ethics is about the concrete.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    I did not see M.Z.s comment. I defer to him on Church judgments about the sacraments, as my courses were 17 years ago and I am very rusty in this regard….

    I totally agree with all you have said.

  • MZ,

    I appreciate your comments.

    Yes, the rights of the Family in an atomistic society! Again, the rights of the Family in a society where the rights of the individual take precedent!

    Oh well. I guess the Church has always had to thrive in a world of hurt. Nothing has changed.

  • If it makes you feel better Mr. DeFrancisis, some theologies would suggest that sacramentality of marriage isn’t confined to the Catholic Church. Where the dispute lies is in who the minister of the Sacrament is. Some would suggest the spouses themselves. Henry Karlson can correct me on this, but I believe in the East it is generally seen as the couple whereas in the West it is the priest.

  • Mark DeFrancisis,

    Thanks. MZ explained it well.

    Soon, you and your fellow Pennsylvanians will have to stand tall once again. I’ll try to help out here in Virginia.

    By the way, I noticed a book on Michael J. Iafrate’s website that struck my fancy. I’m reading it now. It’s really interesting. The book is: Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction. Its about Christianity and the battle for the soul of a nation. You can get it on Amazon. It gives a great insight into Appalachia, among other things.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Gerald Campbell

    Thank you for the recommendation. I cannot get enough of Johnny Cash and love the recent Walk the Live (?) movie.

    By the way, what do you think Senator Webb would bring to the ticket as VP? I’d like to discuss this with you somewhere. Maybe I’ll go to your blog latter, as I do not want to derail this thread, which I am enjoying immensely.

  • email me through my website … we can connect that way … top left under pic …

  • franchesca23

    so im just wondering is being gay a bad thing too you? would you disown your own children if they were gay? even if it wasn’t your intention you made it seem like it…and what is wrong with being a sexual person even if in public? more people need to own there sexuality and get laid and be happy (practice safe sex)!

  • JB

    MZ (and others)

    I’m pretty sure in the west the couples are the ministers of the Sacrament.

    CCC 1623: “According to the Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of the Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.”

    I’m not precisely sure how this relates to the (non)Sacramentality of protestant marriages.

  • Gerald,

    It isn’t just lust but I do think that the attraction is an intrinsic disorder. Again, the framework we have to work from is communion. So when it comes to politics, economics, and social issues, we have to see whether authentic love, authentic communion, can be promoted. I know many homosexuals and the notion that their attraction is an intrinsic disorder does bother them. But be that as it may, I don’t see how the State allowing homosexual unions has a proper notion of communion. Marriage should never be separated from communion, from “one flesh.” And that’s why the State should not allow it. It is an illusion of authentic communion.

    Now, I think the challenge is whether Christianity can allow a romantic relationship without a sexual relationship. That, I do not know (I’m leaning towards no) but it should be examined.

    Plus, I would say that the greater form of love is possession in detachment. Christ possessed the Samaritan woman, who was probably “hot”, in such a way that none of her five husbands did. The Samaritan woman said, “He told me everything about me.” That is a much greater love, possessing someone because you affirm her destiny, her heart.

  • The book is: Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction. Its about Christianity and the battle for the soul of a nation. You can get it on Amazon. It gives a great insight into Appalachia, among other things.

    The author is Rodney Clapp, who is a really good writer. He was here in Toronto to read from the book and we had some Toronto musicians (including myself) play Johnny Cash covers as part of the event.

    I’ve read about half of the book so far… It’s good, but less about Cash and more about the dysfunctions of america, which is, of course, fine by me. 🙂

  • RCM

    Michael:”Generally speaking I agree with this, but we both know that there have been cases where ecclesial movements from below have actually been the ones who have been “following God.” My views on homosexuality are not about “following myself” (I’m straight, married, kid on the way, etc.) but precisely about “following God” as I know Him to be.”

    Of course, I know you are straight, but that doesn’t mean you cannot reject the Church’s wisdom for your own. And on what basis? And on what should we accept Church teaching in one area and in others reject? I come at this as a former Protestant where confusion reigns as a whole back in my old “denomination”.

    I got to thinking about how before I married my spouse I was involved in a 2 year relationship with a really great guy. And though we were together for 2 years, what we had was not a marriage. This means we lived chastely and appropriately for our state in life EVEN though it would have been MUCH easier to live together and cheaper than apart. Now, gay people are in the same place except they cannot be in a marital relationship. We are called to holiness and that means following the moral Law. I think you are deeply concerned that gays will be exiled from Christian community, but like all people who sin, there is a Sacrament of Reconciliation for healing. I don’t think gay people should be excluded from community anymore than heteros should be excluded. What I am hearing from Geralds and you, is a deep desire to avoid causing pain to our gay brothers and sisters. But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that they need help to overcome a sinful inclination according to Church teaching.

    The gay people I met and worked with who were dying from AIDs had quit going to Church because they were deeply discouraged. They wanted union with people but how they went about doing so killed their souls. I can so relate to that discouragement. Our job is to include them in our community, love them, and encourage THEM to live chastely, just as their job is to encourage us to live chastely according to our state in life. I have many hetero friends who are not married and who also, like gay people, struggle with chastity. From my experience, doing what is right is HARD. And from what Jesus tells us, it is so hard that few make it. If that isn’t a warning I don’t know what is.

  • Apolonio,

    Hope your studies are going well. I remember when you first headed off to college. Seems like only yesterday.

    The term “intrinsic disorder” is one of those terms that sounds so impersonal. Why is that so? Well, the answer is because it is impersonal. It places a person outside the communal order. It reduces a uniquely existing person to the status of a universal. That in and of itself is an indication that something is wrong with the designation.

    The fact is that homosexuals do exist. Their origins are unclear, although it is unlikely that the cause of homosexuality is due to genetic or social factors. More likely, to my way of thinking, the origin is existential and therefore unique to the person.

    Isn’t the unique person Beethoven unique because of his act of existence? Is he unique only because of material individuation, whether genetic or social? I don’t think so. Beethoven is not a function of material cause or any such thing in the natural order.

    The phrase “intrinsic disorder” flows from a claim that the natural law can be deduced from human nature. But, what does that mean as it pertains to a unique person who happens to be a homosexual? What is it about the homosexual that makes them to stand in contradiction to the universal precepts of natural law. Is it that their existence is not fully encompassed by natural law insofar they are unique and not materially determined. Are their dimensions about the person that cannot be contained within the framework of the natural law? I think so. After all, what does God look upon his artists?

    And then again, is the natural law deduced from human nature (a universal) or is it known more concretely by way of connaturality or inclination. In the later case, there is at least some room to maneuver without having to resort to saying that a homosexual is “intrinsically disordered” and intrinsically outside the communal bond.

    These are just some thoughts that come to mind. I don’t think anyone has really sorted any of this out. Certain explanations are set forth. There are, for the most part, abstractions. But nothing is without contradiction, it seems to me. Much new thinking is needed.

    Moving on, when you speak about authentic love within a social, political, or cultural context I have problems. The reason is that the intellectual apparatus you need to speak about “authentic love” and so forth do not flow out of any of the the enduring structures of our society. Thus you are totally disengaged from the problem as it exists in this country. Your words have practical significance only in the abstract. You are talking worlds apart from America. America is not what you assume in your descriptions of love, authentic communion, and so forth. Indeed, the State acts independently and quite apart from the notions you use. Even when we are at our best, Americans aspire to something that has yet been realized in our history. And when we as a society are taken as we currently exist, we suffer from so many disorders and injustices that it can only make one shutter with grief.

    “Marriage should never be disassociated from communion.” But it is. I recall a young Catholic friend being married some time back. As it turned out, his marriage failed and he ask me to council him through his troubles. This I did through intense conversations and connecting him to a Dominican priest here in Washington. At one point in his attempt to find out what went wrong, he asked me: “What did you think when we got married?” I replied: “I thought it was a good business relationship!” And so, while marriage should never be disassociated from communion, it is — even from the first intention. The statistics demonstrate this fact more brutally than I can describe.

    “…the greater form of love is possession in detachment … possessing someone because you affirm her destiny, her heart.” Once again: well and fine. But what happens when she doesn’t share your destiny, or your heart. What happens when he or she’s ego is focused on power and wealth and not on “possessing your destiny or heart. What happens when she tells you to go to hell … when she says “get out of my life. I hate you.” Where is authentic love then? When that happens, what is there is our culture to support authentic love? It’s certainly not to be found in Las Vegas or Reno!

    This is what we are dealing with. Concreteness abounds and concreteness we must engage.

  • Michael J. Iafrate,

    Thanks for the reference to Cash.

    By the way, I enjoy reading your site. The series on Rahner and the Sinfulness of the Church has been interesting. It is powerful. I’ve always like Rahner — Spirit in the World.

    Sorry your great West Virginia Senator Byrd has been ill. In my mind, he towers as a political figure in America, along with Kennedy. It’s been much too long since new members of that body have been of their caliber. For the most part, they have been pedestrian.

  • Thanks, Gerald!

    Was it you who I was talking to on some other thread (it may also have been Mark D….) about the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies? I finally stopped in to their library today to pick up a journal article on Augustine’s Christology… neat library! But I felt like I was walking into the Pentagon, needing a permit and all that.

  • ES

    Wow. I’m catching up. Will try to post something when I’m done reading.

  • Pingback: alienation of affection | Hottags()

  • Yes, you spoke to me about the Institute. The Pontifical Institute is wonderful.

    Sorry about the security and all. Everyone needs a permit these days. Sometimes even a permit doesn’t do it.

    The fear in this country — and probably Canada — is so palpable its frightening in itself. Hopefully soon, we will wake up from this self-created nightmare and begin to engage life as a free people. We could begin by abolishing the Department of Homeland Security and returning the organization of the government to the way it was before 9/11.

    With the practice you’ve had, I’m sure you’d maneuver your way into the Pentagon with ease. LOL … unless you were singing some crazy anarchist song!!!

    And, of course, today is the Fortieth Anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. it is also the Fortieth Anniversary of my father’s funeral. For me, June 6, 1968 was quite a day.

  • Gerald,

    My studies went well. I just graduated from Rutgers. Time goes fast!

    I do agree with you that authentic love does not come from the structures of society. It can’t. Structures are necessary but they are fragile because of freedom as Benedict teaches us. So I agree with you on that point. Jurgen Moltmann’s critique of Benedict’s encyclical is that it does not seem to take into consideration the social order. In fact, he criticizes it because it seems that he makes a big distinction between the Church and the world–hope is in the Christian and there seems to be no hope for the world. But what I think he misses is that the hope of the world, because of the Spirit of Christ, is the Church, the Christian. The Christian has something that the world does not have, a certainty that all good things will last. The Christian, because he has love, needs to share the joy he has and therefore commune with the world; he needs to sit at the table with sinners. The structures that we have is one way that the Christian proposes Christ. That is why I think that we need to keep what is good, that is, marriage as taught to us by Christ.

    There is some sense that I am talking worlds apart from America as you said, but it is not because I am not engaged in the environment I am in. Hell, I did go to a very liberal university and even went to the great bars and clubs here. Rutgers is such a diverse university and I probably saw and experienced a lot of things that I would not have thought of before I went. I know how the State acts (heck, we even have embryonic stem cells research here in NJ, especially in Rutgers). But what is important is what distinguishes the Christian. The Christian has love. This distinction is what, paradoxically, unites him to everyone because what he has is not for him alone. I hang out with homosexual people and I find that the Church’s theology on homosexuality is insufficient. I have told that to my many homosexual friends. Yet, in order to improve the world, the environment we are in, ourselves, we need to hold on to what is lasting, to what I have received and renew it every day by committing myself to the great gift of Christ. And that gift comes through communing, from my friendship with others, hetero or homo. The Christian, then, is other-worldy that is of this world. There will be many heated debates on homosexual unions, but the only way we can understand the nature of homosexuality, of homosexual persons is when we live in the present moment with what we have received, Christ, and only in living with a critical attitude of Tradition, that is, connecting it with our experiences and understanding of today, can we truly understand what we have received. So when it comes to poverty, gay marriage, environment, embryonic stem cells, etc., the question is, the Christian acts from what he has received. To put it in another way, we need to educate people today of the fundamental needs of the heart by being a witness and only then can the State use the notions we use such as authentic love. What I’m asking (praying) for is a reform of the world. It does sound miles and miles away, but hey, something started here in Rutgers and I find, because of Christ, that this can be extended to the political and social structures of the country.

    Now for the uniqueness of the person. I wasn’t really working from natural law. What is needed, as Pope Benedict reminds us, is a connection between the Gospel and the natural law. So in what way is a person unique? Because of his talents? Because of his material composition? Because of his orientation? No. A person is unique because of his individual relationship with God: each is gazed by God differently. Every person has a unique relationship with the Mystery. This is expressed by our individuation, by our talents, and by our actions for each other. Yet, we are never reduced by our actions. They are part of us but we are not defined by them. We are defined by love and this is especially seen in our desire for the infinite, for justice, truth, goodness, love, etc. What is needed is an education of the heart. Homosexual orientation, then, is intrinsically disordered because it falls short of what the homosexual really desires. I myself cannot tell you what the homosexual desires. I can say “Christ” but that would be an abstraction. But I do think that homosexuals have a unique vocation, so unique that without it, without them, we would miss a glimpse of God’s affection for the world.

    I agree with you that marriage has been separated from communion. But that is why God responds with Christians. The Christian must revive the world, must remind the world, of this great communion we have.

    Finally, someone tells me, “F you. I hate you. I don’t love you.” Where is authentic love? Authentic love comes from loving her destiny, that is, whom she is made for. Ultimately, that is Christ. There were times, for example, when a particularl girl liked me and I liked her but it would be contrary to our destiny and our vocation. Authentic love comes from loving my and her destiny and vocation. To love a person is to love her destiny and if her destiny is not with me, I love her by affirming the truth of herself. This does not mean it is easy. Heck, I would even suggest that a person go to a bar and drink if a woman does not love him back. But love is broader than our conceptions.

    There was a man who was called to the priesthood who liked many girls. Some girl told him, “How can you be a priest if you like all these girls?” The man replied, “It is precisely because I love these girls that I will be a priest. The only way I can love them truly is by being a priest.” That’s what I meant by loving someone’s destiny.

    This, my friend, is concrete life. I did not get these things from reading Aquinas but from my experiences.

  • ES

    Brian begins quite explosively and provocatively with a hook that I have to bite: “‘Gay’ is not an ontological category.”

    And as I struggle with this and try to make sense of it, my confusion grows more and more. What isn’t ontological–what isn’t encapsulated by being?

    I have, in this little dialogue, attempted to stand up and say, “Here I am”–or “Hier stehe ich,” which perhaps taints me in this context. I’ve simply asked to be granted the general assumptions that we all grant to others when we speak with them: that they are the best judges of their own experiences. Instead, I’m met with a metaphysical argument for why I can’t exist and don’t.

    Along comes someone who tries to erase my description of my attempts at making sense of how I exist as a being that is drawn outward through my body into the world. He instead categorizes me and writes me off as a misdescription, a total misunderstanding of myself. Or maybe he’s just doing this to the category of people that he claims doesn’t exist.

    Gay may not be an ontological category. That is not an argument I’m interested in. But I exist and I experience my heart and my love in my body for a particular man in my life. There is lust, sure. I see other people, but I make choices aimed at integrating myself as I experience myself in relation to my partner. That exists, and I know that it enlivens me, makes me a better man, and he claims (although I have my doubts 😉 ) that I do the same for him.

    I suppose it is in some ways a revolutionary stance, one that comes up against the Lockean implications of consent, be they explicit or implicit, by which we supposedly exist in this Union.

    But, here we stand. And we insist that our love is not sick, that our lives are not disordered. They are different in some way, and (in reply to Saul in particular), there is an outstanding question whether that difference can be accommodated beneath the single institution of marriage. But we are not going away–we aren’t going to be erased by an argument that tells us that we can’t be judges of our own experiences.

    We submit ourselves to this Union as others have before: in politics and with our lives. Such submission is, I suppose, our explicit consent to be ruled and governed by the majority of which we form a part. And it is here, in dialogue with us, not in external, non-experiential descriptions of us, that the decisions have to be made, because they concern us, and we are not children. Yet, we will never forget that it is heterosexuals as the majority who are making decision about whether society should strengthen or withhold its strength from me and my partner’s–and millions of others’– attempts to live in a committed relationship. That help has not only been withheld, but we have to contend daily with arguments that say our love is not love but lust, our experiences are not mature but puerile, our consciences are not clear but warped, and our adult concern for children is violence (as Benedict XVI has said).

  • ES – you write beautifully. I hope you stick around, though I think I’ll understand if you can’t bear to.

  • ES


    This is all rather tame. And safe. I’m not getting beat up or having my life threatened.

  • Apolonio,

    Glad to hear your studies were to your satisfaction. It’s hard to believe you have graduated.

    First, let me say that your comments are extremely thoughtful. Very impressive indeed.

    Yes, structures are fragile because of freedom. But they can likewise be enriched because of freedom. What is significant in this regard is to recognize not merely moral failures embodied in the phrase culture of death but also the intelligible structures that give everything its form. In the culture debates, there is far too much emphasis upon the moral failings of the individual — upon behavior itself. Yet the intelligible structures that serve as the cause of that moral failing are ignored as though they don’t exist. This is a consequence of the nominalistic/voluntaristic culture in which we live. It is the Protestant background that taints Catholic thought in America.

    In looking at the world — and the contradictions it unleashes that frustrate our most fundamental urgings — we have to stop and ask: What are the challenges? and What are the opportunities? In both regards — challenges and opportunities — we have to go beyond moral failings. There is a need to address the intellectual structures that underpin moral failings. If we don’t go to the intellectual underpinning, we are bound to fail in all we do. That is, we will fail strategically, Such is the flawed approach that has dogged society during these culture wars. It is this failed approach — this focus on human behavior — which makes today’s problems seem so intractable.

    Freedom resists slavery. Yet, we continue to use every means at our disposal to change behavior without changing the causes of behavior. We pay little attention to inclining the heart in ways that are transformative — in ways that allow change to proceed from the inside out rather than being imposed upon behavior from the outside. Once again, this is our Protestant heritage at work — nominalism/voluntarism.

    So, like you say, an appreciation of freedom is critical to the task ahead. Much of our future will be of our own making. Much will not. But the upshot is that we are not imprisoned in this world as though we were frozen in time. We can progress towards a realization of those heroic qualities that are latent within and open to us through Grace. We can effect some kind of transformation in the world, albeit slowly and painfully.

    In fundamental respects, then, the key here is what you allude to in your first paragraph. The Christian has something the world does not have, as you say. It has love. Such a pregnant statement. For it is love that is the key to transforming the world. It is love that heals the wounds of spiritual alienation and allows us to address seemingly intractable problems such as homelessness, violence, substance abuse, and on and on. Love completes each person as an image of a Trinitarian God. It makes an individual complete.

    [Now, since its very late, I’ll have to follow up on this again tomorrow.]

  • HA

    But if you really wish to embrace ES as your brother, I think you are going to have to deal with the obvious — your (and the Church’s) intention to treat gays like ES with love, respect and compassion is in profound conflict with the formulation that homosexuality is intrinsically “disordered.”

    I disagree. I believe, as I must, that every non-Catholic faith is in some way “defective”, to use Vatican formulation in regards to Protestants. It does not follow – and here is where the confusion seems to start – that it is acceptable to beat up the kid with the yarmulke or to ridicule the kid with the funny religion that doesn’t believe in birthdays.

    That being said, we have to realize that the distinction has historically been lost on many Catholics. For that reason, we do have to be cautious in how we treat gays and lesbians. The persistent notion that the sexual abuse scandal in the Church would have been so much better if priests had by and large molested girls is an indication we still have a way to go. Until we take those extra steps, we’re going to sound like Lot telling the men of Sodom that he’d willingly hand his daughters over to them do do whatever they may please if they would just desist from doing what residents of Sodom are known for doing.

    But just because we’re not supposed to put up with gay-bashing doesn’t mean we have to give up on the notion that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. Yes, it may well be that genetics plays a major role in determining it. So what? Alcoholism, another intrinsically disordered condition, also might have genetic precursors, and telling alcoholics they must not do what they would so much love to do doesn’t mean that they aren’t wonderful people otherwise, or even that their condition isn’t somehow part of what makes them wonderful. I doubt I would have come up with the words “intrinsically disordered” myself, but given some of the sadness and misery that gays inflict on each other — which can make even the dysfunctional maze of heterosexual modern love seem tame by comparison – I think the Vatican is on to something, and it is those who try and blame everything on the hurtful and exclusionary breeders who could stand a reality check. I’d submit digby’s rants earlier in this thread as a case in point.

    There’s plenty of gay people who haven’t given up on me, despite what they see as my benighted views towards their lifestyle. God bless them. By the same token, I’m not giving up on them either.

  • HA

    I know gay people, who love each other, and whose sexual expression seems to come from a loving place. It’s hard to call that a sin.

    I know of people who are on their second or third marriage (sometimes simultaneously) whose sexual expression likewise seems to come from a loving place. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something fundamentally wrong and broken in that relationship, nor does it mean that my love and acceptance of such individuals as people means I approve of their actions. Likewise, the fact that there are plenty of Jews, Muslims and atheists who are better-adjusted than the majority of Christians I’ve known doesn’t mean I need to give up on the notion of heresy or the truths of Christianity (though I admit it took a while work through that).

  • Catholic teaching on marriage is complex — in part because it has not been fleshed out and there are different, contradictory positions within Catholicism (East/West, for example) which remain side by side without much work to unite them (there are some superficial explanations used, but they don’t really get to the core differences).

    From what I understand of the Western perspective: it’s the couple who give the sacrament to one another, and the Church has to be a witness to the event. The couple has to be two baptized Christians, and, of course, they have to have a fair understanding of marriage and agree to all its dictates (openness to children, understand the sacrament cannot be dissolved, etc). In this way, two Protestants can (and historically often did) have the sacrament; it is for this reason a divorced/remarried Protestant who becomes Catholic has to go through the annulment process (and from what I understand, one of the largest groups of people seeking annulments in the US). In theory there can be, and sometimes is, a sacrament there; most of the time, because of the misunderstanding of marriage in modern society, it isn’t.

    For the East, it is the priest which gives the sacrament to the couple. Of course there has to be consent (and it’s here the superficial response says it still is the couple giving the sacrament; but that’s not the case, really). Thus, in the West a deacon can represent the Church; in the East, they celebrant has to be someone with priestly faculties.

  • ES

    “Alcoholism, another intrinsically disordered condition, also might have genetic precursors, and telling alcoholics they must not do what they would so much love to do doesn’t mean that they aren’t wonderful people otherwise, or even that their condition isn’t somehow part of what makes them wonderful.”

    I love it when my love for another and his for me is compared to a chemical dependency that destroys a person’s ability to function in the world. This is just nonsense.

  • Apolonio,

    Your interest in love as the transformative principle in society — politics, economics, etc. — is quite on par with what I’ve been pursuing for close to two decades. Love is a notion — a relation, a reality — that is pregnant with enormous potential for making America (not being nationalistic here) a better place.

    The problem is that America has at its core the Hobbesean notion of the autonomous individual — the non-relational, atomistic individual. To address this principle — and to awaken American’s to a Trinitarian view of the individual as intrinsically relational, and made for love — has always been for me a first step in transforming the world. But this requires a collective effort and it requires a new concrete language. There are some who recognize this, but the many do not.

    When you say that an individual is made unique because of his individual relationship with God, I can agree. But what does this mean? How can it be expressed so as to have an influence on the world? And how do we educate the heart? Evangelicals say they have a unique relationship with Christ. Well, this says almost nothing about the relationship and quite a lot about the individual.

    When you say that homosexuality is an “intrinsic disorder” in that it falls short of what the homosexual really desires, it seems your singling out homosexuality as something especially horrendous. But what is to distinguish homosexuality from any other thing that falls short of what we really desire?

    And then you proceed say that they have a unique vocation. Doesn’t this appear contradictory. I agree with the later statement. They do bring something to the world — a unique gift, as it were — that enhances the world in unique ways. But how can something be perceived as intrinsically evil and yet be a glimpse of God’s affection for the world?

    Marriage is a mess. This is obvious. In that regard, perhaps there is too much emphasis on the nuclear family. The nuclear family is MY family. This seems little more than atomistic individualism brought into the room through the back door.

    How would you see using love to make the world a better place? Any concrete thoughts. Would you address specific problems such as youth violence within this new framework? How about America’s relations with the world? Could you critique reality shows from that perspective? How about a new kind of leadership and language that inspires individuals to act from the better part of themselves? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • ES,

    Just wanted to let you know that your thoughts are greatly appreciated. Hope to hear more from you.

    Testimonials such as yours not only challenge conventional thinking, they provide opportunities to deepen our understanding of the human person and community.

  • HA

    I love it when my love for another and his for me is compared to a chemical dependency that destroys a person’s ability to function in the world.

    No analogy is perfect, but one has to do with what one can find. I take alcoholism as a desire (with possible genetic precursors) to do something that is harmful. As I understand it, the Church’s take on homosexuality is that it is a desire (with possible genetic precursors) to do something that is morally illicit (i.e. takes a somewhat broader view than just viewing homosexuality as your “love for another”).

    If you find that analogy to be nonsense, I’d say we disagree on the whole concept of analogy as much as on the underlying issue, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that if you take a less inflammatory definition of alcoholism than the one you gave, and a less selective definition of homosexuality, you might better see where I was going, but I’d rather not argue over semantics.

  • Liam


    As a rhetorical matter, if you ever want to communicate and persuade gay/lesbian people, drop that analogy pronto. It virtually guarantees you will be understood by that audience. The analogy is quite inapt; that all you can see is how apt it is is a sign (perhaps erroneous, but it will be the sign the audience receives) that you are not thinking through the issue in depth. The faculty of love is quite different from the faculty of the appetites. When you use the analogy, it makes it seem you think sexual orientation is merely a difference of appetite – while it has dimensions that partake of appetite, at a deeper level it involves the faculty of love. The very faculty we have to use in our relationship not just with each other but God.

    So, step back from the woefully inadequate analogy. I understood it make work for you and many others who simply need to be persuaded of how right y’all are. But it’s not only useless but counterproductive if you actually want to persuade others. And, to that extent, it actually gets in the way of the Spirit’s work.

  • Liam

    Sorry, the second sentence above got overtyped and now means exactly the opposite of what I wrote: it should read

    “It virtually guarantees you will be understoo by that audience as not having a clue”.

  • HA

    My larger point, one that i see too often, is that homosexuality’s possible genetic connections is probative in demonstrating that the Church’s take on it is irrelevant or out of date. For the record, the analogy was not meant to imply that appetite for excessive amounts of alcohol is the same as love of another, but to the extent that is too easily lost on any particular target audience, I appreciate the correction and will keep it in mind.

    You touch on a more fundamental issue. I.e., delineating the desire/appetite/longing within homosexuality from the love associated with it is a larger challenge and it goes to the heart of what the Church finds wrong with homosexuality. “Love of another” is a beautiful turn of phrase, but we’re not talking Dante and Beatrice here (that goes for much of what is associated with heterosexuality as well).

  • HA

    Sorry, substitute “homosexual acts” for “homosexuality”.

  • Liam


    And the Church, in its teaching officers and many who affirm what they say without misgiving, appears uninterested (except in a slight conceptual way) that work. So it is being done ahead of the teaching officers, Hardly the first time that’s happened. Perhaps except for some who are graced with the charism of celibacy (something the CHurch has not said gay people are graced with as such), an important – even vital – part of how adults learn to deepen their love for God comes from a place where there own capacity for romantic love for one another is cultivated and valued, even if not reciprocated. The philosophical formulae of the CDF statement, neatly resolving some things at one level, stir up far deeper problems at the level I and others are highlighting but that conveniently go ignored at the level of the teaching office. Oh well. Life goes on.

    But it might help some to know that and understand that it is this dynamic – not mere desire for orgasmic love on demand – is what’s really ruddering things people assume are ruddered at a more shallow level.

  • HA

    As far as the first paragraph, I will agree with you that tying up the arguments involved in this discussion is a process that is nowhere near completion.

    As for your second paragraph, I would simply rephrase slightly what I said at 2:18 this morning (in a way I think was already implicit there) and stipulate that there are indeed homosexual relationships in which the partners seem far more loving (and ruddered at a deeper level) than many if not most of most of the heterosexual ones I’ve come across. Just as in the case of genetic precursors, such stipulations are largely beside the point, as hard as that might be for some people to believe. I say that not to be contentious or obtuse, but rather, to better ensure that people are not simply talking past one another.

  • HA

    Please insert a “However,” before the “Just”. Sorry, long night.

  • It seems that the Catholic understanding of sexuality doesn’t adequately visualize a continuum: a sexual act is either “licit” or “illicit” either “just fine” or a “grave sin” – and I think that makes the Church’s standard discussion of sexual morality somewhat lacking for lots of folks.

  • Liam


    That’s partly because the treatment of sexual acts in moral theology is anomalous in the sense that it is one of the few areas where definitions are generally drawn so that the analysis is almost entirely deductive rather than using both lungs of reason (deduction and induction). I have encountered justifications for why this is so, but I have to say they seemed more arbitrary than persuasive to a person such as myself eager to be persuaded but not eager to fake being persuaded (what can I say, I grew up in an engineer’s family where the only thing worse than saying “I don’t agree” was to say “I agree” but not fully understand why so that one could argue it as well and mean it – my parents hated fakery of all sorts, and I guess I assumed that applied to apologetics…since my parents don’t fake in that area either).

  • Matt,

    I was struck by Henry’s comment above: “Catholic teaching on marriage is complex — in part because it has not been fleshed out and there are different, contradictory positions within Catholicism”

    If this is true of marriage, one can only imagine what lies behind the Church’s teachings on sexuality. My sense is that the teaching on sexuality is about as inadequate and grim as it can get.

    I recall from long ago a comment made by Maritain about the artist. The question of homosexuality was the backdrop and Maritain was asked how God would judge the artist. Maritain, who had a keen appreciation of art and the artist, said cryptically: “God has His own way with his artists.”

    I’ve never forgotten that comment. It’s as though he recognized there was a deeper mystery here that needed to be explored. My sense is that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of sexuality.

  • Liam,

    “analysis is almost entirely deductive rather than using both lungs of reason (deduction and induction).”

    Maritain speaks of a third way of knowledge: “The notion of knowledge through connaturality — that is, of a kind of knowledge which is produced in the intellect but not by virtue of conceptual connections and by way of demonstration …” He goes on to say that this kind of knowledge leads us to realize the deeper significance of the analogical character of the concept of knowledge. Such knowing through love plays an immense role in our understanding of the singular and, in particular, our person-to-person relations.

  • Gerald –

    My sense is that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of sexuality.

    Here’s hoping there are more posts on that topic here at VN 🙂

  • Gerald,

    There are so many questions you have asked that I want to answer them all but I cannot do so in a comment box. Maybe a nice exchange through email or phone conversation would be better. But I would like to tackle your question on how we can educate the heart, how we can transform the world through love. I think one of the most fundamental truth we have to educate ourselves and each other is our freedom. When you said that I was not living in America but in an abstract way, I was really tempted to say, “No! America is the one living in a utopia!” America’s notion of freedom is what you said it is and this is not the right notion of freedom. Freedom is the capacity to truth, the capacity to adhere to being. That is why I have mentioned over again that when it comes to communion to pro-abortion politicians, homosexual unions, poverty, etc, the problem is our notion of freedom. David Schindler would be proud of us. But anyway, that’s another topic I will try to tackle some day. I think the most important question you asked me is about the transformation of the world through love, of educating the heart.

    First, I would say that there is no one way to educate the heart because each heart is unique. Second, I would say that it is a temptation to have in mind “Communio” and then try to apply it to the world. That’s not how it really works. This is more like a utopia since a utopia is based on an idea rather than an event, rather than a presence. So what should we do? Well, we have to be simple, that is, understand our own hearts. What do we really desire in life? Do our experiences correspond to them? Which do and which don’t? To put it in another way, a transformation of the world comes from an event, a presence, a Person. It is something **given**. In high school to college, I believe I had a call to reform the Church somehow. It’s a bit silly when I think about the things I have done. I laugh at it when I look back. I remember telling my bishop and the priests of my diocese that we need a reform. After trying really hard, I remember telling Christ in the Eucharist, “I cannot reform your Church. It’s too big.” That was summer of 2006. That fall semester, I encountered two people from the movement Communion and Liberation that changed my life. I did not want to be part of the movement. In fact, I had many criticisms. I also thought it was too basic. But looking back, it was providential. I had longed to talk about Christ to many people not just in an abstract way but in such a way that I can express His concreteness. These two people gave me that opportunity. I saw that they took their desires for truth, justice, beauty, and love seriously and I wanted to stay with them. Well, it took a while. In fact, it took Msgr. Albacete and my friend to tell me that I should stay, that the movement needed me. I saw it as a begging from God. As I look back now, there were many times when we were studying and failed to realize the reason why we studied, why we went to school. What, in fact, was I looking for in a university? This is where our friendship was necessary for me to understand and desire the reason for my existence in the university. Our getting together to say the Angelus at 1 pm, eating lunch together, getting bubble tea in between classes, reminded why we go to school. This is what we need today, to use our reason not necessarily in an academic way, but by being alert to our hearts. I would go to class, then, with a recognition that at that moment in the classroom, God is begging for me to listen, for my heart to keep in touch with reality. So what is needed is getting together with those who take their desires seriously and keeping in touch with them, **following** them. That is what following Christ means: it is following a concrete person, following a person who takes their vocations seriously. They will help you judge reality as it really is, that is, it is much more beautiful than it really is. An education of the heart, then, needs friendship. Friends are those who take their desires seriously. But it is not like we get together because we have the same mission in life or because we like each other’s personalities. We get together because Someone else has put us together, made us attract each other. It is grace, God putting us together so that we do not live in solitude: God-with-us.

    So what have we done in Rutgers? It’s not like we talked about Christ all the time. In fact, I have not yet found someone who is well-versed in Balthasar so that I can converse with him on many issues in person. We talked about relationships, football games, work, music, etc. In other words, we talked about what makes us human. That is how we are going to educate the heart–when we try to understand what really makes us human. What makes us human is our reason, our desire for the Infinite. That’s true in my experience. Although I have a joyful experience in, say, a vacation where I can see beauty on top of a mountain, I still want more. Inspired by our friendship, we wanted to generate, to share what we have and what we want to know. True friendship must generate. So, we thought of having an event on beauty so we invited a musician to talk to us about the fifth symphony of Beethoven here in Rutgers. Then after the tragedy last year, we invited our friends to watch a movie and judge it. This year, we invited a friend of ours to talk about faith and reason as well as my Jewish professor of philosophy. Did we intend to do this? Was it our personal effort?No. While I was in class, I was struck at what my professor was saying about Maimonides and the idea just came to my head that I should invite him. Again, an event and a response.

    What is needed to educate the heart is a risk, is a true understanding of freedom. What is needed is to *win* them over by being a witness. It’s really simple. That’s how love transforms the world. But this is not one event thing. It must generate. When I judge something to be an encounter, this means that this is when I need Christ because he alone can make what is good lasting. A simple act like inviting your friends to listen to a symphony or go hiking is what will transform the world. We must be wounded by Beauty.

    Okay, there are a lot of other things that must be said. I tried to be concrete as I can. I do believe I have answered some of your other questions implicitly. To summarize, for me, I believe that I needed to reform the Church and by reforming the Church, reforming myself, can I truly serve the world. Faithfulness is always ecclesial and only when a person is fully ecclesiastical can he transform the world. I really have no excuses. I wanted to reform the Church and Christ said, “Okay, here it is. Here is the reform I have started a long time ago. You get to partake in it.” We have the tools. We have what we need, the sacraments, rosary, morning and evening prayers, school of communities, charitable work, etc. Grace is sufficient. I would definitely love to continue this discussion.

  • Apolonio,

    Get in touch at:


    Would love to pursue these themes with you.

  • ES

    Gays are like alcoholics, argues HA, because…wait…genetics? Am I getting this right?

    I wish that I had not been travelling all day yesterday, so that I could have commented sooner.

    I’m finding that maybe my way of going about my life is a bit odd, if recourse to biological substructuring must serve as a source of legitimacy and explanation for why I feel the way I feel. Seriously, who here does this?

    For me, the inapplicability of the analogy is obvious: alcoholism, or shall we say the compulsive over-use of alcohol, destroys a person’s ability to function, in some way, always and everywhere. Working alcoholics often make it through life, but with ramifications that lessen their ability to interact and flourish.

    In other words, there is evidence that the over-use of alcohol is damaging. And biologist have been able to discover that some people are genetically pre-disposed toward it. The damaging condition existed first; then science stepped in to look for causes.

    The only analogy that I see here between alcoholism and men and women like myself is one of method. We were labelled sick, and a cause has been sought in our genetic make-up.

    But, where is the same kind of evidence that how we understand ourselves and try to integrate ourselves causes us, always and everywhere, either to fall apart or to cope with severe negative ramifications?

    The method, it seems to me, has framed us, made our interpretations of our experiences dismissable, and so we get shoved into a box that says what we are calling love is a genetic disorder.

    Now, that is my first step. But, I’d like to turn this around briefly. I’d just like to notice that for those who are classed “normal,” such framing never happens. The straight person’s love is never thought to be fully captured in a genetic description. The attempts to do so have been laughed at.

    But for gays and lesbians, we are put under the microscope and all the distorting frames of science are brought to bear as explanations of our behaviors. And then, when we call attention to the simple point that this is not how anyone goes about living life, about understanding him or herself, about figuring out the world, that preconception of us (that Vorgriff) seems to get in the way.

  • ES

    One other point. Who is so confused to think that the alcoholic’s desire for a drink is the same experience as two people for one another to have a life together, a family together, conversations, memories, dreams dreamt and fulfilled, sadnesses suffered, and milestones passed? Really, seriously, who?

  • ES,

    “The damaging condition existed first; then science stepped in to look for causes.

    The only analogy that I see here between alcoholism and men and women like myself is one of method. We were labelled sick, and a cause has been sought in our genetic make-up.”

    Good point. But the scientific shortcoming you describe goes much further.

    The scientific method does not even seek to discover causation. A cause is that which brings something into being. This is not the object of science. The scientific method seeks to describe correlations. But, a correlation is not a cause. It is a mere association of antecedents and consequents.

    Yet, in the public mind — and politically motivated researchers — there is a great confusion about the difference between a cause and a correlation. When science speaks of correlations, people think of causes.

    There is something existential about the reality of homosexuality. I’m inclined to think of it as a Gift. And like other gifts, it’s not so much what you have been given, but rather what you do with what you’ve been given. I wish more people would explore the positive dimension of homosexuality.

    Are you familiar with any such phenomenological descriptions?

  • ES

    Hi Gerald.

    Thanks for elaborating on science. It makes sense: there are genes, they are involved in x, y, and z, but that does not meet the requisite description of a cause. For me, the bigger issue is that, for those who use genes as a way of arguing against or for same-sex love, the issue is already decided: “you’re sick; see here’s the cause” or “we’re fine; see it’s in our genes.” That the argument can be made on either side calls for some other source of evidence.

    I don’t read much in gay studies, so unfortunately, I don’t have anywhere I could point you, but I’ll ask around and see what I can find.

  • ES,

    ” That the argument can be made on either side calls for some other source of evidence.”

    Precisely. The same is true of social science studies that try to explain the “causes” of homelessness, substance abuse, and youth violence. These studies address the obvious. They elaborate the correlations. But they never explain “why?”. Yet, if you don’t know “why?” something happens, how can you prevent it from happening? The simple answer is: you can’t.

    Thanks for getting back.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    As I am sure you realize, as faulty as such analaogical comparisons are by themselves, it is completely another story in the pre-reflective discourses in which they are embedded and through which we always already socially operate.

    On their own, these comparisons are as light and flimsy as mildweed in the air. But in our given, dominant discourses fraught, with both irrational and hegemonic, ideological power, they have tragically and inhumanely much, much weight.

    This is why reflective, courageous and vulnerable face to face relations, in which pre-judgments are suspended and the other can appear as Other and with infinite worth as an end unto himeslf/herself, are so neceaasry if we are to (re)build a civilivation of love, justice and understanding.

  • Mark DeFrancisis,

    It’s not insignificant that science relegates personal stories to the status of anecdotal information, i.e., something which doesn’t measure up to the canons of scientific evidence.

    The validity of this judgment about the value of the story needs to be addressed on its own merits.

    We listen to scientific jargon — I’m speaking of the social sciences here — and we do so without much questioning. Take a look at congressional hearings, if you don’t believe me. Then we act on the basis of the scientific evidence that is presented. But much — so, so much — of the evidence that is presented through social science studies is just flimflam. Even worse, it precludes us taking a deeper look at the nature of the problems we confront.

    The personal story is more penetrating and more truthful than the mountains of scientific evidence. There is universality in a person’s story. Scientific evidence is too often sheer distortion, as ES has said.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted because of our uncritical believe in the veracity of social science studies. I firmly believe that the major reason we haven’t even begun to solve social problems like homelessness, substance abuse, and youth violence is because of our reliance on social science methodology. It has no capacity to explain causation and therefore is an inappropriate guide for action.

  • HA

    For me, the inapplicability of the analogy is obvious: alcoholism, or shall we say the compulsive over-use of alcohol, destroys a person’s ability to function, in some way, always and everywhere. Working alcoholics often make it through life, but with ramifications that lessen their ability to interact and flourish.

    In thinking over Liam’s suggestions, I will allow that given the possibility for confusion, and the obvious eagerness of some people to take offense where no offense is intended, I should have qualified the limits of the analogy as follows: the inordinate craving of a substance is not at all the same as the desire for a person. But sorry, that’s about as far I’m willing to go.

    Catholics already know, for example, that coveting things is not the same as coveting a person, which is why we number the ten commandments in the way we do. (And please, let’s not anyone jump all over my introduction of the word “covet” — I realize ES’s love is not to be reduced to that, either.) Regardless, the formal similarity between the 9th and 10th commandments, as Catholics enumerate them, is strong enough to warrant an analogy, at least to those who aren’t looking to poke holes or score points.

    In other words, thanks very much, but I think I already get it: craving a substance is one thing, and the inclination to direct one’s romantic energies exclusively persons of the same sex (not to mention the abiding love and devotion that follows) is another. Like, *duh*.

    Nevertheless, both may have a strong genetic foundation (i.e. are not “chosen”), and both are liable to get you in trouble from a Catholic moral perspective, and to the extent they do, the claim that “genetics made me do it” is not going to get anyone off the hook. So just to that extent, the analogy holds water. If you or Liam or anyone else disagrees, that’s your right and I respect that. I happen to feel otherwise, though if you have a better analogy to illustrate the point I am trying to get across, please feel free to suggest it. Otherwise, I’m sticking with it (though I will be more explicit with the qualifiers, and to that extent, I honestly appreciate you and Liam pointing all this out. And while I do appreciate your point that you yourself are not interested in the “ontological” aspects of homosexuality, others do find that topic relevant.)

    As for Liam’s warning that use of such an analogy gives a gay or lesbian listener the immediate impression that I have no clue as to what they’re all about — again, I appreciate the warning, but frankly, I reach that point the minute I let a gay or lesbian know I’m a Catholic and that’s the take on homosexuality I go with. I mean, the game is pretty much up at that point, and to the extent they’re willing to continue a discussion, it’s rarely to try and understand, but rather, it’s to pick apart things and let me know how much I have to learn. I suspect the discussion here is a case in point. It’s great that Liam is trying to act as something of a mediator, and I’m so sorry the CDF couldn’t have put out a document that met with his unqualified approval or that didn’t stir up deeper problems for him and others, but hey, maybe someday they’ll get it right. Here’s hoping. In the meantime, such assurances sidestep the more fundamental issue, which is that anyway you slice it, a person in a gay relationship is not going to be well-disposed (to put it mildly) to a religion that tells him the physical expressions of his love are sinful. Pretending that there’s some way of framing the arguments honestly without deeply alienating or offending some people is an exercise in futility.

    Furthermore, ES, I think you need to take a slightly less reductionistic view of alcoholism, or else hang around with a nicer set of alcoholics, and you might come up with a more comprehensive and less crude definition of the term than the one you gave. After all, some of them are pretty wonderful people who have done some amazing things with their lives, and it is quite possible that the biological forces that predispose them to their condition are also partly responsible for the many gifts they’ve given this world.

    Watch out for that last sentence, by the way. It could also be applied verbatim to another group of people, but if anyone does that, he or she may well find that they’ve run afoul of the sensitivity police who are looking to make another bust. Just saying.

    Lastly, I liked that opening line yesterday at 6:57. Anyone who uses snide sarcasm to make a point is all right in my book, but rather than point out that there are probably numerous other similarities to our world views, perhaps to the point of making us kindred spirits, let me not risk ticking you off further and leave it at that.

    I will try to check back, but to the extent there are any other complaints, please note that I might not be able to answer for a while.

  • Liam


    I suspect your problem it getting gay and lesbian people to take you serious is not entirely a function of your Catholicism but your rhetorical posture that it is you who are bringing the Truth to the conversation. Really skilled Catholic apologists have been trained to learn the dangers in that temptation, and to be alert to how God might well be bringing the Truth to us in those whom we are trying to persuade.

    And it’s not only the sensitivity police that’s critiquing you here. If you think it is, you are deluding yourself.

  • ES


    Thank you for your long reply. In regard to your advice that I “need to take a slightly less reductionistic view of alcoholism, or else hang around with a nicer set of alcoholics,” I’m guessing that we’ve talked past each other, and I’d like to draw out what that seems to be.

    In that sentence, you draw a distinction, one that I think is valid, between alcoholism and an alcoholic.

    When I was writing about your arguments from analogy, I probably should have seen how that distinction was not only operative in what you were saying, but how it is something I don’t find applicable to being gay.

    So, just for the record, I did not mean to malign alcoholics, those who I identify as having the condition of alcoholism. I do think, however, that I wasn’t reducing them to their condition. I was simply trying to give a description of the condition and what it can do if a person, say, “embraces it.” The consequences I described were the consequences flowing from an “embrace” of the condition as good.

    Now, let’s move over the distinction that you want to hold between the “homosexual condition” and the person. So, on the one hand, there are those who have this “condition” and they can either fight it or embrace it, in the same way that an alcoholic can with alcoholism.

    But this is part of the problem with the analogy: those who have “embraced” having a “homosexual condition” would never say that they are embracing something that will warp their lives and tear them apart and even kill them. Instead, everyone I’ve ever met who’s done this “embracing,” and I speak for myself as well, sees it as a healing event, a learning to love oneself, not a condition in oneself. And that learning to love oneself also makes one’s love for others possible and greater.

    Also, I’m not sure how to react to your experiences of getting into discussion about being gay. I hope that my attempts at conversing can be seen as sincere attempts to point out my genuine reactions to how I am being described.

    I can see why others have an interest in the “ontological” question, but I honestly don’t know how to speak to it other than simply to say: here I am and here is how I understand myself. When someone says, no, what you’re experiencing is really a disorder, I want to know how I can judge that to be a disorder, when to take it as such would mean to throw away my self. I want to see the harm that is supposed to be coming from this disorder, so that we can locate this as a condition, and so that I can know that really, deep down, I’m straight and some wires have been crossed.

    Prove to me that I’m sick. I’m not offended by your insistence that you believe I am (although, I do think that Liam’s point about rhetoric is true in most cases). I am offended by your insistence to stand by an a priori that lacks evidence.

    I have embraced this “condition” whole-heartedly and my life flows from how it directs me in all the choices I make, in the same way that everyone’s sexuality is at the heart of how his or her life is ordered. If my life is flowing from something that is intrinsically disordered, I should be a complete and total wreck, shouldn’t I?

  • HA

    Duly noted. The gays and lesbians I’ve had the pleasure of knowing may be a rougher sort when it comes to exchanging opinions, but then they know what I think of them and to the extent they are able to reciprocate that feeling, are able take it all in stride. I’m happy you and really skilled apologists have had more success with your approach, but I honestly think you’re leaving a few things out. And for what it’s worth, rest assured that i reserve the snide sarcasm for those who have themselves previously demonstrated a skill with it.

    Deep down, I continue to suspect you and ES do have some sense of where I was going with the analogy, your fulsome objections notwithstanding. I, for my part, sincerely acknowledge the dangers that come with it and will keep them in mind. Honestly, I think that’s the most we can hope to get out of this for now, but tomorrow is another day, and I’ll keep at it.

  • ES


    I’m confused by this sentence, “Deep down, I continue to suspect you and ES do have some of where I was going with the analogy.”

    I thought it was this: homosexuals (you’re term, not mine) are sick like alcoholics are sick.

    I’m guessing by your sentence, however, that you were trying to say something else? If I have missed your point, I am sorry.

  • HA

    My previous comment was directed towards Liam, by the way.

    If my life is flowing from something that is intrinsically disordered, I should be a complete and total wreck, shouldn’t I?

    No, not necessarily. As I noted there are many people on their 3rd and 4th marriage who are in deeply loving and nourishing situations. The problems in such cases lie elsewhere. I think that’s the heart of explaining the rest of your questions, but given my previous record, I suspect I may not be up to the task of going beyond without ruffling more feathers, and I assure you, I get my kicks in less malevolent ways.

    (Please note that analogizing your situation to divorced or polygamous people is also one that lends itself to easy misinterpretation and even offense. I fully acknowledge that your situation has important distinctions from theirs, that you are not necessarily guilty in your life of having done anything nearly so vile as abandon a spouse, or the like — in short, I hope you will take the comparison in the spirit I intended it. Lest my previous use of sarcasm throw you off, let me further assure you that I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever.)

  • HA

    I thought it was this: homosexuals (you’re term, not mine) are sick like alcoholics are sick.

    No, that wasn’t my intent. As noted, I would have done well to qualify my analogy better, and given how sensitive a topic this is, and how often people actually *do* mean to demean and insult in conversations like this, your and Liam’s objections are appreciated.

  • ES


    Thank you for your response. I’d also encourage you to speak and not to feel that you need to silence yourself. Having experienced enough of that in my life, I for my part do not wish to have that effect.

    It would be nice if you’d do so without using analogies that seem to clarify, but then (from my perspective) obfuscate.

    For example: to compare my life to that of someone who’s been through multiple marriages doesn’t really address the specific content (or in the terms of Thomism, the specific difference) of my life that is objectionable. It is clear that someone who’s been through multiple marriages is having a problem with fidelity or stability or maybe something else that makes commitment to another over a life-span extremely difficult or impossible. But are we then to assume that this content is present always and everywhere in the lives of gay and lesbian people? That is, I’m assuming, unreasonable, for it does not apply to myself and many others.

    The same goes for your analogy to alcoholism. It is clear that alcoholism causes damage to someone who embraces it. But how does that shed light on gay and lesbian people?

    So, in other words, while the analogies might be inviting, once interrogated, I come away scratching my head and wondering what kind of light they are supposed to shed on how I understand myself and live my life. The analogues contain clear and specific problems that are (it seems) intended as explications of what is supposed to be my problem. What seems to come across to me, however, is there is no clear and specific problem that can be identified, which might explain why analogies are being resorted to.

    I do not, in any way, want to impune the sincerity of your arguments, as if to imply that they are put forth to obfuscate. Yet, if there is another way that you could try and identify what precisely the problem is, without trying to compare it to something else, that would be helpful.

  • HA

    Thank you, that’s very gracious indeed. I’m not sure which analogy you were referring to, but let me take the associated arguments in turn (feel free to skip to section 2) if that’s the one you were referring to — as I suspect it was).

    1) the fact that some *behavior* (not the best word, I know) has a potentially genetic component (regardless of whether that’s even relevant) has nothing to do with whether or not it’s considered permissible, in Catholic ethics. That’s about the only way I can put it. To me, being straight, or being gay, or being an alcoholic, or being an “alpha male type”, or else, an introvert, etc. — I could make the list pretty long — are all just conditions that give us a certain set of drives, energies, motivations, etc. It’s worth noting that I wouldn’t immediately associate alcoholism with being “sick” to the extent that you seem to any more than I’d immediately associate homosexuality with some forms of it that I think we all could agree are extreme and even pathological (but which some people do anyway in discussions like these). In any case, I take your point that sick or not, you’re not using the word in order to stigmatize or denigrate alcoholics or anyone else. Ultimately, to say that one is gay, straight, or an alcoholic, or possessing perfect pitch, says little to me about one’s life unless I also know something about how one faces the challenges and opportunities associated with each of those conditions. Granted, it’s very, very hard to be gay and Catholic — the burden is grossly lopsided there, and I wish I knew what to do about that. In any case, the genetic causes of a behavior don’t tell us enough — in fact they tell us little — about whether it is ethical.

    By the way, (to digress even further) I used to think, perhaps like Gerald A does, that the semantics involved in how we sometimes restrict definitions of a concept to its more extreme manifestations (i.e. reserving the word “alcholic” only for those who are clinically dysfunctional) was in fact the solution as to how Christianity should regard homosexuality. I.e., we could come to agree, for example, that Biblical proscriptions against homosexual acts were actually specifying extra-marital and non-monogamous homosexual acts, so that monogamous homosexuality could thereby become licit. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I was being naïve in thinking that way, but maybe I’m wrong. I actually hope so.

    2) With regard to my second analogy, the one about the 2nd or 3rd marriage, let me likewise simply attest that a feeling, however heartfelt and sincere, that something is wonderful, life-affirming and just plain right and good, doesn’t make it so, alas. (Even allowing for the fact that you’re basing that assessment on much more than simply a “feeling”, which I have no doubt.) Maybe that’s something that doesn’t need further explanation either. After all, I’ve certainly come across plenty of situations where feeling right about something (as well as any other evidence on which that feeling might be based) ultimately proved to be a poor guide.

    That’s about the best I can do. I guess I always like to think all this through in analogies myself, and given that I always know where I’m going with them, the likelihood of clouding the issue is far smaller, but without them, I’m at a bit of a loss.

    Perhaps Liam or someone else here has something more comprehensive to offer.

  • HA

    I suspect your problem it getting gay and lesbian people to take you serious is not entirely a function of your Catholicism but your rhetorical posture

    Let me expand a bit on my previous answer here as well, given that I had to cut myself short earlier. Upon reflection, I continue to feel that my primary “problem”, as Liam puts it — at least when it comes to the gay people I interact with — is my holding to a religion that officially regards any sexual activity between gay people to be sinful. No matter how gently that fact is delivered, no matter how much I point out that in the end we’re all sinners who have a lot to answer for, it continues to be the elephant in the room that towers over whatever way it was presented.

    The notion that if we phrase our apologetics just so, we’re going to be able to significantly shrink that elephant strikes me as being a little like those of Barack Obama’s supporters who think that if their candidate says enough of the right things about abortion then those who oppose it won’t care much about the actual content of his policies on that topic. In other words, I think that’s a setup for disappointment.

    I suspect the gays and lesbians I deal with actually prefer in some way my willingness to admit what I admit in the way I admit it. There are a couple of reasons for why this might be so (assuming I’m not just kidding myself), but it may also simply be that Liam’s circles are more rarified than mine. (I should add that I likewise appreciate the honesty and directness of a few of them in telling me what they think of religion in general, and Catholicism in particular. For understandable reasons, given what some of them have gone through, their views could be characterized as bracing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.) In any case, to each his own, and as Liam observed, life does go on.

    As for my rhetorical style, or lack thereof, I would also note that several of the gay people I am most familiar with have to deal, on almost a daily basis, with epithets such as “bitter”, “hateful”, and one or two others I won’t repeat here but I think most of you can guess. To the extent I get to wear those labels too now, well, I suppose that’s just one more thing we have in common. Oh, what delicious irony! Nevertheless, if they can deal, then I suspect so can I. No harm done.

  • HA

    Sorry to keep hemorrhaging out these posts, but I think have one last thing to say that might help, and then hopefully I’ll let it rest. Let me offer, not an analogy, but a parable (we’re big on those), that illustrates some of the thinking that Catholics might find problematic with your description (however sincere) about what a positive thing your relationship is for yourself and others. The parable concerns real-life situations that happen fairly regularly these days with no one doing much about them, and yet, they are (at least in my opinion) far more damaging to traditional marriage than lesbians making out or gay people getting married. The protagonist of the parable is a man contemplating leaving his wife for his mistress, and he argues as follows:

    “Things are so dysfunctional at home. My wife and I fight, we hurt each other, I’m so angry all the time, I want to kick the dog. But when I’m with my mistress, there’s a song in my heart. I’m nicer to my kids, I’m nicer to my community. Thoughts of hope, and love and God become possible again. That being the case, I am certainly justified in divorcing, no?”

    Catholics (and a fair number of Jews and other Christians) would say not so fast. Leaving your wife is evil, and you may not do evil so that good will come of it. The loss to your kids and the community that is incurred by your breaking your covenant with your spouse overrides your rationalizations.

    (Annulment, by the way, might indeed be permissible in some similar cases where a divorce would not, but explaining why that isn’t simply rank hypocrisy would take us too far afield.)

    But, to give the devil his due, the man does a make some valid points, though Catholics would spin his arguments in a different way. It would indeed be sinful for him to persist with his dysfunctional lifestyle at home, given the circumstances. Rather, he must find some way of making things right with his wife to the extent that he is able to put the song in his heart again even while he is with her.

    Is that practical or realistic? No, in fact maybe that’s even more impractical than asking a gay person to desist from sex with the partner he loves. But that’s still what the Catholic viewpoint would be.

  • ES


    I’ve just exercised and am without food in me, so I’m afraid it’s going to be short. I doubt I’ll have more time today, and so I apologize in advance for this probably being a little garbled for lack of glucose (blaming biology 😉 ).

    1) As to indeterminacy of arguments from genetics, we’re agreed. I suppose someone somewhere along the way brought it in; if not, why make the analogy at all?

    2) Both your analogy to the 2nd/3rd marriage person and the “parable” of the man who wants to leave a dysfunctional marriage only confirm for me the consequences of a priori affirmations that there’s something wrong with me, namely that I can’t think for myself. But it also affirms a belief that there is just something wrong with me by pointing to something else that many people would agree to be wrong. “See, this is like that, and we can all see that this couple, and especially this fellow, needs to figure out his issues. And that’s what you’re like.” Again, I’m scratching my head and failing to see how this sheds any light on what actually goes on in my life and that of many other gay and lesbian people.

    3) I understand the church’s stance. And many here have said that this stance prevents a real conversation from happening, and here is where I’m finding that I might just leave, although I probably won’t. I’ve not been offended, but it seems that we’ve reached an impasse, with an insistance, on the part of some, to say: “it is just is wrong–no real reasons given, but your reasonings and your experiences are just deluded or faulty; look, you’re like this or like that, but what you claim you are, you can’t argue on that basis. You are one thing, you’re desires however, they’re something else, and the actions that come from this ‘inclination,’ well they’re something else, too. You’re a fragmented, confused, and unintegrated being, who needs to discovered the real you. And that real you means seeing all this other stuff as extraneous to your self. Keep it away, fight it, name it an ‘inclination,’ call it a ‘homosexual tendency,’ call your actions ‘homosexual acts,’ but whatever you do, make sure that you don’t see it as part of the real you.”

    Then, there’s the insistence of others to say: “we just are, and we’re making our lives what we consider good lives as best we can, given what we’ve been given; we aren’t you, our bodies don’t draw us into world as yours do on all counts, but that shouldn’t disqualify us from being able to follow our lights, just as you work with what you’ve been given and make sense of it.”

    In other words, there are some saying “what you feel, well, we’ll give you that you feel it. But you can’t trust that, because it isn’t like our feelings that lead us out into the world and into contact with others to build fruitful lasting relationships. Oh, yes, you do have what appear to be fruitful, lasting relationship, but you can’t trust that–some damage, somewhere, is happening because of it. Your good feelings are like that of an adulterous man escaping his dysfunctional family–even though there’s nothing evident that you’re running. But, trust me, there’s damage somewhere, we just can only find it in extraneous analogues. As for what you do, well, that’s just wrong, always and everywhere.” In short, we’re messed up, because we’re not like straight people.

    30 years ago, G.E.M. Anscombe could use gay and lesbian people as her analogue to argue against constraception. If contraception were licit, she argued, then what gay (she excluded lesbian) people do, well that would be ok, too. But everyone knows that wrong. In other words, there was no question that we were just wrong, like your alcholic analogue or your 2nd/3rd marriage analogue.

    I imagine that this is what you’re wanting to say: it’s just wrong. For me, that just doesn’t work.

  • ES – There is a tendency of the Church to end up with an answer that amounts to, “Because I say so.”

    This is a provisional answer that one gives to a 3 year old who is unequipped with the sense of perspective and moral reasoning of an adult. One of the ways Vatican II shook out in the United States was as a reaction to this sort of authoritarianism.

    (HA – not directed at you: this is sort of a related tangent to the general discussion).

  • HA

    Sorry for my late reply, I have been swamped with beginning-of-week obligations. ES, thank you, that’s a very thoughtful reply. You’re right — I did not get nearly as far as telling you why what you do is wrong, as dismal a task as that is. Thankfully, I knew long before this thread that that would be a task for someone far more knowledgeable in this area. My only goal here, from the start, has been to point out the deficiency in some of the arguments raised in discussions like this (e.g., “God made me this way, so it must be all right”, or else, “This situation is enriching my life and the lives of those around me in innumerable ways, so how can it be wrong?”) As for making the rest of the argument, I think I know it well enough to make it at least plausible to myself, but that’s not enough to get us any further here.

    I gave Liam grief earlier for his cracks about the CDF documents being incomplete in some ways, but it may well be that a more convincing will have to be made for the Catholic position to make any headway. Doing that in the midst of all the other misunderstanding and prejudice that often attaches to this issue will be doubly difficult (I suppose it’s possible that some day people will claim that gay-bashing has a partial genetic basis, too, but there too, that wouldn’t suffice as any excuse). But thank you for the discussion, I honestly think I’ve learned something that will be of use to me in the future.

  • Liam


    Good job.

    The CDF statement is incomplete and limited. Does that make it untrue to the extent that Catholics should ignore it or merely give it lip service? No. Antinomianism, while it would be the tempting response (and is, in fact the response of many), is an adolescent reaction to the incompleteness of a parent.

    A key issue that Catholic magisterial statements on this subject overlook is the issue of the faculty of love. THere are a considerable number of people – I’ve every reason to account their witness on this point as both sincere and well-formed – who find that, unless they can embrace the essential goodness in their overall faculty of love (including the inclination to attraction to others of the same sex), their ability to love God and neighbor is substantially impaired. So they find themselves called by the Church to do one thing (love God) and forbid another that conflicts with it. Does that necessarily mean that all manner of acting out of same-sex attraction is morally neutral or good? No. But it does mean the Church is sending people up a creek not only without a paddle but with no boat. And that is, in a word, cruel. It’s not merely the same as a cross everyone must endure. This is a cross created by teachers who are afraid to explore what they feel is unsafe to explore for fear it will get messy. So this is more the classic cross that religious people, for example, find when they are under the authority of a very flawed religious superior. This is experienced by many as the Church’s teachers acting the part of Gladys Cooper in “The Song of Bernadette”. So, if you don’t want to add to that, take some of the things you’ve experienced here to heart. Be well.