Homosexuals in Chaste Relationships?

Homosexuals in Chaste Relationships? October 6, 2009

With all the craziness in the Canadian Church in the last couple weeks, perhaps the news about the homosexual altar server who has been barred from serving at Mass has not made many headlines south of the border.  The gist of the story is this:  Jim Corcoran served his parish in Ontario as an altar server.  A group of a dozen parishioners complained to the bishop and had him removed from this position due to the fact that he is in a committed relationship with another man.

Now, while this might be controversial to those (both inside and outside the Church) who disagree with Church teaching on homosexuality in general, to those who support Church teaching in this area the case seems cut and dried.  A man living in manifest contradiction to the teaching of the Church is removed from a public position to avoid scandal.

But there’s a catch.  Corcoran claims, and I have no reason to suspect him of lying, that he supports Church teaching on homosexuality and is living in a chaste relationship.  And, by “chaste,” he doesn’t just mean faithful to one partner.  He means that the relationship is not sexual in nature.

This, to me, is extremely interesting.  I think that in the standard discourse we are basically given to believe that this sort of arrangement is impossible.

When someone wants to challenge the teaching of the Church on the issue of homosexuality they will often ask me, “What would you do if your son or daughter was gay?”  I have to admit that, when this question is posed to me, the idea of a committed but chaste relationship has entered my mind.

I have my own nascent ideas about this, but I have seen absolutely nothing written about this possibility from the perspective of Catholic ethics.  So, my question is twofold.  First, and rather less interestingly, “Do you know of any works that treat of this question?” and second, and very interestingly, “What do you think about this possibility?”

[I want to indicate right at the start that I am not interested in debating the Church’s position on homosexuality and homosexual acts in this thread.  This can be a nightmare, and one that will distract us from what I think is a very important question.  It is not that I think that such discussion should never be had, but simply that I will not allow it to happen here.  I do not want us to get distracted from the issue I have flagged here:  presuming the position of the Church on homosexuality and homosexual acts is correct, what do Catholics think of the idea of chaste homosexual relationships?]

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto.  He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

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  • Mark Gordon

    Question #1: I’m not aware of any works that treat the question, but I will say that Joseph Nicolosi’s ‘reparative therapy’ at NARTH is based on helping gay men enter into deep, intimate – yet non-genital – relationships with other, usually straight, men.

    Question #2: From the point of view of Church teaching, I find nothing objectionable about two men committed to each other in an emotionally intimate yet sexually chaste friendship. It seems to me that Jonathan and David, not to mention Jesus and John, are models here.

  • Well, I think that attempting to maintain a chaste homosexual relationship is something that ought to be viewed in a completely differently light than a sexual relationship However, in general, I think that such relationships are not likely to work out very well, just as I don’t think it’s very realistic for heterosexual couples to live together for any extended period of time as brother and sister.

    Sometimes, it works out. An example that comes to mind is that of Bl. Bartolo Longo, whose feast day we recently celebrated – on the recommendation of Pope Leo XIII, he married the Countess Mariana di Fusco while still maintaining his vow of chastity. However, in general, I think that where the attraction exists, so does the near occasion of sin, and to ignore that risk seems a little presumptuous. We’re not animals, but temptation is still a powerful thing.

  • Matt Talbot

    Question number two is indeed interesting – my first reaction is to say, “It depends on the men.” If both men have an aptitude for chastity, then I don’t really see a problem for them: in fact, they are in a position to support one another in their struggle to be chaste, since (I imagine) only another gay man can really “get” what the struggle is like.

    On the other hand, if they are prone to falling into actions that are problematic, then they are (perhaps) putting themselves in a “near occasion of sin” by living together.

    One other thought: I think it is reasonable to say that there are already Catholic gay men living chastely in close proximity to one another (and straight men), in monasteries and other religious communities. While there have been occasional, well-publicized problems around this, I think it is fair to say that there are many, many more men who manage to live their vows in an exemplary way, and whose lives shine with self-sacrifice and sanctity.

  • Matt Talbot

    Question number two is indeed interesting – my first reaction is to say, “It depends on the men.” If both men have an aptitude for chastity, then I don’t really see a problem for them: in fact, they are in a position to support one another in their struggle to be chaste, since (I imagine) only another gay man can really “get” what the struggle is like.

    On the other hand, if they are prone to falling into actions that are problematic, then they are (perhaps) putting themselves in a “near occasion of sin” by living together.

    One other thought: I think it is reasonable to say that there are already Catholic gay men living chastely in close proximity to one another (and straight men), in monasteries and other religious communities. While there have been occasional, well-publicized problems around this, I think it is fair to say that there are many, many more men who manage to live their vows in an exemplary way, and whose lives shine with self-sacrifice and sanctity.

  • M.Z.

    It would also be possible for an unwed man and woman to live together chastely. A bishop that learned of this would take similar action as was taken here, at least I suspect that to be the case.

    I think the question is what the object of the commitment is. I would presume that object would be to form a household. Outside of household creation, I have difficulty seeing the value of monogamy, which I think is implied in the idea of this committed but chaste relationship.

    All of that said, you won’t find a lot of sympathy for households of one. Priestly houses, for example, with only one priest were at one point discouraged (and I believe still are in Church documents) as being poor for the health of the priest. I would apply that to those called to a life of abstinence, that they should live in some sort of community.

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    I think it’s possible, but much too dangerous from a couple of standpoints.

    First off, it could be a lot of temptation, and an occasion of sin. In a past life, I tried to live chastely with a woman I was in love with. Not my wife. It didn’t work out too well. We always wound up in bed, sometimes after months of continence. While I don’t doubt that there are people strong enough to manage it, I can tell you from personal experience it’s next to impossible.

    Second, both partners would have to keep, I think, a low profile so as to avoid giving scandal. Because even if the couple is somehow pulling off this feat of living together chastely (and not as roommates apparently but as “committed” lovers somehow) no matter what the truth is, many people are going to think they’re sleeping together. (And I don’t mean sleeping together chastely.) Many same-sex couples are already pretty skilled at this, keeping quiet that is, but in today’s atmosphere of proudly talking about it, maybe it’s getting harder to stay quiet.

  • Have you asked a gay Catholic man?

  • Kurt

    Questions in the theoretical are helpful, but in particular situations one has to question how much deference should be given to gossiping, clucking chickens (i.e. the “avoidance of scandal” question.).

    Pharmaceutical advances not withstanding, we may be approaching the first generation of openly gay couples who reach the stage in life where sexual activity is sometimes not in the cards. On that basis, I expect the challenge of the Canadian situation to multiply.

    This also seems to me (maybe not to others) related to the situation a few years ago in Southern California where a group of parishioners lead a loud and nationally publicized campaign demanding a set of twins be expelled from the parish school’s first grade class because they were being raised by a male couple. TWKWACBOL.

  • Ronald King

    Leave them alone and trust them at their word. Our response to this exhibits our level of love or lack of love for others who are different from us. Scandal is the observer’s fearful response to a perceived threat and the desire to remove that threat from awareness. Could the real scandal be the weakness of faith in this particular instance in which the server was removed from his position?

  • I agree with GKC’s suspicion that it might be a near occasion of sin. But I think another question worth asking is if this diocese has an outreach program to gay and lesbian Catholics and whether these two participated in it.

    I’m assuming by the reaction of people finding out about the incident that they did not, which is unfortunate.

  • wj

    First, I suspect that this sort of arrangement was very common in earlier eras among men that, for whatever reason, neither married nor entered the clergy. On occasion, such men probably succumbed to lust (which is neither heterosexual nor homosexual in nature, by the way). But, supposing they were good Catholics, they probably went to Confession, received instruction on how to avoid this sin in the future (instruction which might, or might not, counsel their separation, depending on their state in life, the amount of times they had fallen into this sin, the practical feasibility of their separation, etc.). None of this was probably too big of a deal.

    But now we are living in a world supposedly populated by heterosexuals and homosexuals, where persons are encouraged by both secular authorities and, often enough, ecclesial ones, to view their “sexuality” as somehow essential and unchanging. Given this (dubious) premise–dubious both from the point of view of, say, Plato, Ovid, Augustine, Thomas, Spenser, Shakespeare, and any number of other pre-moderns–I agree that Corcoran’s situation is more difficult, and could be the cause of scandal.

    My own belief, of course, is that Catholics have been too willing to subscribe to the prejudices of the age regarding the stability and existence of something called “sexual orientation,” and so what in the Catholic community could theoretically be viewed as a normal attempt to live chastely (and all attempts to live chastely are, with heroic exceptions, merely *attempts*) is now viewed as a kind of “homosexual union without the sex.”

    In any event, gays continue to be scapegoated by Christians for their own failures in marriage and family life, and so I suspect that in the present instance it is social bigotry, and not moral theology, that is being levied against Corcoran and his friend.

  • brettsalkeld

    Kurt,
    Can you tell us what TWKWACBOL stands for?

  • brettsalkeld

    Thom,
    Presumably, if there are some among the readership. If it is appropriate I will take my next opportunity to ask in person. It is a good idea.

  • Mark Gordon

    Have you asked a gay Catholic man?

    Asking a “gay Catholic man” and a Catholic man who struggles with homosexual attraction may yield two very different answers. To the extent that one identifies as “gay” – as meaningless and political a term as “straight” – one is more likely to have defected from Church teaching, IMO.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    This cohabitation of homosexual men and women has a long tradition in Catholicism, monasteries have been a refuge since time immemorial.

    Your church only considers the “act” as “sinful.” That’s that. Ratting people out would strike me as rather “sinful,” by the way. I remember a case of a man who stalked a priest he suspected of having an affair (with a woman), until the restraining order came. Of course, this isn’t just a religious thing, the military frequently went (still goes?) to gay areas and took down license plate numbers.

    “‘reparative therapy’ at NARTH”
    You can’t fix what’s not broken. Ask Dr. Naus about what the APA thinks of such efforts. It’s a tiny fringe group of quacks, discredited among serious scientists and clinicians.

    [edited]

    There is also no reason to “stay quiet” or “hide”, those days are over. Nor does living a normal life constitute “rubbing it in.” Nor would anyone “talk proudly” about “it” if it wasn’t for people who’re trying to shame them. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, and all of this OMG sentiment towards gays is vanishing quickly, in particular among the young and educated.

    [edited]

  • Pinky

    Wow, great thread. Chastity, occasion of sin, scandal, you guys have covered it all. I’ve got nothing to add.

  • digbydolben

    I said almost everything I needed to say about this subject in the post that brettsalkeld has linked to, so I’ll only add that I couldn’t possibly agree with what wj has written above more than I do.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that in other discussions on Vox-Nova in which for medical reasons a wife must not get pregnant, or (as in an ongoing discussion) one spouse is HIV+, a great many commenters here have no problem recommending that married couples live together and practice celibacy. If heterosexual couples can do it, then I see no reason why homosexual couples can’t.

    However, I certainly can’t imagine the Church recommending this.

  • brettsalkeld

    A few sundry thoughts:

    I have some sympathy with the idea of presuming the best of people. I don’t immediately presume that married people serving at the altar are using artificial contraception even thought the odds are quite high that they are. The Church considers AC and homosexual acts ‘disordered’ for much the same reason, so if I can extend the presumption of living according to Church teaching to married couples, I think I can extend it to others.

    I think the ‘occasion of sin’ issue is an interesting one, and probably quite personal. For some people having a supportive partner who also believes in the value of celibacy might be less of an occasion of sin than utter loneliness. I am from a rural area where priests serve several communities and live quite alone. They have quite high rates of substance abuse, gambling etc. As one commenter noted, this kind of lifestyle is unhealthy.

    I also think that living with another person as brother and sister (or brother and brother) is probably much easier if there was never a sexual relationship than if there was one in the past that has been nixed.

    These are, of course, generalizations based on nothing but my own experiences and presuppositions. I think each person/couple would need to work through this with a confessor.

    I also think this would be much easier for those affected if those of us in the broader Catholic community at least considered celibate homosexual partnerships a possibility.

    Finally, I would like to second the basic thrust of wj’s comments. This kind of discussion is only possible because of our age’s application of rather unsatisfactory labels.

  • Kurt

    Kurt,
    Can you tell us what TWKWACBOL stands for?

    They will know we are Christians by our love.

  • Matt Talbot

    But now we are living in a world supposedly populated by heterosexuals and homosexuals, where persons are encouraged by both secular authorities and, often enough, ecclesial ones, to view their “sexuality” as somehow essential and unchanging. Given this (dubious) premise–dubious both from the point of view of, say, Plato, Ovid, Augustine, Thomas, Spenser, Shakespeare, and any number of other pre-moderns–I agree that Corcoran’s situation is more difficult, and could be the cause of scandal.

    My own belief, of course, is that Catholics have been too willing to subscribe to the prejudices of the age regarding the stability and existence of something called “sexual orientation,” and so what in the Catholic community could theoretically be viewed as a normal attempt to live chastely (and all attempts to live chastely are, with heroic exceptions, merely *attempts*) is now viewed as a kind of “homosexual union without the sex.”

    wj – I think, given the gay people I know, that the onus is on you to demonstrate that homosexuality is anything other than innate.

    I am heterosexual: I can walk through the Castro district in San Francisco, past shops selling The World’s Most Complicated Underwear, and posters of young, muscular men…and feel nothing except a sort of detached, “Interesting what Gay men find attractive.” There’s no temptation, no struggle to avert my gaze. Just…nothing. I have friends who are gay, and who would be quite interested in those things. And not because they have to do with sexuality and thus trigger lust: like I say, I have no reaction whatsoever.

    On the other hand, I could walk through the lower part of Broadway in San Francisco, where there are girlie bars and (hetero) porn shops, and there I do need to watch myself and expend some effort – but my gay friends? They experience the same sort of detached, almost clinical view that I experience in the Castro: “Why do straight guys like this stuff?”

  • Matt Talbot

    But now we are living in a world supposedly populated by heterosexuals and homosexuals, where persons are encouraged by both secular authorities and, often enough, ecclesial ones, to view their “sexuality” as somehow essential and unchanging. Given this (dubious) premise–dubious both from the point of view of, say, Plato, Ovid, Augustine, Thomas, Spenser, Shakespeare, and any number of other pre-moderns–I agree that Corcoran’s situation is more difficult, and could be the cause of scandal.

    My own belief, of course, is that Catholics have been too willing to subscribe to the prejudices of the age regarding the stability and existence of something called “sexual orientation,” and so what in the Catholic community could theoretically be viewed as a normal attempt to live chastely (and all attempts to live chastely are, with heroic exceptions, merely *attempts*) is now viewed as a kind of “homosexual union without the sex.”

    wj – I think, given the gay people I know, that the onus is on you to demonstrate that homosexuality is anything other than innate.

    I am heterosexual: I can walk through the Castro district in San Francisco, past shops selling The World’s Most Complicated Underwear, and posters of young, muscular men…and feel nothing except a sort of detached, “Interesting what Gay men find attractive.” There’s no temptation, no struggle to avert my gaze. Just…nothing. I have friends who are gay, and who would be quite interested in those things. And not because they have to do with sexuality and thus trigger lust: like I say, I have no reaction whatsoever.

    On the other hand, I could walk through the lower part of Broadway in San Francisco, where there are girlie bars and (hetero) porn shops, and there I do need to watch myself and expend some effort – but my gay friends? They experience the same sort of detached, almost clinical view that I experience in the Castro: “Why do straight guys like this stuff?”

  • wj

    Matt,

    I follow Augustine in thinking that the specific forms that human desire can take in any given period are largely a function of existing social practices and cultural mores, both of which are historically contingent. In any arena, of course, humans will manifest the concupiscence of disordered desire, but whether this desire takes on the form of pederasty, sodomy, mutual masturbation, masturbation to internet pornography (gay, straight, or bi), solicitation of prostitutes, lusting in marriage, etc. is largely a function of what is available to one, given one’s social position and self-image in a given culture.

    The reason why I am suspicious about the “innateness” thesis regarding both homosexuality and, for that matter, heterosexuality, is that it assumes a too easy separation of Nature and Culture in the development of the human being. This is why, moreover, first person testimonials about their own *essential* straightness or gayness are to be viewed with suspicion.

    Who’s to say that the heterosexual Matt Talbot, were he born in 5th century Athens, would not find both women *and* certain boys sexually attractive?

  • Mark Gordon

    I might add that I agree with wj about the scapegoating of homosexuals in society and, sadly, in the Church. If Mr. Corcoran is living chastely in an intimate, non-genital relationship with his friend, that is something to be celebrated, not censured.

  • brettsalkeld

    I want to encourage readers to post comments that are on topic. I have felt the need to disallow a few recent comments. Please to not take this personally or as an indication that I disagree with the content of the comment. I am simply unwilling to allow this to turn into a discussion about Church teaching on homosexuality generally. I understand that some posts have been allowed that trend in that direction. The posts I have disallowed are mostly responses to such things. It is an imperfect science, but I must choose to draw the line somewhere. I freely acknowledge that someone else may have drawn the line somewhere else. I hope you understand.

    I am still very interested to hear what people think about the original question or other’s responses to that question. Thank you.

  • The reason why I am suspicious about the “innateness” thesis regarding both homosexuality and, for that matter, heterosexuality, is that it assumes a too easy separation of Nature and Culture in the development of the human being. This is why, moreover, first person testimonials about their own *essential* straightness or gayness are to be viewed with suspicion.

    The “innateness thesis” is something that not all gays and lesbians would agree with. In fact, many have realized that “I was born this way” language can be dangerous and in fact contribute to violence against gays and lesbians as well as efforts to “eradicate” homosexuality. Many gays and lesbians, and even those who would indeed affirm that they were born gay, are now viewing their sexuality as something profoundly mysterious, with no one “cause,” e.g. a “gay gene.”

    Seems that such gays and lesbians are in fact onto something profound, and in fact very Catholic, when they point to the mysteriousness of sexuality, unlike most Catholics who tend to view it in very mechanical, reductionistic terms.

  • I find most of the postings above rather creepy. Lots of gay couples live together without having sex — love and domestic companionship are enough. They may pursue sex elsewhere, on the side. The happiest situation no doubt is when sex positively unites the couple, adding an extra warmth and intimacy to their relationship. Or at least that is an equally happy situation. The phobic attitudes to sex displayed above are what has given Catholicism its bad reputation. Phobic attitudes to homosexual friendships even without sex are a step beyond that, into primitive prejudice and discrimination (which the Catechism denounces). Justifying this bigotry on the basis of avoiding “scandal” sounds like a juicy hypocritical twist.

  • Back to the question: do I think it’s possible? Sure. It had better be possible, or else the church would be condemning gays and lesbians to a pretty bleak existence by telling them on the one hand that they they have a “vocation” to celibacy but then deny that deep nonsexual relationships with same-sex partners are possible.

    Advising against such relationships out of concern about “scandal” and being close to an “occasion of sin” seem to be just more expressions of suspicion of gays and lesbians and a desire to keep them quiet and out of sight, i.e. to deny that they exist and to deny their humanity. The church is against homosexual relations, not homosexual relationships. Two gay men living together in chastity would not be a “scandal.” They would be doing precisely what the church asks of them.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    I am going to weigh here, for no reason better than my life and experience in SF with lots of “same sex” attracted friends. I read a wonderful essay in “Faith at the Edge” … know Catholic people at all stages with same-sex attraction and deeply believe that we all, every single one of us, grapple with our interior pre-dispositions and the call of Christ. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this culture makes this important discussion easy. If we can make a first step with “same sex” attraction, recognizing the beautiful dignity of each and every person, maybe we will be able to advance to dispositions all of us will find even more disturbing.

    First, to Thom. “Have you asked a gay Catholic man?” Great idea! I would love to hear this perspective … but I will react if the perspective is …

    “They may pursue sex elsewhere, on the side.” Spirit of Vatican II.

    The focus is never, ever using other people to satisfy a sexual drive, just because it’s a sexual drive. Period.

    All of us have many internal interests, eh? But what we do with them, how we channel those bodily-given interests remains within our choice. Which is, I think, what “choosing God” means.

    What do you think?

  • brettsalkeld

    “‘reparative therapy’ at NARTH”
    You can’t fix what’s not broken. Ask Dr. Naus about what the APA thinks of such efforts. It’s a tiny fringe group of quacks, discredited among serious scientists and clinicians.

    Some may wonder why I let this statement stand, even though it definitely trends away from the question at issue and into the “How are we to understand the phenomena of homosexuality?’ question. It led to some of the statements I later disallowed.

    I want to explain that I see it as connected to the original question because it makes the point that the only groups we have heard of that are doing any work on chaste relationships for homosexual men is a group that aims at somehow changing these men. I think that this highlights how little thought Catholics in general have put into the question of non-genital homosexual relationships, or as a friend of mine put it, “homosocial relationships.”

  • Marjorie. my remark on sex on the side was not meant to approve it; it was just a phenomenological observation. Thinking of people like Gore Vidal who lived happily in a Platonic relationship I note that he also lived a sexual life outside that relationship; and I suggest that it might be more morally satisfying if he lived his sexual life inside that relationship instead. On the other hand he claimed that what made the relationship so durable was precisely the absence of sex.

    You say that nothing in the culture today helps us discuss this issue. But surely the far deeper knowledge and understanding of homosexuality helps? Surely the openness of gays about their experience helps? I think you mean that the culture never valorizes Platonic relationships. I know at least one priest who was in a longterm Platonic relationship with a woman, but it was universally perceived as sexual. Clerical culture itself snidely classes such virtuous relationships as breaches of celibacy.

  • I don’t think this is a difficult question at all. It just needs clarification.

    One thing I’ve noticed is a loose definition of the word “relationship.” What do we precisely mean by this term? If this is nothing other than a deep, abiding intimate nonsexual friendship where one can share one’s self in a way that assists in the battle against the obvious reality of loneliness and despair — then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

    However, I do think the slightest bit of romance can make otherwise clear moral boundaries quite blurry. And I mean this, literally. I am homosexual. I am Catholic. Any and everyday I encounter, or meet, people who strike me as insensitive, incompetent, morally bankrupt, or worse (and this is not a justification of my judgments). If I meet a man who doesn’t off-hand evince negative personality traits, who is a practicing orthodox Catholic with some semblance of cognitive resources and intellectual prowess, he is surely a candidate to lead me into spiritual warfare.

    Is this true for all homosexuals? No, probably not. But, most homosexuals don’t see anything wrong with acting out on their desires with license (and I don’t necessarily mean promiscuity).

    It is simple to imagine things, I suppose. I have many a friends who romanticize the Middle Ages — “before modernity, it must have been great.” Whereas I’d bet, the situation is full of surprises we’d hardly expect. I would suspect (and I am not saying this absolutely) that I have better reason to suppose that such a situation is immensely difficult.

    Would the two said persons live together? And if so, what are the implications of that? I think one cannot have such an intimate relationship with someone else that is deeply attractive and not experience a desire to attempt to consumate that (nevermind that homosexuals can never fulfill this intention). For if it is just a friendship, just a brotherly Christian love that is pure and chaste, I see no reason to call it “homosexual chaste relationships” and not just classifiy it as a general friendship that is a bottomline necessity for all humans, regardless of the circumstances. Why the distinction?

    For if it were the former, I think it could invite an occasion of sin, particularly if there were this agreed to scheme that both are in some sort of “relationship” whatever its rules — because in the way, the reality will be, in a human sense, private. I’m not necessarily associating or disassociating homosexuality with other sexual sins, namely lust — but I think there are a lot of practical matters blatantly overlooked.

    My overall analysis would be no, at least not under those terms and it would be preferrable that they not live together if it possible. I don’t think the latter is absolutely immoral nor am I suspicious of people’s moral capacity, I just find it more prudent.

  • digbydolben

    I think one cannot have such an intimate relationship with someone else that is deeply attractive

    Presuming that you mean “deeply attractive” physically, how many people ARE “deeply attractive,” and, of those, how many REMAIN “deeply attractive”?

    Loneliness is a terrible thing, and I think that this kind of non-physical, “homosocial” and chaste relationship may be the only way that some (aging) homosexuals are able to overcome it. To deny them this opportunity seems to me to be vicious and cruel.

  • Thank you, Eric, for adding the clarification which I thought was most needed. I think that people of whatever sexual desires need friendships of varying kinds and levels of intimacy. The fulfillment of the “romantic”, or maybe more accurately “spousal” kind of relationship is one the Church has reserved for marriage.

    One key aspect that I have found helpful in keeping myself from slipping into romantic aspirations toward those not available to me is this: spousal love is properly possessive and exclusive. “I take you to be my wife/husband … forsaking all others.”

    When I find myself wanting a unique love from someone that we would share with no one else (save God), that is when I recognize that my desire is for something beyond friendship. And I must deal with that desire according to God’s gifts and call.

    So, I don’t think we should cast suspicion on two people of the same sex living together. But if they make it public that they are pursuing a romantic relationship, or that they do not have separate bedrooms, then I think it is legitimate to take steps to help them avoid both sin and scandal.

  • TJ

    #1 Off the top, I can’t say I know of any work that deals with this, but wj brings up a good point that chaste homosocial domesticity might not have been a hothouse issue in earlier eras as it is now that sexuality and identity have become excruciatingly politicized.

    Also perhaps we cannot know if we cannot keep from applying our reductionist or determinist contemporary filters on past and present people and relationships.

    #2 I predominately have same sex attraxtions. I can only speak for my self, but I don’t turn into Mr. Hyde around everything with a Y chromosome. The majority of males present me no occasion for sin (lust). This is important as I think there is a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding all things SSA.

    I will say though that a big occasion for sin (anger) for me is the tyranny of busy bodies, gossips, assumers, calumners, obsessives, and a white-knuckle spirituality. I think that these things are the scandal that the bishop should have dealt with.

    If some think that I should avoid close relationships with males due to the possibility of lust, then shouldn’t I also avoid contact with many of my coreligionists due to anger?

    Getting back to #1, I have a dream of a Church (from bishops down to Joe layman in the pew next to me) where I can share in my struggles and share in theirs. Where we can pick up our crosses together (without secrecy, paranoia, the specter of scandal, differentiation, alienation, etc) and follow Jesus. Chastity is only the half of it, the other half is navigating the tightrope I feel I have to walk.

    PS, thanks Brett for keeping this discussion focused; I think it helps to keep a sprawling and emotional topic fruitful, but of course there are always more questions.

  • digbydolben

    spousal love is properly possessive and exclusive.

    And this is precisely why “spousal love” is an inhibitor of the highest kind of spiritual development.

    The ancient Christian Church once had the courage of CHRIST’S convictions, when it proclaimed, with Him, that spousal love and familial loyalties placed above love of God and of His Son, were for those who hadn’t the strength for chastity and and being “eunuchs” for the “Kingdom’s” sake.

  • digbydolben

    To follow up: it has always seemed to me that homosexuals who agreed to sublimate their love of each other in chaste friendship and devotion to the cause of Christ are actually MORE naturally inclined and MORE deserving of the sacerdotal state than heterosexuals, and that the life-histories of numerous saints, such as John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Saint Romuold of the Camoldese demonstrate that eloquently. The only reason that this is dissembled to the faithful is that the institutional Church coddles injustice and bigotry.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    “I think you mean that the culture never valorizes Platonic relationships.” Yes, Spirit of Vatican II, I agree, though, personally I would not use the term “Platonic”. Perhaps I would use the word “Paulian.” And, frankly, I don’t enjoy the prevailing SF dialogue on homosexuality – where even the male gay groups discussing love-based relationships also promote a promisicuity that is anything but … there’s quite a bit of sorting out left to do … platonic or paulian … for those who also rationalize the dionysus on the side.

  • TJ

    digbydolben, the men who comprise the institutional Church are clearly not perfect, but I would decline to agree that the “institutional Church coddles injustice and bigotry” is a singularly helpful observation.

    In the case being discussed here, the bishop gave precedence to the scandal perceived by some parishioners rather than the scandal caused by those same parishioners. Ok, I can see personal biases and assumptions leading to rash and bad decisions. These can be unjust.

    The thing is I see this play out every day, everywhere, in all personal relationships, in all institutions, amongst all partisans, in all religions divine and secular. I have seen this in the gay community, and had a lot of bigotry and injustice sent my way because I openly question some underlying ontological assumptions, politics, as well as many of that community’s narratives.

    Indeed, my very corporate and institutional employer is so bent on wiping out injustice and bigotry that it has ironically erected all new structures of injustice and bigotry. Did you know that what I believe (or don’t believe) about my own same sex attraction “has no place in the work place” since it deviates from corporate diversity policy?

    So then what? What now?

    All I can say is that I’m thankful that the institutional Church gave me a way to think about myself that is organic and whole. It has taught me who I am in a way more profound and believable than the messages and dictates of who I am from the media, my employer, the state, schools, and gay and religious fundamentalists alike.

    As for the bishops, many have been forced (or slid) into playing a rearguard game, reacting as we all do. It’s time for them to move into the vanguard, but without compromising what the Church knows about the totality of the human person…including sexuality. Do we help them in this work by publicly attacking them?

  • digbydolben

    Do we help them in this work by publicly attacking them?

    Yes, we do, by keeping them honest–which, as ecclesiastical politicians (which is what they primarily are)–where they need to be kept.

    Look, I basically agree with you about the REAL teachings of the Church as regards same-sex attractions and also am convinced that they can be helpful toward the development of genuine spirituality in the “same-sex attracted.” However, I also believe that those teachings are, for the most part, kept under wraps, for fear of challenging the bigotry and homophobic prejudices of the tithers. If the “difference” of so-called “homosexuality” were actually openly celebrated as a means to an ascetic discipline that in potentia purifies one for a certain kind of sanctity, I’d have absolutely no bone to pick with the bishops, believe me.