Same Sex Attraction
Joseph Prever, who has blogged under the pseudonym Steve Gershom, (and who is Simcha Fisher’s brother), has written a rather intimate post discussing being homosexual and a practicing Catholic. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the key point:
You probably know this already, but I’m celibate, because I’m Catholic. You will not hear me talking about When Oh When Will The Church Get With The Times, because that kind of talk is boring nonsense. Guys, the whole point of having the Church is having one thing, just one!, that you can depend on to always be the same. Thank God for that.
If you want a church that constantly changes to fit in with whatever’s fashionable this decade, there are a bazillion options, and you’re bound to find one that is custom-tailored to your particular set of prejudices. Happy shopping.
It’s actually harder to come out as celibate than to come out as gay. Various people have pitied me, or tried to convince me that my life is vewwy vewwy sad, or tried to talk me out of it, or even surreptitiously tried to set me up with their gay friends. If you do this shit, I will not spin-kick you in the face, but I will very badly want to.
Now as is typical for the Catholic blogopshere, while many if not most have been supportive of Joseph, there is a rather vocal undercurrent that is more critical. Some of the more vitriolic, and frankly unhinged comments are simply not worth the time to respond to. There are a couple of more rational criticisms, expressed in many circles, that are worth addressing.
That Joseph uses the word “gay” to describe himself has bothered many. You’ll hear this complaint on many topics related to same sex attraction, particularly if you ever use the term “gay marriage.” There is some merit to this objection, as words do have significant connotations. Even Prever himself is uncomfortable with the word, and says so himself:
Some people have a problem with the word “gay”. That’s okay; I get it. I have a problem with it too. I’ve written a little about that. It’s not a perfect word, but words are like that. You have to know the context. My life is the context. Get to know me first, and then we can argue about it.
Unlike most who have read this paragraph I gather, I bothered to look at the link Prever provided, and it opened to his about page where he writes this:
So are you gay, or what?
You could say that, if you wanted to, although I don’t like the term and don’t identify with it. I’m attracted primarily
and almost exclusivelyto men, and have been since I was about fourteen; but I don’t date men or have sex with them, so where does that leave me? I’m a faithful Catholic, so a romantic relationship with another man literally doesn’t fit into the way I see the world. I don’t see myself as different in any essential way from heterosexual men, so describing myself as “gay” doesn’t seem to fit.
On the other hand, “homosexual” sounds clinical, “queer” certainly isn’t me, and “man who’s attracted to other men” is cumbersome. So, “gay” is a useful sort of shorthand, and I’ll use it from time to time until a better word comes along. SSA (same-sex attraction) is a useful term too, as in “He has SSA” rather than “He is SSA.”
Okay, but can’t you please use some other word besides “gay”? People are going to get the wrong idea.
People have made the point that, by using the same terminology used by those who hold the view that homosexuality is a normal, natural, healthy, super-wonderful sexual variant of human behavior, I’m implicitly legitimizing that view.
This is a valid point. Over and against this point, however, I weigh the fact that the word “gay” is immediately recognizable. If anyone cares enough to read what I’ve written on the blog, they’ll find out what I think about it. And — let’s be honest — “gay” is much better for SEO purposes.
Scandal! Well, not really. This is an eminently reasonable argument. If you want to quibble, feel free, but to me it seems rather pedantic, and I’m not about to cast Mr. Prever into the hellfire for using the term.
The more serious criticism is basically this: it is wrong for Prever to identify as gay (or homosexual or SSA) publicly, as he is giving tacit support for the lifestyle. Essentially, his public profession gives scandal.
This is wrongheaded for a number of reasons. As he makes abundantly clear, he lives a chaste life. No one who reads what he has written could claim with any level of intellectual honesty that he has given tacit support for the homosexual lifestyle, or that his admission of being gay somehow implies that identifies as gay above being Catholic, or that it is his sole defining identification. I would like to believe that this audience is familiar enough with the Catechism to understand that nothing that Prever wrote contradicts in any way the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
More importantly, the calls for Mr. Prever to, for lack of a better term, stay in the closet strikes me as stupefyingly boneheaded. We live in a culture where homosexual behavior is not only accepted, it is largely celebrated. Here we have an amazing testimony that goes profoundly against the grain. Here we have a gay man (sorry, homosexual) who proudly testifies to the truth of Holy Scripture, affirms the magisterial teaching of the Holy Church, and conforms his life to these teachings. And he should shut up? This magnificent sign of contradiction shouldn’t evangelize to the truth? Are you kidding me?
It seems that so often we Catholics strive diligently to be our own worst enemies. We do our best to shout down the very people who are the greatest testimonies to the awesome love of our Lord.
I understand to a point the almost reflexive anger demonstrated by some Catholics when it comes to homosexuality. We feel we’re banging our heads collectively against a wall, battling a culture that seems (and is) outright hostile to our values. The Gestapo-like tactics employed against those who oppose this cultural transformation sickens us all. But can we just take a minute before becoming the caricatures we’re portrayed to be? Can we display that love of Christ here on Earth and embrace those who are the very exemplars of courage and sacrifice? Or would we rather obsesses over semantics and condemn to hell the very people who most need our support?
Humor writer Josh Weed has written a remarkable personal piece. Weed is an out of the closet gay Mormon – who also happens to be married with three children. Josh, as well as his wife Molly, detail how Josh struggled to live up to the tenets of his faith. He didn’t hide his homosexuality from his parents, who by the way were understanding right from the outset. His wife Molly had been a close friend and confidant, so she was aware of Josh’s same sex attraction before they even began dating.
It’s a truly remarkable story that should be read in its entirety. Clearly it is applicable in Catholic circles, though as my wife suggests, celibacy is a more viable option for gay Catholics than for Mormons.
Josh gives every indication that he is perfectly happy, but he does not come off as preachy, nor does he suggest that all individuals who struggle with same sex attraction can or ought to make the same choice he did.
Even more heartening is that this post has over 3,000 comments, and the overwhelming are supportive or at least understanding. Now I stopped skimming after about a thousand comments, so it’s possible that things got nastier once the post went viral on Facebook. But the relatively generous feedback that he received is almost a story unto itself.
That’s all. Please go read. Now.
Fr. Z says it best:
Perhaps other blogs will pick this up and help.
An article from the ultra-liberal New York Times (“Hell’s Bible”) is posted on the even more liberal MSNBC.
The article concerns the objections of the USCCB against pressure from the Obama Administration and/or states to force Catholic adoption agencies to allow homosexual “couples” to adopt.
You have to scroll down to the bottom of the MSNBC webpage to find the poll form.
The United States Senate has approved a defense authorization bill by a vote of 93-7 that includes changes to Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: no longer banned are sodomy and sex with animals (bestiality).
Article 125 used to state:
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
The change in Article 125 ostensibly is due to President Obama’s support to remove the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Quite likely, the removal of the bestiality provision was not intentional. But, the simple fact is that under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there’s no longer a provision to prosecute military personnel who engage specifically in bestiality.
The U.S. Armed Forces have been touted by those on the political left as being on the vanguard of “social change.” They cite, as the primary example, the demise of segregation in the U.S. military following World War I and officially when President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.
So, if The Motley Monk “gets it,” any soldier who engages in sodomy with an animal cannot be prosecuted under the provisions of the Uniform Code.
Hopefully, the Conference Committee will deal directly with this particular “social experiment,” as the House version of the Defense Authorization Act includes reinforcing the Defense of Marriage Act and prohibiting same-sex marriage on military bases.
What is this nation coming to when U.S. Senators legislate something like bestiality in the U.S. Armed Forces?
An Article by Melinda Selmys, author of the book Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism.
Twelve years ago, I converted to Catholicism and began a long dialogue with my own sexuality. At the time, I was involved in a lesbian relationship that had been going on for a little over six years. I had, in the course of researching the Catholic position with a view to refuting it, encountered the Church’s teachings on homosexual relationships before, so when I decided to embrace the Church as my mother, I knew that meant giving up my lesbian partner. I called her that night and explained my decision.
At the time, I thought that I was signing up for a life of celibacy. I was okay with that: before I became a Catholic I was a hard rationalist, and it wasn’t a long stretch to port my idealistic devotion to rational self-possession into an iron-clad commitment to Catholic sexual teaching. I would simply apply my will to the problem, subsume my passions to the rule of Reason, and everything would be fine. Right?
Basically he said, as an extreme example, if a male prostitute was to use a condom during sex, it was a step towards a better morality.
Pope Benedict wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra.
Nonetheless, the secular media, like clockwork, has declared that condoms are now allowed by all fornicators (not like dissident Catholics were following the teachings of the Church anyways).
So here is a short roundup of the better informed among us:
Pope Approves Restricted Use of Condoms? – M.J. Andrew, TAC
Understanding Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms – Jimmy Akin, NCRgstr
Condoms, Consistency, (mis)Communication – Thomas Peters, AmP
Pope Changed Church Condoms Teaching? – Q. de la Bedoyere, CH
A Vatican Condom Conversion? – Mollie, Get Religion
Pope: Condoms, Sex Abuse, Resignation & Movie Nights – John Allen
What The Pope Really Said About Condoms in New Book? – Janet Smith
Ginger Factor: Pope Approves of Condoms! – Jeff Miller, The Crt Jstr
The Pope and Condoms – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column
Pope Did Not Endorse the Use of Condoms – Fr. Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?
Did Pope Change Teaching About Condoms? – Brett Salkeld, Vox Nova
National Public Radio’s ludicrous firing of Juan Williams and a subsequent mainstream media article on Catholic bloggers may seem to be two separate issues. Some may say what does the overwhelmingly conservative leaning Catholic blogosphere have in common with the liberal leaning Juan Williams? The answer is quite simple; both scare the mainstream media because Juan Williams and the majority of the Catholic blogosphere put forth interesting solutions to often discussed questions.
The modus operadi of some in the mainstream media is to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. Combine this with a Juan Williams quote which most of America agrees with and voila you have it; the ultimate straw man from which you can tear apart any minority who appears on Fox News or any Catholic blogger who faithfully defends the teachings of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.
In this Associated Press article on the Catholic blogosphere, the piece mentions Thomas Peters and Michael Voris (who is known for his videos not his blogging,) but focuses on harsh unnamed Catholic bloggers. The article quotes John Allen who calls elements of the Catholic blogosphere “Taliban Catholicism.” The highly respected Mr. Allen, who though working for the dissident leaning National Catholic Reporter, is often known for his many high ranking Church contacts and his fairness. He should have know better than to give the quote that he did. To take a few bloggers from the right (or even from the left) and call them the Catholic blogosphere is the type of journalism that would not pass muster for a high school paper, let alone the AP. This would be akin to taking the worst rated college or pro football team and telling the world this is the best of American football, or perhaps watching the Walla Walla Community theater production of Hamlet and saying this is Hamlet at its finest. John Allen should have realized where this article was going and chosen his words more carefully.
The AP article continues by naming a Church official who seems worried about the Catholic blogosphere. One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Semple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana. I worked for years in a diocesan office and I have yet to meet, even in my travels, a diocesan official who is well versed in the blogosphere. It seems to be a generational thing and most diocesan officials are not to be confused with the younger, more conservative seminarians or young priests being ordained.
While some in the mainstream media snicker at the Pope and Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church) they in reality have their own magisterium. In their secular magisterium anyone who believes in the Catholic Church’s authority is hopelessly outdated, because according to gatekeepers in the mainstream media, true thinkers are those in the dying liberal churches who don’t know what they believe. Sadly, GK Chesterton prophetically predicted this would happen. He said, “It’s not that atheists and agnostics believe in nothing, they believe in everything.” In modern parlance, “It’s all good.” How sad that some who proclaim to be “open minded” can’t see the obvious; liberal Christianity is dying on the vine.” Continue reading
People justly tire of the term “culture war” and find themselves asking, like the philosopher Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”
And yet watching the disparate reactions to yesterday’s Federal Court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 (for now) it struck me that the culture war terminology is quite apt. What is termed the culture was is essentially a zero sum game over which of two roughly equally numerous groups will be allowed to define the dominant understandings of culture and society in our country. by taking this to the federal level, same sex marriage advocates have made it clear that no degree of regional acceptance is satisfactory — their understanding of the nature of marriage must be the single dominant understanding enforced throughout the country, and those with a traditional understanding of marriage must be the ones who find themselves aliens within their country. And, presumably, is same sex marriage advocates lose, they will in turn consider themselves aliens within the country. Given that it is the most basic units and purposes of society which are in dispute, it seems hard to see how it can be any other way. And while the dispute is to an extent regional, it is much more so philosophical and ideological, making the culture war more resemble the Spanish Civil War than the American. Every city and region has representatives of both sides.
A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”
Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.
The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.
Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.
For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.
Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.
I must confess that today’s judicial ruling out of California which overturned Proposition 8 has riled me up, suprisingly so. I heard about the ruling while listening to the livestream of a tech podcast in which one of the three podcasters is a lesbian (previously “married” in CA) and the other two (middle-aged married men) evidently supported the decision. The ease with which they threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage. Simply put, the state’s interest isn’t strong feelings or commitment… it’s children. And — to state the obvious — a homosexual relationship isn’t structured towards procreation the way marriage is.
By now I’m sure you all know that Proposition 8 was struck down by a federal judge. Who knows what will happen on appeal. There is much to be said, but I want to focus on one narrow and possibly tangential point. This phrase from the judge’s ruling, a phrase being reposted on facebook in many statuses:
“A private moral view that Same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation.”
The absurdity of that sentence really struck me. There was nothing “private” about the view of the “superiority” of hetereosexual couples. It has been carried on through generations of communities and in the present day was represented by 52% of Californians. How a popular decision that represented thousands of years of ethical thinking and concern for the family became a private morality is baffling.
More troubling is the implication of the judge that a “moral view” is not a proper basis for legislation. Since when has this been the case? Our laws on pedophilia, minimum wage, health care, torture, human rights, etc. are based at least on part on “moral views,” views that in some respects may be just as if not more private than the ones the judge rejects today.
If morality is not a basis for legislation, what on earth is? Morality guides us in making decisions; without a moral or ethical compass (or perhaps even without a religious one) there is no basis for legislation to be made. Laws are supposed to help make society run better, but there is no way to make society run better unless you have a notion of what a “better society” looks like, and you don’t get to that notion without morality.
State recognition of homosexual marriage is one thing, but this ruling attacks the foundation of our government. Morality must have a place in the public sphere and must be one of the foremost foundations of legislation.
To be sure, the judge is simply smoke-screening for the fact that he is imposing his own standards of morality. But the fact that his statement rejecting a moral basis for legislation is being so celebrated should worry all Americans.
The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.
To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.
Last week I wrote here about the firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell who had the audacity, in a class about the Catholicism, to actually state Catholic doctrine about homosexuality. There has been enough of a furor since that the University of Illinois is acting, according to this story in the Chicago Tribune:
A faculty group at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus will review the decision to fire an adjunct religion professor for saying he agreed with Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.
Urbana- Champaign campus Chancellor Robert Easter said Monday he hopes to have a decision on the firing of Kenneth Howell from the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure by the time fall classes start. The review is to determine whether Howell’s academic freedom was violated.
“We want to be able to reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here,” new university President Michael Hogan told members of the Faculty Senate on Monday. “This is a very, very important, not to mention a touchy and sensitive, issue. Did this cross the line somehow?” Continue reading
I am an alum of the U of I. I obtained my BA in 79 and my JD in 82. My wife is also an alum of the U of I, obtaining her MA in Spanish in 82. Our eldest son will be entering the U of I as a freshman in August. I therefore found the news that Professor Kenneth Howell, an adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois, has been fired for teaching in a course about Catholicism basic Catholic doctrine on homosexuality quite alarming:
Back in 1979 I was one of the founding members of the Christian Legal Society at the University of Illinois. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Hastings College of Law at the University of California was within its rights to deny recognition to the Christian Legal Society because the group requires that members agree, among other principles, that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful, and that members must be Christians. Hastings contended that these principles violated the open membership policy of the university, in that it would discriminate against prospective members on the grounds of religion and sexual orientation. Go here to read the decision.
Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia and Thomas, wrote a thought provoking dissent.
The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.” United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 654–655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Today’s decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.