An Ontological Orientation Oxymoron

I’ve just recently become aware of a new (to me) voice in the “I’m gay but chaste” collection of Christian writers.  I was reading a recent piece by Julie Rodgers, and I stopped and scratched my head when I read this line:

When Christians respond to every gay person focusing primarily on a person’s sexuality, we’re neglecting the whole human person.

This is a strange sentence, from an ontological perspective, within the Catholic Church’s anthropology.

I was just reading some of John Paul II’s great book, Love and Responsibility last night.  In it, he writes often of our “orientation.”  In one of his early chapters, he writes,

When we speak of the sexual urge in man we have in mind not an interior source of specific actions somehow ‘imposed in advance’, but a certain orientation, a certain direction in man’s life implicit in his very nature.  The sexual urge in this conception is a natural drive born in all human beings, a vector of aspiration along which their whole existence develops and perfects itself from within.

He writes the following about our orientation:

Every human being is by nature a sexual being, and belongs from birth to one of the two sexes.  This fact is not contradicted by the phenomenon of so-called hermaphroditism–any more than any other sickness or deformity militates against the fact that there is such a thing as human nature, and that every human being, even the deformed or sick human being, has the same nature and is a human being precisely because of it.  In the same way every human being is a sexual being, and membership of one of the two sexes means that a person’s whole existence has a particular orientation which shows itself in his or her actual internal development.

Regardless of our experience, our whole existence has a “particular orientation.”  As I have argued before, the existence of attractions away from the sexual urge’s proper end is not a sign of a different type of orientation, i.e., of a “gay person,” per se, but rather a disorientation in the human person, a deformation of the sexual urge, and of our sexual being, akin to what John Paul II would say are sicknesses of the body.  John Paul II specifically references here issues like same-sex attraction as being deformations, when he writes the following:

The orientation given to a person’s existence by membership of one of the sexes does not only make itself felt internally, but at the same time turns outwards, and in the normal course of things (once again, we are not speaking of sicknesses or of perversions) manifests itself in a certain natural predilection for, a tendency to seek, the other sex.

If we do not experience “in the normal course of things” that “natural predilection” for the other sex, it is the result of something that is amiss within us.  His comment that our sexual development is more “easily observable in the organism than in the psyche” calls to mind the Catechism’s teaching that homosexuality has a “psychological genesis which remains largely unexplained.”  When he speaks of “perversions,” I believe he means primarily a “perversion” in a theological sense:  desires opposed to their proper end.  This is the case with my sexual desires for men.

When I read the strange sentence quoted above from Julie Rodgers, I see something very different than what she sees.  By calling people, (and herself gay), she, and those who call themselves gay, are the ones neglecting the dignity and truth of the whole person, by focusing in a de facto sense primarily on a disorder of the sexual urge within the human person, which undermines and neglects the wholeness and truth of the human person.

Embedded throughout John Paul II’s brilliant book (as well as in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI) is the call of “reality” in the field of sexuality.  This reality is that all of us are born innately with an orientation towards the opposite sex, something the “gay but chaste” group of authors seems intent on ignoring, in favor of culturally constructed concepts of man.

I’ll be reflecting in upcoming posts more on the thought of John Paul II in Love and Responsibility, and the bearing it has on same-sex attraction, celibacy and chastity and the dignity of man.

Stay tuned.  (If you want).

PS  There is good stuff in Julie Rodgers post, but in a Facebook post about it, the brilliant Robert A. J. Gagnon points out numerous problems in her thinking:

My thoughts on Julie Rodgers’ latest post: As always Julie writes well and tells a good story. But I see big gaps between her theological thinking and that of Jesus and the witness to him in the New Testament.

To use the opening analogy in the article, what happens if the airplane guy in your story keeps doing this every flight that he is on? When does the exception become the rule and the excuse, I just got to do it, lose plausibility or some other way of dealing with the problem have to be developed?

If the incestuous man at Corinth in 1 Cor 5 had insisted that his sexual relationship with his mother (or imagine a scenario between a man and his actual mother) was necessary for him to have an emotionally stable life, would that have changed Paul’s warning about the sexually immoral not inheriting the kingdom of God?

If the woman caught in adultery in John 8 had responded to Jesus’ statement, “Go and from now on no longer be sinning (lest something worse happen to you),” with the words, “I need to continue this adulterous affair, otherwise I’ll kill myself,” would the woman have been given assurance of life if she had responded?

When the church agreed to allow Gentile believers in, but only on the condition that they “abstain from sexual immorality” (Acts 15), should they have dropped this condition altogether for any who claimed that engaging in sexual immorality was a necessary part of their emotional well-being?

And shouldn’t the church raise a question about whether one is really “coming to Jesus” while in the midst of engaging in egregious immorality of any sort, without repentance?

And why did Jesus, according to Mark 1:15, have a message of “repent and believe in the gospel” rather than simply “believe in the gospel for the kingdom of God has drawn near”? What is that repenting stuff all about? Why did the early church, following his example, make a point of stressing that repentance component?

Why did Paul make it the first order of business with converts, after their conversion from idol worship, repeatedly to issue to them the command to abstain from sexual immorality, warning them to do otherwise would incur God’s wrath as an avenging God because actions reject God (1 Thess 4:2-8)? Why didn’t he just say, “Your emotional well-being comes first; sexual holiness is not that important an issue”?

Why did John the Baptist warn people to “bear fruits fit for repentance” like tax collectors not collecting more than was owed or soldiers not extorting money from others (Luke 3:7-14)? Could they not have responded: “There are other things more important in life”?

And where it is written that a person must have sexual intercourse with a person of their choosing, irrespective of God’s commands or the laws of nature, or else they will die?


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