Today I received an interesting comment about “celibate gay partnerships.” The fellow wrote this:
Perhaps the virtue of chastity is the necessary precondition before one can enter in a gay celibate partnership. Only their confessors would know where they are in the development of virtue in their spiritual lives. I also seem to recall that a rather famous member of Courage who was involved in a similar arrangement. I think his name is David Morris… but I’m not sure if I recall correctly. I have not heard much about him in recent times.
After I finished my response, I realized I had written quite a bit, and within my response I had said a lot of things that I’ve wanted to say about the subject of “celibate gay partnerships” here, but just haven’t gotten around to it, so my comment turned into a post.
This is what I wrote:
I actually think of it another way: the more the virtue of chastity is cultivated, the more a “partnership” is seen as being “unchaste.” The whole notion of “partnership” comes from the culture around us–it was an idea cultivated by those who didn’t want to commit to marriage, essentially common law couples. It was coopted by the LGBT community to describe their relationships, essentially trying to emulate “spousal” unions. And now it’s being coopted by those Christians who think the idea of a “partnership” between two men and two women is acceptable, just so long as it’s “chaste.”
Really, what “gay and celibate partners” are talking about is “continence.” It has long been my thinking that the concept of chastity precludes the idea of a “partnership” between two members of the same sex.
David Morrison is the fellow you’re thinking of, and his book is called Beyond Gay. No two stories are exactly the same, of course. His was one in which he came to the conviction that he couldn’t continue sleeping with his partner. They arrived at this conviction slowly, and yes indeed, they continued sharing a life with each other, but what is informative is how Morrison viewed the transformation of their relationship towards friendship.
He writes about it at his old blog (long inactive) and I think it is helpful in how he speaks about his former partner. (If you go to the link, scroll down to the post “same sex marriage and friendship.” There isn’t a direct link to it.)
It’s no secret that the man with whom I used to be sexually involved have continued a deep and ongoing friendship even after we stopped sleeping together. We did so because, in the wake of the shock of chastity, we came to the conclusion that what we had as friends had always extended far beyond merely the bedroom and that there was no reason to stop being friends just because we stopped doing it.
Lust and emotional neediness might have drawn us together, but ongoing growth and genuine love is what God drew out of such sordid beginnings.
I find that situation, and other situations I know similar to Morrison’s to be very different than the situation of “gay celibate partnerships” that are floating around today. The notion of consciously entering into “chaste, celibate partnerships” emanated in large part from conversations over many years at the Gay Christian Network Side B forums among several authors there. I followed that conversation with much interest, and believed it was mistaken from the start, and very different than a situation like David Morrison. In his case, he was “partnered”–then God called to him and his partner, and brought them back towards what is an appropriate love for two men: friendship. Whereas someone who is consciously entering into a “partnership,” moves from that which is proper, i.e., friendship, towards that which is unseemly for two members of the same sex, i.e., “partnership” or a “committed relationship,” even if that relationship is absent sexual expression.
There is a difference, and it’s not insignificant. This notion of “gay celibate partnerships” is a mistaken solution to the problem of loneliness and companionship, and is ultimately unchaste in principle, even if no sex is engaged in. It is a strange progression in the history of love, and it doesn’t seem in keeping with what chastity is all about, since chastity isn’t merely concerned with sexual activity, but is concerned with the proper internal relationship with one’s sexuality.
The CCC describes chastity this way:
2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.
There is something amiss in the integrity of the person, and the integration of sexuality within the person if one is focused on a “partnership” with a member of the same sex, rather than a friendship. I’d say that anyone who is engaged in a “celibate partnership” is stuck halfway to chastity–and have not yet integrated chastity fully into their lives.
The CCC also speaks about the important connection between chastity and friendship:
2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.
Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.
For those of us who live with an attraction to the same sex, the integration and blossoming of chastity is found only in friendship, not in “partnerships,” or in anything resembling romantic love. We can give of ourselves, like Christ, disinterestedly, “who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate.”
I was corresponding with a priest recently about this very subject, and wrote the following:
Anyway, I think that a romantic “relationship” between two men or two women, regardless if they are continent or not, is unchaste, in its very nature. It seems to me that “a celibate gay relationship” is as absurd as a “celibate relationship” between a sister and a brother who have fallen in love with each other, but because God is opposed to incest, are sexually continent.
I also wrote this to the priest as I was reflecting on all of this:
It’s one thing to continue sharing a life–but there needs to be a transformation through the renewing of the mind too, of what form that shared life takes.
What’s needed is what Morrison called “ongoing growth and genuine love.” That growth, both in chastity and in genuine love I’m convinced leads away from partnerships, and towards the beauty of disinterested friendship. The proper relationship between two men or two women is friendship–not something that emulates a marriage, or a sexually active gay partnership–minus the sex. It’s not what will lead to human fulfillment, because ultimately it is unchaste, even if it is continent.