On being “gay and Catholic”

Over at the Spiritual Friendship blog, Ron Belgau applauds one commenter in particular on Joshua Gonnerman’s recent piece at First Things.  I didn’t particularly agree with Ron Belgau’s assessment, and posted my response to Ron on his blog, but it hasn’t appeared yet in print, so I decided to post it here.  I think we are very unwise to embrace a notion of “being gay.”  I believe that adherence to the Church means not merely chastity, but embracing the view of man that She teaches us.  My comments appear below.

(Back to Letters to Christopher tomorrow–telling my story, from the very beginning.)

I have been following the recent pieces on First Things with great interest. I plodded through all of the comments on both of Joshua’s pieces, and even took time to read some of the comments on other blogs that linked to the First Things pieces.

I too have been reflecting on Thomas Sundarman’s comment, and wondering if his comments, in total, would reflect the sort of friendship that “spiritual friendship” demands. What stuck out in my mind was the last paragraph:

“And I for one have no trouble with Josh’s “identity” as a “chaste gay Catholic”, because he is already my brother, I already knew his situation, and I have long since recognized that he is as Catholic as the rest of us in it; perhaps more so, because to be heterosexual and Catholic has no special stigma, but to be gay and yet truly Catholic inspires bile. I hope that you all, brothers and sisters in Christ, will accept your brother for who he is.”

Certainly, in the path of spiritual friendship, all of us who live with homosexual desires need friends who encourage us in our pursuit of chastity. I have a mix of friends who urge me on in this–some who understand my desires and live with them, and then other men and women who have only ever been attracted to the opposite sex. It seems strange, however, to elevate “being gay and Catholic” as somehow more “Catholic” than the rest of us. My own brother has nine children and on vacations with him and his family, I have noticed the judgment that his cavalcade of children brings down on him. Their particular form of “being faithfully Catholic” brings bile, and I would contend that in today’s climate, to argue against contraception and the HHS mandate brings as much bile, if not more, than does the topic of homosexuality. My point is this: to be faithfully Catholic is to be a thorn in the side of the world, and our Savior made it clear that we would be viewed with bile, simply for calling ourselves Christians, and in following him. I don’t think that I am “more Catholic” because I’ve chosen to live chastely, or because I believe what the Church teaches on homosexuality. It’s my particular call of obedience; my friend who broke up with the man she hoped to marry because he wasn’t willing to abide by the annulment process over his divorce is as crazy in the eyes of the world as I am. I am not special or unique in embracing the Church’s teachings. I’m just faithful, like so many others.

But more than this, I wonder about Thomas’s comments, urging us to accept any brother who is “gay, chaste and Catholic,” for “who he is.”

I view myself through an entirely different lens. “Who I am” is not a “gay Catholic,” but rather a “Catholic, who happens to live with same sex attraction.” I would argue, as well, that my brothers and sisters who claim the moniker of “gay Catholic” are actually not embracing the truth about themselves–they have embraced a moniker that is man made, not ordained by God.

An aspect of spiritual friendship, in my eyes, is one that always desires the good of the beloved, and this necessitates that the beloved believe what is true about himself.

Everyone here is probably familiar with the 1986 Letter, in which Ratzinger writes that the Church refuses to call anyone homosexual or heterosexual. Do we not, as faithful Catholics, need to embrace this teaching of the Church about ourselves, even if in our particular field of vision, so consumed as it is with the entire topic of homosexuality, we don’t particularly want to agree with Her, or believe that perhaps She’s wrong?

Blessed John Cardinal Newman’s friendship with Father John Ambrose is often a model of spiritual friendship. If we were to replace Newman as a friend of a man who stated that he was a “gay, chaste, Catholic,” I think that Newman would lovingly question the assertion of “being gay,” in light of what the Church has said on the subject.

As Newman wrote:

“I believe the whole revealed dogma as taught by the Apostles, as committed by the Apostles to the Church, and as declared by the Church to me. I receive it, as it is infallibly interpreted by the authority of whom it is thus committed, and (implicitly) as it shall be, in like manner, further interpreted by the same authority until the end of time. I submit, moreover, to the universally received traditions of the Church, in which lies the matter of those new dogmatic definitions which are from time to time made, and which in all times are the clothing and the illustrations of the Catholic dogma as already defined. And I submit myself to those other decisions of the Holy See, theological or not, through the organs which it has itself appointed, which, waiving the question of their infallibility, on the lowest ground come to me with a claim to be accepted and obeyed.

What is compelling to me is the last sentence. I believe that the claims of the Church about how I should identify myself, and others like me, come with a claim to be accepted and obeyed. It is humbling to admit that I have within me an intrinsically disordered desire, but I thank God that I do! It points me heavenward, and it’s my weakness. I don’t celebrate “being gay,” but rather refuse to refer to myself as anything other than a child of God. I think that true friendship, should be like Thomas writes: yes, we must accept our brothers as they are, but we must also urge them to a more full communion with the Church, to more faithfulness to the Church in accepting the truth of “who we are,” as taught by the Church, not influenced by man. We are in this world, and not of it, and I believe that God desires us to be free from the labels of man. I think faithfulness, in all things, is our challenge, and the goal of true spiritual friendship is to urge our brothers on to the deepest commitment to faithfulness in the Church–especially in the areas most difficult to accept.

God’s blessings on all!