Thoughts on Falling in Love

There is an interesting phenomenon going on in the blogosphere right now amongst those who adhere to the teachings of the Church on human sexuality, and who embrace chastity, and yet label themselves as gay.  These folks collectively accept the moniker of gay or lesbian, embrace a notion of “being queer,” and of celebrating their homosexuality.  Aside from the fact that I think this is opposed to the language the Church uses about man, I think this results in a slippery slope.

I wrote the following in response to a blog entry I read, which had the following paragraph:

“What they don’t realize is that while the homosexual inclination is itself objectively disordered, the overall experience of the homosexual, even including falling in love, is not objectively disordered.”

Surely “falling in love” becomes something other than than the “disinterested friendship” the CCC teaches us about.  I notice on the part of the “gay identity” crowd that there is much parsing of the language of the CCC (in ways which no other section of the CCC is parsed out). Falling in love is not truly friendship, by any stretch of the imagination. It moves outside the very realm of friendship and moves from philia into Eros. I would submit that the only appropriate modes of love between members of the same sex must be confined to “friendships,” and the aspects of love which are appropriate to friendship are forms of storge, philia and agape.

When we fall in love with another person, romantically, we move towards the realm of that which is objectively disordered. I know that you all disagree with this, but when one “falls in love,” it is no longer a disinterested friendship, even if one believes that such a romantic relationship can be ennobled.

In my own life, I have made a conscious decision to avoid becoming close to men for whom I might become romantically drawn towards. I think this is prudent, and I think adheres to the wise counsel of the Church in focusing on “disinterested friendship.”

This comes from a long history of having crushes on other men, and realizing that in embracing these feelings of romance towards other guys, I no longer can see them objectively as merely friends. They become objects of my affection which contaminate those friendships, and besides, they can easily lead to occasions to sin. When one has “fallen in love” with another man, one delights in the memory of him, the coming of him at his next visit, in a way that I believe God has not ordained for same sex friendships. It is not that friends who aren’t romantically attached don’t long for the next visit, but the longing obviously comes from a very different emotional place. I think the totality of the disordered inclination ALSO includes this “falling in love” aspect of relationship, which moves us beyond the realm of “disinterested friendship.” Once we allow ourselves to “fall in love” with a member of the same sex, we have set up a pseudo relationship rooted in Eros, which I believe is counter to our good, and counter to God’s plans for our lives.

What is the fulfillment of a romantic love, felt for another man? If one begins to accept that falling in love with another man is objectively ordered, how does that play itself out? Are you no longer “getting together to hang out,” or are you now “going on a date?” Do you hold hands in the car or in a movie? Do you cuddle on the couch, watching a movie? Do you stare into each other’s eyes over a candle lit dinner in Paris? Do you linger in a hug, in the same way a man and woman linger in a hug? Do you caress the face of your beloved, in the same way a man caresses a woman’s face?

There is a great difference between the joy of friendship, that say, Lewis and Tolkein felt for each other, and the joy of “friendship” I have felt in the past when I’ve had my own “beloved.” Lewis and Tolkein I doubt ever fantasized about the emotional high they felt in each other’s presence. And that’s what romantic love is so often about, particularly in the first stages. Any study of the Inklings showed that their friendship was completely disinterested, which is what made it so rich. They experienced what Lewis calls the “What? You too?” phenomenon, which is very different than the notion of “falling in love.” My views of my friend, where I without a doubt “fell in love with him,” were doomed to disappoint. There is no appropriate method of fulfillment with a romantic love between two men or two women. There IS an appropriate mode of fulfillment between two men and women who love each other, strictly as friends, and that fulfillment is the great gift of the brotherhood of commonality and enjoyment of the person. When romantic love enters into a same sex friendship, at that point, I’m convinced this falls into the rubric of no longer being a disinterested friendship.

So too with a married man or a married woman who become friends, and have a “romantic” relationship with each other, even if it is physically chaste. There is something very self-indulgent when a married person becomes too close to a member of the opposite sex. When these friendships are pursued, they serve one purpose: to make us happy, and for the warm feelings the contemplation of the “beloved” brings. It is self-interested, it is self-motivated, it is self-indulgent. A married man or a married woman can have wonderful, and even close friendships with a member of the opposite sex, but they are wise to understand that the boundary must be the same one which we who are same sex attracted must recognize: it must be disinterested, and devoid of any sort of romantic feelings. Indeed, the canary in the coal mine is the first flush of romantic feelings. In my own life, the joy I felt with certain men when I felt romantically towards them was merely self-indulgent, no matter how ennobled I believed myself to be in my desire to love them “with a Christ like love.” Ultimately, any romantic feelings that I had for another man I think were narcissistically motivated, and I think this is the case for any romantic feelings between the same sex. For me, what this means in my life is that I consciously avoid becoming close to any man for whom I might be tempted to “fall for.” Why? Because I want to see him for the man he is, not as the man of my dreams, or the man who makes me happy when I contemplate him. For me, I have come to realize that my past contemplation of a male beloved are self-indulgent fantasies, escapist in nature, in the very same way that a married man fantasies about another woman to help ease the dissatisfaction he feels in his own marriage. The legitimate, and very real dissatisfaction that a same sex attracted man feels is loneliness, but the wrong path to ameliorate that pain is the path of “falling in love.”

More thoughts on the “Gay Identity”

I was recently watching a talk Fr. Robert Barron gave at Elmhurst College in which he spoke about what he has dubbed “The YouTube Heresies,” the common misperceptions of God that have been fomented by the New Atheists. Rather than ignoring the comment boxes, Fr. Barron chose to engage, for, as he said, he’s “got a little bit of what the French call the jeux de combat, the joy of the battle.”  So too do I!

For me, the jeux de combat comes in the form of speaking about homosexuality and the Church.  I have been learning lately from many wise men and women, including the saints, that this can be overdone, and I know at times that I fall into a temptation that St. Francis de Sales is explicit about.  He wrote to an Abbess attempting to reform an Abbey these simple words:  do not show any desire to conquer.

These are wise words for me, since I have come to realize that my online rhetoric is more often than not of the bludgeoning type, rather than the mode St. Francis de Sales recommends.  When contradictions are found, he says, “do not break them, but prudently let them pass, and bend them with sweetness and time.”  How I could learn from this wise Saint!  I am working on having more sweetness in my interaction, but it doesn’t always happen.  These comments that I posted on Melinda Selmys’s blog recently, as “Midwest Courage Guy” I hope reflect a “sweeter” approach.

This particular post of Melinda Selmys is one in a series she is writing about embracing her “queerness.” In this post, she mentions how her husband lovingly wrote to her during their courtship, saying, “shine on you crazy diamond.”  Melinda’s thoughts about this seem to me to be that her queerness is the embodiment of how she is “a crazy diamond. A strange, multi-faceted, unique, rare and therefore valuable individual. A mad and wonderful one of a kind.”  This is what I wrote in response to her:

I think we’re all “crazy diamonds,” and one aspect I don’t like of our cookie cutter society is that we’re all expected to BE a certain way, to conform to the way the world expects us to. The older I get, and the more I realize that we’re all just a bit “weird,” or wired differently than those around us, no matter how much we try to adopt the status quo, the more I think how truly odd God is. My go to always is this: he created the duck billed platypus. What is that thing, anyway??? 🙂

What I question is ascribing the uniqueness of you, the “crazy diamond” aspects of you which give glory to God, and how you truly do reveal the imago deo within yourself, to your being “queer.”

I think we’re all a bit quirky, and indeed queer, but not in the sense that the term is being used these days on your blog and on others. I would submit that your quirkiness and mine have nothing to do with our homosexuality, but everything to do with the weirdness of God. Your “queerness” is the same oddness of God reflected in the duck billed platypus, reflected in an ostrich putting its head in the sand, and reflected in you, uniquely as a woman, who is fully woman, who is fully feminine, and in no ways, ever, in the mind of God, “a dyke.”

I’m as quirky as the next guy with SSA, but I think it’s a gift to reflect the oddity that is God, and I don’t ascribe any aspect of my personhood that is fascinating to the fact that I’m attracted to other men. I think it’s rather a boring aspect about my person and I wonder why so many seem of late to be clinging so strongly to the identification of being queer to so many things that are good in them. Especially when the very things which seem to be defined as inherently associated with “being queer” can be seen in people who’ve never experienced SSA. I’ve known some very “manly” women who’ve never been attracted to women.

I wrote a little more in the comboxes, after a little bit of interaction concerning the necessity of accepting social constructs about ourselves, and that the gay identity is socially constructed.

I guess the question that comes to mind when I hear that “queer” is socially constructed: should we choose to embrace it, just because it is socially constructed? I often think about the gift God gave to Adam of naming the creatures God had created. We have mastery over the earth, and God has given us the gift of reason to look at the world and create a systematic understanding of what we see, such as the various taxonomies of the animal kingdom (to keep the analogy going).

This suggests to me that God delights in us using our reason to “figure stuff out,” and to continue to define and label what we see in the world around us, as well as within the world of man.

However, just because man has the freedom to name things, and to describe things, and indeed to socially construct things, it doesn’t mean that man is always correct in his way of defining or seeing the world. Racism is a social construct, for example, which is irrational and opposed to reason, and is clearly one of those things which Isaiah talked about in 29:16:

You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
“You know nothing”?

I guess my point is this, as someone who has never embraced the social construct about me “being gay,” I’m intrigued why those of you who find it important, choose to embrace it enthusiastically. It’s never been important to me, and indeed I’ve consciously chosen not to embrace it about myself, and so I find it a bit alien when I read the current discussions going on. But I also wonder if that’s a function of my age, growing up as I did in the 70s and 80s when homosexuality was so often associated with the sadness of AIDS, and when “gay pride” was ACT-UP and other angry movements that caused me (and so much of the rest of society) to be very leery of what it must mean to embrace a “gay identity.” A lot of damage was done back then, on both sides, but the ACT-UP crowd, now long forgotten, left an indelible impact on me when they burst into St. Patrick’s Cathedral throwing around condoms!

Today is a far cry from those days, with shows like Glee and Modern Family, and so many celebrities who have come out, as well as teaching the normalcy of homosexual acts within the schools. Perhaps it’s a function of age, but the source of my rejection of the social construct of “being gay” is many and varied, and ultimately, I just don’t find it that interesting about my person, (or anyone else, for that matter) compared to all the other aspects of who I am. The “crazy shiny diamond” is pretty shiny and crazy without my homosexuality. I think that facet is the least shiny and crazy of all, so I’m intrigued by those younger than me who seem to feel at home where the Rainbow flag flies and who embrace their queerness. It’s interesting to realize how differently people can see the world, even if they live with similar experiences and your posts are helpful in understanding this a bit better. I still don’t know what I think about it, other than it’s very foreign to me, and I wonder about the wisdom of it because of that, but that could indeed be my own prejudice. Though I think we who are older, and who haven’t lived under the Disneyfied glorification of homosexuality which we see now in culture, have some great insights as well. I think there is far more associated with homosexuality that is associated with sadness, and literal death and destruction, than is good about it. I fortunately didn’t lose any close friends to the AIDS epidemic, but many of my friends did. It’s hard to celebrate something that has caused so much pain in the lives of so many people we have loved, as well as in our own lives. I hope you all take this into consideration too.

Finally, I find it remarkable what was reported recently in the National Catholic Reporter.  Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif. has been investigating the authentic Catholic nature of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.  It appears that the conclusion of two years of investigation is soon upon, and the Bishop has grave concerns about CALGM, and he is wise to have such concerns.

One of these concerns pertains to the use of the terms “gay and lesbian” on the website.  The NCR article says the following:

In an eight-page follow-up letter to the January meeting, dated April 15, 2011, the board sought to clarify questions about the association and its stance on several of the bishop’s concerns, one of which was its usage of the terms “gay” and “lesbian” on its website and in its publications — a concern that “honestly surprised” the board.

Fitzmaurice said that Cordileone said during their Jan. 7 meeting that the terms weren’t in the church’s vocabulary, and were promoted by groups opposed to the church’s moral teaching.

Let’s focus on the section I placed in bold:  the terms “gay and lesbian” are not in the Church’s vocabulary, and are promoted by groups opposed to the Church’s moral teaching.  This is a rather bold statement.  Now one bishop is not the Magisterium, but within the confines of his Diocese, his IS the voice of the Church.  I think he is right when stating that those who propose the terms “gay and lesbian” about the human person are directly opposed (at least in the notion of identity) to the moral teachings of the Church.

I think there is great confusion that abounds today in Catholic circles about homosexuality and how we are to identify ourselves, but really there is only one way:  we’re male or female children of God.  And that’s it.  Thanks be to God!