What’s Up with “Disinterested Friendship” Anyway?

One of the biggest questions I ever get asked about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, especially from young people, is about the line “disinterested friendship” found in the Catechism.  It always seems to sound to people as being, well, so unfriendly.

Here’s the paragraph in question:

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I’ve written about the topic before, but today, a bit I was reading from C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters gives helpful insights as to what “disinterested” means.  Most people believe that it’s a synonym for “uninterested,” but this section from Lewis shows us what “disinterested Love” actually is. Continue reading

A Former Lesbian’s Conversion Story

I just came across this article today from LifeSiteNews.  It’s a beautiful story of conversion, of hope, and the transformation of a painful life by the grace of God.

Her story calls to mind parts of my own, where both she and I felt, (in her words), that “no one would ever truly love me. Not even God.”  My poem Discarded reflects the way I felt most of my life:  No one, no where, would–or could–ever find me worth loving.  This belief seemed borne out in my life both from perceived (and real) rejection I received from nearly every woman towards whom I ever expressed interest.

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The USCCB On the “Deeply Flawed Anthropology” of Sexual Orientation

This news piece comes to us from Catholic Culture:

The staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage is publishing a seven-part series of blog posts in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage.

In the most recent installment, the staff criticized “the flawed anthropology of sexual orientation”:

The problem with treating “sexual orientation” as a description of a class of people is that it proposes a deeply flawed anthropology, or understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology teaches that each person is called to accept his or her sexual identity as a man or as a woman (Catechism, no. 2333). This is consistent with the understanding that man – male and female – is a unity of body and soul (Catechism, no. 362-368). Our identity as human persons is intimately connected with our identity as a man or as a woman. In short, the body matters. 

What the language of “sexual orientation” does, anthropologically, is separate one’s identity from one’s bodily nature as a man or woman, placing a premium on one’s desires and inclinations. The body then becomes a “bottom layer” – essentially meaningless matter – over which one’s “real” identity – comprised of desires and inclinations – is super-imposed.

The full blog post from the USCCB can be found here.

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.

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Chaput on Same Sex Marriage

To begin this post, let me start out by saying that I’m not interested too much in being a part of the fight against same sex “marriage.”  It’s not that I don’t want to see it prevented, or that I don’t think that it’s a dangerous road for society to go down, since I do believe it will have disastrous consequences for society.  I think the Church, and all people who value the institution of marriage, do well to fight against it.  I just don’t want my life with same sex attraction to cause me to be involved in that battle, because I feel that my vocation is rather to promote the beauty of the Church’s teachings for same sex attracted individuals.  The Body of Christ is large.  I will pray about the dignity of marriage, but I rely on others to fight that battle, since I don’t want to become involved with politics.

With that being said, though this post on same sex marriage by Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia is excellent, what I want to focus on is not so much the arguments contained within the article about marriage, but rather his terminology.

Never once in his article does Chaput use the terms homosexual, gay or lesbian.  He instead opts for the term that I continue to advocate, and that Courage teaches her members to use, which stems from a desire to be faithful to the Church’s teaching on sexual identity.

When another author might say “the homosexual lobby,” Chaput consciously writes, “the same-sex lobby.”  When discussing what others would term “gay adoption,” Chaput writes about “same-sex couples adopting children.”

The following section from Chaput’s article is pithy, and well argued, but I take much more from it than merely framing the current tenor of the debate:

Persons with same-sex attraction have the same basic dignity as other people and the same right to be free from fear and intimidation.  But a right to redefine the nature of marriage does not follow.  In fact, the marriage debate has now morphed into emotionally streamlined theater, with same-sex couples cast as victims unjustly denied their rights, and supporters of traditional marriage cast as misguided fearmongers and bigots.

The first sentence is derived from paragraph 2358 of the Catechism, which tells us that people like me “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”  (Suffice it to say many on the Catholic left twist this to suggest that denying marriage to same-sex couples is “unjust discrimination,” which is merely a tendentious reading).

What I have come to believe is that the fundamental dignity of men and women like me who live with same sex attraction should motivate the Church to actually work to free us from the notion that we are a member of the “LGBTQ community,” in the way in which the “LGBTQ community” defines the human person.  Every letter in that particular alphabet soup reflects a lie about the human person, concocted by man, and in this, Chaput is actually respecting the God given dignity of every man, woman and child, by refusing to use culturally constructed imaginations of the human person.  To me, for people like Eve Tushnet, Joshua Gonnerman, Melinda Selmys and others like them, the Church needs to propose a new “coming out” for them, and others who identity so strongly with the “LGBTQ” community.  I have become convinced that for those who cling so strongly to a gay identity, this identity has become a land to which they have not been willing to leave, contrary to the invitation of God and the Church.  I think it is their Ur, which God called Abram from out of, and I think this is part of the good news of the Church.

The identity debate I think will be a mere blip on the Catholic radar screen.  Like so many other faulty notions of man which have entered into the Church through the millennia, it will be resolved, and the language used by Chaput in this document suggests to me where the Church is headed.  Archbishop Cordileone’s appointment to San Francisco seems quite telling as well. He recently censored the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry for not being authentically Catholic, in part because of their use of the terms “gay and lesbian,” which he said aren’t in the vocabulary of the Church.


Excellent Link on “Identity”

This was just published today on the topic of identity, and I think it’s excellent, especially this section of the blog:

(4) The Authenticity Trap

Many in this younger generation with same-sex attraction feel they must adopt the “gay” label in order to be authentic. Considering the word authentic means “not false” or “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features,” one must consider if taking on this label is defining a person by identity or by experience. Many mistake disclosure for authenticity. They are trapped by a cultural philosophy of “I feel therefore I am.” True authenticity can only be achieved by conforming to the image of Christ rather than idol of our desires.

Good stuff, this.

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!

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!