Friday, October 18, 2013

Identity ... gay or ssa or just a guy?

I'm having difficulty trying to articulate some stuff...

Where to begin?  Why begin?  Why do I feel the need?

Daniel Mattson has an excellent essay on the subject of identity- and mistaken identity.  Mattson is a wonderful writer - probably one of the best on the subject of same sex attraction and Catholic teaching.  It's always something I think is 'settled' in my life, yet I have learned in and through my conversations online that it is not settled in the minds of many others, and there are those who insist upon a gay identity - a 'queer' identity.  many are young Catholics.  Not all dissent from Church teaching, yet they remain uncomfortable with the 'tone'...

It can be confusing.  The most important thing I have discovered is that some of the new 'gay' voices online are sincerely working through issues of self-knowledge and self-acceptance in an attempt to make sense of their lives in a manner compatible with Catholic teaching.  I have learned a great deal from them.  I've learned a great deal about acceptance - of self, of others.  I'm deeply moved that they articulate and speak about their experiences so honestly and I'm reminded I too struggled very much in the same way they do.  Their honesty and acceptance of self is important for them to document and discuss, even if they make mistakes in the process, or even as they express frustration that their efforts are misunderstood.  I've made the same mistakes but lacked the freedom of spirit to always acknowledge it or deal with it - until much later, 'after the fall'.  That they work through many of the difficulties publicly is certainly helpful to many others who struggle, I am sure.  But I digress.

As I said, one of the best writers on the subject of same sex attraction and being Catholic is Mattson.  So, without further ado - because I just don't have time to be online - I will reprint below a few strands from Mattson's essay - but I encourage you to read the whole thing when you get some time.

A Case of Mistaken Identity.
My favorite novel of mistaken identity has always been C. S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. It’s the perfect fairy tale, beginning with a miserable young boy, Shasta, growing up in Calormen, treated like a slave by Arsheesh, the man who he assumes is his father. When one of the lords of Calormen, a Taarkan, offers to buy Shasta from Arsheesh, Shasta learns how “his father” found him adrift in a river when Shasta was an infant. Lewis tells us that Shasta had never loved his father, nor felt like he belonged in Calormen, so this knowledge “took a great weight off his mind. ‘Why, I might be anyone!’ he thought. ‘I might be the son of a Tarkaan myself—or the son of the Tisroc (may he live forever!)—or of a god!’” The rest of the book chronicles Shasta’s adventures with the talking horse Bree and two other companions as they journey north, towards Narnia, where Shasta discovers his true identity: He is indeed the son of a king, heir to the throne of Archenland, the ally and friend of Narnia.

For Lewis, Shasta is obviously “Every Man,” born into this world just as the writer of Hebrews wrote of the Patriarchs who “acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,” desiring a “better homeland, a heavenly one.” Like Shasta, we know innately that something is wrong with the world and don’t realize our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of the King of Kings. Henri Nouwen said that “one of the enormous spiritual tasks we have is to claim that [identity] and to live a life based on that knowledge, and that’s not very easy. In fact, most of us fail constantly to claim the truth of who we are.” These words of Henri Nouwen have a deep significance for me, because as he did, I am a man who lives with same-sex attraction. As I have worked through my faith to claim my true nature as a beloved son of God, I have come to believe that the greatest case of mistaken identity in the world today concerns sexual identity. The contemporary litany of sexual identities come from Calormen, not Narnia and the North. They come from the world, not the mind of God.

As a man who came back to the Catholic Church because of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and sexual identity, I have watched with great concern as I see “coming out” become more and more commonplace, particular at younger and younger ages, including in the Church. The USCCB wisely cautions against this in their 2006 document, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care”:
For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.
Though I’ve never “come out” in the world in which I live my daily life, I decided to write publicly about this part of my life because I have great concern for the way our culture negatively influences the young Shastas in the Catholic Church who may be confused about who they are after realizing they live with same-sex attraction, and decide to “come out” because the world teaches them that their sexual inclinations comprise one of the chief definitions of “who they are” and that in order to be truly “authentic” they need to reveal this about themselves. The counsel of the bishops to avoid public disclosures of homosexual attractions reflects the best interests for these young men and women who tragically have been conditioned to accept the modern concept of sexual identities, and to use phrases such as “I am gay” to describe themselves, which reveals the ease by which we can become imprisoned by the culture in which we live, in the way John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor:
It must certainly be admitted that man always exists in a particular culture, but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This “something” is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by living in accordance with the profound truth of his being.
The best explanation for why so many people accept the world’s definitions of sexuality stems from St. Paul’s famous line that “for now, we see through a mirror, dimly,” but the mirrors of sexual identity aren’t merely dim and obscure; they are the crazed and distorted mirrors of a diabolical fun house, manipulated to the point of destroying any recognizable connection with the truth about man. - Finish reading here.

I love this:
"... the mirrors of sexual identity aren’t merely dim and obscure; they are the crazed and distorted mirrors of a diabolical fun house, manipulated to the point of destroying any recognizable connection with the truth about man."

Personally, I think I've always had a Steve Gershom attitude towards using the term gay as opposed to same sex attracted.  But that's another post.

Although I'm not sure it makes much sense for me to continue writing about this stuff. 



  1. HI Terry,
    I'm not sure you'll even get this post, as you don't seem to get any that I try to post, dunno why. Anyway,
    I think you may enjoy this article written by my daughter's professor, who I think is a brilliant linguist and historian of languages, etc. He makes some excellent observations on the very recent invention of the homosexual "identity" vs the integrity and dignity of the whole person. You may have already come across some of his ideas in other people's articles that have expanded on them.

  2. Hi Gette - sorry you are having trouble posting - I can't figure out why either.

    Thanks for the link - I'll check it out.

    Good to hear from you.


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