Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chasing my tail

Getting sucked into the debate over the New Homophiles.

It's getting deep and way over my head - the arguments which show up in the com boxes at Crisis on the subject of concern over the new homophiles.  Last weekend I was invited to comment on Austin Ruse's post, which included a mention of my posts on the group, and I've been distracted ever since.  The arguments in the com box at Crisis remind me of a cat chasing her tail.  They wear me down, distract me, confuse me - that's what I mean by making my head swim and chasing my tail.

The arguments are getting to be like the Chris West controversy over his interpretation of Theology of the Body.  It tends to be more an academic-intellectual debate playing magisterial and non-magisterial teaching against each other rather than fostering any deeper understanding.  The so-called new homophiles usually speak over the heads of the ordinary person.  They claim to be leaving Catholic teaching intact, yet it nearly always sounds foreign to the common understanding Catholics have of traditional moral teaching.  They use self-referential gay vernacular in their literature,  explaining how faithful they are to Catholic teaching while dismissing what they consider offensive or hard to understand language used in Magisterial instructions.  A fact more than ironic, since Magisterial-catechetical teaching is always clearly stated and much easier to understand than anything these people write in their own defense.

There is nothing wrong with this group per se, and they will tell you that.  The insistence on accepting the Church's teaching on chastity is their standard claim to orthodoxy.  Chastity is after all, what the Catholic Church calls everyone to - according to one's state in life.  Chastity is more than simply abstinence from sexual behavior - but that's another post.  It is clear their network is very tight, perhaps exclusive, a safe distance above theological scrutiny, until now.  The Crisis series is a very good exposé  if you will, bringing to light the confusion generated by this movement.

Like I said, I do believe they are faithful to Church teaching as regards chastity, but what seems in process of developing is a promotion the so-called gay lifestyle - more or less inadvertently perhaps - by advocating queer theory, gender confusion, as well as the idea that God created some persons gay.  In other words, they are saying homosexuality is a good in itself, that it is a gift from God.  This is where they come very close to rejecting magisterial teaching regarding the very nature of man.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mattson and Ruse in calling for their positions to be examined by Catholic theologians.  The articles in Crisis magazine, and the debate these essays generate will hopefully bring about such an examination.

"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." - Veritatis Splendor


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    1. You wrote: The arguments in the com box...remind me of a cat chasing her tail. They wear me down, distract me, confuse me - that's what I mean by making my head swim and chasing my tail.

      And that is just one of the reasons why I quit blogging!

    2. I was really close to throwing in the towel yesterday.

    3. Take a sabbatical instead. Spend time alone with the Lord and ask him how best can you serve him.

      I quit lots of websites as well as commenting on them as I was becoming very distracted and taking things personal and getting upset.

      Anyway, I am more at ease now since I let much if not all of the online drama go. They are people I do not know, will never meet, nor want to.

      I had a strong sense that I had to "get out of the combox" while I still could. I sensed too, that in real life, I was wasting precious time fussing over my online ego and not enough time praying for my neighbor.

      Whatever you decide to do, may it bring you peace and set you free.

      Let's keep praying for each other...the lot of us. ^^

  2. I'm not an expert on this subject but please don't quit blogging. I like the fact that there are still some thoughtful, faithful and charitable bloggers out there.

    1. Thanks very much - I think I'll be around for a little bit at least.

  3. Years ago I read a letter to the editor of the NCRegister complaining about bloggers. The list described someone who was obsessed by blogging because they couldn't wait to get home so they could jump on the computer and check their stats, check for comments (this was before we could get mail on your phone I think), they spent time with family but were not engaged as they were already thinking about their next blog topic, bloggers had more online friends and interactions than real life ones, and the list went on and on. I felt so sick when I read that because it's like the writer was looking in my window when she wrote it. In fact I was almost jealous of all the single bloggers I 'knew' because they could post whenever they wanted to and I had many other duties to my work, home, family. But still I didn't quit. Finally I started reading Dark Night of the Soul. By page 3 I was done with blogging. I didn't even finish the book. A few years later I tried reading the book again but couldn't understand what had triggered the decision. Doesn't matter. I do enjoy this blog though - it's always balanced.

    1. You are making me think! Thanks.

  4. I tried to read the com box of the article in Crisis and I understand your frustration...but please don't quit blogging. You speak for many of us who do not have your gift for writing and contribute in the discource with spiritual discernment. That's what I think, anyway.

  5. "They claim to be leaving Catholic teaching intact, yet it nearly always sounds foreign to the common understanding Catholics have of traditional moral teaching. . . I do believe they are faithful to Church teaching as regards chastity"

    An all too common occurrence. And they're not nearly as smart as they think they are with their sophistry. Their fidelity isn't grounded in conforming themselves to the Church, but in redefining Church teaching to conform with themselves.

  6. You write, "They claim to be leaving Catholic teaching intact, yet it nearly always sounds foreign to the common understanding Catholics have of traditional moral teaching."

    With all due respect, my impression of the Crisis discussion was not that claims being made about "church teaching" sounded foreign to "traditional understandings," but rather that descriptions being given of gayness and homosexual orientation were confusing to conservatives who apparently take for granted a rather unconsidered set of half-baked notion about what sexual orientation even is, how it works, or what is and isn't at stake morally.

    None of this is theology. The deposit of faith has no category of "gay and straight and bi" one way of the other.

    My impression of the thread was that the notions which were "confusing" the "ordinary" conservatives were not foreign spins on simple church teachings, but rather a presentation of the new social, cultural, political, and psychological realities of sexual orientation (and, yes, queerness generally).

    If those were sincerely understood, I don't think the application of church teaching TO those new social realities would seem complex at all. It's almost like: Catholic social teaching may be simple, but the economy is ridiculously complicated, so if you're discussing catholic social teaching with a bunch of's bound to get a bit heady and nitpicky.

    However, I'd also question the sincerity of some of the posters, as most seemed content to keep attacking a strawman something like "SSA is a temptation to sin!!" even though it was continually emphasizes that this is not what the construct of sexual orientation even means (but that isn't church teaching being twisted; the church has no teaching on "how gay is defined" nor on whether certain social constructs are valid interpretations of experience).

    No one was redefining church teaching. It seemed to me what people in the thread were most resistant to having "redefined" was their preconceived notions about "gay" and what it even means (a determination for psychologists and sociologists, and gays themselves, not the church; the church can only issue a moral determination in a phenomenon once it is defined).

    If the idea of abandoning a blanket aversion something like "gay or homosexual = bad or negative" in favor of nuance and important distinctions is not something "regular people" can handle...I don't know what that says about the church's intellectual future.

  7. I wouldn't call Catholic teaching on natural law, marriage and sexuality half-baked.

    1. Oh you double-tongued serpent, you're twisting my words.

      I never said "Catholic teaching natural law, marriage, and sexuality" are half-baked.

      What I called half-baked was the operational definition and concept of what sexual orientation even is or how it works that the conservative commentors (et tu, Terry?) in that Crisis thread take as their basic objet d'étude and to which they try to apply the principles of Catholic teaching.

      Those principles may be sound enough in themselves, but if you use them to analyze a phenomenon that you are not defining correctly in the first place, all you've wound up analyzing is a straw man or caricature.

      I think even, for example, of the Oriental Orthodox. The Church condemned monophysitism at Chalcedon. Fair enough. But it turns out (whoops) that the so-called Monophysites were never actually monophysites all along.

      The way the conversation at Crisis was going I felt like I was a modern zoologist talking to some strange medieval naturalist. Like I would mention how I caught a rhinoceros in Africa. "Impossible!" they'd tell me, "Everyone knows only a Maiden can tame the rhinoceros." Oh, well, you're talking about "rhinoceros" in the sense of a monoceros or unicorn then, a goat- or horse-like mythical creature. That's not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about a gray pachyderm ungulate (and besides, the type of "rhinoceros" YOU'RE talking about doesn't even exist). "No, the rhinoceros does not behave as you describe! It is defined as a woodland creature that gallops about and its horn can heal sickness." Well, again, maybe that's what the "rhinoceros" (ie, the unicorn) you're talking about does. But the creature I'm talking about really does exist, and its horn isn't rendering poison water potable, let me tell you. "Nonsense, Pliny says that the Rhinoceros is able!" Ok, well, then I'm talking about something other than what Pliny was talking about, either a different beast, or else his knowledge of it was third-hand and extremely exaggerated and corrupted, I've actually SEEN the thing.

      Same thing with talking about homosexuality to those Crisis commentors. We weren't, ultimately, even discussing the same THING, the same phenomenon, and yet they wanted to keep insisting that the phenomenon they were discussing was the only possible thing that could exist or which I could be talking about. Well, fine, but then they were addressing a strawman and refusing to actually engage the reported experiences of gay people, like the cardinals refusing to look through Galileo's telescope.


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