Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is everybody gay?

Sometimes it seems that way.

I love that line from the film "In and Out" when Joan Cusack's character leaves the bar in her wedding dress and yells "Is everybody gay!" in frustration when it seems as if everybody really is.

Obviously not a few bloggers wonder the same thing.  One British blogger writes scathing criticism of the recent film, The Third Way, accusing the producers of pretty much watering down Catholic teaching on homosexuality.  Another blogger in the States pans the film because it uses the wrong language - one presenter said 'homophobia'.  On the other hand, speaking of media in general very good writers such as Austin Ruse have pointed out that media is saturated with gay hype and propaganda, introducing his essay with this:
A gay guy gets up in the morning, does something, and nobody writes about it. Now that would be news.
Will we ever see that day when we as a culture do not stare slack-jawed and unblinking—so as not to miss a single thing—at all things gay? - A Manly Voice on Matters Gay and Christian, Crisis
At least he has a sense of humor - though some readers may not appreciate it.  The fact that all types are writing and responding to the gay media blitz is an obvious signal the issue is a major battle on the front lines of the culture wars.  Personally, I think it is especially important for Christians to confront these issues because doctrinal errors are presented as truth - despite the criticism one receives in response.  As Letters to Christopher author, Dan Mattson pointed out to a person commenting on his blog regarding discussions on these matters:
Certainly, anyone has the freedom to choose how they will live their lives, but if they are public about it, and promote that choice as a positive and healthy option for others, it seems to be an obligation for those who have concerns about such a path to speak just as publicly about the potential problems with that choice, right? It would be a strange Church where no comment or no challenge was made towards such a novel approach as a “gay celibate relationship.” - D.C. Mattson
Exactly right.  Dan Mattson is one of the very best writers online on these issues - his theology is solidly Catholic.

SSA or Gay - are they equal?

I've wanted to say some things about that debate.  Once again, Dan Mattson has written excellent posts on why the term SSA - same sex attraction - is preferred.  I agree, but I think in general discussions it can sound a little disingenuous.  It takes a lot of effort to attempt to control the language of others, especially when it comes to popular usage.

When people such as myself take an honest inventory of our lives and review the choices we have made, I sometimes wonder how authentic it is to always be going back and forth with these terms - trying to be faithful to a somewhat clinical 'definition' can be difficult and in the end it remains a sort of label most people immediately equate with 'gay'.  As one commenter on Spiritual Friendship replied to a person who prefers to use SSA instead of gay:
This sort of semantic dishonesty and obfuscation and distancing is where I think most of the concern over “SSA” comes from. Not that it can’t be someone’s preferred label, but that they think by some mental gymnastics that preferring a different label somehow means they can opt out of experiential affinity with the group in question. - Patty Keith
I get that because that is the conventional theory - even though I bemoan it.  These issues are very troubling, no doubt about it.  I've often struggled with the identity issue as well.  Someone who worked for me once asked, "Why don't you want people to know you live with someone?"  I answered, "Because I don't want people to think I'm gay."  He understood - but many people wouldn't.  Today most people think two same sex persons living together are in a relationship, and not just friends.

What to say?

I've deliberately kept my life private.  I've also concluded it's a waste of time trying to redeem language at every step.  It confuses things and seems to me to be a distraction.  Language usage gets stuck as it were, and can be constrained by limitations over what is PC or non-PC, and in many cases, sets people up for passing judgement on others. The fact is, the term in general usage has turned out to be "gay".  The pope says it, the cardinals and bishops use it in unofficial documents and interviews, priests, lay people gay people and normal people use the term.  It also seems to be common usage in Catholic schools as well as many Catholic parishes.

Sometimes it comes off as if those who use ssa exclusively and insist on its exclusive use are being a little holier than thou about it.   As the cliche sums it up, 'been there, done that'.  Its use is not a litmus test for orthodoxy or fidelity to Catholic teaching by any means.  In some cases - it may be used interchangeably, even by those whose intentions are not all that 'disinterested'.  I know of a religious who when introduced to someone with ssa, one of the first things he said in his reply was, "I'm ssa too!"  My response, using another cliche, 'so gay!'

The Church calls all men and women to chastity, and single people to celibacy.  It's not a curse to be lamented.  It's a grace.  People with homosexual inclination are called to chastity.  As a reading at Mass a few days ago put it: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit - not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain etc., etc., ... and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right".  That's one take on this discussion.

A lot of gay people do not, or cannot make that leap to "I'm not really gay - I just have temptations or I have ssa."  The Church does not ask that a person change an inclination or attraction or pretend they don't have it.  Nor does the Church forbid the use of particular terms to describe their experience of themselves, but rather to be faithful to the Gospel, the Commandments, and to embrace a life of chastity in order to grow in holiness.  Chastity is a virtue, one grows in virtue as ones spiritual life deepens.

The preference for the term ssa over gay may be meaningful for many of us - but I doubt it is a pre-condition for the reception of the sacraments.  Promoting gay as a good and a third way of sexuality, as an alternative lifestyle equal to heterosexuality, or even as a specific spirituality, is indeed an error.  I'm just not sure people who use the descriptive 'gay' are participating in such political activity.

On chaste friendships.

Two former lovers change their lives, accept Catholic teaching, go to confession and are admitted to the reception of the Eucharist.  They have lived together for many years, the sexual interest may or may not have waned, yet they are determined to help one another live faithful lives in obedience to Catholic teaching.  They continue to live together as friends.  It is not the same situation as a divorced and remarried couple living as brother and sister.  The situation may not be ideal, nor would it be a model of a blessed partnership - as if that is even a possibility.  It's an accommodation.  Call it continence, it allows for and leads to a chaste lifestyle, a wholesome friendship.  It is the first step towards perfect chastity.

At the beginning of the 'relationship change' all of that may not be perfectly understood.  It may not just suddenly happen that everything falls in order, as it were.  There may remain a certain emotional attachment, a habitual possessiveness, even a sense that continence is an end in itself.  I'd liken it to a religious, who by religious profession enters into what theologians call the 'state of perfection' although the religious may be far from perfect.  Likewise, the same sex friends who choose to live as chaste friends in obedience to the Commandments, the Gospel and Catholic teaching, may not in the beginning understand all that the virtue of chastity entails.  The soul grows in virtue, just as one's conversion is always a work in progress.

I like very much what Dan Mattson has to say on friendship:
For those who live with an attraction to the same sex, the integration and blossoming of chastity is found only in friendship, not in “partnerships,” or in anything resembling romantic love. We can give of ourselves, like Christ, disinterestedly, “who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate.” - Thoughts on "Celibate 'gay-partnerships'"
That is quite profound.

As I said, it may not be every ones ideal, but it may be a remedy for many to accept Catholic teaching with the support of that level of disinterested friendship.  It may be rare - or much more common than most people realize, or are even able to articulate.  The Holy Father likens the Church these days to a field hospital for the wounded, the analogy may fit in these cases.  With confession, spiritual direction, people can scale any wall, as the psalmist says.

I may be wrong and I am not promoting an alternative lifestyle by any means, however, I do want people to know that no situation is impossible for God.  We need courage to do God's will.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Nothing.
This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself. - Veritatis Splendor

I like to think of the rich young man from the Gospel in relation to these discussions.  The rich young man wanted more - he knew keeping the commandments - which he had done faithfully - wasn't enough, as it were.  He wanted to be holy, he longed for perfection - and that is the call of the Gospel, that is God's will - our sanctification.  The young man asked Christ what more he needed to do.  Jesus looked at him with great love and deep respect:  He said, if you wish to be perfect ... give up all you possess, deny your very self, and come after me.

Don't go away.  Don't go away sad.

And if you have - come back.  Jesus continues to call, his Sacred Heart exposed and wounded:  Come to me, all of you who are weary and find life burdensome - come to me.


  1. Terry, you are prudent to keep your private life private. I wish more people would do the same. Too many people share their private business as well as their temptations and inclinations. It can be dangerous to other souls.

    1. I agree as well. The only reason I post what I have is to clear up any confusion regarding Catholic teaching and/or make amends or reparation for any bad example I may have given.

  2. Thanks for your insights, Terry. There's much food for thought here that can help those of us who don't suffer from SSA to understand on a deeper level the challenges others face. When I'm awake during the night I'm going to pray for all those trying to live the virtue of chastity whatever their situation in life.

    1. Thanks Mary Ann. I wonder if your awakening during the night isn't your call to vigils - in the monastic sense - to watch and pray? Prayer during the night is said to be very efficacious. Please remember me sometimes. Thanks!

  3. Temptation should never be so nearby. Every Catholic is obligated by scripture and catechism to avoid the occasion of sin.

    I thoroughly respect gay people who are living as chaste Catholics, but as a straight chaste Catholic adult convert, I know perfectly well that I would slip if I had a potential or former lover living in my home. It would just be a matter of time.

    It's understandable that such a compromise is tempting to condone, but it seemed to me to be a muddy sort of compromise and not at all in line with the normally clear discernment in your posts.


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