Thursday, November 20, 2014

Eve Tushnet: Wrong? Or right?

Big Pulpit has the attention grabbing headline: Eve Tushnet is Wrong, by Kevin O'Brien

Really?  Is that ex cathedra?

I had already read O'Brien's post which didn't really declare "Eve Tushnet is wrong" - it was more fun than that.  What I got from the article is that he disagrees with Tushnet and therefore she is wrong because Joseph Sciambra pretty much said she was wrong and Kevin agrees with him.  More or less.

And then we get into hairsplitting the meaning of words such as gay, lesbian, gay Catholic, SSA, and even "former gay porn star".  Joseph Sciambra now explains he was an amateur porn actor and escort.  Adding in his profile:
In 1999, following a near death experience, Joseph returned to the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Since then he has written extensively concerning the real-life issues of pornography, homosexuality, and the occult. - Sciambra
No doubt Joseph is a good faithful Catholic and has very deep concerns with the acceptance of porn and homosexuality in our culture, as well as the influence of the occult.  What he writes is good and true.  Obviously he disagrees with Eve Tushnet's book - or some of the things she states in her book.  I have some disagreement with her POV as well - but I disagree with many people over issues of homosexuality.  For instance, I disagree with things Cardinal Dolan has said.  It is clear that Eve isn't promoting a different Gospel - she is writing from her experience and understanding about an issue she has struggled with.  She is not claiming infallibility in what she says in her book.

What I believe she is doing is offering people a look at what it means to continue to identify as gay or lesbian - even queer - and still be called by Christ to the fullness of the Gospel, to be chosen to follow Christ as a faithful, Catholic, Christian woman.  There is nothing wrong with that.

The Church does not say to a person who experiences homosexual attraction that he or she must seek reparative therapy if they are not converted from the inclination entirely.  The Church doesn't say that a person needs change what they have understood, perceived, or experienced as a 'sexual orientation', rather that the person is called to conversion of heart, conversion of manners: the person is called to holiness, to chastity.

Some people see the call to chastity and holiness as nearly insurmountable as it is.  Many gay people are convinced the Church hates them.  They experience the Catholic welcoming committee as banging them over the head with "You can't come in if you say you are gay - if you want to come in you have to say, 'I'm not gay - I'm same sex attracted'!"  But that is not true - that is wrong.  The official language of the Church does not use terms such as 'gay' ... although the Church is clear that such persons are called to chastity, and are among those called to holiness.

Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
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. -CCC

That gets repeated so often we ought to know it better than the Baltimore Catechism Q and A.

That said, even active gay people can go to Mass, and to be sure, they can and should pray.  They may not receive sacramental communion at Mass, but they can certainly go to church and participate in Mass.  The Church condemns homosexual acts - not the person.  (Alcoholics at AA still identify as alcoholics.)

Therefore, Eve Tushnet is not wrong since she accepts Catholic teaching and offers hope to many who seek God - no matter who they are or how the identify themselves.

Joseph Sciambra on what bothers him about Eve's book:

First of all, the problem starts right off in the title of the book itself: “Accepting My Sexuality..;” this is not “my sexuality,” and it is not your sexuality, it’s a wounded condition. In fact, it’s not a sexuality at all, as the Catechism rightly states - it’s a “disorder.” And, as the Sacred Congregation wrote, in its “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:” the inclination itself “…is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” Therefore to “accept” homosexuality is to accept a moral evil. 
Secondly, Tushnet disturbingly writes: “I’m in no sense ex-gay. In fact, I seem to become more lesbian with time—college was my big fling with bisexuality, my passing phase…” While I completely understand her ambivalence towards embracing the Catholic ex-gay therapy movement, by the way - which I highly recommend (in particular: Dr. Joseph Nicolosi,) I am gravely worried by her admonition that she has become “more lesbian.” 
Thirdly, Tushnet wants to somehow redefine the gay lifestyle for skeptical Christians, who, according to her, have been mislead by overly critical works; on this subject she wrote: “And—more problematically—these books tend to assume that gay communities are like fairy gold, which looks like real gold but turns to dead leaves overnight. So, too, gay communities are presented as attractive and perhaps even liberating at first, but ultimately hollow and worthless. There needs to be a book directed at people who still find beauty, mutual aid, and solidarity in gay life…” - Sciambra

I do not have a problem with any of that.  I think I understand  where Joseph is coming from - and he is right as far as Catholic teaching is concerned.  Nevertheless, Eve is not saying anything contrary to Catholic teaching.  In fact she is writing to people 'where they are at'... she accompanies those most in need of mercy.  She reminds me very much of Madeleine Delbrel whose mission was to live amidst those who were most in need of evangelization.

It seems to me Tushnet is a realist, she understands the term disorder and believes homosexual acts are indeed sinful.  I don't claim to understand how she feels even 'more lesbian' now that she is celibate and sober - but I don't understand women - lesbian or not.  To be honest, I don't understand gay.  I understand myself as a man... a Catholic man.  Just Catholic.  How another person defines himself is not my business.

The secular world, and some in the Church use the term gay.  That's just a fact.  It is also a fact that this is taught in schools - it has been since Eve was a kid, and is even more so now days.  (I point to that fact all of the time.)  It is used, and has been used for decades by mainstream culture.  The Church doesn't use the term in doctrinal documents.  The secular world uses it though.  It's just a fact of contemporary MSM life.

I'm not sure Eve is trying to redefine the "gay lifestyle for skeptical Christians."  I think she is introducing skeptical Christians to an aspect of gay culture they have not hitherto been acquainted with - gay Christians.  I don't get it completely, but evidently many gay Christians do.

I told a friend I was reading her book.  My friend is rarely interested in anything Catholic except art, architecture and Pope Francis.  He perked up at the title of Eve's book, "Gay and Catholic" saying, "Really?  That sounds interesting."  I asked why he said that, and he said he didn't know you could be gay and Catholic.  I answered, "Yes, you can be - you just can't engage in homosexual acts - no sex.  Chaste and celibate."  He answered, "Well that I am."  I replied, "Then you can become a Catholic."

Nothing is wrong with Eve Tushnet - as far as I can see.

Nothing is wrong with Joseph Sciambra either - as far as I can see.

Just saying.

I'm sure I'll be writing more on this subject in the future.

"...and the Israelites moved on from the wilderness of Sinai by stages..." - Numbers 10:12

Song for this post here.


  1. Thank God the comments box is back!!! All of your crazy fans such as myself were on pins and needles while you watched,lounging around eating bon bons and laughing at our distress. Unfortunately I had to go over to the source blog to "blow off,"steam about this whackadoodle Sciambra..

    Terry, why would you and other intelligent people use this guy as if he has any kind of credibility? I think the point of my pent up rant is...look at the differences in these accepts that they are gay but still choosing to live according to Church teaching, and another guy who claims he is an ex-gay, claims you can't claim a gay identity and be Catholic,even if your celibate, oh and the most important part, claims he had sex with a demon and had a demon baby..oh and un-ironically titled his book.."SWALLOWED by Satan," which sounds like the name of a porn movie he "starred," in. Who is the better role model here..who do you think is going to reach more people with their message?

    Oh, and "being more lesbian," means she perfected her carpentry skills..duh!

    1. Thanks for the laugh.

    2. I also hope they bring back the Imprimatur for books about Catholic conversion stories.

  2. There was an interview of both Dan Mattson and Eve Tushnet by Al Kresta on Friday. Although it was billed as a debate, it was more of a friendly conversation (which I was glad of), with each of them explaining their undertanding and way of thinking.

    I'm currently about half way through Eve's book. While Dan's thoughts on human identity and theological terminology definitely resonate more with me, I will say there are portions of Eve's writing that I'm enjoying. I'm hoping to eventually get around to writing a proper review of her book, once I finish reading it...

    1. Hi Tina - Dan let me know of the interview - sorry I missed it but I just don't listen to the radio and avoid talk radio. I'm glad it went well.

      I respect both Dan and Eve and was certain the discussion couldn't be anything but cordial.

      I think along the same lines as you and Dan - I'm so comfortable with the theological terminology and teaching I often forget - or have a hard time understanding - those who find it offensive. Likewise, I see the welcome mat laid out for everyone in the Church in and through the ordinary means - RCIA, the sacraments, and participating in parish life.

      Looking back over my own life I have been the one who isolated and didn't want to participate in parish life. Maybe I'll try and reflect on that sometime. It is amazing to me what obstacles we imagine and set ourselves up for. John of the Cross always talks about how the 'dark night' will itself correct these 'faults' - I interpret and apply that counsel often telling people 'you grow out of it'. Getting older has its benefits - if we don't box ourselves in.

      Good to hear from you Tina - I send everyone who will listen to the Courage resources. What a blessing.


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