Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On the pastoral care of whatchamacallit persons. More thoughts on 'gay celibates'.

"But-ch-ya are, Blanche, ya are!"

Adding to the confusion here, I just want to say you really can be a gay-celibate.  It doesn't mean you are not a man or a woman.  As Dan Mattson says, our bodies tell us what we are.  Recently I was invited to join Ello, a social website, and I had to write a short profile on myself.  I began with this, "I was born a man and lived all my life as a man ..."  As I frequently say here, I'm a single Catholic man.  I love being a man.

In his essay, Dan Mattson mentions being open to marriage, among other things, as part of his not being gay and simply a single man.  That's his idea.  Nothing wrong with that, either.

One size doesn't fit all, however.

For instance, and as I have often said on my blog and in life:  I never, ever wanted to be married.  In fact, at a very early age, 5, 6, or 7 maybe?  I insisted I would never marry, I insisted that I did not want to be married, and for lack of understanding at the time, I told everyone I wanted to be a priest.  They left me alone after that.  I even made 'private' vows of chastity, all through grade school - even after being molested.  My point is that I knew for an absolute fact I was not called to marriage.  I even tried to 'force' myself to marry later on, after my return to the Church, but it was very clear to me I did not want to be married and it was not God's will for me.  I am a celibate, single man.

So, what is a celibate?  

It is defined as a person who abstains from marriage and sexual relations.

When a person understands himself to be same sex attracted, a sexual inclination popularly, culturally, academically and generally identified as gay, and when such a person decides to return to the Church and the sacraments, living chastely and celibately, he may use the term gay-celibate.  The Church calls all persons to live chastely according to their state in life.  If a person is single and chooses not marry, he chooses the celibate lifestyle for himself.  Interestingly, celibate persons - no matter what their temptations, frequently live together in large or small communities.  Diocesan priests frequently live alone, but more and more join together to live in a community of two or more.  Single men and women can do the exact same thing.

That is pretty much my only disagreement with Dan Mattson's excellent article in Crises.

However, the com box discussion for the article has pretty much turned into a contentious debate, thus taking it out of the pastoral and turning it into an ideological-academic argument in an effort to justify this or that position.  Which is precisely why I hate writing about this subject.  The posts are subsequently picked up by news portals who reduce the work down to a soundbite such as 'you can't be gay and celibate', or something like that.  The person always gets sidelined or boxed-in - thus the pastoral concern gets lost in the details.

But-ch-ya are Blanche, ya are.

I use that line from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane because SSA or gay - chaste, celibate, or sexually active - those who know you use that language.  They will never let it go.  If you are unmarried, they want a handle to identify you with.  That's reality.  You can say what you want, and have all the Church documents on your side, but it is what it is.  Catholic schools, parishes, priests, bishops - they all speak the same language.  To both the religious and non-religious person, SSA pretty much equals gay.  To a person who finds the idea of homosexuality revolting, you are a pansy, a fag, a creme-puff - and these are just some of the pejorative terms I heard this past week on PBS Masterpiece Theater.

My point is, these discussions are great for the classroom, for precise theological teaching, which aids the pastor directing an individual, but they miss the point to the degree it is used to further alienate and or condemn those individuals who may not be as spiritually perfect as one would like them to be.

There really is a progression in the spiritual/moral life of the Christian.  Condemn it as gradualism if you will, but it is a reality.  We are human beings.  St. Benedict recognized that, hence the vow of ongoing conversion of manners.  Christ himself acknowledges that when he says 'strive to enter the narrow way' and 'not everyone can accept that', and elsewhere when he says, 'what is impossible for man is possible for God'.  It is why we pray and do penance and frequent the sacraments and seek direction through reading and spiritual counsel.

Chastity, continence, and celibacy.

Dan Mattson presents Catholic teaching masterfully - he speaks of the way of perfection - he is a wonderful witness.  Dan's essay is necessary to counter the gay-Catholic Spiritual Friendship movement which insists GLBTQ is an identity - an issue of gender politics with the intent towards a 'development of doctrine' regarding Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage.  This movement pretty much militates against the CDF's direction to avoid 'an all too benign interpretation be given to the homosexual condition itself' and by extension, the approval of same sex unions.

A friend of mine privately responded to me regarding the recent Crisis essays, saying that he was just trying to live chastely - to keep the commandments - that he didn't have the strength or interest in such discussions.  My friend is a faithful Catholic, under competent spiritual direction by a priest.  He makes a very good point.

If these discussions on chastity, continence, and celibacy confuse you, I urge you to speak with a good priest, in confession or make an appointment with a priest for a conversation on these issues.  If a priest is unavailable, read the documents on Catholic teaching, or good books on the subject.  Courage is an excellent resource for solid material.  Above all, pray, pray, pray a great deal - and be patient with yourself.  Don't panic - some people go through life in fits and starts and make themselves crazy.  Don't do that.  Use common sense and don't try to please others to be accepted.

Never - ever - despair of the mercy of God.  The Church does not lay burdens upon you that you cannot carry.  Have confidence and don't be discouraged.  In one of St. Paul's letters he says that one ought to continue before God in the condition of life that was his when he was called.  That is not to mean one continues in living in sin - but the call to holiness is not necessarily restricted by one's state of life.  (Obviously if you're an actor in porn films, you'd quit the business, and so on.)  Indeed, elsewhere Paul says to come out from the midst of them - suggesting one leaves behind a sinful lifestyle, or one riddled with numerous occasions of sin.  That's just common sense, nevertheless, one is not necessarily called to go into 'reparative therapy' either.

Of course I may be wrong.  So pay no attention to me - I have absolutely no credentials or initials after my name and so I'm a complete idiot.

Oh!  Why do I involve myself in these discussions?  Why?

Song for this post here.


  1. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Terry you are so far from an "idiot" that it is frankly ridiculous to even say...your wisdom and kindness have helped me through many a weak moment, whether you realize it or not. But you deserve to know that. And your prayers for me have amazed me as well. Why would you? To me that is as Sacred Scripture says the "measure of a man." And it was to both Sts Timothy and Titus that St Paul alluded to that identity of us as men of God. No accident that this day was when I "happened" upon this post, on their Feast day within the Liturgical calendar. You are right, people will call us what they choose, but I too agree that, after 1/2 century of this struggle I have realized that, short of a miracle from God, I am called to be celibate and at some point I had to embrace that rather than just tolerate it. That too would be my only disagreement with Dan on his fine article. The rest is spiritual cheesecake.

    1. Thanks very much Richard, the admiration is mutual then. You are a gifted writer and have been through much - your witness is of great value.

      United in prayer!


  2. Amen to all this, Terry.

  3. Thanks for this: "Don't panic - some people go through life in fits and starts and make themselves crazy. Don't do that. Use common sense and don't try to please others to be accepted." I should know that already, but needed the reminder.


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