Friday, March 06, 2015

Eve Tushnet and beyond ...

She makes me think.

I was graciously sent a copy of Eve Tushnet's book Gay and Catholic to read, and then I think there may have been an expectation that I comment, or 'review' it on Patheos Book Club site.  I didn't do that - like I've often said, I'm always a disappointment because I don't play well with others.  Or, as I've been able to admit lately, I can't live up to other's expectations of me.  Yes, I'm irresponsible and unreliable - it's my major fault.  I'm a bad man.

That said - I did read Tushnet's book and commented upon it within the context of other posts.  I found her book helpful in understanding her and where she is coming from, and have deep respect for Eve.  I noted in one of her posts on her blog that she is engaged in speaking tours: She addressed Life Teen with, “What I’ve Learned As a Gay Catholic”.  Her gay and Catholic message is making inroads.  I suspect it is very helpful to young people who struggle with issues of sexual identity or have friends or family members who do.

Tushnet would like to do away with the concept of sexual identity, writing in a separate post on that hope titled, "Beyond Sexual Identity: Not whether, but how."  Again, Tushnet's intention and thought process is admirable.  She asks: "How can Catholics make it more likely that “the end of sexual identity” will be the beginning of a more-Catholic way of looking at the world, and not a less-Catholic one?"  I respect her honesty and sincerity, I also read what she writes and take time to think about what she has to say...  She makes me think.


There is always something that troubles me when reading Tushnet as well as other gay-Catholic-Spiritual-Friendship writers - the New Homophiles as Austin Ruse coined 'them'.  I think it's a fair term for what it is - there have been other movements in LGBT history which actually preferred the term 'homophile' to homosexuality.  All references seem to acquire a pejorative use eventually.  For instance queer was pejorative, now it is acceptable and even preferred  to other terms - joining LGBT-Q.  Of course LGBTQ is growing exponentially, encompassing all sorts of queer identities - which can almost make the discussion of gender/identity entirely irrelevant.  The conspiracy theorist in my head wonders if that hasn't been the plan all along.  I'm joking - and I digress.

Very honestly, the real reason I never joined in on the Book Club conversation is because there are aspects of Tushnet's writing which bother me, and I wasn't quite able to articulate them, and more importantly, I wasn't able to defend them properly - nor interested in taking the time to do so.  These discussions always end up being so circular and no one seems to get by them without some offense taken or given.

A flawed understanding of theological anthropology.

Having said that, last month I came across an article at Catholic World Report by Bill Maguire, titled,  Gay Catholics and Adequate Anthropology which said everything I would have, had I the writing skills, vocabulary and expertise to do so.  It tells me Eve Tushnet's 'doctrine' needs discernment and oversight, especially as her message is carried to teens struggling with gender/sexual identity issues.

As it stands, it is very good the discussions are occurring, especially in view of how disabled Catholic education has become - as evidenced by the blow back Archbishop Cordileone is now receiving for his efforts to ensure solid Catholic teaching in Catholic schools in San Francisco.  A year or so ago, Sr. Jane Dominic experienced similar resistance when she addressed a school assembly on Catholic sexual teaching.  The question needs to be asked however, is Tushnet on the same page or reading from another manual?  Bill Maguire, who declared his reluctance to critique Eve's writing (just like me) charitably suggests she might have it wrong.  Here is an excerpt from his article.

Eve Tushnet’s laudable goals in Gay and Catholic are undermined by a flawed understanding of theological anthropology.
It is not without reluctance that I offer the following critique of Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith (Ave Maria Press). My reluctance stems mainly from the conviction that her outreach to persons who experience same-sex attraction and to those who wish to better understand and love them is unquestionably motivated by Christian charity and a sincere intention to affirm and be faithful to the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
Our culture is, of course, increasingly intolerant and even hostile toward the Christian understanding of marriage and sexual morality. Thus, it takes courage to publicly affirm and defend these truths. This is perhaps especially the case when the person who is doing the affirming and the defending, at the same time, identifies herself as a “lesbian-gay-bisexual-queer-same-sex-attracted Christian.”
However, affirming the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexual morality is not necessarily synonymous with affirming the Church’s understanding of the human person and human sexuality. And if we lack a proper understanding of the latter, we will inevitably undermine the very truths about the former that we wish to affirm and defend. And this in spite of abundant good will and sincere intentions to the contrary.
It is just here—at the level of what John Paul II calls an “adequate anthropology”—that Tushnet’s work falls short and undermines her otherwise laudable project. Tushnet’s attempts to depict an understanding of human sexuality that is essentially grounded in LGBT gender theory as being compatible with the Church’s teaching on sexuality—and the fact that these efforts are quickly gaining popularity and acceptance in Catholic circles—call for a substantial and unwavering critique. - Finish reading here.

Eva's name reversing, 
Stablish peace below.

Break the captive's fetters ;
Light on blindness pour ; 
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

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