Friday, March 13, 2015

Eve Tushnet's Gay and Catholic Crisis

Deacon Jim Russell asks "A yes or a mess?"

I have only written about Eve's book here and there - within in the context of posts about what others are saying in their reviews of the work.  In fact, the further out the discussion goes with commentary by other noted religious thinkers, the less qualified I feel myself to say anything of substance.

Deacon Russell does a fine job of covering the troubling aspects of Eve's gay and Catholic 'teaching' in his current essay.  I have learned a lot from Deacon Jim, he has helped me understand the fine points regarding same sex friendship, celibacy, chastity, and so on.  I think he 'gets it'.  This is especially clear in the latest article for Crisis.  When it comes to forming youth, educating them on Catholic teaching regarding sexuality, marriage - including same sex attraction, Deacon goes right to the heart of the matter.

Interestingly, a post by and about Eve Tushnet's POV regarding 'gay and Catholic' titled, “God Delights in Me: What I’ve Learned as a Gay Catholic” has been removed from the LifeTeen website.  Deacon Jim noted it in the combox, saying, "It's prudent and will minimize any potential confusion."   I agree - but it's already out there, and has been - some Catholic schools pretty much teach the same things.  The endorsement maybe has been put on hold, that's all.

Does the Church view homosexuality as a condition associated with affective immaturity, which may be transitory in adolescents? Yes.

It isn't as if Eve Tushnet is some wicked heretic, it's simply that the 'doctrine' may be a bit 'off'.  As Deacon Jim stated in explaining his purpose for the current article:
I’d like to focus on Tushnet’s message as presented in the context of Catholic youth ministry. Let’s assess her assertions and then ask some questions about what a more authentic Catholic view regarding homosexuality and youth would be like. - Crisis

I want you to 'hear' that.  We need to understand that things which get published on or off the Internet are sometimes intended for distinct audiences.  Deacon Jim's chief concern with Eve Tushnet's outreach to youth is whether or not it is appropriate within the context of Catholic youth ministry.  Kids in their formative years - despite the fact they may be from "Modern Family" style households and exposed to far more than many of us can imagine - it is absolutely critical that young people are educated in authentic, unambiguous Catholic teaching on faith and morals - not queer theory, gender theory, or same sex romance stories - but what the Church actually teaches and really calls us to.  We can't 'make up' vocations.

Should the Church address same-sex attraction first and foremost via the virtue of chastity, particularly for young people? Yes.

Please read what Deacon Jim has to say - it should clear up any confusion you may have from Eve's book and her latest post at LifeTeen.  As she herself noted in her post: “These days I go back and forth on how well I think I grasp the theology behind the Church’s sexual ethic.”

Ironically, that is a very real problem for gay people in general - the homosexual person or those with same sex attraction seeking to live in fidelity to Catholic teaching.  Eve's book does little to dispel such wavering regarding Catholic teaching.  Likewise, "pastorally speaking"  accounts for even more confusion - if you know what I mean.  The pastoral approach to individuals is unique, yet it is between the spiritual director and the individual person - to lift up exceptional life situations as a model for dealing with what is objectively disordered is not an acceptable replacement/substitute for clear, definitive Catholic teaching.

Should a clear and definitive distinction be maintained between authentically healthy and “disinterested” friendships on one hand and less-than-healthy relationships formed at least in part on the basis of same-sex attraction on the other? Yes.

Some of the Spiritual Friendship studies seem intent upon establishing a sort of gay-Catholic exceptional-ism which allows for exclusive same-sex partnerships, albeit without genital intimacy.  So, if I was a kid and I heard that, I might think, "I can have a boyfriend - we just can't 'do it'."

I want to do a post on the Tushnet quote, "I go back and forth" - about the wavering on Catholic teaching gay people go through.  On one hand we are bombarded by popular culture opening its arms to welcome gays as equal and normal, likewise psychology and academia affirms the gay person as intrinsically gifted and special.  While the Church teaches the inclination itself is towards an intrinsically disordered sexuality, that chaste celibacy is the only alternative - yet the 'world' and popular culture distorts the very notion of all that is good and pure and simple.  I see the back and forth all the time.

I have friends who've left the Church for the Old Catholics, the Anglican/Episcopalians, or some just 'moved beyond' the limitations of Catholic teaching.  Almost all have vacillated on Catholic teaching at one time or another:  Embracing this compromise, repenting and embracing the Courage model; or, falling back and integrating their lives with gay and straight - acting out, but going to Communion, repenting, digging in and going back to Courage or some sort of self-help source, even burning their bad books and Speedos, only to fall again - or just giving up all together.   Maybe even developing their own idiosyncratic spirituality ... protestants do that.  It's not Catholic.  It might be spiritual and contain a Catholic sensibility, even a facade of Catholic religiosity - but it is not Catholic.  I'm not judging the person here, nor am I saying the baptized person is not Catholic - but the 'practice' is not Catholic.

My point is that gay Catholics often have stability issues.

But. I. Digress.

Read Deacon Russell's essay.  He doesn't vacillate.

Joseph Sciambra posted on the L.A. Religious Ed. Congress speaker Arthur Fitzmaurice, describing him as a gay "dissenter" from Catholic teaching, read Joe's post here.   No surprise there I suppose.  As I always say, Catholic education is riddled with misinformation - it's already part of the curriculum.    No wonder Catholics are confused and 'go back and forth on how well they grasp - or accept - the Church's sexual ethic.'

Fitzmaurice teaches that God made people gay.  All rightey then.

Apostasies among bishops and priests increase.


  1. Only God knows how difficult this may be ,' the wavering on Catholic teaching gay people go through'. In my prayers

  2. Pfft just who *is* stable? Not even many Benedictines I know.

    1. I actually meant it as far as accommodating one's behavior to Catholic teaching or opting for some sort of compromise or personal dispensation type deal. I'm talking about alternative doctrines or simply opting out until one is willing to surrender ... convert ... follow ... obey ... whatever works.

  3. Her "I go back and forth" quote was pretty clearly about her assessment of her own understanding. I didn't read that as her saying she goes back and for on agreeing with or following the teaching. This happens to me all the time. With the eucharist, understanding the incarnation, etc. And sex stuff too. Sometimes I think I get it (enough), other times I feel very confused about how we're really supposed to live (not what big things are or are not prohibited). It's too bad we can't read her essay any more to get the context for those snippets Deacon Jim pounced all over.

    Was I also the only one who got the impression that there was a "Come on, we all know gays shouldn't be allowed to talk to kids about stuff"-tone or undercurrent through the piece?

    I think he made some great points when he argued against her positive statements about "blessing friendships" or whatever the preferred term is forming exclusive friendships. That made sense because he was countering something she put forth in a definite way. The rest seemed like he was arguing against his general impression of what she was "really trying to say" and cherry-picking brief snippets that almost fit.

    Again, I would have liked to read her piece.

    1. Thanks Joshua - that 's a good insight. I think when I said in my post about 'hearing' what Deacon Jim wrote - I meant it in the sense of his emphasis on how Catholic Youth Ministry should be handled/conducted - but I see what you mean saying 'Was I also the only one who got the impression that there was a "Come on, we all know gays shouldn't be allowed to talk to kids about stuff"-tone or undercurrent through the piece?'

      Perhaps that tone is present, yet the same tone is fired back at people like Deacon Jim whenever clear teaching is presented. I don't know if you remember the Dominican nun who spoke to a school assembly and received a lot of blow back for being anti-gay. Often speakers are simply trying to cover all their bases so they can speak directly to an issue without sidestepping to pacify sensibilities. The blow back that Archbishop Cordilione in SF is another example of how this issue gets sidetracked. I'm not sure if that makes sense or not.

      Tushnet and Spiritual friendship writers need clarification and it seems to me Deacon Jim does a great job challenging their message - sifting it for clarity, as it were. The debate, the dialog is good and the truth of the matter will be revealed, I'm confident about that.

      Thanks for contributing and voicing your disagreement and misgivings.

    2. Instead of "yet the same tone" I should say a similar negative tone is proffered when traditional catechesis is presented. There is a resistance to the same old, same old teaching as being out of date or not evolved or developed enough to be relevant to the new dimensions of fidelity to Catholic teaching.

  4. I trust Eve's judgment faaaaaaar more than I trust Deacon Jim's.

    1. It seems a lot of people feel that way - but I find him to be very understanding of Catholic teaching on the subject. I really think his concern is how young people are catechized on the issues related to same sex attraction - although after reading about the LA Religious Congress and what was offered there by Fitzmaurice I can see why Deacon Jim's offerings are resisted.

      Frankly, I'm not in anyone's camp on these issues - I cite that which corresponds to my understanding of Catholic teaching and practice - what I've come to understand. I tend towards the Courage model which emphasizes holiness of life and chastity. I'm not as concerned about terminologies as everyone else seems to be, and so on.

      Like I've maintained, Eve has good things to say and I think Deacon Jim attempt to keep it on track. I have great respect for him. I'm not sure why people seem to reject Deacon Jim.

      Thanks Mark.


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