Allow yourself to be taught. - S. John of the Cross
Deacon Russell asks an interesting question after attending the “Welcoming and Accompanying Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction” conference last week. Actually he raises several points, one I consider rather important:
Having said all that, here is the deeply essential point: Organizers of the conference and book—and even Prever himself in an above comment—place a real premium upon the value of “testimonial” voices of those who live with same-sex attraction. But there is an inherent danger with this approach that must always be vigilantly addressed. Not everyone who has SSA adequately understands SSA. And this includes some (I’m inclined to think many) Catholics with SSA who are seeking to live chaste lives through continence. - Deacon RussellDeacon Jim says something important - "Not everyone who has SSA adequately understands SSA." First let me say that I write pretty much for myself here, as well as for ordinary people - like my friends, acquaintances, and so on. Ordinary guy, writing about ordinary stuff. I'm not an apologist, not an evangelist - just a Catholic guy. I use ordinary terminology in common usage. I use the term gay. SSA is a great term - if you 'have it' it sounds as if you have an illness. There is no good term to use. That said, common usage is how I write. My apologies.
I hate writing about this stuff because you can never please everyone, and the subject always ends up being so contentious - but here goes.
"To be a credible public witness, one must both “embody” and articulate the “truth-love” of Church teaching and pastoral care related to same-sex attraction from a position of confidence, clarity, and certainty, with an undivided mind, heart, and purpose."
Yup. Deacon Jim is right - not everyone who is gay adequately understands the why and wherefore of being gay, having SSA, or engaging in homosexual behavior. He is absolutely correct.
When I first ran across some of the challenges the Deacon raises on gay-Catholic blogs (at least those which still permit him to comment), I'll admit I found him somewhat annoying. This unknown Deacon, married with children, from the Midwest, what would he know about same sex attraction and being gay? I initially thought he was sort of a nuisance, an agitator. But as I read him more closely and considered his POV - or, as I'd say now - his teaching, I changed my mind. My feelings of discontent suggested to me I may have been too self-opinionated and even self-righteous about my personal POV. I realized Deacon Jim is completely orthodox, as well as an excellent catechist. In fact, he helped me understand chaste same sex friendship - especially for former 'partners' if you will.
So yeah, chastity, continence, celibacy is not enough - Deacon Jim is absolutely right. Of course, it may be enough for salvation, and it is enough to receive communion and the sacraments - but what Deacon seems to be saying - it's just not enough to be a spokes-model for heroic virtue - nor an idealized, specialized, spiritual order or 'vocation'.
Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way. - Letter to the Bishops ...
One of my favorite movies is The Nun's Story. There is a moment in the story where Sr. Luke says she thought there would be some point, some plateau where there would no longer be a struggle - her Mother Superior assured her that there will always be that struggle, which tries and perfects our faith. It is the same with the struggle to integrate one's life, to live in fidelity to the Gospel - we really need to sell all we have (our will) if we wish to follow Christ, who calls us to be perfect just as his Heavenly Father is perfect. Deacon Jim reminds of this truth.
What is needed: "A sufficiently settled “expertise” regarding the authentically Catholic anthropology and theology associated with homosexuality."
I don't think he's condemning Joe Prever or Eve Tushnet in his latest essay - I think he is qualifying the importance of their 'testimony' at the event. He's making it clear that the other SSA persons who spoke have pretty much stabilized themselves in and through their acceptance of Catholic teaching.
Gay people do not like to be 'told' about themselves, they don't like to be 'told' how to define themselves. They don't like to be told how to live. They don't even want other gay people to speak for them. As I commented on Deacon Jim's post:
Deacon - I'm glad you were there and have written on this. You are absolutely right in your observation - there is nothing gay-Catholics hate more is listening to others discuss them - as Prever pretty much noted in his tweets. I agree very much with what you wrote here:
"Simply said, being “gay” is not enough; being a “gay Catholic” is not enough; being a “celibate, gay Catholic” is not enough. And even being a “chaste, celibate, gay Catholic” is not enough. To be a credible public witness, one must both “embody” and articulate the “truth-love” of Church teaching and pastoral care related to same-sex attraction from a position of confidence, clarity, and certainty, with an undivided mind, heart, and purpose."
Thanks for your vigilance and always steering us back to authentic Catholic teaching - seriously - because there are few who do it on such a consistent basis. You are an excellent Deacon and catechist. - MeDeacon and catechist.
I'm totally serious. There are other very good 'gay-ssa' faithful Catholics online. They all want to be heard, they all want to be published, and they all are convinced they have the right direction, the right advice, and so on. Gay people want to drive the bus - they are convinced they know all there is to know about gay ... because having come through the trenches, they're the expert on SSA. Especially if they 'heroicly sacrificed' themselves to live a chaste and celibate life - or in 'continence' with a friend. Ordinary straight Catholics - some married in civil marriages, some just single, some widowed, do exactly the same thing. It's called being a faithful Catholic. A good example of fidelity - but not necessarily sanctity.
That said, the gay Catholics are up in arms over Deacon Jim's concerns expressed in his latest essay.
Fundamentally, as a few comments pointed out, the concern centered upon the inclusion of gay-Catholics who have a different POV from the Courage model, and who may still be 'evolving' in their thinking regarding gay and Catholic. That's fine - everyone is at a different stage in their journey. Yet the concern which readers expressed was that their inclusion in the conference was a sort of endorsement of their position. I liked what Archbishop Vigneron said, comparing the journey to that of the Israelites leaving Egypt. It's a classic analogy of the soul's spiritual journey. As we know, once in the desert, the Israelites longed for the pleasure of Egypt, they fell into sin and debauchery, some perished through mortal sin.
There is no final resting place ... it is about getting to the place of finally seeing God's love. - M. Christoph, Nun's Story.
I have - at this time - friends who have halted on their journey - who are now longing for the pleasures and intimacies of a lover, and who are entertaining themselves with 'idols' and revelries. It's exciting for them. They are Catholic - they know Catholic teaching, and 'suffer' in conscience. BTW - that's the real suffering 'gay' people feel - the spiritual conflict of conscience. I told one of my friends to keep praying - to keep trying and not to give up. To tell Our Lord what's going on. He's a good man. He's a Catholic man and always my brother. He told me he's afflicted in conscience - I told him of course he is. I am no one to judge - to be sure. He will always be my brother though.
The point is, that neither he, nor I, are models for gay people - we both know that. I think that is the point Deacon Jim makes. It doesn't seem that the testimony of either Joe Prever or Eve Tushnet is especially exemplar. Though it is valuable as an example of the journey gay Catholics may take - it is incomplete and not necessarily ideal.
I don't think it was a mistake to include Prever and Tushnet - but their differences should have been clarified ... and perhaps debated.
Deacon's essay opened that venue. Although I have to admit that I too thought the inclusion of Prever and Tushnet was a sort of endorsement on the so-called gay-Catholic, Spiritual Friendship Movement - perhaps even a proposed middle way. Deacon Russell's essay cleared that up for me. Nevertheless, the take away on their inclusion will most likely go down that way, and they'll get more invitations to speak elsewhere. Which is why Deacon Russell's essay is an important piece of documentation, which helps us understand and appreciate the disparate views that were expressed.
BTW - Gay people can be snippy and sarcastic and scornful - it's negative humor oftentimes - and when it is made public, like Joe Prever's was on Twitter - people are going to respond. That's what Deacon Russell did. (I do it all the time - which is why no one reads me. And that is good! Because I am so not a good model of anything. No-thing.)
I wish this and other issues would be put in their place however - especially since ISIS and the abortion industry are so consumed with slaughtering innocent babies and children - while we discuss 'feelings', emotional disorders, and sexual intimacies and how they make us feel bad about ourselves.
God help us!