I manipulated former President Clinton's words to demonstrate the confusion of language in our times regarding sexuality and sexual acts and identity.
Deacon Russell stepped into it with his recent post for Crisis. I like Deacon Russell. You can read what Deacon has to say here. [Homosexuality is not Sexuality]
Dan Mattson has an article touching on the subject, and pretty much makes what Deacon Russell is saying more understandable for 'simple souls' precisely because he's sharing some things on sexuality and sexual identity with little kids. You can read what he has to say here. [Our Children need to Know No One is Gay]
I get what both spokesmen are saying.
I'm just not sure other people do.
"You just think you are gay."
A monk I know was told that by his abbot. The monk really acted gay - engaged in homosexual activity - but the abbot was telling him the truth about his nature and God's plan. The monk understood what the abbot was saying. When the monk was 'out and about' identifying with gay worked - attracted to the same sex for sexual relations worked. Sexual behavior, deviant, abberosexual behavior is commonly understood and accepted by every one except Catholic spokesmen as 'sexuality'.
Every educational institution, Catholic or otherwise, teaches in that vein.
The Church even uses the term 'homosexuality', homosexual acts', 'homosexual person', and so on. Priests and bishops use the term SSA and gay interchangeably. It's common vernacular and it is used in the Catechism and Vatican documents. To be sure, Catholic teaching does not approve of homosexual acts, and considers the inclination itself is disordered:
... [A]n overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it 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 special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not. - CDF
Deacon Jim Russell and Dan Mattson do an excellent job of pointing out 'that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is not a morally acceptable option.' Thanks be to God. Nevertheless the CDF document used the word 'orientation'.
Mattson references the same document in his article when he asks: "Did you know that the Church ‘refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life’? I have found great freedom in this truth of who I am as a sexual being. Even though I might feel attracted to the same sex, it doesn’t mean I’m a different sort of man than every other man who has ever lived.”
That is true and it is a beautiful reply to a child's question, "If I'm attracted to a person of the same sex, does that mean I'm gay?" The Church does indeed affirm that here:
The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life. - CDF
I accept that. I accept what Deacon Russell and Mattson have said. I embrace and live what the Church teaches.
So what's my point? What bothers me about this stuff?
Insisting on language and terms of identity is fine for the 'Initiated' as in 'RICA-ed' as it were, but it creates a lot of confusion for ordinary people - gay or straight. If a gay person wants to repent, convert, come into the Church - it seems to me these terms may make him feel he can't if he is gay? If he uses that term to describe himself and sexual attraction as his sexuality - he's definitely going to feel excluded. Is it too academic, too dogmatic to stick out your hand and say stop - you can't talk like that? You can't say that? I know these writers are not saying that - but other people may not. I think we can place too much emphasis on terminology in 'pastoral care' - like insisting 'you can't be gay and Catholic'. Yet some Catholics actually tell other Catholics that. Some Catholics simply think of themselves as gay, although they are faithful to Catholic teaching, live chaste, celibate lives, people they've known have always considered them as gay. It probably has been their experience of themselves their entire lives.
The arguments opposing such terms are enlightening and help define Catholic teaching, but they do not strike me as all that necessary outside the classroom or faith formation classes and spiritual direction. Culturally it has become the norm. When someone is coming out of a sinful lifestyle, or simply converting from an agnostic life, there are usually more challenging temptations and issues to deal with than that stuff. It's necessary to avoid putting obstacles in the way of those coming to Christ, of giving them added complexities or burdens too heavy to carry, as it were. The conversion process is ongoing. The Church acknowledges that and even recognizes and identifies the individual as the homosexual person, exhorting them:
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. - CDFWhen I made my first confession when I returned to the Church, I confessed my sins - which were many. The holy Capuchin who heard my confession took me through the Creed, line by line, and gave me absolution. I asked him "But what about the gay thing?" Before he could say anything, I said, "Do I just accept that as a cross to bear?" Fr. Gabriel answered, "Yes - that is good."*
That was over a decade before the CDF Letter, which said this:
What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.
It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says that the Spirit produces in the lives of the faithful "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (5:22) and further (v. 24), "You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires." - CDFSo all the literature before now is obsolete?
We need to try and stop making a big deal over terminology and disordered identities - Christ calls people where they are at.
Let the grace of God work - allow the Holy Spirit to teach and convict the interior man.
I know many fallen away Catholics who are gay, as well as non-religious gay people I would like to see become Catholic - they don't know what you are talking about when you tell them they just think they are gay, or that homosexuality is not a sexuality.
In the past, gay people spent a lot of their lives trying to fit in, trying to be accepted just as a person. They they wanted just the freedom to live their lives and be who they wanted to be. The political act of coming out intensified the experience of identity, the need for acceptance and so on. Those who left the 'life', those who came back to the faith, continued to struggle to be accepted, to fit in. So often there was someone, some moral, theological interpretation they felt they had to measure up to first - before they could fit in. The gay religious person has a lot of hurdles to jump over - and he is never good enough. No matter what he calls himself. The debate over gay, ssa, queer, lgbtq, and so on is a distraction, another distinction people feel they have to live up to. As I said in another post:
Personally - the academic discussions get a little boring and set apart from reality - the reality of ordinary life in modern times. The arguments and discussions gets a little over people's heads I think. At any rate, it's not an issue for me, not something I feel I have to live up to. I feel a little sad, maybe a bit more impatient, with and for the people who torment themselves with these debates and struggle to be whatever they think they are or are not or should be. There are so many voices out there trying to define you or correct you or make you live up to some sort of ideal. - Packaged and labeled and put in a box on the shelf.
Honesty is the best policy.
Don't live your life seeking the approval of men.
Christ said, "How can you believe when you seek approval from one another?"
Repent - every day.
Seek God alone - everywhere.
Pray - become one with the Heart of Jesus.
Go to Confession and Communion as often as possible.
Serve - defer to one another out of love for Christ.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
*Odd story - damned if you do, damned if you don't category: Later I entered monastic life. Strange things happened - although I hadn't noticed much until after I left. I was faithful and even fervent, but as time went on I was restless, I felt called elsewhere. The novice master wanted to know more about me, why I felt so restless - when he found out my past - he was upset with me because I never disclosed my sexuality. It hadn't been an issue with me since my initial conversion and confession. I didn't think in those terms any longer - so I never felt a need to discuss it. Then I was told I should have said something. I was told it wasn't a problem - 'they' just wanted to know. So you see how schizoid religious people can be about this stuff. "Ask don't tell." "Tell, don't identify." That kind of stuff.
NB: Some 'gay-Catholics' and most gay activists object to the idea of sexual orientation change or reparative therapy for unwanted same sex attraction or homosexual behavior. Thy claim that is the purpose of Courage Apostolate - a sort of AA group therapy, 12 step program to make people straight. The Church does not mandate such therapies nor does the Church address the issue of 'orientation change' as some sort of requirement to be Catholic.
Song for this post here.