Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Living the Truth In Love - a book review by Joseph Sciambra

Isherwood and Bachardy, Hockney 1968

Don't dismiss Joe Sciambra.

I'm not following the gay Catholic stuff as much now days.  It's a movement and I'm not sure how much truth is being lived in love by the participants.  Living the Truth In Love is a book on contemporary homosexuality and Catholic teaching and pastoral care.  Joseph Sciambra takes on the testimonials with in the work, avoiding the theoretical and pastoral essays.  The testimonial work he found somewhat 'confusing and confused', although not all of the essays were bad.  What I like about Joe's review is that he clarifies Fr. Harvey's research and teaching regarding the disordered aspect of homosexual attraction.

He especially concentrates on Joe Prever's essay.  I haven't read any of it but I'm familiar with Prever and know he can come off somewhat ambiguous regarding gay Catholic acceptance and Catholic teaching.  Sciambra is a much better writer than I am and really takes Prever's POV to task.
First of all, the way in which Prever frames the homosexual mind-set is taken directly from the pro-gay playbook, i.e. that homosexuality is a perfectly “normal” and natural variation of the human sexual experience; it is not! The godfather of “gay” liberation Larry Kramer once said: “Being gay is a natural normal beautiful variation on being human. Period. End of subject.” By contrast, in the first few pages of “The Homosexual Person,” Fr. Harvey included this quotation: “…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, unlike the way Prever reimagines it, homosexual desires are not just benevolently “nonstandard,” but a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” In addition, although the inclination itself is not a sin: there is vast difference between inclination and desire; in “Homosexuality and the Catholic Church,” Fr. Harvey explicitly stated: “that the inclination to homosexual acts is not sinful in itself, unless one freely consents to these desires.” To consciously mark them as “good” is a huge form of consent. But, back in “The Homosexual Person,” Fr. Harvey continued: “Whether the orientation [inclination] is recognized or not, it is not sinful in itself. It is however, an objective disorder because it inclines one to perform an evil act.” Therefore, the impetus for the act is the desire. According to “The Catechism of the Catholic Church:” “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’” And, the desire for same-sex “love” within a “gay” context – is, by definition, a disordered inclination “contrary to the eternal law.” In addition, especially with those suffering from same-sex attraction there is always a fine line, or a completely blurred one, between what is desire and what is lust: those suffering from same-sex attraction should pay special attention to Christ when He said: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28) - Sciambra

CDF documents assert the exact same teaching.  Very often it seems to me Catholic pastoral care soft pedals the truth here, while gay Catholics seem to be dedicated to researching a way to change Catholic teaching to affirm gay is good or equal to.  Sciambra gets that.
The problem here is that Prever is a devotee of the “Spiritual Friendship” faction; a movement within an insular group of neo-gay Catholics who often spew out strange pronouncements such as this: “I found myself delighting in certain men in a way that was distinctly gay but also chaste…”; this bizarre concept of the pliable goodness in “gay” is immensely appreciated by Eve Tushnet in her equally mixed up essay, she wrote: “I’ve always acknowledged my attractions to women and sought to find the good fruit that they could bear.” While the acknowledgement is good, the searching for “good fruit” is a dead end; despite her intelligence, she surprisingly doesn’t see the cursed and barren fig tree at the middle of lesbianism. Tushnet, also an associate of the “Spiritual Friendship” group, like Prever sees a route to salvation within the “gay” context: in other words, a self-identifying “gay” Catholic should remain chaste, but otherwise pursue a peculiarly intense relationship with someone of the same sex; hence, the desire for another man, or woman, is good.  - Sciambra

I tend to be sympathetic to Jeo Prever because of his obvious struggle and good will in accepting Catholic teaching.  However, I'm much more impressed with what Joe has written - he's definitely a credible witness.  I see nothing delusional or manipulative in his testimony.  I especially love this statement:
Yet, as I finished reading the “testimonial” section, I found myself incredibly grateful that the Lord rescued me from homosexuality in 1999 and not in 2015, because, then, the first book I read on the subject was “The Homosexual Person” by Fr. John Harvey; and it was blessedly not “Living the Truth in Love.” - Sciambra

The Lord 'rescued him from homosexuality'.  That is key.  Our Lord does indeed rescue and deliver souls - the soul only needs to cooperate with grace.  Grace and mercy and truth.  It also takes time.

These discussions and the blog posts and testimonials, as well as the pastoral care conferences, though perhaps necessary and often in need of clarification, as Sciambra's essay accomplishes, can all get to be too much information for the ordinary person.  It's always a mine field and there are many contrary positions - I find it exhausting.  I find the constant debate or the clinging to some sort of false hope, not to mention the incessant moralizing, tiresome - so much church-lady talk, if you will - by church-ladies from both sides of the debate ...

The one thing that can't change or 'develop' is Catholic moral teaching.  That said, the person can change and can develop.  Nobody is actually born gay nor do they emerge fully 'indoctrinated' into gay behavior and attitude.  Sexuality develops.  Therefore the person, invited by Christ to repent and believe, enters upon the way of ongoing conversion.  With the help of grace, through the mercy of God, and the pardon and peace extended through the ordinary means of sanctification - namely the sacraments, the person can be set free.  The inclination needs no longer be the controlling or dominate factor in the person.  You can move beyond it.  For some it may take a life time - others, not.

Song for this post here.  1967 until now.

This just in: 50 Shades of Gay - Gee - wish I had thought of that.  It's not a bad article - but the com box is exhausting.  People think too much.  Just repent - it works better.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I love Joseph's deep writings as I do yours, Terry.

    1. Really? Thanks. I like his writing as well.

    2. What consolata said.

    3. hey: of course, really. lately you have been painting with words. I love the little fawn story.
      Joseph's words....open me up to a Whole New World of pain, trauma, suffering: more and more to pray about, for: Especially as my best friend's daughter is a lesbian, and he is now responsible for a huge summer wedding in NYC. boy am I relieved to not be invited.

  3. Joe has been to the depths. He knows the Truth. Tends to take the wishy-washy-ness out of one. I pray for him every day, with love and gratitude.

    1. I do too. He has a sad post up now - an obituary for a young porn actor. It must make him sad.

  4. " People think too much. Just repent-it works better." That's IT!

  5. Those Spiritual Friendship "Hippies," (I am so glad I have reached the age where I can spit that word out, now all I need is my Dad's Lazy Boy recliner, a ciggie in one hand and a can of Pabst in the other) aren't trying to change any Catholic teaching and I think that the main problem I lot of their critics have is that they get as much press as they do.. While they do tend to go on and on and circle around etc..the good thing is they refuse to wallow in their misery about being gay and they bring a different narrative to the story that some Traddies and homophobes (sorry, been around certain blogs enough to know a lot of this pious spouting is covering the fact they just don't like the Mos) that gay people can be intelligent, healthy and okay with being gay, even if they choose to be chaste because of their religious beliefs (which I would think people like Joe would applaud.) If they truly aren't being sexual what is the problem?

    I am sorry, Joe created his own pain and suffering as we all do..had nothing to do with being gay, he made his choices in life (and I wouldn't bring this up but he does..constantly...) I find the Spiritual Friends (is that like the Super Friends???) involve themselves in an exhausting amount of naval gazing but they seem to be healthy and reasonably happy people dealing with being gay in a healthy way. I wish Joe the best but when he knocks others like this it becomes very apparent that he is once again desperate for personal validation, which may be one of the reasons he got so deep in his "gay lifestyle," in the first place. I don't think anyone does him any favors by not pointing that out to him and hopefully he has someone is his "real life," that does.

    1. Where have you been Mr. Mack? Happy New Year BTW.

      I still think Joe gets it right.

      Others take their chances.

      I'm fine with them being gay and chaste - because it is their choice. The thing is - in my book - Catholic teaching is right on - and my conscience has been formed accordingly. If people want to mess with that stuff - they can - who am I to judge? Seriously - it's their life, their soul.

      My real POV on this coincides with yours - "I find the Spiritual Friends (is that like the Super Friends???) involve themselves in an exhausting amount of naval gazing but they seem to be healthy and reasonably happy people dealing with being gay in a healthy way." Except they are constantly 'dealing' with it. Incessantly.

      Getting old is a blessing - one can so move on and get over it. Unless you don't want to. It's a choice one makes.

      I got a request to review a book supposedly supporting gay relationships from the POV of the Church Fathers or something. I've been aware of and studied similar types of revisionist studies since the '70's, and as we've gone forward, all the 'new' research is pretty much a rehash of what has gone before - the theological underpinings are simply that. There is a decided lack of faith - real faith - leading to false conclusions which have been commonly accepted on nearly every level of society and culture. It's a delusion.

      That said, everyone must make his way in life and everyone hopefully does his best.

      A 'reasonable happy life' may not be proof that one is on the right track.

      Peace of conscience and interior joy seem to me to be better markers along the way.

      Anyway - it's not my place to tell others how to live or decide who or who cannot go to communion and all of that crap most of the Catholics online debate.

      The ordinary means of salvation are offered in and through the Church.

      Oh - and another thing - LOL! Seriously - the personal validation aspect is very right on. I don't know about Joe, or other ssa writers online - but it is definitely an ever present temptation for many of us I think. Our writing needs to be purified of that - our 'witness' needs to be free of self-interest and self-seeking of affirmation and praise. Which is why I dislike com box compliments or congratulations and flattering approvals. It really is deceptive.

      How's that? Can I come over for a Pabst now?

    2. Follow up - This is the book I mentioned: http://www.amazon.com/Faithful-Truth-How-orthodox-Catholic/dp/1468153900/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365973748&sr=1-1

      And this was my response:

      "sounds like an interesting read posing academic argument against magisterial teaching on sexuality and marriage - which is consistent with traditional Judaic teaching. Frankly all of that is settled in my mind - I'm not the marrying kind gay or straight and the author's premise is of little consequence to me. I am also convinced of the immorality of homosexual acts and I accept Catholic teaching on the subject with great freedom of spirit. My conscience is formed accordingly and I couldn't consent to any other teaching.

      If others choose to be married and engage in homosexual acts, that is their choice. Civil law protects their right to do so - Catholic teaching condemns it - and that can't change.

      Thanks for suggesting I review the book, but it would be a waste of my time. I did a sort of review of Tushnet's book, and the best I could say is that I admire her good will, her sincerity, her honesty, and determination to seek God."

    3. Hey Terry, been a busy holiday season.

      I love a PBR on a hot summer day and ordered it at a bar and got this look like I was nuts...(and it was a dive bar)..isn't that what all the hipster doofus are drinking these days..you can stop by anytime you want though Hausfrau is on tap and it can sneak up on you very easy...

      I think a happy life makes you spread that happiness to others and I think thats a good thing. ( I know, I am the Church of Nice but hey, I can be stern when needed...) I think the Spirtitual Friends are younger (right?...I can't tell as no one seems to want to wear make up or pick up good grooming habits) and with that comes a lot of sexual energy and they need to uh, work that off so they talk about it all the time. Hey its better then constantly dissing the pope etc. I think that when we get old(er) we forget what its like to be young and have that "zest for life." Old people are quick to say "Well why don't they just stop it," cause, nature already got there. I personally think they need to sow some wild oats while young (as there mid life crisis is going to be ugly...) but you know, that's why I am not going to be invited to be a Chastity Conference Speaker or get much validation on Catholic blogs...(unless "Troll," is actually a GOOD thing...)

      I love that someone asked you to review that book, its like asking you to review a book on being mean to cats or something......

    4. Haha! I like you.


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