In this frank memoir,
Mattson chronicles his journey to and from a gay identity,
finding peace in his true identity,
as a man, made in the image and likeness of God... more here.
Why I Don't Call Myself Gay
Dan Mattson contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in his book. I said yes and he had a copy sent to me. I'm so excited to read it. I have so much respect for Mattson. He has so much to offer to the discussion on being 'gay and Catholic' and those well-intentioned, albeit sentimentalist pastoral care-givers hoping to build bridges with the LGBTQ community at large.
I've followed along Dan Mattson's writings and speaking engagements online and have great admiration for him. He deeply understands Catholic moral teaching on sexuality and marriage, and paging through this book I see he is very well grounded in Catholic spirituality and theology as well. I often felt he is gifted with a rich mystical insight into the phenomenon. I look forward to reading the book, and I hope to comment as I go along. My anticipation of the book is the only reason I returned to this subject lately.
Now that I am older, and more mature, I've gained a better perspective and overview of my life and the 'gay' experience - which means I too have concluded it is not an identity which defines me. It just can't. Perhaps I can explain that more deeply as we go along.
Fr. James Martin has his new book as well. I'm not into choosing whose is best, or which gospel according to which Reverend Jim is best, but I'm not all that interested in Fr. Martin's book for myself. I understand the bridge building concept of course, at one time I too felt alienated, but I wonder if that wasn't more my fault? So, if I said I didn't fit into a practicing Catholic parish setting? I don't think I really wanted to. So I felt unwelcome? Maybe - or was I just personally uncomfortable? You've heard unwed single mothers, or unmarried couples say similar things - we feel out of place. It's a feeling. Hang around and you fit in. If you are at church to worship, to pray, you fit in. If you believe Catholic teaching, you fit in.
I often generalize and oversimplify - or at least I'm accused of doing so, but it seems to me those who lobby for greater inclusion and acceptance tend to over-complicate matters as well. For instance the debate on what to call 'homosexual inclination' - though not sinful in itself - it is an inclination to sexual acts which are gravely sinful. The Church says 'objectively disordered'. Morally it works for me - I always knew homosexual acts were sinful, therefore, disordered. I always knew sins against chastity are disordered. I also knew what inordinate affection meant. I was raised-educated Catholic.
... [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
I totally 'get' what Fr. Martin is trying to do - to remove the stigma language appears to impose on a condition which people today consider a natural variant, I just disagree that the language itself is offensive. Saying someone is 'differently ordered' isn't especially redemptive in my opinion. I certainly think it can come off that way in the manner it is taught, or when used pejoratively. To call homosexual acts unnatural is also taken offensively. Yet language is precise in order to convey the reason why homosexual acts are considered sinful. It's difficult for younger people to grasp this notion because authentic Catholic catechesis is often lacking and our contraceptive sexual culture equalized non-reproductive sexual acts between anyone or anything. It is also said younger people are much more sensitive to negative terminology. But I digress.
I may eventually read Fr. Martin's book - which in many ways seems to me more like a synthesis of every thing I ever read on how to make gay okay and still be Catholic - no offense Fr. Jim. In the meantime, I will focus my attention on Mr. Mattson's book - simply because it is a more 'mature' perspective based upon his lived experience. Fr. Martin's concerns seem to me to be sympathetic to be sure, yet based upon a sentimental understanding of the contemporary insistence that everything be ordered to a subjective perception of well-being and happiness. (Not sure I expressed that very well.)
However, one thing I do agree with in what Fr. Jim says is that terms like gay and lesbian, since they are in general usage, are just fine. To insist upon saying 'same-sex attracted' or 'suffers from' throws up an artificial barrier for people who experience themselves as gay, and or fit into some category under the LGBTQ umbrella. You accept people where they are at and believe them when they tell you how they identify.
I also will never say anything against Fr. Martin since I am convinced he is faithful to the Church and Catholic teaching and is courageous in his efforts to reconcile LGBTQ persons and their families with the Church. He meets them where they are at - not where he or anyone else wants them to be.
That is not meant as a contradiction to Dan Mattson's book however.
In the meantime, I will be posting on Mattson's book - since of all the people I have ever read on the subject - his views very much accord with my own.
That's all for today.