In a quickly-deleted tweet last June, a prominent Catholic priest responded to our nation’s annual season of LGBTQ celebrations by asking: “If we’re celebrating Pride this month, what sin are we celebrating next month?” On a superficial level, this was a very silly question; after all, if earnest critics desire to associate LGBTQ Pride celebrations with one of the seven deadly sins, surely lust would be the more appropriate candidate. But on a much deeper level, this sloppy critique betrayed a profound blindness to commonplace equivocation of what the term “pride” can signify. For although “pride” in one sense certainly corresponds to vice and sin, there are equally legitimate senses in which “pride” can correspond to nothing other than glory and a crowning virtue. Moreover, and for precisely the same reason, it follows that a certain form of pride is nothing less than the virtuous response to unjust oppression and discrimination. It seems worthwhile, therefore, to embark on an exploration of the philosophical and theological tradition surrounding these issues, in order to arrive at a better foundation for reflecting on modern “pride” movements in general, and LGBTQ Pride specifically. Continue reading
Last Thursday, Catholic New York, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, published a notification that Fr. Donald Timone has (at long last) been removed from priestly ministry. He was suspended in December of last year, and the Archdiocesan Review Board only just determined that allegations that he sexually abused minors were credible and substantiated, though the diocese had paid for two six-figure settlements after abuse allegations in 2017.
The story obviously implicates Cardinal Dolan. Last December, the New York Times reported that even after the Archdiocese of New York had paid out the settlements for sexual abuse of teenage boys by Fr. Timone, Cardinal Dolan kept him in ministry, despite the clear requirements of the Dallas Charter [pdf], and the fact that these were particularly egregious allegations: one of Fr. Timone’s victims, Timothy Murphy, had committed suicide.
And just after the New York Times revelations, the Catholic News Agency reported that the Archdiocese of New York had issued a letter to John Paul the Great University. The letter [pdf], written just a few weeks before the Times article, stated “without qualification” that Fr. Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or misconduct involving a minor.” The University, quite reasonably, called the letter a “lie.” (Notably, Msgr. Edward Weber, who signed the letter, remains in charge of New York’s Priest Personnel office; he also remains Vicar for Clergy.)
But the story goes beyond Cardinal Dolan and involves Courage, an official ministry to same-sex attracted Catholics. Continue reading
Johanna Finegan‘s keynote speech at Revoice 2019. A very powerful meditation of the theology of the cross vs. theologies of glory.
One of the most consistent criticisms of Spiritual Friendship by those associated with Courage has been our use of language, particularly the word “gay.” One of the earliest criticisms was Dan Mattson’s July, 2012 First Things article, “Why I Don’t Call Myself A Gay Christian.” This article launched Mattson’s career as one of the most visible spokesmen for Courage, until they parted ways in January.
The criticism which has frequently been directed our way, by Mattson and others who speak for Courage, is that by using the word “gay,” we were making our sexuality the defining aspect of our identity. We have explained that this is not our intent on numerous occasions (see below for further examples).
I recently read Courage founder Fr. John Harvey’s 2007 pamphlet, Same Sex Attraction: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice [PDF], and thought the following paragraph shed valuable light on the rather absurd mentality behind Courage’s critique:
The time has come, however, to refine our use of the term homosexual. A much better term than “homosexual person” is the following: a person with same-sex attractions. The distinction is not merely academic. Instead of referring to “homosexual persons,” which implicitly makes homosexuality the defining quality of the people in question, we can put things in clearer perspective by referring to men and women with same-sex attraction. A person, after all, is more than a bundle of sexual inclinations, and our thinking about same-sex attraction (hereafter SSA) is clouded when we start to think of “homosexuals” as a separate kind of human being. “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 person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and by grace, His child and heir to eternal life” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 16)
This criticism illustrates, I think, just how radical Courage’s view of language is, and how far it has departed from the language of the Church itself.
Among those who affirm gay relationships, I often hear the argument that LGBTQ people are “not broken,” and therefore are worthy of love. One high-profile example of this is the hashtag #BornPerfect, which is used to oppose attempts to change sexual orientation. From a secular perspective, this can make some sense. However, I also see the same argument being made by those who profess to be Christians. This involves a major theological mistake, which is much more basic than sexual ethics.
Instead, we should focus on the Gospel, what it says about humanity’s shared state of brokenness and sinfulness, and how God redeems that.
The “not broken” argument does get some things right: LGBTQ people are made in the image of God, loved by God, and should be loved by others. To say otherwise is a lie from the pit of Hell. But the way it gets there is fundamentally antithetical to orthodox Christianity on several levels. Continue reading
In Christianity Today, Greg Johnson, the pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, shared his testimony of growing up gay, finding Jesus, and eventually becoming a Presbyterian pastor committed to upholding the unchanging Christian sexual ethic:
The gospel doesn’t erase this part of my story so much as it redeems it. My sexual orientation doesn’t define me. It’s not the most important or most interesting thing about me. It is the backdrop for that, the backdrop for the story of Jesus who rescued me.
Read the full testimony at Christianity Today.
Photo credit: Karen Kallberg
Yesterday was my friend and housemate Aidan’s first Sunday to serve as the priest at a new parish. I attended the service along with Melanie, Aidan’s wife, and their daughter (my goddaughter) Felicity, sitting in a pew near the front and helping Mel with the fidgety two-year-old.
During the announcements, Aidan introduced himself to the congregation and then pointed to our pew. “This is my family,” he said. He asked Mel and Felicity to stand up and said, “Mel is my wife, and Felicity is my daughter.” And then he indicated that I should stand too. “And this is our friend Wes. We live in Christian community. Wes shares our home and is Felicity’s godfather.”
When I told another friend about what Aidan did, he replied that it was “a public declaration that ‘We all belong together.’” Precisely.
People sometimes ask me what I envision when I say we need more public recognition and honor for friendship, “thicker” practices of belonging and kinship with one another, and even vows to seal those things. I don’t want to say my particular form of belonging is the best answer, let alone the only one, but what my friend Aidan said and did yesterday is the kind of thing I have in mind.
In today’s Gospel (from John 21), we heard the story of Jesus’ third post-resurrection appearance to His disciples. Simon Peter and six other disciples were on a boat in the Sea of Tiberias. They had been fishing all night, and caught nothing. At daybreak, Jesus called to them from the shore, and asked if they had caught anything (they did not recognize him). When they replied that they had not, He told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. They did so, and pulled up so many fish they could not get the net into the boat.
The disciples then recognized Jesus, and Peter jumped out of the boat and swam about a hundred yards to shore. The others brought the boat to shore, where they pulled 153 large fish out of the net, which they then cooked over a charcoal fire.
After breakfast, Peter and Jesus had a conversation which raises an interesting question about how to understand the verbs for love—agapáo and philéo—used in the original Greek.
In January, the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (Dr. Mark Yarhouse’s research group) posted a call for participants for a new study on mixed orientation marriages (that is, a marriage in which one spouse experiences same-sex attraction and the other spouse is attracted to the opposite sex).
The research has two parts: a survey and an interview. We would especially like to interview a few more couples with premarital disclosure of same-sex attraction.
The survey should take 15-45 minutes to complete. At the end of the survey, you will be given the option to provide your contact information for a more in-depth phone interview. If you have any questions, please contact the Project Coordinator, Joshua Matlack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the link below.
Again, please feel free to share with others who are also in mixed orientation marriages.
“Homosexuality is intrinsically more disordered than heterosexual adultery.”
“Homosexuality is described in Church teaching as an intrinsic disorder that goes against the natural law. Adultery, while gravely sinful, is not.”
“An intrinsically disordered condition is more akin to schizophrenia or addictions, whereas adultery is an act of rebellion against God’s norms.”
Statements such as these scrolled across my screen, as I surveyed the answers given in comments by well-intentioned Catholics in a private Facebook group. The original post had asked about the relative lack of prominent Catholic opposition to adultery, compared to homosexuality. It is a worthy question for reflection, and it does not admit of a simple answer. The above sentiments, however, captured most of my attention. Perhaps you have seen similar statements before. Perhaps you have made statements such as these yourself. Perhaps you even believe these statements to be true – or at the very least, believe them to be accurate expressions of the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. After all, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church we do read that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and contrary to the natural law (CCC 2357).
If you don’t see the problem with those initial statements above, then this post is for you. If you are uncomfortable with the Catechism’s use of the term “intrinsically disordered” within the context of homosexuality, then this post is for you. And if you think the Catechism is homophobic, or otherwise implicitly claiming that homosexuality is approximate to (if not actually equivalent to) some sort of psychiatric or psychological disorder, such as schizophrenia or addictions, then this post is for you. Welcome to an abbreviated crash-course in Catholic moral theology. Continue reading