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.
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
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes how a legalistic interpretation of the law of Moses actually misses the sinfulness of common attitudes of the heart. Matthew 5:27-28 is just one example of this theme. In the ESV, this passage reads, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I have often seen this passage used to argue that “same-sex attraction” or a “homosexual orientation” or something similar is a sin. Sometimes the further argument is that we shouldn’t identify with our sin by using words like “gay.”
The thing is, there are major issues with the way I usually see this argument being made. After all, the immediate context of the passage is heterosexual: a man looking at a woman lustfully. So how do people usually understand its application to heterosexual forms of sexual attraction?
Most evangelicals I’ve talked to say that there is some kind of distinction between “sexual attraction” and the “lustful intent” described in this passage. For example, they see a man’s attraction to another man’s wife as a form of temptation that may or may not cross the line into sin depending on how he handles it.
For someone who takes this kind of approach to heterosexual attraction, the passage provides no reason to take homosexual attraction any differently. It’s thus not a reason to see homosexual attraction itself as a form of sin (though like heterosexual attraction, it can lead to sinful sexual activity or lust in the heart).
On the other hand, there are some people in Reformed circles who see sexual attraction towards the wrong person as always a sin, even in a heterosexual context. From this perspective, it is straightforward to see homosexual attraction itself as a sin.
But even in this case, the way it’s used to argue that homosexual attraction is a sin doesn’t make a lot of sense. Specifically, most folks making the argument make a huge deal about homosexual desire, and see the acceptance of it as temptation rather than sin as a crisis. However, they say almost nothing about the common interpretation of adulterous heterosexual attraction as only temptation and not sin.
If viewing homosexual attraction as merely a temptation is a crisis, why is the same view of adulterous heterosexual attraction not an even larger crisis? Alternatively, if it’s good enough to find common ground because the focus is on how to resist temptation, why can the same not be said about efforts like Spiritual Friendship and Revoice? Continue reading
Several friends have asked me questions about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s recent essay on “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” which has led to a few conversations about various aspects of the document. Since these issues may be of interest to others, I have decided to share some of what I said more widely.
Some of these questions—which I will address in future posts—concern controversial issues that I want to research and polish more carefully before sharing. The first, however, which I will address in this post, concerns a relatively non-controversial question about what Benedict said about the natural law: “Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation.”
A friend commented:
I agree that, in a sense, Greek philosophy provided a foundation for Catholic moral theology, but Benedict seems to be suggesting that Scripture just played a secondary role of providing a sort of support if things went sideways or if Greek philosophy needed further justification, as if Catholic moral theology is synonymous with non-Scriptural “natural law.” Or am I misunderstanding?