Reflecting on Last Week
I’ve been pondering last week and trying to understand the reactions to my remarks about Perry Lorenzo, as well as the curious disconnects between me and some readers (and several strangers) have sort of fractalled off into space. I am, for instance, rather astonished that I could begin the week registering my intense dislike of Dan Savage’s (typical) act of narcissistic gay bullying of a bunch of teenagers (which, of course, sits atop a pile of blog entries registering my rejection of gay “marriage” as an ontological impossibility, and my years long affirmation of Catholic teaching on human sexuality (hint: I agree with it)–only to find by week’s end that a single post expressing admiration for a chaste homosexual who, so far as I can see, totally agreed with and lived out the Church’s teaching, though perhaps with the stumbles to which weak flesh is heir–has somehow transformed me into an apostate who is now “out of the closet” on my “support for homosexuality”.
Part of the confusion, I will grant, turns on a linguistic choice I deliberately made: that is, I chose to describe Perry as “gay” and not “same sex attracted”. I did so for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the ordinary descriptor of all same sex attracted people, chaste or not, in English. Second, I was writing with a view to a larger audience than simply the small bubble of conservative Catholics who have never felt homosexual temptation (I am among those who have never experienced it) and trying to engage those for whom such temptation is a struggle, or who have people dear to them who struggle with it. In various ways, I hear from people a lot who, at the end of the day, get the impression that there simply is no place for SSA people at all in the Church. So I wrote to point to a man who, I think, lived out very beautifully one way (no doubt there are many other ways) that a person could be gay, fulfilled *and* enthusiastically faithful to the Church’s teaching on faith and morals, including her sexual morals.
This is, of course, where the shock sets in, since Perry had a “companion” as he was described in the obituary, and this companion describes their relationship as “monks in love” and their first “date” as (typically for Perry) going to Mass. That’s more than a lot of people can bear. And after it is pointed out that all the Church asks of homosexuals is that they refrain from homosex, a number of readers who felt themselves empowered to be more demanding of homosexuals than Holy Church insisted it was not enough that they lived chastely. One said he should not receive Christian burial. Others assumed he was sexually active. Some complained that it was sinful to charitably assume that somebody who always voiced his full love of the Catholic faith–and often to a deeply hostile gay culture here in Seattle who regard the Church as the enemy–was in fact chaste. The shock when I said I regarded it as none of my business what his private life was like was felt deeply here, and many people couldn’t figure out what I meant. So, to untangle a bit…
I’ve said many times that the private lives of other people are not my business. I don’t want to know if you made love to your spouse last night. Not my business. I also don’t want to have the private lives of homosexuals thrust in my face. This is, in fact, one of the things I object to most about gay culture is the insistence it has on rubbing the noses of total strangers in things that are properly private. It’s part of the disordered nature of disordered sexuality, both gay and contraceptive. So, for the same reason, I object to Sandra Fluke simultaneously demanding I “stay out of her bedroom” and then force-marching me into her bedroom and putting a gun in my ribs with a demand to pay for her contraceptives. I would, in fact, *love* to stay out of her bedroom (in more ways than one) just as I would *love* it if the gay community would just get on with their lives and stop laboring to make me celebrate their disordered appetites as great and good. Not. My. Business. So stop trying to make it mine. Homosex is not good. So stop trying to force a confession from me that it is. It’s a free country, do as you like in the privacy of your home. But don’t expect me to depart from the Church’s teaching and approve of it when you commit homogenital sex. I won’t, cuz it’s, you know, a grave sin.
That said, however, I have always thought that C.S. Lewis was right when he said that he refrained from discussing temptations to which he himself was never subject. So you won’t find Lewis talking about gambling or homosexuality among other things, because he never felt the temptation. Lewis has always resented pep talks to men in the trenches from ninnies who had never been on the front line, so he had a scruple against giving free advice about stuff he had never struggled with. I feel the same way. So you will note that while I have always reiterated my belief in the Church’s teaching on sexuality, and played defense against people who wish me to reject it, I have never played offense and tried to tell people struggling with homosexuality or porn addictions what they need to be doing. Why? I haven’t had those struggles, just as alcohol has never been a temptation for me, so I don’t feel I can in good conscience wade into the lives of tormented people and say, “Hey! Just don’t be tempted! Like me! It’s easy!” I routinely defer to actual spiritual directors and confessors and therapists who actually have real knowledge and experience dealing with such disorders. And one of the things I hear from them is that the black and white simplicities of scorched earthers in comboxes are not how the the tricky complexities of tangled human appetites, whether sexual or otherwise, are usually dealt with. Consider, for instance, this (emphatically heterosexual) tale of people who wisely listened to somebody with some knowledge of the human heart and some empathy for weak human flesh struggling to be free of the coils of sin in the midst of all life’s complexities). Note also, this other story in the combox on the same blog entry.
In addition to all this is that haunting passage from Screwtape: “If I, being what I am, can consider myself in some sense a Christian…” Some people hear that as carte blanche for excusing anybody who calls themselves Christian of any grave, persistent sin, but of course, that’s not what I mean. In the case of Perry, it meant that he was somebody who was obviously and even passionately living a Godward life. How can he have done that if he was in love with a man? Because he brought who he was, disordered appetites and all, to the altar and bore witness to the love of Jesus. He also, as far as I can tell, lived chastely, which is all the Church asks. That is, after all, all we can do is bring who we are to Jesus. What Jesus asks of gay people, as near as I can see, is summed up here:
Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
I do not see anything in this which declares that a chaste gay couple cannot love one another or spend time together, or have a fulfilling non-sexual relationship. Nor do I see anything in here that says that somebody like me, who has never borne this particular cross, has the job of telling somebody who clearly loves Jesus and his Holy Church and is dedicated to leading others to become His disciples that I must somehow assume a lack of chastity on his part when he himself give me no indication that he edits the faith in any way.
Finally, when I consider the place that he occupied in the Seattle community, I have to ask myself this: Since I am obviously *not* the person who can speak to a rampantly promiscuous and Church-hating gay culture and say “There’s a place in the Church for you where you can find fulfilment in Jesus Christ in chastity” (not having any inner experience with what that looks like or feels like since I have never grappled with the temptation) then who is?
I remember Perry describing the day he took non-Catholic gay friends to Mass with him and explained for them what was happening in the liturgy. I remember him talking about how these gay friends (who assumed the Church was their enemy) who were *astounded* when they found out that the point of incensing the congregation was to communicate that each person in the congregation was holy and precious to God and was, through the Eucharist, a participant in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity. They had no idea and were moved to tears. That was in hard-boiled, anti-Catholic, secular gay Seattle. The guy was an apostle to the gay community. And, as far as I can tell, he did it without editing the faith in any way, demonstrating that you could be gay, fulfilled, and an orthodox Catholic all at once. Did he ever fail in chastity? Don’t know. Don’t care. Not my business. King David certainly failed and in ways that were spectacularly worse. But he too lived a Godward life and overcame. My confidence in Christ was that a man as dedicated to the glory of Christ as Perry was also overcame whatever sins he committed (and I repeat that I have no reason to think he committed the sin of unchastity). So I honor his memory and pray for him.
One final point: one of the sillier complaints about last week was that my saying I consider him a saint was a shocking act of presumption since only the Church can canonize blah blah. Yes. I realize only the Church can canonize. And yet, there’s that crowd of rowdy Romans shouting “santo subito!” at JPII’s funeral. How dare they? There’s fifty million Catholics who talk about their “sainted aunt Margaret” or saying “My wife is a saint for putting up with me”. Come on. We talk this way all the time. We mean, “Here is somebody who, despite the tough hand life dealt them, offered themselves to God through Christ the best way they could and who inspires me to try to do the same”. Not a bad definition of a saint really. Will Perry ever be canonized? i couldn’t care less. I simply know that he was a man who offered himself to Jesus, just as he was, and appears to me to have done so without reservation. If I can do as much I’ll have lived well.