Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Last night's meeting

Our Courage group meets Tuesday night, and to go this week, I did some juggling with my work schedule (which prevents my routine attendance). Naturally, it was largely about The Document -- the consternation it had caused among individual chapter members being something to which Father already had been exposed. After the opening Rosary and recitation, Father read the following beatitude:

"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me."

He read it back more than once during his opening remarks, always emphasizing the word "falsely." He was emphasizing among other things, I think and especially in light of his advice to me to avoid discussing The Document, a need to cultivate some distance from Fortuna, from chance, from things beyond our (my) control. After all, it's the easiest thing in the world to say to yourself "I'm just correcting Person X's error" or "I don't mind being criticized for true things, Person X, but at least accuse me/us of something right." And then sinking back into the Comment Box Whirpool when Person X insists the accusations are true or not errors. I've been tempted several times thus in the two days and then remember the promise I gave Father (which frankly so goes against my contentious personality that, for now at least, I have to rely on external things like oral promises and public words).

At the meeting, Father didn't quote the Catechism verbatim IIRC but I believe he alluded more than once to the teaching contained in 2358: "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." To offer it up. In other words, to be, rather than not to be. "To bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," because it is not "nobler to die" (in Christ, at least) but to "unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross."

ADDENDUM: I wrote this post primarily to repeat and disseminate Padre's words. It's accurate, names no group member's names, reveals nothing even potentially embarrassing, and violates nobody's confidentiality. (And believe me, I could have written a very interesting post had I been a moral cretin and just repeated the substance of Tuesday's meeting.) But I don't wish to leave the impression that it is generally acceptable to write about Courage meetings or repeat what people say. It is not, and, so as not to inadvertantly leave a false impression, I have taken advice not to do it again. I will say it: This blog doesn't matter; Courage itself does. Nobody who could benefit should avoid a Courage meeting for fear that it'll be splashed all over the place the next day. Like the confessional, what makes us free to say whatever is on our mind at the meetings (and the other guys in the Arlington chapter could do some terrible damage to me with what I have said) is the guarantee that whatever is said stays among us. And it always will around me, despite whatever impressions this post might have left.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

But maybe it's not so bad

I went to confession earlier today, and though I mentioned it briefly as the proximate cause for a bout of despair and depression, and Father called it then "the document that nobody has seen and may not even be finished." But he made a point of discussing it after, despite my stated preference to the contrary, as a way of underlining for me that these last few days have really not been good for my soul. He reminded me, "you can't do anything about it." He said some reassuring words that this will not change or kill Courage or alter teaching in any way. And I'm not going anywhere, I told him. "So what's the point?" he gestured.

I promised Father that I would stay away from discussions of The Document. (The post below was in the draft folder already more than half-written and, I decided, was not really about The Document but the reaction from the Catholic Right, something I actually do have first-hand knowledge of and power over). And I had seen some sensible words from Eve Tushnet earlier in the day.

All this by way of saying, I'm imposing a silence on myself on these damn reports, at a minimum until The Document is officially released. And maybe even after that -- after all, it won't affect me and I'm bound not to dissent.

UPDATE: Apparently, Padre told David Morrison something similar.

UPDATE 2: I think Father Martin Fox covers all the needed ground without my hefty helping of Angst.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A sinus-clearing moment in re the Catholic right

I don't want this post to sound bitter, as I'm generally quite happy right now. In these last few days, I've already done more than my fair share of polemicizing (surely the 336 comments at that last link is a record for Amy's site). And I hate whiny little bitches. But it will sound bitter.

These last few days have been a wake-up call to me. Last week, I could truly say that never had my fellow Catholics made me feel ashamed or humiliated me over my homosexual attractions (I can do a pretty good job of that on my own). As I've said here, never has Topic H been a problem with any Catholic or Christian who knew me as me. And I've always dismissed charges of "homophobia" against the Church or Catholics generally from The Gay Activist Crowd as just so much illiterate bleating from people who'd consider me a homophobe for stating that gay sex is sinful and wrong.

But no more.

Now, don't get me wrong ... GLAAD, HRC, Lambda and the rest can still go piss off. But it's been discouraging to find out what some people who should know better, who wear the mantle "Catholic," really think about people with same-sex attraction. Directly contrary to what the Church teaches about homosexuality, quite a few seem to believe reductionist (i.e., persons with same-sex attraction can be described or categorized merely by reference to that sin) and deterministic (i.e., persons with same-sex attraction must inevitably act on their irresistable desires) theories about homosexuality. And not a few others, in a bid to justify what can only be an administrative rule, turn it into an ontological issue about the possibility of ordination via some truly bizarre combinations of circularly-reasoned personalist psychology and overliteralized mystical theology. It always included some riff on the melody: "a man with same-sex attractions is not *really* a man" (and therefore ordination is impossible). Some of the worst gloating in St. Blogs, the former of which I was alerted by a friend, at CWN, or from Diogenes(though this last one actually makes an interesting point; it's the comments that are off the wall) and others.

These discussions took place, and this is Key Point #1, OUTSIDE the context of the Kulturkampf and red-blue stuff -- i.e., Dom, Mark and Amy¹ probably run the three largest "conservative" or "orthodox" Catholic blogs and so we're among friends. Also, and this is Key Point #2, OUTSIDE the context of arguments about the morality of homosexual conduct itself -- i.e., none of us were arguing for that. In other words, this is not a discussion with Voice of the Faithful or with Dignity. (One of the earliest comments at Amy's thread above was a pro-gay type who said he was "glad that the good little Courage quislings are squirming. Kiss a** too much and all you get is painfully chapped lips." To which I gave a retort that felt really good at the time).

But over those days, it just became impossible to avoid the conclusion that for some people, against whom I have no interest in specific "J'Accuse" finger-pointing, this was just about prettifying a prejudice against Those Sodomitic Butt-Burglars. People who were gleeful for a chance to stick it in the eye of Those Disordered Preverts. Who couldn't imagine that somebody could have same-sex attractions and be committed, by God's grace, to living chastely as best he can, with God's grace.

I have always denied to liberal friends that there was any homophobia in the Church, dismissing the claim as an artifice of their trumped-up definitions.² I can do that no more. Like many a naive man, I've been gobsmacked. Mugged by reality.

¹ Lest I be understood, I am describing the subsequent discussions, which did not involve the blog hosts themselves, all of whom I respect.

² Which I obviously still believe to be the case, to an extent.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Courage Conference and a seminary environment

I did something last month that may speak to the question of whether a same-sex-attracted man is capable of life in a seminary situation -- probably the main argument in favor of this per se rule against "gay priests." I went to the annual conference of Courage for the first time in August. It was a mixed-sex environment, so not exactly like a seminary (though it was mostly male, I'd guess about 2-to-1. And there were a lot of priests there). Still it was structured around "Churchy" things and I knew, as a point of fact, that nearly every single man around me was same-sex attracted.

I have a problem with self-abuse, to the point of its being an addictive compulsion -- I know backwards and forwards that it's wrong, and yet I do it anyway with a clear head. On average daily -- and so on some days more than once. So you'd think, and a Church per se rule would seem to endorse, that my being surrounded by a bunch of other same-sex-attracted guys in an environment with some resemblance to a seminary-type situation would be like putting the crack before the lab rat.

But no. To put it in the most crass way possible (moi?), I enjoyed 10 days of chastity -- before during and after. It was the anticipation and later fact of a holy environment, with daily Mass and availability of confession, *despite* the temptations of the people surrounding me. The whole weekend was just ... hopeful. It was more than fellowship, more than the holy environment and daily sacraments, but my just being able to *be* for four days without any fear or shame or worry or Angst. To breathe easily with everybody always already knowing the thing I hate most about myself and most fear others knowing/guessing/finding out. I hate the word "liberating" (it carries the aura of Che Guevara posters), but that's what it was. I was not sunk in my customary gloom, trapped in the whirlpool of frustration, anger, acting out, despair and depression.

Or in a phrase: a holy, at-ease environment trumps the temptations of SSA, when it's provided, available, and we cooperate with it.

Another blast from the past

Last year, I wrote some thoughts on Amy Welborn's site on why I think the priesthood has become so filled with homosexuals, both practicing and not. It was in the partial context of the best-selling book "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul" by Tony Hendra (who played the manager in "This is Spinal Tap").


Regarding the homosexualization of the priesthood, I basically agree that everybody has a part of the reason:

I think that the above posters are right that many young Catholic boys who find themselves struggling with same-sex attraction either see the priesthood as a way of dealing with "that" or see 'that" as a form of "calling," God's tap on the shoulder and whatnot.

The first layman I ever told about "that" was a nationally-known and very orthodox Catholic law professor who I had a class with. He published something about homosexuality that I thought was grossly incomplete and I wrote him a lengthy, very confessional note saying what I thought the article didn't grasp (although nothing in it was exactly "wrong"), and we discussed it for a couple of hours. He suggested to me that perhaps God was "blessing you" (his term) with a calling to celibacy and perhaps the priesthood as well.

In a similar vein, the mother who's very proud of "my boy, the priest" is such a stock and recognizable character that it has to have some basis in broad experience. And there's enough psychological-anecdotal evidence that domineering mothers produce gay boys that a connection to priests (particularly in big ethnic ghetto families -- which is the situation whose vocational fruit we have decades later) seems reasonable.

In addition, a Catholic boy who has these mysterious desires for male companionship that he probably only half-understands (and probably doesn't yet see in sexual terms ... I speak from experience here) is probably going to gravitate to priests -- plus there's all the loveliness of the smells and bells.

So you have an unnaturally large share of men thrown together with homosexual inclinations. Some stumble and become compromised and blackmailed. Then discipline becomes impossible (or very painful) and the result is the Lavender Mafia. Church teachings become harder to credit, and downright ugly behavior becomes normal and, in some places, orthodox men find the environment intolerable, the bad money driving out the good as that fallacy of Lutheran pseudo-science Gresham's Law would predict.

At the risk of touching the third rail, I agree with [Rod] Dreher that among the worst fallout of the scandals is that so many parents (quite rationally, in a certain sense, if irrationally in another sense) can no longer trust priests with their young boys, and all the good priests have to operate under such a cloud of suspicion as to make impossible some of the good they can do. Thus boys like Tony Hendra are less likely to find men like Father Joe who can save them. In fact, particularly for a young boy struggling with latent homosexuality, a chaste gay priest might be the best friend he could have. If nothing else, such a priest would personify the Church teaching that these inclinations are not the end of the world even if they never go away, and that the boy is still called to serve God somehow and be part of the Church family somehow. But what parent in this environment would trust a son that they "had worries about" with a priest?

When there's not a damn thing you can do ...

... think of Flannery O'Connor.

It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it, but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.


What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.

I've always tried to avoid the "tortured homo" persona, but sometimes it's just unavoidable.

Enemas hurt

The last few days have frankly been very difficult for me, with every news outlet in the country following CWN in reporting that sometime this fall, the Church will bar all men with homosexual tendencies from seminary.

I've said that I can understand a temporary ban in given cases according to a bishop's prerogative. But I posted on Mark Shea's site last night that this still hurts, partly because of its universality and partly because of the reasoning. Even though I saw it coming. David Morrison put his finger on "why" I can be depressed at something that I saw: "it's a vote of 'no confidence'." It's like any other rebuke or punishment -- no matter how much you steel yourself on the way to the woodshed, no matter how you tell yourself you can take it, no matter how reconciled you might be to your deserving it, no matter how much you tell yourself to be Christ-like and accept an unjust punishment that might be for the greater good in the overall sacramental economy -- whippings still hurt; votes of no confidence still humiliate. But here's what I wrote in Mark's comment field. The first, italicized, paragraph is from another poster.


I'd put the alleged ban on SSA ordinations in the same genre as the Charter -- an overly zealous zero-tolerance policy intended to make up for decades of pastoral neglect.

Y'know, I understand that. And the overall need for the priesthood not to be seen as a "gay thing." And that we're in a crisis/mobilization situation, which sometimes requires measures you would never take in ordinary times. And I can see with my brain the overall legal-theoretical legitimacy.

But after this past week of news reports, I still have to say ... this effing hurts. Effing. Hurts. Not because I want to be a priest and see this as an "infringement on my rights." No. I do not, and I have no such right. But because the Church I love and cannot leave -- "Master, to whom shall we go," and all that -- is betraying its own Catechism. And betraying its teachings on sexuality. For as long as I've been with the Church, it has said: that however I sinned (and I have), I was not beyond God's grace and the chance of at least some improvement; that I was not compelled by my condition to cruise bathhouses or bars; that the pangs of conscience after buying a prostitute or having an anonymous hookup (I have done both) proved I wasn't completely dead to sin; that God saw me as something other than a perverted sodomite.

I know this rumored document, assuming the reports are accurate (a big "if"), doesn't strictly speaking repudiate any of that. But it does deny its underpinnings, which is that temptations are not character- or soul-defining. (The glee some are taking in it is no help either.) Or in David's words, the teaching is neither reductionist nor deterministic. This document appears to treat people as a class, uniformly and always, as defined by a nonsinful temptation. To quote the military aphorism: This is not what I signed up for. I get that from the gay activists or the secular culture: "self-hating repressed homo" and all that. I just expect better from Christ's Church.

Despite my anger, I'm not gonna pull an Andrew Sullivan. I've never denied the Church teaching on sex or withheld something from my confessor. Or even tried to use the "addiction" line to minimize my compulsive self-abuse (I frankly wonder how he can stand to listen to me at times). And to be fair, the situation on the ground isn't bad: my SSA has never been a problem with any Catholic or Christian who knows about it (though I have cherry-picked, I admit). I went to the Courage Conference for the first time this year and it was one of the happiest weekends I've ever had.

But enemas hurt, and what Mr. Shea calls the Great Enema is no exception. Stoking my anger and succumbing to despair (a constant problem I have, quite apart from Topic H) have gotten a lot easier in recent days.

So to those priests who committed the acts of sex abuse that contributed to the situation; to you I say: "I sure hope it was a great orgasm."

And to those bishops and chancery rats who covered up the acts, shuffled around the perps, intimidated or hoodwinked parents, etc.; to you I say: "I sure hope you enjoy purgatory or worse."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lest I be unclear ...

... I really have no personal dog in the fight over ordaining men with SSA. One can never say "never" in matters of God's calling of course, but otherwise, and quite apart from homosexuality issues, I am as convinced as one can be that I am not called to the priesthood. I am approaching middle-age for one thing, and I simply don't have the temperament or personality of a priest. Or to be more precise, my temperament and personality are almost the perfect opposite of all the good priests I have known, my current confessor included.

Monday, September 19, 2005

It may happen

A ban on any and all men with same-sex attractions entering seminary has been approved by Pope Benedict, according to Catholic World News (link requires registration).

I’ll wait to see what exactly the document says, whether it’s couched as contingent, a response to circumstances, or as necessary, something essential to the priesthood. Whether it emphasizes the universal call to holiness and chastity (and the current social degradation therein) or categorizes homosexual persons as a class apart.

The first-named option in each pair would sting, but I’d accept it as collateral damage from the recent sexual indiscipline (part of the cause of which was poor formation) and the lavender mafia. The latter-named options … well, I don’t want to think about them or say more than that they would prompt one crisis of conscience. They would not be compatible with the last 30 years of teaching on homosexuality.

But any blanket ban, which I don't favor despite my acknowledgement of its legitimacy, will always face three problems:

(1) "sexuality" is a continuum, not a polarity, making a blanket ban for *any* degree of same-sex attraction absurd (does having an pubescent crush on your best friend count?);

(2) a blanket ban, like any rule, will still rely on those who have to ask The Question, and thus depends on their reliability and honesty (not to speak of honesty on the part of prospective seminarians). And like in many other matters, the orthodox will obey, and the dissidents will find a way to get around it or just ignore it. So, perversely, we might have fewer men with SSA, but more of them will be of the bad kind; and

(3) a blanket ban will guarantee that Topic H will never come up during formation, meaning that if any men with SSA do wind up in seminary, they will be entering an environment closer to the poor pre-V2 formation (the reason why checks and balances exist is for situations that DON'T go well). So perversely, we might have fewer men with SSA in seminary, but more of them will be of the bad kind. Ultimately there is simply no substitute for sound judgment on the part of the men in the trenches -- the bishops, the vocation directors, and the seminary officials. And if the bishops and chancery rats are as bad as widely believed in St. Blogs, this rule will not affect them, while the blanket ban will convince people (wrongly) that something will have been done.