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.


Jeff said...

Here's what I find frustrating. Can't any of you guys imagine ANY kind of genuine argument for saying that people who have a pretty much exclusively homosexual orientation should not be ordained priests?

I mean, if you can't, and if you don't buy into some weird line about political machinations or something, then you have to end up saying that Pope Benedict, Cardinal Baum and countless others are "prejudiced" or "bigoted" or are persecuting you or something. Always supposing, of course, that the document says something like what it is supposed to say.

I don't get it. Why is it such a stretch to imagine that some people might honestly think that--not everyone with an occasional temptation in that direction--but people with imagination/psyche/sexual identity turned basically that way--ought not to be ordained priests?

Why is that any more wounding than saying that people with some other kind of disability shouldn't be ordained priests? I don't think it's primarily about YOU. It's about the Church.

USMale said...

You Courage types leave me speechless. It's no surprise you are such a familiar friend to rage and despair and depression. Catholicism has much to commend it, but this spiritual S&M cult you're involved in cannot do anything but make you miserable, and just as much obsessed with sex as if you were a self-accepting gay man who had no self-control.

CourageMan said...

Can't any of you guys imagine ANY kind of genuine argument for saying that people who have a pretty much exclusively homosexual orientation should not be ordained priests?

A prudential, temporary argument that it's not advisable under the current circumstances, sure.

A per se argument that it's impossible because homosexual orientation makes you not a man (in other words, one that assumes that "homosexuals" are an ontological class) ... no. Because it'd be incompatible with Church's teaching on "gender."

An argument that assumes there are no degrees of attraction or changes in a man over time (in other words, one that assumes that "homosexuals" are an ontological class) ... no. Because it'd be incompatible with Church moral teaching on sex.

Plus, what rankles apart from anything else is the patent fact that some people's at St. Blogs in the past week have shown themselves to be basically just prettifying a prejudice, like a Fred Phelps with perfume (and this is not an opinion unique to Courage members or even lay people familiar with the discussions).

Jeff said...

Okay, I think there's a lot to your argument. And I understand the feelings of rejection. But I think the argument goes to far. And I think particularly that the last paragraph, in which you paint a broad band of disagreement as "prettifying prejudice" is unfair and stacks the deck against any real and respectful discussion between equals.

Look, I intensely admire people like you and David Morrison. I DON'T hate you. I think what you are doing, especially in today's culture, takes an amazing amount of, well, courage. I wouldn't be AT ALL surprised if God is more pleased with you than he is with me.

But I think you go too far in some of the things you say about homosexuality or "SSA" and how it should be looked at.

I utterly reject the ontological category "homosexual." But, you know, it's the gay activists that want this ontological category, really, and no one else. THEY are the ones who say that people are homosexual BY NATURE and cannot become, nor were they ever intended to BE, anything else.

Even the most vicious hater of gays is not a believer in ontological homosexuality. It's precisely because they think that "gays" have UNNATURAL and perverse desires for unnatural and perverse kinds of acts that they have such a strong reaction them.

But just because you don't think a person can be DEFINED ontologically by their characteristic sexual desires and imagination, doesn't mean that those things can't be deeply significant. To say that a more-or-less exclusive orientation of the imagination and appetite toward people of one's own sex is deeply, deeply disordered and has all sorts of ramifications for the person's character and spirituality is NOT an ontological argument at all. People can have grave and deep flaws or wounds that are highly significant for them and for others without being intrinsically evil.

It seems to me that you can't explain the words and concepts associated with the homosexual tendency, "unnatural", "perverse", "depraved" without recourse to some such understanding. And the implications for it are perhaps wounding for people who suffer such characteristic temptations. But the issue is too important to be viewed ONLY through the prism of the feelings of "SSA sufferers" or whatever term I should use.

OF COURSE, if a person, over time, mastered and overcame that tempation and their appetites and imagination became, for the most part, rightly ordered, they would no longer be a homosexual, would they? Some say such a thing is impossible, but I don't see why it should be so in principle, though it might be so in practical terms in some number of cases. You may have more cogent observations on that score than I.

I think the discussion needs to go deeper than conversation stoppers like, "bigot" and "prejudiced." And I think it needs to be a discussion, not an opportunity for one side in the debate to "educate" the "ignorant."

CourageMan said...

Catholicism has much to commend it, but this spiritual S&M cult you're involved in cannot do anything but make you miserable

Actually, Catholicism (and every other religion) has only one thing to commend it -- that it be true.

If that means -- in order to live out my baptismal and confirmation vows, to follow the calling God has given me that I might live in Him, both in this life and after death -- that I have to suffer, to live out the Cross (or even have to do so more than some others) ... so be it. If that looks like an S&M cult to you (and I'm not saying there's no resemblance, when truth is taken off the table) ... so be it.

CourageMan said...


A couple of things before I respond to what you say proper:

(1) I'm generally not a stickler for terminology -- too much of a conventionalist on language for that. I try myself to avoid using "homosexual" as a noun or "gay" at all, but don't feel like you have to use some terms for me to take you seriously.

(2) The observation that some on the Catholic Right are displaying a deep uncharity is not confined to Courage members or our chaplain. Amy Welborn and Mark Shea, and at least a couple of their most-prolific commenters (plus some priests in my e-mail In box), have said that too. Please understand, I'm not citing these persons as authorities per se or as some secular or blogospheric magisterium. merely noting that it isn't just us oversensitive homos.

(3) As for the perception you apparently have that some are seeing "an opportunity ... to 'educate' the 'ignorant'." I'm sorry if David or I come across that way, and I will consciously strive to avert your suspicion.

Let me give you one example of what I'm talking about. There are some others who would give far better examples, but I won't commit the offense of talking behind their back, hence my deliberate decision to cite you, Jeff -- you're the one here.

At Amy's site here (scroll down to 814pm, 28 Sept), you invited people to go to David Alexander's blog and look at a picture and share your "crawling disgust, a kind of horror and shrinking," a reaction you describe as "natural and healthy." I have no idea what the image contains (I tried to follow your instructions a couple of times but Blogger always said the image was unavailable). I'll take your word that it was "specifically homosexual eroticism."

I'm sorry, but an appeal to the viscera is not an argument. God gave us brains for thinking, and appeals to the viscera constitute the misuse of an organ, to make a point relevant to this discussion.

Further, please understand that -- at least in the specific context of the blogs we both read -- you are not arguing with Dignity, but with people who would agree that such acts are sinful.

And what could it prove anyway -- that pictures of anal sex or two naked guys embracing (or whatever it was ... I've seen it all bud) are disgusting? OK, but would a picture of vaginal sex or a naked man and woman embracing be any less *viscerally disgusting*? Nobody would look good in a Securiticam film of his wedding night. Oh, I know the ontological differences in the act, how marital love mimics the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. But you appealed to a photo. And photos don't see with the eyes of love nor can they capture the presence of God or His blessings. Photos/film/TV presuppose a relationship between viewer and viewed that is essentially voyeuristic and depersonalized. So all a picture could ever capture is two strangers rutting like animals, making an appeal to a photo of specifically homosexual eroticism and the visceral reactions it produces, an essentially prejudicial one. Particularly when the question at hand was the rather dry issue of seminary admissions policies -- it seems just a step and a half short of Fred Phelps.

I can't emphasize enough that the *specific context* matters. This has all happened at orthodox Catholic sites where, one would think, (1) fidelity to the whole of Church teaching would be prized, and (2) nobody should be under the illusion that anybody else was arguing for the morality of homosexual conduct.

My reaction is not just to the image, but to the mind or spirit that could find it sexually appealing. Is THAT uncharitable or wicked, do you think?

Yes, frankly. Because you've moved from act (the image) to person (mind or spirit). I assure you that if I say next to you in the pew, you could never guess what is in my mind (I'm pretty masculine-acting).

mcmlxix said...

courageman: It’s a nude (from the waist up) photo of Dil, the transsexual from the film The Crying Game.

Jeff: I don’t think that I or anyone else can tell you what you must or must not feel, but I’m not so sure that such a feeling of revulsion is necessarily normal either; although I really can’t know that one way or another in an objective sense, but I’ll offer some tangential impressions as I think that sometimes objectivity is overrated.

St. Francis of Assisi was repulsed by the leper. I can understand. Stepping around belligerently unhelpable people flailing in their own waste in the gutter...being up-close with people who reek powerfully of stale urine, tobacco, and dirt...not to mention the disturbing behaviors...these are some things that disgust much more so would rotting flesh? St. Francis made an act of the will; he made an act of love; and he was no longer repulsed. To be any kind of care giver, one must always make such an act of the will.

But is such revulsion normal...ultimately, I don’t think so. Jesus says, “in the beginning it wasn’t so”...and He was speaking to much more than divorce here. In the beginning, we weren’t fallen, we didn’t have concupiscence, we didn’t have obsessions, compulsions, and fears. We were as we are meant to be.

And so I get to this...we must never treat any person as an abstraction to be “understood” or “helped” or “feared” from a distance, but rather as a flesh and blood brothers and sisters to be encountered personally. There is no us and there is no them; there’s only all of Christ.