Saturday, February 17, 2007

Article in NCR (the good one)

National Catholic Register has an excellent series of articles by Melinda Selmys, a former feminist and lesbian, called "Homosexuality: A Catholic's Journal" (HT: Frank). NCR said she "writes from Etibicoke, Ontario," so the poor Canuck woman is probably now on the lam, hiding in some remote part of the Yukon from arrest by The Tolerance Mounties for these vile acts of hate.

Here is Part 1 (subtitled: Psychology or Genetics)
Here is Part 2 (subtitled: Evangelizing The Homosexual)
Here is Part 3 (subtitled: She Helped Me Hear the Truth)

Now my particular experience of homosexuality differs quite radically from [now-Mrs.] Selmys's in a bunch of ways, besides the male-female stuff, the obvious ones being:
  • I have never really had a gay relationship. Unconsummated love-crushes on male friends, yes; sex with strangers, yes; but a boyfriend, no;
  • I never even attempted to date women or had a girlfriend "for show." This was considered unremarkable both by myself and others during my school and college years because I was a bookworm;
  • I have neither found nor ever sought "belonging" in the "gay community," which I have pretty much disdained since the Queer Nation/ACTUP activism of the 80s, i.e., my formative years as an adult;
  • I drifted away from the Church during adolescence for reasons unrelated to SSA and had already reverted and received the Sacramant of Confirmation by the time "That" had become an undeniable problem;
  • I have never denied the theological arguments against same-sex behavior nor have I found them "tremendously cold and theoretical." Or rather, maybe I have found them that but consider this a point in their favor.
In other words, homosexuality, the gay lifestyle, even the emotional attachments they may bring have always been nonissues for me. My reversion was to a very great extent intellectual. And while I've struggled with chastity in many ways, it's always been from within and while fully accepting the Church's teachings in principle, if not always acting in accord with them. This is consistent with my personality in other ways -- people who know me have always said I was "all head" and my nickname as a boy was "the little professor"; my favorite music, movies and literature tend to be emotional chilly and/or artificial and contrived.

The personal reservation aside, that her story is not mine, I still thoroughly recommend that everyone in St. Blogs read this three-part series, because there is a lot in them for some "conservative" Catholics to learn about homosexual persons, and in a publication that they cannot simply dismiss as liberal pabulum. (FWIW, this piece would never appear in Commonweal, the National Catholic Reporter, et al.) Here are some highlights:
many (not all) men with same-sex attractions ... try to find other male figures (usually lovers) who will accept and affirm them. ... (This is also why so many gay activists become insulted when their sexuality is treated merely as a sexual perversion — their experience of homosexuality is one of personal acceptance, not merely one of sexual pleasure.)

at last, they find that there are other people who are of their sex and who will accept them: namely the gay community. ... Again, you have a massive, and very real, psychological need being fulfilled by the gay community, and so, again, you have the perception of homosexuality as being something that goes beyond the confines of mere sex.

Thus, if you tell someone suffering from same-sex attractions that their sexuality is objectively disordered and their behaviors are immoral, but that you love them in spite of their sexuality, they are going to call you a hypocrite. This sentiment is baffling to many Catholics because we tend to see same-sex attractions primarily in terms of homosexual intercourse. We need to bear in mind that many people in the homosexual community feel that they have only ever really been personally accepted by that community — not just because the outside world condemns homosexuality, but because some significant part of the outside world failed to accept their personality even before they had any sort of homosexual feelings.
In a nutshell, this is why so many practicing homosexuals simply shut out the Church and refuse to listen. They are being irrational and anti-intellectual, sure. But there is a reason for it besides childishness (though the Combox-Activist type shows otherways that they simply ARE being immature). The gay community and/or a gay relationship offers many of these people their primary experience of love, and human beings cannot live without love. They hear "gay sex is not loving" and it's the equivalent of saying "the sky is green" -- prima-facie proof the speaker is nuts and don't know shit from Shinola. My confessor once told me that I try too hard to treat love as a luxury good -- something worth having certainly, but something you can live without if you must or if you'd rather. But with most people, no appeal to Natural Law or St. Thomas can persuade him (or even should) to live without love. And as Selmys points out, this means that one must first establish a relationship with a homosexual person before anything else can come. As generalizations go, that is accurate enough.
This is one of the reasons why fear, hatred or disgust directed towards those who are attracted to their own sex is so crippling when it is found within the Christian community. It repels those who have embraced the “gay” lifestyle, and alienates those who are struggling to remain faithful in spite of their same-sex attractions. When Christians use degrading language or demonstrate uncharitable attitudes, it interferes with our ability to reach out to souls who are suffering with these temptations.
I cannot tell you how disappointed I was last year at some of the St. Blogs reaction to The Vatican (well actually, I did). As the non-homo Mark Shea has noted (he scrubbed the occasioning remark from his combox), there are "combox writers who think insulting homosexuals as 'fags' constitutes a display of manly orthodoxy." Or insistence on using terms like "sodomite." It can feel good emotionally for the speaker to deliberately defy silly PC-ness, I well understand. But at some point, it becomes the equivalent on insisting on using "colored" or "Negro" ... i.e., objective counterwitness in this day and age. Even if it is right, as Selmys points out ...
It is advisable to avoid using terms like “unnatural” or “objectively disordered.” They are perfectly accurate, and if they are understood properly they are not at all offensive. The problem is that they sound offensive even though they aren’t, and they’re easily misunderstood. ... It is much simpler to paraphrase — rather than saying that homosexual acts are unnatural, say that they contradict the purpose for which God ordained sex. Both phrases mean the same thing, but ... the second ... is subject to less ambiguity and won’t evoke erroneous associations.
Nor is it necessary. This is not the Church of "Heaven Help Us" or "Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" fantasyland. There are 30 years of Church documents on sexuality and homosexuality that e.g., avoid comparisons to sewers. Selmys says the right documents are out there for when the time comes to engage the intellect, as one must eventually.
The Church’s recent writings on sexuality, and particularly on homosexuality, are extremely rational and extremely charitable — and they’re not what most people expect. (emphasis mine) ... [I read] a copy of a little book printed by the Pontifical Institute for the Family called The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. By the time I finished reading it, I was firmly convinced that Catholic sexual teaching was coherent and reasonable, and that it was not motivated by fear or hatred. I still didn’t believe in it, but I no longer resented the Church’s position on homosexuality, and I wrote my column defending the right of Catholic school boards to teach Catholic sexuality in Catholic schools.
I praised the USCCB's document "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care" on these very terms a few months ago here and here. That it said everything that needed saying in a careful, precise, non-inflammatory and charitable way, neither overstating nor understating the sinfulness of homosexual acts. The Selmys article is obviously a bit more of a personal memoir than a Bishops Conference document could ever be, but it makes a nice compliment. Her humane practice and example to their humane theory and teaching.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was actually looking up Melinda Selmys when I stumbled on your article. Dealing w/ ss marriage (in Massachusetts) of our 26 year old daughter next weekend. We're practicing Catholics but she's lapses, as did my husband and I during college years and beyond.

It's helpful to read articles by same-sex-attracted people.
Thanks for sharing.