Collect


Collect for the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.
Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Raw Tact, Part XI: Prolegomena to Any Future Gay-Christian Dialogue

This is my final installation in the Raw Tact series. The chief purpose of this series, throughout, has been to facilitate gay-Christian dialogue. I admit that I have developed an aversion to the word "dialogue"; it seems like it's become one of those Christian-hipster catchwords.


I'm trying to live an emergent missional paradigm that imbues ancient-future values into an intentional community.

On the other hand, it's probably a little rich of me to be annoyed by other Christian hipsters. (Or maybe it's the crowning jewel of my Christian hipsterdom.) In any case, dialogue seems like the most serviceable word.

For it is dialogue, rather than dogmatics, that I think useful and desirable here. Now, there can (in my view) be no meaningful dialogue between people without defined beliefs, if only because in that case they have nothing to discuss; and dialogue is, as the word suggests, bidirectional* -- I want the gay community to listen to the Church quite as much as I want the Church to listen to the gay community. But the point is that I feel strongly that the Christian approach to queer issues has, with whatever good intentions, been seriously misguided, from the Sexual Revolution up to now. And it is especially gay Christians (I Tiresias, throbbing between two lives**) who have to pay for that.

I've stated before my affirmation of Catholic teaching, on this subject as on all, which follows from my belief in the Church's infallibility. But that applies to her teaching, not to its application in pastoral practice, and certainly not to the attitudes and behavior of Catholics in general, let alone of Christians in general.

There are many particular mistakes in the Christian (and specifically Catholic) approach to this that I could point to: the dismal failure of the ex-gay experiment, itself largely premised on the profounder mistake of idolizing marriage, to say nothing of homophobia; the damaging and unjust conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia; the nightmarish fact that Christian parents have been known to cold-shoulder, brutalize, and even expel children who admit to same-sex feelings and experiences. But I think that there is a more fundamental error underlying the wrong-headed tactics: one that is much harder to correct and requires in amendment a great deal more humility and love than apologizing for a specific offense.

That fundamental error is that of not listening to the gay community.


Surprisingly, no one's mind was changed after this exchange.

The reasons for this are legion, including some that have an appearance of great wisdom; as that the Church must be wary of the influence of the World. That is quite true. But the World does not only try to influence the Church to dilute her sexual mores and her authority to define them; I think that, in the American churches particularly, it has infected her with its view of success and of "winning" in controversies. Far be it from me to say that, e.g., political stances are unimportant, whether in themselves or as instantiations of religious freedom; but does anyone seriously believe that one single soul would be won by the passage of any law whatsoever? If they do, why do they think that, when the very Torah was powerless to save anybody? If not, why do so many believers give the impression of caring far more about laws than about the people with whom those laws are concerned?

I'd argue for the following basic points, in order, as Christians, to approach gay-Christian dialogue with intelligence and love:

1. Keep always in mind Martin Luther King's powerful saying, "Whom you would change you must first love, and they must know that you love them." And the thing about love is that it isn't conditional. It isn't a matter of loving people because that will change them.*** No change will happen without love, precisely because real love makes space for authentic change by not demanding it, by being present and open to the beloved simply because the beloved is there.

2. Listen before you speak. If your beliefs are settled, you can talk about them any time; they're not going to run away. If your beliefs are not settled, not listening to the group of people whom those beliefs chiefly concern is, well, either foolish or bigoted. By not listening, you're setting yourself up to be powerless to communicate -- you have no frame of reference for what the other person thinks or cares about, or for what language will actually convey your real meaning.

3. Learn to distinguish between being right and knowing what you're talking about. In my experience very few Christians know what they're talking about when it comes to LGBT issues, with the mostly consistent exception of LGBT Christians ourselves (and some of us leave something to be desired). A given moral stance about behavior is one thing. To suppose, based on such a moral stance, that you have the faintest idea what it is like to be one of us -- that is where the clumsiness and offense typically come in, especially when that actual gap in knowledge is filled by assumptions derived from a mixture of media portrayals and aging stereotypes that were shallow and crass even in their own day.


Note the tiny mustache, the age-old visual Esperanto for "creepy pervert."

4. Drop the language war. If "gay" is good enough for the Pope, it's good enough for the rest of us. The Gay Agenda did not persuade people because it stopped using the phrase "same-sex attracted." No one cares except you, and it's making you look hysterical and stupid.**** Considering the disadvantage we're at in proclaiming both Christian love and Christian truth to the culture at large, I don't think we can afford either the energy or the bad rap that this costs us.

5. Drop the social war. I am not saying here that the Church's doctrine does not impinge upon politics or has no right to do so; but I'm not talking here about politics. I'm talking about everyday life. A lot of Catholics seem to think that by doing normal things with LGBT people -- like having a gay couple over for Thanksgiving dinner -- they're somehow lending their approval to a sinful lifestyle. Do you apply that same rubric to literally any other group of people? I damn well hope not. Christ invites us to love as we have been loved, and our sins and shortcomings (many of them unrepented and even unacknowledged) are far more visible to His love than anybody else's are to ours -- yet here He is, in the midst of our messy lives. And if, by being involved in the lives of gay people, we find ourselves accused of being gluttonous men and winebibbers, friends of tax collectors and sinners ... well, I guess we must be wrong then, better cut that out right now.

It may seem strange to some readers that I spend so much more time talking to, and rebuking, fellow Christians, than I do trying to evangelize fellow gays. There are a lot of reasons for that, one of them being that I'm not stupid.


Famous last words.

Fellow gays who are already believers are, well, already believers; and those who aren't, if they read a Christian blog at all, are not likely to be persuaded by a stranger telling them how they ought to conduct their lives, whether he's also gay or not. If I were someone they actually knew, then I would try to live as a witness; but that primarily means displaying love, not proselytizing; and considering my life, I don't know that I dare proselytize anyway. I'm narcissistic like the next guy, but I'm not quite as narcissistic as that.


I've never even attended the VMAs, for one thing.

But there's more to it than that. Christians have a unique calling, and a higher standard of conduct. That the sons and daughters of this age should live as if they were not intimately acquainted with the love of God, that they should prize success and winning a kulturkampf, that they should treat certain groups of people as their enemies, all this is comprehensible. For Christians to do that, when we consider the supernatural Life to which we are called, is squalid and pathetic. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and our victories are not political or social in character. There is no human being, living or dead, whom we may legitimately hate, even if we may legitimately oppose them in one way or another. Sit back for a moment, and contemplate the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, too.

Since childhood, I have seen the interaction between gays and Christians take the form of a culture war. Even as a child, this struck me as utterly nonsensical. Shouldn't we have been expecting to be at a disadvantage, to be shoved aside, to be socially -- perhaps, one day, politically -- disfranchised? Why the shock and outrage? Why not, if we are so convinced we are being persecuted, put the Beatitude that blesses the persecuted into practice? Why not imitate the Apostles, who rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer for the Name? It's not like God can't take care of Himself, anyway.


Though He does consistently choose not to.

But. It does take two to tango, and the incredible butthurt that characterizes gay-Christian dialogue is not only the fault of traditional Christians.

I would therefore close on a note of equal appeal to my queer sisters and brothers. I would, first of all, beg forgiveness for our errors and sins, and ask you to believe that, though not all, yet many of those errors and sins were committed out of ignorance and clumsiness rather than spite. I would ask that we be judged individually and on our own merits, not based on your experiences of other people, or worse, what you assume or imagine might well be the case about us. If you revolt at the injustice of other people treating you that way, you must be just as careful not to do it to others; that is only right. I would ask that you take care to understand exactly what we are saying, and to take it from us, rather than relying on hearsay and reacting in anger. I would remind you that some of us, including some traditionalists, are gay ourselves, and are just as hurt by being lumped together with deranged homophobic fanatics as you would be (perhaps, have been) by being lumped together with criminals and lunatics. In a word, I would repeat that "Whom you would change you must first love, and they must know that you love them."



*Heh.

**T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, III.218.

***It should be unnecessary to clarify this (but unfortunately it is necessary): when I speak of "change" I am not taking about reorientation, direct or indirect.

****I'm not saying that language is unimportant or that it doesn't shape how we think; I studied Classics so that I could read the New Testament in the original language. But the particular fight over the word "gay," which is now common parlance to both sides of the A/B divide, and doesn't in fact have any specific philosophical connotations (even if it used to), has become so pointless and pedantic that the only practical effect it has is of making the people who conduct the fight look like homophobes, and, in Louis C. K.'s sense, faggy.

61 comments:

  1. Enjoying your blog a lot, Mudblood. Have you read Donovan's "Androphilia"?

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    1. It's been recommended to me before (here on the blog, as it happens), and it sounds intriguing, but I haven't gotten to it. At least, not yet.

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    2. I'm under the impression it's a rather manly critique of homosexuality?? <_^ Gay-affirming, but not culturally affirming to what some might describe as 'gay culture'??

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    3. That was the impression I'd been given, too. Personally I'm uncomfortable with most stereotypical definitions of gay culture; on the other hand, I tend to be uncomfortable with stereotypically manly attitudes, too. But it sounds like it would be interesting (if perhaps a little uncomfortable) to get what I gather is a unique perspective on gay culture, stereotypical or otherwise.

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    4. Ah, well Donovan rejects the term "gay" so let's say that it's "same-sex attracted affirming"

      It's only $6 on Kindle and I for one would be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

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    5. Kindle, nooooo! Speak not the name! Books should have scent and texture. I mean, other than "new car" and "smooth and flat." Sorry, I just feel passionately about this.

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  2. So, for the sake of a feel good 'koombayah' I'm suppose to ignore the years of lost happiness, the straight spouses married to persons whom they had no business being with, people born in times and places where they never had a chance to be happy or just be themselves, and I'm suppose to pass on all of our deceased LGBT brothers and sisters that your religious teachings directly contributed to?

    Frankly, Gabriel- why should I? Why should I pal up and be congenial to persons who have, until very recently, had a monopoly on oppressing people like us? And why on earth should people like me give any serious thoughts of friendship, companionship, or even outright respect to LGBT persons who affirm that which our entire community has fought tooth and nail againt? A community which created the very atmosphere you, as a gay celibate and anti-gay christian, are able to enjoy yourself so freely in.

    You're welcome, by the way.

    Sometimes telling people to "just do the right thing" is a lot easier than being pragmatic about what the right thing entails.

    The bridge you're proposing is ashes, and rightly so, I have to say.

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    1. No injustice should be ignored, and no dishonesty should be justified; nor will I ever say they should. What was lost should be acknowledged and grieved. What I'm saying is that the way to deal with these wrongs is repentance (from the party that did wrong) and forgiveness (from the party that suffered it) -- both actions that presuppose acknowledging the reality and evilness of the evils they address -- and that nothing else will result in real peace.

      I realize now that I haven't spoken of it before, which was a serious and very thoughtless omission on my part, but I am indeed grateful for the safety that has been won for me and others like me by the gay movement -- a safety which, sad to say, the Church would in all likelihood not have gotten to, or not for decades or centuries.

      I have cause to know that it is easier to tell other people to do the right thing than it is to pay the cost of doing the right thing. I've striven to forgive the man who raped me, and to forgive the Christians who've grievously hurt me by accident and on purpose, some of whom (though they did not know it) did drive me to self-injury and nearly drove me to suicide. I know how costly reconciliation can be.

      But it's reconciliation that I want. I don't want feel good kumbayahs. I don't like them. I want peace. Peace between two tribes of people who, right now, spend a lot of time hating each other, and expressing that hatred in caustic, damaging ways (not that there's any other kind of hatred). I hate hatred and I want it to stop; maintaining the grudge, seeking revenge, these things do nothing to bring about peace, no matter how justified they may seem or, indeed, really be. We cannot compel others to repent, but we can choose to forgive; or, at least, we can wish we wanted to forgive, even if the task itself defeats us. Reconciliation always has to start at home, because we can't control the other side.

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    2. Gabriel, I'm with you- I'd love for there to be reconciliation, true peace between our sides, but I think you drastically lack the grace and compassion to understand the scope of what you ask people like me to do.

      How can I forgive a religious community that still raises kids into environments that harm them, that sit them down and brainwash them into believing their physical nature is a shameful disability, or an 'unfortunate' condition? How do I begin to forgive the persons and teachings that encourage people to enter into intrinsically inauthentic and unstable mixed-orientation "marriages", the likes of which are blatantly unstable environments for children to be raised in? How do I forgive and reconcile with institutions and religious movements that left us dying in the streets just a few decades ago? How do you forgive and find reconciliation when the other side is still actively attacking you, defining your dignity for you, comparing your love, intimacy, and very existence to 'bad eyesight'?

      When the other side proudly proclaims the message of indignity, or the need to impress upon young persons that they should have to *choose* between being themselves or being who others want them to be, how do you have the gall to ask me to forgive that when it's *still going on*? Isn't that a concern of mine that should be respected? Or should we ignore those concerns and differences, tacitly recognizing that they are incapable of being compatible, and pretend nonetheless that we're 'getting along' now, and that things are not as hostile or directly antagonistic as they actually otherwise are?

      What I think you do, inadvertently, is present this call of forgiveness and reconciliation in a highly moralistically superior way, and one which lacks the grace and compassion of understanding the reality of the beliefs, convictions, and experience of 'my side'.

      If not forgiving is tantamount to spreading 'caustic hate', then you don't leave much room for LGBT persons to express themselves, especially considering that the vast majority of them likely going to share my views, and the views of someone like Dan Savage, which by all accounts are entirely irreconcilable with your antigay beliefs and theology.

      Or are those people, and the activist tradition which rose out of Stonewall and has afforded us the very opportunity to even have this conversation, suppose to just sit idly and accept your condemnation and 'hate' label for fighting against our indignity and victimization?

      I know what you want is a *good thing*, in theory I agree. I'm trying to challenge you to be a little more compassionate as to the reality of the other section of people who actually have to be willful participants in any sort of healing or reconciliation. If you really want a bridge to have a conversation, the other side is actually going to have to put some land down to built it on.

      I can tell you that, for me, there is no forgiveness, and no future reconciliation. Not until people grow up in a world that doesn't penalize them for being born different. That's what I stand for, and it is non-negotiable.

      Dignity for all people. No one is inferior because of how they were made to love, I'll never waiver on that.

      P.S. I still plan on responding to your e-mail, but at the moment school is swallowing me. Alive. I'll respond eventually. :D

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    3. I do need to grow in compassion, you're right. I am trying to.

      I beg you to believe that I am not as insensitive as I seem to you. I wasn't always a Catholic, and wasn't always anti-gay (to use your words). I used to view sexuality more or less as you do. I didn't come to adopt a traditional view of sexuality because I liked it; I still don't. I gave up a great deal, in both ideology and life, in embracing Catholicism, and I have not forgotten the cost. I live with the cost, every day. I did it because I became convinced of Jesus' unique presence in the Church, but I could never, ever hold someone in contempt for being honestly and in conscience unpersuaded of that unique presence.

      That being said, I will not pretend that I know how much it would cost you, personally, to forgive Christianity. I can't know, and it'd be insulting if I acted like I did. I am begging you to forgive because it is good, not because it is easy, and because it can heal, not because those who have sinned against you deserve to be forgiven.

      I would not want the descendants of Stonewall to be silent. That, indeed, is one of the things I have been calling for throughout the Raw Tact series I just concluded: for the Church to, basically, listen to Stonewall. She hasn't, and that was the wrong decision, and people have suffered because of it -- I know that; I'm one of the people who suffered because of that decision. No peace can be forged without open hearts on both sides; that is why I spend the bulk of my time here appealing to my fellow believers to understand and to sympathize.

      Nor would I want you, or anyone, to be silent about injustices to LGBT people. Forgiveness never means pretending that nothing is wrong, or excusing wrongdoing. Forgiveness means deliberately returning good for an acknowledged evil; willing the best for the other, because that is the only way -- the only way -- to stop the terrible cycle of injustice and revenge.

      How you, or anybody, can forgive continuous and repeated injustice ... I can't claim to know that either. I've forgiven specific, past injustices, like being raped; but it's so much easier to forgive something finite than something ongoing. I couldn't blame you if you wouldn't or couldn't forgive. But I'm begging you to try to anyway. Refusal to forgive perpetuates the cycle of agony, not because anybody is to blame, but by the mere laws of cause and effect, which take no notice of who is in the right.

      You might say, and not without reason, that there can be no rapport between our views, because our definitions of what is just are too different. I grant that they differ. But it seems clear to me that both of us believe, firmly, that all people deserve justice, whatever it may be, regardless of their orientation; that no human being is less than any other human being because of their orientation; that injustice should be rebuked and stopped, whether it claims homophobic justifications or not. You may feel that my belief system is incompatible with those assertions, but, even if I am being self-contradictory, I do at any rate assert those things, and will no more be shaken from asserting them than yourself. Perhaps we can meet there, at least, and try.

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    4. Anon 2478, I read both your responses to Gabriel. I don't think you will listen to what I have to say since I am a straight, married devoutly Catholic woman but I empathize greatly to those who are hurt. The marginalized, the "rejects". I cannot pretend to comprehend the amount of pain and anger that many gays feel toward the Church and religion in general. I've never been in those shoes. But, does hate breeding hate solve anything? Does that assuage the pain? the sufferings of the past? Or does that only perpetuate a vicious cycle? The Church, in the past did many, many terrible things. I cannot be an apologist for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Jewish pogroms, the persecution of homosexuals, Jews, and others. There is nothing that excuses it even when I look at it through historian eyes.

      I know gays are experiencing similar abuse now. I know that Christians are experiencing abuse too. Both are in different ways. Sadly, homosexuals are not the only group to be mistreated. Nothing excuses nor condones it.

      There is a problem though. You say that the bridges are reduced to ashes and nothing can be done to bridge the gap. Is it truly impossible or does the pain prevent you from extending a hand in peace? If so, then its up to people like me. The Church can't change her teachings on the nature of marriage and sexuality. However, as a daughter of the Church I want to extend my hand to you in peace, love, and reconciliation. I want to listen to you. Please know that not every Christian hates gays. Most don't but in their fervor to defend marriage, family, and sexuality they project hate, sometimes without knowing it. I don't want to be that way. I want to extend my hand out to those in pain and suffering, gay or straight. It doesn't matter to me. Please accept this paltry token and if you are in the least bit willing to talk, e-mail me at ealfric77@gmail.com . God bless you and thank you for your blog Gabriel. I've learned so much :).

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    5. Gabiel, Rapunzel, I appreciate your responses, but let me first begin with a main and poignant objection.

      What good will it do for your church to listen to Stonewall? So what? They'll keep spreading their anti-gay theology, their belief system that denies our existence in our species very biodiversity, that denies and flagrantly spits in the face of (y)our(my) dignity. You will keep propagating the same belief, Gabe, and people just like you will get their names waived around by Maggie Gallagher as an example of people who have combated their 'desires'(and this is of course referring to Eve Tushnet).

      So what good is there in talking to someone whose basic concept of 'just' and 'justice' concludes that you, and I, are comparable to 'bad eyesight'? Kind of galling to say you should forgive someone when they haven't determined, and won't admit, that they did anything wrong, or obscene? So no, principally- no forgiveness unless it's actually warranted, and as of right now nothing has changed. Not here, not anywhere.

      Most important to this discussion, and this attempt at 'bridge building'- is how unbelievably patronizing both of your responses were, not to mention offensively cliche.

      I mean, really? You whittle down all my objections, my life experiences, my heart felt concerns, ball it up and accuse me of "hate", and then constantly bemoan that you are extending your hand to me (the heathen homosexual trying to be saved by sweet Chirstians!) and asking that I 'forgive' you, the very persons that perpetuate everything that has gone wrong for my people, and proudly continue to do so.

      No doubt in your mind I'd be one step closer then to accepting your Christ, and comparing my love, nature, and purpose to 'bad eyesight'? Is that what you're really trying to do with this ploy??

      For people who claim so much compassion, so much sensitivity, so much *love*, you have a funny way of dragging yourself, and myself, into what should probably be the very conversation for a 'bridge builder' to avoid.

      No, I'm not going to forgive you all for anything, and I think I'm going to bow out of this highly patronizing conversation for the time being.

      You can find another homosexual, for the moment, to accuse of hate and demand forgiveness from.

      - Anon

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    6. @Anon

      Jesse Bering is an esteemed psychologist whose research has attempted to investigate the origins of religious belief. Bering openly admits that he is in part driven by his anti-religious agenda and that “[his research is] going to dry up even the most verdant suburban landscapes, and leave spiritual leaders with their tongues out, dying for a drop of faith."

      If Bering wants to claim that, say, Catholics, are suffering from “disordered cognitive function” that may even be inborn, what do you think the response of religious folks should be?

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    7. I apologize for my patronizing tone. I didn't mean for it to come across that way. So, am I correct in ascertaining there can be no dialogue? No rapport? Why do you spit on a hand that is attempting to reach out in friendship. I want to listen. I want to understand. Is there no way to bridge the gap at all? We speak different languages since we have different philosophies. That is part of the problem in the first place.

      My impression is that some homosexuals want the dialogue to be completely one sided. You want the Church to change Her 2,000 year old teachings which can't be done. You are asking for the impossible. However, there is stuff we can change. For starters, I do not believe your condition is comparable to bad eyesight. I know its not the same.

      Is there any way possible to give a benefit of a doubt? Or is that completely impossible now due to the past?

      I am not attempting to convert you. That is not my job. I don't think you will be any closer to accepting Jesus even if I tried which is not my intent. I don't have a ploy here. I just want to listen and attempt to build bridges. But those bridges go two ways. I'm extending my hand. I know you'd prefer to spit on it.

      You claim you don't hate. That's fine. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. However, your post is projecting deep seated anger and that eats the soul. Your unwillingness to accept any forgiveness or attempt to at least allow me to listen can be projected as hatred.

      I consistently hear from the media and homosexual activists to stop hating, correct? But it doesn't come from just one side. I do not hate anyone, least of all gays. You're accusing me of being patronizing. That's not my intent at all.

      I'm sorry that you're not willing to talk. I'd love to have a conversation with you. The offer still stands. I have no other motives. I'm willing to listen. You are suffering and are in a lot of pain. I see that. It comes across in your posts. You claim that its not possible for Catholics to listen to Stonewall. Sometimes that can be a self perpetuating prophecy if you don't try it. So, here I am, a straight Catholic ready to listen.

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    8. What do you want to talk about? I'm actually somewhat curious, now.

      What do you think you have to say on behalf of the traditions that, for 2,00 years, have attacked and persecuted my community only until we stood up and said 'Enough of it."

      Really, what do you have for me?

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    9. What do I have to say on behalf of a tradition that goes back 2,000 years in regards to the treatment of homosexuals? They were treated terribly and it was wrong. It continues to be wrong. The treatment you and others endured is terrible.

      Our worldview is sacramental. This means that its a symbol that actually signifies the concept. For instance, our sacrament of baptism is a rite in which the act of washing confers sanctifying grace ie. our sins are actually washed away and we are initiated into the Body of Christ. Since we believe that marriage is a sacrament too, we see it as a sacred rite mirroring the image of the union between Christ and His Church (His bride). Sanctifying grace is conferred here as well. The union has the possibility to produce "fruit" as in children. The Church teaches that marriage's primary end is procreation and secondly fostering unity (mutual support) among the spouses. Its our belief. I know its not helpful for those who don't want that type of marriage. However, I know this is a different concept from a civil understanding of marriage which is the union of two companions for mutual love.

      Part of this also stems from the way Christianity was practiced for many centuries. There was no concept of a state. During the Middle Ages, etc what you had was many kingdoms, including the Papacy. The worldview, although sacramental was also more collectivist. The humanist concept of individual autonomy didn't come until later. So, we have two divergent views on the individual. The Church influenced society as much as She could. The concept of a complete separation of Church and state was unheard of at the time. Unfortunately, that meant anyone who dissented (think of the heretics during the 15th century for example) or was different in any way was considered suspect. There is no excuse for the abuse, maltreatment, and deaths of these many people. It didn't do any good anyway.

      I believe the current culture "wars" is part of an ongoing transition debate.
      What we have here is two very different philosophies and worldviews that are vying for control. They do not speak the same language nor have very much in common. That being said, we do have a belief concerning the dignity of the human person. It dates back to our earliest writings but it got buried under a lot of political and personal prejudices.

      These beliefs that the Church has does not excuse the abuse meted out on homosexuals. There is no justification for it. Some issues that gay rights activists advocate are important and should have never been opposed like visitation rights (if one is in the hospital), health benefits, tax filing, etc. I am profoundly sorry on the behalf of my coreligionists that we fought so hard to deny these particular rights. Some of the nastier rhetoric you hear is a jumble of religious and political prejudices. Fear is mixed in too.

      In my own experience, I have two gay friends. Both know that I'm devoutly Catholic but at no time have I treated them with any less dignity than I would treat anyone else. I do not chide them. I understand the profound need for love. Both of them were lonely and in tough situations. I've noticed that their lives are better for having a companion. I don't fault them for it at all and nor would I fault anyone else.

      I don't know if anything I've said helps at all. I'm certain you've heard all of it before. But I want to hear from you so that I can understand. Again, its fundamentally an issue about divergent worldviews that are struggling to find some common thread to at least have a conversation about. Exploring the concept of dignity may be a first step. I don't know. What do you think?

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  3. But Gabriel, there's an asymmetry here that makes reconciliation very difficult. The gay community has and still suffers because of the Roman Catholic Church in a way the church does not suffer at the hands of the gay community. Since I was born, 45 years ago now, I have witnessed the church oppose absolutely every extension of my civil liberties and rights. Not just in the US, in Spain, Belgium, the UK where I now live, Catholics have taken to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to oppose Pacte Civil de Solidarite, Civil Partnerships, then equal marriage, employment protection, Aids awareness, the outlawing of reparative therapy, it still manoeuvres to wriggle out of anti-bullying safeguards, it even opposes decriminalisation in places. The C4M campaign here in Britain has been a shameless political attempt by the catholic church to skew parliamentary debate by conducting their own skewed polls (they never agree with any non-religious polling), pressurising MPs elected on small majorities and generally bearing false-witness all around... I read one of your bishops even performed a minor exorcism to weigh on political debate in Illinois, talk about demonising your opponents. This happened in Spain too some ten years ago. On a more personal note, Catholic schooling taught me to loathe myself pretty thoroughly, to consider what I now know to be one of the noblest abilities in my life as sinful trash.
    On the other hand, how is the gay community even bothering the Catholic Church apart from a few angry, reactive words?
    And reconciliation can only begin when one party says sorry and asks for forgiveness. I've yet to hear that.

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    1. Thank gods, someone here speaks sense.

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    2. Everything you say is true, and I bitterly regret it. Even the story about the bishop. I will make no defense for the homophobia and cruelty that a lot of Christian activists -- sad to say, especially Catholics -- are guilty of; it is particularly to diffuse such things that I started writing this blog. I don't know if it is worth anything, but whether it is or not, I at least am sorry, and I do ask forgiveness -- yours, and everyone's.

      I could cite a few, a very few, examples of things that I consider injustice towards the Church on the part of the LGBT community; I'm reluctant to, partly because they are small and technical, partly because I feel they would derail the conversation. But I don't claim for one moment that Romaphobia is the bulk of the problem. That's why I only appealed to my fellow queer folk in the one paragraph; I was hoping that would make what I take to be the basic scale of the problem clear -- in other words, that it is chiefly Christians who need to repent.

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    3. Gabriel, you may feel this way, but it's not the way Catholics do. If I want forgiveness from anyone - do it on your behalf. I'm not going to ask any of those gentlemen to forgive me anything, because there's nothing of which I should be ashamed. And I don't expect anything from them either.

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    5. I'll concede that it was brave; His Excellency must have known he'd be crucified for it, in the press and quite possibly in other ways as well. But it doesn't seem to me that it was wise, I'm convinced it was entirely unnecessary, and it doesn't seem to me to be an obvious thing to do either.

      To begin with, exorcism is generally something done of persons, and occasionally of places; I don't know of any sources that have made clear what exactly the exorcand even is in this case, and I know of no traditional Church teaching that institutions or policies can be possessed. (I am of course open to being informed on this point.)

      Secondly, it is perfectly licit to pray the prayers of exorcism secretly, but Bishop Paprocki chose not to; the effect of the rite is the same -- and for that matter, exorcisms are traditionally very private. The message that is therefore sent, whether he intended it or not, is that gay marriage is formally Satanic. I don't think that's true or helpful -- it's a hugely bridge-burning decision. It is enough to say that something is wrong, without literally demonizing it; I've written about this sort of thing before, in my post on DOMA.

      Thirdly, it plays into the hands of those who want to stereotype the Church as consisting of nothing but homophobes, while simultaneously providing ammunition to people who do want to behave cruelly towards gay people. Again, that may not be what His Excellency intended, but it's the practical result. The profession of love for LGBT people -- which I take to be wholly sincere -- is made wholly incredible by this kind of display.

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    1. Sancta,

      You actually kind of make our own point for us. You describe a type of same-gender sexuality from antiquity, and then note that no type of gay relationships(at least in THAT culture) were widely practiced that mirror what 20th century gays and lesbians are like now.

      Then how can you really look at those 'clobber verses' and apply them forward to an entirely new understanding of sex and sexuality? Were they really condemning me, or something else from that time and place?

      I think there's more wiggle room than *some* people let them have, but just like slavery and women's rights I don't CARE if your Bible is explicit on this subject, it's still dead wrong.

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    2. Wrong, because you say so? That's a great argument! So, why should I care what you have to say then?

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    3. @Sancta: It's true that the Bible teaches plainly about homosexual behavior, but I'm at a loss as to what brought that up. I can't think of anything I've written that implied I didn't know that, or what relevance it has to the conversation. The Bible condemns gossip, too, and factiousness, and self-righteousness; all far more regularly and insistently than gay sex, with which it doesn't seem much preoccupied. That homosexuality is a fairly recently invented word I grant you, but that doesn't much move me. It makes me wary of being overly dogmatic in its use, and particularly wary of applying modern concepts of orientation to Biblical texts; but I think the usefulness and accuracy of the ideal of sexual orientation and identity far outweigh its limitations, and so I'm not squeamish of using it.

      As to the institution of Classical pederasty, of course that existed. But the existence of Classical pederasty doesn't in any way suggest that loving gay relationships didn't also exist, between adults, at that time; the case of Simmias and Cebes in the "Phaedo" is an obvious literary example (probably based on life), and the historical example Harmodius and Aristogeiton spring to mind as well. Saints Sergius and Bacchus are reputed to have had such a relationship before converting, though unfortunately even their historicity, let alone what they felt about each other, is not a settled question. (The exact age relationship between the Emperor Hadrian and Antinous, one of the most famous examples of ancient homoeroticism, is unknown, save that it was reputed to be a wide gap.)

      As to libertarianism, surely it is more libertarian to legalize and ignore the choices and relationships of others. The possibility of infringements upon religious liberty, on those premises, would simply be another example of people having a right to be left alone. Opposition to gay marriage doesn't fit well with libertarianism, and opposition to gay behavior in general, with or without legal recognition of some kind, gels even less. I am not trying to make a case for gay marriage -- only to establish what arguments are and aren't internally consistent.

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  5. What kind of dialogue, if any is needed? I see no reason to have a dialogue on this issue at all. Two very different world views, so why?

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    3. There is a lot to be said along these lines, and I haven't time right this moment to go into adequate detail; but I must immediately and categorically dispute one thing you have said: that only ill-will would motivate anyone to have anything angry to say about the Church. The Church is full of sinners, and her disciplinary and political decisions, unlike her formal doctrine, *are not* infallible. To speak against sin, injustice, and corruption, within the Church as much as without her, is far from being anticlerical; it is a profoundly Catholic thing to do; Dante's ferocious criticisms of the Church of his own day are outstanding examples of such. Indeed, it is profoundly Biblical: the ancient prophets did the same in Israel, our Lord Jesus did the same when engaging with the Pharisees and Sadducees (who, remember, were the priestly and clerical figures of the day), and it is not unknown in the rest of the New Testament either -- St. Paul rebuked St. Peter, and used some pretty strong language to do it, as recorded in Galatians 2. To say that anyone of goodwill will inevitably accept and take joy in the doctrine of the Church not only leaves out the doctrine of invincible ignorance (objective and subjective); it fails to account for the sinfulness that afflicts all Christians, injuring those outside and obscuring the clarity of the Gospel.

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    6. Come on Gabriel, most Christians are never going to fully accept you if you are gay. Just try to let go of your self hatred, find a nice man to date, you'll be so much happier.

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    7. Well, Sancta, you just proved my point - there's no need for dialogue as it's war, and we are enemies.

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    8. @Sancta: I don't agree that we can declare invincible ignorance to be a rare thing. It is, to be sure, far less probable in a society like ours than it would be in, say, Tibet -- though I wonder whether there is not another sense in which the very commonplace nature of the Gospel dulls men's ears from hearing it; being so familiar with the externals, they assume they have grasped its substance when in fact it has never been really set before them. But even in a society like ours it is possible, and I am loath to declare anyone other than myself incapable of it -- nor is it necessary to do so. The Church's warnings can only be taken to heart by individual people; we cannot repent on anybody else's behalf.

      I most certainly believe and confess the holiness of the Church. The reason I write as I do of criticizing the Church is that, outside a specifically theological (and even, very largely, a specifically Catholic) context, "the Church" does not mean to people in general what it means in the creeds, and our attempts to explain the meaning of the term, if I may trust my experience and intuition, give the appearance of weaseling our way out of corporate responsibility rather than of defining a term. In popular parlance, "the Church," like "Christianity," is as likely or likelier to mean simply "everybody who claims to be a Christian"; and of course, when we speak of the Church's holiness, it isn't the Church in that sense that is under discussion.

      It's quite true that St. Paul, like many of the early Christians, was of the party of the Pharisees, and that it was with the Pharisees rather than any other Jewish party that the primitive Church shared the bulk of its doctrine. That, however, rather makes me warier than consoles me. I'm puzzled at the introduction of the word "metaphor" into the conflict between Christ and the clerical class of His day; He certainly acknowledged their teaching office and their sacerdotal function, but His conflict with them was not the less fierce for that, and not metaphorical.

      I agree that it's common to take an almost antinomian approach to this conflict (or worse, to treat it as though it were a war between emotions and intellect, in which the Pharisees and Sadducees were being criticized merely for being theological, a transparent falsehood, particularly when set by St. Paul). I agree, too, that law in the sense of the pursuit of holiness is complementary to faith. But righteousness too has its own proper temptations. We are broken creatures, and just as capable of pursuing virtue for self-exalting reasons as of pursuing anything else for those reasons. The brilliance of T. S. Eliot's "Murder In the Cathedral" is in showing St. Thomas Becket's triumph over the temptation to embrace martyrdom simply to prove that he was better than the men who martyred him -- a martyrdom for heavenly glory, but for his own glory nevertheless.

      That is part of why I don't like using the qualifier of ill-will to delineate the distinction between those who do and don't have real faith. We all have some degree of ill-will -- God knows what it is -- and our actual character is, therefore, always mixed. It is hard to know even of ourselves how much selfishness is blended with our goodness; let alone other people.

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    9. (Cont'd) I therefore utterly reject the statement that the truth requires us to declare certain people -- gay or otherwise -- to be away from God and morally destitute and the rest of it. We do not, cannot, and need not, know what is in someone's heart; the holy Trinity alone knows that. We can say what the truth is, and implore people to come to it, and display it to the best of our ability in our lives, begging the grace of God to do so; and we can even go as far as to warn people that willful antagonism to that truth is perilous. But we can't say why a person does not embrace that truth -- we can neither read their minds nor divine their personal histories.

      A bit of me does look forward to God's final justice; but a much bigger part of me trembles at the thought. I read somewhere, though I don't recall the source, that the early Church prayed for God to delay His coming, so that men would have more time to repent. I absolutely pray for the end of injustice, of every kind, but I pray as earnestly for conversion, that no one may be lost.

      @Anonymous: I appreciate your good will, truly; but are you saying this because you suppose that it hadn't occurred to me before?

      @t1: I can accept that ideas are contradictory to each other. I refuse to regard anyone as my enemy on that account; I feel that reason and revelation alike forbid it.

      In the sphere of natural reason apart from Christianity, Socrates and Gandhi both believed and taught that it is better to see in every man simply a fellow man, and, if necessary, to respond to injustice by suffering it with good will and compassion for those who inflict it, who injure themselves by so doing. As the poet Terence said, "I am a man: therefore nothing human is alien to me."

      And far more so due to the Catholic religion. in Christ's terrible story of the sheep and the goats, He makes it plain that every interaction between men is to be accounted an interaction with Himself: the Divine image, stamped upon man, is to be venerated in every person, however little they as a person might be worthy of the office that we call humanity. I can and will say that this or that idea is untrue, even that this or that action, or cause, is wrong. But I will not for that reason view or willingly treat those who's ideas, actions, and causes are not consistent with mine, as my enemies. I have precisely one enemy, and that enemy is evil. Evil is not a man; therefore no man is my enemy.

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    10. @t1 - just because you refuse to see the reality for what it is, it doesn't change the fact that we are enemies, and for obvious reasons we will be enemies. Only fools refuse to recognize that. I guess you need some more time to process that, but eventually you'll see the reality, instead of your erroneous projections.

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    11. I never said there was no conflict, or that a lot of people won't continue in hostility to one another. What I'm saying is that I refuse to give that conflict power over me: because I hope and long for that conflict to end, I first end it within myself, by refusing to regard any human person as my enemy, even if they regard me as theirs. I'm not sure what part of reality you accuse me of refusing to see; I am not denying the existence of the conflict any more than as a pacifist I deny the existence of war; I am, rather, embracing the one course of action -- love, unconditional and universal, to the best of my ability -- that I think has any power to bring the conflict to a just end.

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    12. I don't doubt your sincerity, but you seem to be very naive about the nature of things you argue about. No amount of love can overcome fundamental differences - it's "either, or" situation - someone has to give in, and you indirectly implied who should that be. And this conflict may come to an end when one of those conflicted group is defeated. There's no alternative to a nuclear option.

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    15. I never said that I disbelieved in admonishing sinners. However, I don't think there is any point in doing so outside of a personal context, and the internet is a highly impersonalized context. If you know someone, a rebuke may be effective, both because the communication is much likelier to be clear and because you can know a person well enough to have reasonable confidence that a rebuke is needed and appropriate. I don't think we can make the same judgments about someone that we haven't ever even met, and certainly not simply because they fall into a class. To use the example of the Pharisees, Jesus rebuked them for being hypocrites, not for being Pharisees; Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were Pharisees too. Moreover, our Lord had the advantage of being able to read hearts, an exceedingly rare gift that we almost never possess. That too makes rebuke and admonition very different things.

      My reverence for the office of the priesthood is extreme. My attitude to clerics is therefore not unlike Dante's: he wrote of Pope Boniface VIII's soul as being consigned to Hell, and when the King of France brutalized the Pope for political reasons, he said that it was "Christ led captive and crucified in the person of His Vicar." I don't really see how it's germane to the topic, though.

      That we are all sinners is neither pious sentiment nor a denial that final perfection is possible. It is a doctrine of the Church drawn directly from the pages of Scripture. We do not have to remain sinners; we can increase in grace daily; but the brute fact is that we're not yet perfect -- as the saints whom you mentioned, and especially their mother the great Teresa of Avila, constantly maintained about themselves. St Paul said, near the end of his life, that he was not yet perfected. Their constant lament was that they did not love enough. I don't agree for a moment that this language was a mere self-deprecatory modesty; that seems, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, to imply that something like foolish dishonesty is a part of holiness. It seems to me much more fitting, and much more obvious, simply to believe them when they say things. If anyone here professes to rival such great saints and leave their holiness in the dust with absolute perfection, then I may have to eat my words about rebuking and warning people online.

      If the only person whose salvation you pray for is yourself, I can only react with bafflement and alarm. This is clean contrary to the example of our Lord and of every one of His Apostles, to say nothing of the saints that litter history who have implored the mercy and generosity of Divine love upon all men. St Paul himself said that he wished, not that he might be saved, but that he might be damned if only it would save his brethren. Forgetfulness would be one thing; but I see nothing beautiful about a faith that either cannot be bothered to pray for others, or despises them so thoroughly that it won't.

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  6. I have never said a word in defense of anticlericalism. I did say that criticizing the conduct of churchmen, and even the non-infallible disciplinary decisions of the Church, is *not* intrinsically anticlerical; in which I feel the apology of Bl. John Paul II for the sins committed in the name of the Church backs me up. I have also said (or at least implied) that anticlericalism is in some ways understandable, and even, in the case of those who have been grievously injured by clergy (such as victims of abuse), partly excusable. But to call something excusable is even so to say that it needs excuse, and to call something understandable is not to call it right.

    I do no much like being called a liar, and ask that you refrain from doing so in future. I never put a word on this blog that I do not mean. By all means disagree with what I write; iron sharpens iron. And I don't doubt that I am mistaken about some things, or simply ignorant of some things -- I try very hard not to discuss something if I'm ignorant about it, but I'm sure I miss some things. But if I have written something here, it is because I think it is true, not because I am attempting to manipulate facts or people. To say I am wrong is one thing. To call me a liar seems slanderous.

    Returning to the question of admonishing sinners, what I was protesting in the second passage you quote was the summary judgment of certain groups of people as being at enmity with God, without first having personal knowledge of the individuals one is talking about.

    You say that you write as joyously and hopefully as possible. I would like to gently ask that you examine your conscience about this. Possibly it is a matter of style, or of the spirit in which I am reading your words; but they have seemed to me increasingly angry, and more and more personally insulting, going so far as to call me a compulsive liar, a manipulative deceiver, a practitioner of false humility, and selectively ignorant of the history of the Catholic Church. To me none of this seems necessary to make your argument, and suggests that it may be you who are angry, and being unfair in consequence.

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    3. Please believe me when I say that that was full candor.

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    5. Of course non-Catholics can criticize the Church as well as Catholics. And of course those criticisms cannot be expected to understand the Church from within, and will therefore be at most of limited value; and, yes, sad to say, sometimes they will be motivated by hatred. But it doesn't follow that anything negative said about the Church or the clergy is un-Catholic.

      To say that my complaints are a comprehensive punching bag (if I'm understanding you correctly) doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I do think that injustice to LGBT people, which I'm content to call homophobia, is a problem in the Church; however, I'm inclined to put that down to a lack of practical wisdom and understanding far more than to malice. Nor, to the best of my recollection, have I said much else about problems in the Church, and certainly not that all accusations against her are completely fair. Indeed, some of the charges against the Church by the culture at large, and by some Catholics, seem to me to be unrealistic, unfair, and ignorant -- like those who set pictures of starving children beside pictures of the Pope in his vestments, as though this disproved the existence of Catholic Charities and the like. Or, if one takes historical examples, the distortion of the real issue at stake in Galileo's trial is a good example of the Church being treated unfairly by most historians and by popular culture.

      It is of course true that I don't like injustice against LGBT people, or anybody else. No one should. Nor do I see that it would help the Church to whitewash her shortcomings. Her Divine origin, the Holy Ghost who animates her -- these things are unaffected by sin. But the conduct of her hierarchy and members, now and throughout history, is marked by imperfection; her inmost nature does not always shine through; and when most people talk about the Church, they're talking about her visible element, the part that has imperfections in it. Personally, I think it peculiarly necessary that Catholic should talk about these things and try to fix them; as Chesterton pointed out, if the world grows too worldly, the Church may rebuke her, but if the Church grows too worldly, she cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.

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    7. That it does; and my view is that it can take care of itself.

      It's true that the mindset of our culture today more closely resembles that of the pagan world, to which Christ came with love, than it perhaps ever has. But this does not seem to me to be very remarkable. I'm not convinced that this alteration in worldview has actually changed the ratio of good to evil in the world, and I'm confident that it has not changed the operations of Divine grace within it. I am more confident still that there is absolutely no point speculating when Our Lord will return, simply because He said that we cannot know.

      Naturally I admit that some LGBT people are insanely hostile to the Church -- just as there are some who are in her very heart; and far more at every point on the spectrum between those extremes. And that is true of every category of people. But the appropriate response to that is compassion. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy; blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (And, if it should come to that, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.") Our preaching must indeed be of repentance; but that is precisely a work of mercy, of peace, not of threatening with hellfire; and we will never gain -- or merit -- a hearing if we do not admit that we also sin and have sinned, and repent ourselves, openly.

      Nor, if anyone in the gay world is trying to destroy the Church, am I much unnerved by that. T. S. Eliot put the matter magnificently in the mouth of St. Thomas Becket -- martyred at a time when society was ostensibly Christian, as opposed to the dechristianized society that may one day get round to it, but hasn't yet killed any of us:

      The Church shall protect her own, in her own way, not
      As oak and stone; stone and oak decay,
      Give no stay, but the Church shall endure.
      The Church shall be open, even to our enemies. Open the door!

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  7. Sancta Trinitas, if you have nothing positive or uplifting to say about anyone, I'm not going to keep publishing your comments. I don't like suppressing things, but everything you have posted on this blog has been derogatory, hostile, sarcastic, quick to condemn, even slanderous; you have openly advocated not forgiving people, attacked me as a manipulative liar, freely dismissed any and all difficulty with the Church as enmity with God, and discounted literally everything that I have to share about the actual experience of being a gay Catholic trying to live in accord with the Church's teachings. There's only so long that I can dread looking at the combox; I just haven't got the strength to deal with it any longer. Your intentions may, for all I know, be good, but your tactics are repulsive.

    My basic point in the Raw Tact series has been that, whatever our motives, Christians have not in fact effectively communicated love to the gay community -- that we have produced an impression of contempt, disgust, and hatred toward them; that we have so portrayed Christ as to distort Him, to make Him the last thing an LGBT person would want. I can think of few things which would have reinforced that point more effectively than the way you have written here. If you have nothing else to contribute, then I ask to be left alone.

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