Collect


Introit for the Third Sunday in Lent

Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net: look thou upon me, and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and in misery.
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: my God, in thee have I trusted; let me not be confounded.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Felix Culpa

I have been sick as a dog the past two days. It started with a headache Wednesday night, and then suddenly turned into my eyes burning like Saint Lawrence's gridiron and a hacking cough that made my lungs feel like someone was rudely dragging a morningstar through them.


What did I ever do to you, Gogo?

Originally I had been planning to spend the weekend with a friend of mine, but when it started hurting to move, we agreed it was probably better to postpone it. It so happened that he had a number of family and household issues to attend to, and my sister, whom we had been planning to meet up with, couldn't make it this weekend owing to the recent minting of my youngest nephew. The postponement meant he could deal with Things, and my sister would be able to meet with us after all, and I wouldn't infect them both with a cold that apparently thinks I slept with its wife and killed its dog. The timing, therefore, though not perhaps the fact, of my being ill seemed -- if I can say it without sounding like (or being) a Sentimental Christian Blogger (TM) -- providential.

This drew my mind back to the articles (here and here) that Austin Ruse has been writing for Crisis on our little movement; or rather, to the comments. (Related: never read the comments.) Many of the commenters have railed against any and all notion that gayness -- that is, the tendency to be attracted to the same sex rather than the opposite sex -- is in any sense good or even salvageable; that anything worthwhile can be gleaned from it; that any response to it is acceptable other than disgust, concealment, or (at best) pity.

Now, I start from the same premises of Catholic doctrine as the majority of these commenters: namely, that same-sex sexual desire is a misdirected desire (which is what the technical theological term disordered means in the vernacular). The reason I don't have such a totally negative attitude toward homosexuality isn't because I'm wooly about what the Church does and doesn't teach, or because my loyalty to that teaching is less than complete. Indeed, my initial reaction to what seemed to be accusations of heresy and treachery was that if confessed fidelity to the teaching of the Church -- a confession made multiple times by all of us -- is not enough for these critics, I think it bears considering whether it is they who are too stringent with their requirements, rather than we who are too lenient.

But I digress. The latent premise here would seem to be that, if something is bad or messed up or in any way less than ideal, the only thing to do with it is to heap vilifications on it, as a faithful Catholic.

This seems to me to be not only wrong, but positively and specifically un-Catholic. O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est! O felix culpa, quae talum ac tantem meruit habere Redemptorem! "O sin of Adam, necessary indeed, that was destroyed by the death of Christ! O happy guilt, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!" Without losing consciousness of the distinction between good and evil, and without falling into the trap of supposing that we may deliberately accomplish good ends through intrinsically evil means, Catholic spirituality has always recognized every shortcoming -- however trivial or however terrible -- as an occasion for grace to operate in a new way, to redeem things rather than destroying them. The Crucifixion itself was the worst thing that ever happened, after all; and the best.


Go forth, O ye daughters of Sion, and behold the King with the crown wherewith his mother crowned Him 
on the day of His espousals, and on the day of the gladness of His heart. -- Canticles 3.11

Is this gay exceptionalism? I don't think so. It applies to everything. For example, one of my nephews has Down Syndrome. Is that a good thing, to be desired for its own sake? No. But when I see him smile, I am not settling for a second best. He is not the dregs of humanity; he is not something to be ashamed of, or hidden from polite society, or discussed only with pity. He is a great joy in my life, and one about which I have no ambivalence. I wouldn't want things to be any other way than they are.

Not only that, but people who are thus on the outside of normalcy, so to speak, not infrequently have something to offer normalcy that normal people can't, or tend not to, obtain for themselves. Theologians have poured out volumes on the subject of the Real Presence, but the best definition I've ever heard was in a story I heard once at a retreat. The speaker talked about a boy with some sort of mental disability (I forget what) being interviewed to determine whether he could be regarded as eligible to receive Communion. The interview, or this part of it, was being conducted in a church, and the boy thought for a moment, then pointed at the Crucifix and said, "That looks like Jesus, but it isn't"; then he pointed toward the Tabernacle and said, "That doesn't look like Jesus, but it is." Theologians rarely rise to such simplicity.

Hence, I have no qualms about supposing that gay people have something special to offer the Church, for the simple reason that I work on the premise that everybody has something special to offer the Church. I don't insist that our peculiar gifts have to do with our gayness; but I don't rule it out, either, and when I contemplate the curious tendency of gay people to involve ourselves in the arts, I feel -- let's call it a hunch; that seems diffident enough for what I mean -- a hunch that, to the extent gay people as gay people have our own special talent, it may well lie there. I don't propose to be dogmatic about that, only to throw it out as a possibility that it might be worthwhile to speculate about.



One thing that I do think we can give the Church right now, not because of anything intrinsic to our gayness but because of our current cultural milieu, is a sense of how she sounds to those outside her. And the brute fact is, that knowledge is essential if the Church is going to communicate effectively. Melinda Selmys (who has a knack for being terribly quotable) said that "We can't talk effectively to gay people if we insist that as a precondition of dialogue they first learn to speak like us." It is we who must take the responsibility of making plain what we mean to the people around us; they can't be expected to do the work for us. It wouldn't be fair, and even if it would, it isn't going to happen. If our charity is real, then we have to swallow our pride -- yes, and our terminological rightness -- and do what it takes to get the message across. But if our response is that this crowd which knoweth not the Law is accursed, I believe we need to ask ourselves whether it is the truth or our sense of superiority that is at stake.

And the point isn't solely that the Church needs to understand how she sounds to gay people (though she does). Gayness is just one example of a group of people that the Church has difficulties in reaching. The particular advantage that attends us is that, regardless of whether we use the word gay (in itself, in my view, a matter of indifference) or agree with gay politics or what have you, we do at any rate have a large swath of shared experience with gay people. That means we can empathize with one category of those outside the Church in a way that a lot of people can't; and, by extension, that habit of empathy can be used to imaginatively sympathize with people outside the Church in general. Not that it's perfect, but nothing is, and it's a good start in understanding how to minister the truth effectively, not just with doctrinal correctness.

Because really, truth, in the abstract, has no value. God Himself is Trinity; that is, He subsists in relationship and as relationship. Truth, abstracted from the personal context that gives it significance, is a resounding gong. And people don't like gongs, especially when they are sounded over and over for no apparent reason. The doctrine of homosexuality, like every doctrine, is in the last resort about living, breathing, drooling people, and it cannot be intelligently discussed except in that personal context.

Of course, there are also those to whom no profession of loyalty to the Catholic religion, and no affirmation of her doctrine, will suffice. Nothing I can say will convince them. I don't propose to waste my time in the attempt. Nevertheless, so as not to end on a total downer, here are some adorable puppies:


Eh, they were probably bred by heretics.

20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Considering that you never have anything positive to say about my writing and give every impression of hating and despising me, why do you even read this blog? I should have thought it'd be like biting on a sore tooth. And you must know by now that I'm not going to be persuaded by anything you say; quite apart from gross ignorance and downright paranoia about gay people, your generally venomous remarks almost make it impossible for me to take what you have to say seriously. I'd add that, in your position, I would have been embarrassed to be so uniformly and corrosively hateful toward someone who troubled to publish everything I said that did not consist exclusively of insults.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I would like to believe that you have in fact been sincerely trying to simply disagree intellectually rather than to vilify me on a personal level. Nevertheless, I don't think you have even come close to succeeding in that attempt. Anyone who reads your comments can decide on that for themselves.

      Delete
    3. Well, Sancta Trinitas, you have defeated me. I had originally intended never to ban commenters, and you've gotten me to eat my words and indeed my resolutions on that subject: I will no longer publish any comments that you leave. I simply haven't got the mental or emotional energy to deal with you any more. Your assertions that I am suppressing comments out of fear, I feel is adequately refuted by the number of comments I have published, from yourself and several others, contradicting my views and saying quite horrible (or sometimes merely confusing) things about my character. Your contention, repeated a few times, that I am censoring you is merely absurd, since you are perfectly free to, for example, start a blog of your own called "Gabriel Blanchard Is a Marxist Sodomite" and use it to fisk everything I post. But I won't continue be party to what -- in your own words -- is an exercise in assuring yourself of your own superiority.

      Delete
    4. You're not alone in that opinion, Gabriel.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I had two thoughts as I read your blog and the referenced articles.

    First, it seems rather...Pelagian for someone to believe that one actively chooses to be gay, that is "same-sex attracted," in that it implies that the gayness, again, the experience of being attracted to members of the same sex, is a manifestation of original sin.

    Second, St. Paul tell us in Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." I would think that the gayness would be included in the "all things" category that God can use for good, yes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly agree with your second thought, but I don't think I understand your first. Could you re-explain it?

      Delete
    2. Upon rereading it, I see where I goofed.

      First, it seems rather...Pelagian for someone to believe that one actively chooses to be gay, that is "same-sex attracted," in that it *denies* that the gayness, again, the experience of being attracted to members of the same sex, is a manifestation of original sin.

      Sorry for the confusion. :)

      Delete
    3. Ah, I see what you mean. Well, I wouldn't identify it as Pelagian. There are erroneous beliefs and wrong behaviors picked up from environment, and in their own way they are also manifestations of original sin; to insist that homosexuality is among these is in my opinion groundless and misguided, but not heretical. It would be Pelagian if a person insisted (presumably with a nurture-origin theory in the background) that nothing but good will and merely human effort were necessary to overcome the sinful element of a homosexual disposition; and it could be argued that the tenor of some Christian critics of the LGBT world, and especially of chaste gays, betrays a subconscious or implicit assent to such a view. But that, if true, would be a slightly different problem.

      Delete
  7. Gabriel, you're doing fantastic work. Please ignore the crazies like Sancta Trinitas and keep doing what you're doing - we desperately need orthodox gay Catholics to speak for the Church.

    Sincerely,

    a fellow Catholic convert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your encouragement. Pray for me.

      Delete
  8. Funny, after reading this the other day, before any other comments were left, I was going to just comment "Swish." I wish I'd done that then, cuz this post was Awesome-sauce.

    Hope I can shake your hand one day sir. I am frequently and deeply moved by your writings, and I frequently laugh my ass off as well. I stopped reading Sancta Trinitas' comments, because they were bringing me down hard, but I pray that his/her heart will seek to understand a little more clearly what you are getting it in general on this blog.

    One of the biggest lies of the modern world is that "Words will never hurt me." You just gotta read James to get rebuked on that. God the Word came as a whisper, not thunder. So I'll be praying for you today, that you'd feel a little better about the whole thing deep down, and know that the answer is not to get thicker skin, but to offer it up as any other suffering. Your new policy is spot-on. Keep broadcasting the beautiful writings good sir.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pray for Sancta. I have no idea why or how he thinks that you question Church teaching. He has excessive confidence in his ability to psychoanalyze other people, and nearly all his posts drip with "charity".

    If he is reading this: You say that homophobia is something new, not mentioned in the Fathers, and Gabriel's condemnation of it is his own way of infecting orthodox Catholics with alien "Marxist" fantasies. I have two things to say to this. First, nobody is saying that homophobia is a sin in a class of its own. There is no eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt not be homophobic." Rather, to hate a gay person *merely* because he is gay is a sin against the 2nd commandment, to love others as yourself. You are right to condemn the liberal bastardization of the 2nd commandment--it is loving and charitable to condemn sexual immorality, which includes gay sex and so on.

    2, the reason "homophobia" specifically is not mentioned in the Fathers is because the "gay" identity is modern. There were most certainly "gay" and "homosexual" people during the age of the Fathers, but they wouldn't recognize the labels, so there wasn't a precise animus against them as a group. "Homophobia" in the sense of unjustified revulsion at gay *people* (not actions) is a modern form of an ancient sin.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well said. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm grateful for your desire for equity, Ty. That being said, I'd like to discourage interactions of this sort. I made the unhappy decision to ban Sancta Trinitas because I felt that his influence on me and my readers was toxic, and that even what patience and engagement I was able to display appeared likelier to harm him than to help him. (This may sound awful but isn't so very surprising -- not only is helping people often a difficult thing in itself, not only am I often selfish and often short-sighted, but the internet is a clumsy tool for this sort of thing.) If he is writing about his experiences and opinions he's perfectly within his rights -- that is essentially what I'm doing, too; and I don't want him to feel persecuted or as though people are speaking behind his back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Understood. Thanks for letting me know, and I appreciate your concern for Sancta.

      Also I've been reading this blog for months. I only popped in because Sancta was making my eyes pop out. Keep it up!

      Delete