Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Catholic way to be gay?

I read a lot of blogs by Catholic gay people.  Especially when I was dealing with my own different conflicts, I found a lot of encouragement from other people who felt they didn't fit in.  But of course, after a lot of reading, I started to feel pretty bad about it all.  It wasn't just that Catholic teaching itself is very hard to follow for a gay person.  It's that everything in the church seemed designed to hurt them and make them feel terrible.

Right now I've been seeing that in spades: nasty articles blaming gay people for sex abuse, saying that gay people have no ability to control themselves, saying that homosexuality is inherently pederastic, and so on.  These people love to make the assumption that any priest who says something welcoming to gay people is both gay and an abuser, and any priest who calls out homosexuality "for what it is" is a holy and virtuous man.  I've even read that when an antigay priest is caught in homosexual activity, it's always a setup.  The whole church is infiltrated with gay people, aka evil people.  How does it feel to be a Catholic gay person, following the Church's teaching to the best of one's ability, hearing stuff like this?

But it's not new.  As long as I've followed the subject, there have been lots of voices saying that gay people have a mental illness, that they should never say "gay" but "struggling with same-sex attraction," and that in order to be faithful Catholics, they have to not only be celibate but handle their orientation in the exact way the lecturer recommends -- which usually means being deeply ashamed of their orientation and never disclosing it to anyone.

It's gotten to the point that whenever I see someone say, "There's no such thing as gay, there are only straight people who are confused about their sexual identity," I roll my eyes.  Isn't that exactly what a gay person would say, if they didn't want the shame and stigma of being gay but also felt bad about lying?

The main points of this position:
-homosexuality isn't natural, but is caused by psychological trauma of some kind
-homosexuality can be cured by proper therapy
-it is important never to call a person "gay" but "same-sex attracted"
-gay people are emotionally immature and narcissistic
-gay men should never be priests because they can't have a spousal relationship with the church
-the "gay lobby" should be opposed in every respect

I don't know how this particular attitude became "the Catholic way to be."  The Catechism certainly doesn't support it.  I do think Benedict's instruction on gays in the priesthood has some hints of it.  And it's very much pushed by Courage -- a group which, to many people, spells out the Catholic way to be gay: be in the closet, while attending a secret support group a lot like AA to talk about your struggle with same-sex attraction.  What I have recently found out, though, is that its roots come from some unsavory places.

The first problematic root of this position is Freud.  The blogger Chris Damian has a five-part series explaining how it is derived from Freud.  Although Freud is appreciated today as having broken some new ground and asked some interesting questions, psychologists today largely don't approve his conclusions.

The second is Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage.  I didn't know anything about him till I read of him on Chris Damian's blog, but my eyes about bugged out reading this article of his from 1992, in which he argues pedophile priests can and should be returned to ministry.
"The success of the Saint Luke Institute Program in Suitland, Maryland, should also not be overlooked. Dr. Frank Valcour, Medical Director, reports that 32 of 55 child molesters who had completed treatment by September 1989, were doing well, with no reported instances of relapse and no new allegations of child molestation. 
Valcour concludes that, after making allowances for the possibility of some improper behavior which was not reported and for individuals who are impaired in other ways and thus not fit for future ministry, the majority of those treated have attained a new level of psychological and spiritual health. It would seem, then, that the risk of relapse will continue to be minimal and that these men should be reassigned to ministry under carefully qualified conditions. "
It seems that, after his work rehabilitating pedophile priests--where "the majority" of the priests did not offend again, but it appears about a third did--he turned his attention to gay laypersons.  Just as he thought he could "cure" pedophiles with psychiatric care and 12-step programs, he tried to do the same for homosexuals.  He seems to see both in the exact same way, as disordered, sexual sins, ignoring that one harms a victim and is a criminal offense.   Using the same approach for both is needlessly harsh to gay people, and unconscionably lax when it comes to pedophiles.

Another person who has been active in Courage and written a lot of their material is Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons.  He's written lots of articles on homosexuality that fits the pattern I've talked about above, stuff like this:

"The most frequently seen cause of sadness in the past leading to homosexual attractions in males was the result of childhood and adolescent rejection by peers because of very limited athletic abilities. Many children who have poor eye-hand coordination are not good in the most popular sports and are on the receiving end of harsh and cruel criticism and rejection by their peers. Subsequently, powerful feelings of loneliness, sadness and isolation develop. The craving for acceptance and love from peers results in strong emotional attractions to those of the same sex which leads many youngsters to think they may be homosexuals."

Now of course you don't become gay because you couldn't hit a baseball.  (I believe there is some correlation between homosexuality and Asperger's, both of which have genetic causes, and Asperger's does screw with your hand-eye coordination, so perhaps that's what showed up in his data.)  But I'm just going to go ahead and assume you'll agree this guy is an untrustworthy source when I show you what he said about priest abusers:

"Mental health professionals who are called upon to evaluate priests should report fully on the background of the accuser and should document how they have determined that the specific accusation against the priest is not false. The need for such an evaluation process is clear, given the extent of the false accusations made in our culture today. The same responsibility applies to review boards. 
Since the major unresolved anger that adults bring into their adult lives that is misdirected at others arises from hurts in the father relationship, a thorough history of the accuser’s relationship with her/his father is required. 
Unfortunately, some dioceses have supported false accusations by accusers with criminal records, who even spent time in jail. One such accuser, who had no proof of her accusation, received a financial settlement, followed by an attempt to laicize the priest. 
A veteran Los Angeles lawyer, Mr. Steier, who was involved in over 100 investigations into claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, wrote in a declaration to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2011, “One retired FBI agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the clergy cases told me, in his opinion, about one-half of the claims made in the clergy cases were either entirely false, or so greatly exaggerated, that the truth would not have supported prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse.....
The background for the work of the review boards is that the allegations of a charge of sexual abuse seem to be the one “crime” in our society in which the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent. This attitude in regard to accusations against priests, in particular, has led many priests to describe the present situation in the Church as a witch-hunt, comparable to that in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s."

 Elsewhere he says that informing the congregation of any allegations and asking anyone with information to come forward will simply "create false memories" and "destroy the priest's reputation."

Another leading light in all this is Fr. Tony Anatrella.  I've mentioned him before, because I'm so blown away how much of the fashionable viewpoint on homosexuality comes from him.  He even helped write Benedict's statement on gay priests, linked above.  He came under fire for telling bishops they didn't necessarily have to report sex abuse to civil authorities.  Later, he was accused by four people of sexually abusing them during "conversion therapy."

With all this, one has to ask if any of this viewpoint has any credibility at all.  If its main inventors were that bad at psychology, and that poor on the subject of abuse, why should we trust them on homosexuality?  And why do we have ministries for gay people entirely led by priests or doctors who claim not to be gay -- what qualifies them for this ministry?  I far prefer to listen to people who actually are gay, if I want to know what it's like to be gay and Catholic.

In that interest, I'm just going to signal-boost a few of my favorite blogs, which can tell you all you want to know about what it's really like to be gay.  They tend to be skeptical of the explanations of these "psychologists."  For instance, some come from families where they had good relationships with both  parents; some not.  Some were abused as children; some not.  Some have tried to be "cured" of being gay and had no luck.  Most agree homophobia is a serious problem, within and without the Church.

Chris Damian at University Ideas, who inspired this post
Gabriel Blanchard at Mudblood Catholic
Melinda Selmys at Catholic Authenticity
Spiritual Friendship, a group blog
Eve Tushnet

I would recommend straight Catholics read these regularly to get a sense of what it's like to be gay and Catholic, attempting to follow church teaching.  Stop getting your idea of what homosexuality is and how it can be fixed from wingnuts. 


Anonymous said...

Just politely - you are waaaay out on a wing here, and in charity, I fear you are at serious risk of harming your spiritual health (if you are Catholic).

You mention "homosexuality and Asperger's, both of which have genetic causes", yet identical twin studies show no geentic cause for homosexuality, ie DNA and hormones, etc in the womb do not make both twins gay when one is. "It's [homosexuality's] pyschological genesis remains largely unexplained" - CCC 2357.

You say Dr Fitzgibbons "is an untrustworthy source when I show you what he said about priest abusers", but the two issues are unrelated. He may be right about homsexuality, and wrong (or right) about false claims of sexual abuse against priests (which was the limited circumstances of abuse he was quoted on).

Could I politely suggest that the things we read influence our own thoughts, and if we tend to read a lot of pro-gay/SSA or gay Catholic writers, that can subtly shape our views away from what the church teaches and towards a more liberal, non-catholic view? It creeps up on us, using our sympathy for gay catholics who are having a hard time with their sexality, and don't need attacks from anti-gay activists. Before we know it, we have rainbow flags draped through church to show our empathy and welcoming nature, and are toning down the church's call to chastity for gays (which to be fair, is hardly taught to straight Christians!), etc.

While I like Melinda Selmys' writing, she has wandered over the border a bit on church teaching wrt gay sexuality in the past, which is what prompts my concern. That, and the fact Courage seem one of the few church groups not endorsing active gay sex life for gays in the church (vis Fr James Martin, SJ). Not saying they have it all correct, just that all the gay bashers don't represent Courage. And Fr Harvey was quoting medical professionals (who in hindsight were clearly wrong), similarly to St JP2 and B16 did at the time.

God bless...

Anonymous said...

P.S. Sorry if my comment above sounded harsh - not intended to be, but reading back I see it may come across 'preachy', just like the Christians critical of all things gay you were posting about ;)

Trust in God, His goodness, and that He offers an eternity of love where He will sort all these things out :)


Sheila said...

If there's no other gay ministry besides this rather unreliable one, I'd recommend somebody starts another one. Though there are plenty of orthodox Catholic writers out there, like Eve Tushnet, Steve Gershom, and the bloggers at Spiritual Friendship who talk about homosexuality without the negatives of Courage.

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