After the recent articles I wrote regarding SSA (same-sex attraction) and my support of and subsequent opportunity to meet Rick Santorum, I received many kind comments, along with just two who were somewhat less than supportive. Although I already answered them briefly in the comments section of that posting, a few of the points or challenges made by one of the commentators (Tom Veers) caused me to do some thinking about the possible reasons behind his virulent opposition.
He even strongly suggested that I was not following official Catholic teaching in my views on the issues of chastity and celibacy, and his arguments sounded vaguely familiar to me so I decided to do a bit more delving into the topic, both for my own benefit and for that of the readers. And thus this post. I would like at this point to note that the Santorum posts each received more “hits” than any on this blog so far. So I know that the topic is of very real interest and concern to many of you, just as it is to me. For your convenience I will include links to both articles following today’s writing.
What I would like to first do is to share Mr. Veer’s initial comment, along with any relevant portions of my own response, and then add his second comment and again mine back to him. After that I will add some points I later reflected upon which I believe may have influenced his thinking and his reasons for believing that I am “radical” in my views on this topic. I would place the disclaimer here that I cannot speak for him, but I base my thoughts strictly upon what he has already publicly shared on this blog. I would also add that this in no way is to question his Catholic Christian Faith or walk with our Lord, but rather to point out where we apparently differ and why.
First his comments:
- Tom Veers said:
As a conservative, chaste, Catholic who is also homosexual (I find the same-sex attracted talk to be pointless. We do not call heterosexuals “opposite-gender attracted”. As my orthodox confessor says “One can compare it to being right-handed, but that analogy fails after a point, because sexuality affects the entirety of our being.”) I cannot fathom how you support Rick Santorum. He IS a homophobe. Plain and simple. The push for gay marriage is not like the 9/11 attacks. His take on couples who are in a romantic relationship and comparing them to his love of his grandmother is demeaning. Yes, it is disordered attraction, but there is something significantly different about it than compared to the love of an elderly family member.
It is fine to stand with the Church. I proudly do it. She is my mother, even though it is hard sometimes. That being said, she calls on us to stand against homophobia. Having read some of your blog posts I honestly think you are not comfortable with your sexuality and trying to compensate for it by supporting extremist Catholic positions against homosexuality/gay marriage that ARE NOT in line with Church teaching.
You do no service to those of us who want to live a normal life within the confines of the Church with the self-hating rhetoric.
Second my initial response:
- catholicboyrichard said:
I thank you Tom Veers and also ProginMN for your sharing and thoughts, and since both posts are similar I would like to tackle them together if I may. I know that the term “SSA” does carry some negative political connotations to it, which is why some object to it. Ironically so does LGBT, which is why others object to it. We could argue about this side point endlessly but I think I would just prefer to summarize your accusations, which is what they are, that I take some unusual and “extreme” position on homosexuality and same-gender marriage, as utter nonsense.
The clear teaching of the Catechism and every single Vatican document or writing of the USCCB would bear out that I am taking the official Roman Catholic Church stance on this issue–no more and no less. As to my discomfort with my own sexuality, I must smile a bit because I have indeed struggled very hard and wrestled with the Church position every bit as much as you or any of us from our backgrounds do, and have found that this kind of wrestling causes a person to face themselves pretty squarely in many ways–some of which are indeed uncomfortable. Change always is. Ironically a few weeks back I was somewhat attacked for being too “accepting” of my sexuality, and it too was in regards to this very same posting! Strange how different people can read the same article and come to vastly different opinions.
I would just ask you both to remember that words on a page do not always clearly show the nuances one has, and we all have them, within our understandings of what Catholic teaching really is. But extreme I am not. I have always clearly stated that I support basic rights of actively LGBT couples, but that it does not need to be done in a way that promotes or redefines marriage. I have further said that I am not particularly a fan of “ex-gay” or reparative therapy and have shared some of that in my posts as well. I accept myself as a person who has SSA, but I do not allow my sexuality to define who I am as a person. I think your confessor is mistaken if that is indeed what he is saying.
I am a child of the living God, and a Catholic Christian. If that makes me an “extremist” so be it. You might re-read some of my posts and note that I have done precious little compensating or attempting to cover some hidden self-hatred you both think I carry. Possibly you are projecting some of your own discomfort on to me? I do not know that and would not presume to say. And I would ask for that same respect from both of you.
Anyway that is not, at heart, the issue. My hang-ups or yours mean precious little in the grand scheme of things on this teaching or any other Church “hot button issues” here. What the issue does boil down to is, what does the Church actually teach, and can I believe and fully accept it? If not, I need to find another place of worship. If I call myself a Catholic Christian I need to accept Magisterial authority. I would suggest you might ask yourselves some of those very difficult questions if you have not done so already. If you are a Catholic, and I pray you stay within the Church if so, I would challenge you to follow the Church fully.
Finally I would never pretend or mislead you or any other person from a homosexual background into thinking that the goal of celibacy or chastity is some cake-walk. It isn’t. But living outside of your own understanding of God’s moral code is far harder in the long run, and much more stressful. Again I appreciate where you both are coming from, but for now we will need to agree to see this issue differently. Peace.
- Tom Veers said:
I accept everything the Church teaches to be true. My confessor is not saying that we should define ourselves by our sexuality, but that sexuality, straight or gay, does affect the entirety of our being. Bl. John Paul II says this in Theology of the Body. We should not define ourselves as gay or straight, but to say that it is the same as another trait such as being right-handed or having blue eyes is naïve. We are by our very nature sexual creatures. You don’t seem to acknowledge this or the fact that homosexuals who do accept the Magisterium of the Church are often discriminated against by so-called “orthodox” Catholics, unless they take positions that are utterly at odds with the Church’s call for compassion.
Back to my other point though, which you never answered. How can you support Rick Santorum, a man who thinks that supporting gay rights is equivalent to the 9/11 attacks and has compared homosexual relationships to wanting to marry your grandmother, a proposition that is demeaning. If he was any other candidate that opposed the ridiculous idea that two men could marry I would have no problem. The man has indicated, however, by his public statements on this matter that he is a bigot.
- catholicboyrichard said:
Tom I would just suggest you do as I did, having had similar concerns about Santorum in the past. Dig into what he actually did say, and the context of it. You will find he did not make the statements you suggest, at least not in the ways you suggest he did. I find him to be surprisingly (and pleasantly so) compassionate and not the monster that Dan Savage and some other LGBT activists have made him out to be. I get your concerns, I truly do. I would just say to do some further research before assuming the worst about him. And if you choose not to support him that is fine obviously but at least do a bit more homework on it before slandering him needlessly.
As to this right or left hand thing, I do not know where you are coming from. I never suggested sexuality was a simple matter of such a thing. Of course it is a very in-depth part of our lives and of who we are as people. I never once hinted otherwise. And I have even written about the fact that the Church has a long ways to go in the compassion department. One thing that I find very hurtful is people who “admire” me and my story, and then subtly reject my offer of platonic friendship with them. And it has happened to me more than once. If you really have studied my words on this topic you would find I have written on this very thing, on this very blog in fact. And I agree with you that it is painful indeed. But I am not going to reject Church teaching on gay marriage or compromise my beliefs even if some within the Church do so by their unloving attitudes. That is on them, not me.
And believe me, I know it is easier said than done to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, and I am the first to acknowledge I do so far from perfectly. But you in fact seem very intent on rejecting me as well, as some radical person who does not understand Church teaching and I do not believe that to be the case. If so, please tell me what particular official Church teaching I am incorrect on so that I can correct it. I will gladly do so.
I received no further comments from Mr. Veers, but since a few of his challenges or questions are also common ones from the Catholic actively LGBT community (and yes there is one), I thought it would pay to deal with them and hopefully benefit us all in the process.
First, if you noted the title of this post, I very deliberately pointed out the contrast between two words that many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, tend to equate with each another—celibacy and chastity. While the core concepts are certainly related, they are not identical. I bring this up because, from Mr. Veer’s responses, I found myself later wondering if he perhaps believed that a person with SSA could be “chaste but not celibate?” I bring this up because it was a very real question I myself wrestled with awhile back, and I think it is a very valid question. If you notice in his initial comment, he calls himself “a conservative, chaste, Catholic who is also homosexual.” He uses the word chastity but not mention celibacy, nor does he once do so in either of his interactions with me, even when I bring it up. He does however further state that “It is fine to stand with the Church. I proudly do it. She is my mother, even though it is hard sometimes. That being said, she calls on us to stand against homophobia.” And later in that same paragraph, he suggests that I am “supporting extremist Catholic positions against homosexuality/gay marriage that ARE NOT in line with Church teaching.”
What I find telling here is not what he says, but what he does not say. I have had many contacts with Catholics or those who consider themselves such but who are also open to the idea of monogamous same-gender sexual relationships. All of them would consider themselves in line with Church teaching, as well as “chaste.” For that reason I find myself wondering out loud if that is what Mr. Veers may be doing here. He also seems far more concerned with Santorum’s (and the Church’s) opposition to legalizing gay marriage than he is about her defining chastity. Again this is not an accusation but simply an observation, and a “teaching moment” if you will on the official Catholic definitions of those words.
First “chastity”—the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which is by the way a binding Magisterial document which was thoroughly reviewed by the bishops of the entire world before ever being signed off as official by Blessed John Paul II, defines it this way:
2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
2348 All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has “put on Christ,”135 the model for all chastity. All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his affective life in chastity.
A dictionary definition of this word is as follows:
|1.||the state of being chaste; purity|
|2.||abstention from sexual intercourse; virginity or celibacy: a vow of chastity|
|[C13: from Old French chasteté, from Latin castitās, from castus chaste ]|
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
It may be worth noting that one could actually read this definition and believe that “chastity” is not being violated in a same-sex relationship, particularly if one considers that relationship to be a “marriage,” and by choosing to use only definition # 1 from the dictionary as cited. I know because I at one mercifully short period of time read it exactly that way, and as a result attempted to compromise my own overall understanding of Catholic teaching on the topic of SSA. Could a person or persons in a same-gender relationship be aiming for chastity? It could possibly be so, if the above definition was the only thing the Church officially stated on the topic. But herein lies the problem with reading things out of context, and further with “proof-texting” either the Catechism or the Bible. Just a few paragraphs later the CCC defines, just in case there is any question left, what “chastity” means to a person with homosexual inclinations:
Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Clearly from these three paragraphs, those of us from SSA backgrounds as well as those who are not are both called to celibacy unless sacramentally married within the Church. However celibacy alone is not the ultimate goal—chastity is.
And while Mr. Veers is absolutely correct that the Church is to stand against homophobia, she also tells us how to do so in CCC# 2358 above. And supporting same-sex marriage legislation is not one of those ways—in fact we are expressly forbidden to do so in numerous Vatican and USCCB documents. Again for convenience I will list links to those immediately following this post. So here is where he “veers” off course in saying that what he considers to be “extremist Catholic positions against homosexuality/gay marriage” are somehow against Church teaching. One and one still equals two, and either the Church is correct or incorrect on this official teaching. There is not a third option available. And if she is wrong here, she may be wrong in many other places also. I contend that she is correct. We therefore either both believe and attempt to follow the very important teachings given by our beloved Church on gay marriage, or we do not. And yet, as Mr. Veers rightly tells us, we also attempt to stand against homophobia as well. It however is not an “either/or” but rather a “both /and” proposition.
A remark about the word “homophobia” is in order here. I have heard some Catholics and other Christians snidely say “I am not homophobic—I am not scared of gays and lesbians.” Might I ask you to think that through a bit before you make such a statement? This term, while drastically overused at times, is not in its purest form something to be dismissed so easily. If you are busy being “disgusted” by LGBT people, angry at “them” for not conforming to your standards, and will not associate with “people like that” then you are, yes, homophobic. A phobia is a fear—and if you find the need to treat a group of people, whoever they are, in a different manner or to keep them at arm’s length, is that not a fear of sorts? And in most cases it is groundless. We who are from that background are not any more likely to molest your children than the married gym teachers at their private Catholic or public schools. We also may not conform perfectly to your idea of masculine or feminine, even if we are no longer active in the lifestyle. I for one have yet to learn to change the oil in my car, and I prefer a good jazz concert or symphony to a football game any day. Those differences are superficial though. They do not make us who we are any more than does our sexual inclination towards the same or opposite genders. So do not tell me you like my writings, but neglect to invite me to your home for a good meal. And when I do, let your child sit on my lap for God’s sake—literally. They will be safe. Maybe too you can teach me a little about football, and I in turn can take you to a play or concert or cook you a good meal. Homophobia is subtle but it does exist, and it includes all of the above and much, much more. And the Church—our Church—tells us to let it go; along with a host of other sins we all tend to carry deep within us. For “unjust discrimination” (CCC# 2358) takes many forms and homophobia is surely one of them.
Lastly I found a fascinating link which supposedly lists the “The 8 worst things Rick Santorum has said about gay people.” Since Mr. Veers seems to believe most or all of what is written here, I would like to take just a moment to once again use the word “context.” While I could poke holes in each and every one of these items, I will just choose one or two and share why I do not believe these statements were or are “homophobic.”
Here is a link to the full list:
3. Discussing gay marriage: “This is an issue just like 9-11… We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when? When the supreme courts in all the other states have succumbed to the Massachusetts version of the law?”
– Speaking to the Allentown Morning Call, February 2004
Veers and others use this statement of the honorable Senator to “prove” he thinks LGBT folks are just as evil as the 9/11 attackers. But read the second sentence, and he was simply comparing the fight for gay “marriage” to 9/11 in one specific sense—neither battle was asked for, and both were foisted upon the nation. And that, in both cases, now, not later (when it is the law of the entire land) is the time to fight. He vilifies no LGBT person here.
Here is another one:
7. “Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”
– Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2008
I do not know about you, but I am in some very serious doubt that Rick Santorum has fantasies about his mother-in-law. He was making the point that, once marriage for same-gender couples is legalized, other types of “love” relationships could indeed follow. And in fact he is correct. There are already moves to allow polygamy and “man-boy” love to be legalized. What is next??? That is what he is saying here. He is not condemning anyone in what apparently was meant as a humorous statement.
As stated I could go through the whole list, but I think the point is clear. We need chastity in all of our lives, whether celibate or not. And for those of us who are single, chastity starts and ends with celibacy. Oh, and in case you are not aware, “heterophobia” exists and is alive and well within the LGBT community. And both are horribly wrong.
- “Getting It Straight” on Same-Gender Attraction…And Rick Santorum (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- “Coming Out” To Rick Santorum (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- Sashers And Social Justice (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- Bullying, Freedom of Speech and the Church (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- Tackling the “Big One” – Santorum’s Remarks on Homosexuality and Gay Marriage (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- Christopher West, SSA and Heroes (and Brandon Vogt too!) (catholicboyrichard2.wordpress.com)
- Anti-gay remarks haunt Rick Santorum online (ctv.ca)