“The Gay Issue”: Broadening Same-Sex-Attraction

This post is the fourth post in a series on understanding “same-sex-attraction.” The three previous posts were:

One very complex concept that I have discussed is the idea of “attraction.” Defining and understanding the idea of attraction can be very difficult. What does it mean for a person to be “attracted” to another? What does this attraction consist of? What are its limits? By now, it should be obvious that when I use the words “same-sex-attraction,” I am using them somewhat differently from how most people use them. Most people use the words “same-sex-attraction” as the Catholic Church defines homosexuality, “relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.” In particular, they understand same-sex-attraction as a desire for sexual pleasure with or from someone of the same sex. For these people, same-sex-attraction may also be called same-sex-lust. If this is the proper understanding of same-sex-attraction, then same-sex-attraction is intrinsically disordered.

As I alluded to in my first post, however, I believe that “LGBTQ” language, “homosexuality” language, and “same-sex-attraction” language should be distinguished from each other. “LGBTQ” language can help to denote certain kinds of people. “Homosexuality” language discusses disordered desires towards disordered acts. I would like to use same-sex-attraction in a much broader sense…

Sigmund Freud 1856-1939

The rest of this post can be found in my book, “I Desired You: An Intellectual Journal on Faith and Sexuality.” You can order a copy here



18 Comments

  1. I really appreciate your framing of attraction in this article, and how it provides a space for chaste single Christians to experience friendships and intimacy at a deep and full level. I found myself thinking of C.S. Lewis’ Four Loves, and the distinctions he makes between different types of love without cheapening their unique expressions.

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  2. “Many of my gay and lesbian friends have told me that they don’t only or primarily desire sexual union with another, they merely want to have a partner to love and rely on. They want the non-sexual intimacies that have today become tied primarily to marriage.”

    I think you’ve overstated something here. You can’t just divide marriage into sexual intimacy and non-sexual love/reliance (which, by your reckoning, is properly “friendship”). Surely a central teaching of JP2’s Theology of the Body is that the act of sex is (or should be) an intensely powerful expression of love–it is not just a physical act, but a spiritual one. Sex is likened to the Crucifixion for this reason. Friendship is no substitute for the total self-giving of sexual love; I feel this point is often missed by those who try to claim that gay people can, in fact, live a happy and fulfilled life within Catholic teaching. There IS something that is unavailable to gay Catholics… and it’s not just a physical motion, it’s much, much more than that.

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    1. [from Cody Gaffney: “Friendship is no substitute for the total self-giving of sexual love; I feel this point is often missed by those who try to claim that gay people can, in fact, live a happy and fulfilled life within Catholic teaching. There IS something that is unavailable to gay Catholics… and it’s not just a physical motion, it’s much, much more than that.”]

      Cody, thank you for your comment. I want to consider some things that your words above do not take into account. Just because sex’s spirituality engulfs its physical attributes and just because sexual self-giving within a monogamous heterosexual one-flesh covenant (cf. Gen. 2:25) is a TOTAL self-giving that can be likened to the Crucifixion does not therein logically require that it is the ONLY such self-giving available to the human person. Catholic teaching, for one, doesn’t claim it to be so, nor does Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason, or the Arts through the ages. What of David and Jonathan’s intensely self-giving friendship? What of Tolkien’s poetically and beautifully rendered self-giving of Sam to Frodo on Mt. Doom? What of the priest’s total self-giving at the altar–during Holy Communion and during his entire life? What of Saint Therese’s total self-giving in the Little Way? What of Saint Edith Stein’s (and all martyrs) self-giving self-immolation?

      Chris doesn’t seem to be saying that friendship or attraction is a “substitute” for the self-giving, one-flesh sexuality of the Sacrament of Holy Marriage. Rather, he seems to be correctly pointing out that friendship and attraction can be seen as valid charisms towards the ONE self-immolation that God calls all of us to. All such charisms are gateways, really, to the ONE self-giving. If married sex is akin to the Crucifixion, it is so only because the Crucifixion is the Icon of ALL self-giving love, the one threshold towards which many paths of charism lead.

      I think of C. S. Lewis here, when he noted, for instance, in the Screwtape Letters that, while patriotism in itself is not the end or be-all of the holiness that God calls us to, it may be a first self-giving step whereby a soul first moves out of the vacuum of self and towards giving itself to something else. No wonder Screwtape admonished Wormwood not to encourage just any old patriotism.

      And, if you read Lewis’ letters to Arthur Greeves or take into account his intense friendships with Tolkien and with Joy Davidman (which friendship was prelude to his marrying her but not the same as–he takes pains to note such–his married union with her), you find a tremendously charismatic self-giving that does not pale in comparison to marriage. Indeed–would that so many marriages we’ve seen be so self-giving!

      Rather than comparing or contrasting those charisms, let’s allow them to be charisms. Let’s fear the Holy Spirit. A la St. John, we should allow the Holy Spirit to test the spirits. If it is good, God will lead us in that. If it is not, we will know it to be false. Ask God to lead us, without fear. How can we fail then? I am heartened by what Chris proposes and am excited by the prospects it opens up. If his inquiry is not of God, God will show us that. Thank you for this dialog, Cody. May it lead to great friendship, I pray!

      In Christ & Carmel–Randy Beeler

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    2. Cody Gaffney- You are quite right that sex is likened to the Crucifixion for a very important reason, as JP2 points out in his Theology of the Body. It is important to note, however, that JP2 himself never had sex. Yet, I wouldn’t say that his self-giving love with both Christ and with his other friends was something that was ‘missing out’ in some way. I suspect that it was these relationships that enabled him to understand love and sexual intimacy in very unique ways. In many ways, celibate love is a higher love than the love conveyed by the sexual act. I hope to expand the modern concepts of friendship so that we can have a greater appreciation and understanding of celibate friendships. As Blessed John Henry Newman said at his friend’s death: “I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone’s sorrow can be greater than mine.”

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  3. Cody Gaffney- You are quite right that sex is likened to the Crucifixion for a very important reason, as JP2 points out in his Theology of the Body. It is important to note, however, that JP2 himself never had sex. Yet, I wouldn’t say that his self-giving love with both Christ and with his other friends was something that was ‘missing out’ in some way. I suspect that it was these relationships that enabled him to understand love and sexual intimacy in very unique ways. In many ways, celibate love is a higher love than the love conveyed by the sexual act. I hope to expand the modern concepts of friendship so that we can have a greater appreciation and understanding of celibate friendships. As Blessed John Henry Newman said at his friend’s death: “I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone’s sorrow can be greater than mine.”

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  4. Stop trying to rationalize your judgments of others you refuse to/clearly don’t understand. You even clearly stated you verge from the Catholic Churches definition in order to justify your conclusions. You have zero experience with non-puritan love, no respect for any teaching or truth but what you and your cronies deside what fits in your ivory tower. Go ahead, teach what you teach in your church…you’ll win, money, pride and fear always win. But you can’t claim our religion, any religion, is good for human beings as a whole any more. Only a VERY exclusive type can benefit from your teaching.

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