The Words of Life

As I’ve read “Plato’s Bedroom” by David O’Connor I’ve been struck by the strangeness of his presentation of Christian love. O’Connor writes of power of the words we say, of their grasping towards infinity.

“I love you.” We see these words pass into a marriage bond, “for better, for worse.” And the Christianity comes with the recklessness of it all. Continue reading “The Words of Life”


Friendship and Exclusivity | by Chris Damian

In December, I attended the conference “Man, Woman, and the Order of Creation” at the University of St. Thomas. At the conference Father Paul Check, former President of Courage International, gave some remarks on “reaching out in truth and love.” He provided advice based on his studies in moral theology and his work with “same-sex attracted” Catholics.

During the question-and-answer portion of his presentation, Father Check responded to a question on “celibate gay couples” or “celibate gay friendships” [1]. In response, he voiced concerns about such relationships. To summarize his remarks, he voiced concerns over the question of “exclusivity.” Any kind of vow, he said, involves an element of exclusivity. This is the case for marriage, the priesthood, or the religious life. In these, one gives one’s life in a way that precludes giving oneself to others. But, he asked, where would the element of exclusivity be for the same-sex couple? He was concerned, because non-marital relationships, he said, should be characterized by “openness.” In contrast to such openness, he stated that “non-marital vows” would imply a kind of exclusivity that would tend towards a self-enclosed relationship contrary to the Christian understanding of open interpersonal communion. Continue reading “Friendship and Exclusivity | by Chris Damian”

Gay Celibacy, Step One

“Your kisses are worth more than that!” I could see a sort of desperation in her, a painful need to have these words break into my stony surface. She had put her hand on my arm as she said it, maybe hoping that through physical touch, she might also be able to reach something spiritually.

Her comment came in response to a joke I’d made about making out with strangers that weekend. I could’ve balked at her response. A part of me wanted to laugh coldly in her face, but I didn’t. She seemed so sincere. Continue reading “Gay Celibacy, Step One”

Gay Catholic Ministry: Contact Your Diocese

Here’s the issue with LGBT ministry in the Church: people like to ignore it as much as possible. And they do this with some success, until…

  • a family member comes out after attempting suicide,
  • or they decide to fire a gay person working for the Church,
  • or they come to terms with their own (non-straight) sexuality.

But because they’ve ignored the issue, they’re totally unequipped to address it in their lives and churches. Continue reading “Gay Catholic Ministry: Contact Your Diocese”

You Can’t Lie on Facebook, 2: On ‘Safe Spaces’

In my previous post, I discussed ways in which social media can foster mental illness, by allowing users to curate their social worlds according to their desires. And I discussed how social media demands limitations on language and perspectives. This post will continue by discussing the limitations of “safe spaces” in the social media setting.

People with certain forms of mental illness or distorted views of reality often gravitate towards online relationships, because such relationships are susceptible to the narrowing perspectives often sought in mental illness. We can condition and narrow online engagements to fit our perceptions of what we think reality should be. We can add or delete friends on a whim, and limit or block certain sorts of conversations we deem unacceptable or “unsafe.”

No real flesh-and-blood human relationships are like this. Real human communities and friendships aren’t susceptible to such easy curation. Entanglements and disentanglements of human life are complex and multi-dimensional, and will not bend to every inclination of will, whether good or bad. We cannot force reality to match our desires. Only a digital world can provide for this. Continue reading “You Can’t Lie on Facebook, 2: On ‘Safe Spaces’”

You Can’t Lie on Facebook, 1: The Language of Mental Illness

I increasingly raise an eyebrow at social media relationships, especially in the group context. I’m a member of a number of Facebook groups, for example, where people go for advice and emotional and spiritual support. People vent and ask for prayers. People share struggles and request guidance. But I hesitate to respond.

Facebook can never replace face-to-face relationships, because Facebook can only offer us words. And words cannot always be trusted. We all unwittingly lie, most of all about ourselves. And Facebook enables these lies, because our Facebook “friends” cannot tell us when our words don’t match up with our faces, histories, or habits. Only the friends of my flesh-and-blood daily life can tell me when my words are skewed, based on their experiences of me. Only these sorts of friends can tell us when our words don’t give an accurate accounting of our lives. But on Facebook, we only have words. Continue reading “You Can’t Lie on Facebook, 1: The Language of Mental Illness”

Why Catholics Should See ‘Call Me by Your Name’

“A story, as Borges has shown, can be a series of clues but not a solution, an enfolding of a mystery instead of a revelation. It can contain the images without the attached discursive morality.” -Charles Baxter

Spoiler alert!

Overall, the film Call Me by Your Name has received immense praise. The film portrays a summer romance between a seventeen year old boy and a twenty-four year old graduate student studying under the boy’s father. It has been considered an “erotic triumph” and one of the best movies of the year.

But it has also been criticized. Critics have largely been religious conservatives characterizing the relationship as pedophilic or (more accurately) paederastic, though they are joined by at least one prominent secular reviewer who has concerns about power and manipulation related to age difference. I won’t here take up these age issues, other than to say that they exist and should be considered carefully. But I would like to point out one mistake made by critics. What many critics fail to grasp is that the film does not unilaterally praise the relationship, even if it depicts many beautiful and tender moments. Even cautionary tales can have moments of beauty. Like real-life young love, the film’s central relationship exists in tensions, and results in pain and the loss of bliss. Continue reading “Why Catholics Should See ‘Call Me by Your Name’”

Audio: Eros, Asceticism, and Francis of Assisi

This weekend, I presented a paper at the 2018 Edith Stein Conference at the University of Notre Dame. The paper was titled, “Birth Through the Cross: Eros, Asceticism, and Francis of Assisi.” Much more that could be said, but you can find the audio of my presentation here: Continue reading “Audio: Eros, Asceticism, and Francis of Assisi”

From Atheist to Ashes

I sat at the kitchen table, probably working on my thesis for my M.A. in Catholic Studies. Ironically, I was an atheist. But at the time, I saw Catholicism like I saw Harry Potter: a sort of fairy tale that fascinated me, even if I couldn’t believe in it. Books piled up around me. Aelred of Rievaulx’s Spiritual Friendship, Hannah Arendts’s On Revolution, Homer’s Odyssey, Plato’s Symposium, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, volumes of Aquinas’ Summa… I typed away at what would become, “It is Not Good for Man to be Alone: Marriage and Friendship in the Catholic Tradition.”

Later on that year, one friend would read over the essay and comment, “Come on! It’s just a big f*** you, Jack!” He was right.

Continue reading “From Atheist to Ashes”

Reflections on Language, 2

In my previous post, I discussed language, creativity, vocation, and control. This post will focus on who speaks and why it matters.

“He meant to impugn my father for being rich and living far away and having nothing to do with me, but all these qualities, even the last, perhaps especially the last, made my father fascinating. He had the advantage always enjoyed by the inconstant parent, of not being there to be found imperfect. I could see him as I wanted to see him. I could give him sterling qualities and imagine good reasons, even romantic reasons, why he had taken no interest, why he had never written to me, why he seemed to have forgotten I existed. I made excuses for him long after I should have known better. Then, when I did know better, I resolved to put the fact of his desertion from my mind.” -Tobias Wolff

Speaking involves breath, the principle of life. We spend much of life trying to kill off the things within and around us which we fear, by denying them breath. What actually happens is that we bury them more and more deeply within us, so that they don’t actually die. And they never leave us either. Continue reading “Reflections on Language, 2”