The Blessing of “Same-Sex Unions”

German Catholic bishops made headlines recently, in calling for the establishment of Catholic blessings for “same-sex unions.” Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck recently said in an interview,

“I’m concerned with fundamental questions of how we deal with each other; although ‘marriage for all’ differs clearly from the Church’s concept of marriage, it’s now a political reality. We have to ask ourselves how we’re encountering those who form such relationships and are also involved in the church, how we’re accompanying them pastorally and liturgically… Same-sex relationships are generally classified as a grave sin in the Church, but we need to think how we can differentiate a relationship between two people of the same sex. Is there not so much that is positive, good, and right that we have to be fairer? For example, one can think about a blessing – which should not be confused with a wedding ceremony.” [1]

Bishop Bode kept his remarks on this topic brief, but several American news outlets have picked up the story. Some have praised his comments, and others have condemned them (you can easily guess which publications took which stance…). One area of concern from some critics is his ambiguity as to whether such couples would be expected to live by–or at least attempt in good faith to live by–Church teaching. Of course, in classic German bishop shadiness, Bishop Bode did not attempt an answer this question. To be fair, he may answer this question at a later time, and an interview is not the place to give a theological discourse. Nonetheless, this question is important for Catholics looking to consider these questions, not only at a pastoral level (the level at which he made his comments), but also at a theological level. Continue reading “The Blessing of “Same-Sex Unions””


The Victim II: Anne Frank’s Paradox of Freedom

In my first post, I identified a particular kind of victim, the kind of victim who encloses himself in self-effacing and self-aggrandizing narratives, the kind of victim who makes himself into a victim in ways that may defy external freedoms. In this post, I will explore the paradoxical nature of freedom.

“There it is, I’ve introduced you to the whole of our beautiful secret annex.” -Anne Frank

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” -Leonardo da Vinci

Themes of freedom, powerlessness, and victimhood often saturate shows centered around figures of power. But so too with their actual lives. We all struggle with freedom. But we often choose immaturity over it. Continue reading “The Victim II: Anne Frank’s Paradox of Freedom”

The Victim I: Who are the Victims?

“Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage.” -David Foster Wallace

I sat in his armchair, while he sat at his desk. We were having what would end up being our break-up conversation. Exasperated, he told me, “You do this thing, where you constantly make yourself the victim! It’s exhausting!”

“What do you mean?” I asked him, utterly bewildered.

He looked at me seriously, sternly, incredulously. “When we spoke about your past, and you started to—“ Continue reading “The Victim I: Who are the Victims?”

The Comic Gospels

A Catholic convert once breathed new life into the Bible for me. Her conversion came largely through a literary relationship with the Bible. That is, she read the Bible as if it were any other story, and she told me how struck she became by the character Jesus.

It reminded me of a seminar I attended run by non-Catholic Christians. Though the seminar centered around cultural issues dividing their churches, the most interesting conversations tended to be about Scriptural encounter. One Biblical scholar suggested that perhaps we should read the Bible “like any other book.” That is, don’t just take each character by his word. Get to know the complexity of characters, accept the literary devices that give the story a variety of conflicting hooks, and receive the text as an encounter with a world, rather than with arguments. Continue reading “The Comic Gospels”

Catholic Young Adults Discuss Chastity

I recently attended a discussion with Catholic young adults on chastity (a follow-up from the first discussion on masculinity and femininity). The conversation began with a quote from Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility:

“Chastity is very often understood as a ‘blind’ inhibition of sensuality and of physical impulses such that the values of the ‘body’ and of sex are pushed down into the subconscious, where they await an opportunity to explode. This is an obviously erroneous conception of the virtue of chastity, which, if practiced only in this way, does indeed create the danger of such ‘explosions’. This (mistaken) view of chastity explains the common inference that it is is purely negative virtue. Chastity, in this view, is one long ‘no.’ Whereas it is above all the ‘yes’ of which certain ‘no’s’ are the consequence. The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex.’ This requires a special interior, spiritual effort, for affirmation of the value of the person can only be the product of the spirit, but this effort is above all positive and creative ‘from within,’ not negative and destructive.”

Our group first discussed how chastity, purity, and abstinence are often treated as synonymous, and how this can lead to toxic cultures among Christians. I distinguished them, first, by saying that abstinence is simply avoiding sexual activity, and probably the easiest to define. I then discussed purity as involving a kind of single-mindedness. We all act from a variety of mixed motivations, and the work of purity involves clearing away the motivations which are not oriented towards the love of others, moving towards “pure intentions.” Chastity, on the other hand, involves an integration. The catechism identifies chastity as an integration of sexuality within the person, which itself involves the integration of man in body and soul, especially in his affectivity and capacity for procreativity. Continue reading “Catholic Young Adults Discuss Chastity”

On Writing Wrongly

“If stories and novels used the selective form of funeral elegies, no one would read them.” -Charles Baxter

Some people think it’s best to write about your life when you’re at the end of it. Conventional wisdom says to write when you can look back with an accumulation of experience, give a neat little narrative about yourself with the vignettes you decided to remember, and then die before you can contradict your story. This isn’t what I’ve done. Continue reading “On Writing Wrongly”

Why I Call Myself a “Gay Catholic”

“Gay” is a silly term. That narrow category misses the complexity of the human experience. And given the way that language grows and develops over time, I don’t think it will last the century. Just as “gay identity” has usurped “homosexual identity” in the culture at large, I now see “queer identity” coming into prominence. In a tumultuous rise and fall of “acceptable” language, the constant change of words demonstrates the fragility of identity politics. But I insist on calling myself a “gay Christian,” a “gay Catholic.” Continue reading “Why I Call Myself a “Gay Catholic””

For All the Single Ladies: Against “Settling”

Now, throw your hands up.

The older I get, the more anxious my single friends become about marriage. Especially for women, the passage of times means having children will be more difficult, and they may not be able to have as many as they wanted at twenty-two. Hence the anxiety.

But for some reason, I keep advising my single friends: never marry someone who will make you less interesting or compelling as a person. If your life would be more interesting single, then be single. Continue reading “For All the Single Ladies: Against “Settling””

Gender and Charity III: What Gender?

In my first post, I discussed gender stereotypes and argued that gender should be considered primarily in one’s exercise of charity, rather than one’s ability to fulfill stereotypes. In my second post, I discussed the origins of gender and implications for the view that gender originates in the body, rather than the soul. In this post, I will discuss the determination of gender.

If gender arises and exists at the level of the body, rather than the soul, there remains the question of how to determine gender: neurological structures, genitalia, chromosomes? Often, “conservatives” will place gender with genitalia. But chromosomes exist in every part of the body and would suggest a more reliable and comprehensive gender determination. So what do we do when an individual has, for example, male genitalia but xx (female) chromosomes? Continue reading “Gender and Charity III: What Gender?”

Gender and Charity II: Gender of the Soul

In my first post, I discussed the roles that charity and stereotypes play in understanding gender. In this post, I will consider the origins of gender and their implications.

We tend to take for granted that Catholic views on gender are fixed and unidimensional. But not so. One important aspect of the Catholic understanding of gender remains undefined, and this is significant for a number of reasons. The question remains for Catholic theology: are souls gendered? According to Aquinas, they are not; according to Edith Stein, they are (hence today’s disagreement on this question between many Catholic Thomists and Catholic phenomenologists). The Church has yet to give a magisterial answer. Continue reading “Gender and Charity II: Gender of the Soul”