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”


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’”

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”

What is sexuality?

“When we talk about love, we mostly talk about ourselves, especially if we can discretely praise ourselves in the process.” -David O’Connor

I’ve been writing about issues related to Catholicism and homosexuality for several years, and some of my readers’ confusions have come from my use of the word “sexuality.” I make assertions that cut against common parlance. For example, I recently asserted that unmarried Catholics should be more sexual. In a post on chastity and sin, I asked, “What would it mean for the celibate person to have a flourishing sexual life?” And I have insisted that gay Christians need to live out their sexualities in a positive way in order to pursue the catechism’s “integrative” approach to sexuality.

Part of the confusion comes from readers familiar with my commitment to the catechism. They don’t always see how my claims cohere with it. I take the catechism at face value. So when I advocate a “flourishing sexual life” for gay persons, I don’t mean pursuing sexual-genital activity. But people want to know what I (and the Church) mean by “sexual” in these conversations. Continue reading “What is sexuality?”

Do we want gay Catholics to be chaste?

In my first post, I discussed two approaches to sexuality. The first approach, the “avoidant approach,” focuses on how to avoid concupiscence. It sets this avoidance as the grounding point for responding to human sexuality. The second approach, the “integrative approach,” focuses on bringing together one’s sexuality so that it can be lived out fully. While many Catholics promote the former, the catechism’s presentation of chastity adopts the latter. Continue reading “Do we want gay Catholics to be chaste?”

What we get wrong about chastity

Two years ago, Paul Blaschko wrote about issues during his time as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. For example, when Blaschko approached a priest on staff about beginning a group to discuss issues related to sexual formation, the priest “seemed confused by the request” and asked what these issues would include. Blaschko identified such topics as sexual identity, masturbation, and pornography. The priest simply responded, “I don’t think anyone who masturbates should be in seminary.” He further said that the disclosure of masturbation or habitual “impure thoughts” would represent a “serious formation issue.” After that conversation neither Blaschko nor his classmates brought up the idea again, wondering whether openness about these issues could lead to dismissal from seminary.  Continue reading “What we get wrong about chastity”

“Homosexuality”: The Church Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About

One of the most difficult aspects of entering into the Church’s present conversations on sexuality is the imprecision of language. Many people write about proper and improper uses of sexuality, its ends and proper means to those ends, its features and attributes. But there currently exists no set definition of “sexuality” from “the Catholic perspective.” Continue reading ““Homosexuality”: The Church Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About”

Gay Catholic Dating: Sin or Heartbreak

A friend recently told me that same-sex dating was bound to “end in either sin or heartbreak.” This view was unsurprising, and I held it for a while myself. But as I’ve explored this question, I’ve become increasingly concerned that it promotes harmful and theologically unsound views of human sexuality. Continue reading “Gay Catholic Dating: Sin or Heartbreak”

Video: Gay and Catholic

In October, I gave a talk at the University of Notre Dame on being gay and Catholic. You can watch the video below: