Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More about whatchamacallit

Since we're on the subject of homosexuality, it is worth noting something curious about this discussion: the problem of language.

Gay has "baggage" as many observe. Yet it is a term in common parlance, and it has the advantage of being quite short. Context, as always, matters--not everyone who uses it, embraces the baggage; and it's a little stilted to try to talk about this subject and never use the word.

And, as much as I rue the change in this word's meaning, that fight has been lost for the time being, like it or not.

Homosexual is a more neutral term--except that it reflects a modern mindset that tends to define particular sexualities, based on the clinical model. Such a way of thinking may be ingrained in us, but it's reasonable to ask if that's a completely Catholic, biblical way of thinking about the matter.

Also, it does invite either-or thinking, and it forces one to ask: at what point is one a "homosexual"?

Same-sex attraction and related terms are often used by those affiliated with Courage, the fully Catholic apostolate to the folks we're talking about.

This is relatively new terminology that has the virtue of not compelling either-or categorization--can someone be "heterosexual" and still have "same sex" feelings? Sure. At some point, it's a problem, and its a different sort of problem at different points. I.e., that a spouse feels something toward his or her same sex doesn't necessarily mean s/he can't give him/herself in marriage. But at some point, it does prevent that, and thus is an impediment. Ask a canon lawyer (I am not one) about the details on this one.

This latter term also has the virtue of not defining people by a facet--even a very significant one--of their personality and sexuality. Unfortunately, it's the longest terminology, and needs more explaining.

But words do matter.

P.S. Fair warning--sometime rather soon, I'm going to get tired of talking about this subject--so get in your comments now!

7 comments:

radiofreerome said...

St. John Chrysostom wrote:
For to be insulted by one's own kinsmen is more piteous than to be so by strangers: these (homosexuals) I say (5 Mss. "I consider") are even worse than murderers: since to die even is better than to live under such insolency (excess, or life beyond limits). For the murderer dissevers the soul from the body, but this man ruins the soul with the body. And name what sin you will, none will you mention equal to this lawlessness.

I this when I was 12 because I had just figured out I was a homosexual (no experience is required when 250 dirty mouthed catholic boys are willing to tell you) and I looked for guidance in my school's Catholic Encyclopedia.

Tell me, what would that experience have done to you, Father? In the eyes of a twelve-year-old, the quote all but suborned suicide. It rendered love and sexual attraction something so monstrously evil that they were all but impossible to face for almost 30 years.

I suggest it's less important what you call people than what you teach them about themselves. If you defend every Catholic teaching about homosexuals, including the Chrysostom homily I quoted, you might as well hand out razor blades as confirmation presents.

Father Martin Fox said...

radio:

I don't feel obliged to defend everything even saints have said; and a quote by a saint does not equal Catholic teaching, as surprising as that may sound, it's true.

Church teaching concerning homosexual persons can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Father Martin Fox said...

radio:

I'm truly sorry for the awful things that happened to you.

I invite you to consider Courage, a Catholic apostolate for those with same-sex attraction. I have no problem recommending that organization, which demonstrates how positive the Catholic Church is toward all human dignity, including that of persons with homosexual feelings.

Also, I invite you to find DREADNOUGHT on my blogroll and go there for yet another positve, but faithful, presentation of the Chruch's affirmation of human dignity of all.

Father Martin Fox said...

radio - I'd also like to thank you for telling your story. I think you raise a valid point: a boy wrestling with same-sex attraction is likely to go through some pretty ugly experiences. And I do wonder who a frightened kid would feel safe talking to about this.

Catholics committed to promoting chastity have a duty to be inviting and welcoming to all who might need their help doing so--step one is being someone safe to talk to.

radiofreerome said...

I have read the Catechism and the CDF documents that define the terms used in the discussion of homosexuality. In the fifteen years after the CDF mentions "unjust discrimination" against homosexuals, the Church hasn't pointed to a single instance. The original letter is a position paper on how to justify discrimination against homosexuals.

I have had cancer 3 times and I have a genetic propensity to a specific kind of cancer. That cancer has already occurred in my mother and me. Therefore, I'm not supportive of Church policies which would give me inferior access to insurance and the right of partner visitation and decision making in the hospital.

The position that the CDF has taken is that ALL the benefits of marriage should be off limits to me. These include benefits which would preserve my life and the life of a (hypothetical) partner.

Given that this is what the Church defines as just discrimination, I'm not likely to darken the doorway of a Catholic Church before I die, except at the furnerals of my parents.

radiofreerome said...

Father Fox,

Thank you for you concern. I am ok now. I have been a success in life. I have a Ph.D. in applied math.
The prejudice that gay men exploit the young lead me away from University teaching and into private industry. However, I have found that I have no desire to exploit young people; I have a desire to make sure that their lives are better than mine.

Accordingly, I've devoted my time and resources to fulfiling this desire. This year, I volunteered to teach a research clinic at a local college and became the most popular corporate liason while teaching undergraduates an intermediate graduate subject.


I also helped a young man of 26 to get a start in business so that he can marry the girl he's living with. They have been good friends to me and will be excellent spouses and parents. Given that I will never have children, I am fortunate to have the chance to help these two. I know that they will raise children who will make the world a more compassionate and understanding place.

I wrote you about what happened to me because, I would like to make sure that young Catholics do not have the experiences that I've had. I can't consider myself Catholic for a variety of reasons, some based on experience and some based on intellectual differences. However, I am very grateful to you that you will look after young homosexual Catholics to make sure that the are not harmed as I was.

Thank you.

radiofreerome said...

Father Fox,

Thank you for you concern. I am ok now. I have been a success in life. I have a Ph.D. in applied math.
The prejudice that gay men exploit the young lead me away from University teaching and into private industry. However, I have found that I have no desire to exploit young people; I have a desire to make sure that their lives are better than mine.

Accordingly, I've devoted my time and resources to fulfiling this desire. This year, I volunteered to teach a research clinic at a local college and became the most popular corporate liason while teaching undergraduates an intermediate graduate subject.


I also helped a young man of 26 to get a start in business so that he can marry the girl he's living with. They have been good friends to me and will be excellent spouses and parents. Given that I will never have children, I am fortunate to have the chance to help these two. I know that they will raise children who will make the world a more compassionate and understanding place.

I wrote you about what happened to me because, I would like to make sure that young Catholics do not have the experiences that I've had. I can't consider myself Catholic for a variety of reasons, some based on experience and some based on intellectual differences. However, I am very grateful to you that you will look after young homosexual Catholics to make sure that the are not harmed as I was.

Thank you.