Same-sex attraction- Catholic edition

I want to talk once again about the Catholic Church’s view on same-sex attraction. This is their terminology. In some of the literature they do not seem to recognize the term gay because it implies legitimacy. The idea here (which I don’t agree with) is attraction to your own gender is harmful because sex with your own gender is a sin.* The solution offered is a chaste lifestyle. I am thinking about all this because posted in this Sunday’s bulletin is a spot which reads as follows:

COURAGE: A support group for person(s) with same-sex attraction striving to follow the teaching of the Church, and EnCourage for parents & families of loved ones with same-sex attraction. For confidential inquiries, phone XXX XXXX

I didn’t include the phone number. You can easily find a public website describing the principles of Courage, but you don’t have to since I did it for you.

As I’ve stated before I do not hold with the idea that sex between same gender is sinful. Still what Courage is trying to do isn’t all bad. The idea seems to be for the individual ‘struggling’ to fill his or her life up with so much spirituality and so many good works, so as to push out all the sexuality. There are monks and nuns who manage to achieve this, assuming they weren’t simply asexual to begin with. Take a look at the five goals of Courage:

To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. ( Chastity )

To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. (Prayer and Dedication)

To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone. (Fellowship)

To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life; and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining these friendships. (Support)

To live lives that may serve as good examples to others. (Good Example/Role Model)

I have no problem at all with goals 2, 4, and 5. Even the ideas of chastity and fellowship do not bother me. It’s this one-size-fits-all approach that I don’t like. It’s unhealthy to force someone into a mold that doesn’t fit them. Admittedly I don’t know everything about human sexuality, but I think individuals should get to make their own choices about sexual activities within the context of safety and consent. People with opposite-sex attraction can decide to be chaste or not as they please. It really seems hugely unfair to insist upon chastity for anyone with same-sex attraction, because what- otherwise they might find someone else with same-sex attraction to have a relationship with? I really don’t see that as a problem.

To the Catholic a Church’s credit, they seem to allow a separation between thoughts that come to us unbidden and thoughts we actively embrace and seek after. (And I’m talking about thoughts in general now.) This has benefits over churches with more evangelical leanings for two reasons. First it dispenses with the devil-blaming which, as far as I can tell, does nothing productive and can often lead those actually harming others to claim it’s really the devil’s fault. Second, it allows adherents to Catholicism to excuse themselves for problematic thoughts that they do not intend to carry out. For example: I may be super pissed off at my sister and imagine myself striking her. After the thought occurs to me I immediately decide this is a bad idea that I’d never really do and also don’t want to do. I find this type of of mini-conversation perfectly healthy- much better than becoming guilt-ridden over each small stray thought that may be negative.

I guess I’m saying the Catholic Church takes a more nuanced approach than I was expecting, but there are still problems.

*Yes, I’m conflating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ a bit to make the sentences more readable. Apologies.

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