The Dangers of a “Homosexuality of the Heart”
The ‘Gay’ Crucible and the Catholic Church: Part Three
Having spent some three years studying and engaging the ideas in the “Spiritual Friendship ” collective, it’s clear to me that there are a number of profound errors in their thinking, whose dangerous implications could play out over time — especially given the fiercely libertine character of secular culture. These mistakes will lead individuals astray, and might even offer apparent “openings” for dissenters who reject Christian chastity to apply political pressure to the church.
Not all these errors are obvious. They don’t contradict the teaching of the church directly but subtly. They may even appear to be rooted in Christian doctrine but they are really “non sequiturs.” They do not follow from Christian doctrine on love and morality but lead away from it.
A ‘Homosexuality of the Heart’
There is one central point that the Spiritual Friendship writers all seem to get wrong: They remain attached to self-identifying as “gay.” That opens a pathway toward an emotional expression of at least some of the disordered “eros” they experience — a kind of “homosexuality of the heart.” As the Bible clearly teaches us, that is no road to lasting chastity.
Think of Jesus’ teaching on adultery in Mt. 5, in which He speaks of the “adultery” committed in the heart of a man. Same-sex attraction, like that disordered inclination, originates from within a person. It is primarily an emotional or affective disorder before it ever manifests as a behavioral problem. Would it really be healthy for a man with extramarital temptations to identify himself as a “chaste adulterer,” to join a group organized around that identity, and seek out non-physical ways in which to act upon his desires?
The Catholic Catechism (2357) points to the lack of affective complementarity in homosexual acts; in other words, there can be no healthy same-sex eros, even in a purely celibate context. But many of the Spiritual Friendship writers make room for a “same-sex eros” that they think is properly ordered and can be acted upon. They can manage this either by willfully choosing a non-physical “eros-love” for a partner of the same sex, or by “sublimating” this eros-love rather than “crucifying” it outright. This craving, for some way in which they can act on the gay identity to which they cling, finds its outlet in “spiritual friendship.”
Spiritual Friendship’s “Non Sequiturs”
At the “Gay in Christ” conference at the University of Notre Dame last November, I heard several presentations that called for “rehabilitating the Church’s concept of eros,” in the words of Spiritual Friendship contributor Matt Jones. Such ideas are also promoted at the “Spiritual Friendship” website.
Blogger Joshua Gonnerman claims that for the Catholic church, “a homosexual inclination is defined as disordered only insofar as it is directed towards same-sex intercourse.” He also writes of the “gay genius for friendship” and speculates that
there tends to be, on average, a greater depth to the friendships a gay person cultivates, especially the same-sex friendships. It also seems to me that the value of friendship tends, on average, to resonate more deeply with gay people than with straight people.
Chris Damian gave a presentation on same-sex eros, “Desire as Pain and Pregnancy,” at the “Gay in Christ” conference, which seemed quite open to saying yes to such desire. He asserted that same-sex attraction “is not merely a desire for sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex. Rather, it is a plethora of desires that can be directed towards a variety of ends, the highest of which being spiritual friendship.” He also claims to have realized that “God had given me gifts that many of my ‘straight’ friends didn’t have in quite the same way. …”
Melinda Selmys identifies as “a queer convert to Catholicism,” and describes her union with her husband as a “mixed orientation marriage.” Her recent postings on transgender issues are replete with serious errors. In one piece, Selmys flatly asserts : “Homosexuality as defined by the Catechism refers solely to same-sex lust. But gayness is not the same thing. Being gay is not reducible to having, or desiring to have, homosexual sex.” I have written elsewhere about some of Selmys’ other troubling claims.
Spiritual Friendship co-founder Ron Belgau suggests that their project is trying to “nuance” the category of sexual “orientation”:
[T]he experience of attraction to another person is more complex than just lust or an attraction to body parts or desire for sexual pleasure. Jeremy Erickson, Chris Damian, Nick Roen, Julie Rodgers, and Wesley Hill have also written about experiences in which their attraction to someone of the same sex is not reducible to lust. … I think that the more nuanced exploration of the different ways in which we are drawn to other people is helpful for separating out the desire for healthy, Christ-centered friendship from temptations to lust.
Finally, the ubiquitous Eve Tushnet (whom I’ve written about previously ) buys into the largely imaginary theory of gay historian John Boswell that there was a long history of “vowed” same-sex friendships — same-sex proto-marriages, which the Church somehow forgot about until Boswell uncovered it. Tushnet’s self-proclaimed “hobby horse” of kinship-creating, lifelong, same-sex vows, witnessed in Church, is fully embraced in her book Gay and Catholic and in Wesley Hill’s latest book Spiritual Friendship.
‘Spiritual Friendship’ and the World Meeting of Families
Should Christians really be worried by all this? Absolutely. The gay crucible is still bubbling like a cauldron.
Former “Spiritual Friendship” contributor Chris Roberts, who also gave a presentation at the November 2014 “Gay in Christ” conference, was selected as the editor of the official preparatory catechesis for the September 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, a Vatican-sponsored event. In its treatment of same-sex “marriage” (paragraphs 134-138), Roberts’ document claims that, while the Church “declines to bless or sanction” same-sex marriage, “this does not imply any denigration or failure to appreciate the intensity of same-sex friendships and love.”
The only scheduled presentation on homosexuality that is being offered at the World Meeting of Families is titled “Always Consider the Person: Homosexuality in the Family” — presented by “Spiritual Friendship” co-founder, Ron Belgau, and his mother, Beverley. The Vatican-approved apostolate Courage is among the exhibitors, but was given no opportunity to make a presentation.
Christians must come to terms with what it means to “be” a person with same-sex attraction despite the confusion sown by those clinging to the “gay” identity. We count on our church’s leaders to further clarify these issues as time goes on.