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gay and faithful?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 20, 2006

Psychiatrist Joseph Nicolosi maintains the phrase "gay Catholic," like "pro-abortion Catholic," is a contradiction in terms. This has nothing to with a man's behaviors, and everything to do with his convictions. Whereas a person's homosexual proclivities may be unsought and unwelcome, to identify oneself as gay is to make a conscious and deliberate decision -- a decision to live one's life in a way that treats Catholic doctrine on the subject as wrong or pernicious or irrelevant. It is a decision to refuse to be taught by the Church. The current NCR posts (subscriber only content) a lecture given last June by a gay Jesuit priest named Fr. Thomas Brennan, a professor of English at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Brennan was incensed when, in 2003, St. Joseph's offered an honorary degree to Senator Rick Santorum, and he captained a protest:

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I even managed to get myself on television dressed in clericals and carrying a homemade rainbow poster, and I announced at a Jesuit community social that "if I weren't in vows, I'd want to be in a committed relationship with another man."

Narcissism, self-dramatization, rancor at nay-saying adulthood. It's hard to find a clearer illustration of the defect in "spiritual paternity" the Holy See finds in rut-stuck homosexuals. Yet the passage I found most telling was the following, in which Brennan is discussing his involvement as a chaplain for Dignity:

Last spring, after [a Dignity] Mass, a young college student -- not from a Catholic college -- approached me to ask about the possibility of joining the Catholic church. He told me that he had some Catholic friends at his school and that he had attended the Newman Center services there, but that he didn't get much out of them. He reasoned that coming to Dignity might be more helpful because, as a gay person, he would find the service more attuned to his needs. I took a cautious approach with this person. I gave him my number and e-mail address, and I indicated that we could talk further about the possibility of baptism as he gave it more thought. Additionally, I suggested that he "shop around" for places to worship and that if he could he should try to bring some friends of his own age to Dignity. After we chatted for a few more minutes, he thanked me and we each went on our way. I haven't heard from him since.

I wonder what I might have done differently. I suspect that if he had been facing some sort of crisis, or if he had been older, I would have had a better sense of how to respond. This young man, precisely because he didn't seem overly disturbed by the church and its treatment of gays, remained an enigma to me. Part of the problem may be that as a newcomer to Catholicism, he does not have a sense of the painful and even heartbreaking ways in which church teaching affects LGBT persons and their friends.

Any way you read this, it's clear that Brennan is not trying to bring others deeper into the heart of the Church. On the contrary, Brennan's own resentments at the Church -- the teaching Church -- are such that he is dismayed and perplexed by homosexuals who don't share them. In spiritual terms, he would appear to loiter in that shadowed periphery of Catholicism, where dissent and schism are too blurred to be distinguishable. If Dignity is a kind of half-way house, it serves as a staging-post for those preparing to leave the Church rather than to enter her -- so much that the centrifugal Brennan is baffled by a man inclined to move in the centripetal direction. At least the guy was so inclined until he'd met Brennan.

It's hard to gauge the impact on a naive, unbaptised student of a priest -- and still more a Jesuit -- who nails "Here Be Dragons!" warnings on the entrances to the Church that accounts herself the Body of Christ. The moral of the story bears repeating: there is no such thing as a "faithful gay priest." Many gay priests make the claim to be faithful, but as soon as we ask them what exactly they are faithful to we find the Nicolosi Axiom kicks in. They accept Church teaching except where they deem it wrong, which is to say that they're good Catholics except where they aren't, which is as true of Mehmet Ali Agca as it is true of Bishop Gene Robinson, which means it is vacuous. To put it another way: because of his convictions, a gay priest cannot die in the same Church in which the martyrs died. It matters.

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