Earlier this month, the Jesuit magazine America published an interview with lesbian Catholic blogger Eve Tushnet.

More than just an uncommonly gifted writer, Tushnet also tells an unconventional conversion story. She is proudly gay and unafraid to call the church out on its homophobia, but resolutely committed to living within the limits of the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

While affirming magisterial teaching on homosexuality as the truth, Tushnet describes her choice to “accept her sexuality” as

“being honest about where you’re coming from, what you’re experiencing, where your sexual desires are being directed, and not feeling that this area of your life is somehow shut off from God or turned away from God in a way that the rest of your life isn’t. It means not separating out your sexuality and your sexual orientation by saying they need to be repressed or destroyed in some way.”

But, I argue, if the magisterium speaks the truth when it classifies sexual relationships between people of the same sex as unconditionally evil, then this is exactly what homosexual women and men ought to do, seek to eradicate their orientation towards what the magisterium classifies as the categorical evil of gay sex.

While Tushnet strives to prove the church’s teaching on homosexuality both true and liveable, she actually ends up demonstrating its deep incoherence.

To make this argument, I turn to Thomistic virtue theory, a moral framework used by Catholic theologians and bishops for centuries. It helps explain why, if gay sex is evil, then so is the desire for gay sex. And if the desire for gay sex is evil, then so is making the desire for gay sex a constitutive part of one’s personality.

Thomistic virtue theory describes the relationship between actions, habits, and character. We become what we do and we do what we are. Good people do good things just as people become good by doing good. The best way to do good deeds is to build good habits.

According to Thomas Aquinas, our thoughts and internal desires also qualify as morally consequential. While a person surely can do the right thing even when she does not want to, she is much more likely to act rightly when she derives pleasure from goodness.

But because virtue theory cares about not just what we do, but also who we are, it recognizes that our thoughts and desires possess more than merely instrumental importance. Rightly ordered thoughts and desires are good in and of themselves. A good person does not merely do the right thing; she both desires to do the right thing and she takes pleasure in acting rightly. Goodness involves more than just what we do.

This allows us to identify moral goodness as a hierarchy that encompasses the entire human person. A person who does the right thing but does not derive pleasure from it is just not as good as a person who does the right thing and enjoys doing so. Inversely, a person who refrains from committing evil but derives deep pleasure at thought of inflicting evil also falls short of virtue. Of course, the one who commits evil and loves it ranks dead last.

Here theory conforms to commonsense notions of goodness. For example, while we surely believe it better for a person to refrain from indulging their appetite for inflicting pain and suffering on animals, we would still consider it quite immoral and disturbing that a person would derive pleasure from thinking about the suffering of sentient beings.  We certainly would not classify this condition as morally blameless like the magisterium does homosexuality.  No, we would want a person who derives pleasure from the thought of torturing animals to purge herself of these desires. We certainly would not want that person to “accept” her affinity for torture. Even less would we think she should celebrate this desire as a constituent part of her personality. Nor would we allow her to categorize her orientation towards torture as a conduit to God as Tushnet does.

When thinkers like Tushnet contend that we ought to condemn sexual relationships between people of the same sex as unconditionally evil while accepting gayness as an identity, they act like one who calls the torture of animals categorically evil but proclaims the desire to torture animals morally good.

But as my brief overview of the uncontroversial tenets of virtue theory demonstrates, it is evil to find evil pleasurable or desirable. A lesbian, by definition, possesses a constitutive and predominant sexual attraction to other women and not men. And what else is sexual attraction except a desire to experience sexual closeness with another person? Even when experiencing merely the rush of arousal at the sight of a gorgeous stranger, the body preps for sex. Strip away everything related to the desire for sexual relationship with another woman and “lesbian” dissolves as a coherent identity.

If the magisterium speaks the truth about human sexuality, then even celibate lesbians form their identity around a desire and affinity for evil.

If gay sex always qualifies as evil, then so does the desire to engage in it. If a woman finds herself deriving pleasure from the thought of sexual contact with the bodies and beings of other women, she ought to react to these thoughts just as you or I would if we suddenly started fantasizing about torturing a poor little bunny rabbit.

We would be horrified and alarmed. We would seek to eradicate these thoughts from our minds as soon as possible. We would recognize them as an incitement to sin. We surely should not accept these thoughts as a constituent part of our personalities.

Even if a woman begins fantasizing about the torture of animals through no fault of her own, her orientation towards animal-torture undoubtedly becomes morally culpable the moment she ceases believing them evil.

So too with sexual orientation. Even if a person acquires the desire for gay sex through innocent happenstance, she retains and cultivates these malignant desires only if she chooses to. As gay and lesbian people know all too well, one comes out of the closet through a struggle born out of a resolute and long-deliberated choice.

So, can one be gay and Catholic? Well, surely. But gayness cannot be good as a sexual identity but bad as a sexual activity. Virtue just does not work that way.

Tushnet rightly calls on the church to make room for its lesbian and gay members. But perhaps lesbian and gay Catholics struggle to find a home within ordinary Catholic parishes because there is no place for them in the pages of magisterial teaching.

The magisterium tells lesbians and gays to be but do not do. But, if one should not do, then neither should one be.

A lesbian who accepts her sexuality already defies church teaching just by existing.



Pre-emptive Post Script: And no, homosexuality is not like alcoholism.

94 thoughts

  1. I passionately share your anger and reasoned critique of the church’s present teaching on homosexuality, especially as it is generally articulated and, especially, often made phenomenally worse by conservative exegetes. However, after many many hours reading Eve’s blog and that of other self-affirming, homophobia-critiquing gay Catholics (and other Christians) who embrace church teaching, implicitly and sometimes explicitly call it to develop further, I fear you are not doing full justice to either her sacred lived experience or her careful argumentation and moving exposition of her vision of the profound giftedness of her and her sisters’ and brothers’ gifts to the church. She and other colleagues at the blog Spiritual Friendship.see same sex desire as going far beyond sexual attraction to powerful and holy longings for friendship, communion, and beauty in all its forms. They see this as a profound gift and call–especially reclaiming the valuing of friendship and other forms of sacred connection in Christian community from past centuries which has become forgotten in recent, overly heteronormative Noah’s Ark emphases on straight families as the norm. Likewise, Sarah and Lindsey at A Queer Calling powerfully describe their vocation as a celibate same sex couple and insightfully analyze theological and ecclesial issues around homosexuality and emphasize making a safe place for both LGBT folks who see a place for ethical committed sex and those who believe they should refrain from this. As a feminist theologian and priest I feel called to value all women’s voices and expertise on their own lives, and learn from all women’s experience –even conservative ones with whom I disagree on many points. (I am far from perfect at this spiritual disposition but feel much more lin line with my own integrity as well as hopeful about constructive dialogue when I am in that place)..Similarly I think these “third way” LGBT sisters and brothers who are so viciously attacked by conservative Christians especially deserve a deep and respectful hearing affirming everything right and beautiful about their spirituality and theology before moving on to carefully reasoned and kind challenges of where we may need to speak a different truth.

    1. Hello Mother Laura,
      Thank you for your thoughtful and passionate response. I definitely do not intend to deny or take issue with any of the points you made about “homosexual” desire going “beyond” sex. I simply point out that being gay, lesbian, or queer necessarily includes sexual desire for one’s own sex.

      Nor would I ever want to impugn anyone who has a vocation to celibacy, no matter their orientation! My point still stands, however. If gay sex is evil, then it is evil to find gay sex pleasurable or desirable. And even celibate lesbians are sexually attracted to women. Otherwise, I have no clue how they are calling themselves “lesbian” or “queer.” The term makes no sense without sexual desire. Although, as you point out, it can include MORE than just sexual desire.

      I also don’t think celibacy (or gayness) is necessary to value or cultivate friendship. If heterosexually married couples struggle to maintain friendships, I suggest that has less to do with heterosexuality and more to do with the fact that in our society nuclear families tend to be atomized. In fact, I am friends with a heterosexually married couple who have chosen to live in intentional community with other couples and with single people partially for this exact reason. And inversely just because one is sexually attracted to one’s own sex doesn’t mean they necessarily have some heightened capacity for non-sexual friendship.

      If you are attracted to your own sex, you are gay/lesbian/queer. If you aren’t, then you aren’t.

      1. Hello again, Laura. Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to put this response after your second comment. Hope it’s not too confusing.

        In this post I did not express an opinion about the pastoral merits of Ms. Tushnet’s ministry or about Ms. Tushnet as a person. I also have no opinion about the vocations of people I do not know.

        I do however have an opinion about the notion that one can be self-acceptingly gay while believing the church’s teaching on homosexuality true. Those who hold such an opinion do not simply contend that celibacy is what “works” for them. They claim to be acting in accordance with a moral principle that applies to everyone.

        If Ms. Tushnet were merely documenting the ins and outs of her personal vocation to celibacy, I think you would be right in calling me out. It would be odd, cruel, and rather pointless for a Catholic to critique someone’s vocation to celibacy. But, this does not seem to be what Ms. Tushnet is doing. She seems to say that she is celibate because the Catholic magisterium teaches that “homosexual persons” must be celibate. There is an implied truth claim there. It is that and that alone that I have an opinion on. And I think that is totally within the field of fair play. If I have misinterpreted Ms. Tushnet–if she simply believes herself called to celibacy rather than believing that the church’s teaching about homosexuality is true–then I would accept correction.

        I appreciate your engagement on this blog but I am having a hard time understanding how you would like to me to act differently. Is it your desire that I not have written this post?

      2. This is a very helpful clarification, Katie–thank you. And if I am coming across as judgmental or shaming to you please forgive me…not my intention at all…so I hope I can speak more skillfully here. I agree with you that Eve is personally celibate not just out of a particular personal vocation but out of a conviction that the church’s mandate of celibacy for all gay Christians is correct. This varies among LGBT Christians committed to celibacy and I find reading each one’s rationale and experience for either universal ethical requirement or personal discernment fascinating and informative. This means that, insofar as she is helping uphold a problematic position that can further the damage of homophobia to her LGBT sisters and brothers she is vulnerable to some of the same critiques as the hierarchy which forms her. And your passionate concern for the damage that the church position can and has caused and the dignity and beauty of LGBT Christian makes sense of your prophetic frustration with her stance and concern for how it can help prop that up. So critiquing the ultimate logical consistency of her views and arguments, especially where they align with those of the hierarchy, is fair game–and pointing out possible detrimental consequences to other LGBT persons is as well.
        I would argue she is less at fault than the hierarchy, though, both given her generally respectful and charitable tone toward other LGBT folks and her strong and open advocacy of beauty and goodness in homosexual orientation, desire, and (celibate) friendship–not to mention the misogynist power dynamics in the church whereby she is forcefully constrained to that view if she wants to stay, and stay in good standing, in the church which she loves, freely chose as a young adult, and finds extremely lifegiving. (Just as I have far more sympathy with conservative prolife women who speak out of value for their own sacred experience of pregnancy and childbirth as well as–in the case of some post abortive women– justified anger at the dismissal of their trauma as brainwashed stupidity and their precious children as worthless bits of medical waste–versus conservative anti abortion men who shame and attack women while being immune from any personal consequences of risking or continuing a crisis pregnancy). She also focuses primarily on her own experience, including happy and positive memories of lesbian relationships in her younger pre-Catholic years, and never shames or attacks sexually active gays or activists for gay rights. Just as she is now bound to Sunday mass attendance and would and agree that other Catholics are too she is now prohibited from genital expression in same sex relationships–neither is seen with horror, nor does she condemn others who don’t hold the same beliefs and corresponding moral obligations.
        Where I have trouble is, first, your apparent dismissal of her experience and self understanding, asserting that her inner peace and profound conviction that she both affirms the magisterial teaching and joyfully and proudly accepts herself, including her lesbian orientation, is impossible and self-deluded –especially without reading her reasoning and experience on this in careful detail, including her more positive sharing in the places I have mentioned, rather than one interview where I agree she does not appear at her best. (Unless I am misreading “I do however have an opinion about the notion that one can be self-acceptingly gay while believing the church’s teaching on homosexuality true?)” I believe passionately in people’s privilege of self-naming and their expertise on their own experience, beliefs and conscience and am very wary of claiming that position myself instead.
        Second, if you read that more positive articulation you will find careful analysis of the church’s position with minimal condemnation of gay sex–in no way suggesting that it is horrifying, shameful, the worst of sins,etc As an orthodox RC she presumably also feels a serious moral obligation to attend weekly Eucharist, and would agree with the church that so do all Catholics– but is not at all horrified or condemning of those who don’t follow this. Nor would she ever use the term evil for gay sex. This is where she really seems to have a mild to moderate understanding of disordered which is a possible interpretation of church teaching as presently enunciated. You will also find strong emphasis in her writing that the church also strongly condemns discrimination and injustice toward gay people, directly taking on homophobic conservative Catholics who maximize the sinfulness of gay sex and stigmatize the orientation, and strong critique of the harm of the closet and the blessings of coming out..and serious reflection on the great gifts she finds in her lesbian orientation and that of other LGBT people. This to me makes her at least a moderately helpful ally and resource to other LGBT people, especially those whose faith and conscience do not permit them–now or possibly ever–to leave their church or actively engage in major dissent–and a serious challenge to truly hurtful homophobes who claim church authority for their views. So I hate to see her, and other self affirming gay Christians who believe they are called to celibacy yet relate graciously to those who don’t –some whom you might find less objectionable than her– dismissed and identified with the worst of the church’s history and present treatment of gays. I am excited about the Gay Christian Network, for example, which explicitly makes hospitable space for both LGBT people who believe in ethical gay relationships and those who feel called to celibacy either from ethical requirement or personal vocation–they are all about dialogue and mutual respect and support in the face of a homophobic culture and I know one of my radical feminist Goddess worshipping lesbian-married friends absolutely loves and appreciates her fellow members of all beliefs including those more in Eve’s camp. So part of my concern is for respect and a voice for a whole group of people and not just Eve particularly. If either of these points makes any more sense, great–if not I will let this go and thank you very much for engaging in such sustained and thoughtful dialogue..and for the blog itself where I have been lurking a long time and many of your posts e.g. if I recall the authorship correctly the one on the fetal “innocence.”

      3. I never said she was “deluded” nor did I “identify her with the worst of the church’s history.”

        Deluded would imply that she’s not really gay/queer/lesbian and I think I make it quite clear that I take her self identification at face value.

        And whether she explicitly calls gay sex evil is really beyond the point. She asserts the truth of magisterial teaching, which does call gay sex evil.

        The things you accuse me of I did not say and the things you say in Ms. Tushnet’s defense are really quite irrelevant to the argument I am making in this post.

        If you would like to discuss my argument about whether one can believe gay sex immoral while calling gay identity good or neutral I would be happy to.

      4. Also, you have admitted that you live with straight privilege. So stop coming on here and telling people who don’t live with straight privilege whom they should consider a “strategic ally.”

        You claim to care about the experience of LGBT people yet I have told you that many LGBT find her not healing but incredibly harmful. Yet you still seem to know what gay people need more than they do.

      5. Actually the fetal “innocence” post was mine.
        As for this post, I think Katie’s critique of Tushnet’s writing is spot-on, and like Katie I’m having trouble seeing what you would have wanted her to do differently short of not writing her post in the first place. Obviously Tushnet speaks from her own experience and sincerely believes what she professes (who doesn’t?), but I don’t see why that ought to make her writing immune from critique–even harsh critique. She may indeed have the best of intentions (as you note), but that doesn’t erase the role that she plays in conservative efforts to oppose the rights of gay people. Sure, her writing is liberating for some people. But it is used to silence many, many more and to “prove” that the church doesn’t actually need to change its theology w/respect to gays. When the function (not intention) of someone’s writing is to reinforce an oppressive status quo, I don’t think it’s wrong or disrespectful to “attack” it.

      6. Sorry Sonja! Didn’t have time to go back and check on the authorship of that very helpful analysis. I am not saying that the post shouldn’t have been written or that Eve is immune to all critique because she is sharing her own experience. I am saying that her and other similar Christians’ self description as a self affirming lesbian who also accepts church teaching should be respected rather than deemed impossible and deluded, and that critique should be based on a deeper and wider reading of her/their work rather than one interview–which would reveal some values to the work as well as the places for rightful critique. This is because my own such extensive reading of her/their work reveals that she/they do not solely or even primarily focus on insisting that the church does not change its teaching nor on attacking other LGBT people who disagree–rather on articulating a third alternative to the usual binaries proudly claiming gay identity, meditating on its wonderful gifts, and strongly attacking the closet, discrimination, reparative therapy etc. from conservative homophobes and misinterpretations of Christianity. This is not perfect but is a significant improvement on conservative homophobia and serves a welcome purpose helping many LGBT people who are more traditional and cannot hear or benefit from radical critiques which demand that they abandon their faith communities for more progressive ones or respect their consciences if they presently dictate refraining from sex…And as I mentioned before just doing away with the closet and proclaiming goodness in gay people will, I believe, help lead toward a fuller affirmation of gay identity and responsible sexual expression as well as having the potential to convert the ignorant–if not the truly hateful–among traditional Christians uncomfortable with LGBT people cause they don’t think they know any. The enemy of my enemy can be, if not my friend, a strategic ally working toward the good we agree on and ideally learning from each other. This latter fact is specifically acknowledged by many very progressive people (Gay Christian Network, my Goddess friend, etc.) who take a very different stance on celibacy but in no way want to silence LGBT voices that come from a different place given that silencing and secrecy is the heart of the damage–and rightfully call out the heteronormativity and disrespect for the LGBT community of progressives who do so by equating the mildest affirmations of tradition with the worst of homophobia–even from good intentions of taking on the damage that Christian homophobia causes. This is analogous to black women who call out black men’s sexism but ally with them as black people suffering from racism and get very and rightfully pissed at white feminists who demand uncritical sisterhood from black women and freely attack black men as oppressors while refusing to interrogate their own privilege and racism. If both gently and humbly traditional LGBT people and highly progressive/radical ones engage in respectful dialogue with each other and ask that straight allies listen with care and respect to all of their stories I think they (we, actually–I am bi which is a big part of my own story though don’t make a big deal of it since my opposite sex marriage means that I live with a lot of straight privilege)–I believe that straight allies should do so–not demanding agreement with everything or lack of respectful critique, but also not writing off the lived experience of a huge number of LGBT people and positive aspects of their prophetic witness.

      7. No one is “writing off the lived experience of a huge number of LGBT people and the positive aspects of their prophetic witness,” I arguing that what Tushnet argues about the human person is not true and therefore NOT prophetic.

        If you hold the lived experience of LGBT people so dear, what would you say if I told you that every single lesbian or gay person I know finds Ms. Tushnet’s work quite damaging? Every LGBT person I know in fact finds her more dangerous than so-called “bigots” precisely for the reasons Sonja listed.

        I’m also curious why you seem to have no concern for whether or not what Ms. Tushnet says is TRUE.

        And if being told it is ok to be gay is helpful for gay people, then imagine how much more helpful it would be if they were also told it was ok to DO gay?

        In the future, I would ask you to please limit your comments to the subject matter of the post to which you are responding.

      8. Okay, clearly I am making an absolute hash of this conversation which is a huge learning experience for me…so, again, I sincerely apologize for my profoundly unskillful tone and phrasing that is apparently making folks here (whom I absolutely agree with about the equal beauty and holiness of gay sex and the damaging effects of Vatican universal prohibitions on it) feel as attacked as I fear the third way LGBT folks might be by the post. So I will answer a few specific questions you ask me and then “forever hold my peace.”

        On truth: Of course I believe that whether Eve is speaking truth or not is crucial; I agree that it is not true that God/dess calls all LGBT Christians to live in celibacy regardless of personal gifts and vocation; I see the damage that the traditional insistence on this does to LGBT people; and I see her insofar as she affirms it as problematic and vulnerable to the same critiques (if not in the same degree) as the hierarchy and the hateful conservative homophobes. However, my understanding of her work and that of similar LGBT folks is that the vast majority of what they say is true and prophetic, does accord with progressives’ views, does help their primary audience of conservative and moderate LGBT Christians (with a primary message not that progressive sexually active gays should stop but that more traditional celibate ones can proudly claim many wonderful things about their sexuality while respecting their conscience and beliefs by abstaining), and does challenge the hurtful hateful homophobes. So I do not think the admittedly important and non prophetic untruth invalidates all the other prophetic truth nor makes her a purely damaging enemy and danger to other LGBT folks. I can however understand and respect that you and the lesbian friends you mention do see the untruth as so damaging that it vitiates any other good she is advocating –and as being potentially more dangerous than a hateful homophobe precisely because her more positive aspects could trick gays into believing this strong negative. In part this is a matter of personal style and the perennial debates on many justice topics between radicals and moderates, whether it’s more productive to work within a flawed system than leave it completely, etc.–all of which varies widely with both individual call and individual estimation of the extent of the damage in the unjust view and the various prices paid for either option

        On doing gay: I certainly see that it is better and more liberating and prophetic and healing to say the full truth that gay sex is equal to straight sex and it is unfortunate that she can’t see that. But I also think that she and other third way folks would rightly claim that they are absolutely doing gay themselves and at least in part inviting others to so so by their strong affirmation of the beauty they see in their attraction and community. And I believe that they are correct in saying that claiming they aren’t in any way doing or advocating doing gay because they do not affirm gay sex restricts doing gay disrespects their sacred experience and self understanding as LGBT and places undue emphasis on genital expression as the defining aspect of gayness–again, not denying your point that the prohibition on the sex is itself is definitely wrong and hurtful.

        On evil: The term evil, I would quickly note, is precisely analogous to innocent in Sonja’s brilliant analysis–a technical term for anything, big or small, that is seen as wrong or not in God’s ideal plan, which has a very different meaning from the cultural connotations of disgusting, shameful, worst thing in the universe, explicitly motivated by cruelty and callousness, etc In this technical sense a wide variety of much lower level non-ideal behaviors (missing mass, not recycling, not voting, etc.) could also be called evil. And a primary point of the third way folks citing the church’s teaching on non-discrimination (limited and flawed as it certainly is) is not just to say the prohibition isn’t that bad but especially to dispute the hateful homophobes’ assertion that the hierarchical estimation of gay sex agrees with their own cultural “evil” one of horrific hideousness and danger to society–and thus to argue that being attracted to gay sex and relationships is very different from being attracted to torture or other wholly hurtful things–which is a possible interpretation of church teaching, and, I would argue, at least some improvement toward a healing and positive message for traditional LGBT folks versus what they are hearing from hateful homophobes. So to me saying that Eve et. al. think that gay sex is evil in the cultural shaming horrific sense because like the church they see it as not morally acceptable– and thus that their passionate and eloquent advocacy of the beauty and goodness of gay attraction, friendship, etc. is incoherent/impossible– does not seem completely fair.

        On diverse LGBT voices: My passion here, which it sounds like I have not clearly explained, is not primarily to defend Eve herself but to validate and give a voice to a large goup of LGBT folks for whom she is symbolic–many of whom are far more progressive in stance and gentler in tone than she esp. in her more defensive writing like the interview versus her profound and witty personal sharing in some blogposts. A.most all speak against employment discrimination, some believe in civil though not sacramental gay marriage, and many explicitly mention their love and respect for their LGBT friends who are sexually active, their acceptance of this different ethical stance as possible for Christians, and their commitment to relationship and dialogue across such differences. Sarah and Lindsey of A Queer Calling are outstanding in this respect and I really recommend reading their blog for a unique voice and experience. It is especially their repeated sharing of how profoundly hurtful they find both homophobia and the assertion that their tendency to acceptance of a more traditional ethic (though in a much softer form than Eve and some others as their celibacy is primarily an individual/couple call) makes them self-hating, deluded, a danger to other LGBT folks, etc.that has fueled my passion in this conversation when it seemed the same was being said of Eve or anyone else that does not approve of gay sex ipso facto. Okay, more than enough from me and many thanks for listening as well as calling me out so I can try to do better in future dialogue.

      9. None of what you are saying has anything to do with my post. That is what is frustrating. You are defending people against charges I never made.

        You also don’t listen. I never said Ms. Tushnet “called” gay sex evil. I simply pointed out the obvious truth that she affirms magisterial teaching that calls gay sex evil as true.

        Don’t shoot the messenger:it wasn’t my idea to label gay sex an “intrinsic evil.” and I’m sorry but expecting people not to think that Ms. Tushnet also believes gay sex evil when she says she chooses celibacy in order to obey a teaching which calls gay sex evil is ridiculous and illogical.

        If Ms. Tushnet wants to come out and say she actually doesn’t think gay sex is immoral, she is free to do that. Until that day comes. I have no clue why you would find fault with people who like me, simply point out that she thinks gay sex immoral.

        You keep repeating your same points over and over again even though your arguments have nothing to do with what I posted.

        I won’t be approving any more of your comments on this post unless you actually have something to say that pertains to the things I actually said in my post.

      10. Thanks Katie for the thoughtful response! (Btw my daughter thinks it is awesome that you and she have the same name since my surname is Grimes and we split by gender of offspring–esp. as I also did my doctoral work in theology at ND!) Again I absolutely share your frustration and anger at the terribly damaging homophobia of the hierarchy–both having suffered it myself as a bi woman in a longterm faithful straight marriage and having been privileged to make LGBT justice and pastoral care a big part of my ministry as an ordained Catholic woman. What I am suggesting is more carefully distinguishing between the hierarchy who deserve everything you can throw it at them and courageous and attacked-from-both-sides LGBT folks like Eve who are sorting out their own path and voice balancing their love for the church and highly life-giving experience of it with embracing their orientation, including but not limited to sexual attraction, as a gift and source of holiness. Part of the problem may be relying primarily on the interview–she is not at her best when defending church teaching in things like this–rather than reading deeply of her blog, her and others’ reflections at Spiritual Friendship, Sarah and Lindsey at Queer Calling, etc. They are all about sharing their own experience and not at all about condemning other LGBT folks who do not agree with them–unlike both the hierarchy and the homophobic conservative Christians who frequently and viciously attack them on the same basis you give–if it’s a sin to do, it’s a sin (and a really disgusting one) to want. My own reading of Thomas and the virtue tradition is also somewhat more complicated and multivalent than how I am reading you here, which may not be correct–he, like C.S. Lewis and many others, emphasizes that all desire is for something good and things that are sinful are so because they are choosing a good that is out of proportion, out of place, less than a conflict higher good, etc.–though certainly the mediation of that approach in popular spirituality and much preaching and pastoral care is certainly less than would be desired. The Ignatian tradition has a similar emphasis and a wide variety of usage for that key term “disordered” which can be something very mild as well as very serious depending on context and individual situation. Anyway, I see the work and voice of these folks as helping diminish the damage of homophobia by providing a safe and non shaming place for gay Christians who have not yet or may never move to full acceptance of sexual expression come to self love and pride and the ability to come out…which is eventually part of what will help move the larger church and society toward full acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships including sexual ones. It’s traditional secrecy and demonization that prevents that. So–especially if we are progressives and feminists who claim experience as a theological source and the whole Christian community as part of the magisterium in a healthy sense–I think that they deserve our careful and respectful and in depth listening to their stories and self analysis, our support wherever possible, and–where we must disagree–a balanced analysis affirming the good while taking issue with disagreements in an especially constructive and charitable tone. (Something I suck at in many cases, especially where passionate about truth as I see it but keep it as a goal of theological discourse and especially, needless to say, of pastoral work).

      11. Sorry that I’m doing the online equivalent of interrupting, but if…
        1) People who are attracted to their own sex are gay/lesbian/queer,
        2) Being gay, lesbian, or queer necessarily includes sexual desire for one’s own sex
        3) It is evil to find gay sex desirable
        …Then your only logical conclusion that I can see is that people who are attracted to people of the same sex are evil. The only way you can support that argument is if you say that anyone who is attracted to someone of the opposite sex who they aren’t married to is also evil. Otherwise, God is not just, right? Also, all have sinned and, from what I remember of evangelical doctrine (I have grown up and remained in an evangelical church), all people are equally fallen. (I guess I would say equally fallen but not necessarily equally given over to their sin natures.) Incidentally, the way I see your argument also seems to imply that asexual people, those who are not attracted to anyone, are somehow more good than people who are attracted to people.

      12. yes, that would be the only logical conclusion if both magisterial teaching on homosexuality and virtue theory are correct, but, as you say, the conclusion is absurd so…which one is wrong, Thomistic virtue theory or magisterial teaching about the unconditional immorality of gay sex?

  2. The cruelty inherent in the strange, artificial binary between sexual desire and sexual action in the Church’s current teaching on orientation has always struck me as profound, and as lacking in the compassion which the Church holds as such a high virtue. As usual, your restraint in discussing it stuns me :)

  3. Oh, good grief, more obsession about who does or doesn’t do what with whom and how. This is hardly ‘good news’ this obsession with peoples perceived genital behavior. Human beings are about so much more than their genitals. If people (of whatever persuasion) are sexually active it’s likely for only one hour per day ( if that), so what do people do the rest of the time? Why so much obsession on genitals, and why the presumption that anybody must justify themselves and their chastity or lack of it? Please grow up. There are people to feed, souls to be healed, widows and orphans to care for!

    1. What do you find immature in this careful and articulate argument? Perhaps you mean to say that the magisterial Catholic teaching is simply correct and needs no discussion?

      Where there is injustice, silence is hardly the proper response—even though pointed speech may strike you as obsessive. Though, I might note that neither the original post nor any comment other than yours even mentions genitals (so much for an obsession!). Further, I think you might be surprised at the extent to which LGBTQ concerns are directly related to the hungry people, wounded souls, widows, and orphans to whom you call attention.

  4. I am a lesbian who recently married my partner of 42 years. We are both Catholic. I have studied and taught theology and spent my life working for social justice. My values about justice and love come from my Catholic spirituality. I believe we sre loved completely as we are in all our humanity. The Word became flesh. I think the institutional church has strayed from what Jesus lived and taugh
    t. The phenomenon of sexual abuse in the church is evidence of the dangers of separating body and soul. We are embodied. All that we are is or can be holy. The Church must reform the teaching that rejects us as well as do penance for its own sins against humanity. We don’t need hair-splitting theology that tries to make sense of theunjustifiable. We need a holistic embracing approach that names injustices and sets them right

    1. Congratulations on your marriage–both the longterm faithful covenant and, finally, the official “outward and visible sign” of that inward and spiritual grace! Thank you also for your prophetic words and witness in response to to hurtfulness of the magisterium.

    2. Congratulations on your marriage Eileen.
      May the blessing of almighty God come down upon you both and remain with you both forever.

  5. You are wrong since you are stilll missing things. The core of this is Mat 5:28. It is not about homosexual sex attraction, but lust itself.
    You write:
    “And if the desire for gay sex is evil, then so is making the desire for gay sex a constitutive part of one’s personality.”

    But it should be:
    “And if the desire for sex is evil, then so is making the desire for sex a constitutive part of one’s personality.” This is the true behind Mat 5:28

    So, as lust, and sexual atraction per se refers, there is no difference between gay or straight. Both are core evil. So don’t make this a thing against gay, it is against Lust itself.

    There is also people who claim they they were born as gay (or straight). In general terms, these females usually act as if they were males (and viceversa). This is just what makes the true homosexuals who cannot change what they are. The reason behind their sexual attraction, the evil behing the evil: rejecting what they are. So lets pretend my sould is female, if God decided to put my female soul in a male body, What is God asking me to do? To be a male, to behave like a male, to think like a male and to accept that, for the time, I am a male. Rejecting being male, means telling God he is wrong, and thus evil. (Of coure souls have no gender.)

    It is true: “The magisterium tells lesbians and gays to be but do not do. But, if one should not do, then neither should one be.” Because YOU cannot change who you ARE but what you DO. We ALL ARE sinners from the womb of our mothers. It is GOD who changes what you are, if he finds it appropriate for your salvation and the salvation of the entire world.

    So Tushnet is right by saying “It means not separating out your sexuality and your sexual orientation by saying they need to be repressed or destroyed in some way.” If you are to repress or destroy your sexuality and your sexual orientation, you are aiming at repressing and destroying YOUR very being… and it is not something we should do, we are just called to IGNORE what we are, and sift our sight towards what God is…

    IT IS TRUE: “I simply point out that being gay, lesbian, or queer necessarily includes sexual desire for one’s own sex”…. I simply point out that being straing necesary includes sexual desire for the other sex. So, if the issue is “sexual desire” (Mat 5:28), then neither gay nor straight. Straight people should learn from the gay phenomenom to realize being straight also includes sexual desire, and a sinful reason behind it. Chosing a partner is to be done through God: So a female is NOT chosing a given male because she likes him, or because he is attractive, but because she knows God has put her in the way to attain true eternal happiness in a saved sould.

    (However, God is merciful and blesses our marriages even if they were born from sin (money, power, sexual/phsical/emtional/ideological/religious attraction). So we should be grateful for that. In the same way, God blesses a homosexual marriage (which must likely would be due to sexual/ physical/ ideological/ emotional attraction altogether) specialy if there is ignorance on this matter; still they could not be Roman Catholic, in any case, just the new concept of “people of God”. This getting married for the wrong reasons is what has being discussed in the “divorce” & communion issue).

    We should all ask God to change what we ARE (sinners, straight/gay) and fight for NOT DOing what we ARE, but what GOD IS (freedom from any link to sexual desire).

    The Church does not call us to repress, but to be willing to HEAL us sins, so as to become saints. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
    So, the Holy Church and its teachings are NOT for holy people, but for people who want to BE Holy through Christ and are fighting for it in a Church Militant.

    1. This is poorly reasoned, in large part because it ignores repeated examples of love between people of the same gender being extolled as virtuous in multiple places in the Bible.

  6. My suggestion would be to find a catholic faith community that understands that the church progresses in its understanding of doctrine not only through scripture and tradition but through reason. The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is one example of fully catholic faith communities that are not subject to Rome’s arcane understanding of human nature and sexuality. The ECC welcomes GLBT people as people made in the image of God and made GLBT and so welcome not only to the Eucharist but to full participation in the life of the church whether that be as a lay person or as ordained clergy. If not the ECC find another autonomous catholic communion that allows you to be you and not live a life of denial.

  7. Thanks Katie for a very interesting post.
    We had a similar situation a few years ago when some conservative Catholics tried to misconstrue canon law as requiring sexual abstinence of married permanent deacons. One of our arguments against this lunacy was that it would make natural and good expressions of marital love and intimacy, such as holding hands, hugs, kisses, romantic candlelight dinners, sleeping in the same bed etc into occasions of sin.
    The deeper question is : how can a committed monogamous same sex couple who choose to naturally express their love by making love be morally wrong ? And is there really any solid argument against it scripture or the deposit of faith? Or has the church just misread scripture, tradition and human experience through homophobic lenses ?
    God bless

  8. Thanks for this post, Katie (and this blog in general – I love lurking here when I’m frustrated being a Catholic feminist and a feminist Catholic!) I read this post this morning and really liked it, but thinking about it more, I have a question. How does this Thomist moral system deal with straight sexuality for people with vows? That is: when my husband, or a straight preist, looks at a woman with sexual desire but not lust (i.e. not possessive, obsessive, or dehumanizing through objectification), I’d typically say that’s not sinful, even though following through with that desire certainly would be; and that would seem to apply to Ms Tushnet as well. How can your argument be reconciled with a view of sexuality that doesn’t make libido or desire itself a sin in any case other than a spouse’s desire for his/her spouse? Is the difference that the church says straight sex’s morality is situational rather than intrinsically one way or another?

    1. Hello! I think this is a great question and exactly the sort of thing we should be thinking about.

      I want to say from the beginning that I do not have a vocation to celibacy so my knowledge here is limited and i would love to hear from those who are living vowed celibacy about how they handle these things.

      To start with, I think it’s important to keep in mind that someone who vows celibacy is not doing so because sex is wrong. There could be some circumstances in which sex would be moral for them. And precisely because sex is natural (both in the sense of being “good” and in the sense of being something that happens automatically or organically) people don’t give up human nature when they take a vow of celibacy.

      This of course changes if magisterial teaching is true. Gay sex is not “natural” it is not something the human person should be inclined towards.

      Another point. I would assume that people who vow celibacy do strive to have some sort of mental discipline while still recognizing that they are sexual beings.

      Even straight married people: you might feel attraction to someone other than your spouse but it is probably not good or wise to let yourself fantasize about said person.
      One’s sexual thoughts and desires are neither automatically evil nor automatically benign. We have to look at the circumstances.

      But I do think it is hard to justify how it could ever be ok to desire something that is “intrinsically evil” but I would love to hear what other people think about these really fascinating and important questions.

      1. Thanks, Katie. I agree with you that chastity requires regulation of one’s sexuality, so I certainly would say checking and trying to get rid of any steps beyond the initial desire for a non-spouse is a part of virtuous life. But I’m more with Chris on the idea that trying to eradicate desire (or as Eve Tushnet put it, trying to cut off one’s sexuality from God, refusing to recognize it as an integrated part of one’s person) is unhealthy.
        For example, when I notice an attractive man, I tend to recognize that my noticing him comes from my heterosexuality, acknowledge that to God, and then move on. “Oh, wow, there’s a fully autonomous person-not-object who happens to have a very nice butt. ‘Very good’ indeed, God! Now what’s for lunch…” You could say that, very remotely, such attraction (is it desire?) is oriented towards the evil of adultery, but there are a lot of conscious moral actions between there. If I was a man and I did the same thing, the “evils” would be fornication and homosexual activity. Does the church class the latter in a different way than the first?

        As a side note, I like your point about celibacy in religious vocations not being because sex is wrong. It strikes me that it’s weird to talk about all gay people having a vocation to celibacy, because vocations are more typically positively expressed. Most celibate people would presumably say “God called me to be a sister” or “God called me to the priesthood,” not “God called me to celibacy in and of itself.” That’s as strange as me expressing my vocation to marriage as “God called me to be not-a-nun.” Although I’ll admit this comes from me not having a very well-fleshed concept of vocation to single life. Have we started talking about that third option more right as we’re (slowly, reluctantly) acknowledging the existence of gay Catholics?

    2. I think there is a distinction between desire, an emotion that just arises in us, and a moral choice to in some way act on that desire. The acting could be a mental enjoyment, a fantasising, as Katie talked about enjoying thinking about torturing animals. Such fantasising is a moral choice to indulge in it and therfore might be sinful, depending on what one was fantasising about. Whereas the desire is not a moral choice but a feeling or emotion about which we have no control.

      God Bless

      1. Yes Chris, I think you are right there. But, even when we did not choose a desire, if it is “evil,” then the only correct response to that desire is trying to eradicate it. We also just can’t act like desire has no relation to action. A desire for something evil is, at a minimum, a temptation to evil…what the Baltimore Catechism might term “a near occasion of sin.” So desire does become culpable if we are complacent or indulgent of it. And, remember, a virtuous person will find the good pleasurable and desirable.

      2. Katie,

        I don’t think that desire, which I understand as a emotion, a feeling, can always be erdicated. Infact, as I think you are onto here, the attempt to eradicate it can be very damaging to the human person, and hence a sin. The Church teaches that our sexuality is a fundamental part of our human makeup, so attempts to eradicate desire are on VERY dangerous territory.

        I think your comment about “a virtuous person will find the good pleasurable and desirable” would be worth further exporation in the context of loving same sex comitted relationships. I expect it is exactly what occurs in such relationships.

        God Bless

  9. Eve believes and claims–like the other folks in her camp– that she is a self affirming lesbian with a positive evaluation of her orientation despite her belief that gay sex is morally inappropriate. My understanding of your argument is that 1) this combination is a logical impossibility– which would, to me, necessarily mean that 2) she and they are self deluded in so viewing themselves since they do not accept gay sex (not denying their self-identification as LGBT, but that as self-affirming/gay positive LGBT). The further implication of your argument, supported by the lesbian friends you quote, seems to be 3)that this self-delusion also leads to damage for other gay people by propping up the oppressive system–thus inevitably furthering homophobia despite any positive things they may believe and say about LGBT identity. If I am misunderstanding any or all of these three points, please help me understand what you are actually saying.

      1. I’m really confused by this. Don’t we all find ourselves desiring things that are sinful? Why is this one sinful desire desire unique in demanding not just that we don’t act on our sinful desires, but change our very identity to avoid the sinful desire ever again?

        Presumably most Catholic men sometimes desire sexual release via masturbation, which is sinful. Do you think they should undergo some project whereby they “change their orientation” such that they no longer imagine they would find masturbation pleasurable? What’s the difference I’m missing here?

      2. but yes, actually, i think it’s pretty clear that the most virtuous person would find masturbation so abhorrent that they would not be tempted to do it. yes, I think that’s pretty clear.

      3. so you’re telling me there are heterosexuals (people who are sexually attracted to the opposite sex), homosexuals (people who are attracted to the same sex), bisexuals (people who are sexually attracted to both sexes), and auto-sexuals (people who are only attracted to themselves?) Find me someone who is interested in having sex only with herself or himself and we can talk. But yes, if such a person existed, I would say they should try to change their “orientation.”

      4. Your entire framing is off. I shall repeat my argument: if gay sex is “morally inappropriate,” then so is it “morally inappropriate” to find gay sex pleasurable and even more is it “morally inappropriate” to accept an identity that has the desire for something “morally inappropriate” at its center.

        When you think I have made a certain claim, why don’t you try looking for that claim in my text?

      5. I have indeed been rereading the post which is helpful, as is this reframing of your argument using the milder and more open to interpretation term morally inappropriate. I was taking your use of the church’s term evil, since you extensively use the example of torturing bunnies, to connote the cultural meaning of horrifically sickening and irredeemable rather than the technical moral theology sense of anything considered not in God’s plan. The Christian history of homophobia and the present rhetoric of hard core homophobes certainly shares the bunny torturing evaluation of gay sex and desire which is why they actively attack LGBT people who see anything good about their gay identity and claim they are defying church teaching despite their claims to accept it.

        The other possible interpretation of evil as applied to gay sex by the magisterium is the technical sense of anything, small to great, that is not, well, morally inappropriate. There are all kinds of straight sex acts that are also deemed intrinsic evils by official teaching: premarital, extramarital, contracepted, etc. Desires for them are not shamed as intrinsically horrific and maliciously motivated but as reasonable desires for the good aspects of love, pleasure, freedom , etc. even if acting on them (and active intense fantasizing that comes close to acting) is wrong because of divine prohibition which theoretically forbids them for a higher good. (And this is where, perhaps, I see Thomas and virtue theory a bit differently than you appear to in this post).

        Anyway, my understanding of Eve et. al, especially in response to their conservative critics, is that they are saying that 1) gay desire is much closer to these straight desires for the good things about gay relationships and sex–though obviously different since the actual sex can never be engaged in ethically–than anything in the bunny torturing camp and 2) that sexual attraction is just one part of gay identity, and not necessarily the central one in their view– so their affirmation of all the other parts as good and holy is not necessarily logically or morally incoherent as would be celebrating bunny torture fantasies. They could of course be wrong on either 1 or 2 but I think these are possible reasonable interpretations of church teaching

      6. the bunny example was an analogy. in an analogy, two things being compared to each other do not have to be identical in every way; just in ways relevant to the point being made by the analogy.

        We can substitute any evil thing in here and my point will still stand. If the bunny thing is throwing you, try stealing a cup of coffee from the local coffee shop. Something less horrible but we would still find it less than virtuous if a person had a strong inclination to steal even something small like a cup of coffee. We would also find it really strange if someone said “I know stealing is wrong but I accept my identity as a person who finds the thought of stealing pleasurable.” Who wouldn’t be weirded out if someone said “i am a proud and self-accepting kleptomaniac!”

        And say all you want about there being “more to gay identity than sex” but sexual desire is the only definitionally necessary part of being gay.

        And yes, pre-marital sex is also an “evil.” But if a person is sexually attracted to a person (of the opposite sex) they are dating, I think it’s pretty clear that the church would see that desire as ordered not to “pre-marital sex” but to marriage. In other words, the desire for pre-marital sex actually can be disciplined and channeled into a virtuous activity in a way that the desire for gay sex never can be (according to church teaching).

        And again, if Ms. Tushnet thinks magisterial teaching true, then she does think gay sex “evil.” So, you really need to get over that. If that troubles you, take it up with Ms. Tushnet, not me. If you think that my using the word “evil” means I am calling Ms. Tushnet the equivalent of “the worst homophobes in history”, then you really should take a class in moral theology.

      7. I was using “orientation” in a broader sense than sexual orientation categories.

        So to be clear, do you think this is true of all sins? That we should not mere avoid them, but try to change our brains such that we never desire them in the first place?

        This seems to miss the point of the concept of “sin” altogether. What makes sin a challenge to avoid is that it is tempting. I don’t think God created us to be the kind of creatures who can alter ourselves to not desire to sin. At any rate, that’s certainly not something I’ve ever understood to be a Catholic or Christian teaching. We’re supposed to struggle with our sinful nature, and we have the power to win.

      8. Hmm…I’d have to think of every sin on a case by case basis before I can say whether that is true. If you would like to ask me about individual sins, I can give you my opinion.

        And yes, original sin makes us all twisted. We will all fall short. We will all sin. That does not change what we should be aiming for, however. Just because we know that we will fall short doesn’t change the fact that we should desire and take pleasure from the good and that we should find evil odious.

  10. Katie,
    I think you framed your argument very clearly. I think a possible workaround for your objection is that the church’s teaching mostly limits itself to descriptions about the morality of ‘sexual acts’ and so tries to avoid engaging the whole spectrum of meanings surrounding the analysis of ‘sexuality.’ That is, the church’s use of ‘homosexual’ is a description of what stimuli you’re aroused by, not desires for intimacy, love, etc. It could be possible to identify as homosexual according to contemporary usage of the idea of sexuality without ‘disordered’ arousal patterns being central to that identity–in this way arousal could be peripheral to the identity rather than central. Then you could maybe be a gay Catholic without centering your identity around evil. I also sort of get the feeling that Ms. Tushnet thinks identifying as a homosexual is just sort of a useful description for ‘where you’re at’ rather than being a central facet of identity at all. For a lot of reasons, I don’t find the workaround I just offered convincing at all, and I whenever I read her blog I just kind of wonder what world she inhabits. But the Church’s teaching I think tries to avoid this sort of incoherence by defining its concept of sexuality in a very limited way.

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thanks for your kinds words. The magisterium actually does not define sexuality in a narrow way. See 2332 of the Catechism.

      I hear what you are saying but I still think it’s pretty clear that being “turned on” by a person relates to sex. For example, I think the church would want to say that sexual desire (in that case of straight people) ought to be ordered to marriage. People are attracted to the opposite sex so that they can eventually marry someone someday.

      So, in the case of “homosexual” people, their sexual arousal, even when not explicitly about a “genital act,” is still fundamentally ordered towards a sexual relation the church says is immoral.

      I just think we get a little silly when we try to say that sexual arousal is not about sex!

      1. Oh yes I see that the catechism does say that sexuality affects the whole person. I was thinking that the use of the term ‘intrinsically disordered’ was an attempt at moderation, not addressing all aspects of a gay identity by not engaging a broad idea of sexuality. Maybe according to the Church it’s ok to identify as a homosexual as long as you think of yourself as pathetic? What I was originally trying to get at is something like this: I would tend to identify women in ‘Boston marriages’ or the ‘Two Ladies of Llangollen’ as lesbians because of their relationship patterns of seeking intimacy with women. But nobody really knows whether any of these people had sex with each other. Could it be coherent to displace the ‘sex’ aspect of homosexuality to the periphery of the identity rather than being central to it? This could be how Tushnet could arrive at what she considers coherence, and it could be that the Church could tolerate this sort of ‘affirmation’ of ‘homosexuality’ by not considering it in the scope of what it is addressing. But since now you’ve pointed out to me that they do consider relational aspects of sexuality in the catechism, I guess it doesn’t work at all.

        Ultimately I find Tushnet’s position incoherent because I’m pretty convinced that the Magisterium’s carefully-defined language actually implicitly contains a vision of gender relations that it wants to uphold. Otherwise, why would homosexuality matter? Insofar as Ms Tushnet’s lesbian identity violates the Church’s desired gender regime, she violates the spirit of Church teachings. I don’t think the Magisterium wants Boston marriages, the Ladies of Llangollen, celibate partnerships or any sort of deviance from their view of gender roles, regardless of whether people are having sex. It wants silence. However, my original contention was that the language used by the Magisterium was fairly limited, keeping the gender assumptions implicit and preserving a possible avenue for Ms. Tushnet’s own sense of coherence. The teachings seemed either duplicitous or blind to their own implications.

      2. Yes, I think you make a really good point regarding Boston Marriages. The church does indeed explicitly oppose civil recognition for same sex marriages or partnerships regardless of whether or not they are having sex. The magisterium has made it quite clear that the think the family unit should be heterosexual. (I have no clue what Ms. Tushnet thinks about this).

      3. FWIW, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops do officially recognise the good in same sex relationships.

        Archbishop Dew stated ““A same sex marriage can be loving and committed.”


        My own bishop stated “The Catholic Church affirms love, fidelity and commitment in all relationships, …”


        My sense is that the Bishops worldwide are moving towards recognising same sex civil unions which a number have publically endorsed (incluidng apparantly Pope Francis).

        God Bless

  11. Your final words, “A lesbian who accepts her sexuality already defies church teaching just by existing,” do seem to me to imply that Eve and others like her are mistaken (to switch to a less inflammatory term myself) about their own self understanding. She strongly believes and loudly states that she accepts her sexuality and obediently accepts church teaching. If your understanding is correct must she not be wrong about her own beliefs and actions–either not actually accepting her sexuality because she does not believe gay sex is acceptable, or defying church teaching (as her conservative critics sometimes claim) by saying anything good about gay identity?

    1. I explicitly said in my post that I find the belief that one can proudly accept one’s homosexuality while believing gay sex intrinsically evil incoherent. What was unclear about that?

      People interpret their identities in distorted and misguided ways all the time. Just because someone sincerely thinks or believes something about themselves does not mean it is “true” or “good.” Surely, you would not affirm a neo Nazi skinhead’s self understanding of himself as white person, would you? Would you affirm a suicidal person’s understanding of herself as wretched and despised by God? I use extreme examples to make my point (lest you think I am comparing Ms. Tushnet to a skin head).

      And no, I never said (nor did I imply!!!) that there was nothing good or true about Ms. Tushnet’s self-understanding!!!!!! which is what you seem to be bizarrely accusing me of.

      So, if it’s your opinion that I am not allowed to critique someone as long as their belief is “personal” and “sincere,” then we disagree.

  12. FWIW, many conservative Catholics do accept that the proximate moral object of the kinds of marital acts of love making which same sex partners can also enjoy (eg Christopher West’s endorsement of sodomy as marital foreplay; and acts to satisfy the wife post coitus) are morally good in marriage.

    As to the remote moral object, Vatican II taught that the ends of marriage are not only procreation but also mutual love and unity. In Catholic moral theology, mutual love and unity is a perfectly acceptable remote moral object for monogamous same sex couples in committed relationships and hence there is nothing wrong with same sex couples living together chastely (which has been endorsed by even conservative Catholic Bishops).

    Hence, it seems to me, the contradiction which Katie has identified is well grounded in Catholic teaching. It would make a good topic for a more detailed article.

    The difficulty many have with official Catholic teaching today is that it is not obvious why same sex acts in committed monogamous relationships cannot be genuine expressions of love and hence morally good. It seems to me that supporters of the “gay sex is intrinsically evil” position need to present a convincing argument that such acts are always damaging to the human person.

    God Bless

  13. Coffee stealing–great, low voltage example! I would say that–apart from the extraordinary person who is actually seriously tempted by the fact of stealing itself, perhaps even if they could afford to buy the coffee, would indeed have a seriously disordered/unhealthy/problematic inclination. However, most people tempted to steal coffee would be motivated primarily by the love of coffee and the pleasure, energy, etc. it brings them — making them coffee lovers rather than kleptomaniacs-but tempted to theft at a certain time because of varying circumstances making it difficult to acquire appropriately.. The bad part would be the theft if it happened (depending on motivation, alternatives etc. for gravity), not the coffee itself which is good when obtained appropriately through purchase, gift, etc.– or the desire for the coffee– unless if they fed the desire to steal it by fantasizing about the theft or seeking opportunities for it in the “near occasion of sin” sense. And engaging the desire honestly and with integrity and not taking the coffee could be a sign of greater virtue than not being tempted at all–at least that is what the desert ammas and abbas would say. Eve and her cohort in my understanding are saying they proudly and positively identify as LGBT in the coffee lovers sense and not the kleptomaniac sense–desiring profound emotional intimacy with their own gender, deep spiritual friendship, appreciating the goodness and beauty of themselves and their companions–with part of that being sexual attraction (and in Eve’s case an honest admission that acting on that would be pretty cool as it was in her youth if her faith permitted)–but not being the primary, overriding or sole determiner of the orientation–which would mean that identifying as proudly and positively gay while also believing it important to abstain from sex would not necessarily be incoherent or impossible to reconcile.

    1. I’m confused: don’t straight women also desire “profound emotional intimacy with their own gender, deep spiritual friendship, appreciating the goodness and beauty of themselves and their companions?” What makes lesbians different from straight women? (I’ll answer that for you: sexual attraction.)

      And yes, thank you for admitting that people who identify as queer or lesbian are sexually attracted to their own sex. And yes, if what the magisterium says about gay sex and gay sexual relationships is true, then my point still stands. And yes, while you put forth an analysis of coffee theft that considers it circumstantially evil, the magisterium defines gay sex as intrinsically and therefore unconditionally evil.

  14. I do believe there must be sonething wrong with the theology of virtues here presented. As I doubt that the problem is in St. Thomas, you must apologize me if I think that you might simply have got it wrong.
    The main problem can be resumed in this frase of your post: “A person who does the right thing but does not derive pleasure from it is just not as good as a person who does the right thing and enjoys doing so.” That is simply wrong, at the very least they are equally good, and I think that someone who, despite not getting the positive reward of feeling good about doing the right thing, neverthless does it, is actually more good. For the first one, as Jesus said, already got his reward.
    And if we agree with that sentence of yours that I quoted, we must therefore deny that Jesus was the supreme Good, as He didn’t enjoyed His passion. This is no speculation of mine, He clearly asked the Father to avoid the whole mess if possible. Therefore, God Himself is among those who did the right thing without pleasure.
    There is also another important point that I think is wrongly argued, in that you speak of sexual orientation as a virtue. St. Thomas spoke of them in detail, and heterosexuality was not, if I’m not mistaken, among the virtues. Chastity yes, orientation, no. So, if you want to use the Thomistic theory of virtues, be sure to apply to it only to those things that are actually virtues.
    To have a good sight is a virtue? No it is not. Being blind is not evil, being good sighted does not make us holy. But, as St. Thomas explains, the eyes were made for seeing, and the eyes that function normally, that fullfill their natural function in a better way, are better than the eyes that cannot see. But this question of better or worse is not a moral question. By the same token, I argue, sexual orientation, by its nature, is at the level of good sight. An heterosexual orientation is like an eye functioning properly, a gay orientation is like a blind eye.
    But what your article suggests is for the blind people not to accept the fact that they are blind and to act as if they see perfectly. I think you can understand what accidents your train of thought will lead…
    “A lesbian who accepts her sexuality already defies church teaching just by existing.” By the same token, a blind person already defies church teaching just by existing.( And even if all the rest of the article were true, that last line would never be anything but wrong, as no person at all will ever defy the church teaching just by existing)
    Remember what Jesus answered to those who asked who sinned, the blind man or his parents.
    I don’t know if any of the the things I said were already said or answered, as I haven’t read the comments.

    1. So you’re saying that if you feel good doing what’s good, that is less morally good than if you do what is right out of duty? That’s Kantian, not Thomistic. That’s you quibbling with Thomism rather than a fault of her presentation.

      1. Katie, my analogy, if you read it carefully, is not between the mother and a gay person. It is an analogy on the fact that what we feel about something is irrelevant for it is moral value, or else, the mother with the headache that really doesn’t want to do dinner and only wants to rest is a worse mother than one who makes the dinner gladly.

        Amy, you are right, I did say that, because my point is precisely that our feelings are irrelevant. If they were relevant, Kant would probably be right, yes.
        On the subject of Thomism, nothing that I say contradicts St. Thomas. However, there are here serious misunderstandings on how Thomism uses the words better and worse. Not always those words have a moral value, as in the eye example that I gave. So when you say “(…)Thomism, which says that the better you are the more pleasure you will derive from doing good because you love the good and goodness is attractive” you are using better with a moral judgment value that the word doesn’t have. So, even though you say “that’s virtue ethics”, in this case you are simply wrong, as the framework of the vocabulary is that of natural theology and not ethics.

        Anyway, I think I said something substantive, as I have engaged with the article in two issues:

        First: The article wrongly states that feelings are moral. That is simply wrong. Good feelings can help you in the path to virtue, but they are absolutely unnecessary. I gave the example of Jesus in the garden of olives, and you can also think of saints like St. John of the Cross and Mother Teresa of Calcuta, and their famous Night of the Soul.

        Second: Sexual Orientation is not a virtue. So, even if, by chance, I was wrong about my first argument, you need to prove that an ordered sexual orientation (i. e. being straight), is a virtue, and having a disordered sexual orientation (i.e. being gay) is a vice. Only if you affirm that being straight is a virtue can you apply to it any kind of virtue ethics. But if you say that an ordered sexual orientation is a virtue, then you must also say that an ordered eye is a virtue. That is the Jews ethics, and those were condemn by Jesus, in the episode I already mentioned.

        Hope this is the engagement you were looking for.

      2. and no my argument does not make the mom with a headache a worse mom. because feeling like crap because one has a headache is a perfectly reasonable reaction to having a headache. you have not supplied a proper analogy is what i am trying to say. virtue theory does not just look at “action” and “intention”. it also considers the circumstances in deciding “right” and “wrong.” in the analogy you supplied, “headache” is an extenuating circumstance that makes the mother’s grumpiness about making dinner reasonable and therefore not bad or sinful at all.

      3. As to your point about sexual orientation being a virtue or a vice and how that doesn’t make sense… That is the exact incongruity I am trying to point out. We have come to a point of agreement. My claim is that if gay sex is intrinsically evil, then there is no way to have a gay sexual orientation without partaking in vice, which as you point out, does not match the way we think about sexual orientation.

      4. I am approving this despite its (what I presume to be unintentional anti-Jewish sentiment) because this kind of thinking is unfortunately very common among Christians and hopefully this can be something we all can grow from.

        Jesus was a Jew; his ethics were Jewish. When he disagreed with other Jews about various things, it was an intra-religious debate…no different from how both of us are Christians yet disagree. Jesus did not condemn Jews nor did he condemn Judaism. He remained a Jew until his death (and even after his resurrection) as did his first followers.

        This belief that Jesus was opposed to “the Jews” as a monolithic group is a very unfortunate misunderstanding promoted by Christian theology that has led to all sorts of anti-Semitic persecution (not that I am by any stretch calling you an anti-Semite).

        For more on this I recommend checking out the amazing work of Amy-Jill Levine.

      5. First of all sorry, Jews was an unfortunate way to shorthand pharisees, it was neither supposed to be an anti-semitic comment, nor even was I regarding the Jews as a monolithic group. Thanks for pointing that out.

        Indeed it looks like we have reached one point of agreement: sexual orientation is not a virtue. The conclusions we take based on that fact are however very different.

        Sexual orientation is not a virtue, therefore there is nothing wrong in being gay. But chastity is a virtue, therefore being unchaste is a vice, whether one is unchaste with someone of the same sex or of the opposite sex. Therefore, a gay person, like Eve, who follows the virtue of chastity, does not defy the Church teaching, as the Church doesn’t claim that being gay is a vice nor being straight a virtue, and Eve is not contradicting the Church’s teaching on chastity.

        Finnaly, your argument does make the mom with a headache a worse mum, because you said that good feelings and bad feelings make for better and worse persons. Of course a headache is a perfectly reasonable reason to not wanting to make dinner, and of course we need to look at the circunstances. But that fact means that, unlike you claim, feelings are in no way a guide to a moral judgement.

        You said: “A person who does the right thing but does not derive pleasure from it is just not as good as a person who does the right thing and enjoys doing so.” You also said: “ “headache” is an extenuating circumstance that makes the mother’s grumpiness about making dinner reasonable and therefore not bad”. Therefore you are entering in a contradiction. The problem is not in my analogy but in your line of thought

      6. If course Ms. Tushnet is not contradicting church teaching. I never made such a claim. My claim was that she helps us understand why church teaching on this point is incoherent.

      7. Katie:

        As you correctly said, I don’t understand your argument.

        We all agree that sexual orientation is not a virtue. But, for your argument, you need to turn to a theory of virtues (“To make this argument, I turn to Thomistic virtue theory” as you said).

        However, it seems that any theory of virtues can only be applied to virtues, right? Applying it to anything that is not a virtue is bound to create all sorts of misunderstandings… That might be the reason I don’t get your argument

      8. yes, the point is that in the case of homosexuality the church talks about sin without talking about vice, which doesn’t really make sense. if there is a habitual desire or proclivity for a sin, you have a vice, or, at least you lack virtue.

        so yes, i think your confusion well points out the problems with magisterial thinking about homosexuality. if sexual orientation is not a vice, then acting on it is not a necessarily a sin.

      9. No, my point actually is that feeling good or not for doing what’s right is morally irrelevant.

        Let’s not forget that morals can and should only be applied to actions, not feelings nor any other thing that we don’t choose. For example, a mother with a huge headache sets out to do the dinner for the family, dreaming of nothing but her bed and rest, to the point that her cooking, though not bad, is not at her usual level. Is she a bad mother? No, she just has a headache and needs to rest. The moral fact of her looking after her family is just the same of her neighbour, also a mother doing dinner, but without any illness.

        The fact of her headache, though not unconnected from the action (after all, it did made the dinner less good than usual, probably just a bit overcooked and with less salt than needed), is, morally, irrelevant.

        Now, if I’m wrong, I would thank you if you point me to the errors of my arguments. But if I’m right, any theory that is based in the morals of feelings (as this article is), needs to be seriously revised.

      10. The difference of course is that according to Church teaching there is nothing wrong with going to sleep when one has a headache.

        The other difference is that the headache mom only postpones her desire to sleep. She will eventually act on it. While the gay person forgoes his sexual desire for life.

        For this analogy to refute my argument, you would need to show how a mother who has a headache but makes dinner anyway is like a gay person who refrains from sexual relationship because he thinks gay sex is immoral. They strike me as not the same at all.

      11. M,
        That’s not what you said initially. You said, ‘I think that someone who, despite not getting the positive reward of feeling good about doing the right thing, nevertheless does it, is actually more good.’ Of course you should do the right thing whether you feel like it or not. I have no problem with that. However, that wasn’t what you said earlier, and what you did say contradicts Thomism, which says that the better you are the more pleasure you will derive from doing good because you love the good and goodness is attractive. That’s virtue ethics. So you have every right to criticize Thomism if you disagree with it, but so far you haven’t said anything substantive about Ms. Grimes’ presentation of virtue because you haven’t engaged with it. She’s being about as Catholic as you can get in the moral framework she’s using.

      12. Amy, I think that you might have made an accurate summary of my thoughts yes, even though I think that the Thomist position is more complex than simply doing things for a reward.
        You are, however, having a very narrow view of sexuality. The sexual act is indeed ordered towards procreation, and therefore gay sex, as a act, is evil. But sexuality as a whole is not ordered towards procreation. As the Church teaches, “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.” In no way “all aspects of the human person” can be reduced to procreation, that is just one part of sexuality, and not even its main goal.
        Yes, chastity is the right ordering of sexuality, but what does that mean? Not simply the right ordering of the capacity to procreate, but the right ordering of affectivity, of love and of communion. That implies sex among those who are married, and no sex among those who aren’t.
        You said: “Of course Ms. Tushnet is not contradicting church teaching. I never made such a claim.” However, you also said:” A lesbian who accepts her sexuality already defies church teaching just by existing.” Therefore you actually said that Ms. Tushnet, just by existing, is defying, contradicting, the Church’s teaching.
        Then you said: “My claim was that she helps us understand why church teaching on this point is incoherent.” However, as I think I pointed out in my previous comments, the incoherence only exists in your line of thought, not in the Church’s teaching.

      13. M, as I have been trying to explain to you since we started talking, you do not understand my argument. As Amy pointed out, you seem to mistake my Thomistic argument for a Kantian one. You can keep repeating your points over and over again, but you are not going to persuade me that I am wrong when you can’t even represent my argument accurately.

      14. Ms. Grimes,
        I didn’t interpret you correctly? I thought you were saying that, according to Church teaching, identifying gay is, more or less, the formation of a bad disposition. To identify as gay is to be someone who ‘retains and cultivates these malignant desires.’ I mean I don’t think YOU actually believe that, but wasn’t that what you were suggesting about Magisterial teaching? I interpreted your argument to actually imply a conclusion that according to the teaching, you can be a chaste gay by being silent and viewing yourself as pathetic–not existing–until you become heterosexual, or actively working to change your orientation. I exaggerated when I said that anyone who is gay cannot be chaste–I guess if you are silent and celibate, you have a second-class kind of chastity. But wasn’t the whole point to say that, according to the Magisterium, identifying as gay must be vicious? If not I seriously misunderstand what you have been arguing.

      15. Oh, I’m sorry, I have been checking these on my phone so maybe I have gotten myself confused. I meant that statement to be directed towards M and I meant to affirm and agree with the things you said to her.

      16. M,
        You actually initially made an argument for the negative relevance of feelings, rather than their irrelevance: you mentioned that the person who does good without getting a reward is better than the person who does good without one. The thing that made one better than the other was the absence of feelings. I interpreted that as tending towards Kant, who would say that if the person does good intending to be rewarded, their action is of no moral worth, unlike with Thomism, where you expect that the reward of ultimate fulfillment is much the same thing as doing good. However, I concede that you didn’t make a blatantly Kantian argument because you didn’t expound on WHY one case was better than the other, so point taken. But I do think that in general Kant wants an ethic where feelings don’t matter at all whereas virtue ethics have a rich idea of human fulfillment. So I think you could convey your criticism most effectively by saying that it can require more virtue to do the right thing under difficult circumstances than under easy ones. Is that an accurate summary?

        Of course sexual orientation isn’t a virtue. However, if sexuality is supposed to be ordered towards procreation, then Grimes would contend that claiming a gay identity is inherently vicious because it is elaborating one’s identity around a disordered state that cannot possibly lead to the virtue of chastity, because chastity is the right ordering of sexuality. I think she is saying anyone who is gay cannot be chaste unless their orientation changes.

      17. “yes, the point is that in the case of homosexuality the church talks about sin without talking about vice, which doesn’t really make sense. if there is a habitual desire or proclivity for a sin, you have a vice, or, at least you lack virtue.”

        The church does talk about sin, vice and virtue in the case of homossexuality: the virtue of chastity, and the vice of luxury. Homossexual sex is but a part of the sins against chastity.

        “so yes, i think your confusion well points out the problems with magisterial thinking about homosexuality. if sexual orientation is not a vice, then acting on it is not a necessarily a sin.”

        My confusion actually points out the problem with your argument. If we think of homossexual sex in the context of the virtue of chastity, there is nothing wrong with the magisterium.

        Sexual orientation (either homossexual orientation or heterossexual orientation) is not a vice, so acting on it is not a sin. However, luxury is a vice, and acting on it is a sin.

  15. Well, it is not worth talking about orientation change as it is not likely possible. That seems to even be the case for pedophilia.
    Doing what you propose for sexual desires would waste too much energy and do more harm than good.
    That is even true for desires to kill or harm people one hates, which, at least for me, come up with some frequency.
    Nobody will ever be free of sinful thoughts until reaching heaven. The answer is too accept that one has desires that are not to be acted on. When a sinful desire comes up, one must take a breath and subtly redirect the sinful thoughts.

    1. I share the same sentiment as you. If people were potentially going to hell for any unholy desire or thought, then none of us would make it! The difference is in what thoughts you choose to feed. If you feed the bad desires, then yes you are in trouble. But if you redirect the sinful thoughts then indeed it’s no sin.

  16. Hi again Katie–just a quick follow up inspired by your comments at Spiritual Friendship. I would like to apologize for my heteronormative assumption that you were a straight ally rather than a lesbian which I learned from a comment there and for the ensuing strength, passion, and tone of my comments which I would have phrased very differently had I known I was commenting on an intra-LGBT debate in which you are the insider/full member/experiential expert on the topic. I now understand the very reasonable anger in the one comment about my privilege, which made me wonder if I had misidentified you and consider asking but decide to sign off instead since you were expressing frustration as well as the sense that I was repeating myself and not making a constructive contribution to the dialogue.

  17. It seems to me that Katie is onto a real contradiction ehere. In mathematics, when we find a logical contradiction, that indicates there is something wrong with our way of thinking.

    In Catholic teaching it is perfectly legitimate for a comitted monogamous same sex couple to live together and express their love in chaste ways such as holding hands, romantic candlelight dinners, hugs, chaste kisses etc.

    Such morally good acts naturally kindle sexual desire, but the Church teaches that same sex acts are always morally evil, but without being able to convincingly demonstrate that they cause any harm to anyone.

    There is a contradiction between the teaching that living together with chaste expressions of genuine love and affection is morally good and the near occassions of sin they would naturally generate through natural sexual desire.

    Perhaps we can blame God for this contradiction, but I expect she knows what shes doing with it :)

    God Bless

  18. Katie,

    Following your reasoning then thoughts that involve an unmarried person desiring or lusting after someone of the opposite sex are evil as well, correct? And if married people lust or desire someone of the opposite sex outside of their marriage these thoughts would be evil too, right? I can only assume that you feel these (heterosexual) people should be working to eradicate these thoughts from their mind, right? Do you think this means however that they will never lust again? Outside of monks I don’t know anyone who has ever completely overcome lust. Repent of it yes, but never overcome it. I also have to mention that I found it interesting that your first go-to example of thought expunging was animal torture and not these examples of heterosexual lust and sin I’ve provided which are clearly much closer to what you were talking about gay people experiencing.

    1. Actually, I do think heterosexual sex thoughts can be a sign of an imperfectly virtuous person. And didn’t Jesus say something about not lusting in our hearts?

      That aside, I chose animal torture rather than heterosexual desire to make my point because if a person feels a spark of momentary sexual desire for a person she’s not married to it’s different from gay desire in one major way: under different circumstances, one’s desire could be perfectly holy. Gay sexual desire can never be brought to a good end.

      But I think your example actually proves my point quite well. Imagine if someone claimed that their God given and sexual identity was as an “Adulterist.” I think we would both be rightly alarmed.

  19. Katie, you are splitting hair here: “under different circumstances, one’s desire could be perfectly holy. “. It is never ok for married heterosexual persons to desire or lust for those outside of marriage and it is never ok for unmarried persons to lust or desire those of the opposite sex. Never! So to somehow suggest that animal torture is a better example is incredibly offensive, harmful and poisoning in this kind of a discussion.

    And in light of all of this I guess I am now unclear then as to the point in your article above. Are you suggesting gay people in the Church shouldn’t call themselves gay? Are you differentiating between Gay and gay? What if someone only understands the word gay, small g, as synonymous with homosexual, and it says nothing about their behavior? If you find yourself predominately same-sex attracted, then you have a homosexual orientation whether you like the word or not. Of course like the sinful heterosexual couples you repent and work to overcome those thoughts, but it will more than likely be a lifelong battle and you will never overcome them completely. And if you understand the word gay to mean simply a homosexual orientation than I don’t see a problem in using it, especially if it helps you build bridges with the larger LGBT community and restore the reputation of the Church there.

    1. Katie,

      you are splitting hairs here: “under different circumstances, one’s desire could be perfectly holy. “. It is never ok for married heterosexual persons to desire or lust for those outside of marriage and it is never ok for unmarried persons to lust or desire those of the opposite sex. Never! So to somehow suggest that animal torture is a better example is incredibly offensive, harmful and poisoning in this kind of a discussion.

      And in light of all of this I guess I am now unclear then as to the point in your article above. Are you suggesting gay people in the Church shouldn’t call themselves gay? Are you differentiating between Gay and gay? What if someone only understands the word gay, small g, as synonymous with homosexual, and it says nothing about their behavior? If you find yourself predominately same-sex attracted, then you have a homosexual orientation whether you like the word or not. Of course like the sinful heterosexual couples you repent and work to overcome those thoughts, but it will more than likely be a lifelong battle and you will never overcome them completely. And if you understand the word gay to mean simply a homosexual orientation than I don’t see a problem in using it, especially if it helps you build bridges with the larger LGBT community and restore the reputation of the Church there.

      1. you misunderstand my argument. I chose animal torture because like homosexuality it is a desire for something intrinsically evil. that’s the magisterium’s formulation, not mine. if you have a problem with that, take it up with them, not me.

        We like to think of homosexuality and heterosexuality as parallel realities (because that is the correct and commonsensical view) but if the church’s teaching is correct then they are not parallel realities at all. one is capable of being oriented towards goodness; one is not. again, that’s what the magisterium says, not me. I am simply pointing out the consequences of magisterial teaching.

        and the one and only reason the Catholic church and gay people are divided such that a bridge needs to be built is that the church harbors within it a deep homophobia animated and justified by its magisterial teachings. Churches like the episcopalians, who affirm gay people, don’t need to build bridges between themselves and gay people. Gay people are fully welcome and incorporated into that church. So yes, let’s build a bridge: let’s change the church’s teachings about homosexuality.

  20. Katie,

    In retrospect perhaps I should have said splitting hares instead in my earlier post lol. Perhaps that’s not funny. Oh well, it’s early :) I think you are missing my point. The desire of a married heterosexual person for someone outside the marriage or the desire of an unmarried heterosexual person for someone of the opposite sex will never, ever be ok. The orientation itself, heterosexual might be, but these desires never will be. And I’m willing to bet almost every single heterosexual person has such desires and will be struggling with them until the end. Because of this I see this example as much more beneficial than the animal torture example, but that’s just me.

    I don’t think he Church needs to change its teaching on homosexuality for it to have a better relationship with the LGBT community. There are many other things it can do to restore a relationship with that community and to bring others back into its fold. But again, that’s just an opinion. I am however speaking as a gay person from within the Church.

    1. Right so do you think a person should build their identity around their desires for sex with someone not their spouse? If someone came to you and said, “my sexual orientation is adultery-sexual” what would you say? You seem to think the desire for adultery example undermines my point when it actually supports it. If the proper analogue for gay desire is desire for adultery as you claim, then wouldn’t we find it strange if someone celebrated and accepted their identity as an “adultery sexual?”

      1. Kate,

        I think, and I apologize if I’m wrong, you are still missing the point. I never saw eve as celebrating her identity. I think what she has done is accept the fact that she is gay and has desires for someone of the same sex, as an heterosexual person might accept the fact that they lust and have desires for the opposite sex. Accepting it as a part of our fallen nature and celebrating it are two different things. And I also think it is a huge mistake to confuse heterosexuality OR homosexuality with just sex.

  21. Katie, have you read this article from Communio? And if so, what do you make of it?


    “The ordinary magisterium’s affirmation that homosexual inclination is objectively disordered immediately provokes an objection, which appears to be decisive. How can we define something as morally wrong if it is not the result of a free choice? Catholic teaching has made use of the distinction between “homosexual condition” and “homosexual acts” with the document Persona humana. This distinction implicitly acknowledges that homosexual orientation, insofar as it is not the fruit of deliberate choices, is not per se a moral wrong for which persons are to be held responsible. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas and the entire tradition of Catholic moral theology, we can speak of moral good and evil only in relation to what falls within the sphere of free will (“voluntarium”).(3) Tendencies that are merely “suffered” (“passiones”) are morally relevant only insofar as they are subject to the control of reason and will.

    Nevertheless, what precedes our freedom, the basic predisposition that conditions our free choices, is of great significance for morality. It can therefore be assigned a moral quality analogically, insofar as it favors a certain orientation. After all, man’s freedom is a “merely human,” that is, non-absolute freedom: a real, but finite, situated, and conditioned freedom, which rests on, and develops from, motivations, contingencies, and bodily determinations.(4) Concern for these prior conditionings, judgment of them with reference to the behavior towards which they incline, and the attempt to correct them, are all part of the inescapable task of a sound, objective, and realistic moral teaching.

    The very language that has become entrenched and that we are obliged to use in speaking of homosexuality carries with it a second difficulty and a dangerous ambiguity, for it seems to imply that “sexuality” is an abstract and neutral term, to which two apparently symmetrical versions are added only later: “hetero-” and “homo-” sexuality. In this way, normal sexuality is redefined as a later specification and implicitly placed on the same level as abnormal behavior. The ideological and manipulative character of this contrived system of language must not escape us. The apparent symmetry is in reality false: sexuality is constitutively relative to the gender difference and is thus in and of itself “normally” heterosexual.”

  22. Thank you so much for this. I am a bisexual, genderfluid Catholic and I got so frustrated at Tushnet after she wrote “Please don’t use the Church’s current failures and lacunae and flinching uncourtesy as an excuse to wallow in self-pity.” In other words, if you’re hurt by Catholic heterosexists, you’re just using it as an excuse to feel bad for yourself.

    I honestly expected better coming from another recipient of heterosexist misogyny.

    I also find that all of Side B thought – all of it – relies either on cissexism or “God says so.” Or both. Tushnet has certainly been guilty of this, too. I am interested in Side B stuff but to be perfectly honest, I have yet to see a position in favor of it that doesn’t invoke either of the two mentioned arguments above.

    It makes me question whether Side B can ever be disassociated from the more toxic aspects of Christianity. And if it can’t, if Side B is tied up with harmful and just plain false ideas…and nobody is talking about Side B from a trans or gender-variant perspective…

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