If “gay is good,” then “I’m gay” is also good. But if “gay” is not good, then neither is “I’m gay.”
And we know that “gay” is decidedly not good. Not only is it not good, but it is also not just a label or a mere word. It’s the product of a false ideology and must be exposed as such.
In fact, it implicitly offends chastity to make the claim “I’m gay.” One need go no further that the Catechism to explain just why.
Before doing that, however, it must be said why such a case needs to be made in the Church. The case must be made because not only are there flagrant dissenters in the Catholic Church’s laity and clergy who reject much or everything the Church teaches about homosexuality, but there are also subtle voices in the Church who have spent years offering a false narrative to Catholics. These voices agree with the Church’s teaching against homosexual acts, but they continue to erroneously claim that “I’m gay” is more than okay—rather, it’s well and good.
Enter Ron Belgau, the self-described “celibate gay Catholic” co-founder of the Spiritual Friendship blog site. Belgau is a vocal critic of the one and only Vatican-approved apostolate (and now a public association of the faithful in the Church) for those with same-sex attraction: Courage and EnCourage. With years of vented animosity against Courage as fuel, Belgau has once again gone on the attack in a May 24 post in which he bewails for the umpteenth time the apostolate’s “strange linguistic hobbyhorse” of objecting to using “gay” to describe persons with same-sex attraction. The befuddled Belgau claims that “[i]n the end, I don’t care much if someone else feels more comfortable with ‘person with same-sex attractions’ and wants to use that terminology.” But he does care—he spends an entire blog post caring very much about that.
He accuses the Courage apostolate of having an “obsession with language” that puts the apostolate at odds with the Church’s own use of language. He accuses Courage of having a “radical” view in conflict with the Church’s language. But his gloss of this issue is deeply insufficient and misleading.
This is not surprising, as it’s what is to be expected from one eager to justify the claim of “I’m gay” to others. By the end of the blog post, Belgau continues to show how much he doesn’t care about this issue by providing a long list of links that he and other Spiritual Friendship writers have written on it.
What’s a faithful Catholic to make of all this? The fatal flaw at the heart of the Spiritual Friendship mindset is reflected in Belgau’s personal incapacity to understand the reality behind the claim “I’m gay.” Instead, Belgau says:
The fundamental point, however, is not about words or phrases but about meaning. Spiritual Friendship writers have repeatedly asserted that we do not regard our sexuality (whatever that modern word means) as the defining quality of our personhood.
For Belgau and his collaborators, “gay” is not only “our sexuality,” but “I’m gay” is also “a” (but not “the”) “defining quality of our personhood.”
On both counts, Belgau and his collaborators could not be more mistaken. As noted above, all it takes is a copy of the Catechism to expose the errors in his thinking.
What takes this issue beyond the realm of mere “debates” about word use and labels is that Belgau unfortunately embraces the term “gay” because he believes errors about “sexuality” and “sexual identity.” Even in his quote above, he offhandedly demurs to the very meaning of the word “sexuality” and calls it a “modern word,” as though that word has not already been at the heart of Catholic teaching since the earliest days of the Church.
Belgau seems to think he actually “has” a sexuality (homosexuality) that is personal to him, one he shares with others who also are same-sex attracted. This is erroneous. Homosexuality is a distortion of sexuality, not a sexuality unto itself. This is a vital point: people don’t “have” diverse or unique sexualities—rather, they participate “in” sexuality, which is an element of our God-given human nature.
No one—“gay” or “straight” so-called—“has” a sexuality. Sexuality is supposed to “have” us. In other words, it’s implicit in who we are and how we are created. There is only one “thing” that is sexuality. Disordered experiences of sexuality like same-sex attraction are a privation of the full goodness of what sexuality really is.
For support for this claim, go to paragraph 2360 of the Catechism, which states this simply and beautifully: “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love and man and woman.” Importantly, the next paragraph adds this:
Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. (par 2361)
To even participate in the actual good of “sexuality” requires one man and one woman, pursuing conjugal love. Period. Belgau and so many others totally miss this truth.
And there’s more. It’s important to note that the Catechism says:
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. (par 2332)
Not only does same-sex attraction undermine authentic sexuality, but it can do so across “all aspects of the human person” since authentic sexuality affects all these. So, despite assertions by Belgau and others that “I’m gay” isn’t a claim about “the defining quality of our personhood,” homosexuality does indeed reflect a fundamental deficit that, if not healed or addressed well, can adversely affect all aspects of the human person.
The Catechism drives home several points, including the fact that we “belong” to sexuality as a participant in something bigger than ourselves—we don’t “possess” a sexuality:
Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. (par 2337)
Authentic chastity requires us to “integrate” real sexuality into our very being—not to merely “discover” or even invent some distorted version of it, which keeps us from seeing the distortion for what it truly is. We are “chaste” to the extent that we “successfully” integrate that which is ordered toward the conjugal love of man and woman (CCC 2360) into our bodies and souls.
But the most direct rebuttal of Belgau’s false claims regarding “I’m gay” is likely found in paragraph 2333 of the Catechism, for it directly and clearly defines “sexual identity”:
Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.
“Gay” is not a “sexual identity.” Nor are lesbian, transgender, bisexual, queer, or any other last-minute categories drummed up by secular ideology and culture. Only two sexual identities exist: man and woman. Period.
The reason “I’m gay” ultimately is a statement that offends chastity is because it reveals a fundamental divorce from reality in the person’s thinking. The “I’m gay” person doesn’t actually accept that there is only one sexuality ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. The “I’m gay” person doesn’t believe in only two sexual identities—man and woman. The “I’m gay” person, most importantly, is absolutely not—on any level—seeking to integrate real and true complementary “sexuality” into his very being.
Instead, the “I’m gay” person is settling on the counterfeit, not the reality. And doing that offends chastity.
Ultimately, this is why Belgau’s drawn-out attacks on the Courage apostolate are so unfortunate and are worthy of response. “I’m gay” is not merely a selection from a heavily garnished and healthy word salad, from which we should all be free to pick what “label” we like best. It’s far from that.
To select “I’m gay” from the label smorgasbord is to choose something poisonous to one’s own authentic sexuality and one’s own true sexual identity. Thus, even if one is sexually abstinent and virginal, clinging to “I’m gay” means saying “Yes” to falsehood and “No” to fully integrating authentic human sexuality into one’s life. “I’m gay” is not the equivalent to “I experience same-sex attraction”—it’s the opposite of it.
And it matters little whether “young people” have now grown up with “I’m gay”—we don’t need to speak the language of culture back to our young people. They know it all too well and are fully indoctrinated into its falsehood. Rather, we need to speak the language of truth to them. We need them to learn and understand that “I’m gay” is a false grail that brings no one salvation or true hope or healing. It brings instead confusion, inner conflict, and distorts our true selves.
“Gay” is not good. And, as it turns out, the implicitly unchaste “I’m gay” is even worse.
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