Why saying “I’m Gay” offends chastity and contradicts Church doctrine

Ron Belgau’s attacks on the Courage apostolate flow from his inability to understand why the Church uses certain words and specific language in talking about sexuality.

(Image: Zac Durant | Unsplash.com)

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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About Jim Russell 8 Articles
Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body and sexuality. He can be reached by email at dearjimrussell@gmail.com.

29 Comments

  1. Good piece. The whole spiritual friendship thing seems to be a guise for those who still want to indulge their same sex attractions in some fashion, while claiming not really to be doing so because they may refrain from particular physical acts. (One can note a dualist tendency here- the physical acts/the body are what most define chastity for them.) I think they are very dangerous and the fact they attack Courage is clear evidence of what lurks underneath. Other folks like Eve Tushnet and Leah Libresco (although less so) also need to be called out, especially as they are often touted out as “conservative” Catholics.

  2. A word more about words:

    Imaginary spectrums replace real distinctions and their definitions. Meanings of real words are first reduced to the status of mere special cases. Take “marriage” and dilute within the non-committal hookup culture. Still an anomaly to be tolerated, maybe–as a parody of marriage is cross-dressed to become a “civil-right”: parity of marriage.

    Then take “male” and “female” and dilute with the fictive spectrum of non-binary “gender theory.” Why not? After all, long ago the DNA-distinct and unborn child already was branded as a non-binary, cell-cluster of whatever. And now the Aztecs are in charge—-legalized infanticide of now-born children kicking and screaming.

    There’s still the fact of real things, distinctions, and the pesky Principle of Non-Contradiction—-the self-evident fact that contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. Not dilution into a spectrum, but a real world of either-or?

    Dang, that sounds too, what, binary! But to claim to be “gay” and “non-binary” IS already a binary statement.

  3. I resent the theft of the word “gay,” which means cheerful, bright, happy. Mr. Belgau and anyone else who has stolen and perverted the word owe the rest of us an apology.

    • John,

      At the recent synod on youth, a clandestine effort was made to insert the identifier “LGBT” into the final report. Archbishop Chaput politely opposed this maneuver, arguing that the Church deals with concrete human persons, not categories.

      The Vatican cardinal in charge of the event (and of the microphone) summarily rejected this rational suggestion. But as it turned out, in the end, ALL fourteen synod discussion groups (all bishops) that reviewed the draft “demanded” that the term be removed. Amazing! The podium bullying failed, but the Vatican operative claimed that the term came directly from the youths consulted prior to the synod. Instead this (feigned?) belief was also shown to be false. The term was shown to have been inserted by an unnamed bishop.

      The use of weaponized, identity-politics, and collectivist terms such as “LGBT” (or pick one) was averted. Small victory, but the beat goes on.

  4. In short, the deacon says the homosexual should be heterosexual. Right. But there are homosexuals. The deacon thinks that acknowledging reality is already a sin or leading to sin. I am very happy he is not a physician. He would not be of much help for people who do not happen to be healthy, and would make sick people feel guilty for it.

    • There are adulterers, too, and pedophiles, and thieves, and murderers, and people tempted to be all of those things. By your logic people tempted to commit adultery should take a word that means something good (like “cheerful” or “bright”)and apply it to themselves as their identity, as if the most important part of them is their temptation to commit a sin.

      • The silly thing is to tell someone tempted to commit adultery or any kind of sin that the only thing he should be told is that he shall not commit a sin and stop there. That’s the contrary of what Jesus said : I did not come to cure the healthy but the sick. The Pharisees did just the opposite: insist that the sinners were sinners and nothing more, lest they be compromised by dealing with them. And by the way, where in my langugae did you get that sickness was ok?… Looks like you suffer from the same deacon’s logic: circular thought.

    • Except I wrote nothing like that in my piece.

      People with SSA assuredly exist. Same-sex attraction is real; “gay” is an ideological illusion. And people *can* get help with SSA so as to better integrate *authentic* sexuality into their being and therefore achieve *authentic* chastity.

      • All right, so I gather that promoting chastity can never be “chaste” enough for you depending on who is talking. But with respect, you should insist at least as much as on what you actually advocate than on what you criticize. Otherwise one is left with the impression that chastising is more important than conveying the hope of salvation. Which is very much how you sound after reading. And what is the purpose of truth if it is not redemptive?… The Son of God did not have to bother with Incarnation then.

        • “All right, so I gather that promoting chastity can never be ‘chaste’ enough for you depending on who is talking.”

          You gather wrongly. Did you actually read the article? Are you familiar with what the Church teaches about chastity? Do you know what the Catechism says about chastity? For instance:

          People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.” Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence… (par 2349)

          In other words, sexual intercourse is for those who are married, and marriage means a man and a woman, etc. That’s what the Church teaches, and has always taught. It is not, as you apparently suggest, the teachings of Mr. Russell alone.

          • Please. So you say that disagreeing with the deacon means I ignore what “chastity” is. By the way, his reply is the only positive statement he has made in this debate (albeit all in quotes/end quotes, as if it was hurting), rather than just rounding up against someone or something. And you heartfully concur. I rest my case.

  5. I am “straight, but my son is “Gay”. You state… “Disordered experiences of sexuality like same-sex attraction are a privation of the full goodness of what sexuality really is”. The Catholic Church may be in a state of privation because it obsesses over sexual identity. I know that my son was born Gay and I have few qualms or trepidations about it. Being a good Catholic David did not come out of the Catholic closet until high school. He developed a fear that he would go to Hell because he was born Gay and the church believed that one chooses the gay life. Sad.

    • “The Catholic Church may be in a state of privation because it obsesses over sexual identity.”

      No, the secular realm is in a state of privation and darkness because it obsesses over sexual identity. If that’s not clear to you, then I kindly suggest it’s because you live in the shadows of that same darkness. Each day, I glance through and read articles from dozens of secular newspapers, journals, and sites—and they are almost all obsessed with “identity”. It’s a religious cause for them, and we live in a time of great conflict over this precisely because the Church, despite often lacking leadership, stands her ground on the truth about human nature and sexuality.

    • Except there is zero evidence that people are born that way. Parents obviously are tempted to say that because they don’t want to look at themselves, as the real cause is often found in the home, e.g., boys growing up lacking a proper bond and role model with their father, being sexually abused as a child. We should have great qualms about someone having ssa because it is very self-destructive: people with ssa have very high rates of other psychological and emotional problems, substance abuse, suicide rates, life expectancy many years lower than the average, the dangers of homosexual sex that can even lead to death (e.g., aids). And these problems are not the result of the non-acceptance of it, as is sometimes claimed, an argument which also has little force today especially. Is that what you want for your son?

    • There is a big difference in the inclination towards homosexuality and the act itself. The former does not justify or excuse the latter.

      “From a moral standpoint three levels are to be distinguished: tendency, attraction, and activity. Homosexual tendencies in any person are within the normal range of human nature, whose fallen condition includes every conceivable kind of impulse that with sincere effort and divine grace can be controlled. Sexual attraction for members of the same sex may be partly due to the peculiar make-up of certain individuals or, more often, the result of indiscretion or seduction and presents a graver problem; yet this, too, is not by itself sinful and may in fact be an occasion for great supernatural merit. When the condition is pathological, it requires therapy. Active homosexuality is morally indefensible and has been many times forbidden in revelation and the teaching of the Church”.
      Entry under Homosexuality in The Catholic Dictionary (Hardon, John, Image Books, 2013)

  6. The father of lies wants to:
    A. Separate us from God.
    B. Separate us from our true identity.
    Satisfy either one, and both are accomplished.
    Homosexuality is at the source of the current crisis in the Church

  7. A comment–and then two questions and a testimony “above my pay grade”. Please bear with me as to unavoidable length…

    First, homosexual inclination is one thing (not a sin), while the non-celibate and active homosexual lifestyle and culture are quite another, just as for others non-celibate activity outside of marriage is also a moral issue and a challenge. Everyone human person, as such, deserves respect.

    Second. There’s an under-reported claim about fetal development. Other than the discredited quest for a “homosexual gene,” is it possible that physical sexual differentiation appears first, even while fetal chemistry continues for a few weeks to conform to the mother? (British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC], Part 2, “Your First Nine Months,” July 2016). For daughters, it is held, the female conformance continues uninterrupted into adulthood, while for boys an inhibitor kicks in—enabling the unborn male child now to fully develop in alignment with his male chromosomes. In those possible (?) cases where the pre-natal inhibitor is itself inhibited, or absent, then with scientific investigation, might this rare and abnormal condition be detectable and eventually correctable, either pre-natal or later? (Or, from the start, is this BBC documentary unsubstantiated?)

    In any event, simply growing up in a broken home without a respected or at least a known father figure to emulate is demonstrably a huge factor in recent decades.

    Third—-and much more broadly—-there’s the autobiographical testimony by homosexual writer Andre Gide, as explained by his biographer and as highly relevant now to our post-1960s culture of “readiness,” sexual experimentation, and victimization (the “nephew” thing). Gide “emphatically protests that he has not a word to say against marriage and reproduction [BUT then] suggests that it would be of benefit to an ADOLESCENT, before his desires are fixed, to have a love affair with an older man, instead of with a woman. . . the GENERAL PRINCIPLE admitted by Gide, elsewhere in his treatise, that sexual practice tends to stabilize in the direction where it has first found satisfaction…”(Harold March, “Gide and the Hound of Heaven,” 1952, caps added).

    March concludes (way back in 1952!): “to inoculate a youth with homosexual tastes seems an odd way to prepare him for matrimony.” But why “prepare him for matrimony” at all, when a U.S. Supreme Court fatwa can simply redefine “marriage” itself as an artifact of “homophobia” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015)?

    And fourth, as for addictions in general, even overindulgence in digital and virtual reality games is now known to produce corresponding neuro-chemical changes in the brain itself, e.g., dopamine which is responsible for reward-driven behavior. Pornography is reported to be more addictive than heroin or cocaine. A recent MRI study at University College London strongly implies that even a habit of lying tends to suppress the part of the brain (the amygdala) that responds emotionally to a “slippery slope” pattern of small and then larger lies (reported by Erica Goode, New York Times, October 25, 2016).

  8. I think it is sad that the homosexual has become the new tax collectors and lepers. Condemnation and judgementalism has taken the place of understanding and compassion.The Church teaches that sex is for procreation and relationship. The former is denied homosexuals but the latter is proven possible by the many homosexual couples that have been together for over 50 years. Why are the very elderly denied marriage because they can no longer procreate?All animals procreate only humans can love each other.Being homosexual is not a choice any more than heterosexuality is a choice.

    • It is not really true that the Church teaches sex is for relationship–not to mention procreation. If that were true, pre-marital sex would be permissible. Sexual union instantiates a specific kind of relationship, a one flesh union (a marriage). The two become sexually and reproductively one organism, a union of persons. That is simply not possible for two people of the same sex. Only a female can receive the body of a male, and so only a male can sexually give himself to a woman. This is why celibacy is so important today–it is a witness that happiness is not about intimate sexual relationships. Rather, happiness is Christ, and he calls some of us to celibacy–and not just clergy.

    • You really missed the whole point of the article. There is no such thing as “being homosexual.” Until that is understood, everything else remains chaotic and non-Christian in the discussion of sexuality.

  9. This is an outstanding article, clear, accurate, and honest… all requirements of charity. I continue to be amazed at how many good Catholics, who strive to be of one mind with the Church on every other issue, nevertheless believe in and adopt the language of modern sexual Identity nonsense. Dcn. Russell is quite correct: Once you accept the phrase “I’m gay,” you are on your way to denying the Truth of human nature, and ultimately, that what the Church teaches is the Truth of Christ.

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