Andrew Sullivan: Being Gay and Catholic

Since so many of our blogposts lately have, thanks to recent events, dealt with homosexuality, same-sex marriage and so on, here's a gay Catholic speaking about what it means to be one.  Andrew Sullivan, author, former editor of The New Republic and blogger on "The Daily Dish," at Princeton University last week speaking on "The Politics of Homosexuality."


James Martin, SJ

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8 years 10 months ago
Liberals often say that the Catholic Church is obsessed with sex.  I don't see this.  What I see is America Magazine and other liberals who are obsessed with the Church's teaching about sex and marriage.  You just won't stop.
Unlike Mr. Sullivan, I like the Jesuits accept the authority of the Pope and the Magisterium.  I thought that was what all Catholics believe? 
Fr. Martin, do you have an opinion about this statement of Mr. Sullivan?  Is he wrong, as a Catholic, to reject this teaching concerning morals or am I wrong?  I am Jesuit trained.  Can you give me clarity concerning the authority of the Church on matters of morality?
8 years 10 months ago
What sentimentality and false ideology that Sullivan provides as empathy and logic.
Sullivan says:
"It is the duty of every person to speak from his heart what he sincerely believes to be true...the core of our faith is love."
Regarding the virtues: "Faith, hope and love - the greatest of these things is love.  And to ask a whole group of human beings to live without love, without the intimacy with out the support and care of another human being is an act of crulety and it is an act of cruelty on the part of the church not to see that."
I first remember Sullivan on the national intellectual scene not as a prophet of homosexuality but, but first as a prophet of the pre-emptive war in Iraq and the liberal duty to support this war in an effort to end the violence that was occurring in Iraq at the time.  His logic regarding homosexuality is connected to this predisposition towards abstract "justice" and "love.  His reasoning today regarding homosexuality is as faulty and as sentimental as was his apologetics of "love" that resulted in the slaughter in Iraqi.
Flannery O'Connor describes sentimentality as such: "It is an excess, a distortion of sentiment usually in the direction of an overemphasis on innocence and that innocence whenever it is overemphasized in the ordinary human condition, tends by some natural law to become its opposite.  We lost our innocence in the Fall and our return to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ's death and by our slow participation in it.  Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strong suggests its opposite.  Pornography, on the other hand, is sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purposes and so far disconnects it from its meaning in life as to make it simply an experience for its own sake."
In his quest to justify his personal autonomy, Sullivan attempts to sentimentatlize the Catholic faith - to reduce it from the complexity of the Incarnation of Christ, the teachings of Christ on the law and on love, and the resurrection into the simple, abstract and sentimental notion of love.  He rejects the grander ideal of love of God and substitutes his personal idea of love and continues his crusade to have his emotions validated by an individualized theology where "every person can speak from his heart (of his desires)."
It is also absurd that he claims that love is only truely experienced when it is sexually intimate - an idea that presupposes that all those who are without such experience - religious orders, singles, those with various afflictions - are living a cruel existence.
It is Sullivan - with his abstract and radically individualized notion of "love" - who is attacking the true and whole nature of Cathlic faith, not the pope.  And how strange it is (or not) that Fr. Martin would pick a clip that ends on this false and twisted attack on the Holy Father...
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 10 months ago
Andrew has more videos of the speech on his own website and a link to where you can view the entire speech.  I listened to it last night.   I would like to see a representative from the Church respond to each of his rationales exposing the incoherence of the Church's position against homosexuality.
It seems to me that we're getting close to the center of some fear that has been tightly guarded for centuries.  Once we get it out on the table, it may be that there was nothing to be so afraid of after all.
Vince Killoran
8 years 10 months ago
I didn't take Andrew Sullivan to be offering an exhaustive lecture on "love" but I do think he identified, in an honest way, his experience and his understanding one kind of loving relationship. In what way was it, to quote Brett Joyce, "abstract and individualized"? The lengthy quote from  Flannery O'Connor and her mention of pornography doesn't seem relevant.
As to Joe Kash's statement, "What I see is America Magazine and other liberals who are obsessed with the Church's teaching about sex and marriage.  You just won't stop": If you mean that Catholics will discuss, ask for clarification, and maybe even disagree in good conscience with some actions and statements by Church hierarchy, then, yes, "we just won't stop."
Stanley Kopacz
8 years 10 months ago
If Mr. Sullivan is truly committed to another person, he is no longer autonomous or individual as Mr. Joyce says, and this is the end of abstraction.  It sounds as if Mr. Sullivan is making the best of the cards dealt him and to live as Catholic as possible.
8 years 10 months ago
Could we ask Mr. Sullivan to formulate an argument based on God's love for us that would demand that Catholics should no longer have to go to church or confess our sins?  Shall we start taking votes about what the Catholic church should teach?
What other pro-homosexual esteemed celebrity speeches can we look forward to your posting, Father?
8 years 10 months ago
Stanley writes: "If Mr. Sullivan is truly committed to another person, he is no longer autonomous or individual as Mr. Joyce says, and this is the end of abstraction."
But a two individuals do not make a society!
It is their lifestyle - and his emotional argument for it - that are abstractions because they go against natural and social law and use an simplified, individualized notion of "love" to justify their defiance. 
For Andrew Sullivan it is only his individual emotions and feelings that guide his actions.  He is very sincere and very likeable in his presentation (and he speaks in the modern language of radical individualism) - but that does not mean that he his right.  It was the same emtional, abstract pitch for the Iraq war (from a liberal!) that helped lead the nation to spill blood - He was wrong then and he is wrong now.
As for the O'connor quote, it is to define the type of sentimentality that Andrew purvays and that last bit on pornography can be applied to homosexuality: "it is sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purposes and so far disconnects it from its meaning in life as to make it simply an experience for its own sake."
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
There is actually scripture about the nature of marriage, which Jesus quotes and which was originally part of Genesis, that shows why marriage is important for gays and lesbians.

A person, when they marry, shall leave ones family and cling to their spouse and the two shall become one flesh. This is as much about legality and spirituality as it is sex.

Gay marriage would never be an issue except for straight family members who denigrate the rights of gay spouses. There is absolutely no justification for such bad treatment, since procreative interests are not essential to marriage (or fecundity would be required by Canon Law - it is not - only functionality - since marriage must be a sexual relationship).

There are many more families with gay children (and parents) in the Church then most people think. As marriage rights are recognized legally, they will begin to come out of the woodwork to demand acceptance and celebration of these unions.

Once Humanae Vitae said that unitive sexuality was a good in and of itself within marriage - that such sex is a gift from God - it was only a matter of time before married gay sex must be recognized as equally good. The current Pope, as CDF Chief and in the name of the last one tried to put in the sophistry that homosexuality is disordered - since this is necessary to not allow gay marriage. However, the disordered argument does not hold up to scientific scrutiny (which is necessary in order to claim that a teaching is the result of natural reason). All that is left to justify the teaching is the misreading of scriptures (both the abomination codes which would also make eating scallops wrapped in bacon a stoning offense and the pseudo-Pauline prohibitions which were written against most sexuality because the writer believed and hoped that the end of days were nigh - which they obviously were and are not).

The current teaching, which was reformed under the last Pope, will be reformed again to align with the real life of Catholic families in the pews. One can hope that this is not so, but then one may be disappointed.
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
The issue is not about chosen lifestyle, personal autonomy, sentimentality or a denial of the need of repentence, but instead a natural law question of whether the teachings of the Church in this case are correct. The classic natural law ethics class, Fagothy's Right and Reason, which is standard in Catholic minor seminary (and pre-law) classes, could only rely on theism to accept that homosexual relationships were not in accordance with natural law. In other words, the author was forced to punt.
8 years 10 months ago
The issue is not whether you can "disagree in good conscience" but whether the Church has authority concerning faith and morals. Fr. Martin please help us. It seems that many hear think that the Church does not have this authority. I think Fr. Martin, as a Catholic and Jesuit would agree that in fact the Pope and the Magisterium do have this authority and Catholics are bound by this truth (correct me if I am wrong, Fr. Martin). The Church does not force anyone to be Catholic. The Church's teaching concerning homosexuality has not changed and will never change.

Fr. Martin, I do respect your posts on culture but I think it is a major error for you, a Catholic and Jesuit, to not make sure that the bloggers at this Catholic and Jesuit website understand the teachings of the Church concerning Magisterial authority and homosexuality. The confusion on this site should cause great concern with the America Magazine editorial staff that you are failing in your mission as Catholic priests and as Jesuits.
Jim McCrea
8 years 10 months ago
“Along with Scripture, the teaching of the church on sexuality is based on what is called ‘natural law.’ By no means do I want to dismiss this tradition. Indeed, in its positive dimensions, the natural-law tradition is compatible with my argument that moral thinking should begin with what God discloses to us in creation.
But I add three cautionary points: (1) appeals to what is “natural” are often in fact appeals to what is culturally constructed (Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11 on the veiling of women comes to mind), and must always be challenged on the basis of actual human experience; (2) determining what is “natural” or the “order of creation” is often-as in recent Vatican theology-far removed from the analysis of actual human existence, and instead represents a form of essentialist thinking on the basis of Scripture; (3) appeals to the order of creation need to be chastened-as Paul himself recognized in 1 Corinthians 11-by the recognition that the “new creation” brought about by the Resurrection of Jesus has real implications for our understanding of the body and sexuality (see 1 Corinthians 6-7)."
~ Luke Timothy Johnson, Commonweal, June 15, 2007
Phillip Clark
8 years 10 months ago
It's such a welcome and encouraging sign to continue to see debate, as in this area provided by Fr. Martin, continue amongst the People of God concerning this greatly, sensitive issue-perhaps one of the most, profoundly sensitive-of our times. As a gay Catholic I can sympathize greatly with Mr. Sullivan's deep, steadfast love for the Church juxtoposed simultaneously with consistent frustration, whenever its leaders seemingly make no attempts to understand (pastorally or practically) in a genuine way what the lives of dedicated gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Catholics truly offer to the universal Church and to the world at large.

Whenever this subject is broached amongst the hierarchy, all that is proclaimed is condemnation and the reiteration of the declaration that acting upon homosexual attractions is a "disordered condition."

We know what science has to say about homosexuality, and by and large, in the majority of individual cases it is not something that is chosen or learned, but is rather a condition that has been bestowed upon the person or dwelt there from the very beginning.

So, when will the leaders of the Church truly seek out an enlightened response to this issue (incorporating the virtues of both Faith and Reason, which are so dear to Pope Benedict)? Only time will tell, but I hope and pray that forums such as these will contribute to an even greater discussion of this and other contentious issues within the Church in a civil, reasoned, and truly providentially enlightened manner. Hopefully, the sign by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna to question the law of mandatory celibacy among priests in the Roman Rite, in light of the European manifestation of the sexual abuse crisis, can give us hope that one day, the leaders of the Church may contemplate the issue of homosexuality in much the same way, with equal reflection and compassionate consideration of the lives of LGBT Catholics thoguhout the world.
Jim McCrea
8 years 10 months ago
“The Church's teaching concerning homosexuality has not changed and will never change.”  Oh, really?
It's church history time. 
Former Catholic “teachings” that you don’t hear much of anymore:

It was OK to own slaves.  In 1866 Pope Pius IX declared, “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”
Earning interest on loaning money was wrong. The church condemned usury at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and the Council of Vienne in 1311.
Anyone who wasn’t a Catholic was doomed to hell.  You know, the old “extra ecclesia nulla salus” thing.
Almost anything the church said about Jews prior to Nostra Aetate.
It was OK to kidnap a Jewish child who was clandestinely baptized and not let the child go back to his parents to be raised as a Jew.
Women are a near occasion of sin.
If you eat meat on Friday and die before confessing, you will go to hell because to do so was a mortal sin.
You were not allowed to read the Bible without prior church permission.
You were not allowed to read any book on the Index of Forbidden Books.
Do you remember the Galileo Affair?
8 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin,
Jim McCrea's comment above is a great example of where America Magazine can do a better job helping with this confusion.
We need some Catholicism 101 here.  Some basics about the teaching authority of the Magisterium concerning faith and morals and the consistent teaching of the Magisterium concerning the 6th commandment.
Posting Mr. Sullivans video in a neutral manner is a serious mistake for a Catholic, Jesuit magazine/blog.  The responses in the blog show the confusion concerning the Church.  One might have a great reason to believe that sex outside of a Sacramental marriage is good but one is seriously wrong to state that it is ok for a Catholic to have sex outside of a Sacramental marriage.  Doing this with free will and with knowledge of the Church's teaching constitutes mortal sin and puts an individuals soul in jeopardy.  I believe America Magazine and Fr. Martin take great risks by not making this clear to its readers.
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
The Magisterium does not defeat a well formed conscience. Indeed, if someone is gay and knows that their orientation is natural to them and that expression of it with a spouse is a gift from God, it would be a violation of consicence for them to obey the Magisterium.

It would be a conscience violation for me to not defer to the will of a sibling's gay spouse in all matters having to do with their well being, should they become incapacitated (irregardless of what my mother thinks). Indeed, my siblings would outvote her and make sure that my brother-in-law's wishes were honored. Of course, this will soon be a matter of law anyway, once DOMA is repealed.
8 years 10 months ago
Mr. Bindner,
I am not sure if you are Catholic but if you are it would serve you well to read the Catholic Catechism section 1776 to 1794.  If you are not Catholic then you might also read these sections so you can understand what Catholics believe about conscience.
If your conscience leads to to disagree with the Catholic Church then free will allows you to choose another faith.  The Catholic Church does not impose but proposes the Truth for all to believe.  Its your choice!
Anthony Miller
8 years 3 months ago
Met someone before Christmas who always seemed a bit camp and was shocked when he told me he was divorced after 5 years and had had a mental breakdown due to suppressing his homosexuality for decades - presumably because either his parents would never accept it or he couldn't come to terms with it himself.

So the girl lost five years of her life, is unable to marry again in the Catholic church because he lied to her about not being gay and he spent ages being treated for depression?

I am not gay - I'm just a promoter who books people who turn out to be gay tell me where is the ''pastoral care'' for gay people here?  Where is the point in trying to force someone to live a lie?

The sophistry is that homosexuality as a condition is not sinful
but the acts themselves are a sin is stretching credulity.
The Church's position would seem to be
''Yes, we are homophobic but we dont want anyone to be beaten up because of it''.

The church now teaches that homosexuals are called to a life of celibacy not to a sexually loveless marriage. 

This would seem to be in contradiction of the LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The church is now reduced to arguing against homsexual partnerships/marriages call them what you like on the grounds that Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”. 

Is marrying someone older who you know cant concieve to be condemned on the same grounds?

With the exception of the bixsexual homosexuals how could anyone possibly live to these codes without denying their sexual nature?

As a promoter I doubt that the Catholic Church will ever admit homosexual relationships.  They do, after all, erode it's potential customer base.



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