Is the Catechism homophobic? Depends on who’s reading it

In a recent interview, Father James Martin voiced a common concern over the catechism’s language on homosexuality. He said:

“I’m no theologian, but I would say that some of the language used in the catechism on that topic needs to be updated, given what we know now about homosexuality. Earlier, for example, the catechism says that the homosexual orientation is itself ‘objectively disordered.’ But, as I say in the book, saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is disordered is needlessly hurtful. A few weeks ago, I met an Italian theologian who suggested the phrase ‘differently ordered’ might convey that idea more pastorally.”

I would be open to changing (or “updating,” as Fr. Martin has put it) the catechism’s language on homosexuality. But, contrary to Fr. Martin’s commentary, not because I believe the language is incorrect or out of touch with reality, but because almost no one uses or understands this language in its proper context. The language is not wrong. It’s misunderstood. And this leads to some of the worst pastoral approaches to the issue, from both the right and the left. Continue reading “Is the Catechism homophobic? Depends on who’s reading it”

When All Gay Desire is a Desire for Gay Sex

This piece was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on July 18, 2014.


A response to Katie Grimes’ response to Eve Tushnet. 

You can learn a lot in nightclubs. One evening, I was out dancing with some friends at a local bar, when a man approached one of the women in our group. She turned to him, and they danced. Then he got a bit handsy. Then he got more handsy. Then she told him to back off.

This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes men will approach one of the women, and the two will dance for a bit, having pretty innocent fun at the moment, and then move on when the song is over. There are two kinds of men at nightclubs: men who want to have fun at the club, and men who want to “have fun” after. For the second group of men, every interaction is just one small step in a longer series of actions leading to the bedroom. They’re wholly incapable of enjoying a song or a dance, because they’ll always want something more. Continue reading “When All Gay Desire is a Desire for Gay Sex”

Learning to See

This piece was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on February 17, 2014. 


A priest I know—we’ll call him Thomas—had studied in Rome as a seminarian some years ago. While there, he had become good friends with an English seminarian, Joseph, and the two would regularly spend hours walking through the Eternal City and talking. One day, they were walking through a Roman garden, and Joseph slipped his arm into Thomas’, drawing close as they walked. Instantly, Thomas tensed up, caught off-guard and uneasy.

Joseph turned to him and laughed: “Tom, you’re such an American. Relax. I just want to be close to you.” Continue reading “Learning to See”

Homosexuality and Friendship: A Response to Austin Ruse

This post was originally published at Crisis Magazine on January 2, 2014.


 They are the New Homophiles and they accept the Church’s teaching that sexual activity can only occur between married men and women. They oppose a redefinition of marriage… They are fine … with living celibate lives. They do not want to stop being gay; they don’t believe they can or even should. They believe God made them gay so they want to be known as gay and they want the Church to accept them on those terms. And they believe being gay is part of God’s plan and vocation for them.

Austin Ruse wrote that in a recent piece for Crisis. He includes me in a group of writers that he creates and names the “New Homophiles.” As Joshua Gonnerman pointed out, Ruse presupposes much more homogeneity than actually exists among this “group.” Although we accept the Church’s teachings, we have subtle nuances in how we approach these issues. Here I speak for myself. Continue reading “Homosexuality and Friendship: A Response to Austin Ruse”

The meaning of vocation

This post was originally published at Spiritual Friendship on August 19, 2013. This is the sixth in a series of posts looking at my Catholic Faith, and how it relates to my life and my sexuality. Click to see the firstsecond,  thirdfourth , and fifth installments.

In many Catholic circles today, vocation is often considered to be a calling either to marriage or to the priesthood or religious life. Growing up, I considered my vocation to be a calling to one of these ways of life. I either had a celibate vocation as a priest or religious, or I had a vocation to marriage with a woman. Continue reading “The meaning of vocation”

A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 2

So, based upon my first post in this series, our “sexuality chart” might look something like this, with a different chart for each person:

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 3.46.30 PM

(If this chart doesn’t make sense to you, you may want to go back and read that first post.) In that first post, I divided off “same-sex-attraction” from “opposite-sex-attraction” and then further subdivided by context/time/development, individual persons, and attractive qualities. I ended up with a rather complex (and perhaps confusing) view of human sexuality. In this post, I will discuss some possible implications of the theory proposed in my first post on how we (and especially Christians) can view “homosexuality.”  Continue reading “A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 2”

A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 1

Over the years, various theories have been proposed as to how we might classify human sexuality. In popular discourse, a gay – straight spectrum is commonly used, such as this one:

That is, people are “scored” as to how “gay” or how “straight” they are, with bisexuality in the middle. This is a sharp divergence from the belief that people are either “100% gay” or “100% straight.” In 2012, Io Tillet Wright traveled around the country and asked people who didn’t identify as “100% straight” to give a percentage as to “how gay” they are. The majority of people said 3-20% and 70-90%. What this reveals is that most people who don’t identify as “100% straight” don’t identify as “100% gay” either, and that the human experience of sexuality is much more nuanced than many popular theories suggest… Continue reading “A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 1”