On Monday, Oct. 19, University of Dallas students and faculty filled Lynch Auditorium to hear Joseph Prever speak about being gay.
Prever was invited by the Aspiring Theologians Club with the support of Campus Ministry and Student Government. In the lecture, titled “Gay and Catholic,” he talked about living within the teachings of the Church on homosexuality. Prever is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject because he professes to be a faithful Catholic while being attracted to the same sex.
It became apparent in the Q and A section that many people struggled with the topic. To be honest, why would anyone go to the talk in the first place if it did not challenge or interest them in some way? Prever offered his own definition of what it meant to be gay, a word he specifically chooses to use despite its baggage. He defines being gay as being persistently and predominantly attracted to the same sex. His talk centered on that definition, by discussing the three main issues there: the topics of ‘attraction,’ ‘predominantly’ and ‘persistently.’ He finished with his justification for the use of the word gay. Because of the personal nature of this topic to so many people, Prever challenged everyone in the room.
As a theology major, I like to believe that I know what the Church teaches on homosexuality. Throughout Church documents, homosexuality is explained as an intrinsically disordered sexual orientation which when acted upon is morally sinful. I am also studying pastoral ministry, which pushes us to apply the theology to concrete situations of people’s real lives. Prever gave everyone a look into what it is like to apply Church teaching on homosexuality in his own life.
Prever mixed humor, theology and experience into an hour-long, thought provoking lecture. Many points he made stood out to me, but one of the subtlest and most important was his comparison of heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Many times throughout the lecture, Prever would say how he is attracted to a man, similarly to how a man is normally attracted to a woman. Every time he did so, he gave a disclaimer saying that the two situations were not the same. Prever did not want the audience to think he believed a heterosexual relationship oriented towards marriage was comparable to a homosexual relationship.
In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on same‐sex marriage, this disclaimer is striking. Despite being able to be married civilly in the United States, Prever orients his life according to the moral law of the Church. He affirms the beauty of marriage as a union between a man and woman. At the same time, he breaks from the conservative stereotype that every homosexual is immature or sexually deviant.
The reason Prever is able to make his comparison is because everything he experiences towards a man is natural, except that it’s towards another man. Every human being longs for affection. We long for someone to listen to us, to be with us, to care for us genuinely and for ourselves to be able to provide in those ways for someone else. Someone who is attracted to the same sex does not lose this longing if, or when, their orientation is fixed. Prever evaluated that he naturally seeks love to an unnatural telos.
Male and female, we were created. The natural end of sexuality is procreation and unity of the two. Prever knows that his body as male was made for that end no matter his attraction. However, just because his sexual orientation draws him another way doesn’t mean he is any less of a person.
Prever’s talk was important on breaking the silence on being homosexual and Catholic. He started a conversation on how we as a body of believers can engage all those who may not see things in the same way we do. Hopefully this is a dialogue that can continue to show us how everyone is welcome in the church while maintaining the truth.