I am a cradle Catholic, born and raised in the Puerto Rican tradition. More recently I’ve been labeled a ‘cafeteria’ Catholic by more orthodox or traditional Catholics, and I can see why they believe the title is appropriate. I fall hard to the left on almost every conceivable social issue. I do not believe being gay or “living a gay lifestyle” is a sin. Therefore, I felt a certain amount of apprehension and even mild dread upon deciding to attend Joseph Prever’s talk on his experience as a gay Catholic. Given my past experience with Catholicism’s treatment the L.G.B.T. community, I assumed the worst going into this lecture. I was happily mistaken.
The Aspiring Theologians Society, working alongside Campus Ministry, brought in blogger Joseph Prever, who in the past has gone by the pseudonym Steve Gershom, as a guest speaker. Prever’s website, gaycatholic.com, aims to help Catholics who are gay or questioning their sexuality to understand themselves in light of the Catholic faith, reconciling their sexual identity with their religion. I found his speech to be an excellent place of mediation between those who share my beliefs, and those who subscribe to more conservative views.
Prever stated that he was both Catholic and gay, and gave his own definitions of the terms. He said that he is “persistently and predominately” attracted to members of his own gender, and believes in the infallibility of Catholic doctrine in matters of faith and morals. He then refined his opinions on gay acceptance within the church, especially validating the existence of gay members. He also shared his own experiences as a gay Catholic.
For me, and for those with more liberal tendencies, Gershom’s explanation of what being gay meant to him, and his feelings of love for other men, were eye-opening. To think that a gay person could want to live a life of celibacy without condemning his own homosexuality was both wonderful and astounding. This message should also help non-gay Catholics to better understand L.G.B.T. people without viewing them through a purely sexual lens.
Another surprising point was his skepticism at the scientifically debunked “conversion therapy,” which many Christian denominations, including certain Catholics, continue to support. I congratulate him for taking a stand against the homophobia present in such groups, as he noted that homosexuality should not attempt to be altered in some way, even if it may be possible in a rare few instances. Heterosexuality, he argued, should not be the ideal goal for every person, or the criteria by which one’s value is measured. I completely agree, and wish such sentiments could be more present at the University of Dallas
Some may not agree with Prever. Many would probably find that someone like me agreeing with his opinions should warrant a moment of pause in the idea that middle ground could be found between two seemingly opposed positions.
Is dialogue between L.G.B.T. persons and those of the Catholic faith really as difficult to initiate as it is often made out? Sure, there are disagreements, often with homophobic undertones, but I believe this topic does not need to be one that causes controversy and heated debate. It should be seen as an opportunity for all to show compassion for one another, and to value the shared humanity between us.
This type of dialogue could easily become a step away from the long-held stigma about UD and the people who choose to come to this type of university. Labeled by the Princeton Review as one of the most homophobic schools in the nation, the University of Dallas is in need of an intervention. This issue brings about the most arguments by far in the comment section of the newspaper’s website, where arguments concerning morality and sexuality become personal attacks and entire essays of commentary are written.
That is why speakers such as Prever are so important for UD. Tolerance of independent thought, along with inter-faith and diverse conversation on L.G.B.T. issues, should be important. We should take steps toward establishing such middle ground that could change how we as a university are viewed, while also making the campus more comfortable for L.G.B.T. students. Prever’s openness and acceptance of his homosexuality, while simultaneously remaining true to his Catholic views, are important steps in a direction that we as a student body would do well to follow.