Preaching to the choir

Javier Secaira, Contributing Writer

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Matthew Bach, shown above, reads Nietzsche, whose controversial works frequently spark discussion amongst UD students. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

Last week, Joseph Prever came to campus and gave a talk on being “Gay and Catholic” that was, by all accounts, fantastic. Although I was unable to attend the lecture, I heard talk of it for days afterward. Which is awesome.

Homosexuality can be an uncomfortable topic and, understandably but unfortunately, there has been a tendency to simply hold to the Catholic position that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, and then hope that no one you know is gay. For this reason, an event like one that the University of Dallas just put on, where people are given the opportunity to be challenged in their pre-existing beliefs, is invaluable to spiritual and intellectual growth and maturation.

As Catholics, we are fairly confident that we have things figured out. We are able to take for granted that there is a God, that He is Love, and that there is an order to our lives springing out of our relation to Him. Furthermore, because of revelation in the forms of scripture and tradition, we also know that there are certain things that are inherently wrong. We accept these things as true but cannot simply rest there.

As it is, we live in a world full of people, oftentimes smarter, better-read and more eloquent people, who do not accept the same things we do. So, a belief that might be compelling enough for Catholics can easily be seen as naive and silly to many others. That is why we need to constantly push ourselves to understand why, as Catholics, we hold certain beliefs. Even if we were to dismiss the issue of apologetics, there is still an inherent benefit in being forced to reexamine the value of our values and not simply take them for granted.

This is all well and good, but so far I have neglected to mention one thing — that challenging pre-existing notions is scary. Whether it be avoiding open and critical conversation about homosexuality, taking umbrage that a class requires us to read Nietzsche, or even just pushing to the backs of our minds any serious doubts we may have about doctrine, there is often an underlying fear that there is an overwhelming persuasive force that we will be unable to withstand. This is why, to return to an earlier point, we have to remember that we, as Catholics, already know the truth. In the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, be not afraid.

We should be able to examine critically and even postulate against church teachings because we have the confidence to know that, if we are intellectually honest and are earnestly seeking the truth, we won’t come to reach any conclusion other than what we already know. It’s like when we shake a table to show to someone its sturdiness, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have every confidence that it wouldn’t fall apart to the touch.

Going forward, I hope that the talk which spurred this article serves also to spur on other conversations here at UD, conversations not just about teachings on marriage, but on many other challenging issues as well.

1 COMMENT

  1. What preexisting beliefs were challenged? That homosexual inclination is intrinsically disordered? That homosexual acts, like other non-marital sex acts, are immoral? These positions, like Church teaching on abortion, contraception, etc, aren’t the fruit of some special divine locution that Catholics blindly follow, or even worse, the result of irrational animus towards “gay” people. These principles are the fruit of right reason and good moral philosophy (aka the Great Books).

    Regarding Prever (and like-minded public figures) trying to carve out space for a “Gay Catholic” identity and assimilate “gay” into the Catholic moral lexicon, UD students, versed in Augustine, Aquinas, and Dante, should have little trouble examining whether self-identification with one’s temptations makes any ontological sense. Same-sex attraction is no more an identity than alcoholism. No serious moral philosopher would argue the experience of alcoholic desires is immoral. And no one should treat alcoholics unjustly because of their temptations. Indeed the fight against alcoholism takes extraordinary courage, often to a heroic degree. Likewise with same-sex attraction. It is a disorder, not an identity. To hold this conclusion is not homophobic.

    UD students with normal sexual desires shouldn’t feel pressure to remain silent on this issue, and ceding the field of discourse to individuals like Prever (being “gay” doesn’t make one an expert on homosexuality). The UD education provides everything you need to discuss sexual ethics and related pastoral concerns with precision, integrity, and charity.

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