Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 5): The Trouble With “Do Your Best”

Continuing his reflection on lgbt inclusion, Fr Owen O’Sullivan asks (and answers) an important question:

“What’s wrong with saying “Do your best”? What’s wrong with saying to the homosexual, ‘Being a homosexual is not sinful; performing homosexual acts is. So do your best. If you fail, go to confession, ask for forgiveness, and try again. God will help you’?”.

The problem, of course, is that the statement rests on the same mistaken and offensive assumption that homosexual activities are in themselves necessarily sinful. This is the basis of orthodox Catholic teaching, and is often assumed to be true (but bear in mind that most ordinary Catholics in fact disagree). O’Sullivan addresses this by showing that the assumption is not supported by anything in the Gospels.

Jesus – who is not recorded as having said anything about homosexuality – went about including those the religious authorities of the day excluded on the grounds that they did not fit the established pattern of behaviour. Should we not consider the possibility that we might be wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time!

Hiding our sexuality by not acting on it, he reminds us, is to live in half-truths. Worse, it is a rejection of a gift from God. The parable of the ten talents shows us how negatively Jesus viewed the man who wrapped and buried his talents, fearful of using them. As a gift from God, our sexuality which must not be wasted, but must be exercised, as a gift.

Parable of ten talents

O’Sullivan does not elaborate further on this theme of sexuality as a gift, but others have done. In particular, we should note the large number of men and women, gay or straight, who report from experience that the exercise of the sexual power with another person can be a deeply spiritual act, bringing us closer to an experience of the divine. As Chris Glaser clearly outlines in his own exposition of the situation, sexuality and spirituality are complementary, not in opposition to each other. The attempt to deny or stifle one, diminishes the other. Allowing them both to flourish, allows to feed and nourish each other, in what he calls the “”.

The tragedy of the celibate theologians who formulate Catholic official documents on sexual ethics is that they can recognize a spiritual dimension to what they call “conjugal love”, but completely fail to recognize that the same thing applies to same sex love, which they can only perceive in terms of physical self-gratification. Their understanding of homosexuality and its physical expression is totally without any foundation in empirical evidence, or any reflection on personal experience.

Those of who do know what it like to give of ourselves to another in physical love, and are not too embarrassed or ashamed to speak of the experience, must share our experiences, to proclaim the truth and set it against the sexual ignorance that underpins Vatican theology.


The full series of extracts from Fr O’Sullivan’s “Furrow” article at Boundless Salvation is:

Inclusion – Is Sexuality the Final Frontier?

My own response and reflections  on these themes are at:



Recommended books:

Glaser, Chris: Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends

Helminiak, Daniel: Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth

McNeill, John: Sex as God Intended

O’Neill,Craig: Coming Out Within: Stages of Spiritual Awakening for Lesbians and Gay Men

Stowe, John R.: Gay Spirit Warrior: An Empowerment Workbook for Men Who Love Men

Sweasey, Peter: From Queer to Eternity: Spirituality in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People (Lesbian and Gay Studies)

Thompson, Mark: Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning

Thompson, Mark: Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature with Sixteen Writers, Healers, Teachers

2 Responses to “Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 5): The Trouble With “Do Your Best””

  1. John McNeill Says:

    gratutude to Fr O’Sullivan for his courageous confrontation of Church teahing on the sinfulness of homosexual acts.I addressed that isue at lngth in my book Sex as God Intended: A Relection on Human Sexuality as Play

  2. Paul Robert Says:

    My approach to those who say homosexual acts are intrinsically sinful or disordered has been to say: “Why?” Nobody so far has come up with any answer, much less a convincing one.

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