Responsible love: digging deeper

Gay priest “Bart” continues his weekly series of posts on the challenges of sexual honesty faced by gay priests:

Rummaging through a pile of books waiting to be read, I picked up Sex Camp (Brian McNaught) and took a cursory look at the contents. I thought: Well, this is just what I need to read right now! The book details the workings of a week-long programme on sexuality. The manner in which the events are narrated make it a thoroughly absorbing book, a blend of fun and seriousness, but informative nonetheless. More or less midway through the story, Brian and the rest of the team discuss in greater detail the importance of achieving and maintaining sexual health. Two particularly interesting definitions resonated with me, and helped me to understand that there is a common denominator to sexual health and responsible love. I would like to reproduce the definitions here [emphases in bold print are mine]:

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (World Health Organisation, 2002. The original definition together with a report was made in 1975, and was subsequently refined)

And:

“Sexuality is an integral part of human life. It carries the awesome potential to create new life. It can foster intimacy and bonding as well as shared pleasure in our relationships. It fulfills a number of personal and social needs, and we value the sexual part of our being for the pleasures and benefits it affords us. Yet when exercised irresponsibly it can also have negative aspects such as sexually transmitted diseases – including HIV/AIDS – unintended pregnancy, and coercive or violent behavior. To enjoy the important benefits of sexuality, while avoiding negative consequences, some of which may have long term or even life time implications, it is necessary for individuals to be sexually healthy, to behave responsibly, and to have a supportive environment – to protect their own sexual health, as well as that of others.

Sexual health is inextricably bound to both physical and mental health. Just as physical and mental health problems can contribute to sexual dysfunction and diseases, those dysfunctions and diseases can contribute to physical and mental health problems. Sexual health is not limited to the absence of disease or dysfunction, nor is its importance confined to just the reproductive years. It includes the ability to understand and weigh the risks, responsibilities, outcomes and impacts of sexual actions and to practice abstinence when appropriate. It includes freedom from sexual abuse and discrimination and the ability of individuals to integrate their sexuality into their lives, derive pleasure from it, and to reproduce if they so choose.” (Office of the [US] Surgeon General, 2001)

 

 

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Some Questions for Heterosexuals:

This Heterosexual Questionnaire has been around the net for a while, but remains pertinent. The formulation below comes from socyberty:

Questions for Heterosexuals to answer:

1. What do you feel caused your heterosexuality?

2. When did you decide that you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible that your heterosexuality is caused by a fear of the same sex?

4. Could it be possible that your heterosexuality is a phase that you are going through?

5. Do your parents know that you are straight? How did they react?

6. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Would it be possible to be heterosexual and not flaunt it?

7. Why do heterosexual place such an emphasis on sex?

8. Why do heterosexual feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?

9. A large majority of child molesters are heterosexual, do you consider it save to expose children to heterosexual teachers in school and in youth groups like the boy scouts?

10. How can men and women know how to please each other when they are so anatomically different?

11. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

12. Is it really safe for a woman to be heterosexual when there is such a higher rate of STDs and pregnancy among heterosexual women than lesbians?

13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?

14. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don’t you feel that he/she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his/her leanings?

15. Would you want your children to be heterosexual considering the problems that he/she would have to face?

 

Related articles

Rethinking Church and Sexuality: London Conference

One of the features of last year’s extensive publicity over sexual abuse and Catholic clergy, was the appallingly inadequate preparation that priests received in their training for matters of sexuality – their own, or that of others in their pastoral care. To some extent, the attention given to sexual abuse over the past few years has dramatically improved the position for those currently in training, but much remains to be done. For evidence of this, we need only consider the response of some bishops to works such as “The Sexual Person” (by the lay Catholic theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler), which the US Bishops attacked simply because its findings conflicted with Church teaching – without any serious attempt to engage in the evidence and thoughtful reasoning the book presented. We can also point to the ignorance displayed by others who casually cite “nature” as support for Church teaching, when the overwhelming weight of evidence from the real world, whether in the animal kingdom or from human anthropology, flatly contradicts it, or who argue against “redefining” marriage, with no recognition at all of how marriage has been constantly redefined over the centuries, often directly by the church itself.

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Marriage, Procreation, and “The Broad Book of Nature”.

At the British Catholic publication “The Tablet”, there is an important column by Clifford Longley, reflecting on Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ recent BBC radio interview, and in particular on some of his remarks about homosexuality. The full article is behind a paywall, so I am unable to supply a link. I would urge you though, if you can to try to arrange sight of the original. Bill Lindsey at Bilgrimage has already written at length about some of the implications of this. I want to pick up on some other aspects.

This is the only part of Longley’s column that quotes the Archbishop directly:

“When it comes to understanding what human sexuality is for, there is a lot that we have to explore.. Because I think what is at one level in the broad perspective clear, is that there is an intrinsic link between procreation and human sexuality. Now how do we start from that principle, not lose it, and have an open, ongoing conversation with those who say, well, that’s not my experience? How do we bring together some principles that if you like are written into the broad book of nature, and individual experiences? That’s the area that we have to be sensitive and open to, and genuinely wanting to explore.”


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Queer Gods, Demigods and Their Priests: The Middle East

(For a proper understanding of the place of homeroticism in Jewish and Christian history, it is instructive to contrast it with its place in other religions. I have described previously how many religions not only accept a recognized and important place for same sex love, but even identify specific patrons of homosexual love. I now propose to consider the many other gods and goddesses who either took same sex lovers themselves, or were served by sexually or gender non-conforming priests  and priestesses. I begin, as any account of the development of civilization must do, in the Middle East.)

Same sex love is a common theme in world religion and its literature, and is even present at the very beginning of literary history. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the world’s oldest work of literature – and includes a central theme of love between two men. The hero Giligamesh was the king of Uruk, described as two thirds god and one third man, and a giant in size and strength, with a prodigious sexual appetite. He routinely used his strength and royal power to take advantage of both young men, taking them from their fathers, and young women, taking them from their husbands. To protect their sons and wives from the kings lust, the people turn to their gods, and in particular the creator goddess Aruru, pleading with her to send Gilgamesh a companion on whom he can expend his energies. Aruru responds, and sends to Gilgamesh a man, Enkidu, who is massive in size, inspiring in physique, hairy like an animal, and with luxuriant tresses of hair “like a woman”.

 

Gilgamesh's Grief at Enkidu's Death

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Gay priests: Coming Out, Discovering Love – 2

Bart, a gay priest, continues his weekly series of reflections on the challenges and difficulties of coming out for a priest. In this week’s reflection, he begins to tackle the thorny issue of sexual activity:

Having laid down the groundwork by talking more generally about love (not simply love as eros), I will now enter the minefield. That a priest – of all persons – should wish to directly talk about sex is problematic enough. Throw the gay ingredient into the mix and we have a bomb in our hands. So be it! Let’s talk about sex.

I take it to be axiomatic when I say that we are sexed beings. By this I mean that humans are not simply spirits. We are embodied beings, we occupy space, and one of the major characteristics of this body is that it presents certain features that we commonly refer to as gender characteristics, male or female, or (more rarely) both. Clearly we are not asexual beings, just as much as we are not disembodied spirits. It is most unfortunate that in two thousand years of Christianity we have not wholly succeeded in coming to terms with both our corporeality and our sexuality. I suspect that the Catholic priesthood is the symbolic locus of this neurosis. Cue the film “Priest” (1994).

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The Incarnation and Celibacy: Reflection on a Reader’s Comment

One of the joys of blogging is that I sometimes get to learn so much from my readers. This response to my post on Jesus and the Beloved Disciple set me thinking:

One of the points traditional theology makes on the Incarnation is that what was not taken on by the human nature of Jesus was not redeemed. Hence the idea that Jesus experienced same sex attraction is essential for those who look to him as the source of salvation. Perhaps the Celtic View of Salvation would be more helpful here than the Augustinian One. Rather than concentrating on the woundedness of human nature by sin undone by the redemption the idea that Jesus is teaching us how to be truly human serves to give context to the meaning of what redemption is about. It is as if Jesus is teaching us a song that we once knew but have forgotten. Jesus is providing the courage to take up the melody again.

His is not only instruction but empowerment. Intellect and Will Together assemble a portrait of genuine human persons fully integrated in all aspects of the character and personality. Jesus makes us whole. The Spirit continues this Mission of the Son in our time renewing the face of the earth so that Eden is Intimacy with God, with Self and With Others: a Garden of Delight, Openness and Love.


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