The Catholic Church: How Can We Make It Just, Inclusive, and Accountable?
I approach this morning's topic as a gay man. I have been gay since I was a child. I was gay when I graduated from Notre Dame, 50 years ago this month. I am still a gay man.
Being gay is not a choice. It is like being left-handed. If you are a lefty, you can do your best to write with your right hand. But no amount of effort will make you a right-handed person.
The Vatican tells me that I am "intrinsically disordered" and that I possess a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil."
I find it impossible to think of myself in this way. I am as I came from the hand of God. I was not intrinsically disordered or immoral when I was student body president here at Notre Dame 50 years ago. Nor was I disordered or immoral when I pursued studies at Oxford and Harvard, worked as a government policymaker, served 32 years in the military, helped raise two fine children, and founded a nonprofit organization that continues to benefit the nation and the world.
More important, I find the Vatican's message to be inconsistent with the central themes of the gospels. Christ's words and a careful reading of Biblical texts, not misguided official statements, should be our guide.
Absent change, the Church's current views on gay and lesbian issues will continue to alienate a significant percentage of each generation of young Catholics, including many capable and idealistic individuals. Ending this loss will require a willingness to study the facts, the humility to change one's views, and Christ-like compassion.
Thomas F. Field '54
I graduated from ND in 1986. Since that time I have felt virtually invisible as an alumna until this summer's issue of Notre Dame Magazine. Thank you for publishing an issue that talks about my experience with life at Notre Dame and my experience as a lesbian alumna. I have always enjoyed the high quality content of your magazine, which is the only contact from Notre Dame that has continued to resonate with me. Once again, you are leading the way in presenting clear compelling journalism that unfolds another layer of the mystery of life to be contemplated by those of us who grew up in the shadow of the Dome.
Barbara Grant '86
Well, the story about "what the church has to say" by John Monczunski doesn't have it quite right. The church does not condemn as illicit the sexual activity of married people who are unable to have children. So much for that argument. The bottom line is the church has it wrong—as they have had any number of things wrong in the past: ask Galileo or Luther or money lenders in general. Get it right, guys, the clock is ticking.
William Dell '69
I found the articles to be slanted toward one side of the issue and most assuredly against the teachings of the Church. To be more complete, you should have included an article on Exodus International, a Christian organization that proclaims freedom from homosexuality—definitely not politically correct but successful nonetheless. You hear nothing of that angle in the liberal media today, which Notre Dame Magazine continues to aspire to be a part of.
Ed Knauf '81
Rochester, New York
Terrific! Finally, a set of insightful and personal articles on a topic that typically is swept under the rug at ND. For the thousands of us alums who are gay, the magazine speaks to us on our terms. In the past, the magazine often had heterosexuals writing about gay issues as if these were arbitrary choices; now our voices can be heard. No matter what other alumni will inevitably write, our only choice in life was either to be true to ourselves or to suppress our orientation. We did not choose to be gay, we chose to be who we are—and are all the healthy and happy for making that decision. Witness the many who have suppressed their sexual orientation or tried to hide it in marriages that didn't work. Bravo to ND Magazine for opening up the discussion at long last.
Peter Nardi '69
I personally am shocked and somewhat offended by the content of the current magazine. If you people want a forum for multiple articles on homosexuality, write your own compilation and publish it independently. I've generally looked forward to reading your work, but this edition bothers me. Please omit my name from your mailing list. I no longer want to receive the magazine.
Peter J. Davin
Thank you. I think this was an excellent grouping of articles. The interview with ML Gude very much sums up the conflict of issues involved.
John Monczunski's summary article is a clear and inclusive essay on the teaching of the Church. What he does not relate to is that this teaching has been developing by fits and starts since 1957. Generally the teaching has been opening up to the complexity caused by people being aware of orientation as separable from "acts."
I find it somewhat interesting that this piece was done by an editor and not by one of the numerous theologians who might be thought the be available. But it is a pretty hot topic to ask a theologian to write about without danger to his position. Sad!
The other thing that struck me is that the personal articles all have to do with experience and the search for a person with whom one is called, before thought and decision, to enter into deep interpersonal relationship. Even Belgau, who presumably has something more to say about celibacy than it satisfies his conflicts, spend much of his essay telling readers about the importance of friendship in his life. Nelson talks about the importance of always loving his son and thereby being open to his needs and experience. Lindgren and Davis both write about the search for relationship. Perhaps a new theology of sexuality and marriage might start from the words of God in Genesis, "It is not good for the human to be alone" and look at how the experience of fulfilling that idea has found fulfillment in a world of cultures and ideals. Thank you for this contribution to understanding the dilemma (as ML Gude talks about it) and giving some indication that really morally good people face this "can of worms" and let it wriggle itself out into decisions that lead to peace of heart and soul. Maybe even to the glory of God!
Milt Adamson, CSC, '62
I am grateful to Mr. Nelson for his thoughtful, insightful and poignant essay. As a straight male with several gay friends and acquaintances, I can not understand for the life of me why so many feel threatened by people whose sexual orientation is different. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people share the hopes and fears of every person—the hope to love, the fear of loss, the joy of sharing life with another person, the pain caused by death. They have parents, brothers, sisters, and even children.
Our world will be much better off when we all agree that bigotry in any form and against any person is unacceptable and should be eliminated-not with a club, but with love and respect, as God has commanded us to do.
William Wilson '88
South Bend, Indiana
So, there's people at ND that are attracted to the same (or both) genders. OK, this is new? Why is ND Mag even covering this? Will there be upcoming issues on folks who prefer the missionary position, etc.? After all it's just sexual preference, right? One thing's for certain: We're all sinners. It seems that Christ's message is to hate the sin but love the sinner. Whether we cheat on tests or tax returns, tell lies, engage in pre- and extra-marital sex, homosexual behavior, etc. we're committing sin. We do our best (relying upon the grace of God) to grow beyond them. Whether one is professed to celibacy, single or married the opportunities for misbehaving are extraordinarily many these days. But, I don't hear the Gospels, the Holy Father, etc telling us.."Well, if you are BORN that way it's really okay though."
God gave us not only free-will to make choices but also an intellect that enables us to rise above animal behavior. To say we cannot is to deny ourselves as God's creations. How long is even the hardest, loneliest life on this Earth compared to the eternity of one's soul? We accept the hand we're dealt and we do our best to glorify God in this life be it easy or difficult.
The "Gay? Fine by me" T-shirt thing would have been better not using the color orange. It's odd that a Notre Dame based group—fighting oppression, etc.—would choose a color so many in the Notre Dame family see as brutally oppressive to our Irishness and our faith!
Tim McKeogh '80, '81 MCA
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
FINALLY! A voice for our gay brothers and sisters. I am so pleased that ND Magazine took this step in its summer issue. Those of us with gay friends and family members have long been troubled by the lack of voice for this group—countless numbers of whom are loyal sons and daughters of the University who have for too long been denied a voice. My prayers will continue in the hope that the University will move to take the final step toward complete recognition and support of gay and lesbian campus organizations. Other Catholic institutions have done so; it is past time for Notre Dame. If we are to follow Christ's command to "love one another," we can do no less.
(spouse of one alum and parent of two more)
Little Silver, New Jersey
This is a courageous and much-needed contribution to the discussion over the role of the gay and lesbian members of the Notre Dame family. My four years at Notre Dame were made immensely painful as the institution I deeply loved consistently taught that I was sinful, so sinful that "my kind" were not even permitted to meet publicly on campus. After so many years of receiving destructive and toxic messages about gay and lesbian people, this issue of Notre Dame magazine arrives as rain on parched ground. May it lead to conditions where greater respect and integrity can flourish on our beloved campus, in our families, and in the wider world. Thank you!
Joe Mitzel '87
The magazine is a perfect reflection of what the school has become: A secular caricature of its former self and a disgrace to its namesake. If I wanted to go to an Ivy League school, I would have gone to an Ivy League school.
Assuming it's even possible, cancel my subscription.
Daniel P. Duffy '87
Congratulations! The recent issue of _Notre Dame Magazine_ raised the matter of gay and lesbian life at ND that has long needed to be addressed. This of course is only the beginning of the discussion, but it is a start. For that, again, thanks.
Richard Giannone'64 Ph.D.
I met a wonderful 70-year-old ND alumnus on his way to a reunion weekend. He told me how he was going to get to see a dear friend. I asked him what made for a dear friend? He said this man was a survivor of a most terrible WWII ordeal. Thus his friend was his lifelong role model for survivorship. As a dear friend they attended the weddings of each other's children, made contact on holidays, attended funerals. I said that was a good friend, but I still wondered what made him a dear friend? He said he loved this man. He was attracted to him. Loved just being in his company. I asked if he ever told this man that he loved him. He said his friend just knew it.
As for survivorship, I think that if we are going to survive as a species we, especially as men, will have to pay attention to whom we are attracted, and assume nothing. As men we are going to have to learn to express our genuine appreciation for each other and deal with the accountability that accompanies love. I think homophobia is polite fiction for our cowardice and total failure as men to learn a variety of ways to express deep love for each other, and figure out how to get that done without having to get drunk or beat the other guy in golf, before we have the courage to express a genuine friendly attraction and in some cases even love.
We use homophobia as this socially acceptable barrier to excuse ourselves from accepting the responsibility of expressing the affection between men that I feel the apostles might have had. We have taken our infatuation with individuality to a lonely, unhealthy, warring extreme. Showing men they are our dear friends should not fall in the category of missed opportunities recognized on our death beds. Unless we admit there are healthy same-sex attractions, and find our place on that spectrum, we could end up just self-destructing as a species.
I think homosexual men have something to teach us. I think Christ very likely had an intimate relationship with Saint John, the beloved apostle, and Mary Magdala. We should admit our deep caring for each other and develop healthy social skills and stamina of character to explore same- sex attraction. As straight men we are inept. If I was walking on the road to Emmaus I imagine my first attraction to Christ would be a deep intimate feeling. Would I allow myself to see or be too homophobic?
Roger G Klauer, MD, '75
I commend the editors of _Notre Dame Magazine_ for an excellent and balanced set of articles on the issue of homosexuality. It is an issue I often take up on my blog, www.dailycontentions.com ... for instance, I have a recent post on the politics surrounding the FMA. Believe it or not, a Catholic Republican can oppose the FMA and support gay marriage on both moral and political grounds.
Lucas D. Sayre '04
After reading page after page of aberrant behavior I cannot describe my relief when finally getting to Mary Sue Twohy.
Ryan and Luke have been unduly burdened with the enigma of unknown real parents and now unique family values.
What provoked this gay-lesbian tome? Does sexual behavior of a few deserve all this attention? As a student I had gay friends. We attended gay bars. Since we were all okay with our own sexuality, it was never an issue.
As a military man I observed what the Navy called "overt homosexuality." We luckily had one man honorably discharged. A second man wasn't so lucky. He was lost as sea.
This Catholic University should not revise its present policy re gay issues.
It would be interesting to include a film of San Francisco's Gay Pride Parade along with that Rockne gem at that freshmen orientation.
Vic Tallarida '52
San Diego, California
The reverse discrimination argument against parietals is one we never thought of as undergraduates, but then in those days this was the one subject you couldn't bring up. Lord have mercy.
Dave Khorey '81
Congratulations! Finally articles about an important topic ignored for too many years. As a gay alumnus of ND, I have written in the past to the University itself and this magazine commenting on the poor way that the University has dealt with gay and lesbian issues in the past. I experienced several difficulties myself while at ND—including my mentor in 1969 writing to medical schools saying that I should not accepted since I was gay. (Luckily, all the schools ignored that letter, and I enjoyed my experience at Harvard Medical School). As the author of the major textbook on homosexuality and mental health (Cabaj RP, Stein TS (eds): The Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health, American Psychiatric Press, 1996), I am especially appreciative of the series of articles since it will hopefully provide comfort of the many gay and lesbian students currently at ND, the alumni, and the parents of gay and lesbian students and alumni. Great work, long overdue!
Robert Cabaj '70
Thank you for your coverage of "The love that dare not speak it's name." I was moved by all the articles, even the one concerning celibacy. Some people are truly presented with that charism. Others, like myself, have found that we have come to know a more loving, compassionate God, by knowing God through knowing another intimately, through thick and thin, even until death. In the aftermath, we have learned something more about the eternal, transcendent nature of love and God's continuing presence.
You have done a great service to the Notre Dame family by raising these complex issues in such a sensitive, thoughtful and caring manner. Even more importantly, you have included a segment of the Notre Dame family at the table, that has not been heard from before, her gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender alumni/ae.
Formed 12 years ago and with more than 850 members nationally and internationally, we cordially invite all alumni and friends who wish to learn more about the Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association of Notre Dame University and Saint Mary's College to contact us at our website:www.galand/smc.org
David E. Pais '72
Co-chair GALA ND/SMC
What a breath of fresh air to receive my _Notre Dame Magazine_ this joyous summer of 2004! I thoroughly enjoyed the open discussion and points of view by the many educated men and women of the Notre Dame family. Living in San Francisco (as I am sure many of us Domers live in large cities), I know many many gay people—many Catholic gay people—old, young, men, women, single, and partnered-for-life. All are so wonderful, friendly, generous, courageous and caring citizens. They are all a part of the fabric of this country that makes our free society so colorful and compassionate. I am so very thankful that finally Notre Dame is coming out of the Ice Age and discussing what has been in the closet much too long. We need to support each other, accept each other, and love each other. There is no room for hate in my family. Ignorance breeds hate, and this issue of the Notre Dame Magazine goes a long way toward educating alumni on the issues facing gay Notre Dame students and the nearly 1,000 alumni who have formed an alumni support group for Notre Dame men and women who just happen to love a little differently, but are loving children of God nonetheless. I wholeheartedly support continued discussion on topics related to social injustices (racism, sexism, homophobia and poverty).
James V. Gatteau 3rd '89
Congratulations to _Notre Dame Magazine_ for dealing so honestly with homosexuality. The series of articles is informative, lucid and quite valuable. At a time when gay people suffer so much immoral discrimination, it is satisfying to see the magazine take such a courageous and enlightened stand.
John Rockne Guinn '57
Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Congratulations on a timely coverage of the tough problem of homosexuality. The article by Tom Nelson struck home with me, except my first reaction to one of my son being gay was concern for him, then my concern.
(Francis E.) Gene Moore '45
Thank you so much for printing the article, "God Gave Me a Gay Son." Homosexuality is not chosen, but a God given blessing. Through my own son I have met the most loving, beautiful people from the gay community. We all should practice loving our neighbor and treating others the way we would wnat to be treated. Why is Jesus Christ's words never used to show the way gays are treated is bad? Jesus didn't say unless your neighbor is gay or anything else. It wasn't that long ago when another minority group was being maligned with Bible quotes!
So the _ND Magazine_ editors consider these volatile issues! I do not think so—along with 90 percent of the population. Who considers Catholic teaching volatile?
Kathryn L. Smith
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Excellent coverage of an issue that has long been ignored on campus. The longer I am away from "the shadow of the Dome," the more I wish for continued diversity, tolerance and acceptance at my alma mater. It seems as though progress, albeit slow, is being made. However, I wish for an acceleration in the recognition of a university-approved student organization to serve the needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual students. ND cannot continue to "not recognize" a portion of its student body and ignore its needs. Christ's teachings of tolerance, love for others, and not judging others certainly apply here and should provide strong guidance to Our Lady's University in formulating its approach. I have two friends from ND who have come out of the closet since graduation—I only wish they had had the resources available to assist them when they were challenged by the homophobic and conformist dorm culture.
Todd Vician '92
It was a great pleasure to read Tom Nelson's article on his gay son Mark in your recent issue. His story is a moving one which has similarities to the experiences of so many other parents of gay children: the surety of "having all the right answers" as well as the pain of discovering the need for a whole new journey to find answers to the questions which arise when your child says, "Mom, you know I'm gay, don't you?" Then I had to do what Tom Nelson did and re-educate myself in the light of this new knowledge in my life.
It is NOT easy, and it is SO rewarding. I, too, can say, "Thank God for my gay son!"
The church needs to become more accepting in many areas. We must "open" ourselves to "true love" and acceptance. We must STOP this schizophrenic existence that the Church portrays. Yes, there ARE gay priests and yes there have been pedophile priests but 98 percent of the pedophiles are heterosexual. A person should not have to "ignore" God calling one to the priesthood or religious life because they are gay. They DO have the responsibility to fully acknowledge and live their vows though. This goes for all religious who take vows. This speaks of a persons "character."Any person who chooses to represent our Church, should be bound by the ethics that have existed since the Church's inception (even-though there have been many rough and tumultuous times in the past).
Priests should also be allowed to choose between the celibate life or the life of a married priest. Until Gregory the XIII "requested" then "required" that the clergy be celibate, the Chruch has maintained that this is in representation of Christ. That is an outright lie. The Church quit allowing priests to marry, due to the fact that the Church could "seize" the young man's land-holdings and thusly acquire more and more land. In the feudal times, land was wealth, much like it is today.
This was NOT an "act" to represent Jesus' life, but an outright "covering-up" of the church's greed and desire for TOTAL power!
Celibacy should be a choice and an active choice, but one should NOT have to sacrifice love for another person because they want and desire to serve God and the Church. When we study at the university level, we just don't study ONE book and say that's the LAW, yet we tend to do this with the Bible. Many have NO working knowledge of the "truth" about the Bible, nor is the Crurch willing to share their knowledge with the "lay-people" in dealing with this book. Yes, some of it IS the voice of God and some of it is rubbish. I feel that the statements about homosexuality fall into the rubbish category. Why would Christ teach love, TOTAL Love and then turn around and condemn a group of people. Something is NOT right in that thinking. Personally, I do NOT believe that he ever taught that homosexuality is or was wrong. How can love be wrong??? WE NEED MORE OF IT not less. Remember the two most important precepts that Jesus taught. They are both based on love of God and love of man.
I simply want to thank you for the package of articles on homosexuality. These writers have conveyed very important thoughts and feelings about their lives and the lives of so many others. I am a friend of a student who had already told me how she proudly wore the orange T-shirt described in one of the articles. I was so proud of her at the time for being part of a community that affirms rather than condemns children of God who reveal another aspect of his loving presence in our world.