Following is my column that appears in this weekend’s print edition of The Catholic Post.
I’m embarrassed to confess this, but I’m just going to be honest.
I was hesitant, even worried, to review Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith by Eve Tushnet. That’s even though I immediately considered it a must-read.
I was worried about writing a review that would do justice to this excellent work.
I was worried that my devoted Catholic friends would raise an eyebrow at the title or subject matter.
I was worried that those dear to me who are gay and not Catholic will think I’m judgmental or I reject them in any way. That one worried me a lot.
But after re-reading this book and highlighting quotes on just about every other page, let me assure you that Gay and Catholic is one of the most important books this year, and should be read by just about everyone.
Gay and Catholic is more than memoir, more than explanation and exploration of Catholic Church teaching on sexual and spiritual matters. It’s three books in one, each substantial and essential.
The first part is Tushnet’s own story of growing up openly lesbian and Jewish, converting to Catholicism as a sophomore at Yale, and then living her faith as a gay Christian. It’s honest and well-written—a wise Catholic memoir.
The second part is an exploration of the vocation all are called to as followers of Christ. Tushnet considers the primary target audience of the book as gay Christians, but I think this section (indeed, the entire book) is applicable to anyone who wants to live an authentic life.
Ponder these two quotes:
“Every vocation will challenge you and stress out out, and leave you feeling like you’re in over your head. It will reshape you in the way the ocean reshapes a curving, twisted rock formation—by wearing you down. But every vocation can also be an “adventure,” a gift. The pains and the joys can’t be separated, although there will be seasons in which one or the other predominates. And you can’t do any of this alone, by sheer willpower.”
“Surrender control in favor of love; It’s probably obvious how this might improve your spiritual life.”
How are those not true for marriage and motherhood, religious life or priesthood, as much as it is for someone living single? The entire book is full of quotes like this, that will have you nodding your head or reaching for a pencil to write it down or share it with someone.
The third part is immensely helpful and supportive appendices. The first appendix of further resources for homosexual Christians and those who want to be supportive of them; the second appendix of questions & very insightful and open answers for gay people and their loved ones; and a third appendix of how the church can be more welcoming to same-sex attracted Christians. All not to be missed.
There’s a moment of hesitation to call Gay and Catholic a spiritual classic. Isn’t there some sort of time period—a hundred years or so—before that designation can be applied?
But so many of the insights in Gay and Catholic are like a 21st century version of spiritual classics like The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, or The Story of a Soul by St. Therese, that the label fits.
If you’re not convinced, one more quote:
“Try to picture yourself, right now, through God’s eyes. Try to see yourself with the eyes of love. Then remove everything from that image that discourages you: the disappointment you may be imagining, or the “yes, I love you, but” sorrow, or the stern “tough love” glare. When all of that is gone, what is left is clear and steady, a look that gazes directly into your eyes rather than looking down on you. That is the God who knows you, understands you, and loves you even—especially—when you are least capable of loving yourself. That is the Christian God.”
Also of interest:
*Several months ago, a lot of people were sharing a link to “The Third Way,” a documentary about a Catholic approach to homosexuality. It’s really well done. When I went to search for the link to it, I was saddened to find a lot of the search results were for anti-Catholic and very intolerant reviews of this sensible and moving film. Readers should avoid those, because the film itself is extremely well-done and sensitive.
You can watch the video on Vimeo here. Here is also a link to a Q&A by Brandon Vogt with Fr. John Hollowell, the film’s producer.
*I also read Sexual Authenticity: More Reflections by writer adnd blogger Melinda Selmys. It’s really well-done and thought-provoking, a kind of sequel (or evolution in her thinking) to her first book, Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism. I wasn’t reviewing books back in 2009 when the first Sexual Authenticity came out. Her writing style is very intense and layered–I definitely didn’t agree with everything in her book, but it’s so worthy of reading and discussion.
*I was not familiar with this website until recently: Spiritual Friendship. Lots of good information and reflection there, including a review of the conference, “Gay in Christ,” at the University of Notre Dame several weeks ago, that I first read about on Mark Shea’s blog.