I like arguing. The more I’m surrounded by liberals, the more conservative I start talking. The converse is also true. I don’t, for example, have any great love for the Novus Ordo Mass in particular, but surround me with traddies and you’d think I came straight from Steubenville.1

This isn’t a great character trait. I’d like to think it’s because I’m perfectly balanced on every issue, but it’s probably just because I want to look brave and outspoken. Or something. There is something about parties in particular that makes me want to say exactly the wrong thing, just because everyone is trying so hard to do the opposite.

This is especially true at liberal parties, where so many points of view are verboten. I remember a party last Hallowe’en where I met an Oberlin alumna dressed as Dorothy. The only thing I knew about Oberlin was something about rainbow couches and gender studies, so I proffered the diplomatic remark (I had had a few beers, certainly) that Oberlin was destroying western civilization.

For some reason this struck her as offensive, but she also took it in the spirit in which it was offered — namely, a kind of beery sparring. So we sparred, beerily, for a while. Eventually, ineluctably, we came to the twin topics of abortion and homosexuality.2 Turned out she was bisexual, so my views there didn’t give me any points in her book either. I actually think I kept my cool pretty well all through being called a closed-minded, sheeplike bigot.

At some point in the discussion I thought it would be a good idea to play my trump card: as in, You think I oppose gay marriage because I’m insensitive to gay people, Well, what would you say if I WAS ONE?

Well, it wasn’t a great idea. It did defuse the situation a bit. She seemed to stop regarding me as some kind of evil authoritarian swine and and start pitying me for a medievalist self-flagellator. Sigh. We got friendlier after that, but I wasn’t able to make her understand that my life is not one of constant, tortured internal conflict. Some people imagine that, if you’re not having sex at LEAST once a week, you must be in TERRIBLE pain (whether spiritual or just pelvic), and must have to supplement yourself with various, hm, practices.3

Anyway. We parted amicably enough, and saw each other once or twice more. I stopped hanging out with her when, after inviting me and her gay friend C. out to a movie, she admitted that she had been trying to play matchmaker. To rescue me from the prison of my celibacy. This, after hearing that I would regard a homosexual relationship as a betrayal of the things I believed in most deeply.

Sheesh. Thanks, Dorothy. Dude wasn’t my type anyway.4

I’d draw a point from all this, but I have to go get ready for Mass.

1 If this sentence made any sense to you at all, then we probably know each other. Or at least we are guaranteed to know some of the same people. We may even be related.
2 Why “twin”? To start with, because if someone dissents from the Church about one, chances are they will dissent about the other, too — but this is enough fodder for at least a whole nother post.
3 Heh — actually, “supplement” is exactly right: some people regard porn & masturbation the way a nutritionist regards vitamin pills.
4 But then, what is my type? Tall, dark, and chaste?

33 thoughts on “On Celibacy, Diplomacy, and Beer

  1. deanna

    Wow! I really like your blog. Such honesty. I think talking about celibacy is probably like talking to people about NFP, most just don’t get it. And why is it necessary to tell people your sexual orientation? Is it everyone’s business? I don’t mean this because it is a SSA, but rather, why can’t it be private? People’s sex lives were private at one time, we should go back to that.

    Reply
  2. Fr. B

    I certainly share your struggle on this one. I love my celibacy. It is so liberating, which is the paradox of it all I guess. Everyone expects I was FORBIDDEN BY THE VATICAN to marry. Nope. I was invited, by God, to live as a celibate so that I could offer myself more completely to the building up of the body of Christ and I responded to this invitation with my God given freedom. There is a lot of joy in that.

    But people are correct in a certain sense, I think, to worry about a celibate being lonely. After all, I am lonely from time to time. But I don’t think I’m lonely because I’m celibate. I’m lonely because I’m a human. There is restlessness I feel in my heart (and body) because I have a desire for union with God, and I’m not expecting that union to be fully accomplished until I meet him in death. So in this life, yes, there is a degree of loneliness – a loneliness shared by countless men and women who are married.

    And I’ve learned, after seven years as a seminarian and a month being a priest, that things people say about me and my “sex life,” are much more revealing about them and their struggle to be chaste than they are about me or my struggle to be chaste. When people tell me I must be lonely, that in itself reveals which of us is actually the lonely one.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      This is a good reminder, Fr. B. My spiritual director, Fr. T., always reminds me that feeling lonely is a universal human experience, whether one is married or single or anything else.

      Reply
  3. sonja

    That was YOU at that party? :-) (I got the first paragraph perfectly, but learned two new words in the latter ones – and here I thought I had an extensive vocabulary.)

    Reply
  4. Francis

    Ha! I went to Franciscan U of Steubenville. I know exactly what you mean! What a blessed place. 4 of the best years of my life.

    Reply
  5. Daria

    Ha! loved footnote #1. My daughter went so S-ville and I’m well acquainted with the whole Novus/tridentine thing. In these arguments I tell them that for ME the Mass Immemorial is the transitional mass used from 1965-1970 (basically Tridentine in English translation with evolving rubrics), cuz that’s the mass I learned as a kid. And now we’re pretty much getting it back with the new missal translation this fall. I love the way you write. The footnotes are cute. I don’t know anyother bloggers who do that.

    Reply
  6. Jesse

    Wow, awesome site! As a married man with children, I have to tell you, occasional loneliness is universal. I’m Catholic now, but I grew up in a fundamentalist Evangelical background, and let me tell you, there is neither room nor a modicum of understanding of homosexuality–or even the concept of a faithful homosexual Christian–where I came from.

    To some the word “homosexual” or “gay” equates “active homosexual lifestyle,” and we know that many people on both sides of the ideological divide prefer it that way. Perhaps the nomenclature itself is unfortunate. We need a third word that means “person with SSA who is celibate.” Perhaps simply “Gay Celibate” would do. (But then do we call this or that priest a “straight celibate?” Ah, the limited vocabulary of the English language!)

    I don’t think that I can convey to you how much this blog encourages me, a married Catholic father of two. Because so few understand the Catholic perspective. If one of my sons finds that he has same sex attraction when he’s older, where can he go? To the anti-homosexual right to suppress and deny the struggle he faces, the horrible struggle for identity and the accompanying fears, only to have it all resurface, with a vengeance, years later? To be made to feel like he’s sinning when he’s only feeling attractions which he cannot entirely control? Or the homosexual left, to abandon everything we hold dear? There would be plenty good room for him in the Catholic Church. We need your voice, and many more voices like yours, to make that evident!

    I don’t think I can express enough my support for you or even my joy at finding your blog. God bless you!

    Reply
  7. Peter

    Hi Steve, just came across your blog and am very appreciative; always nice to find that you’re not alone in being a young, Catholic, celibate gay man. About the “well, what would you say if I WAS ONE” card: I find there’s a very strong urge to play it whenever I get into a discussion with someone about the Church’s teaching, but I rarely do. Partly because I’m still very guarded about who I open up to, but also partly in a sort of solidarity with the straight guys I know who take abuse for their argument and can’t play it. I was wondering if you’ve experienced a similar thing. Thanks for blogging!

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Huh. You make an interesting point, Peter. I usually don’t play the card because it’s a little reckless. On the other hand, I think I’d play it all the time if everyone knew. I don’t think it’s unfair (though you didn’t say exactly that) — I just think that, if anybody has the right to argue that celibacy is possible, it’s a celibate person. (Thanks for stopping by!)

      Reply
  8. Teresa

    Came across your blog via The Catholic Bubble. Your #3 brought more than a smile to my face, I had to stop myself from laughing in the office. I have to agree with Jesse, as a married woman with a little one on the way, there is something about your post I can relate to. (odd?) Perhaps it’s that feeling of wanting my own vocation and sexuality to fall in line with God’s plan as well. I look forward to reading more great posts, thank you.

    Reply
  9. Erin

    I came across your blog by a link on NewAdvent.org. You are inspiring. Thank you for your posts and God bless you!

    Reply
  10. Lauren

    I’m a straight, married woman, but I find your blog so inspiring. There is something about your writing that is so universal, and for me, a fairly new Catholic (two years – came from an evangelical background), it’s definitely useful.

    Also, I didn’t go to Steubenville, but I “get it”, the same thing, different topic, at Messiah College, where I went. (Evangelical college in PA.)

    Reply
  11. Boatman B.

    Steve: your footnotes crack me up. Pretty much all of them. I also love that she tried to play matchmaker. That’s happened to me, although the perpetrator was a “bisexual” (read: black man who can’t come out as gay, but thinks that coming out as bisexual is somehow different) who says that celibacy is actually a form of “escapism” (he’s not Catholic, though — some sort of oddly-sexually-liberal-yet-still-Pentecostal black Presbyterian denomination).

    I still haven’t figured that one out.

    Reply
  12. John

    Steve,
    Thank you so much for your blog! I am in the same boat and found your perspective and honesty really inspiring. I was really amazed and touched by the kind and cordial way you reply to people who don’t agree with you. I do wish I had your experience with kindhearted firends and family who could accept things if I shared them, but I’m still very afraid of almost everyone, although a few people know, all of them beleiveing Catholics. Actually, before I ever saw your blog, last week, I had read something in John Heard’s archives. (which I had also discovered after it closed), He is pretty strong on the need to be honest, and I felt pretty convicted. (and terrified!) and took it to confession. The priest told me that I should use two criteria to judge whom I should share this with if anyone. First, he said, if I had the courage, I could tell friends or family who tell me bigoted or hateful things as a witness to them, and secondly, if I felt that telling a particular person would help me to be supported in my being a faithful Catholic (who is gay). Anyway, I think your blog is wonderful and I will be praying for you and giving thanks to God for the witness you have given to me and to others.
    John

    Reply
  13. Hannah C.

    As someone who understood that first sentence, I guarantee you that we know some of the same people. Or at least, we know people who know people. I’d wager 2 degrees of separation at max. I went to a different Catholic liberal arts college than the one you mentioned – wasn’t Catholic – found out that once you start hanging out with Catholics (or more likely practicing Catholics) your world gets VERY small!

    Also, I’ve been to parties like that, but I usually didn’t stay very long and rarely had beer. I miss parties like that. It’s what happens when you and all your friends graduate from said Catholic liberal arts college….Or, alternatively, it’s what happens when you start your Real Life and have also graduated from college in general. Now my conversations on Big Topics are confined to Facebook and blogs.

    I found your blog through a link from another blog, lacydelagarza.wordpress.com. I’m looking forward to reading more of it. :)

    Reply
  14. Alissa

    In reference to paragraph (and footnote) 1… I do the same thing. I went to FUS. :)

    Beyond the humour of that, I just wanted to say “thanks.” I’ve tried to discuss the truth of the Church concerning gay marriage/homosexuality with other Catholics and have found myself coming up short, both in reason and conviction. Needless to say, I don’t often feel that the words coming out of my mouth ever reach the “credible enough to listen to for longer than the instant of the head nod to make this poor sap think she’s being heard” area of the brain. So I am grateful to you for your words and your work, and for sharing them here.

    May God bless you. Stay close to St. Joseph and Our Lady.

    Reply
  15. HHAmbrose

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog – the first paragraph sold me. I’m a master’s graduate from Ave Maria University. AMU was mainly composed of two types of students: classically trained Thomas Aquinas College traditionalists and happy-go-lucky Steubenville grads who while hiding behind a lot of Dietrich von Hildebrand, were really all in-the-closet liturgical dancers.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  16. MPC

    Thank you for your words of hope and love. My younger brother has been lonely all his life. I have encouraged him to seek support in his diocese which has a large system of support for homosexual Catholics, but it took him the better part of 40 tears to admit to his homosexuality, and I am not sure he feels accepted by our Church yet.
    Got to you through The Deacon’s wife. My husband is in formation with an ordination in January 2015 if the Lord wills it.
    God bless you, Steve.

    Reply
  17. albert

    Thank you Fr B ffor your comment,for the truth in it. Steve I wish I were in your country,you’re the. Kind of person I should have as friends.

    Reply
  18. Murb

    Steve, thank you.

    You probably get that a lot, but truly, thank you.

    I understand your first paragraph, I come from that world, and I’m naturally contrary. (translation: pig headed, arrogant and ornery) I have a huge struggle with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, both rationally and emotionally, but your writing- besides being delightfully amusing- is so calming. I appreciate the window into your world. Apart from all the arguments, debates, science, philosophy and logic, it’s infinitely heartening to see that there is still joy.

    Thanks. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, now that I’ve found you. God bless; you have my prayers.

    Reply
  19. Theophilus

    I think this is rather ironic considering how in Ireland being a “friend of Dorothy” is a way of saying one is gay. It’s best you’re not Dorothy’s friend, she’s lost and doesn’t know how to get home.

    Reply
  20. MamaMario13

    Hi,
    I used to be a celibate Russian Orthodox christian but I am now agnostic and an “active homosexual” with a boyfriend. I could never manage to be celibate for it was too lonely, miserable and I became a bore to be around for the family, my friends and I even ended up losing my faith. I would like to know how you manage to do it and still stay sane? I will not try to do it again of course because I could never go on that track again, especially not after reading so many books on atheism vs religion

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Hi MamaMario,

      Sorry to hear that your experience was bad. I also used to be miserable — I used to get these terrible black fits of depression. They didn’t have to do with being celibate, though. Actually, I’d say if celibacy itself had made me miserable, then becoming non-celibate wouldn’t have been a solution. Sex isn’t food: I don’t need it to stay alive or be happy. I think if I did need it, that would be a case of addiction.

      Do you see what I mean? If I were miserable just because I didn’t have a boyfriend, the solution wouldn’t be for me to go out and get a boyfriend. The solution might have to do with me asking myself: where did I get the idea that I need this to be happy? Am I so focused on what I don’t have that I’m forgetting all of the good things that I’ve been given?

      I don’t mean to say that all of the above necessarily applies to you. But it certainly applied to me.

      It’s funny, I’ve never read anything by an atheist that I found convincing. I usually found that they completely misunderstood what Christianity meant. I can’t help wondering — if you’ve read so many books on atheism vs. religion, how many of them were by Christians and how many by atheists?

      Peace,
      SG

      Reply
  21. ann carr

    We have friends in New York who belong to Courage, founded by Fr. John Harvey – died in 2010. Do you know of the organization? Ann Carr

    Reply
  22. Pingback: Being Catholic and Gay Shouldn’t be Weird « Democrazy

  23. MamaMario13

    I have read “A case for Christ” by Lee Strobel (Christian)
    God is not Great by Hitchens (Atheist)
    Ive read a few Sam Harris books and A Simple Path by Mother Teresa
    Several others lol, I read a lot of books. Anyway I hope u have a happy and healthy life

    Reply
  24. Emily

    Regarding your 1st reference…. I am definitely starting to think we should know each other? I’m from Cincinnati, have tons of Steubenville friends but also some SSPX & SPV friends who are all active in Pro-Life work. I’m living in Southern Maryland right now and have no friends in this area- I saw in one of your posts something about D.C. and I know a few people there but not enough to come up every weekend… I wish we were friends in real life! I just used your blog as a reference on a facebook argument :)

    Reply

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