It is generally assumed by commentators that in the conflict over homosexuality the sides are well drawn up and that the alliances are clear. On the one hand is ranged the Pope and Curia, Social Conservatism, Sexual Repression, Church Tradition and Orthodoxy; while on the other is ranked Secularism, Progressivism, Social Diversity, Dissent and Enlightenment. One aim of this book is to show that this is not the case and that it is not necessary to adopt a progressivist mentality in order to defend homosexuals against the charge of immorality typically laid against them.
This book is proposed as both as a resource to gay Catholics, so that they are better able to defend themselves against the ignorant attacks of those who seek to vilify them, and also to those in authority in the Church who wish to study the subject dispassionately so as to inform their conscience on the matter.
Chapters 1 to 3 consider love, sexuality, marriage and family in general, so as to provide a context for subsequent discussion. Reference is made to John Paul II’s “The Theology of the Body” and to “New Natural Law Theory”. Chapter 4 presents various ideas, attitudes and facts about homosexuality in order to establish what is at stake.
Chapters 5 to 9 comment on the Biblical texts which are commonly thought to condemn homosexuality. These are shown to be ambiguous at best and plausibly to have no bearing on contemporary homosexuality. Chapter 10 highlights those less known texts which seem to favour homosexuality.
Chapters 11 to 16 present what Catholic Tradition has to say about the subjects of sex, marriage, eroticism and homosexuality. Saints Augustine, Leo, Chrysostom, Aquinas and Aelred feature strongly. Chapters 17 and 18 critique the official teaching of the Catholic Church regarding love, sex, contraception and homosexuality.
Chapter 19 presents a positive theology of sex, based
on the idea that eroticism is potentially a means of grace. Chapter 20
discusses how a gay Catholic ought to approach the Sacrament of Penance.
Chapter 21 is a compilation of heart-felt testimonies of gay Catholic laity
"This book immediately attracted me because of the poignancy of the topic. The treatment and legal rights of homosexual persons are a matter of immediate, ongoing concern and have been subject to much debate. As a person raised in very conservative circles yet repelled by prevalent attitudes toward fellow human beings sometimes found therein, I was initially fascinated by such a direct address of an extremely difficult topic.
I was not disappointed. Dr. Lovatt seeks to replace the dominant conceptions that make up the framework of the Church’s objection to homosexuality. He supports his arguments thoroughly, referring often to church fathers, papal statements, and the Bible itself. What is more, Mr. Lovatt’s presentation is respectful, not accusatory or defensive. His mission, it seems, it to wipe the slate clear of assumptions and misconceptions and then to propose a new method of constructing and organizing thought on the subject.
Dr. Lovatt does not shy away from any point of the argument. He addresses theological ideas of the spiritual significance of marriage with the same frankness, thoroughness, and delicacy with which he exposes the impact of terms used to express sexuality (historically and contemporaneously) on how people think of and respond to sexuality in general and homosexuality more specifically.
The potential impact of this book is surely admirable. For people who define themselves as homosexual (or those who struggle to define their sexuality in the first place), this book may give relief from guilt imposed by the strictures of certain religious or moral systems. For those who define themselves as heterosexual, this book helps clarify the struggle of those others who have been largely marginalized and/or persecuted by society. It may provide an avenue to realize the fullness of such struggles. For all persons, this book offers a new mode of thought - one that is inclusive, asserting that one’s sexuality does not challenge the fundamentals of society, such as marriage and the family, and destroying the idea that society needs protection from the same.
In short, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. It is unquestionably scholarly, compassionate, and respectful. Mr. Lovatt has challenged a powerful establishment, but he has done so in keeping with its most basic tenants, most notably to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40)."
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
A compelling book that deserves to be read."Is it possible to be an orthodox Catholic, affirming the doctrines of the Church whilst recoiling at doctrinal liberalism, and yet affirm the goodness of same-sex relationships? For many the answer is obviously ‘no’. The Vatican’s position on homosexuality could scare be any clearer. Those who identify as gay are considered to be ‘objectively disordered’, and those who choose to enter into a same-sex relationships are in mortal sin. Gay Catholics thus seem compelled either to embrace a life of enforced celibacy, or reject the Catholic Church. However, what if the current stance adopted by the Vatican is not a genuine transmission of Catholic doctrine? This is a bold suggestion but, if it is the case, then it would become very possible to be Catholic in every traditional sense of the word whilst opposing the current line adopted by Rome. This is the proposition put forward by Stephen Lovatt in this well-argued and interesting book.
Lovatt is fairly unique in that, whilst most proponents of a change to Vatican teaching approach the issue from a theologically liberal position, Lovatt is an unabashed Traditionalist. He is a Catholic of the old-school who stresses the importance of doctrine and has little patience for those who argue that same-sex relations are only compatible with a vacuous spirituality that has little semblance to the traditional Faith. An opening quotation from Pope Benedict XVI, lamenting the shoddy treatment of Catholics who attend the Tridentine Mass, is used by Lovatt as a comparison to Rome’s approach to gay members of the Faithful. It certainly works as those who refused to embrace the liturgical vandalism of 1960s were denounced by Rome as disobedient, schismatic, uncatholic and other terms of abuse equally familiar to gay Catholics. Lovatt has experiencd the insults on both fronts.
A great deal of ground is covered by the book, beginning with a careful exegesis of the Biblical passages that are routinely deployed to condemn same-sex relations but which actually say no such thing. Over a number of chapters Lovatt explores the teachings of the Church Fathers, relevant saints, and prominent theologians. Lovatt is a philosopher by training, and does an excellent job in explaining a variety of concepts in a way that is comprehensible to the lay reader.
It becomes increasingly apparent throughout these chapters that the Vatican’s current position on sexuality has little grounding in Tradition. Lovatt is not alone in noticing this as many Traditionalists—usually not favourable to homosexuality—have claimed likewise. The Church Fathers generally had an extremely negative view of sex, viewing it as barely acceptable and then only with the explicit intent of procreation. As Lovatt elucidates, these attitudes contrasts significantly with Rome’s current position, especially Pope John Paull II’s ‘Theology of the Body’ and the promotion of ‘Natural Family Planning’, which has clearly elevated the relational aspect of sex to a higher level than procreation. Lovatt wades through the theological babble and spiritual woo that has been invented to differentiate between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples engaging in sex purely for relational purposes.
Tradition is generally to be interpreted in some sense by the Church. A cynic may however note that the Vatican currently promotes an interpretation of Tradition that has become increasingly liberalized towards heterosexuals whilst hardened against homosexuals against whom the Church did not seem particularly bothered by until the 12th Century (indeed, Lovatt presents some interesting liturgical evidence of the Church once blessing same-sex relationships). It seems the Church is aware that very few married Catholics would tolerate an Augustinian view of sex being enforced in their marriage bed, but is unwilling to apply an equally flexible approach to homosexuals. That noted, the issue of magisterial authority is one that must be taken seriously and is certainly the most daunting issue to be overcome by gay Catholics.
Lovatt deals with this issue well. It may seem an obvious point that there are different levels of magisterial authority, but the creeping infallibility that has taken over Rome has blurred this notion beyond any recognition. The ordinary magisterium as infallible is a novelty which is testified to by the fact that it has been wrong in the past. Only the extraordinary magisterium can be considered an infallible exercise in Church teaching. Is the issue of same-sex relationships part of the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium? In the absence of any extraordinary declarations, whether by a Council or ex cathedra by a Pope, Lovatt postulates that it is part of the fallible ordinary magisterium to which Catholics have a right, perhaps a duty, to respectfully dissent. The chapters that Lovatt devotes to this are, I think, the most important and he presents his case in a manner that is worthy of serious consideration.
This book could have been polemical but Lovatt has risen above such an approach. He could be forgiven for venting frustration as, in an era when the Catholic Church has abandoned so much that was good, beautiful and, yes, Catholic about itself, it seems an injustice that the Vatican still refuses to enter into the most basic dialogue with gay Catholics on the basis that the ‘Church cannot change’. When members of the hierarchy—including the Pope himself—adopt a flippant approach to doctrinal issues that are clearly part of the extraordinary magisterium, enthusiastically abandon established Catholic devotions, and celebrate sacraments that have a form closer to Reformed Protestantism than traditional Catholicism, one has to question if they really know what they are talking about. In the absence of solid pastoral guidance to gay Catholics, Lovatt suggests some guidelines which many will find beneficial. Lovatt has written thought-provoking book which presents a convincing case that the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality is not intrinsic to doctrine, and thus it is entirely possible to be a devout and orthodox Catholic in a committed same-sex relationship. It is doubtful whether anyone in the Vatican will be quoting from it anytime soon but, nevertheless, this is a book that gay Catholics and their straight family and friends should find extremely interesting and potentially very helpful."
Sean Gregory Murdoch
"What most stood out to me in Faithful to the Truth were the passages on friendship. I think more highly of friendship having read it. In this book I found supportive arguments that healthy romantic same-sex relationships are about good and pure friendship, and that because of this they are chaste.
A major aspect of the book is its emphasis on and treatment of Tradition. I found its account very satisfying to read. It was akin to how I had already come to understand Tradition generally. I found it interesting to read an account of the concerns of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in terms of the experience, thought and understanding of people throughout history. Whereas there are other wonderful writings on the topic of same-sex relationships by both Protestants and Catholics, this is the only book I’ve read on the subject which seriously addresses the Fathers and Medieval Theologians in addition to the obvious scriptural passages. In particular, I very much appreciated the many references to the Church Fathers and to Plato.
I think anyone could benefit from reading this book, especially lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and their allies. I found it to be an easy read. Though it is well-researched and features numerous footnotes, it is suitable for popular consumption and is not just for academics. I think that anyone with an interest in the topic, whether clerical or lay will find it very accessible.
I was interested in the two paths to holiness which the book identifies: the ascetic path and the aesthetic path. Both are a part of Catholic culture. The ascetic as much as possible avoids worldly pleasures in pursuit of eros with God; whereas the aesthetic path involves enjoying beauty and pleasure – but this must involve a certain degree of discipline, so as to avoid self indulgence. Sexual activity is permissible on the aesthetic path, and is no more undignified than eating, or other bodily functions; but it must be ordered toward personal sanctification.
There is sound advice in the chapter entitled “The Practice of Confession.” It is wrong to confess what one sincerely does not consider to be a sin. It is wise to avoid a confessor who withholds absolution unless all homosexual acts are confessed. It is to be kept in mind that only mortal sins are obligatory for confession. Venial sins that implicate one as gay can be – and sometimes should be – dealt with directly with God and the human parties involved.
The chapter entitled “A Positive Spirituality” contains various prayers and meditations that may be nourishing to a gay, lesbian, or bisexual Catholic: especially given that such gay affirming material is sorely lacking in traditional sources. These prayers and meditations call us to chastity in a wholesome, affirming context and remind us that we are beautiful: for we are created in the divine image. The “fourteen theses” presented in this section invite any LGBT person to affirm their value and dignity as a creation of God: worthy to love and to be loved. Reflecting on the contents of this chapter, I am reminded that Christianity is about the mystery of Love: love of God, love of neighbour – and love of self: that we might better love God and neighbour. I am reminded that God is Love.
I was disheartened by some of the book’s coverage of the Vatican’s official teaching and of contemporary conservative theologians; but was encouraged to learn of progress being made in regard to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people at various levels in the Church. In particular the on-the-record words of a number of bishops and cardinals were good to read.
The chapter “Cries of Pain” was my favourite section of the book. Too often in Christian circles, traditional or not, there is a lack of love and empathy. This is a shame, for Christianity is a religion about the mystery of Love. It is the duty of those who will heed tradition – and so love God more fully – that we not neglect the cries of pain in the world. This section rather reminded me of the Biblical book of Lamentations, and it begins with a quote from that source. We find in this section examples of faithful Catholics longing for Tradition, and who yet find their humanity rejected by the Church. A few, somehow, find ways of remaining faithful nevertheless. What some of them have found – as have I – is that a gay-positive, affirming spirituality is what is most conducive to holiness in their particular circumstances.
This book is a wonderful opportunity to examine these matters from a Traditionalist Catholic viewpoint which affirms the dignity of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people."
A treasure-trove of original ideas.
Dr. Lovatt's book was greatly insightful for me as a struggling gay Catholic. He covers issues that most writers ignore. He discusses the nature of sexuality, Church authority, Sacred Tradition,as well as the lives of some saints who make me really proud to be a gay man.
Dr. Lovatt’s book contains a treasure-trove of original ideas in a field which is often plagued by ideology and dogmatism, namely gay historical studies and its relation to Christianity. Lovatt does not adopt the bundle of liberal/progressive premises, and prejudices often brought to this subject but instead takes it on from the outlook of someone committed to his faith and to authentic Catholic tradition.
As a veteran of the battles against the more “progressive” elements of the Church, and their attacks on orthodox doctrine and traditional worship, Lovatt is not infected by their aversion to tradition, hierarchy, dogma, and objective truth. This book would likely cause the consternation of both the most rigid conservative and the most “tolerant” liberal; but as Lovatt points out, it was so-called “weirdos” and “outsiders” – especially homosexuals – who made significant contributions to the preservation of the traditional Latin liturgy after Vatican II. There seems to be something about the Catholic Church that attracts interesting and creative gay men, such as Wilde, Hopkins, Raffalovich, and Waugh – which puts Lovatt in good company!
Lovatt provides an insightful critique of the modern emphasis of Catholic teaching on sex and marriage, while neglecting the importance of friendship (as recognized by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas) and the inconsistent – and often incoherent – argumentation against the ethics of homosexuality made both historically and today. He points out the significant changes in the Church’s attitude toward homosexuality, from the medieval hatred of the “unnatural vice” that “cries out to God for vengeance," comparable to murder and other heinous crimes, to the more modern and less malign understanding of homosexuality as an unfortunate affliction and of homosexuals as worthy of respect, love, and pastoral care, while simultaneously classifying them as "intrinsically disordered" and as threats to the safety of children.
In his treatment of the Bible, Lovatt avoids the bad arguments advanced by other gay Christian apologists. He doesn’t resort to the hyper-skeptical deconstruction of the veracity and inspiration of the texts common among liberal academics. Instead he deals with each relevant passage as someone with a deep love and reverence for Holy Scripture. Lovatt argues that the Bible has nothing relevant to say about homosexuality in general, but instead condemns things very few would defend today, such as inhospitality and the abuse of strangers, idolatrous sexual practices, pederasty, and other forms of sexual exploitation.
As a Catholic however, Lovatt’s analysis cannot end with Scripture, but must also involve a treatment of the historical teachings of the Church, particularly the writings of the Church Fathers. He admits these early Christian leaders and theologians tend to have a somewhat severe attitude towards homosexual behaviour, generally while condemning pederasty, but he puts this in the important context of the early Church’s dislike of sexuality in general and for sex, even between spouses, for any reason other than procreation. This sentiment can be found in the writings of Saint Augustine and many others; but it is an outlook no longer promoted by the Magisterium. Lovatt also highlights certain other issues on which the Church Fathers and later Catholic theologians have expressed strong opinions which the modern Magisterium now rejects – rightly or wrongly – such as slavery, usury, cremation, the Jews, geocentrism, capital punishment, and the salvation of non-Catholics.
In his chapter “What is Homosexuality?” Lovatt coherently argues against some of the more mainstream liberal theories about homosexuality. He criticizes the assumption that same-sex relationships need be centred around sex, rather than mutual love and companionship, though acknowledging the value of sex for couples. He cites Paglia’s concern with the assimilation and domestication of homosexual men, when faced with the invidious choice between a meaningless promiscuous lifestyle or a hum-drum domesticated existence; whereas historically, same-sex love often found its home in works of great art, literature, and architecture, and in the lives of pivotal philosophers, notable scientists and explorers, and even saintly priests and monastics.
Lovatt gives an exhaustive analysis of many of the prevailing arguments used both in secular and ecclesiastical spheres against homosexuality – from Natural Law ethics (which he largely adheres to), through arguments about the supposed symbolism of heterosexual sex, and various newer attempts to buttress the current Magisterial teaching – and shows them all to be defective. Even though his PhD is in Physics, Lovatt seems competent in the fields of philosophy, theology, and history.
I am a gay man who is committed to authentic traditional Catholic doctrine and practice, and I have been immensely helped by Dr. Lovatt’s book, along with many others. Faithful to the Truth is a worthy addition and update to the body of studies into the relationship of Christianity and homosexuality, comparable to the works of John Boswell, Mark Jordan, and Fr. Gareth Moore.
|One of the most refreshing treatments on the subject
"After reading, rapaciously, the pages of Dr. Lovatt's opus, I have begun to understand my faith in ways that I had long given up on. I actually returned to the Roman Church after I was freed by the knowledge on the pages of this work. I came to see the face of God again.
I can not say enough about this work. Please get a copy and open your heart and mind and watch where the Spirit will move you. I am a better man and a better Christian because of the wisdom iparted to me by Dr. Lovatt.
!! READ THIS BOOK !!"
Thorough and thoughtful"After careful reading, I must say that - of all the books I've read on the subject of reconciling orthodox faith with affirmative LGBT living - this one is among the very best. Dr. Lovatt clearly loves God and strives to live a faithful life. He has researched his subject thoroughly and given a fair treatment of a variety of viewpoints.
I expected this book to be somewhat dry, but was pleasantly surprised to find it immensely readable. Dr. Lovatt is a fine writer, and he keeps the reader engaged. Though I have read extensively on the subject, I learned a number of things I hadn't known before.
A scholarly work that is also engaging for lay readers is a rarity. I highly recommend this to Catholics and Protestants alike.
This is an absolutely wonderful, informative and faith-strengthening book. I have recommended it to everyone in my chapter of Dignity, the Community of St. Damien of Molokai."
|"You are, I think, very wise to describe the situation
as a war between two huge armies, one demanding complete sexual tolerance,
the other pharisaically repressing everything it does not feel happy with.
Neither side believes either in charity or forgiveness.
I am having to read other books about current moral theology
on sex at the moment. It is depressing work, full of non-sequiturs, unjustified
assumptions and unwarranted inferences. I could the more easily criticize
your views if I could as yet see that the other established theories were
absolutely coherent and correct. As it is I fear the whole structure needs
|"Your book arrived this morning and I've not been able
to put it down. A fascinating and enlightening read so far"
Finding grace and peace as a gay Catholic"The author never tries to justify fornication, pedophilia, or promiscuity. He gives very well reasoned arguments for a change in the Church's understanding of homosexuality and a more compassionate approach to Catholics who identify as LGBT. So many Catholics, who wish to remain faithful, struggle with fear, shame, and guilt and are beaten down spiritually because they do not know how to reconcile their Catholic faith with their sexuality. It's unhealthy and can be very destructive. One only needs to read about the teen suicides or witness the break up of families because people lack love, compassion, and the williness to welcome and accept, or atleast listen and understand. So much of what is seen and read from the LGBT side lacks the perspective of faith and tends toward secularism. This book provides a different way of thinking about the issues and encourages compassion and understanding, without rejecting the Faith."
Outstanding book"This book really changed my whole view on the subject and the Bible' content... meticulously researched and well documented arguement. It clears up many mistranslations and ends much bigotry. I cannot recommend this book enough as it adds so much to the on-going debate on a difficult multofaceted subject."
Stephen's book does not disappoint"As one converting to Catholicism (but not doing so because of certain issues), I was intrigued by the subject of being both a Catholic and gay, and how to reconcile with both.
Dr. Lovatt's book does not disappoint in bringing the subjects together.
He thoroughly researches through the history of Catholicism to propose his case in why you can be a Catholic in good standing and be gay (without the label of "intrinsically disordered" or a lifetime of celibacy). Taking a careful look at all angles, he talks about both for and against sides; if you are gay and looking for understanding, you will love this book.
The only critique I have (though not a bad one) is it is so thoroughly researched, it does "take a minute" to engage into the book - if you are rather new to Catholicism or history and philosophy, you'll be flipping around for a bit."
Well researched and comprehensive
|"I would like to use this book as a reference work in
apologetics and catechesis. I find it odd that so many catholic laymen
see clearly what the clergy don't see, and you seem to be the most articulate
exponent of that vision. Gay people would be the most loyal and orthodox
members of the Church, what a sin that the Church rejects us.
You have the patience of Job, the sharpness of mind and the deepness of thought of the kind of philosopher and theologian that I once thought gone for good from the Catholic intelligentsia."
A Catholic priest
Faithful - absolutely"I have just finished reading Dr.Lovatt's work and have to say that of the numerous books I have read on the subject of being gay and christian(catholic) this is simply the best to date. In most books on the subject the authors are satisfied with pointing out that certain Scriptures have, over the years, been misinterpreted. This is fine to a point, but those of us who hold the catholic religion also rely on Tradition as foundational to our overall view of the faith. Dr. Lovatt uses the teachings of the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Fathers to back up his premises, which is a great plus! Another quality of this work that appeals to me is that it is presented in a dispassionate way, not to say that the author is not passionate about what he says, but that he presents it in such a way that an antagonist could not come by and say that he is promoting an 'agenda', the only 'agenda' promoted in this work is that of being a faithful and spiritually healthy gay catholic. I was pleased with the copious use of footnotes and a solid bibliography at the end.
If I had any complaint about the work it would be that
the author neglects to point out that there are valid expressions of the
catholic religion other than the Roman Church that are welcoming and affirming
of gay and lesbian people and allow them to fully and openly participate
in the Sacramental life of the church.
John A. Bell
|"Thank you for your beautiful understanding of Tradition.
I am very much in agreement with you. I tend to think of tradition as the
lived experience of the gospel through the ages. It is the womb that carries
the Word and gives it birth in every age and era. It is the conversation
of believers moving in the procession of time towards the Father.
As such, I believe you are right in saying that its truth is only later discerned. It takes time for the dross removed, and gold to be refined. Our great councils (and many of our local councils) give expression to that truth. They are often the distillation of the lived tradition as it unfolded. They also help discern what in the tradition is valid and what was not. But they are not The Tradition, only a part of it."
Private Communication from a Catholic priest
|"I am delighted by both your gay and traditional Catholic
themes, as well as by the clear and eloquent manner in which you explain
and explore philosophical and theological ideas. It's wonderful to see
someone working out the ideas and implications of all these ideas, without
acrimony, and with a sense of love and truth, especially in regards to
the love and truth of Christ and the Church.
Your many citations of great writers, theologians, and the Fathers are lovely, rich, and rewarding. I wish I could take all your information in your work and use it for continued education for many people here. As you yourself well know, the gay versus Christian controveries are fueled by ignorance and lack of charity on both sides: and in a liberal community like Seattle, the ignorance and lack of charity is chiefly on the gay side, which so loathes Christianity that dialogue is nearly impossible."
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
|"My father is a social historian, and one of the things
I've learned through observing his researches is that people don't have
good memories for 'the way things used to be' when that goes back more
than Fifty years. As a result, they tend to assume that 'the way things
are' is 'the way things have always been', even when the current age is
an anomaly. I've come to think this applies to Christian attitudes to homosexuality.
It's not been uniformly disapproved of since the very beginning; its status
has wavered and dipped and risen over the centuries, and the reasons for
condemning it or justifying it have changed as our understanding of the
world and God has improved.
Thank you again for what you have done. Your account of the matter is impressive. Reading your work has been illuminating, thought-provoking and encouraging. Blessings upon you!"
Private Communication from a returnee to the Catholic Faith
|"Thanks for what you've written, your work is such a
gift to gay Catholics like me who are strugling with being both and not
becoming crazy while trying to do so. Just knowing there are others in
a situation similar to mine is such a relief. You're a beacon of hope and
Most of my gay or gay-friendly friends are not very religious so they just don`t understand me much; and the ones who are - well they tend to prefer protestantism so they can avoid coping with the Magisterium and all the problems associated with being a healthy gay person and the existence of a hierarchy that condemns one for being so!"
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
|"I am a 20 year old junior majoring in Social Work.
I applaud your work, with its excellent resources attempting to bring together the seemingly conflicting elements of Catholicism and homosexuality. As a bisexual Catholic, of a traditionalist bent, I understand all too well the problems that you decry in the Church in the post VII era. At times I feel as if I should discard it all, alas, I am forever drawn to the sacraments, from which I draw sustenance and meaning to this every dreary and demoralizing existence."
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
|"I'm currently having a little trouble 'swallowing' certain
Church teachings concerning sexual orientation, contraceptive use, gender
roles... I guess all-in-all, I'm having issues with the Church's
constant obsession with sex. Your work is very informative. Prior to reading
it, I had never seen such a robust body of church history, tradition, sacred
scripture, and philosophical commentary concerning homosexuality and Catholicism.
Excellent work! You've done a great service to young LGBT Catholics, such
as myself, struggling to reconcile our God-given natures with our God-given
faith. Thank you!!!"
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
|"While I'm not of one accord with some of your arguments,
on the whole you present an intelligent and wide-encompassing view of Catholicism
and homosexuality. I'm a 21 year old, queer Catholic living in a university
town within America's Bible Belt; many of your comments are particularly
pertinent to my parish as I constantly see debates and debaucles between
"conservatives" and "liberals" or "orthodox" and "heretics" as some put
it. I hope your voice finds its way to more ears needing to hear a little
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
|"I'm a Catholic lesbian, 23 this August. I'm still in
University and while I'm interested in theology, I'm not very well-schooled
in it. My training has been largely in the fine arts (literature and theatre),
and I've only taken one philosophy class during my entire university career.
I want to thank you for providing such a wonderful resource to LGBT Catholics.
I feel great hope when reading your work - especially as I have spent the last four years of my life feeling on some level that I had to choose between my faith and a full expression of my sexuality. I am, slowly but surely and not without much fear, beginning to realize that I may be wrong."
Private Communication from a Catholic laywoman
|"The chapter about Reconciliation really helped me with
something I started worrying about recently. I'm going through RCIA and
I was excited about Confession a while ago, but more recently I was starting
to wonder what the point of it was, like why is it so important that I
have to wait, and if I should tell my priest who I don't know very well,
that I'm a lesbian. After reading your advice, I'm deciding to hold back
on that for now, so at least I'm not worrying about it any more."
Private Communication from a woman converting to Catholicism
|"I was most impressed with your thorough dissection of
the passage in Leviticus in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, especially since neither
theology nor linguistics is your profession! I am a language teacher and
I know how easily words can be misinterpreted in the context in which they
are used, and how some words can have multiple meanings depending on their
placement in a sentence and the endings that indicate gender and number...
I don't know Latin, Greek or Hebrew at all, but no matter, the concept
of the way that different nuances in languages affect meaning helped me
to follow along what you were explaining. I found it utterly fascinating."
Private Communication from a Catholic layman
Thorough and insightful: Faithful indeed
The book starts with an overview of the Magistrium's current teaching on sexuality, and Lovatt shows that the ideas of sexual complementarity and primacy of family are actually novel teachings and essentially incompatible with orthodox belief. His arguments here are incisive and constitute a much-needed contribution to the theological discourse on gender and sexuality. It may be the most important contribution of his book.
He continues with a discussion on what 'homosexuality' actually is before proceeding to the Scripture passages that deal with, or appear to deal with, the topic. Much has been written on the Bible and homosexuality and those familiar with the literature will encounter similar arguments here. Nevertheless, Lovatt has new and interesting ideas to contribute. His understanding of Hebrew language and grammar is clearly a strength and provides insights on Sodom and Gomorrah and Leviticus. His presentation of Romans 1 as consisting in three parallelisms is one of the most lucid I have read, and the comparison of the passage from Wisdom and discussion of the cult of Cybele and Attis situate the context convincingly.
Lovatt canvasses Church history to gain insights from the Fathers, lives of the saints, liturgical witness, legislation, and finally the development of current Magisterial teaching and theology of sex. The greatest strength is the completeness of his investigation. Lovatt does not hesitate to present whatever quotes, laws, or other evidence are relevant, even if they appear to undermine his thesis. Indeed, many do so, but he often argues that neither are they supportive of the Magisterium's current teaching. For example the positive representation of same-gender affection seen in the lives of the saints, Scripture, and ancient liturgies, though never explicitly sexual, is not compatible with the Magisterium's current understanding of same-gender orientation as intrinsically disordered. With regards the Fathers, an inspection of just Augustine and Chrysostom shows the Fathers agree on very little with regards to marriage and eroticism, so little can be argued to be Apostolic.
On the other hand, a major weakness is that Lovatt's treatment of certain evidence will come across as disingenuous, especially to less sympathetic 'conservative' readers. Pointing out the fact that St. Basil's warnings to monks against lust for each other are directed not to the laity but to people who have made a commitment to celibacy, for example, is unhelpful, as Basil's general opinion on homosexual acts would hardly have been different for the laity. The discussion of modern teaching on pg. 207 and 208 is specious, especially Lovatt's treatment of Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii. He offers a quote that effectively demonstrates that procreation is Pius' intended meaning of the term 'intrinsic nature of the act', but follows up by saying 'On the other hand, this might be a reference to the idea that all sexual activity [...] should be an expression of affection', and then asserts that Paul VI 'changed this teaching again.' Lovatt seems to want to paint a picture in which the Council of Trent, Pius XI, and various early Church Fathers stand alongside himself on the side of `orthodoxy' whereas Paul VI and John Paul II are modern innovators. But any attempt to do so seems absurd, because teachings like that all sexual intercourse outside marriage is sinful and that all homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral were certainly shared by all these figures. Lovatt might argue that this is of no consequence as these teachings never had a solid basis in the Gospel or in a clearly common patristic theology, that their premises are unorthodox and unsustainable, and they have not been defined or declared infallibly. These are very good arguments and help show that 'Tradition' (note the capital) is on Lovatt's side. But 'tradition' clearly is not, and pretending like it is will only make less sympathetic readers dismiss this book from the start. As much as the author likes to distance himself from 'liberal' Catholics, whether he likes it or not he ultimately has much more in common with them than with the pre-Vatican II figures he esteems.
The book concludes with some very helpful insights into the purpose and history of the Sacrament of Penance, its abuse by the hierarchy, and advice on how to approach the sacrament as an orthodox gay Catholic."
|"In 'Faithful to the Truth: How to Be an Orthodox Gay
Catholic,' Stephen Lovatt lays out his thesis well, that the Catholic Magisterium
has failed so far to enunciate a logically consistent response to the phenomenon
of God-given romantic love between those of the same gender. However, the
end of the book comes too abruptly, abandoning the purpose of its subtitle
of how gay Catholics are to cope with this fundamental misunderstanding
Never is Lovatt's research wanting: copious footnotes are provided in the text to back up every point he makes. First, he points out how the procreative end of marriage as viewed in 20th century Church documents constitutes a shift in thinking over earlier times, both Greco-Roman pagan and early Christian. The next part of the book undertakes a critical dismantling of the isolated verses in the Bible that have been used as bludgeons against gay people, and similar passages in the writings of the early Church Fathers. It is sad that this has to be included in this book, but frankly it is more or less required of any book dealing with Christianity and homosexuality, and Lovatt does a great job of disproving that these passages proscribe gay identity and relationships as we know them today.
Lovatt then jumps back to modern Church documents and their attitudes toward coming to terms with gay people in modern society. He shows that these attitudes are not based in fact but mostly upon comparing them unfavorably to heterosexual relationships, such as forbidding them because they cannot end in procreation.
Finally, he espouses the opinion that gay people should not mention their homosexuality in the Sacrament of Confession, and includes a few pages of testimony by gay laymen and gay priests, showing the struggles they must endure in the Church. Unfortunately, the reader gets a sense that the Church is hopeless, and one must indeed wonder why it would be in a gay person's best interest to not leave the Church for greener, more accepting pastures.
Nowhere does Lovatt address this question, nor does he give any real content related to indeed trying to remain an orthodox Catholic when faced with such misunderstanding and bigotry. Also not discussed is what to make of the Church's demand that gay Catholics remain celibate (without an abiding charism like men and women religious, no less), nor quasi-official groups like Courage or NARTH, who staunchly toe this line and reduce gayness to bouts of 'unwanted SSA' [same-sex attractions], as if sexual orientation was a series of momentary temptations to be overcome. Perhaps an upcoming edition of this book could include some sound pastoral guidance or words of consolation from priests or writings of the saints, instead of ending this book on such a suddenly downward note.
So, in a word, I found Lovatt's book to be a welcome volume from someone who values Sacred Tradition and is only faithfully questioning the consistency and disinformed nature of the Church's official stance on its gay children, instead of advocating outright disregard and bashing of the Church. However, despite being impeccably researched, the book comes to a too-sudden end before offering much assistance to our current dilemma -- as if Lovatt, too, is puzzled."