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Temptation Mysticism Print E-mail
By Anthony Esolen   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014

In True Morality and Its Counterfeits, Dietrich von Hildebrand scrutinized what he called the “sin mysticism” of prominent Catholic novelists, like Graham Greene. He saw that the authors, reacting against the dead “righteousness” of hypocrites who went to church and kept the commandments outwardly but who did not open their hearts to God and neighbor, had set up a false dilemma and drawn false conclusions from it.

That is, if it is “better” to sin a full-blooded sin, as does the prostitute Sonia in Crime and Punishment, than to sleepwalk through life in a moral condition that is neither white nor black but merely blank, then we may suppose that such sinners, closer to God than the blanks are, are granted valuable and admirable revelations into good and evil. The sin becomes a “happy fault,” whereby God brings unexpected virtue and wisdom into the world.

Let’s be clear. This position has no Scriptural warrant. Jesus never says, “Blessed are those who have plumbed the depths of sin, for they shall be as wise as serpents.” Jesus never recommends sin for spicing up the buffet. Jesus eats with sinners; he does not sin with sinners. Saint Paul, aware of his sinfulness and his frailty, never says, “It was good that I persecuted the Church, because now I’m in a fine position to promote it.” Paul says he becomes all things to all men, to win some; he does not say he dabbles in their temptations.

Von Hildebrand is careful to show that any good that God may, in His Providence, bring forth from the sinner’s past, is not attributable to the sin, either in itself or by circumstance. The simple Sonia, who prostitutes herself to keep her family from starving, is not admirable for the sin but despite it. We deplore the prostitution, but admire her love and heroism. Sanctity comes to her from God despite the sin, not because of it.

Nor can time-bound human beings presume upon God’s Providence. We cannot know what God would have wrought from an Augustine who did not live his youth in dissolution. We must never look upon our sins as anything other than sins – bringing spiritual sickness, hardness of heart, blindness, and calamity. They have absolutely no value, period.

That applies also to temptation, or to evil proclivities.

Suppose John is tempted to steal. Whenever he sees beautiful things that don’t belong to him, he begins to covet them. He muses about how he might filch them and get away with it. But he does not go through with the imaginary thefts. He knows that the law of God forbids it. “I’m a kleptophile,” he says publicly, and is praised for being honest and brave.

What value are we to attribute to John’s inclination to steal? Absolutely none – he’d be far better off without it. It is a distortion of his true nature. Suppose John says, “See, I am being celibate with regard to other people’s things. Am I not virtuous?” We must answer, no, not at all, and warn him against making of his frailty a mysterious object of pride.


      Descent from the Cross (detail) by Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1435

We’ll say to him, “It’s good to admire admirable things and to be glad that other people possess them. It is not good to muse about taking them, and certainly not to be proud of the musing.”

Suppose Jerry likes to work with children. He thinks they’re beautiful. He likes to draw them. He admires their small bodies, their smooth skin, their little muscles. He seeks out swimming pools so he can look at them. Jerry says, “I am a pedophile. But not to worry – I never have touched a child in a funny way, and I never will, because I follow the moral law.”

What are we to make of this advertisement? Is Jerry morally admirable for having the inclination, and for resisting it? Does he have special things to teach us about children which we might otherwise miss?

We may admire his struggle against the evil; we may not admire the evil that makes him struggle. It would be better for Jerry if he did not suffer the inclination. It would be better for everyone. His refraining from evil is not in itself a good, no more than is John’s refraining from filching.

We may say, “It is good to have a keen appreciation of the beauty of children. But your appreciation is distorted. You would have a better appreciation of their beauty if it were rightly ordered. It does you no good, and it does us no good. You must not make this inclination into a totem.”

So with all inclinations to evil. They do not make up our personalities. They thwart them, or dampen them, or distort them. When we say, “I am a thief,” if we mean anything other than “I have stolen,” we are in error. We are who we are despite and against our evil inclinations.

And that is what we have to say to people – hurting, no doubt, and sometimes lonely, and perhaps staring at a life without a spouse and children – who say, “I am gay.” We don’t deny that the temptation exists. We don’t want to take it lightly. But we must deny that it is a fortunate disorder, either for the person who suffers it, or for the rest of us who do not.

And we must most firmly deny that the disorder should be attributed to people who possessed a keen capacity for friendship, about whom there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that they ever cast a yearning eye towards evil.

And when we ask whether we should make our frailties public, whatever they are, the only criterion must be charity for others – all others.

 
Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Reflections on the Christian Life: How Our Story Is God’s Story and Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. He teaches at Providence College. 
 
 
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Comments (43)Add Comment
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written by Guest, February 12, 2014
Excellent, excellent, excellent.
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written by Sue, February 12, 2014
And we must especially deny the good of such homosexual identification for a candidate for the priesthood, even though the celibacy of the priest and the celibacy of the homosexual may seem to dovetail. Most importantly, because the priest must minister to and prepare couples for marriage, calling for a clear understanding of the man-woman relationship.
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written by Pam H., February 12, 2014
First, I think perhaps you do Graham Greene a disservice if you put him in the category of your examples. I've read three or four of his books, and it doesn't seem to me he claims the tempted are holier than the mediocre. It has seemed to me his characters are clearly saved when they choose to turn back and do God's will (the priest in Power and the Glory, who chose to serve God by performing the sacraments in spite of his reluctance, even in the face of the probability of martyrdom), and clearly NOT saved, when they choose to continue in sin (such as adultery) in spite of hearing God calling them to Himself.

Second, seems to me your examples are not of "people who are tempted but who refrain from sin": Christ says, those who choose, freely and with full consent, to dwell on temptation have already committed the sin, regardless of what they do with their bodies. Just wanted to make that point.

Third, I'm not sure this is why the "new homophiles" are calling their inclination a "gift". I've not studied their position in depth, but think it might be along the lines of having a child with Down's syndrome or Cerebral Palsy being a gift. I still think this position is wrong. Every child is a gift, but it does not follow that Down's syndrome is a gift - the child with Down's syndrome is a gift, but the syndrome itself is not.

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written by Guest, February 12, 2014
Pam H,

Things like Down's is a physical evil. It is not a temptation toward a grave evil. The New Homophiles should compare "gay" temptations to the temptation toward pedophilia or arson or some moral evil.
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written by Pam H., February 12, 2014
Other thing I thought of, is if the Cross in one's life can be thought of as "gift", then the inclination (NOT temptations dwelt on) to homosexuality could possibly be looked at as a "gift" in a sense not incompatible with Catholicism. A comparison would be the bodily inclination to alcoholism (not temptations dwelt on or indulged, but the physical inclination by itself). It seems some Catholic teachers (saints?) have indicated that the Cross is a kind of gift. If this is what the "new homophiles" mean, then I might agree with them.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 12, 2014
Trying to make a vice into a virtue is...well, a vice in itself.
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written by Pam H., February 12, 2014
The physical inclination is not a vice. Dwelling on it is. I was not talking about dwelling on the temptation. I thought I had made that clear.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, February 12, 2014
The Council of Trent says, "But this holy synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin."

"Left for our exercise" suggests that this id for our benefit.
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written by Stanley Anderson, February 12, 2014
I think this may also have a lot to do with how we “deal with” Hope. I have mentioned in the past some of my thoughts on that subject – ie, I think Biblical Hope can be distinguished from worldly hope in that worldly hope has two aspects, a longing or desire for something COMBINED with some degree of uncertainty about attaining that desire, whereas Biblical Hope is a longing or desire without regard to one’s certainty or uncertainty. And of course Biblical Hope is specifically a desire for God. In fact, I have conjectured that C. S. Lewis’ concept of “Joy” that he talks about in his autobiography “Surprised by Joy” (and many other places, like the afterword to “The Pilgrim’s Regress”) is a kind of pre-conversion version of Biblical Hope. He describes “Joy” as an inconsolably intense (almost painful, but a pain to be desired above all other pleasures) longing that is evoked by various experiences of beauty in the world, eg gazing at a meadow on a distant hillside and longing to “be there”. But he explains that if one actually goes over to that hillside, as enjoyable as it might be, that intense longing disappears. It is a longing for “I know not what” and Lewis talks about pursuing that longing through many experiences and events, always having it disappear the moment one thinks the object of that longing is at hand. He concludes that it is a longing for God that can be evoked by things in this world but never satisfied by those “false objects” of that desire. Thus my conjecture is that this longing of “Joy” is simply Biblical Hope that has not yet identified its source, ie, a pre-conversion form of Hope.

Ok, all this to say (and Lewis mentions this also) that one of the dangers we face is in confusing the object of that longing and “letting” the world give a false “satisfaction” to the longing and “shutting out” its true purpose by closing that window to God in our souls. The Medusa of mythology turned those who looked upon her face to stone. It is as if we, in our fallen nature, are a kind of reverse Medusa where we, by letting a false object satisfy that longing, “turn” the holy desire of Hope into stone by looking at and being deadly satisfied by the false object. We have made the object that invoked the longing and that was meant to be a signpost pointing onward to God into a block in the road instead.

Finally, I think of two Biblical examples that people may let “get in the way” of your wonderful descriptions in the article – 1) the “hot or cold” preference to the lukewarm that gets spit out, and 2) Paul’s thorn in the flesh. But as you indicate, it is not that either the “cold” or the thorn are a good things in themselves. It is only that the “cold” has some hope of correction, whereas lukewarm-ness (that I would liken to an ultimate medusa-like turning to stone of all Hope) is apparently hopeless. And that Paul’s thorn-in-the-flesh is not unlike Lewis’ objects that invoke Joy, but are not to be confused with the true source of the Joy itself. Paul’s thorn is meant to lead him to trust in God all the more, as opposed to those who would “give in” to the thorn and throw God out instead.
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written by Pam H., February 12, 2014
Also, a virtue and a gift are not the same thing. I'm not saying I believe the inclination to homosexuality IS a gift. I'm saying, the Cross can be thought of as a gift, and by that train of thought, it's possible to think of the INCLINATION (not the giving in to dwelling on it) as a kind of "gift". But I am not positive about that. I'm just saying that might be what they mean.
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written by Steve Golay, February 12, 2014
Wouldn't this also hold true for those boys (the New Homophiles) over at "Spiritual Friendship", with their anthropological/post-modern digging into the sin of homosexuality to excavate its special giftedness? Of course, once exposed, they then exhibit that sin-buried bone as their unique gnosis of the Christ-Event - as homosexual Catholics (yes, yes, I understand, as chaste, Catechism authorized ones). Yet still, would not the argument here apply equally to them?

(That they cloak homosexuality with the fuzzy logic of "same-sex attraction" changes not what they are digging into. A sin-buried bone is a sin-buried bone!)

Besides, in their doggone digging, what they disturb and hollow out is friendship itself - the given, natural nature of it - denying its particular godliness thereof.
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written by Michael Walsh, February 12, 2014
Pam,

Robert Royal had a fine article in First Things several years ago outlining Greene's war within himself due to his ongoing adulteries. Royal argued that Greene's self justifications weakened his personal practice of the Faith and reduced his art.

Greene, somewhat triumphantly, used Peguy's quote concerning the favorable vantage point of the sinner within Christianity to muddy the reality of sin. The point where this tendency became egregious in his art was with Scobie in "The Heart of the Matter." Evelyn Waugh, no mean sinner himself (and an advocate and friend of Greene) couldn't stomach Greene's theological distortions and took him to task in letters and publicly.


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written by Guest, February 12, 2014
Which particular group publicly proclaims their affliction is a gift? I am not talking about in theology circles or in spiritual counseling, but publicly proclaiming their disordered desires are a "gift"? It is really just one group. Why?
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written by Don, February 12, 2014
Here is a hard saying that I believe relates to the issue addressed by Prof. Esolen in this piece. When someone with certain inclination (pedophelia, for example) cries out to God: "Why have you made me thus?"

Romans 9:15-24
What then are we to say? Is there injustice on the part of God? Of course not!l For he says to Moses: “I will show mercy to whom I will, I will take pity on whom I will.” So it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “This is why I have raised you up, to show my power through you that my name may be proclaimed throughout the earth.” Consequently, he has mercy upon whom he wills, and he hardens whom he wills. You will say to me then, “Why (then) does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker, “Why have you created me so?” Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one? What if God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction? This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory, namely, us whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.
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written by Thomas C. coleman, Jr., February 12, 2014
Speaking of mysticism, I am a bit mystified by the penultimate paragraph. Does Prof. Esloen mean that some people attribute hidden weakensses to those who possess "a keen capacity for friendship"? If that is not what he means, can someone explain the messsage to me? (I feel like the Ethiopian Eunuch pleading with St. Philip.) I certainly have never heard anyone make cast such an aspersion, and I am sure that if anyone were to do such a thing it would done out of envy for said capacity.
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written by Sue, February 12, 2014
This all assumes that homosexuality is indeed an innate condition and not a societally conditioned label. That there are forces pressuring young children to adopt this label is beyond dispute. And an important difference from alcoholism is that they are pushing the children to adopt the label before they even act on the inclination. (This makes it harder to disavow later on, the organization Courage says). What teen would call himself an alcholic even before imbibing a single drink? And what Catholic teen would embrace the "gay" label if they realized it meant 90 years of celibacy?

Young boy scouts, presumedly sexually inexperienced, are assumed to be able to *know* they are homosexual. Someone is pressuring them to think about this, but not at the same time asking them to weigh the Church's consequent expectation for celibacy. It is this salting in of the celibacy requirement *after* the person has identified himself as homosexual that is the deceptive linchpin.
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written by Jim, February 12, 2014
Consider the woman at Simon the Pharisee's house who washes Jesus' feet. Who loves Jesus more -- the greater or lesser sinner?
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., February 12, 2014
Sue: Your remarks, as usual, show a great deal of insight and courage in addressing what few dare to address. I am afraid that in very many quarters of the nominally Cathollic world in the USA and Europe the teachings of Holy Mother Chruch on this matter are widely rejected by large numbers of priests and supposedly educated laymen. It seems that the current default settings for the Catholic mind on all things sexual are the same as those of the pagan world around us. There are many people who are perfectly comfortable with their adult children being practicing homosexuals precisely becauase a professor at a Jesuit college assured them that since God had made them this way what they do is good in His eyes.
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written by Matthias, February 12, 2014
"Let’s be clear. This position has no Scriptural warrant."

No? Really?? I beg to differ: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth."
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written by Bedarz Iliaci, February 13, 2014
"It would be better for Jerry if he did not suffer the inclination. It would be better for everyone. His refraining from evil is not in itself a good"


Does it depend upon Jerry that he suffers the inclination?
It matters whether Jerry entertains or strangles the temptation.

And why is refraining from doing evil not a good?.

I think Prof Esolen needs to be more precise here--temptation is one thing and is morally neutral, while entertaining the said temptation is another thing altogether. Perhaps by "inclination" Prof Esolen means "entertaining" a temptation?

The temptations must be crushed like the babies of Babylon. I suppose where the homophiles do err is they talk about it.
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written by Tony Esolen, February 13, 2014
Thank you, all, for your thoughtful comments.

I should have made a clearer distinction between proclivity and temptation most broadly considered. Here a very good "touchstone" text is Milton's Paradise Lost. When Satan insinuates into the ear and the mind of the sleeping Eve a dream about eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, and she awakes troubled in heart because of that bad dream, Adam comforts her with these words:

Evil into the mind of god or man
May come and go, so unapproved.

By "god" there he means "angel." What Adam means is that anyone may be subject to a suggestion, whether it comes to us from within, by the natural activity of the image-forming faculty he calls "mimic Fancy," or from without, by the words or the deeds of a tempter. Eve has suffered a temptation -- but she does not suffer a proclivity.

So then, it is meritorious to resist a temptation, broadly conceived, and it is impossible to imagine free and intelligent creatures NOT encountering the possibility of sin, since all that means is that free and intelligent creatures are made for the free gift of love, and can therefore withhold or distort that love. But it is certainly possible and desirable to be a free and intelligent creature without a proclivity to evil. Our proclivities are nothing to celebrate even when we resist them (and, by the grace of God, meritoriously resist them).

There are people who are now saying that a man's proclivity to look erotically upon the forms of other men is a gift from God, allowing them to teach the rest of us some badly needed truths about same-sex friendships. But the truths and the insights are not to be credited to the evil proclivity -- and certainly the proclivity is never to be attributed to men of earlier generations who did possess a keen sense of the beauty of same-sex friendships. In fact, we would all have clearer heads about friendship in general if the whole social world about us were not poisoned by the assumptions of the sexual revolution.
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written by Guest, February 13, 2014
Thanks, again, Dr. Esolen. The distinctions you offer make great sense. The problem is there is a lobby the will not accept them. They so very much want this one particular issue to be perceived as special and helpful. Why? Because I believe that is part of the syndrome they have.
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written by Mark, February 13, 2014
This whole article is just battling windmills.

Being gay is not "temptations." Sexual orientation is not in itself an "inclination" to any acts at all necessarily. Orientation can manifest in temptations of course, and it can color or "determine the direction" of a variety of inclination (some bad, some good, some morally neutral)

But any arguments based on comparing sexual orientation to a drug addiction, a vice, or an evil "proclivity" fundamentally misunderstand the phenomenology of orientation.

Saying I'm gay isn't like saying "I'm a glutton." It's more like saying "I prefer sweets to savory." Yes, this tells us that IF someone were tempted to gluttony it would probably be with candy rather than crackers, but it doesn't mean the person is in fact tempted to gluttony at all.

"Attraction" to men or to women or both is not the same as and not reducible to "lust" for them, as if the experience of attraction is equivalent to "a desire or tendency to have sex with" (just as the little boy on the playground in puppy love with the little red haired girl, neither of whom even knows what sex is yet!)

The relation of attraction to sex is more like the relation of anger to violence: that's one possible script or option that the experience might suggest, but anger cannot be reduced to "an inclination to violence" anymore than attraction can be reduced to an inclination to certain sex acts.

Conservatives on the question sound like absolute idiots when they say things like (as I've already seen several times now in the case of gay football player Michael Sam) "ugh, I don't want to know which stimuli you prefer to get off with" as if that's what sexual orientation is or what a disclosure of it means.

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written by Sue, February 13, 2014
Its only battling windmills because the very construction of the term "gay" is hot air, made up gas. And therefore the phenomenon of the "virtuous homophile" is double hooey.

Imagine if somebody wanted to call themselves a "pornophile" or a "masturbophile". These are no-fly names only because they don't have a lobby (yet). They are "love-the-sin" names - and the sentiment oozing around them might unwittingly tempt a "questioner" to adopt, rather than reject the identity.

Not only do "gays" want youngsters to declare the label early (for what purpose?), they also (like Islamists) want to make it *really* hard to leave the group (witness the ban on reparative therapy in some states, and the bigotry directed against ex-gays). But (like Islam), if you never accept the label, you never have the problem of leaving.




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written by Steve Golay, February 13, 2014
Mark,

You just emphasized the point many of us are making about the New Homophiles.

The newfangled "construct" - homosexuality deconstructed into same-sex-attraction deconstructed into "spiritual friendship" - is truly an infantilized state: one which refuses adulthood, both biologically and morally. We tolerate some confusion in childhood, and even early adolescence, but we expect them to be instructed and amenable to growing-up.

It illustrates the great Gnostic flaw of the New Homophile movement (its near heresy):the mythologizing of the created *itness* of sex into a mysticism which, in the end,denies both the power (authority) of sex to establish and flourish human relationships and its godlikenes.

One cannot cull same-sex-attraction from homosexuality and then sever its umbilical cord to that state of sin, calling the result godlike and spiritually gifted. That is truly a first-order example of Temptation Mysticism.

Friendship has its own created *itness* and lawfulness. Why compel it serve alien gods and a disordered law?

Homosexuality *is* a disordered dissociation from Creation's norm (which participates in the greatest gift of all - Reality, itself.) Whatever the individual culpability,homosexuality is caused by trauma in one's personal relationships (the originating moral fault usually being exterior to the one afflicted).

NOTE: The article did not even mention homosexuality, yet most of the posted comments touch upon that issue. Interesting! Also,did the author illustrate his point, among others, with the example of pedophilia by happenstance?
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written by Steve Golay, February 13, 2014
CORRECTION: Being "gay" was mentioned in the article towards the end, but not illustrated out as it was with the example with pedophilia. My point, though, still stands: the weight of the comments concerned itself with homosexuality.
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written by Guest, February 13, 2014
Steve Golay,

What do you think the essay is about?
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written by Guest, February 13, 2014
Mark,

"Sexual orientation" is only heterosexual. Any other desire is unnatural.
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written by Mark, February 14, 2014
Sexual orientation just means preference. There was a euphemism I heard once for homosexuality: "He *ahem* prefers the company of men." And yet that's not really a euphemism at all, so much as just a broad description of a homophile orientation.

Sue must not have read my post at all, as the whole point was that "gay" (meaning: homophile) is different than "pornophile" or "masturbophile" in more ways than just having a lobby.

The equivalent to "pornophile" would be "sodomophile" or something like that (ie, speaking in terms of a predilection for an act; homosexuality specifies no act in itself). But "sodomophile" is NOT what "gay" means.

Just think of it this way: there are absolutely FRIGID people who are still straight, and the same is no more nor less true for gay. You can have adamantly no desire for any sex acts at all...and still be straight or gay.

Interpreting gay activism in favor of youth acceptance and against reparative therapy isn't based on trying to force anyone to "stay in the group" because it isn't a chosen group like that. It's like being left-handed (or even in many ways like Race). It's not something you choose to enter and leave as if it's a club with some orthodoxy or membership cards. You can disidentify from the label, but unless your feelings have really changed insisting you aren't "one of them" is largely a delusion.

Steve, I don't know why you think this construct of homosexuality is "newfangled." Everyone I know outside very narrow conservative circles has ALWAYS understood "gay" and sexual orientation in the way I described. Basically: as about love, not lust.

You're the one who for some reason is trying to essentialize gay (and essentialize it negatively at that). There is no "culling" or "severing from umbilical cords" about it, as that way of looking at the new homophile construction assumes that gayness has some sort of eternal essence in the first place.

But that sort of essentialism seems an odd and ultimately self-defeating position for conservatives to take (it's ironic that for some reason conservatives on this question are actually defending gay essentialism, albeit a "bad" essentialism).

But in truth, it's actually much easier to defend Church teaching on chastity if sexual orientation and gayness is admitted to be a construct (about 150 years old) which can then be, yes, deconstructed as necessary, and interpreted according to a paradigm other than one which would bootstrap it to sodomitical acts.

The passions are morally neutral until/unless they settle on a certain specified act. Sexual orientation is not "act determinate" and thus can be "used" for good or for evil. A straight man watching lesbian pornography is just as much a manifestation of heterosexuality as a gay man volunteering to shovel the driveway (or lay down his life) for his beloved is an expression of homosexuality under the current constructs.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 14, 2014
An awful lot written about a reality that does not exist. There is no such things as "gay" or "homosexual." Oh, yes, there are unnatural acts and proclivities toward same but no "identity" to attach oneself to apart from those constructed in one's mind. The problem with these discussions is that because they consume so much digital space, they take on the appearance of a reality which is just not there.
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written by Mark, February 14, 2014
Constructed reality is real too. That something is an eternal platonic Form or objective essence doesn't mean that it isn't subjectively important or that it doesn't have major sociological and political effects throughout history. Just look at the construct of Race and whiteness and blackness.

The "reverse essentialism" here is baffling.
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written by Guest, February 14, 2014
Unnatural desires are not equivalent to being left-handed or to race. The desire itself is not ordered as God ordained. Even if not acted on it is not a natural desire.
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written by Mark, February 14, 2014
Once again, it is you who are essentializing a gay orientation as a "desire" for determinate acts. As long as you keeping setting up that straw man, you won't really be engaging anyone.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 15, 2014
Those desiring of unnatural acts want the rest of us to engage on their terms. The sane among us are simply opting out.
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written by Mark, February 15, 2014
There you did it again: defined the gays with reference to acts.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 15, 2014
"Desiring" cannot be considered an act. Still, nothing that can ever constitute an "identity."
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written by Mark, February 15, 2014
I said "with reference to" acts. Desire may not be an act, but it is FOR and act.

Defining gayness as a desire for certain acts is wrong and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what "sexual orientation" even is meant to describe, and us such engaging gays on a false definition is not to engage them at all, but rather a bogeyman of your own creation.
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written by Tony Esolen, February 15, 2014
I did not call anyone "gay": I said that there are people who call themselves "gay." I believe they are quite wrong to do so.

If a certain man tells me that he admires the physiques of other men, I say that plenty of men do that, and that that in itself means absolutely nothing, morally. I believe it means very little, psychologically. But if this mental makeup frustrates his biological orientation toward marriage, or toward spiritual fatherhood, then at the very least it is an evil by way of deficiency or excess, and, if it is indulged and fostered, a moral evil.

In any case, it is nothing to celebrate. Courage in the face of hardship, that we can celebrate; and, in an accidental sense, appreciate the hardship that gives occasion to the courage. But we must attribute no moral value essentially to the hardship.
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written by Mark, February 16, 2014
"But if this mental makeup frustrates his biological orientation toward marriage, or toward spiritual fatherhood, then at the very least it is an evil by way of deficiency or excess, and, if it is indulged and fostered, a moral evil."

(I'll ignore the reductionism of gayness to an appreciation of merely "physique" for now...)

Instead I think what I quoted above is interesting and worth further unpacking. Specifically I'm inclined to ask: so your position boils down to an idea that everyone is supposed to be either married or a priest (or, at least, some sort of "spiritual father"), that the second option for some reason requires a heterosexual subjectivity in spite of its celibacy, and that same-sex attraction (sexually abstinent or not) is either necessarily a distraction from these pursuits (or else, if it isn't, then not really significant at all).

Is that an accurate summary of your position?
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written by Guest, February 16, 2014
Mark,

Your position is nonsensical. What is this non heterosexual " orientation" towards? What is it "gays" desire?
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written by Mark, February 16, 2014
Um...once again, that's not how orientation is defined. It is you people who keep framing this in terms of desires.
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written by Guest, February 17, 2014
Mark,

What exactly and specifically does homosexual orientation mean?
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written by Mark, February 17, 2014
It means one is predominantly attracted to the same sex, obviously. (We could unpack "predominant" further, but I think people understand what is meant).

That's not really the debate, though. The debate is how one understands "attraction." Conservatives seem to think it boils down to "wants/is tempted to have sex with."

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