CUAllies Resolution: A Lesson in Semantics
Joseph Jablonski, Class of 2015
March 1, 2012
Filed under Quill
Last SAGA meeting, students that represented your University voted to approve a resolution supporting the underground student organization CUAllies. The resolution was passed 20-3. I noticed the esteemed theologians from the Knights of Columbus were uncharacteristically silent. Wonderfully, the resolution showed many promising positives for CUAllies on a Catholic campus, declaring not to endorse any political views and seeking to simply form a “safe, welcoming, and affirming environment for all students on campus.” Additionally, the resolution cites the USCCB’s document Always Our Children, a document for priests and parents on how to communicate the love of Christ to homosexual youth.
However, CUAllies openly declares itself to be the “the unofficial LGBTQ and Ally organization of the Catholic University of America.” The abbreviation “LGBTQ” brought me a twinge of concern. Looking up the etymology of the word, “gay” led me to discover that its origins come internally from the homosexual community. To show the Church isn’t necessarily on board with this word, I found that the document Always Our Children unabashedly mentions the word “homosexual” over sixty times, while the word “gay” is only used three times, and the acronym none.
Why is this important? In two of the three times above that Always Our Children used the word “gay,” it is taking care to warn the reader to correctly understand the usage of the word. Society gives us enough of a definition of the usage of the word “gay”: people walk around with “gay” pride, debate about “gay” marriage and support or oppose “gay” rights. All the above imply a positive connotation to a lifestyle for homosexuals, a lifestyle associated with living as a gay man or lesbian woman, proud of and even possibly practicing their sexual outlook.
This is the new culture that has arisen around homosexual attraction. I and other supporters of marriage need to love (not endorse the beliefs of, but love) individuals of this culture. We would be naive to say there are no homosexuals who want to practice that lifestyle on Catholic’s campus, and CUAllies as a group is, as it should, providing a safe environment for any that do. However, this isn’t the only outlook on homosexuality. Not popularized by the media is a smaller but growing movement to practice chastity. These people completely follow the Church’s teaching on marriage while admitting to having same-sex attraction. Sounds cruel or not realistically possible? Couragerc.net summarizes this movement with beautiful witness stories and gives advice as to how to discover chastity as a homosexual.
One man, practicing Catholic chastity despite his same-sex attraction, began blogging under the pseudonym Steve Gershom (www.stevegershom.com). In his Q&A section, he confirms the semantic dilemma I have observed, distancing himself from the word “gay”. He distinctly believes that the word endorses an approach of lifestyle over an approach of chastity, saying, “I’m a faithful Catholic, so a romantic relationship with another man literally doesn’t fit into the way I see the world. I don’t see myself as different in any essential way from heterosexual men, so describing myself as “gay” doesn’t seem to fit.”
While we know that the sexually-active homosexual would currently feel welcome in CUAllies as detailed by the SAGA resolution, would a man like Steve feel comfortable? An organization for homosexuals on our campus should provide a haven of safety and care for both those that plan to practice lifestyle and for those who want to follow the noble path of accepting chastity like Steve. The terminology used by the Church – homosexual orientation, homosexual tendencies or same-sex attraction – seeks to be neutral and honestly academic. It tells it as it is. I am not insulted to be described as a “heterosexual,” and neither should someone with same-sex attraction be insulted by being described as a “homosexual.” However, the acronym “LGBTQ” takes sides only with lifestyle, and implies a pride about being gay that does show openness with chastity-minded individuals.
To some, this may seem like an irrelevant quibble of words, especially when Always Our Children states, “Language should not be a barrier to building trust and honest communication.” Yet, language, as it stands currently, will be a barrier to those few homosexuals who seek to fully reconcile themselves with the Catholic Church’s teaching on chastity. I as a concerned student as well as a possible SAGA election candidate seek not to take the idea of CUAllies off the table, but rather to help bring it closer to administrative approval as an organization open to all homosexuals, regardless of approach. The dialogue to which I pledge is truly in the spirit of Catholicism.
We are the Catholic University of America. We are called by Christ to love all homosexuals, even the ones that choose to go against Church teaching. Yet we especially and CUAllies, must not forget those who desire chastity, those who would not want to be described with the lifestyle-oriented word of “gay.” I dream of a CUAllies or a differently-named organization where a chaste homosexual Catholic and a gay rights activist can both attend a meeting and appreciate the intellectual as well as safe and secure environment for all homosexuals. Such a dream initially sounds too idealistic in the age of the culture wars. Yet, it is only this dream of an openness and respectful exchange of cultures that I will consider to be truly worthy of being considered “Catholic.”