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Faithful to the Truth

Why should a faithful lay Catholic resist the official teaching of the Church in the matter of homosexuality? If sexuality were some minor technical concern, then the role of a lay Catholic would be to accept the official line of the Magisterium and to get on with their life. However, sexuality can not be dismissed as insignificant, as the Vatican itself admits. Moreover, it is the battle ground upon which the Curia has chosen to fight a last stand against Modernity. Hence, it is necessary to take a stand on this question as a matter of “hungering and thirsting for justice.”

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 and clergy.

"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. Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

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. 

Unlike a lot of commentators on this subject, Lovatt gives a traditional Catholic perspective, not a protestantized one bit, yet it is an argument that any Christian could accept. 

The book is very well written with insightful foot-notes, and gives a very persuasive argument that I doubt anybody with a sound mind wouldn't accept. 

It is written in such a scholarly way that I suspect John Boswell would be proud, and I have a feeling he is. It's good to have some ammunition against the belligerents that doesn't make me sound like a theological liberal. As of now, Stephen C. Lovatt is one of the worst enemies that homophobic Catholics have.
[James Moore]
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.


Anthony Philips

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.

Lori Heine

"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 rebuilding."
[A Catholic priest who is a Doctor of Moral Theology]

"Your book arrived this morning and I've not been able to put it down. A fascinating and enlightening read so far"
[Barnabas Francis]
"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."
[Ryam OFR] 
"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. [William L. Timlin]
"This is the book that I would like to have written. Stephen covers the ground comprehensively so my book is no longer necessary. His is a much more conservative approach than I would have taken. Consequently, it will appeal to even the most orthodox of readers. He covers not only the biblical texts, which are already well covered elsewhere, but looks at Catholic tradition on the subject including the early church fathers, liturgical witness and the magisterium. The book is well footnoted with an extensive bibliography." [Malcolm McPherson]
"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]

A review by an Old Catholic bishop

"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.
That point notwithstanding, I highly recommend this work and have made it required reading for all students in my church's theological training programme.
Again, an excellent and well thought out work."

"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 joy.

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 more reason." [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]
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 of them.

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.

Terry E. Christian