Is a 'vocation of friendship' key to gay ministry in the Church? [CNA] D.C., Oct 24, 2014 / 04:51 am (CNA).- Recovering an understanding of friendship as a vocation could be a way for the Church to help ease spiritual problems of isolation, especially for those who are gay, said one Catholic author who is both lesbian and celibate.

“Friendship is a vocation which can include lifelong devotion and commitment,” said Eve Tushnet, suggesting that Church leaders should “talk more about vocations outside of marriage and the priesthood.”

“That’s totally scriptural, and we should be ahead on this instead of letting the culture lead us around and act like friendship is relatively trivial in the scheme of things,” she told CNA.

Tushnet is a Catholic convert who has described herself as “an openly lesbian and celibate Catholic.” She has written frequently on living out her Catholic faith amid same-sex attraction and recently released a book, “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith.”

Among the topics that Tushnet has covered is the sense of isolation that can come from the idea that one is called to neither marriage nor religious life, and therefore feeling abandoned to a life of loneliness.

In her interview with CNA, she suggested a “vocation of friendship” as one possible remedy to that problem.

Tushnet argued that modern culture does not respect and discuss friendships as it does sexual relationships “or the ones that have the potential to become sexual.” Instead, she said, society views friendships almost as a “relationship of convenience” instead of as “a relationship of commitment or devotion or sacrifice.”

“By contrast when you look at Christian history,” she explained, friendship had a prominent and public place in Christian life. She noted that the records of the early and medieval Church point to friends living together and supporting one another, as well as to the sacrificial love of “spiritual friendship.”

Tushnet also pointed to the life of Christ, who did not have children nor a spouse, but explained his sacrificial death as an act of laying down his life for friends.

“He singles out this relationship and says this is a sacrificial and devoted relationship,” she said of Christ’s emphasis on friendship.

Church outreach to homosexual persons garnered significant media attention during the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome.

But while much of the media coverage focused on Church teaching against homosexual acts and “gay marriage,” Tushnet said she believes there was a missed opportunity to discuss the concept of “vocation for gay people.”

She argued that the Church must “give some image of what your life would look like” for a practicing Catholic who experiences same-sex attraction, giving concrete help for people “trying to live out your sexuality in a way that’s fruitful.”

While perhaps well-intentioned, a general focus on what should be avoided rather than what should be embraced risks “pushing people into isolation,” she said.

“Being alone all the time is not a great idea for your spiritual life…it’s really easy to despair.”

To alleviate this problem, Tushnet continued, “there’s some elements that probably need to be explored a little more, such as what does friendship mean now.”

“Just letting people know that there is such a thing as intentional community life,” where celibate partners or groups of people take care of one another, would be helpful in putting forth another vision of vocation for Christians who are not married, she said.

She also warned against focusing solely on the question of sexuality when ministering to people who identify as gay.

“People think the thing we care about either positively or negatively is always going to be something related to our sexuality,” she said, but in reality, “there’s plenty of other stuff to struggle with,” including pride, sloth and other vices that can affect all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

Among Tushnet’s other suggestions were a normalization of spiritual direction and the promotion of artistic creation for people to “express the best part of themselves.”

Ultimately, she advised the laity to take a more active role in improving the Church’s response and options for individuals with same-sex attraction and others struggling with isolation and without clear vocational paths.

“We need to be more open to doing it ourselves,” she said. “There’s so much need, so look for the needs that you are willing to fill.”

Full article…

Thank you for this.

A lot of Catholics have a binary approach to vocations. Either the religious life or married life.
Eve’s approach gives hope to people, both straight and gay, who find themselves neither married nor called to religious life.

I don’t see what this has to do with being gay, though. Wouldn’t this be the same for all single catholics? I don’t see why the church needs to create a false category of vocations. Friendships exist among priests, the married, the single. Its part of human life. What the church needs to do is emphasize the calling to live your life where you are. the only true vocation is holiness, to be saints. if one is not called to be consecrated or married, then one finds holiness in the everyday life where they are. Perhaps she can start a ministry where celibate catholics meet up to offer each other support. But that would be like a normal ministry or something akin to AA meetings :smiley: But with a more positive outlook!

Perhaps she means the implication that gay people receive that they must live alone-- there often exists a feeling that one cannot live with a member of the opposite sex since it appears scandalous, and yet that if you are gay, you should not be living with a member of the same sex either.

We may need to understand that people can live in community – sharing homes or apartments, for example – and not assume that means they are not living in accord with the teachings of the Church.

Yes, I think this is what she is implying. Well said.

Yes, I can see her point.

“Just letting people know that there is such a thing as intentional community life,” where celibate partners or groups of people take care of one another, would be helpful in putting forth another vision of vocation for Christians who are not married, she said.
To be honest, the first thing I thought of when I read that was all the senior centers we have around here! Community living. I suppose the same could apply to younger people.

But I also agree with One Point that friendship is not an institution restricted to gays. Gays, in fact, can have opposite sex as well as same sex friends.

Sometimes it seems to me that the constant overemphasis on sex just complicates matters. In the current culture it seems that if a person is not burning with lust for the opposite sex by the age of 12, he must consider himself gay, which is simply ridiculous.

Its interesting that many times, hetrosexual couples co-habituating outside the sacrament of matrimony, or in a valid marriage, are told they can live under the same roof, but must
“live as brother and sister”…past threads on this topic show that there is a pretty even mix of those who agree and disagree that this can be accomplished because of weakness of human nature, and the strength of the sex drive.

So, the homosexual celibate couple who chose to live as “brother and brother” or “sister and sister” are still going to be looked on with suspicion by a large segment of the Church.

We can say, all we want, we are going to create a welcome environment for our brothers and sisters with same sex attraction, but that environment is only as welcoming as we make it…So there is a burden on both sides, whatever the outcome, to make it work.

Part of me says the couples with same sex attractions cohabitating in celibacy is the easy part of the equation. The difficult part is going to be the acceptance and welcoming attitude of individual Catholics.

Peace and all good!

Wouldn’t that mean though, living in a proximate occasion of sin, which is something the Church advises against?

There’s no really easy answer for gays who want to be chaste according to Church teaching, but at the same time want companionship without creating an occasion of sin.

Which might explain why so few of them are chaste.

If Catholic gays choose to live in community in that circumstance, the only way to do it, IMHO, would be to implement community rules and regulations that would strangely start to resemble those of religious life, and with all the support that comes with that (regular confessors, spiritual direction, life under the authority of a superior).

If that’s the case, then why not just consider becoming religious? :shrug: (note, it wouldn’t have to be a cloistered community which is something else…)

I have always thought that the Church should have more of a ministry for those who are single/divorced/widowed/etc. This is the group that seems to get over looked.

I think it would be helpful to have a group where they can find friendship and others they can to relate to. It’s not easy being part of society where everyone is encouraged to pair up and you’re not for whatever reason. There are all sorts of things unique to living the single life.

No. I’m same-sex attracted, and I lived with other men for years, throughout college. Never the slightest bit of temptation. Not once.

Would that be different if my roommate were also SSA? Maybe, maybe not. I find most men unattractive, so I don’t think it would be a problem at all on my side, in most cases. If I was attracted, though, that could be a problem, I suppose. Though it wouldn’t be the type of thing one could just “drift” into, in a Christian setting and with Christian friends. There would have to be a LOT of immodesty waving around like a red flag before any Christian man would make a sexual advance on another Christian man.

I don’t think a lot of people understand these types of dynamics. :shrug:


I agree. I think if only two people are going to live together, one of them should be straight. But the better thing is for groups of faithful catholics to live together, several people at once. In a house they rent or buy. That way they can encourage each other in life and build a sense of family and friendship. But the group should not be based on sexual orientation but on being catholic, faithful, and single, maybe gender too, so you have groups of women and groups of men. Don’t you think so much fruit could be born of such catholic houses? Such a house would be filled with God’s presence, prayer, feasts of the church as well as other ordinary things where they can live their lives but not be so lonely. Loneliness is a true cancer to the human spirit. we were never made to be alone. even the hermits were not ordinary people.:shrug:

[quote=Pope Benedict XVI]5. Finally, I would like to speak of one last feature, not to be overlooked, of the spirituality of World Youth Days, namely joy. Where does it come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved. Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within. That is one of the wonderful experiences of World Youth Days.


I was reminded of this.

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