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How Dante Saved His Life

A reader sends this beautiful letter in. He gave me permission to post it, provided I make several slight changes to protect his identity. He has approved this version:

I write to you as if I am writing to a friend, because I feel that I know you. I read your blog quite frequently.

I’ll quickly give you my background. I was raised in a conservative Evangelical home. We weren’t just religious, we were Christians. I know a lot of “Sunday morning Christians,” but I am very thankful that my parents weren’t. I have loved the Lord as long as I can remember, and had a conversion experience when I was 8. I’ve tried to read the Word of God and conform my life to it. I participated fully in the life of our church. It was the center of my life, although in high school the school began to take away from church’s centrality.

When I hit puberty, I began to experience attraction to other boys. I explained it away or ignored it for years, but eventually in college I came to accept that I was bisexual or gay (I do not believe in modern concepts of sexual orientation. Through studying ancient history I’ve come to firmly believe that orientation is a social construct, one which the devil works through. Nevertheless, however you want to deal with it semantically, I experience sexual and romantic attraction towards both men and women, but probably more towards men than women). In high school and junior high, I didn’t deal with these attractions correctly. I bottled them up and didn’t talk to any spiritual leaders about them. To be fair to myself, I had no reason to believe that any spiritual mentors would have been good to talk to about this. Fire and brimstone sermons about gays who would corrupt our country didn’t exactly make me feel like I could find pastoral support for what I was experiencing.


I should speed up. I came to college and had a crisis of faith. I went to a top secular university because I wanted to be an emissary for Christianity. Instead, I found my faith shaken because of my struggles with my sexuality. I eventually opened up to a campus minister and my church’s pastor, who were gracious and loving and have supported me for years now. I also have many Christian friends who pray for me and encourage me. However, it has still been a tremendous struggle, and I wish that I had gone to a mental health professional (preferably Christian) when I was having my darkest days. It would get to the point where I would lay in bed and not want to do anything, paralyzed by the conflict between my intellect (to follow a Christian sexual ethic) and the desires of my heart (to give in and live like almost everyone at my university would have me to: being “true” to who I “really was”). It has been a slow, slow battle, but God is my portion and my strength and has been changing the desires of my heart.

Once again, I should speed up. Last year, I wanted to take a class on one of the great books. I signed up for a class on Dante. I was interested in the Inferno, but had trouble getting into it. I became ill for a month, and found it hard to focus on anything. When we started reading Purgatorio , I became much more engrossed in the Divine Comedy.

About this time, I met a young man my age with a very similar background. Unfortunately, I fell in love. I justified my actions in growing close to this person (I’ll call him Scott) because there was no sexual sin. I rationalized my sin by considering the relationship a best friendship. Then sexual sin happened (over a month into what I told myself was a friendship), and I admitted to myself that things had gone wrong. I also conveniently happened to read the cantos about lust in Purgatorio. Fortunately, Thanksgiving Break happened and I had some time to talk to God (and read Dante!). I finished Purgatorio and read Paradiso. I saw what was wrong, the desires of my heart were all out of whack. I wanted what our culture told me I should want rather than what God has actually made me to want. I already knew I had to get out of my situation with Scott, I just didn’t know if I had the strength. It just felt so right (there’s some moralistic therapeutic deism for you! It’s funny how I can revile MTD in my head but still have it working in my heart). I felt that strength I needed when I read Piccarda’s oft-quoted words about God’s will being our peace. She is so right!

Immediately after finishing Paradiso, I bought How Dante Can Save Your Life [2]and devoured it. Quite frankly, I should not have. I had a lot of schoolwork I should have been doing instead of pleasure reading. I suppose one’s soul is more important than one’s GPA, however. Your book helped me to synthesize my thoughts about the Divine Comedy, and gave me the last bit of strength I needed. It was really, really important for helping me to synthesize all my thoughts. The Divine Comedy is not an easy work! These words of yours were particularly enlightening to me:

“Sin is not, at heart, a violation of a legalistic code, but rather a distortion of love. In Dante, sinners–and we are all sinners–are those who love the wrong things, or who love the right things in the wrong way.”

The desires of my heart were twisted. Once I broke the “legalistic code” it was too late.

“The pilgrim Dante’s journey teaches him that the source of all the chaos and misery is disordered desire. If everyone, including himself, loved as they should love, they would love God more than they loved themselves and their passions. To harmonize with the will of God requires us to overcome our passions and our ego, to make room for the transforming love of God.”

That was what I needed the strength to do, to overcome my passions enough to make room for the transforming love of God.

When I returned to my university, after about a week of getting my courage up, I broke things off with Scott. I probably sound like a weak person since that was so hard, but it simply was, and I am a weak person whose only strength comes from the grace of God. It was interesting, because it was a sort of ultimate choice. On the one hand, I had Scott and everything that a successful relationship in the modern university is supposed to be. On the other hand, I had Christ and what could turn out to be a lifetime of emotional hardship. I chose Christ because I am convinced that one day I will experience the Beatific Vision, and it will be glorious. I do worry because I was so close to choosing Scott over God. That would have been tragic. It was by God’s grace that I read Dante for the first time in parallel to some of the most lethal temptation I’ve experienced.

I thank you from the depths of my heart for reading this. Thank you for being open about the struggles that lead you to write How Dante Can Save Your Life. [2]Dante also saved my life. And I managed to get an A in the class 🙂

I am so humbled by this letter, and the courage of this young man. His sins are not my sins, and they may not be your sins, but every one of us has sins. The power of Dante to lead us back to the clear path is remarkable! It is a narrow path, and at times a very difficult one, but it is the way of life.

Men (and women) like this man should not have to walk it alone. If you are a Christian who would condemn him, or stay away from him because he is same-sex attracted, you are very, very wrong. He is struggling to do the right thing, same as you and I are with our own sins. If we cannot accompany him on the pilgrimage, then what kind of Christians are we? One of the greatest things about the Commedia is how, on the long pilgrim’s road up the Seven Storey Mountain, the broken but forgiven and healing sinners help bear each other’s burdens. This is how we are meant to live!

By the way, I found out on Wednesday that the publisher is going to re-issue How Dante in paperback (it is only available in Kindle form now [2], but you can get it for 99 cents). The paperback should be out by late March.

You don’t have to have read Dante before reading How Dante, but I hope my little book will inspire you to take on the Commedia. Lent is a great time to try. Be sure you get a good modern translation, with great notes. The ones I recommend to beginners are Mark Musa’s (here’s his Inferno [3]) and Anthony Esolen’s (here’s his Inferno [4]). Don’t make a mistake and buy Musa’s translation packaged as The Portable Dante; it does not have Musa’s complete notes. You really need the notes.

Dear readers, I am about to leave for the airport. I’ll be in Paris all next week, except for an overnight on Tuesday in Tours. Each night I will be giving a Benedict Option talk somewhere (see my French website leparibenedictin.fr [5] for details) — except for Wednesday night, Valentine’s Day. My wife Julie is coming with me on this trip, for our first vacation together without kids since we started having chirren 18 years ago. We already have reservations at a nice restaurant. A good friend is house-sitting for us and looking after the kids. God is good. I’ll be back in touch soon.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "How Dante Saved His Life"

#1 Comment By Gromaticus On February 10, 2018 @ 5:06 pm

Be sure you get a good modern translation

Anything more recent than Longfellow marks you as a progressive (same with Virgil….Dryden is the hill I choose to die on).

[NFR: If I had had Longfellow, I never would have left the dark wood with our man. — RD]

#2 Comment By Bryan On February 10, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

Rod, which translation do you recommend? I own the Clive James.

[NFR: As I indicated in the post, Anthony Esolen’s and Mark Musa’s are really wonderful, not only for their readability (Esolen’s is more lyrical), but because of the fantastic notes. The Hollander version is also exceptional, but the notes are scholarly and overwhelming to non-specialists. I also like Stanley Lombardo’s, and the Durling/Martinez. — RD]

#3 Comment By Robert B Lewis On February 10, 2018 @ 5:43 pm

What I would ask Scott–but especially you–is: would it not be possible to love “Scott” in the right way? That is, in a self-sacrificial, or chaste way? Did he give Scott up BEFORE or AFTER asking him or himself this question? If you read The Divine Comedy carefully, it becomes obvious that the young Dante desired, as well as loved her spiritually. I think that one of the most important things in reading the Comedy is to query the text carefully regarding exactly HOW he managed to do this.

#4 Comment By Hope On February 10, 2018 @ 6:19 pm

While I understand why you are happy about this letter, I find it incredibly sad that this young man is basically resigning himself to life along because he is gay. I just can’t imagine a merciful God expects that of him.

#5 Comment By Hope On February 10, 2018 @ 6:19 pm

*life alone*

#6 Comment By James Bradshaw On February 10, 2018 @ 7:46 pm

Let me rephrase a question I asked on a different thread:

How will a life of celibacy better reflect the Christian virtues than a committed homosexual relationship that involves the sacrifice of one’s finances, attention and time to the good of someone else?

A bachelor has no one to answer to but himself. He doesn’t have to listen to anyone’s problems after coming home from work. He can spend his money on his own desires as opposed to putting a spouse through school or helping them purchase a car. He can focus his attention on the tv or play video games . He doesn’t have to stay by the bedside of anyone in the hospital in their last days of life.

This is preferable how? I don’t see it, even within a Christian worldview.

Lifelong celibacy is not human. This is why even the Orthodox do not demand it of their priests, even though Paul deemed celibacy a “higher calling” in Scripture.

[NFR: The Orthodox certainly do demand it of bishops and monks, and of priests who are ordained before marriage, as well as widower priests. If you think that a lifetime of celibacy isn’t “human,” then the problem is with your definition of what human is. Finally, we don’t get to make deals with God about the sins we choose to commit; we are called to holiness, period. Otherwise is Cardinal Cupich nonsense. — RD]

#7 Comment By Chris On February 10, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

As I read this I found myself wondering if the traditional teaching of the church is a cultural artifact rather than a moral imperitive. Morals should reflect a higher order universal ethical principle. The traditional prohibition against same sex relationships seems to lack this. Perhaps a better question is how this young man we be in 20 years should he follow this path.

#8 Comment By Andy On February 10, 2018 @ 9:05 pm

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matt 10:37

Sometimes following Christ through this life requires some hard decisions.

#9 Comment By Q On February 10, 2018 @ 9:47 pm

No one who affirms the right of a person to shift genders should pass judgement of the choices of this young man. I wish him way more than luck in navigating the long road ahead.
Conjugal bliss is one of the greatest pleasures given to us cogitating apes. The one who senses that there is something superior, and is willing to sacrifice the one for the other, is preparing to live in very rarified, powerful and dangerous territory.

#10 Comment By Pogonip On February 10, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

May God bless your correspondent.

I was glad to see your Dante book available at an affordable price. I live in one of the worst bedbug areas in the country so we no longer bring in real books; it’s Kindle or nothing till somebody comes up with a bedbug killer that doesn’t require turning your house and your life upside down.

Did you ever reach a modus vivendi with your nieces? I hope so.

[NFR: Not really. — RD]

#11 Comment By MikeCA On February 10, 2018 @ 11:18 pm

The irony is thick with this one. You’re off to the City of Lights to celebrate your anniversary with your loving wife (congrats by the way) and this young man is likely condemned to a life without a loving partner. (You yourself have admitted what a horrible job most churches,regardless of denomination do at ministering to single young adults- especially those who are gay.) I assume you will be feasting on copious quantities of delectable French cuisine while you’re there- did you make a deal with God about your gluttonous behaviour? For all the talk about homosexuality not being any worse than any other sexual sin, it always seems to rise to the top of the heap. The sexually active heterosexual can make their situation right by marrying and being faithful to their spouse but someone who is gay or lesbian who does the same is still “sinning”. Why would God create people with an innate emotional & sexual attraction to someone of their own sex if it’s “disordered”? Rhetorical, I know the answers you & all the other biblical scholars will give. Though honestly none of them are convincing to me and probably less so to someone who is gay or lesbian.

[NFR: Well, you keep on being you. How do you know that I’ll be a glutton? You don’t. You just don’t like what Christianity teaches on this issue, and you are throwing the kitchen sink at it. Besides, real marriage is, as the Orthodox Church teaches, a martyrdom, in the sense that it involves a thousand dyings to self. This is normal. The idea that marriage is like crossing the finish line in a marathon, and it’s all bliss from there on out, is absurd to anybody who has actually been married (even happily married!). — RD]

#12 Comment By charles cosimano On February 11, 2018 @ 2:08 am

“A bachelor has no one to answer to but himself. He doesn’t have to listen to anyone’s problems after coming home from work. He can spend his money on his own desires as opposed to putting a spouse through school or helping them purchase a car. He can focus his attention on the tv or play video games . He doesn’t have to stay by the bedside of anyone in the hospital in their last days of life.

This is preferable how? I don’t see it, even within a Christian worldview. ”

When you are young it is preferable for the very things you enumerate. It is only in middle age, when you have had you fun and it is time to settle down that you think about who is going to stand beside you in the hospital when you are dying, something I can write of with a little experience. Marriage is for us old folks. We can appreciate it. I think one of the wise things I have done in my life was wait until middle age to marry.

Have a good trip Rod. Avoid Lyon. The food is overpriced and poisonous to a civilized palate. They eat things even the British will not touch. 🙂

#13 Comment By Sam M On February 11, 2018 @ 7:25 am

James Bradshaw:

“A bachelor has no one to answer to but himself. ”

Do you belong to a church? In mine we have numerous single people who give more of themselves to ministry than I ever could as a married man with kids. In your formulation, all the nuns and priests who have ever lived existed in a world of selfish luxury. It’s false on its face.

Same point to Hope. None of these people are “alone.” They face challenges certainly. But they are not sad sack layabouts pining for connection.

As for bisexuals… I guess I am confused. If you are attracted to women, marry and have relations with one. This means you cannot have relation with others to whom you might be attracted. But neither can I. Maybe this is different, but I am curious as to how.

Say I have a friend Bob. He and I meet two girls. We both find them both very attractive. It works out, and we each marry one. I can no longer honorably sleep with Bob’s wife.

Now let’s say Bob is bisexual. And he is attracted to me, too. He can’t sleep with me OR my wife. So why is the norm against sleeping with my wife just the cost of doing business, but the norm against sleeping with me is a horrible, soul crushing sacrifice? He gets to sleep with the exact same number of people I do: one.

It’d be different for someone with no heterosexual attraction. But the bi thing. I am sure I am missing something. And easy for me to say. But I do wonder.

#14 Comment By Stay At Home Wife On February 11, 2018 @ 7:40 am

Such brave stories you’ve been sharing from your readers lately. Thank you. I will praying for this young man, and wish him all the best as he pursues a life of faithfulness to God.

#15 Comment By Jon On February 11, 2018 @ 11:06 am

Words from an Outsider

He slammed down the text and it made a resounding bang upon the table. “Stop reading this, this book and go outside get a whiff of fresh air.”

His son looked aghast and in shock replied, “But dad, this is our sacred book!”

“That’s exactly why I strongly implore you to lay it aside. It can never be taken lightly or too heavily for that matter. Too much reading leans the reader to the other side. It becomes a weighty book a burden far too heavy to carry upon one’s shoulders along the twists and turns of life.”

The boy’s father had an instinct for prose having grown up in a lyrically oral tradition where the spoken word carried weight but also was sung as if it were an oral poetry. Aesthetics was interwoven into speech.

The boy replied, “I don’t understand.”

“To read this book properly requires the proper attitude. I shant tell you what that is. The reader finds that for himself, but only if he takes leave of it giving this holy scripture time to ruminate in his mind and heart.”

The boy looked puzzled but said nothing.

“We lose sight of what is important and become enmeshed in rules. Now rules are essential to faith fore it gives the practitioner a basis in this world to live.”

His father paused allowing his words to settle within the boy’s mind. “But the Bible speaks of holy ground. What does one do when entering?”

The boy did not answer but shrugged his shoulders.

“Here I will refer to this text,” the father grasped the black hard cover text in his right hand, “Moses encountered a bush all aflame. He drew near pondering how this organism was ablaze but not consumed by the fire. A voice addressed him. What did that voice say to him?”

The boy replied, “Uh, I am not really sure what you are getting at.”

“He ordered him to remove his sandals. Perhaps this is one of the most important lessons to derive from scripture. He was ordered to unshod his feet. Why?”

“The ground was holy?”

“And what does holy imply? If you examine the word in the Hebrew it stems from the infinitive l’kadesh (to remove) In the Greek it would be άγιος (hagios) which means the same thing — separation that which is set aside or that which is distinct from ordinary existence. What does that imply for the Bible reader?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders frustrated that this discussion turned into a discourse.

“You have to remove your shoes. This is an inner imperative. It comes from your soul and not from the text. But scripture here echoes what the soul knows. You have to remove your shoes.”

The child looked puzzled.

“The gateway is inside residing in both the head and heart. This here Bible is nothing but a book, but it is an exquisite book different from all other texts. Sometimes it is wise to lay it aside for awhile.”

The conversation ended but the boy growing up remembered this conversation and began to realize that the antinomian way was not just about rules and structure but the cultivation of the inner eye to see what words and symbols can never convey. He understood what really mattered. The clothes does not make the man.

When encountering his soulmate who did not conform to his adopted sense of propriety and who was also man like himself, he realized this point. It is not about abstinence or denial or conformity to external rules though they be important. The soul burns but is never consumed.

#16 Comment By Thomas tucker On February 11, 2018 @ 11:19 am

Mr. Bradshaw, sure a bachelor could live like that. Or the bachelor could take a lot of his free time and devote it to helping others. As for loneliness, I’ve known many married people who were intensely lonely in their marriages. I wouldn’t idealize marriage.

#17 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 11, 2018 @ 11:31 am


What you say doesn’t make sense to Rod’s reader because he’s a Christian. That is, one that sees this life for what it is: a pathway to eternal life, if we choose it.

#18 Comment By Bob Taylor On February 11, 2018 @ 1:09 pm

Sam Allberry, a same sex attracted man who is a pastor in England, and Rosaria Butterfield, a former active lesbian who is now in a heterosexual marriage, are two people who come to mind whose books and plentiful videos on YouTube may be an encouragement to our young brother, in whom the love of Christ dwells richly.

#19 Comment By OMM 0910 On February 11, 2018 @ 2:13 pm

I have a feeling that when that Beatific Vision keeps never arriving that he’s going to leave celibacy, just like that gay Mormon Josh Weed is [6] for another man.

#20 Comment By ginger On February 11, 2018 @ 2:14 pm

First vacation alone together in 18 years?! Have fun!

#21 Comment By Andrea On February 11, 2018 @ 2:21 pm

I am sorry for both him and Scott. This is an area where I disagree with the Catholic Church.

[NFR: For the record, this reader is not Catholic, but Protestant, though of course Catholics teach chastity for all unmarried people, straight and gay alike. — RD]

#22 Comment By Brendan On February 11, 2018 @ 5:53 pm

Some of the comments here are rather strange.

The writer is bisexual. He says he is likely more attracted to men than to women, but also attracted to women as well as men. This does not therefore mean a lifetime of celibacy for him (as it would mean for a man who is not attracted to women at all), but rather means that men are off limits even though he is in part attracted to them.

I live this in my own life, being bisexual as well — although I am significantly more attracted to women than to men. It *does* mean that when someone like “Scott” comes along, to whom you are attracted, you should give it a wide berth in order to avoid the dynamic that *could* lead to sin, in the way that the writer experienced it — so it is still a significant sacrifice in that sense, although nothing nearly as challenging as the experience of someone who perceives that they have an exclusively same-sex attraction profile.

It seems that many posters are either overlooking this detail or, as is also common enough, assuming that the writer is in fact gay and not bisexual, regardless of what he says — which, if it’s the case, is rather juicy in its irony, coming in an age where everyone who has traditional views of any sort is endlessly hectored by many of the same types of people about how people’s own articulation and description of themselves needs to be uncritically accepted and affirmed.

#23 Comment By JonF On February 11, 2018 @ 6:23 pm

Re: A bachelor has no one to answer to but himself.

Well, that’s true for someone who is a misanthropic recluse. Friendship however also obligates us to do things for others that may not be to our own pleasure.

Bon voyage, Rod! I hope France in February is a more of a delight than February in my part of the world.

#24 Comment By Theodore On February 11, 2018 @ 6:34 pm

To the young man who wrote in:

If you are now an undergraduate, then I am about a decade or a decade and a half older than you. I too was raised as a very conservative evangelical Christian, in a loving home, and went off to attend a major national university in the early years of the 21st century, and at that university I too realized I was gay. While our experiences have not been identical, reading your account was reminiscent of some of my most painful, happy, and important experiences. Your account is very, very moving. I would encourage you to continue to share and talk about your thoughts and experiences and decisions with the teachers in your life – with the pastors of your church and with the campus chaplains and other fellowship leaders at your university, with mental health counselors as you mentioned, with your other mentors or guides, with your thoughtful and wise family and friends. There are tremendous costs and burdens to celibacy. Don’t tackle them alone or seek to evaluate them alone. Talk about them with those who can help you and advise you.

#25 Comment By thomas tucker On February 11, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

One thing I would recommend to the author of the letter would be to do some deep, hard thinking about why he might have these same sex attractions. It would also be very helpful to read Father Harvey’s books about SSA. He may find that there are other, less obvious and less superficial reasons for these desires besides “I was born this way.”
Rod, note too that the Catholic Church also teaches within marriage- you aren’t supposed to just act out on adulterous desires, for example, regardless of how much happiness you think you’ll find by doing so.

#26 Comment By stephen cooper On February 11, 2018 @ 8:35 pm

I, for one, do not feel all that sorry for this young man, and if he reads this comment thread, I hope he knows that some of us are not willing to insult him. He is one of the fortunate people in this world because he knows that we should not put love of another human being, no matter how convenient, ahead of love of God. Comparing the ability to know that truth with the common ability to get married as soon as one wants is to compare the obviously good with a mere potential good.

Were he a heterosexual male with no capacity to attract a woman whom he found attractive, society would label him a “loser”, a “gamma male”, and – believe me – he would see people laughing as hard as they can at people like him in almost every modern and classic movie (there is one particularly nasty scene in Judy Garland’s “Meet Me in St Louis” movie where some ugly guys dance with her at a local ball and then she dances with her grandpa and, with completed contempt in her voice, tells her grandpa that, because she had danced with ugly men, her grandpa was the “first” real man she had danced with that night.)

That is what heterosexuals face. We may love the opposite sex but the opposite sex generally does not love back unless we are handsome or rich or otherwise blessed with the good things of this world. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. God knows, too, and God loves the poor.

Plus, as several commenters have said, marriage is often difficult.

Well, lots of women settle for men they do not find attractive. When they go to church, the priest or pastor often ignores them because they are clearly losers in the lottery of life. This is true.
People who say unkind and insulting things on blog comment threads, when they shouldn’t, have many supporters and doppelgängers in real life (mon frere, mon semblable, as Baudelaire said on a bad day in an evil hour) : but the ridicule of those who do not love God as they should is just what it is, something that passes away. Meanwhile, as for the prayers we all, one hopes, have said with a request that God might help us to recognize that love (the love of God for all of us) is everything, outweighing the failures that are our fault and the failures that are not our fault: the angels themselves listen to those prayers with love, as they (the prayers) make their humble way to God.

Have a nice time in Paris, Rod. It is a city of good restaurants and, more importantly, as you know, there are wonderful pilgrimage sites there – Rue de Bac, the square at the Bastille where the blood of so many martyrs was spilled, and the little park so beloved of Saint Genevieve, overlooking, in its way, the Ile de la Cite. Such parks are at their most beautiful in February, under that late winter light.

#27 Comment By Robert E. On February 11, 2018 @ 8:39 pm

“[NFR: Well, you keep on being you. How do you know that I’ll be a glutton? You don’t. You just don’t like what Christianity teaches on this issue — RD]”

Do Protestants, even conservative Protestants who disapprove of homosexuality, really teach the exact same thing though? The idea of “disordered desire” seems like a very specifically Catholic, “natural law” styled approach rather than a universal Christian one.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 11, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

What I would ask Scott–but especially you–is: would it not be possible to love “Scott” in the right way? That is, in a self-sacrificial, or chaste way?

Generally if one has been involved in a carnal union with another person, remaining intimate friends chastely is not a good bet. Its why wives take a jaundiced view of husbands remaining “close friends” with a “former” mistress.

How will a life of celibacy better reflect the Christian virtues than a committed homosexual relationship that involves the sacrifice of one’s finances, attention and time to the good of someone else?

Rod has given his answer, mine is more Voltairean. I don’t know that it does, BUT, to a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or other who sincerely believes that homosexual acts are themselves ipso facto sinful, the question Bradshaw poses is nonsense. The mere fact of engaging one’s body homosexually IS the opposite of virtue.

If you don’t believe the premise, of course the conclusion makes no sense to you. Religion is by nature built on premises accepted on faith, there being no objective proof. (There are occasional exceptions, like Elijah’s contest with the priests of Ba’al). So, don’t argue that someone’s faith is invalid because you don’t accept the premises.

Your right to your own premises is fully secure by the First Amendment.

As to the loneliness of single individuals, there is the old Puritan standard that single adults must either be married or moved into the household of a family where they will not be alone. Widows and widowers alike benefited from this tradition, whether related by blood to their host family or not. And there’s always getting out in the community or putting a lot of time into the life of a church, like Sam said.

#29 Comment By William Tighe On February 11, 2018 @ 8:56 pm

Hope wrote:

“I just can’t imagine a merciful God expects that of him.”

Perhaps not your imaginary god, but that is precisely what the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, commands and expects of his followers.

while James Bradshaw bloviated:

“How will a life of celibacy better reflect the Christian virtues than a committed homosexual relationship”

If ye love me, keep my commandments; that is the primary Christian virtue.

while Chris wrote:

“Morals should reflect a higher order universal ethical principle.”

Atheist or Deist morals perhaps, not Christian ones.

It is amusing to see so many imaginary “gods” concocted on this thread.

#30 Comment By Robert On February 11, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

The people who pity this man because they assume that he will lead a life of loneliness and yearning have probably not spent much time in the gay community. I have, I’m gay. There are many, many lonely gay men.

Part of the concept of gay liberation was the ability to choose how one wanted to live their life. This man has chosen a path of celibacy and it’s just as valid as my choice to come out. Reacting to his choice with pity and sadness is no different than someone reacting to mine with pity and sadness – it’s demeaning and hurtful.

Maybe he will ultimately chose to pursue a relationship or maybe he won’t, either choice is valid and should be respected. I applaud his commitment to what he believes is right for him even if it’s not something I would/could do.

#31 Comment By Daniel (not Larrison) On February 12, 2018 @ 9:13 am

James Bradshaw wrote:

Lifelong celibacy is not human.

Just substitute “celibacy” with “homosexual marriage” and you’ll see how incredibly bigoted this statement is.

#32 Comment By Jon On February 12, 2018 @ 10:49 am


Breaking up is always sad. Denying one’s self the hope for a love with all of its carnality is heartbreaking. There is only one person to love. Sometimes a couple breaks up and each finds his soulmate in another. But that is sometimes. As you correctly have pointed out, “There are many, many lonely gay men.” A love lost may not necessarily be found in another. That is what is heartbreaking about such a decision.

#33 Comment By The Avipisces On February 12, 2018 @ 11:30 am

An encouraging letter. But as much as your work has been a help to me over the years, providing countless moments of intellectual and spiritual edification, I find I am almost equally delighted to see, in print, “chirren.” I wonder if that word perplexed any yankees.

#34 Comment By cstromj On February 12, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

From a writing by Sheldon Vanauken regarding a correspondence with C.S. Lewis discussing homosexuality and Christianity:

“…we were confronted with a major problem: homosexuality. A girl came to talk to Davy alone; a boy to talk to us both. They came because we were Christians. Our pre-Christian view of homosexuality had been tolerant: if that was what people wanted, why not? And one of our dear friends was a pleasant lesbian lady. But now as Christians what did we think? We didn’t know. We knew St. Paul was rather stern about it; but maybe he meant just sex, homosex, without love. Sex that came before God. Might there be, perhaps, a Christian love, marriage even, between men or between women that included homosex but was not dominated by it? We did not know. Our Rector thought not. Eventually I wrote to C. S. Lewis.”

The reply (abbreviations and all) written by C.S. Lewis. Many people have read this, but many have not.

I have seen less than you but more than I wanted of this terrible problem. I will discuss your letter with those whom I think wise in Christ. This is only an interim report. First, to map out the boundaries within which all discussion must go on, I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause, that the works of God should be made manifest in him. This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ Of course, the first step must be to accept any privations which, if so disabled, we can’t lawfully get. The homosexual has to accept sexual abstinence just as the poor man has to forego otherwise lawful pleasures because he would be unjust to his wife and children if he took them. That is merely a negative condition. What should the positive life of the homosexual be? I wish I had a letter which a pious male homosexual, now dead, once wrote to me—but of course it was the sort of letter one takes care to destroy. He believed that his necessity could be turned to spiritual gain: that there were certain kinds of sympathy and understanding, a certain social role which mere men and mere women could not give. But it is all horribly vague and long ago. Perhaps any homosexual who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under Divine guidance will, however, be shown the way. I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g. by mock or quasi-marriage with a member of one’s own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way. Jealousy (this another homo. admitted to me) is far more rampant and deadly among them than among us. And I don’t think little concessions like wearing the clothes of the other sex in private is the right line, either. It is the duties, burdens, the characteristic virtues of the other sex, I suspect, which the patient must try to cultivate. I have mentioned humility because male homosexuals (I don’t know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don’t treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type. I wish I could be more definite. All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought.

#35 Comment By Oakinhouston On February 13, 2018 @ 9:04 am

“That is what heterosexuals face. We may love the opposite sex but the opposite sex generally does not love back unless we are handsome or rich or otherwise blessed with the good things of this world. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. ”

I embarrassed I didn’t know that women had so much trouble to find husbands. Such selfish men, unwilling to look at a woman unless she’s rich or powerful.

Yet, My cleaning lady is married, and she’s poor, and does not look like the First Lady, and she was able to get a husband. Perhaps there’s hope for you too, and a poor, ugly guy will also be willing to take you even if you are not rich.

#36 Comment By Brandon On February 13, 2018 @ 9:20 am

Just out of college, I met another recent graduate, a young man who, like me, enjoyed home-cooked meals, long talks, and dreaming about the future. My parents gave us land on which we built the home where we still live, doing much of the work ourselves. We put each other through graduate school, one taking sabbatical while the other worked. We helped nurse each other’s ailing parents, accompanying them to the end.

That man, my now-husband, has been the light of my life for 37 years. I shudder to think what a rich life we would have missed had we listened to the sexual teaching of the Catholic faith in which we were raised.

#37 Comment By stephen cooper On February 13, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

Oakinhouston – read again, and try to read, this time, without a chip on your shoulder, and without scorn in your heart.

Cor ad cor loquitur, as Newman liked to say: let us try to understand what each other is saying from their heart!

#38 Comment By Thomas Tucker On February 13, 2018 @ 11:45 pm

Brandon describes a rich life that has nothing to do with the “sexual teaching of the Catholic faith” since all that he describes could be experienced with no sexual relations at all. In fact, it often is.