Dr. G.C. Dilsaver once said something very provocative about “same sex attraction” in an interview with Mike Church.
For those not familiar, this is the term of recent coinage used to label the intrinsically disordered attractions otherwise called “homosexual” and other adjectives no longer considered polite. (People like Saint Thomas and me, who use the words derived from that Biblical city now at the bottom of the Dead Sea, are now considered old fashioned.) The neologism does have a debatable utility in that it limits itself to the attraction alone, abstracting from both particular acts and the lifestyle founded upon that attraction. This has its advantages at times, but it is rather like considering the attraction to domestic violence while prescinding entirely from the stark reality of its traumatized victims.
But what was that provocative thing that Dr. Dilsaver said?
He said that he was all for “same sex attraction” — that it is indeed a good thing.
After a brief moment of discomfort sufficient to let the shock value kick in, he explained himself, making a great deal of good sense: When a man sees excellent qualities and masculine virtues in another man, he is attracted to those goods, and so he should be. Such an attraction leads the beholder to admire and want to emulate the manly virtue he sees in his excellent exemplar. This is quite natural and beneficial to all concerned.
We Christian men have been given the model of perfect masculinity in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Man-God. After Him, we have the most perfect of all male human persons, Saint Joseph, in whose month of March we presently find ourselves. We should be strongly attracted to these great men, one of whom is a Divine Person, while the other is the divinely appointed guardian and protector of Jesus and Mary — who, as head of the Holy Family, stands as a human icon of God the Father.
Dr. Dilsaver’s insightful provocation came to mind the other day while I was reading a book by the Marist spiritual writer, Father Thomas Dubay, “And You Are Christ’s”: The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life. In his preface, Father Dubay contrasts the different ways that men and women view the virginal and celibate consecrated life. The extended passage is worth citing, with my underlined emphasis drawing attention to what is most germane to my point:
Just as on the natural plane women and men differ widely in their outlook on reality, so too do they vary in their attraction to the life of consecrated celibacy. Normal women are readily drawn to the Pauline imagery of the Church as the beautiful bride married to Christ. A woman’s whole bent is toward persons and love. Drawn naturally to the male and his characteristics, a woman with the virginal charism and responding fully to its implications of a total, burning love for God, easily sees herself as given in a heavenly marriage to the eternal Word of God become man. She has no problem in seeing her life, not as an impersonal career — a job to be done — but as Saint Paul describes it, giving her undivided and chaste attention to one Beloved.
A man sees consecrated celibacy somewhat differently. His attraction centers on the towering and virile figure of Christ as one normal man is drawn, with not the least erotic overtones, to another extraordinary man — but immeasurably more so, for this extraordinary man is also the very Son of God. When the male responds fully to his celibate gift and thus begins to grow in a total, burning love for Christ, he sees himself not, obviously, as a bride, but as an intimate friend and brother. Such actually is another way Jesus addresses himself to his chosen intimates: “I shall not call you servants any more… I call you friends [beloved ones]” (Jn. 15:15).
Yet men with the celibate charism need to be reminded that they, along with all men and women, are members of the virgin Church wedded to one husband. Before God each person is receptive, feminine.
Father Dubay goes on to explain that last assertion in a clear and satisfying way, using both Old Testament and New Testament passages. In relation to God, all creation is feminine. This is a cosmological reality in the order of nature, but in the higher order of supernatural grace, it takes on a more “personal” specificity: In relation to the masculine Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ, the Church is feminine, for the Church is the bride of Christ. For this reason, I argue that a consecrated woman is a more perfect image than a consecrated man of what the Church is.
Focusing on the underlined passage, I was gratified to read that Father Dubay said that the celibate man aflame with “a total, burning love for Christ” sees Our Lord “as an intimate friend and brother.” Yes, Jesus Christ is our Friend; yes, He is our Brother. This is true for all the baptized, but just as the virgin woman looks at Christ in a special way as her Bridegroom, the consecrated male celibate sees Jesus especially as his Friend and Brother.
Naturally speaking, a good and noble man’s virtue and character make him the object of our attraction. If we are blessed to have such a good man as our friend, we can discuss matters pertaining to virtue and character with him, and, in a completely natural and non-contrived way, our conversation with him would approach any topic of mutual interest from the point of view of virtue and the true good to be considered in that topic. We can learn from that friend both by his word and his example.
It should be evident to anyone with a sensus Catholicus that friendships like this can and ought to be supernaturalized if our friend belongs to the household of Faith.
But it gets even better than that. By reading the Gospels in a meditative and prayerful way, we can engage Our Lord in a similar friendship. In so doing, we spend time with our Friend and Brother, learning from Him both in word and deed, and speaking to Him about our struggles with sin, our failures in practicing virtue, our difficult relationships, our desires, our aspirations — or any topic we would discuss with our closest Friend. This does not exclude the acts that are due to God alone in our worship of the Blessed Trinity: adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition. Not at all. But it adds to them a certain intimacy that flows from the beautiful divine condescension of the Incarnation. When our best Friend is also a Divine Person, He gives us more than advice, example, and a sympathetic ear: He gives us grace.
It has already been mentioned that this is the month of Saint Joseph, the most perfect model for us men after Our Lord. Before drawing to a close, I would like to take a glance at the Patriarch of Nazareth. It is said that chivalry is dead, and that men no longer know how to treat ladies. To institute a Catholic renaissance in chivalry, I think devotion to Saint Joseph is necessary. We can even elevate chivalry above what it generally was in the past by making it truly supernatural.
Here is a challenge to Catholic men: In your interactions with the fairer sex, whether with your wives, sisters, daughters, consecrated women, or whomever, strive to be chivalric like Saint Joseph. Can you imagine the awe, the respect, and the perfect adoration of God that Saint Joseph practiced in the face of the august mystery of Mary’s sanctity? Not only did he honor Her virginity, but he adored the mystery of the Incarnation in Her, fully aware that the Blessed Virgin had conceived of the Holy Ghost. It is no wonder that he considered himself unworthy of this arrangement and “was minded to put her away privately” (Matt. 1:19). I realize that we are here considering the Chosen One Herself, the supernal and immaculate Mother of God, who merits a higher regard than all others (specifically, the cultus hyperduliae). Yes, she is “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28), but all women, either as mothers or as virgins can be images, however imperfect, of the Virgin Mother of God, which is why chivalry originally grew out of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first place (cf. Gary Potter’s “Chivalry and Our Lady”).
To those who object that some women simply are not ladies and therefore do not merit chivalrous treatment, all I can say is perhaps if they were treated like ladies, they would seek to become ladies. If not, at least the men striving to practice chivalry will elevate their own lot in the attempt. They would thereby be acting more like Saint Joseph and the One he so sedulously defended.
Etymologically, the word “attract” comes from the Latin words ad and trahere, meaning “draw toward.” It is notable that, in the Latin Vulgate, Saint Jerome puts that same Latin verb on the Master’s lips when He says, “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him [traxerit eum]; and I will raise him up in the last day” (John 6:44).
So I end with another challenge to Catholic men: Stir up in your souls that “burning love for Christ” Father Dubay wrote of, saying to yourself with Saint Paul that this heavenly exemplar of all virtue and virility, “loved me, and delivered himself for me” — and let the Father attract you deeply and ardently to “the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13).