Regular readers know that, for a few years now, I have been hammering away at the topic of “gay identity.” Though I have never experienced same-sex attraction, this topic is important to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am a Passionist. Secondly, I have Bipolar Disorder. Both of these things have something in common with those who experience same-sex attraction. My friend Daniel Mattson has now written a book that explains in detail what I have been trying to say for years, and much more besides: Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.
Mattson’s book has much to offer, especially for those who have same-sex attractions, but also for the Passionist, for the person with Bipolar Disorder, and indeed, for anyone who struggles with their inner passions and appetites. The “Passion” in “Passionist” refers to the Passion of Christ, but there is another kind of “passion” discussed in the catechism. “Passions” are “movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.” [CCC 1763] “Appetite” is “a tendency, an inclination, or direction.” Same-sex attraction is an appetite, albeit a disordered one. We all have sensitive appetites. We all have passions. Therefore, we all can relate to people with same-sex attraction and find spiritual help from this book.
Because I carry the Cross as a Passionist, and because, due to Bipolar Disorder, I struggle with emotions that can incline me toward good or evil, I relate to the experience of Daniel Mattson and others with same-sex attraction. Further, I completely understand why identity is a central component in this walk with God. That’s why I’ve been clumsily hammering away at it for years. Daniel Mattson has covered it a thousand times better than I ever could.
We must save our language if we wish to teach our children, and the society in which we live, who they really are, and how to love God and to pursue the path that God has marked out for human flourishing. The most important step in the restoration of the true order of sexual reality is to reclaim the dignity of the Word, the Logos, the Word made flesh, the only Word that has the power to convey reality. Where words have become an instrument of deception and manipulation, they must become instruments of truth and healing. We must reclaim the dignity of the Word.
We need to start using the right words again.
Mattson’s book is as thorough a treatment of the topic of sexual identity as one can find and it is truly in blessed accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church. But this is not all. He also gives an extensive catechesis on redemptive suffering, which was a huge plus for me as a Passionist. Throughout the book, he incorporates teachings from the Popes and the Saints for the edification of the reader. His chapter on living the chaste life was fascinating and helpful for me as a divorced woman who must live the celibate life. All in all, the chapters of his book form a tapestry that can serve quite literally as a guide book for those with same-sex attraction. But again, it is not only for those but for anyone who carries the Cross and would like to have on hand some wisdom to understand God’s plan for the journey to sainthood better.