I am always looking for good reasons for or against people identifying as “gay”. Dr. John Cavadini, from Notre Dame, recently said the following, which pretty much summarizes the best argument I’ve heard FOR using the language of sexual orientation. I have a lot of sympathy for what Cavadini is saying here.
Suppose you have a kid who tells you they are “gay.” You try to convince him that he is “struggling with same-sex attraction.” He says, “No, I’m not, I’m gay, and I know the Church is anti-gay and I intend to leave the Church as soon as I am able.” I have seen this scenario worked out with friends of mine, with parents who are good conservative Catholics, and indeed their kid(s) have left the Church and remain hostile.
What if there were someone in the parish, self-identified as “gay,” and was public about agreeing with Church teaching on marriage. I would, if it were my kid, immediately send him to talk to this person. Someone like this person, who apparently has resources for defending Church teaching and can provide support and advice for someone, showing that it is possible for people to be this way and live this way faithfully in the Church, that there are options here, including the option of marriage (meaning as the Church understands it), and including the option of not running your life as though your sexual orientation was in fact your whole identity.
I think that such a person, self-identified as “gay,” and also equally self-identified as defending Church teaching, has something to offer, a gift, and I wonder if the Church is very good at receiving this gift. It seems that this is a way of helping someone who “struggles with same-sex attraction,” if by “helping” you mean, helps them to live according to Church teaching.
I think the option of a self-identified gay Catholic who is living according to Church teaching, defending it, and becoming more holy and loving in doing so, can be a great asset in the Church, without also going so far as to say, this is the paradigm for everyone, or that this exhausts the strategies that the Church should have. I think this is one strategy that could be very helpful and am, with this conference, trying to explore it more fully. It is not, and cannot be, the only strategy.