I read some parts of your book “Being Gay” and I was struck by the idea of gay morality, that is, the idea of distinguishing between good and bad or at least less good homosexuality. In this way, I believe that you want to highlight what is good about homosexuality, and I can only agree with you on this, but unfortunately, underlining what’s good, you end up also underlining what is or may be negative and here I could still agree with you, but with some significant limitation.
Project, you say you are absolutely secular and I respect you for this, I come from a rather traditional Catholic education, in theory I should have learned to distinguish good from bad but I also learned not to judge and not to underestimate the reasons of others, even those who have very different lifestyles from mine.
I am now close to 70 years and every time I happen to have a serious dialogue with someone who has lived experiences far away from mine I realize that if on one side I keep my tendency to judge, for the other I am strongly held back by the fact that the wrong things, when they are seen closely are much less strange and wrong than they appear when they are viewed only from a distance or are considered only in theory.
I was talking a few days ago with a guy who was not yet thirty and, as my old habit and my fault, I was for the umpteenth time trying to put myself in the chair, but fortunately I stayed and I left room for that guy. He spoke to me with great sincerity of his life experiences and I felt completely disarmed, I realized that my moralistic arguments made no sense when compared to hard experiences such as those experienced by that guy. I felt a total imbecile, one who deluded himself to understand everything without really having any knowledge of what he is talking about. My world seemed to me only a pile of empty talk.
What would I have done if I had found myself in the situations in which the guy found himself? What would I have chosen? And then, I would have had a real chance to choose? That guy was radically different from me in his attitudes because he had a life radically different from mine and much harder than mine. Years ago I would have misjudged guys like him, I would have said that they had the fixed idea of sex, but, after all, I saw more and more clearly the stupidity of these judgments.
The morality of my being gay, or at least what seems to me to be the morality of my being gay, if I want to tell the whole truth, probably comes to me from my Catholic formation, which has somehow preserved me from the hardest experiences, that is, the my being a Catholic made me a gay man in a very particular way, but beware, this is a more prudent, wiser, more controlled way, but perhaps even more hypocritical and less substantially participatory. I did what all the boys do, including sex, even if with caution, I’m not a saint and I reproach myself especially for not doing that little good I could do, then I stop to reflect and I wonder what turned me away, for example, from the search for unrestrained sex, and honestly, thinking about it, I don’t think it was Catholic education but fear, that is brutally the need to save face, which is still very mean, here the border between morality and meanness becomes much less clear.
The need to save face for me was valuable only because I was never really 100% myself and above all I was never put with my back to the wall from situations really stronger than me, as happened to that guy because in that case I would probably have behaved exactly like him. When we go to the substance of things, the morality of people, rather than an individual quality is the result of a context and the same concepts of merit and guilt lose their clear contours.
After all, Pope Francis himself said. “Who am I to judge a gay?” It seemed like an awkward phrase, which wanted to indicate an opening, but it is a phrase that has an extremely serious meaning. I tried to apply that phrase to myself and I came to the conclusion that I have no right to judge. Even those who go in search of desperate and almost neurotic sex can have their own moral and that moral is not worse than mine, and is only apparently different.
From the dialogue with that guy I understood that sex did not bring him happiness at all and that in him the need to be loved and respected for what he really is is very much alive, I would even say that it is much more alive than in me. We were talking for hours and we realized that there was a profound mutual respect between us, a mutual respect that was almost unexpected but absolutely real.
Project, allow me a digression, I, who am a gay man and I don’t want to lose contact with my faith, I greatly admire Pope Francis, because, in my opinion, he has brought Christianity back to its founding values, has not made controversy with modernity but he sought out people and their suffering, essentially he did not judge but tried to make his voice heard in favor of the last ones. Doing something good and concrete without judging anyone, this is his style.
In short, now I feel that my being gay can be truly reconcilable with my being a Christian, at least to a certain extent. I know you have argued the opposite, but you have argued it in other times, and I would like to understand what you think today, after Pope Francis gave a more evangelical reading of Catholicism. Excuse me if I allowed myself to provoke you with this mail but I respect you very much and I’d like to know if you’re always of the same opinion. I would like to emphasize that I really appreciate what you do.
Hi Paul, I have read your mail with great interest. Yes: do not judge! It is an evangelical principle but it is also a secular moral duty. What you say about that guy, I have happened several times and put me in crisis several times. Now my tendency to judge has greatly reduced and I have recovered the awareness of my ignorance and of my incapacity. I think I still have a lot to learn and unfortunately, at my age, I will not have time to understand many things, but certainly I will keep under control the idea of judging.
As for Pope Francis, I cannot deny that, although I feel radically secular, I listen with the utmost attention to what he says and try to treasure it. I also have the impression that he has brought Catholicism back to more authentically evangelical values. Catholicism is not or should not be an ideology. I would say that he is a pope who has substantially secular attitudes that can be shared by many reasonable people even outside the Catholic Church, he has undoubtedly courage. I cannot deny that, especially in the last few months, I was very impressed by the fact that Francis never emphasizes the divisions but seeks the collaboration of men of good will to make all together something good and concrete. Indeed, Pope Francis did not judge but tried to pursue the good by committing himself to the peripheries of the world. I am only sorry that he is now an old man because his presence could be dismissed quickly after his departure from the scene, and I believe that, if this happened, it would be detrimental to everyone, Catholics and others. Well, I think you can understand pretty well what I think of Pope Francis.
Paul, I thank you very much for your “provocation”! I wish there were so many provocations like this!
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-do-not-judge-other-gays