Scalia Prompts Examination of Not-Quite "Ex-Gay" Group "Courage"

Last week, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed by Michael McGough that focused heavily on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent, and not-so-recent, comments about LGBT people. In a recent exchange with Princeton University student, Duncan Hosie, Scalia refuses to see being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender as identity characteristics, but only as behavior. Thus the title of the op-ed, “For Scalia, no gay people, just gay sex?”

However, further down in the op-ed is the fact that Scalia’s son, Paul, is a Roman Catholic priest and has served as a chaplain to a Catholic organization known as “Courage”. Courage is technically not one of those so-called “ex-gay” programs, although it would be easy to confuse it as one. Courage is a Roman Catholic program that encourages and promotes chastity for LGBT people. Think of it like an AA model. In fact, the “Twelve Steps of Courage” are adapted from the original twelve steps of AA.

McGough notes that Antonin Scalia’s belief that there are no gay people, just gay behavior, echo the views of his son. Paul Scalia has been quoted as saying, “Most errors in this area come from the reduction of the person to the attractions: to say, ‘A person who has homosexual attractions must be homosexual.’  This reduces the human person to the sum total of his sexual inclinations.”

This isn’t the first time that Courage has tried to claim that LGBT people see their sexual orientation as the whole of their identity. In September, Courage released a strange video entitled “Yes to You” which featured a rapping priest.

As an aside, I have nothing against the rapping priest. I have a friend who I is himself a Christian rapper. His message is good. He’s a seminary student. And he puts on a pretty good show. My favorite song of his is “All Are Welcome.” Maybe we need more good religious rappers? I don’t know.

But, I digress.

The rapping priest is using the same messages and themes that we are hearing from Paul Scalia. Namely, that your sexual orientation doesn’t make your entire identity. That identity isn’t derived from sexual orientation. That you are a whole person, not just a sex act.

The response from the LGBT community should be “duh”.

No LGBT person claims sexual orientation or gender identity is what completely makes up their identity as a person. Sexual orientation and gender identity has always been parts of us, but parts that engage with the rest of our identity.

For those of us LGBT people who also identify as Christian (and probably several other faiths), we believe that the source of our identity is God. We believe that God created us with our whole identity and set us in a world in which that identity is played out relationally with the rest of the world.

In fact, I’d go a step further. Many LGBT people would prefer that there was less attention on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBT people are not the ones who are so focused on it, but the anti-LGBT industry continues to make a huge deal out of it.

So if Courage wants LGBT people to stop making sexual orientation such a dominant part of their lives, then Roman Catholic leaders should stop making it such a dominant part of theirs. Stop firing employees like Al Fischer and Steav Bates-Congdon for being gay. Stop using pastoral care moments like the funeral of Barbara Johnson’s mother to tell gay people are unwelcome, even during the grieving process. Stop uninviting people like Dominic Sheahan-Stahl from speaking at Catholic schools because they happen to be gay, even if they have no plans to speak about it.

If the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and by extension Courage, is really concerned that people develop holistic identities, then they should focus on cultivating Roman Catholic leaders who are themselves well-rounded individuals, not people who are obsessed with the sexual orientation of others. 

For people to understand the holistic lives of LGBT Roman Catholics, we will need to tell their stories. And that's what GLAAD is planning to do. Join us in telling 1,000 stories in 2013.