Friday, April 05, 2013

Speaking about homosexuality? Melinda Selmys' 'queer' way to save gays

Reprinted on RenewAmerica.

In her article, "How to Speak About Homosexuality," (and subsequent follow-up, "What I Mean By Acceptance"), former gay-turned-committed-Catholic author Melinda Selmys makes first one, then two attempts to trash and bash Michael Voris’ “FBI (Faith Based Investigation) into Homosexuality,” with mixedor more accuratelymixed-up results. And here, the fault is not so much Selmys', who admits her journey from "sin" and "confusion" to Truth and Catholicism is still filled with "doubts, depression, self-loathing, and intellectual pride," but with First Things, who offers up the still-evolving Melinda as the authentic voice of Catholic/gay evangelization without the brash-but-accurate corrections of someone like Mike.

Melinda Selmys
First, after categorizing Voris' film as angry (not to mention "paranoid, hysterical, and alienating... [and] homophobic"), Selmys then slashes back by saying, "I’m tempted to rip into its bloody meat and leave behind a mangled carcass as a warning to others who might desire to make something similar," seemingly not realizing that by writing thusly she just revealed her own anger out loud. But whereas Voris clearly delineates early on in his video that his (righteous) anger is directed at the sin and not the sinner, Selmys immediately evokes an anger that is personal. Of course, after many readers rightly call her on the carpet for this, she tries to jokingly dismiss it by saying, "Several people have mistaken my desire to rip into Voris' production for rage. It's nothing that elevated. More like intellectual blood-lust, really"—and then proceeds to make the mess even worse.

For after her questionable jest, Selmys goes on to say, "My problem is not with people telling the truth about homosexuality, my problem is with people mistaking anger and disgust for [the] truth [of homosexuality]," claiming that Voris' 94-minute documentary contains "factual and logical errors...about one every two minutes." But instead of then depicting even a single so-called Voris lie, she sighs that "it would take me thousands of words to detangle them all," and instead plays the "C" card (that is, "Charity") and trots out the ol' "Offenses Against Truth” section of the Catechism (CCC 2475-2479) as her sole defense, something that should have made her editors cringe.

For as one who has had that Catechism passage thrown in his face when he exposed the vile sexual sins of Fathers John Corapi and Thomas Euteneuer, I can state from experience that Selmys calling Voris a liar, and later, uncharitable, without uncovering even one of his errors is a grave mistake indeed. Since Voris is neither saint nor savior, I suppose it is okay to claim the commentator named after the Church's defending angel doesn't always know when to hold 'em, know when to scold 'em...provided you give the proof. But to bring out this passage every time someone raises his voice in defense of the Church, especially when Christ called the religious teachers of his time "blind guides," "whitewashed tombs," and "brood of vipers" (see Matt 23:23-36), and St. Paul stated that the ways of the first century Roman homosexuals were "degrading...and unnatural, shameful...and evil" (see Romans 1:18-32), is to be in serious error yourself.

Her unwillingness to debate Voris notwithstanding, perhaps Selmys' greatest shortcoming as spokeswoman for gay evangelization is her failure to identify both the issue and her audience. For after criticizing Voris for his offensiveness toward gays, Selmys then manages to alienate just about every orthodox Catholic or evangelical who isn't a former practicing homosexual... Selmys may be correct in saying that Voris' juxtaposition of "pictures of gay couples snogging in the park" with "images of Sodom in flames" will not appeal to gays, but at least you know where Michael stands, and you have to admit Voris realizes he is appealing to not just practicing homosexuals, but lukewarm and committed Christians as well. Meanwhile, dumping on the devout by urging "[t]he Church in America" to "move on" and give up the fight against gay marriage as her Canadian counterparts have done "while the corpse is still...warm on the table," she admits her acceptance of this loss is easier, since, "I’m a queer Canadian girl...raised in a liberal Anglican tradition and educated within a gay-positive public school system."

There are (at least) two major problems with this last statement; both of which reveal Selmys' inability to distinguish compassion from confusion. First, by identifying herself as "queer," she is either ignorant of the fact that this word is offensive to "straight" Christians (just as the "N" word is to blacks) or she is deliberately being more "in the face" than her nemesis Voris ever was. Of course, she could claim she is just being "in" or cool, just as it is cool for (some) blacks to call each other "n---er" while at the same time okay for them to whack a white when they use the word. Again, if Selmys was speaking in "the Village" or writing for a publication primarily aimed at promoting the sexually active gay lifestyle, I might say okay. But thankfully, this is something First Things is not, at least not yet.

The even deeper problem is that Selmys does not say she was "queer," but identifies it as her present condition. Again, perhaps one could argue that Selmys' declaration "I'm a queer" is the equivalant of an AA member who hasn't taken a drink in years saying "I'm an alcoholic," but as the Church has never encouraged Her believers to claim a past sin as part of their current Christian identity, this present tense statement is confusing to say the least. And in "What I Mean By Acceptance," Selmys' next blog and her attempt to clear up the confusion, her confusion becomes even clearer.

As with "How to Speak About Homosexuality," "What I Mean By Acceptance" does deliver some decent lessons. Selmys' discovery that "militant homosexual activists...[are]...[m]y brothers and sisters" or "that my enemies were actually beautiful people, beloved of God, seeking the Good, the Beautiful and the True as earnestly and imperfectly as I do myself," are both insights worthy of an orthodox Catholic publication. But when she states she had to get past her former "confused, atheistic, occasionally nihilistic, frequently narcissistic, suicidal, self-harming, self-isolating, and unbearably intellectual proud" former self by "identify[ing] with this creature that I had come to try to remember what it was that made me fall in love with my girlfriend," a red flag should pop up just as if the Church had named Nancy Pelosi the Cardinal of Los Angeles, California, or Joe Biden the Bishop of Boston.

I'd like to dismiss the "fall in love with my girlfriend" quote as merely imprecise language, such as a simple believer stating she "prays to Mary" when she really means "I ask Mary to pray for me to Christ." But Selmys is not an uneducated laywoman, and in her "desire for genuine communion with another human being" (as she calls it), Selmys' insistence on still using the word "love" to describe this intrinsically disordered sexual relationship she gave up fourteen years ago is more than problematic. It suggests she has yet to completely come to terms with the difference between the friendship and the lust in this relationship, and her choice of words implies, whether she realizes it or not, that not only is Selmys still sexually attracted to her girlfriend, but that these feelings of "love" are okay, even (or perhaps especially) for a Catholic.

While I agree with First Things that the convert Selmys has much to offer, I think if FT wanted to truly increase the effectiveness and expand the horizons of the "new evangelization" to include gays, they would encourage the debate between Selmys and Voris, if not face to face, then side by side in their publication. But whereas FT finds Voris' penchant for naming names of rogue clergy offensive, they, as well as This Rock and the National Catholic Register (some of the other Catholic publications that publish Selmys) find her errors, if not totally acceptable, at least still publishable. Voris, it is said, "polarizes," and polarization is not supposed to be conducive to donations, the renewal of subscriptions, or attracting advertisers. But whether that is true or not, it's time that Catholic publications started printing the whole Truth, and started worrying less about losing donations or subscriptions and more about losing souls; including their own.

Postscript: Since the first edition of this article, Michael Voris has reached out to Melinda Selmys asking her to come on his Blog Talk Radio show. Let's pray that she accepts!

Related: Melinda's list: Selmys' forty ways to love a lesbian (and hate Michael Voris)


Melinda Selmys said...

I have answered Voris' challenge to give specific criticisms. It took a while, because I wanted to be thorough and check my documentation. Here's the link:

JohnE said...

It seems that the FirstThings comments have been restricted to a trickle. Thank you for your post Tom, because it expressed many of the things that I attempted to write. The advice that those with SSA are our brothers and sisters and that we are in the same boat of sinners is well taken. What frustrates me is the way "acceptance" is used or strongly implied in multiple ways (accept political/cultural defeat, accept the death of America as a Christian nation, accept homosexuals as our brothers and sisters), while some commentators express their dismay and condescension that some wonder what "acceptance" means -- and are even accused of being "ominous" for doing so.

What I take away from Melinda's series of posts is that it is impossible to evangelize homosexuals unless you stop fighting the gay agenda, pro-choice movement, and "other pet bugaboos of the Christian-right" and accept political and cultural defeat -- even while the fight is far from over. Supposedly we should throw our future generations under the bus in order to make some homosexuals possibly more inclined to come to know the Truth?

She expresses that she feels no grief over the loss of America as a Christian nation, because she's not American and has no concept of living in a Christian nation. By the same logic, we would have to say there is no hope for heterosexuals to share in the grief of homosexuals because we aren't homosexual and have no concept of living with same sex attraction. I'm sure she doesn't mean to say that, but it seems like the same logic to me.

Finally, in the original post, prayer and perseverance are brushed off as hopeless, unrealistic, and unconvincing (why, because they never work?). And in the "Answering Michael Voris" post she then says no advice is given as to how to help SSA Catholics shoulder the cross of homosexuality -- although I struggle to find any practical plan of action from her either. If prayer and perseverance are hopeless, I'm afraid nothing less is going to work either. I see little hope given to the one struggling with same sex attraction or anyone who wants to help them.

Christine said...

I encourage you to send a note to the editor at First Things:

Yours is an excellent analysis, but it does little good if First Things remains unaware of the problems with Selmys and her viewpoint. Please send along your post to them so that they will be on notice next time they decide to lend her space to air her views.

Melinda Selmys said...

Hi John,

I think that accepting political and cultural defeat is a basic premise of Christianity. We have not here a lasting Kingdom. Christ is not the King of this world. This world is Satan's, as is made abundantly clear in the 2nd temptation in the desert. My contention is that people end up spinning their wheels counterproductively in the Culture Wars because they are, perhaps unconsciously, under the misapprehension that America can be the exception to this rule.
I wasn't saying that I feel no grief, I was just admitting that it's a lot easier for me because of the position that I'm in. It's not a logical proposition, it's an admission of my limitations. It's like a heterosexual admitting that they don't really know what it's like to be gay, not like a heterosexual refusing to have compassion. I'm saying that I can understand the grief that Americans feel, because I know what grief is like, but I can't feel it as my own grief, because it's not mine.
I'm also not saying that prayer and perseverance are unrealistic and unconvincing, I'm saying that the New Evangelization is going to require a coherent plan of action. The prayer in the upper room was important as a preparation for the first evangelization, but after that there had to be a plan: who was going to stay in Jerusalem, who was going to go to Corinth, who was going to go to India, what would be required of pagan converts, and so forth.
We can talk about what that plan should look like. I'm currently involved in a project with a dozen other Catholics, most of them scholars, about half of them homosexuals, working with the Institute of Church Life to formulate a coherent strategy. I have lots of practical suggestions, and a lot of them are discussed in my book, my blog and other writings. That just wasn't the focus of this particular article.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Melinda -- Thanks for your list, sent so promptly after my post. Did I inspire you? Your post certainly made me think.

Tom O'Toole said...

@ JohnE -- Thanks for your comments. I, too, was quite disturbed by Selmys' analysis on prayer, but many others already touched on that grave thought, so I left it to them to debate. Keep fighting the good fight!

P.S. Don't listen to Melinda -- you got it right.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Christine -- Thanks for your kind words, as well as your suggestion. My wife has noticed, since the death of Fr. John Neuhaus, that First Things is increasingly less Catholic, so chances are the editors think Selmys' stuff is fine. But it's worth a try.

Melinda Selmys said...


I seem to have miscommunicated quite a lot. I'll try to correct that. Forgive me: it's a very difficult dialogue to have at all, and the confusions aren't so much interior confusions as a difficulty in clearly expressing what I mean to people in a pro-Voris headspace. You have to understand, when I admit that my natural reaction to Voris is intellectual bloodlust, I'm not joking. I'm saying "This is a temptation that I suffer from, please take that into account when reading what I write." It's to help people orient themselves within the psychological and emotional framework that I'm coming from, in the hopes of trying to prevent my own failings and weaknesses from impeding understanding.
I did think it a little funny that you complain that the "still developing" Selmys is being given a voice within Christian discourse. To put this in purely logical terms: it would seem that either a) you believe that only already perfected people should be permitted to contribute in Christian forums, or b) you think that Christians should never admit their faults and weaknesses in public. The consequences of a) would be that only Jesus and the Virgin Mary would be permitted to contribute, therefore stifling continued discourse. The consequences of b) would be self-righteous hypocrisy and face-saving. I'm sure you don't actually believe either of these positions.
I also wanted to stress that I don't think the American Church should just move on. My point was that the American Church needs time to grieve, and that that's okay. The danger I see is that grief makes people blind to the effect that their words are having on other people. I know that I sometimes offend Catholics who are more conservative than me. I try to avoid it. My apologies. However, the stakes here are quite different: a Catholic who hears me and is alienated by my use of the word "queer" is alienated from me, Melinda Selmys. A gay or lesbian who hears what Michael Voris says and is alienated will feel alienated from the Church and the Body of Christ. That's why it's a big issue. If Catholics dislike me, no big deal. If homosexuals dislike Christ, seriously big deal.
It's not a matter of throwing future generations under the bus to save a couple of homosexual souls today. The way that Catholics have been handling the gay situations has been a cause of serious scandal, not just to gays and lesbians but also to secular people who perceive us as bigoted. We aren't able to exercise cultural influence or moral authority because we haven't learned how to speak to this culture so that the culture can hear us. Digging our heals in and insisting that we're "telling the truth" and that that's enough, even if we tell it in a way that nobody is going to hear, just doesn't it. It makes us into "clanging gongs," like St. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians. Cardinal Dolan recently made a statement acknowledging that our outreach on homosexual issues has been insufficient and saying that we have to work harder. I'm not some kind of heretic trying to lead people away from the One True Faith, I'm listening to the things that the hierarchy says about solidarity, about communion, about listening, about dialogue, about reaching out, and evangelizing people, and I'm wrestling to try to figure out creative ways of doing that in union with the full teaching of the Church. I've explained pretty fully elsewhere why Voris' approach doesn't work. I don't think that the Church should give up the fight, I just think that we need to understand that we are fighting for souls first, culture second.

Tom O'Toole said...

Hi Melinda,

A "pro-Voris headspace"? Mike makes a lot more money than me... does that mean I now get to sit in the good seats with him watching the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium?

But seriously, Melinda, I do like to use humor when I write... I identify with the silly saints, and am now reading about St. Thomas More, a great saint for both merry and married men, who managed to joke all the way up to his death (the original "gallow humorist"?) so I guess that's one thing about our approaches being different. But that, and certainly not your imperfections, is why I take exception. As you say, it's not a) or b) for me but c) making sure that one who identifies him or herself as a Catholic writer, writes Catholic (and therefore, true) stuff, a rare feat today indeed.

You are no doubt wise beyond your years, and (when you hit the mark between beauty and truth) wise beyond your fears; it's just that some of your stuff didn't ring true. I think your most recent comments clear up a lot of your post (including your "mourning for America")... but one part of your terminology that I still wonder about is you referring to yourself in present tense terms as a "homosexual" or "queer" when you are now married. Granted that the old Catholic terms of "curable" or "incurable" homosexuals are not quite adequate, but wouldn't you, based on your marriage, be one of those souls now thankfully in the first category, and thus not still "gay" as I am no longer a "pot-head"? (Yes, it really was "high" school for us...)

Perhaps none of those terms really fit you... I don't like being called "conservative" --too political-- and while "orthodox" is okay, I kind of like being called a "Roman-tic Catholic."

And don't think for a second I don't like you... anyone who loves 1 Corinthians 13 can't be all bad! I bid you...

"The Greatest"

P.S. And try to cut Michael Voris some slack... remember his approach "does" work for some too.

JohnE said...

Thank you for your responses Melinda. Part of my confusion is that you say things that at least seem contradictory. For example, you said "I think that accepting political and cultural defeat is a basic premise of Christianity." I was about to respond with Catechism references (ex.1915, 2820) that show this does not seem to be the case at all, but then in your latest post you said "I don't think that the Church should give up the fight, I just think that we need to understand that we are fighting for souls first, culture second." I agree (I think), although it sounds similar to pro-choice arguments that we should not fight so much against abortion but make the choice for life easier to choose. We can do both. Our kingdom is not of this world and we should not overly despair when things don't go our way, but when you say we should accept defeat it sounds like the fight is over, move on -- exactly what the ruler of the kingdom of this world wants us to do, give up. Same thing with using "acceptance" in different ways, in saying you don't grieve for America but later saying that you have compassion, and in saying you believe and defend Church teaching but seemingly dismissing the "gay agenda" and other "pet bugaboos of the Christian-right" as imagined and not real concerns. It's confusing to me.

As for Michael Voris, I know he really grates on some people. I guess the reason he appeals to me is that I felt cheated out of hearing the truth in my younger years. When I was living with my girlfriend, I needed someone to tell me it was wrong and to tell it to me with conviction. Instead, no one wanted to confront me with it which made me believe that all in all it was really not that big of a deal. Luckily, I had an aunt (God rest her soul) who was the only one not afraid to tell me the truth about what the Catholic Church taught and that I was putting my soul in jeopardy. Indeed, at the time I didn't want to hear it, and was happy to get away from her, but I needed to hear it, and it stuck with me. Thank God she had the courage to chastise me out of genuine concern for me, and I love her all the more for it.

Maybe for some personalities that approach just wouldn't work. The same sun that melts wax can harden clay. But for me, I needed to be treated like an adult who could handle the uncomfortable truth and not the spoiled child that no one wanted to upset.

Tom O'Toole said...

Hi John,

I think the great majority of the people who responded to Melinda's post felt confusion and contradiction, and I think Melinda realizes that now. Also, your life story is the perfect example of a situation for which Voris' approach is not only appropriate, but necessary.

Christine said...

I submitted this comment yesterday afternoon at the original article--which as of now, still remains unpublished.

I have so far submitted two comments respectfully stating my position, and I remain baffled as to why you are refusing to publish them. I will try a third time in the hopes of getting a clear answer. Since many hold you up as an authentic voice for faithful Catholics who struggle with same-sex attraction, and since your words can influence Catholics for good or for ill, I think you are at the very least obligated to indicate clearly and publicly whether or not you accept Church teaching in full. I refer specifically to the Catholic Catechism:

2357. "...Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law."

I would like to know whether or not you agree completely with this statement.

I would also like to know if you believe the Church's teaching on mortal sin, namely that it is "a grievous offense against the law of God" and that "it deprives us of spiritual life, which is sanctifying grace, and brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul." (Baltimore Catechism, 54-55).

I would also like to know whether or not you believe the Church's teaching that indulging in homosexual acts is a mortal sin, and therefore is a grievous offense against God that "brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul."

These are no more and no less than the straightforward teachings of the Church. I would simply like a public acknowledgement that you believe them. You should have the honesty and forthrightness to be able to answer them. If you cannot answer these questions in the positive, then First Things needs to seriously reconsider lending you space to air your personal opinions if they do not conform to basic Catholic orthodoxy.

I will be copying the First Things editor on this note as well as Michael Voris and his associates. I look forward to your response.
God bless,

Christine said...

And a quick correction: Voris does not make a lot of money; his salary is less than that of the starting salary of a public school teacher.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Christine -- A quick correction, Pt II. I never said Voris makes a lot of money. I just said he makes a lot more more than ME.

In other words, most Catholic journalists are lucky when they can afford the cheap seats in Notre Dame Stadium...

Christine said...

Melinda wrote: "Cardinal Dolan recently made a statement acknowledging that our outreach on homosexual issues has been insufficient and saying that we have to work harder. I'm not some kind of heretic trying to lead people away from the One True Faith, I'm listening to the things that the hierarchy says about solidarity, about communion, about listening, about dialogue, about reaching out, and evangelizing people, and I'm wrestling to try to figure out creative ways of doing that in union with the full teaching of the Church."

First of all, I completely disagree with Cdl. Dolan's assessment, and saw it as pandering to the opposition (which he is known for doing, unfortunately). Cdl. Dolan is hardly the exemplar of true Catholic outreach, considering he has done practically nothing about openly gay St. Francis Xavier parish, whose priest has publicly admitted he leaves it up to his parishioners' "conscience" whether or not to indulge in the homosexual lifestyle, and where the Courage apostolate is not welcomed. Cdl Dolan also oversaw the sacrilegious communion to Vice President Biden 2 weeks at in St. Patrick's Cathedral, in direct & continued disobedience to canon 915.

It sounds very much to me that Melinda's version of outreach is to "soften" the teachings of the Church, make homosexuality something to be embraced & accepted as natural and even normal, while discouraging people from actually indulging in homosexual acts. Unfortunately, true outreach can never be based on rejection of truth, in whole or in part, nor can it be based on undue fear of how homosexuals will react when you speak the truth (and the reaction will NOT be pretty, that is guaranteed).

The Church clearly and unequivocally teaches that same-sex attraction is "intrinsically disordered" and that homosexual acts are acts of "grave depravity". These words will no doubt offend practicing homosexuals, but until they recognize the full truth of the evil in which they are associated--and it is indeed evil--they will never truly turn away from such a lifestyle and turn wholeheartedly toward Christ in His Church.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Christine -- I think JohnE said it well, that Melinda, whether she means to or not, "confuses," saying one thing that's true then another that, if not completely false, has flaws, such as her seeming defense of gays who compare their civil rights struggles to blacks... when the only "right" they don't now have is gay marriage.

Very confusing...

Jeanette O'Toole said...

Melinda's list: Selmys' forty ways to love a lesbian (and hate Michael Voris)

Melinda Selmys said...


If you post comments at First Things that are over 300 words, they do not get published. I don't have editorial control over that.


Christine said...

I understand. But that still doesn't explain why my two previous comments (which were respectful, appropriate, and well under 300 words) were censored.

Christine said...

It also doesn't explain why at least one other comment that was even longer than mine (350 words) got published.