A small but growing contingent of queer-identified–though celibate–Catholics are finding increasing acceptance thanks to online communities like spiritualfriendship.org. Founded by Ron Belgau and Wesley Hill in 2012, Spiritual Friendship contemplates the theologically complex situations that openly gay and lesbian Catholics find themselves in after making the decision to remain active members of the church.
“We embrace the traditional understanding that God created us male and female, and that His plan for sexual intimacy is only properly fulfilled in the union of husband and wife in marriage,” the blog’s mission statement reads. “However, this blog was born out of frustration with the prevailing narratives about homosexuality from those who embrace this traditionally Christian sexual ethic: an excessive focus on political issues, and the ubiquity of reparative therapy in one form or another.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Emily Tushnet, who writes for Spiritual Friendship, described her particular connection to sexual intimacy as it relates to her lesbianism, which she doesn’t deny.
“I use the image of a kaleidoscope — the jewels inside are desires,” she said. “If you turn it one way, it’s lesbianism. If you rearrange them, it can be community service or devotion to Mary.”
Conservative but open-minded Catholic leaders like Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, are increasingly expressing their support for people like Tushnet, who have found something of a gray-area in which to exist. In abstaining from physical intimacy, members of the movement are finding ways to maintain their decidedly gay social identities while living as self-affirming Christians.
“Even if someone is struggling with same-sex attraction, I’d be concerned about reducing them to the word ‘gay,’ ” Mohler said of the seemingly paradoxical identities.