Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Readers of this blog know that I am intensely interested in Pope John Paul's major contributions in the "Theology of the Body" (a term that owes its current popularity precisely to the late Pope's writings). Naturally, it was in a TOB key that I opened the recently released "Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism" by Melinda Selmys. If this book had not been published by Our Sunday Visitor, I probably would have hesitated to open it, but OSV can be counted on for reverence to the human person, and to mirror Church teachings in areas that our culture finds controversial—and "homosexuality and Catholicism" is nothing if not controversial today! Then, too, there was more than one sexually conflicted person on the family tree, so I brought both personal and professional interest to this book.

Selmys offers her own story as a framework for a kind of cultural history of the gay experience in the late 20th century, along with references to gay advocacy agendas (she cites the texts), statistics (real and fabricated), the question of "reparative therapies" (can you "change" orientation?), and the sometimes thuggish, clearly self-centered behaviors on the part of both gay and religious "reformers." You can't put her in a convenient box: she knows and tells both sides of the story, but with a richness that comes from her appreciation of the mystery of the Theology of the Body.

I found Selmys' approach curiously intellectual (more "intellectual" than "intimate," to tell the truth), but as someone who has made a journey from atheist/agnostic-feminist-lesbian to Catholic-homeschooling-mother-of-four, she brings a unique perspective to the subject. Not that she "converted" from gay to straight: She remains friends with her former lover, but prudently arranges that her husband or another friend always be present when they meet or speak. Even now, she writes, she is "not attracted to men, but to one man, my husband." That one line tells me so much about our society; how we have been sold a bill of goods that defines gay or straight on the basis of an "attraction" that is totally impersonal—and in the long run, abstract. It is the opposite of the Theology of the Body, which places the human person at the center (as Pope John Paul wrote in another context, "each and every human person, who comes into being beneath the heart of his mother").

(I received this book from "The Catholic Company," so if it interests you, please click on the link to order it from them.)


The Dutchman said...

Sounds interesting. Does the Saint Paul Bookstore have it?

xaipe said...

Not sure, actually! Give 'em a call--and while I'm in Boston, I'll check with our acquisitions office to see if they have it in the system yet.

Anonymous said...

Please announce on your blog if and when this book will become available at Pauline book centers.