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Alumnus reflects on experience as gay, Catholic

| Friday, October 10, 2014

Christopher Damian, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame class of 2013, discussed the intersection of homosexuality, Catholicism and theology in his presentation “Gay and Catholic,” hosted Thursday evening by the Gender Relations Center and the Institute for Church Life.

Damian spoke about his journey toward reconciling his sexual identity with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Damian recounted his struggle to understand his identity throughout his undergraduate years.

“How could I see my studies through a unified lens, if I couldn’t see myself as a unified person?” he said.

Damian said one of the most difficult aspects he encountered while accepting his sexuality was how to understand the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality and intimacy. Damian said he frequently questioned whether or not he would be able to fully engage in relationships with others, a question which poses a significant problem for LGBTQ-identifying Catholics.

“I was worried that I couldn’t have friendship with anyone,” Damian said. “I wondered if my life as a Catholic was doomed to failure.”

Damian said the language and rhetoric of the Catechism regarding homosexuality tends to be misrepresented and misunderstood by Catholics, specifically passages that refer to homosexuality as an intrinsic disorder. Damian said the focus on condemning the identity of LGBTQ individuals often leads to unnecessary rejection.

“We should be careful about the things we say about sexual-minority students,” he said. “If Christians make claims about these people that seem blatantly untrue, this will cause others to question these issues and Christianity as a whole.”

Damian said there is a need to define adequately the nature of the celibate vocation established for gay Catholics as well as address the definitions of friendship and intimacy for LGBTQ Catholics. He said celibacy allows others to engage in a life of self-giving love and reflect on the true nature of desire for intimacy.

“The Church’s limitations are not meant to close us off, but rather, to open us up,” Damian said. “The Church places limitations so that we may be drawn deeper into reflection on where our intimacies and desires can lead us.”

Damian said the definition of homosexuality can be highly misunderstood within the broader cultural context. Although sexuality and sexual orientation are frequently understood to be rigid and focused purely on sexual intimacy, “sexual attraction is very fluid and contextual,” he said.

“I’m going to argue that the way in which the Catechism treats homosexuality is actually quite different for how it’s understood in the broader culture,” Damian said. “The more I’ve thought about it, it seems to me that while the desire for sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex is a significant part of the gay experience, it is only one aspect of it.”

Damian said understanding homosexuality and identity requires understanding the transformative nature of the Church.

“Catholicism never leaves things as they are,” he said. “It deepens, purifies and transforms all things it comes into contact with. So history becomes more than just history. For the Church, it can be deepened into salvation history.”

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