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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mar Louis Massignon and the Redemption of Homosexuality

The past month has been an extremely interesting time in the Catholic blogosphere as a new development is taking shape regarding Catholic treatment of homosexuality.  Cutting past the dualism between the traditional orthodox pastoral approach that treats homosexuality merely as a disorder and the heretical dissent from Catholic teaching on chastity that has been the standard alternative, a handful of amateur theologians and bloggers - several of them homosexual - have started to present a positive face to homosexuality redeemable from concupiscence.  I will try to enter the discussion, though my blog is not as widely read a venue, by seeking to apply the principles and approach of the Theology of the Body to the reality of same-sex attractions.

What I will therefore be questioning is the assumption, usually implicit and sometimes explicit, that homosexuality is purely a consequence of the Fall and purely disordered or purely an example of concupiscence.  I will do so, after a review of current work in this direction, by arguing from the example of a saint that homosexuality can be redeemed.  If something can be redeemed, it cannot be wholly evil, and must have some element of good in it.  I will not speculate too much on what the "un-fallen" reality that homosexuality is fallen from looks like, but I hope that my analysis will provide a prolegomenon for understanding what this reality would have been, or for understanding what is the place or purpose of homosexuality in the meaning of creation.

The fundamental motivation for this study is teleological.  Why does homosexuality exist?  What purpose does it serve in the lives of those afflicted with it?  This question was raised a year ago by the conservative Benedictine oblate Elizabeth Scalia in her article "Called to Otherness":

Assuming homosexuals are—as per Lady Gaga (and perhaps Matthew 19:12)—“born this way,” the question of purpose arises. Those who believe in a God who said, “I know the plans I have for you; plans of fullness, not of harm . . .” and who creates nothing by accident, must ask why God would love into being this “other,” which the church—objectively considering form and function—defines as “disordered?” Such created creatures must be recognized as loved into being, and they cannot be denied their God-given human dignity, with their “otherness” recognized as part of a plan.
I have a theory that our gay brothers and sisters are, in fact, planned, loved-into-being “necessary others,” and that they are meant to show us something of God from a perspective that we cannot otherwise broach. I suspect art is a part of it. I do not presume to guess what attractions Michelangelo felt, but I could not view his stunning work throughout the Vatican and in Rome without recalling a quip someone (I believe Camille Paglia) once made, that when gays were closeted and presumably less active sexually, their energies had been subsumed into creating transcendent, living, time-smashing masterpieces. Now that they were “out”, said the wag, their art was mundane, mostly unmemorable, often lazy and insubstantial.
(Scalia, "Homosexuality: A Call to Otherness", in First Things, June 14, 2011)

Attention to the topic snowballed this month in response to a controversial talk high-school talk, widely broadcast on youtube, given by an ex-Catholic homosexual activist Dan Savage where he told students to "learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people".  It is probably no accident that a flurry of Catholic blogs turned their attention to the sanctity of chaste homosexuals shortly after Savage's rant.

The trend this month began on May 1 (2012) with an interesting blog post by Mark Shea entitled "A Gay Man I consider to be a saint".  The article did not address Perry Lorenzo's sexuality or state whether or not he lived in chastity or not - it addressed his life as a whole while deliberately choosing not to make any judgment about his homosexuality, stating that (although he lived with another man) we do not know whether or not he lived in chastity. 

This post was followed in short order on May 17 by a more direct article that appeared in the conservative ecumenical journal First Things, which had previously published Scalia's piece, by my friend Joshua Gonnerman entitled "Dan Savage Was Right".  (The title, as Josh pointed out to me, was not of his choosing.)  The author, a doctoral student in theology at the Catholic University of America and a chaste, orthodox Catholic with homosexual attractions, pointed out that behind Savage's attack on Scripture and the Church's traditional sexual morality (both of which are non-negotiable elements of our Faith) there is very real problem in the Church's pastoral approach to homosexuality, as too little is being done to accept homosexual persons (as opposed to acts) within the bosom of the Church.  To quote his essay:

Thus, the first line of response conservative Christians offer to the pastoral problem of homosexuality is to try to get rid of the problem through ex-gay ministries or reparative therapy; thus, Christian protest to the Uganda bill was half-hearted at best; thus, the concern for Christians over gay bullying has been minimal, and some Christians have even organized opposition to the opposition of gay bullying. The guiding principle is not the distinction between sexual activity and orientation, but their conflation into lifestyle or identity, and so those who are targeted for being or seeming to be gay are given only the most abstract support for their profoundly concrete humiliation.

“Being or seeming to be gay.” This phrase itself demonstrates that our approach to these questions cannot be conditioned by assumptions of sexual immorality, since some of the youth who are bullied are not even gay. Growing up, my brother experienced nearly as much “gay-bullying” as I did, even though he is straight. The fundamental category of this issue is not one of sexual ethics, but of encountering difference. Surely, the Christian (embraced by a God who is so radically different that he must become one of us to enable relationship) should approve? Surely, the Christian should view the encounter of the Other-as-Other to be deeply significant, and one of our basic ethical dilemmas? Why, then, do we fail to live out that call?
...Behind his blundering obscenity, behind his facile attempts to explain Scripture away, behind the blatant hypocrisy of his behavior toward those who disagree with him, what Dan Savage means to tell us is, “The church has far too often, and for the most wrong-headed reasons, failed to be family to gay people.”
(Gonnerman, "Dan Savage Was Right", in First Things, May 17, 2012)

The article met with immediate controversy, being criticized by prominent apologists like Robert Sungenis and also defended by no less a prominent figure than Elizabeth Scalia.  On May 23 First Things followed this by a very bold article in the same journal by the same author, entitled "Why I Call Myself a Gay Christian", now taking a direct defense of the concept of homosexuality as an integral part of one's identity.

Gonnerman's argument implies that there is more to homosexuality than sexual acts itself.  Homosexuality as a mode of one's being must then be understood within the context of the nuptial meaning of the body, and must be reconciled with sexuality's reflection of the Trinity in unfallen nature.  In order to understand homosexuality, we must go back to the Garden of Eden and ask what meaning it has in the light of the theology of the body.

A Catholic lesbian blogger addressed this question in response to Robert Sungenis' critique of Gonnerman's article.  On May 22, Melinda Selmys wrote,

Gayness is not reduceable to homosexual sex, or the desire to have homosexual sex. It is a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one's own gender. Most people who identify as chaste, gay Christians, are referring to involuntary currents of homoeroticism and gender-queerness that run through the personality. Sungenis appears to believe that these currents are so fundamentally disordered that the only proper response to them is one of outright warfare, that the personality must have surgery performed on it in order to eliminate every vestige of queerness in order that it might be rendered fit for salvation.
The Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, in their recent document on Youth with Same-Sex Attractions, were very careful to explicitly spell out the fact that homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered in so far as they concern the desire to have same-sex genital relations. That is, in so far as same-sex attractions are concupiscent, they are objectively disordered: a nice little tautology which only stands in need of clarification because it is counterintuitive to contemporary secular culture. What this means is that same-sex attractions, in so far as they are not concupiscent, are not disordered: another tautology, but one that is equally counterintuitive to many moral conservatives.
To understand the difference between concupiscent desire, and ordered desire, let's follow John Paul II's lead and return to the Beginning. I'd like to analyze, specifically, Genesis 3:6: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give.” Surely this is a case of disordered desire, right? Eve wants what she's not supposed to have, and as a result of that desire, she sins.

Sed contra, Eve at this moment is still in a state of Original Innocence. She does not have concupiscence clouding her judgement. What she sees at the moment is objectively true: the fruit really is good to eat, it really is pleasing to the eye, and it really is desirable for the wisdom that it could give. What is false is her conclusion, that because of these properties, it is justifiable for her to take and eat what has been denied to her by God.

I'd like to apply the same hermeneutic to same-sex attraction. When I look at a woman, and see that she is beautiful, that she is desirable, that she is enticing, I'm seeing something that is objectively true: she is objectively a manifestation of the imago dei, she is objectively attractive, and it is objectively legitimate for me to desire to be united with her in the vast communio personarum which is constituted by the Church and by the whole human race. My desire is not disordered in and of itself: it becomes disordered when I direct it, or allow it to direct itself, towards something which is forbidden. If it leads me to fantasize about homosexual acts, or to think of the woman as a sex object, then it becomes disordered, that is ordered towards an end which is not in conformity with Truth and with the dignity of the person. But what if I make the act of will to redirect that desire, to use it as an opportunity to give glory to God for the beauty which He has made manifest in that particular woman? Or to meditate on my desire for the one-flesh union of the entire humanum in the Eucharist where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, woman nor man? Or as an opportunity to contemplate the relationship between the doctrines of the Communion of Saints and of the resurrection of the Body? What if, by an act of will, I take that desire and order it towards its proper end: towards the Good, the Beautiful and the True?

This is what I mean when I speak of sublimation, and it relates to what Joshua and other gay Christians mean when they speak of being both gay and chaste. It means that the word “gay” is being used to refer to the fact that some of us are more easily able to experience the goodness and beauty of the body in the bodies our own sex than we are in the bodies of the opposite sex. Obviously that leaves us open to homosexual temptation, just as the ability of most men and women to more easily appreciate bodily beauty in the opposite sex leaves them open to heterosexual temptations (to pre-marital sex, to adultery, to pornography, to sexual fantasy, etc.) Obviously in so far as it leads to homosexual temptation, it is disordered. But the word “gay” can refer to the orientation of that initial erotic impulse, irregardless of whether it develops towards disordered lust, or towards an appreciation of Christ playing “lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His.” Which is why, in my submission, gay chastity is a calling, not a myth.
(Selmys, "Looking to Desire", May 22, 2012)

Perceiving the beauty of someone need not be concupiscent.  As a heterosexual, my own experience confirms that of Ms. Selmys.  I am a heterosexual engaged man in a long-distance relationship.  I am, as a heterosexual, attracted to women, and living in an environment where there are many beautiful and attractive women.  Furthermore, after the initial sheen of falling in love had worn off, I started to realize that I still find other women attractive besides my fiancee - once the infatuation period has ended other women do not magically become ugly simply because you are in love with somebody else.  For me to act in any way on any attraction to any other woman would be misplaced and wrong - it would be "concupiscent".  But I have no desire to.  The fact itself (that women are beautiful, and that I notice that women are beautiful) is not concupiscent.  Although some cultures and religions have insisted on veiling women head to toe lest their beauty be a temptation for men, it need not be, and should not be.  Melinda Selmys argues that a homosexual attraction can become no less innocent or holy than my awareness of the beauty of other women.

There is a second form of innocence that can be gleaned from homosexual attractions.  Elizabeth Scalia, in the article quoted at the beginning of this post, suggested that art may hold the key for the (non-concupiscent) natural meaning of homosexuality, channeling its energies into sublimated forms.  Indeed, even insofar as homosexuality is disordered, one would expect it to have gifts that come with it.  It is frequently emphasized how autism for example can be a blessing as well as a burden (especially in higher-functioning forms such as Asperger's syndrome) - many geniuses have been "idiot savaunts", and many very "mainstreamed" scholars of the "absent-minded professor" type have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Homosexuality can be viewed in the same way.  One would wonder if a Tchaikovsky or an Aaron Copland or Samuel Barber or Gian-Carlo Menotti would have possessed the artistic sensitivity that they did without their homosexuality playing a factor.  One might wonder how the art of Pablo Picasso would look if his temperament and personality were radically changed.  One might imagine what the poetry of Constantine Cavafy would be like if it were not centered around the theme of the poet's queerness.  Much would have probably been lost if they had been heterosexual.  The formative role of homosexuality is even stronger in the homoerotic symbolism pervading the work of Andy Warhol, a chaste homosexual (and practicing Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic).

If homosexuality can be innocent, it can also - by virtue of its redemption in Christ - become holy, and be elevated to the level of divine charity, and my argument that homosexuality must correspond to something naturally and originally good (because it has been redeemed and sanctified) hinges on this sanctification actually occurring.  I shall show two examples of this.  One, the well-known example of Alcibiades' failed seduction of Socrates recounted in the Symposium, and secondly, the much less well-known example of Father Louis Massignon, a Melkite priest, ecumenist, and disciple of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

First of all, the love of Alcibiades and Socrates, transfigured and elevated by the light of natural reason.  This is not redeemed homosexuality per se, but it is sublimated and transfigured.  Plato put the following words in the mouth of Alcibiades:

"To be sure he is: his outer mask is the carved head of the Silenus; but, O my companions in drink, when he is opened, what temperance there is residing within! Know you that beauty and wealth and honour, at which the many wonder, are of no account with him, and are utterly despised by him: he regards not at all the persons who are gifted with them; mankind are nothing to him; all his life is spent in mocking and flouting at them. But when I opened him, and looked within at his serious purpose, I saw in him divine and golden images of such fascinating beauty that I was ready to do in a moment whatever Socrates commanded: they may have escaped the observation of others, but I saw them. Now I fancied that he was seriously enamoured of my beauty, and I thought that I should therefore have a grand opportunity of hearing him tell what he knew, for I had a wonderful opinion of the attractions of my youth. In the prosecution of this design, when I next went to him, I sent away the attendant who usually accompanied me (I will confess the whole truth, and beg you to listen; and if I speak falsely, do you, Socrates, expose the falsehood). Well, he and I were alone together, and I thought that when there was nobody with us, I should hear him speak the language which lovers use to their loves when they are by themselves, and I was delighted. Nothing of the sort; he conversed as usual, and spent the day with me and then went away. Afterwards I challenged him to the palaestra; and he wrestled and closed with me several times when there was no one present; I fancied that I might succeed in this manner. Not a bit; I made no way with him. Lastly, as I had failed hitherto, I thought that I must take stronger measures and attack him boldly, and, as I had begun, not give him up, but see how matters stood between him and me. So I invited him to sup with me, just as if he were a fair youth, and I a designing lover. He was not easily persuaded to come; he did, however, after a while accept the invitation, and when he came the first time, he wanted to go away at once as soon as supper was over, and I had not the face to detain him. The second time, still in pursuance of my design, after we had supped, I went on conversing far into the night, and when he wanted to go away, I pretended that the hour was late and that he had much better remain. So he lay down on the couch next to me, the same on which he had supped, and there was no one but ourselves sleeping in the apartment. All this may be told without shame to any one. But what follows I could hardly tell you if I were sober. Yet as the proverb says, ‘In vino veritas,’ whether with boys, or without them (In allusion to two proverbs.); and therefore I must speak. Nor, again, should I be justified in concealing the lofty actions of Socrates when I come to praise him. Moreover I have felt the serpent’s sting; and he who has suffered, as they say, is willing to tell his fellow-sufferers only, as they alone will be likely to understand him, and will not be extreme in judging of the sayings or doings which have been wrung from his agony. For I have been bitten by a more than viper’s tooth; I have known in my soul, or in my heart, or in some other part, that worst of pangs, more violent in ingenuous youth than any serpent’s tooth, the pang of philosophy, which will make a man say or do anything. And you whom I see around me, Phaedrus and Agathon and Eryximachus and Pausanias and Aristodemus and Aristophanes, all of you, and I need not say Socrates himself, have had experience of the same madness and passion in your longing after wisdom. Therefore listen and excuse my doings then and my sayings now. But let the attendants and other profane and unmannered persons close up the doors of their ears.

When the lamp was put out and the servants had gone away, I thought that I must be plain with him and have no more ambiguity. So I gave him a shake, and I said: ‘Socrates, are you asleep?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘Do you know what I am meditating?‘What are you meditating?’ he said. ‘I think,’ I replied, ‘that of all the lovers whom I have ever had you are the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear to be too modest to speak. Now I feel that I should be a fool to refuse you this or any other favour, and therefore I come to lay at your feet all that I have and all that my friends have, in the hope that you will assist me in the way of virtue, which I desire above all things, and in which I believe that you can help me better than any one else. And I should certainly have more reason to be ashamed of what wise men would say if I were to refuse a favour to such as you, than of what the world, who are mostly fools, would say of me if I granted it.’ To these words he replied in the ironical manner which is so characteristic of him:—‘Alcibiades, my friend, you have indeed an elevated aim if what you say is true, and if there really is in me any power by which you may become better; truly you must see in me some rare beauty of a kind infinitely higher than any which I see in you. And therefore, if you mean to share with me and to exchange beauty for beauty, you will have greatly the advantage of me; you will gain true beauty in return for appearance —like Diomede, gold in exchange for brass. But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you are not deceived in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily eye fails, and it will be a long time before you get old.’ Hearing this, I said: ‘I have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do you consider what you think best for you and me.’ ‘That is good,’he said; ‘at some other time then we will consider and act as seems best about this and about other matters.’ Whereupon, I fancied that he was smitten, and that the words which I had uttered like arrows had wounded him, and so without waiting to hear more I got up, and throwing my coat about him crept under his threadbare cloak, as the time of year was winter, and there I lay during the whole night having this wonderful monster in my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be denied by you. And yet, notwithstanding all, he was so superior to my solicitations, so contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my beauty — which really, as I fancied, had some attractions — hear, O judges; for judges you shall be of the haughty virtue of Socrates — nothing more happened, but in the morning when I awoke (let all the gods and goddesses be my witnesses) I arose as from the couch of a father or an elder brother.
What do you suppose must have been my feelings, after this rejection, at the thought of my own dishonour? And yet I could not help wondering at his natural temperance and self-restraint and manliness. I never imagined that I could have met with a man such as he is in wisdom and endurance. And therefore I could not be angry with him or renounce his company, any more than I could hope to win him. For I well knew that if Ajax could not be wounded by steel, much less he by money; and my only chance of captivating him by my personal attractions had failed. So I was at my wit’s end; no one was ever more hopelessly enslaved by another."
(Plato, The Symposium)

Socrates did not reject Alcibiades' love; rather, they loved each other all the deeper, more "hopelessly enslaved" to each other by practicing chastity, and through their love they grew together in virtue.

Yet even Socrates is only a "natural man", and it remains to be seen how homosexuality is transfigured and deified by the grace of Christ.  There have been many saints in the history of the Church who struggled with homosexuality.  The Apophthegmata Patrum, or "Sayings of the Desert Fathers", is full of accounts of ascetes who struggled with temptation when seeing the face of a young boy.  Among more recent saints, the Russian Orthodox hermit Fr. Seraphim Rose had a homosexual youth.  In all of these saints their homosexual tendencies were suppressed, however, rather than transfigured per se.  One notable counter-example is the uncanonized holy man and scholar Fr. Louis Massignon - disciple of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, author of the definitive study of the Sufi martyr Al-Hallaj, and founder of the Badaliya movement.  Massignon (who would eventually marry a woman and with papal permission become ordained a priest in the Melchite Greek-Catholic Church in Palestine) was a convert to the Faith from a dissolute and troubled youth, during the course of which he was involved romantically with a young nobleman named Luis de Quadra.

The story is told in the standard study of Massignon, "Sacred Hospitality:  Badaliya - The Way of Mystic Substitution", by Christopher Bamford.

In October 1906, barely twenty, agnostic, already a scholar, he [Massignon] sailed from Marseilles for Morocco. On board, he met a young Spanish aristocrat, Luis de Quadra, returning to Cairo. De Quadra, a homosexual, told how him he "had quit Christianity for Islam so as to continue adoring God without remorse for his life, in the manner of Omar Khayyam." The two formed a bond that would last until Quadra's suicide in 1921. By then the friendship had long become a practice of compassion in which Massignon offered himself (pledged his life) as a "voluntary hostage" for the saving of his friend's soul.

In its early stages, however, his relationship with Quadra (and others) threw him into a profound moral crisis.

Embracing Arab life, dress, and customs, Massignon pursued his studies with ferocious brilliance, while suffering anguish at his private life. The only light in the darkness came from Sufi mystics whose texts he was discovering and reading with new eyes. One day in Cairo, in March 1907, de Quadra pointed out a verse by the tenth century mystic, Al-Hallaj: "Two moments of adoration suffice in love, but the preliminary ablution must be made in blood." This was the Al-Hallaj (later the subject of Massignon's magnum opus) who was crucified in Baghdad in 922 for asserting "Ana'l Haqq. I am the truth" (or "My "I" is God.") Massignon wrote: "The meaning of sin was given back to me, and then the piercing desire for purity read on the threshold of a cruel Egyptian spring." Al-Hallaj was the hook that would turn his life around.

 [...Accused of espionage and becoming suicidal,] he felt suspect, isolated. For the first time in his life, he was moved to pray. "It was in Arabic that I made my first prayer to him. 'Allah, Allah, as 'ad du'fi' (God, God! Help my weakness!)"
He surrendered his revolver to the captain, who had grown concerned with his passenger's increasingly erratic behavior. It grew worse. Massignon broke into the captain's cabin, seized his revolver, and pointed it at the captain. He placed Massignon under observation. Physically constrained, Massignon despaired:
"I began to suffer from myself. Examination of conscience: look at how I was ending up after four and a half years of amorality, justly wiped out for the greediness of my science and my pleasure. Dying in a terrible situation; my family would be happy to forget me . . .I decided to put an end to myself."
With a small knife, he struck at his heart, making a superficial wound.
Bandaged, he became more agitated, even delirious. He ripped off the dressing, shredding his shirt. He threw himself about. His face grew red. He cried out, "I want to die." Again, he was forcibly restrained. In this condition, between continuing bouts of agitation, the Stranger visited him. "Shortly after the knife thrust, I submitted to another stroke: interior, extraordinary, torturing, supernatural, ineffable. As if the very center of my heart were burning and my thoughts wrenched apart . . ."
The Stranger is the God of Abraham, of Mohammed, and of Mary's Fiat. He is the welcoming God whom we welcome, the great Yes that unites two in one. "God at once guest, host, and home." His approach is announced "by an internal break in our habits" or "by the acknowledgement of sin."
Responding to a questionnaire, Massignon replied, "the discovery antecedes the theory, commotion precedes denomination." "Before the Lord who has struck the blow, the soul becomes a woman, she is silent, she consents . . . She starts only to commemorate in secret the Annunciation, viaticum of hope, that she has conceived in order to give birth to the immortal." Like the Virgin, the soul does not ask why or how but only says Yes. "The frail guest that she carries in her womb determines thereafter all her conduct. It is not a made-up idea that she develops as she pleases according to her nature, but a mysterious Stranger whom she adores and who guides her."
"The Stranger who visited me one evening in May before the Taq, cauterizing my despair that He lanced, came like the phosphorescence of a fish rising from the bottom of the deepest sea; my inner features revealed Him to me, behind the mask of my own features . . .The Stranger who took me as I was, on the day of His wrath, inert in His hand like the gecko of the sands, little by little overturned all my acquired reflexes, my precautions, and my deference to public opinion. By a reversal of values, He transformed my relative ease as a propertied man into the misery of a pauper . . ."
The transformation continued. A second peak occurred (May 8) in Baghdad, in hospital.
"Taken up for the second time into the supernatural, I felt myself warned I was going to die: a burgeoning spiritual dawn, a serene clarity inciting me to renounce everything. I clung to a beloved name, repeating it to myself, declaring to myself: "If he has betrayed me, I want to be sincere for two and carry his name with me always." The serene clarity increased in my soul: what is a name in the memory? Does not God possess this creature infinitely more than I? I abandon him to God."
The "beloved name" was de Quadra's, but there were others. "I felt with certainty a pure, ineffable creative Presence suspending my sentence through the prayers of invisible persons, visitors to my prison, whose names disturbed my thought. The first name was my mother's (she was at the time praying in Lourdes), the fifth was the name of Charles de Foucauld . . ." The second would be de Quadra, the third, hazarding a guess, Al-Hallaj, the fourth perhaps Huysmans. 
 (Bamford, "Sacred Hospitality: Badaliya - The Way of Mystic Substitution")

Massignon would go on to devote the rest of his life to two principles - substitionary love or badaliya and sacred hospitality.  His magnum opus was a four-volume study of the Sufi martyr Al-Hallaj, who chose to publicly proclaim a mystical saying (An'a al-Haqq - "My 'I' is God", a statement echoed almost word-for-word later by St. Catherine of Genoa) and be crucified for it for blasphemy in order to offer his life in substitutionary love for the Christians who were being persecuted.  Massignon quotes Al-Hallaj as saying "I go there to die in the confession of the Cross" - not the confession of Christianity (Al-Hallaj was not a Christian, even if he were willing to offer up his life for their sakes) but rather the confession of substitionary love.  The second legacy Mar Massignon left us was a sodality of prayer for the salvation of the Muslims, called Al-Badaliya, which grounded its motivation in the love that springs from hospitality for the Muslims.   "Our Badaliya is a reminder for everyone, and first of all for us, of the first, sweetest Christian duty:  welcoming the other, the stranger, the neighbor who is closer than all our close ones, without reserve or calculation, whatever it costs and at any price."  His heart pierced by the love of the Divine Stranger, and through his homosexuality called to otherness, Massignon sanctified himself in perfect love and charity.  May his example serve as a witness to the beauty and holiness of sanctified homosexuality. 


Massignon, Louis.  Al-Hallaj Mystic and Martyr of Islam (4 volumes).

Ward, Sr. Benedicta trans.  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers


  1. Very interesting post. It makes me more convinced that the Catholic group Courage that ministers to homosexuals are doing it correctly. Unlike other groups, Courage doesn't deny that the homosexual nature may be innate; they don't try to "cure" it.

    I am glad this discussion is being elevated to this level.

  2. I enjoyed and agreed with Gonnerman's article. However, I think it is indeed unfortunate that the publisher chose that title. Dan Savage is a despicable man who targets specific people (Rick Santorum and the Google warfare) in order to destroy them.