Sodom & the City of God
June 2003By Ron Belgau
Ron Belgau, a member of Courage, lives near Seattle. He has spoken throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle and as far away as Rochester, New York and San Diego, California on the importance of chastity for those struggling with same-sex attractions. The views he expresses herein are not necessarily those of Courage.
Ed. Note: In the January 2003 NOR, in regard to the NORs use of the word fag, an Anonymous letter-writer who belongs to Courage (an orthodox Catholic group that helps those with same-sex attractions observe chastity) said: Perhaps instead of spending many paragraphs engaging in a contrived linguistic exercise [about the word fag], you could run a piece about the ministry of Courage and how it has changed the lives of so many men and women. We responded in the same issue: Were all in favor of Courage, and weve described Courages vitally important work in several issues of the NOR. No, we havent presented the kind of first-person account youre asking for, but wed love to print such a piece, even if pseudonyms are used . Ron Belgau (not a pseudonym) has taken us up on the offer. His article is most riveting (and was written before our further comments on the subject in our May issue, pp. 14-17). While we still believe that the word fag should be kept in common parlance (though not abused in the way Mr. Belgau points out), we choose to honor Mr. Belgaus courage and fidelity by not responding. Readers who wish to respond are free to do so.
The editors of the NOR say they would call a homosexually oriented man who belongs to Courage and is living chastely a saint (Nov. 2002, p. 6). I cannot of course speak for others in Courage; but for myself I deny the attribution categorically. The road to holiness climbs far beyond Himalayan heights, and I am yet only in the lowest foothills.
Leaving aside the other six deadly sins (all of which have a good record of pulling me off-track), there is far more to the perfected chastity of sainthood than abstinence from sexual acts with other men. For what the achievement is worth (and it is certainly not worthless), I have maintained that abstinence all my life; but I must still strive daily to achieve custody of the eyes, modesty in speech, and purity of heart. When I fail (as I often do), you will find me in church Saturday morning, standing in line at the confessional. A saint in the making I certainly strive to be. But a saint I most emphatically am not.
I was raised a conservative Protestant. This brought with it a very strong commitment to family values. But that term in itself suggests a problem. Values are subjective: I do not necessarily value the same things you do. There is a world of difference between Catholic sexual ethics (which are grounded in the objective revelation of God) and family values (which may in some ways resemble Catholic belief, but which are ultimately subjective and grounded in what I want, not what is objectively true). My church prized fidelity in marriage, but allowed divorce when the marriage got unbearable in the partners eyes (and hence not valuable); then, because we valued marriage, it was obvious that we should allow divorced people to remarry, because lifelong continence was impossible, unreasonable. From this emphasis on the subjective, it followed that children should only be valued when the couple wanted them; so contraceptives were accepted as a matter of course.
Natural Family Planning was unthinkable because it was too much of a burden for married couples to abstain for a week or so each month. But if this was so, it seemed to me a little unrealistic to expect complete abstinence from teens. And, indeed, many adults did not expect it: One youth group leader said that masturbation was O.K. as long as it was not lustful a position which now seems about as logical as saying that swimming is fine as long as you dont get wet, but which seemed very practical and pastoral at the time.
You have two options:
- Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
- Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.
If you're already a subscriber log-in here.