Daniel Mattson’s Memoir Bucks 21st-Century Moral Fashion
BOOK PICK: Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay
WHY I DON’T CALL MYSELF GAY:
HOW I RECLAIMED MY SEXUAL REALITY AND FOUND PEACE
By Daniel C. Mattson
Ignatius Press, 2017
300 pages, $17.95
Daniel Mattson writes that “it takes a courageous man to swim against the tide of cultural fashion.” Mattson is a man of courage. It took guts to write this book, and it took guts for Ignatius Press to publish it.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong. It does not reject the same-sex-attracted person, but it does reject the behavior — and in doing so, finds itself grossly out of sync with the prevailing mores and preferences of contemporary society. It won’t be the first time.
Mattson is brave because this book is confessional: He admits his same-sex attractions and all the behavior that has flowed from his psycho-sexual experiences. He doesn’t defend that history, nor does he argue he is right and the Church wrong.
That’s what makes this book especially dangerous and likely the target of special attack. Mattson defends the Church and criticizes himself. His is the voice of a man who finds his same-sex attractions problematic. He is a man who defies the cultural orthodoxy that homosexuality is a matter of identity, not behavior.
Father John Harvey, the founder of Courage, an apostolate for persons with same-sex attraction, made such work his life’s work, and Mattson demonstrates Courage’s ongoing value for persons with those attractions in finding a way of life consistent with being Catholic. Those who suddenly feel the need to “accompany” with sensitivity same-sex-attracted Catholics should ask themselves whether they promote a vigorous Courage ministry in their dioceses.
Mattson’s book has five parts. Part I is his personal testimony of sexual confusion and his return to the Church. Part II is a more philosophical overview of the truth of sex and the illusions of gender. Parts III and V deal with practical helps in living chastely. Part IV tackles some of the misunderstood aspects of the Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior, such as what the Church means by “disordered,” why friendship should be “disinterested,” what friendship does (and doesn’t) mean, and loneliness.
Mattson knows what he challenges is not new. It goes back to “the battle Plato waged his entire life with the sophists, whom Plato saw as dangerous, for they ‘fabricate a fictitious reality.’ Nothing could be more fictitious than the ‘reality’ the gay-rights movement has fabricated: that human sexuality is not truly divided between male and female, but, rather, is divided between gay and straight, and that the body is merely raw material from which man can create his own sexual way of being.”
This book is Mattson’s “coming out” — not in the way proponents of homosexuality expect — but one where, “by embracing the word and identity God gave me, as a man, I have found my true face. My life has been marked by sin, by shame, by pride, by [living] according to my own whims, to define my ‘own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life.’ The mask has fallen …”
I would not recommend this book to everyone. As Mattson warns, we should “maintain a person’s innocence” and not “stir up desire before it is ready, and in the wrong way.” The graphic details of his life are not for young people.
But for those prone to same-sex attractions or those confused about their “sexual identity” — including young adults — Mattson’s testimony can be a powerful insight into seeing how to follow Christ and his Church faithfully.
For priests, it sheds a probing light on the travails of those facing these temptations. For adult Catholics, it is a voice needing to be heard amid contemporary cacophony.
John M. Grondelski writes from Falls Church, Virginia.
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