Yet recently it would seem that Gerald has had somewhat of a Damascus Road experience with regards to the issue of homosexuality. Not surprisingly, he’s been getting a lot of flak from, shall we say, more “traditionalist” Catholics, to the extent that he left a comment for me on this Wild Reed post, observing that: “I’m afraid I’ll be on the stake right next to you.”
Unperturbed, Gerald recently highlighted on his blog an astute observation by Fr. Joseph O’Leary on “sex and the authoritarian personality.” It reads as follows:
I have an idea today about what is wrong with the “puritans.” They lack the categories for the middle ground of ordinary human erotic sensibility. When sex is mentioned they think either of procreative marital sex or lustful congress. The ordinary currents of sexual feeling are repressed from consciousness, so that they sometimes speak in a far more erotic way than they imagine, and sometimes clamp down on something they may find “suggestive” with surprising violence. They suffer from a scotoma [i.e. a spot in the visual field in which vision is absent or deficient] that can be quite disorienting. In relation to gayness, whether themselves gay or not, they can think only in terms of “sodomy”, conceived in the crudest images, or “chastity” understood as total surrender to an absolute authority. The middle ground of relaxed sexual interest and affection between men or between women is not accessible to them. The authoritarian personality thrives on this limitation of sensibility.
(I’ve long thought along these lines, and have said as much here and here, albeit not as eloquently as Joseph O’Leary!)
After quoting Fr. O’Leary, Gerald adds his own two cents worth, reminding us that:
“Authoritarian personality” is a term Theodor W. Adorno (and colleagues) coined. It denotes a number of qualities, [and] predicts one’s potential for fascist and antidemocratic leanings and behaviors. These qualities are assessed by a coherent system – the “structure of personality” –which arises out of characteristic experiences in early childhood and the pattern of internal, psychological processing.
He then goes on to say, among other things, that:
Black/white is always easier than nuance. Indulgence and abstinence are easier than moderation. Strict thinking requires less work. The ability to differentiate and use nuance can of course ‘go bad’, then it results in passivity, an inability to decide and a tendency to relativism, the opposite being a tendency to absolutism even in relative matters.
Although he fails to make the connection between absolutist authoritarianism and elements of Roman Catholicism, perhaps a sign that Gerald is taking to heart his own counsel can be found in the fact that the banner on his blog no longer declares “The Cafeteria is Closed,” (an absolutist statement if ever there was one) but now says: “We, the People”! To which I say: Good on you, Gerald!
Now if you could just have a change of heart about Barack Obama!
See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Somewhere In Between
What Is It That Ails You?