Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 68(1) February 2018

Book Review

Why I Don't Call Myself Gay. How I Reclaimed My Sexuality and Found Peace

By Daniel C. Mattson
Published by the Ignatius Press

Book CoverThis is a wonderfully compassionate work. The author, a professional musician, writes extremely well. He once believed he was "gay" and he lived that lifestyle until he discovered the fullness of the Catholic Faith. It is clear from reading this that he holds no animosity whatever towards anyone in the "gay" community. What I believe he is saying is that we are all called to sanctity irrespective of sexual orientation. His message is the same as that of the great Fr John Harvey, founder of the organisation Courage. Unlike the New Ways Ministry, a dissident organisation promoted by Jesuit Father James Martin, Courage is totally Catholic.

So, what is the message of Courage? It is the same as in the Gospel: God loves us, He cares for us and He calls us by name. God does not identify us simply by our sexual orientation, so why should we?

The first part of the book gives the life story of the author. He "came out" as "gay" until he sensed that God was calling him and had a plan for him that could not be found within the "gay" community or, presumably, any other merely secular community for that matter. And so he found his home in the Church.

This section is followed by a reflection on the God who calls us. It is God who calls us to sanctity and to chastity. The vocation of chastity is, of course, not limited to those with same sex attraction and is a vital message for all of us. The true nature of friendship is discussed as well as the challenges of loneliness. How do we obtain union with God? By living out our Catholic faith and by living the virtues including those of humility and magnanimity. 

There are a certain number of Catholics who identify as "gay" and who are loyal to the teachings of the Church. We ought to treat them with great respect. However, I agree with Mattson when he says that the label "gay" does not in fact describe the person. God loves persons, not inclinations.

We are called to chastity. With humility and courage, Mattson describes the temptation of pornography and ways of overcoming its lure. What is the nature of friendship? Is it something less than romantic relationships? Mattson reminds us that all authentic friendships can never be self-seeking.

What does the Church mean when it describes the homosexual inclination as a disorder? Mattson makes it clear that the Church never teaches that homosexual persons are disordered.

One of the best sections of the book is on the wisdom and examples of the saints: Basil, Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola and Alphonsus Ligouri.

The conflict within the Church is surely not between orthodox Catholics who identify as "gay" and those who do not. It is between orthodox Catholics and the Father Martins of this world who feel that they have been empowered since 2013. When they receive endorsements from the likes of Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Kevin Farrell, they have every reason to feel empowered.

A good reason to promote this excellent book.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevasathan