The pressure to conform can be a terrible thing. What is even worse, the outsiders in our society, those who are different in ways that are obvious and sometimes disturbing, can also succumb to this pressure to conform. I watched An Englishman in New York last night. It is the story of Quentin Crisp's stay in New York at the end of his life. You may remember The Naked Civil Servant from some years ago chronicling his youth and early years. While I may disagree with his lifestyle, I have to admire the pluck of someone who walked through the streets of 1930's London risking beatings and worse in order to be different.
Flash forward to his stay in New York and we notice some telling differences. Outsiders have suddenly become insiders, a coterie of avant garde bohemians who have their own culture and meeting places. Quentin Crisp and a friend go to one of these gay bars and witness a scene of leather boys and faux construction workers mingling. The two look distinctly out of place and eventually the manager walks over to them, tells them they are not getting with the program and invites them to finish their drinks and leave. They are not welcome. The outsiders have been transformed into an in group with its own rules and dress code which the man who once walked the streets of London in pink hair and makeup did not conform to.
Flash forward to today in Toronto. We have a situation at the U of T Newman Centre involving two groups of gays. One group has decided to find some way to live as Catholics and learn to deal with those things that make them different in ways that follow Catholic teaching. They formed a chapter of Courage, a group for those who experience same sex attraction and wish to follow the Church's teaching on matters of sex and morality. This has apparently disturbed another group of gays in the Newman Centre parish whose ability to live with the contradiction between gay activism and Catholic teaching is apparently highly developed.
At the core of this conflict is the desire to conform in one way or another. The members of Courage have decided to conform to the Catholic Church and are willing to make whatever sacrifice necessary to accomplish that. It is their choice to make... no one at the Newman Centre is forcing them. Unfortunately this brings them into conflict with gay activists whose credo includes a biological determinism that precludes any choice whatsoever. The ideas of the fall, original sin and the resulting concupiscence are quite foreign to them. They would not be caught reading St. Francis de Sales as our men's group has done these last few months.
Even so there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their sinful affections, that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin; they formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot's wife as she fled from Sodom. Introduction to the Devout Life, Chapter VII
It is not merely pleasure they are looking back on, but a sense of community, of belonging. I remember reading in one of Alan Yoshioka's blogposts that unless the Catholic Church can fulfill those basic needs for community and belonging it will make no headway in the gay community. I cannot recall the article at the moment so I will give you the link to The Sheepcat and you can go looking for yourself. We can have a certain sympathy for those whose confusion leads them to attempt to keep the doors to their past open but this must not be allowed to denigrate the efforts of those who have made a courageous choice.