The Silence of Sodom
by Mark D. Jordan, a professor of theology at Emory University, is a smart, graceful, important book about homosexuality and modern Catholicism. It transcends discussion of sexual identity and contends that theology cannot, fundamentally, be argued--it must be lived. "Serious moral theology cannot be principally the framing and manipulation of quasi-legal propositions. It must begin and end in the discovery of particular lives under grace." Consequently, Jordan writes, "lesbian and gay lives will have to become audible to the church, readable within it, before their graces can be discerned and described." The way for gay lives to become audible in the church, Jordan argues, is to demonstrate an intimate relationship between "'homosexuality' and holiness--that is, human fullness." To demonstrate that relationship, gay people must rethink their notions of identity by questioning the descriptive power of terms such as gay
, and perhaps even abandoning such terms.
Gay Catholics, Jordan says, "should feel contrition for having pretended to have a sexual identity, when what we had were desires, memories, and loves. To be good homosexuals is, for Catholic men, to conspire with our old persecutors in a sin against ourselves. The homosexual is only the sodomite in approved drag." Abstruse jargon, sloppy thinking, and excessive pride are common pitfalls for writers who address simultaneously the subjects of Christianity and homosexuality. Jordan avoids all of these dangers. In plain language, with humility, he gently insists that readers join him in learning how to talk about sexuality and physical pleasure in a way that amounts to talking about Christian love. --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
Jordan, author of the prize-winning The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology and professor of religion at Emory University, argues that the culture of Catholicism and gay culture have much in common. Analyzing Catholic documents on homosexuality, Jordan determines that the Church is often vague and imprecise, its rhetoric designed to confuse readers. Despite the Church's teachings that homosexual sex is a sin, says Jordan, Catholicism is shot through with homoeroticism--the musical, incense-filled Catholic liturgy attracts gay men, and gay men's "coming out" is not dissimilar from Catholic seminarians' demonstration of a priesthood call. Even the Eucharist is drawn into this analysis: according to Jordan, male Catholics eating the perfect body of a perfect man is a homoerotic act, too, and the "priest without faith who celebrates Mass" recalls "a hustler having sex with his client." This treatise is provocative, but not convincing. Jordan's modest claim at the beginning of the book--that the Catholic Church needs to honestly recognize its many gay Catholics, some of whom occupy positions of leadership--is compelling. However, his suggestion that Catholicism and homosexuality are somehow inherently bound up with one another because the stereotypical gay man's fixation with fine clothes is reminiscent of priests' suiting up in vestments reads more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious effort to reshape Catholic discussions about sexuality. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.