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Reviews, Reactions and Comments.

I have published a book "New Skins for Old Wine" based on parts of this website.

Contents

An old friend

I am a local preacher in the Methodist church and I have known Stephen since 1976. When I first met Stephen, he was a Methodist, but he became a Catholic whilst at Cambridge. He is very fervently a traditional Catholic, but because of his background, his interest in church history and his ecumenical experience at Cambridge, he has a good knowledge and understanding of other denominations.

Stephen has a wide range of interests. He thinks deeply about theology and physics and loves to discuss these things. He is also knowledgeable about economics, politics and personal investments, and enjoys gardening, science fiction, theatre and rock music amongst other things. Although Stephen has very strong beliefs, he does accept other people with differing views to his own, and likes it best if they are willing to have an open discussion about them. He is very good at debating and often exaggerates to make a point, so some people could be a bit intimidated, but that would not be his intention. Stephen cannot tolerate an atmosphere in which people are expected to conform to others' conventional ideas. Stephen is a very loyal friend and prepared to spend a long time helping people to work through things that are troubling them. He has done this for me on several occasions and for various work colleagues.

A Catholic Priest

You were, I think, very wise last summer when you described the situation as a war between two huge armies, one demanding complete sexual tolerance, the other pharisaically repressing everything it does not feel happy with. Neither side believes either in charity or forgiveness.

I am having to read about current moral theology on sex at the moment. It is depressing work, full of non-sequiturs, unjustified assumptions and unwarranted inferences. I could the more easily criticize your views if I could as yet see that the other established theories were absolutely coherent and correct. As it is I fear the whole structure needs rebuilding.

Another One  [now a member of my email list]

I strongly urge Stephen to publish in book form his excellent articles: I would be the first to buy the book and would use it as a reference work in apologetics and catechesis. I find it odd that so many catholic laymen see clearly what the clergy don't see, and Stephen seems to be the most articulate exponent of that vision. Gay people would be the most loyal and orthodox members of the Church, what a sin that the Church rejects us.

From what I have read on the internet US Catholics - cleverly manipulated by some of their bishops - are now blaming gay people instead of those very bishops! - for the destruction of the Mass, the abandonment of orthodoxy, and the general and spectacular decline of catholicism in the last few decades. The theory of the ''Infiltration of homosexuals into the clergy'' plot. Had the Renewal of the Church been confided to us gays, it would have been successful!

Stephen haa the patience of Job, the sharpness of mind and the deepness of thought of the kind of philosopher and theologian that I once thought gone for good from the Catholic intelligentsia. I await his next book to appear! Thank you for being willing to discuss questions which 'everybody thinks of but nobody dares to ask.'

And Another One

Thank you for your beautiful understanding of Tradition. I am very much in a agreement with you. I tend to think of tradition as the lived experience of the gospel through the ages. It is the womb that carries the Word and gives it birth in every age and era.  It is the conversation of believers moving in the procession of time towards the Father.

As such, I believe you are right in saying that its truth is only later discerned. It takes time for the dross removed, and gold to be refined. Our great councils (and many of our local councils) give expression to that truth. They are often the distillation of the lived tradition as it unfolded. They also help discern what in the tradition is valid and what was not. But they are not The Tradition, only a part of it.

I sometimes get the feeling that people see tradition as past history. Or, that we can simply pick and choose from the multiple threads of our lived experience of Gospel that which appeals to us - and then call it The Truth. Or that one static moment within our history should be allowed to become the referent that governs the future. The tradition of the church is far more complex and merits far more wisdom. That said, I also believe that the church's storehouse of memories, rites and rituals is vast and wonderful. That there is a place for bringing forth the old and the new.

Here in the USA, "traditionalists" (aka radically conservative Catholics) use the tradition of the church as bludgeon. They pick and choose that which appeals to them to prove their arguments against the movement of the church. They are marked by intransigence and narrow-mindedness. They are hung up on a static view of church and are generally fixated on the Tridentine Mass. Like you, I too take umbrage at their claims of being "traditional". They are not. They are simply fixated and fearful that the Spirit might actually do something new.

And Another One [now a member of my email list]

I have already read some of your writing. I am very impressed with your insights, I must add. For interest's sake:  why are you so involved in all this Apostolic apology, impressive as it is?  What's in it for you?

Pharsea replied:

I suppose that I am fed up with listening to both modernist and neo-conservative clergy and theologians talking drivel, and knowing that I could do better.  For a long time I have felt a great burning in the bones as - I think - Jeremiah puts it.  In the end, one has to speak out - to "prophecy" - or else it just drives you mad! As to the reason that I started my webpages, that is documented in my autobiography. The core of my writings were a response to a challenge from Paul Hammond as to how someone "as wise as" me could "believe what" I believe.

An ex-Servite

I  found your web page helpful. I am an ex-Servite who left the Order just after the Papal visit to Scotland. I have been in a Gay relationship for many years now. I find it painful that I cannot receive the Sacraments and feel quite isolated in my Catholic beliefs. It was good to see your web page thanks

A Catholic Monk

Bless you for all you have shared with us. I not only find it interesting but very positive and inspiring. Keep up the good work; keep writing. You might be interested to know that I do not share your pre Vatican II slant (poor word) on things like Liturgy, theology, spirituality, etc. However, let me assure you that I do support gay relationships for more than just 'friendship' reasons; I support them for the full genital relationship which heterosexuals were made to enjoy. Also, that all relationships must be loving, respectful and fulfilling to all those sharing a physical encounter. Of course, the Holy Office does NOT agree with me, but I am confident it will some day. It took me years to come to this realization, but boy, I'm a much more free and contented gay person now!

A Doctor of Divinity

I've spent some time reading a portion of your musings. I must say that they are very well thought out and interesting. I can't say that I agree with every conclusion, but that isn't the point. For any of us that are concerned about the state of the Liturgy in the Roman or Anglican Churches your musings are certainly thought provoking. You might be interested to know that the Mexican Missal which of course is in Spanish is much less full of the wording problems you point out. Just recently the American Bishops approved the use of the Mexican Missal in the US. Many immigrants disliked the Spanish version of the American English Mass. Thanks for the thoughts.

A Recent Convert

Your story was quite interesting. I'm especially interested in the fact that you are a traditionalist catholic and yet gay. On the Catholic Converts community I was told that if you were gay and catholic then you were a modernist, neo-Catholic, heretic. Of course I reject that statement and am no longer a member of Catholic Converts. A little background about me. I grew up in pentecostal or  interdenominational churches and remained in an interdenominational church until about three years ago. Four years ago I was still in denial about my gay orientation because I was told gay people are going to hell. With the help of a close friend I came out to myself. Then I decided that I could no longer remain in a church which taught that gay people are going to hell. I started RICA and later became Catholic at Easter of 1999. The main thing that brought me into the Catholic Church was that I experience the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist in a way that I had never experienced before in other churches. Extreme peace is what I feel at Mass. The other main thing was that the Catholic Church doesn't automatically consign a person to hell just for being gay. My question to you is how would you respond to someone who says that you are a modernist, neo-Catholic, heretic because you are gay and catholic?

And a soon to be Catholic

I had long ago visited [your web site], but this time I came to it with a new insight and a new perspective. Although I am quiet new to the Church, many of the reasons I came to the Catholic Church to start with aren't evident or present anymore. I originally was drawn to the Catholic faith through the catechism and then through much reading (although I think I could have saved much time by reading your site first). The tradition and liturgy spoke to me in a way that no other faith had up to that point.

I started RCIA over two years ago with the inquiry phase, but it became very clear that I already knew more about the church and the faith than many of my well intentioned members of the RCIA team. This only strengthened my resolve to join the Catholic Faith. I then moved into the next phase right before Easter. My first celebration of Easter in the Catholic Church was a very moving and spiritual one. Never before had I experienced the true meaning of Easter as I did then.

Soon though, certain things began to bother me. I noticed that very few people would genuflect when coming in for Mass, or would bow to the alter when they passed it. I knew this was a tradition and one that showed great respect to the holiness of the place. I asked the members of the RCIA team and their response was "We used to genuflect when the host was kept at the front of the church, but since we now keep it in a room off to the side we no longer feel it necessary." I understood but their reply only troubled me more. I asked that while would explain the lack of people genuflecting, but what about them not bowing to the alter? "Oh, the priest does that for us." and that troubled me even more.

These are just a few of the examples of what I've experienced since I started on the second part of my journey. There are more, but from reading your site I'm sure you know already what I've been feeling.

I'm still confident that my choice to become a full member of the Catholic Church is the right one. I'm sure that after my confirmation I will be able to find a parish that is more traditional and closer to what I feel the liturgy should be. I didn't want to change horses mid stream so to speak, and I didn't want to cause trouble. I was coming into their family, not the other way around. So, I've kept quiet, but it gives me comfort to know there are those like you out there expressing what I feel and believe. It also gives me hope that I will find a Church that is closer to what I'm looking for.

For this I want to thank you, especially for all the time and effort you have given your web site. I also want to thank you for giving me a realistic perspective on my sexual orientation and how it relates to my faith.

And a Returnee

I have recently been drawn back to Christianity after five years of seeking God in neo-paganism, and your site was one of the decisive "finds" that brought me back. I came to terms with my lesbianism some ten years ago, and I have never felt that there was anything sinful in a same-sex relationship that enriches and fulfils both partners; so I could not embrace Christianity if Christianity insisted that there was something wrong with me, any more than if it said the sky was green. It is immensely encouraging to see that I'm not the only one who thinks so, and that I can marshal more than instinctive intuitions in my defence.

I think the part of the site that impressed me the most was that dealing with the Christian tradition's attitude to homosexuality; it prompted me to dig out a copy of "Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality" from the Edinburgh University library, but unfortunately it's on reserve so I only get to look at it for three hours at a time: not nearly long enough!

But your own account of the matter is impressive enough by itself. My father is a social historian, and one of the things I've learned through observing his researches is that people don't have good memories for "the way things used to be" when that goes back more than Fifty years. As a result, they tend to assume that "the way things are" is "the way things have always been", even when the current age is an anomaly. I've come to think this applies to Christian attitudes to homosexuality. It's not been uniformly disapproved of since the very beginning; its status has wavered and dipped and risen over the centuries, and the reasons for condemning it or justifying it have changed as our understanding of the world and God has improved.

Your defence of the Tridentine rite really opened my eyes. I'm from Ireland, and thus naturally I grew up surrounded by Catholicism. Technically, I was raised Catholic, but it's hard to keep a firm faith when your parents aren't religious and are steadily undermining most of what you learn in school (not that I blame them; the calibre of our religious teaching was not high, and mostly what my parents taught me was to think for myself and question everything, which I did). In that environment, moderately conservative Catholicism is the norm, and any Catholic practice too far outside that norm is considered odd, freakish, most likely only subscribed to by lunatics. This includes the Tridentine mass, of course, so until I found your site I thought of that rite as being something only weirdos stuck in the Nineteenth Century could possibly be interested in.

But you opened my eyes. I see now that there are very good reasons for preferring the Latin Mass, reasons that one would have to be a very strange sort of Catholic not to be able to recognise as valid and worth honouring. What astonishes me is the extent to which the old rite has been not just replaced in practice, but swept away in people's minds, as if there could never have been a good reason for it in the first place. Which is absurd when you think about it for five seconds, but I think most people never do.

The Gay Mysteries of the Rosary are beautiful. I'm going to have to print them out.

Your stress on the importance of friendship is likewise beautiful, and only too needed in these benighted, sex-obsessed times. You're a Star Trek fan, so perhaps you won't mind if I take an example of the denigration of  friendship (and, to a certain extent, all non-sexual relationships) from Deep Space Nine: in the final episode, Sisko, who has been hailed as the Emissary (a Messiah-like figure in the Bajoran religion) and taken from the material world to dwell with the godlike Prophets, says farewell to only one person -- his wife. Not to his dear friend Major Kira, who was one of the first to recognise that he was the Emissary; not to Dax, who was (in her three incarnations) first his mentor, then his friend, then his protege; not even to his son! No, the wife got to see him and say goodbye, but none of the others, even though he'd known many of them for longer and in many ways had more in common with them. That infuriated me. I love Deep Space Nine, but I hate its flaws, and one of the worst flaws was a tendency to give a sexual  undertone to every relationship, regardless of whether that added anything or not. The show falsified itself by doing that.

I have often thought that the most important thing in the world is friendship; for friendship is a love that comes to us as a gift, and though it is passionate it is also wise. I've never had many friends, but I cherish all the more the few friends I have. They are precious to me. I have never had a sexual relationship, never been "in love"; but I have been loved, because I have had friends. And in my experience, the only romantic relationships that last are those that either began in friendship or found their way there. Perhaps one of the reasons why friendship is so denigrated in contemporary culture is simply because it is omnipresent, mingled in all the other loves to a greater or lesser degree (and thereby ennobling and strengthening them).

Anyway. I could go on forever, but I've rambled quite a bit already so I'll just say: thank you again for your site. It has been illuminating, thought-provoking and encouraging. Blessings upon you!

A gay-friendly traditionalist

I have just spent the last two hours reading your web site on the Tridentine mass. I enjoyed it immensely although I only agree with your thoughts about 40%. I was born in 1939 and until 1967 the Church was probably the most important thing in my life, next to my parents, esp my dear departed mother. I sense you are a wonderful fellow. My problem with 60% of your site is that it's much too liberal. On the gay issues I agree with you 100%. I have prayed every day since 1967 that before I die I will be able to once again attend the mass that I so loved and revered from childhood until the roof caved in in '67. Ironically, many of the changes you espouse on your site took place in '67 before the new rite was adopted in 1969. Countless millions of us stopped attending mass because of them. I will pray for your well being and hope that in time you will become more traditionalist.

And Another [now a member of my email list]

I am thrilled to find this list. I could not believe my luck in finding a site for gay traditionalist Catholics. I was beginning to believe that I was the only one.

I live in Houston, TX, USA, where I attend a small but thriving Anglican use parish. The parish was created in the 1980s when the Holy Father allowed the ordination of married ex-Episcopal priests. The parish is dedicated to Our Lady of Walshingham and the liturgy would be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a traditional Anglo-Catholic eucharist. The Eucharistic Prayer is the translation of the Roman Canon taken from the Anglican Missal, and we sing traditional Anglican hymnody. The Mass at OLOW is a suggestion of what the post-Vatican II liturgy might have been, before it was highjacked by the forces of NewChurch. It is not an ideal solution to the liturgical crisis, but at least it makes it possible for me to attend Mass and
take communion without grinding my teeth.

As far as I know, I am the only self-accepting gay man at my parish, and to be honest, my own level of self-acceptance is often shaky at best. One of the reasons I was glad to find this group is that it makes it possible for me to air some of the problems I have had as a gay Catholic. I know that as a gay Catholic I am expected to go on about the homophobia of the clergy and the evils of the hierarchy, but to be honest that is not my most serious dilemma. Yes, I have encountered closeted, homophobic clergy (often in bars where they were trying to pick me up), but my real struggle has been with my gay "brothers," not with my Catholic co-religionists.

I came out in the early 80s after reading Father John McNeill's The Church and the Homosexual, in which he argues that monogamous gay relationships are consistent with the gospel. I found his argument persuasive. I came out not expecting to have as much trouble as I have had in actually FINDING the kind of relationships he writes about. Yes, they are out there, but they are not terribly visible, and what was visible was not easy to reconcile with any vision of Christian love I could swallow. And I am not just talking about the bars and bathhouses. The gay churches were not much better. I have never heard a sermon on sexual ethics in the pulpit of an MCC or a chapter of Dignity. Why is that? Based on what I have seen there is certainly a desperate need for one.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not a prude. I enjoy sex and am not a virgin. But sex detached from love and committment is hard to reconcile with the gospel. In my own experience as a young gay man desperate for love I know that I was hurt by many of the experiences I had, which seemed to be the only kinds of experiences available to me. There just weren't a lot of role models out there of the kind of relationship I wanted.

Shouldn't we as gay Christians be fighting on two fronts? Instead of devoting all our efforts to criticizing the Church, shouldn't we also be playing a prophetic role in the gay community? I haven't seen much of an effort to play that role, and I find it very disturbing. Frankly, I would not want the church to endorse much of what goes under the rubric "the gay lifestyle." And until gay Christians detach themselves from that lifestyle and offer an alternative to it, as a traditionalist Catholic, I would rather see the status quo, as unsatisfactory as it is, continue. We as gay people are waiting for the Church to grow up. Did it ever occur to us that the Church is waiting for similar signs of maturity on the part of gay people?

A reply to the above from another list member
I think that my experience of both 'gay liberationist Catholicism' and 'traditionalist Catholicism' (to use my own terminology) parallels your own. I myself have been following the Anglican Use movement within the Catholic Church from a bit of a distance. There is an Anglican Use community (the Congregation of St. Athanasius - on the net at www.locutor.net) here in the Boston area. I have attended one or two liturgies at the chapel where the Congregation of St. Athanasius meet, and I found the liturgy quite reverent and traditional. However, I have thus far kept my distance from the Anglican Use movement for the most part, having encountered considerable homophobia from disgruntled ex-Episcopalians who left the Anglican Communion over this and similar issues. Therefore, I find it very encouraging to hear from someone in an Anglican Use parish who can make a home for himself there as a self-accepting gay man. Hope springs eternal!

At the present time, I still maintain ties to Dignity USA, but I am finding that their approach to liturgy (of the bouncy, hand-clapping variety), among other things, leaves me quite cold. On the (fortunately) rare occasion, the Boston chapter have been known to host 'lay led liturgies' which I absolutely refuse to attend. Of course, because of this, I stand accused of clericalism and lack of gay solidarity. I truly wish there were really a viable alternative for traditionalist gay Catholics, and I think that the Pharsea's World website is an excellent first step in that direction. Keep up the good work!

And Another one

I am delighted by both your gay and traditional Catholic themes, as well as by the clear and eloquent manner in which you explain and explore philosophical and theological ideas. Thank you for your site, and be assured I will be sharing it with many other people both here in Seattle USA as well as around our country. It's wonderful to see someone working out the ideas and implications of all these ideas, without acrimony, and with a sense of love and truth, especially in regards to the love and truth of Christ and the Church.

So far, I've shared your sections on Plato with several friends, as well as your beautiful Gay Mysteries of the Rosary. Your many citations of great writers, theologians, and the Fathers are lovely, rich, and rewarding. I think that we will enjoy taking our time to explore everything in your site.

I wish I could take all your information on your site, both the gay material and the theological/philosophical material, and use it for continued education for many people here. As you yourself well know, the gay versus Christian controveries are fueled by
ignorance and lack of charity on both sides: and in a liberal community like Seattle, the ignorance and lack of charity is chiefly on the gay side, which so loathes Christianity that dialogue is nearly impossible.

And Another one [now a member of my email list]

Almost six years ago, after having left a seminary of the FSSP, I not only came out of the closet (bursting out practically) but also discovered your website.  I almost instantly held you as a prophet and began sending links to this website to many others.

I'm originally from Dallas, Texas, although as a "red state refugee" my partner and  I of 5 years moved to Troy, New York (upstate, where he's originally from) just over a year ago. I now attend at Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Coneception which is both rather gay friendly and celebrates the Novus Ordo with as much dignity and decorum as might be humanly possible.  Yes, the priest still faces me and has to look almost everyone in the eye as he says, "Take this all of you and eat it" (which used to drive me completely insane, now I just close my eyes and imagine us all facing in the same direction but still, the music is nice and the mass is very reverent.

Since having left the Fraternity of St. Peter, my experience with the traditional liturgy has been less than ideal.  A "tridentine"parish has actually been established by our bishop only about 10 - 15 blocks from my home in Troy.  A lovely sung mass is celebrated there on the first Sunday of every month from September to May by a professional choir with both rennaissance polyphony and Gregorian chant.

The problem for me is the low mass offered the other times.  Now, I've always considered the low mass a bit of an abberation any way.  "Good old" St. Augustine said that to sing well is to pray twice.  And in Eastern thought, or at least so I've been told, God is only worthy of superlatives, and singing is the superlative of speaking, thus Eastern Liturgies are always sung.  I had, however, grown used to the use of Low Mass while at Seminary (although it would have NEVER been considered for a Sunday liturgy or for a solemn feast day). At seminary, however, it was almost always in the form of the "dialogue mass".  My experience with the Low Mass so far here has been what we used to jokingly (and rather disdainfully) called the "Silent Low Mass".  Silent it is practically indeed, for the only ones doing any talking are the priest and his one or two altar servers!

The first time I went to one of these, I hadn't expected this, and having a good knowledge of Latin, I didn't feel I needed to take along my missal.  The problem was, I couldn't hear a flipping word the priest was saying, not even when he was reading the Gospel!  I'm normally a very laid back person, but I was so mad about this that I stormed out of the church during the offertory.  The priest didn't even bother to read the lessons again in English before the homily.  This would not have been a problem for me if I could have just heard them in the first place! Since then I've only been back for the High Mass (where only the choir usually sings the responses, but I, much to the chargrin of some of my neighboring (boring being the key word root) dearly beloved in Christ, belt out the responses.)

I also feel that most other traditionalists would not be appreciative of my God given sexuality, thus I usually dart out of Mass before the  "meet and greet brunch" that follows it.

On the subject of the Anglican-use liturgy. I have actually experienced it quite frequently at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, Texas. It is truly beautiful. The parish even has bumper stickers which read "Worship Like You Mean It! Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church". It is quite a beautiful parish church with a beautiful rude screen, altar, art work, lady chapel, etc. Like their Anglican/Episcopalian counterparts, they offer both rite I and rite II of the liturgy. Rite I is the older, and rather longer liturgy, said in Elizabethan style English. Rite II is too much like the novus ordo to be to my liking. They also have a Latin N/O in the evening. This used to be tridentine, but it was attracting too many freakish types for the parish's liking, so they switched to a Latin N/O. There is also an Anglican-use parish in Arlington, TX (one of the "mid-cities" between Dallas and Ft. Worth). They however use Rite II as their primary liturgy and thus I have never attended.

One thing does strike me as rather protestant, however, about the "Book of Divine Worship" as their Missal is called, and that is the way they list the 10 Commandments which are used during the penitential rite during the season of Lent (at least in Rite I). We Catholics have always listed the first commandment as prohibiting both the worship of other gods and the worship of graven images as gods and have then listed "thou shalt not covet" and "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife" as two separate commandments, for women aren't property (I can hear your objections already, but stay with me) and thus the sin would be different in kind or degree. The liturgy of the Anglican-use, however, uses the protestant numbering which combines the kinds ov coveteousness and makes the prohibition of the worship or making of graven images a separate commandment, which to me sounds rather ikonoclastic. See what I'm saying?

I think we're all for the lifting of all restrictions on the traditional latin rite. I think it was a good thing that the 1965 missal  allowed for the vernacular. (I also believe a grave injustice was committed against the publishers who printed the 1965 missal.  They were told that it was indeed the "renewed" liturgy of Vatican II, thus they put a lot of money into printing it.  When just a few years later the Vatican said, "Oops, my mistake, that wasn't the right mass at all!" and issued the Novus Ordo, that publishing house subsequently went bankrupt.)  Any way, why shouldn't the Vatican take a lesson from the Anglicans and allow for two rites? Like I said, they have a more traditional liturgy (Rite I) and a more banal, aaah, rather modern, yeah that's it, liturgy (Rite II).

The beauty of liturgy is that one is supposed to know what is coming and when. This enables us to pray the mass and feel connected to it. When postures or words are change or ommitted on a whim, it is like throwing a wrench into a finely tuned clock. At least that's what it feels like to me.

My western Catholic sense of appropriate posture and liturgy is so engrained in me that even though I KNOW it is not within Eastern  tradition to kneel at any point of their liturgy (eg. during the consecration)I still feel really uncomfortable not doing so. The reverse is proabably also true. When I was in seminary outside Scranton, PA, many of us used to frequent a beautiful Byzantine liturgy at a Ukranian Catholic church that was conducted in Old Church Slavonic. We loved it, but couldn't help making fun a little bit, like..."Again and again and again and again and again and again in Peace, let us Pray to the Lord."  or "Let us pray, 96 times, let us pray. Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy....." The Tridentine Liturgy, however, has no bidding prayers and I'm sure this seems very odd to the Byzantine who prays 96 times for the same things all during their liturgy.

[DISCLAIMER] The above is meant in good spirit and not meant to offend any one. I am just unashamedly western in my liturgical sensitivities. ;-)

And Yet Another one [also now a member of my email list]

I just wanted to say that I am very encouraged that you have set up a forum for gay people who have an affinity for traditional catholicism. I had no idea there were so many of us out there.

I have to date been quite torn between my traditional catholic upbringing, and being gay; thinking I had to embrace the more modern aspects of the liturgy in order to be among those who accept me as a gay person. To a large extent I still feel that's true, though it's comforting to know there are others out there in the same situation.

I look forward to reading more of your website as it looks like it contains some really useful and inspiring stuff for the likes of me.
 

And Yet Another one

Thanks for all you're doing, you`re such a gift to gay catholics like me who are strugling with being both and not becoming crazy while trying to do so.

The problem is that although I was brought up in a traditional RC familly (my father used to take us all to Tridentine masses frequently), when I realized I was gay, I felt so terrible that I simply left the Church. I first tried to reconcile both my Christianity and my sexuality, but I simply had no clue how to achieve that, so I gave up.

For a time I atended a regular parish with the Novus Ordo rite, but when I talked to the parish priest about my problems - let`s say he was more concerned with preventing me from having sex than understanding me, so I left that too. Even a great priest I knew, in charge of the seminary of a very important diocese here, didn`t know how to manage my situation. Both these priests thought in terms of "sin" and "purity", but my wounds had to do more with love and being true to God and to my heart, I felt a total stranger to my owm people. I later tried Anglo-Catholicism, and for a time it was all OK, but the local Anglican bishop was so anti-gay that I abandoned that too; especially because neither the Anglican rector nor any of the clergy would risk anything - even though more people than just me were gay and we needed at least a supporting gesture, but they just wouldn`t do a thing. Fortunately, I found some good gay Protestants and Catholics who helped me to solve the issue; the thing is that I returned (after nine years of absence) to a traditional celebration less than too weeks ago. I still fear I can`t fully disclose my situation to my confessor. I just don`t think being gay is bad, so I don`t confess it; but though in a way I know I`ve returned home, I feel a little strange still having to hide from the ones I love.

My older brother is gay too and lives with his partbner. My mother and my sister know about both our situations, but my younger brother and my father know nothing about mine. My younger brother knows only about my older brother, and I know that (although he loves us all) he is so judgemental about my older brother that I just can`t tell him about me - even when I`m starting a new relation with a wonderful boy.

Sorry all this chat, but just knowing there is also someone in a situation similar to mine is such a relief that I just had to tell you my story. Most of my gay or gay-friendly friends are not very religious so they just don`t undestand me much; and the ones who are - well they tend to prefer protestantism so they can avoid coping with the Magisterium and all the problems associated with being a healthy gay person and the existence of a hierarcht that condems one for being so!

You`re a beacon of hope and joy, thanks.

A gay Eastern Orthodox Christian

I am a graduate of one of the major US Orthodox seminaries, as well as a closeted gay man in my late 20s, trying to achieve some sort of "modus vivendi" between my faith and my sexuality. I've been attempting to do this for years, trying to live a celibate life as best I can. I'm sure this is a tension you're all to familiar with.

I am very intrigued by the notion of "Gay Traditionalist Catholics." I am just beginning to wade through all of the information contained on the website. I had always assumed traditional expressions of the Faith and being positive about one's gay identity were like oil and water; or that "gay Christians" could only survive in one of the mainline liberal Protestant traditions. I have no interest in liberal Protestantism whatsoever.

I'm sure I will have lots of questions as I continue working my way through the articles. My questions will probably sound very skeptical and critical, but it's only because the whole possibility of gay-affirming traditional Catholic/Orthodox Christianity is new to me, and sounds too wonderful to be true.

I have read through your essay "New and Old" and I am impressed. You sound very "Orthodox" in your take on the nature of Tradition and teaching authority in the Church; and you have explained very clearly the major differences between mere reactionary conservatism and authentic Traditionalism (again, very Orthodox-sounding to my ears). Unfortunately the Orthodox Church also has its share of reactionary
conservatives masquerading as "traditionalists".

A Jewish convert to Catholicism

Thank you for the information and the encouragement. I was only able to quickly scan the web site due to business and time limitations ... But I will study the site as soon as I can devote some time to it. Again Thank you ..... Shalom and G-d's Blessings.

A male lay catholic

Have been reading through your heady pages on homosexuality and the church. I'm not sure about your background, age and a host of other questions. Much of the scriptural explanations I have heard before. It was a nice review, but the encyclicals are just mind boggling. At any rate, will have to finish reading through and then re-read to get everything. I refuse to be put out of the church God intended me to participate in. Thanks for your work, it would be interesting to hear from you.

I saw your personal page and read it. I only very recently have found your site, so have not ploughed through everything yet. Yesterday, I found another site, with a statement on homosexuality by the bishop of Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, Pa. This is the diocese I was born and baptized in. At any rate, after reading it, I was in a huge tailspin, and recalled some of what I read in your site. It did provide an equilibrium, somewhat for myself.

I must say I have, and always had major questions about papal authority, and how the Holy Spirit is working through all of this when it seems there is such evil in that office. History proves that time and time again, but Rome always tells us to never mind that. I must say, none of this is new to me, I thought I dealt with it thoroughly before, but I guess it is never ending until I am ended. At the moment, I question my faith, certainly my church and even Mr. Big Himself. I certainly now have some understanding and compassion for all who have left, as this seems to be a twelve headed monster thrust upon us.

Thanks for the traditionalist views and research. It's true, we have lost so much in all the confusion. Does anyone know what a real Catholic is anymore? Had an argument with a lay Carmelite last week along these lines. Apparently no-one has any backbone to stand up and say this is not my tradition or my belief. How far away will the Spirit let us drift away  before towing us back in?

So I'm not crazy. Other people think the same things I do.

A male bisexual Catholic

I really enjoyed your web page, especially your life story testimony. I am an elderly (58) bisexual struggling with the Catholic Churches teaching on homosexuality. I understand the teaching, but it doesn't relate to my life experience. I love the Church, and I want to be faithful to the Church's teachings, but want also to be faithful to myself and my life experience. Your testimony was very helpful and really ministered to me. I haven't reviewed all your links yet, but plan to. My prayer is that God will continue to bless you and be with you in your walk through life and that he will give you many opportunities to minister to others in a very powerful and meaningful way.

And another

I am a 20 year old junior majoring in Social Work.

I applaud you on your site with its excellent resources attempting to bring together the seemingly conflicting elements of Catholicism and homosexuality. As a bisexual Catholic, and perhaps of a slight traditionalist bent, I understand all too well the problems that you decry in the Church in the post VII era. At times I feel as if I should discard it all, and adopt the ever promising Unitarian Universalism. Alas, I am forever drawn to the sacraments, from which I draw sustenance and meaning to this every dreary and demoralizing existence. I crave the liturgy, which brings some semblance of order to my life.

I only momentarily completed your brief diatribe about the Novus Ordo Missae. I must say, it was very well written and most impressive.Your "moderate" position more or less coincides with that which I have taken, in light of reading literature on both sides of "the divide."

I have the option of attending a Mass celebrated once a month in a chapel about 150 miles away. It is under the auspices of the SSPX, and I have strong reservations about supporting such groups. That said, however, I do think the American bishops have done traditionalists a great disservice in that they have failed to permit the widest application of JPII's indult as was intended.

On occasion I attend a parish which celebrates only the Tridentine Mass. It is such a joy to attend there, though my girlfriend thinks the priest there to be an intolerant bigot and therefore will not attend with me. Her vapid condemnations are not at all misplaced, really, though I much prefer the refreshing liturgy and tend to ignore that which I do not particularly care for. His strict adherence to Humane Vitae makes the bisexual in me just a bit uncomfortable, however.

Take care, my friend. Pax Domine Vobiscum.

And another

I just started attending Mass again (after a 5 year lapse) and recently was introduced to the "Extraordinary Form" of the Mass, first by this website, and secondly by my cousin. I've began praying again (though not as often as I know I should) and began to read the Bible. The Novus Ordo is the only rite I'm truly familiar with (as I'm only 23 years old and have attended celebrations of the "Extraordinary Form" only twice in my life). I've seen the liturgical abuses run rampant here in the US (especially here in San Francisco, where at "Most Holy Redeemer Parish" we have non-Catholic Gay men attend in drag, dance in the pews, and then ARE GIVEN COMMUNION. When I visit family in Mexico and Puerto Rico, the Novus Ordo is celebrated in a much more solemn manner. I think it depends a lot on the local culture. SF is full of debauchery, and so that debauchery is reflected into the SF religious scene, whereas Latin America (a traditional bastion of Catholicism) has retained much of its historical respect for the faith. Thr Old Rite is breathtaking! Being a novice, I'll admit it's quite difficult following along, as I know very little Latin and much of the Mass is said inaudibly by the priest, however I'm trying! :)

I'm currently having a little trouble "swallowing" certain church teachings (that vary across the board) concerning sexual orientation, contraceptive use, gender roles, ... I guess all-in-all, I'm having issues with the
church's constant obsession with sex. Your website is very informative. Prior to coming here, I had never seen such a robust body of church history, tradition, sacred scripture, and philosophical commentary concerning homosexuality and Catholicism (among many other topics). Excellent work! The site is a wee bit difficult to navigate, then again that may be by virtue of it having so much information. Nonetheless, that didn't stop me from spending my first three hours here reading whatever I could find. You've done a great service to young LGBT Catholics, such as myself, struggling to reconcile our God-given natures with our God-given faith. Thank You!!!
 

A WebRingMaster

I'm honoured that you would share your writings with our community. "A Fantasy Encyclical" should be sent out and around just for the thoughts it involves and uses and invokes. A Personal note: a friend of mine used to describe himself as a Traditionalist Catholic and a gay man.  He and I went back and forth many times over theological things he often introduced with "This will scare you, but..." He died 20 March of 1999 in a Subway accident in NYC. I know he would have loved to have known of your web site. Your site brought his memory very close. Thank you. Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Another WebRingMaster

Great site. As another gay Catholic I agree with you in all most all cases! Your story of your visit to Lourdes was very moving.

An email list moderator

I'm excited by the philosophical and theological thoughts I'm finding on your site! I would like to re-post some of your thoughts on "Pax Christi", a public Catholic discussion forum I moderate.

http://forums.delphiforums.com/paxchristi/messages

I've always leaned toward Platonism. You're the first person who ever suggested to me that a return to Platonism is the solution for many difficulties in the church! 'Radical traditionalist' indeed! I'm also struck by the clarity and balance of your thought. We deal continuously in cyberspace with conservatives that can't entertain the possibility of change. Your site is a refreshing change.

A male gay Catholic

I found your pages very interesting and informative. If we could only have a choice between the Old Rite and Pope Paul IV's Mass, I think it would bring a few more people in. By far the best bit was the quote on friendship from St Aelred. That has to be what Our Loving Father meant for us when he made us!

And another....

Thank you, thank you and yet again, thank you for a wonderful and exciting web site! Finally, I am finding other gay men (my own age too) that believe in God through his son Jesus Christ. I'M NOT ALONE ANYMORE!!!  I'm jumping with joy :)  It's a shame that we live so far apart because I would love to meet you and your friends too :(  Well, once again, thank you and may God bless.

And another....

First, let me say that you have been a tender mercy in my life. I appreciate your website, and have gotten my own gay group to include it in their links page. Aside from that support group and a very friendly, utterly non-traditional priest who basically saved my life early on, it is two UK websites that have provided some clarity in my own path. So, I wanted to let you know that I am so grateful for the exploration of the issues you address on your website - wonderful.

And another....

Please God, you and I should be friends: You have the most thought provoking site I have recently visited. After many years, I finally found someone with whom I could agree. Your articles have been most informative and inspiring. Take care, and God bless you. What impresses me the most is the lucidity of your statements, in spite of the most blatant opposition.

And another....

I'm a 45 yr. old gay man who vaguely remembered the Latin Tridentine Mass, when I decided to attend one at the chapel of St. Jude's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Florida. I loved the indult Mass at the chapel, and look forward to attending every Sunday, even though it's going to be a 35 minute ride from my hometown. I came to a point where I was bored with the Novus Ordo Mass and wanted to see if the traditionalists were right about the Tridentine Mass being so awesome (it is!!!).

It's difficult for me to reconcile my liking for the leather/uniform subculture within the gay community & traditional Catholicism, but I hope I can do so. Do you think it's possible? Although I've checked out some of your web site, I still have to read and view the rest of it. So far, I think it's great and I'm elated that I found it on the internet. God bless you & your loved ones, Pharsea, and much success in all you do!

And another....

I thoroughly enjoyed your web site and am impressed by the amount of research that has gone into the areas you discuss. As for most "traditionalist" Catholic web sites, while they offer valuable and important reasons for maintaining the Tridentine Rite, in many other areas - and especially dealing with homosexuality - they are for all practical purposes in the Old Stone Age. By this I mean some of these groups .... seem to advocate Levitical penalties for sodomy (which they view as one of the four sins which cry to Heaven for vengeance). When one attends so-called gay Catholic liturgies (such as "Dignity" Masses, or those for "New Ways Ministries", the liturgy is barely identifiable as Roman Catholic. This is a much needed Apostolate.

And another....

I thoroughly enjoy your website. I've read it repeatedly during the course of the past year. While I'm not of one accord with some of your arguments, on the whole the website presents an intelligent and wide-encompassing view of Catholicism: not simply on behalf of gays, but everyone who wishes for Catholicism to be treated respectfully. I'm a 21 year old, queer Catholic living in a university town within America's Bible Belt; many of your comments are particularly pertinent to my parish as I constantly see debates and debaucles between "conservatives" and "liberals" or "orthodox" and "heretics" as some put it. Your papers on Traditionalism and Conservativism make such petty bickering (which I choose to avoid) seem even more infantile.  As I serve as a Sacristan for my parish, I am constantly trying to find ways of approaching the holiness of the mass and the dignity of catholicism with greater reverance. I would like to conclude by saying I hope your voice finds its way to more ears needing to hear a little more reason.

And another....

I have found your website both very inspiring and helpful in gaining a better understanding of how a traditionalist viewpoint held within the Church is by no means irreconcilable with being gay. Pardon my awkward and possibly inaccurate phrasing, but that's the best I can describe my very positive and delighted impression of your site.

A female gay Catholic [now a member of my email list]

A friend told me to look at your page a few weeks ago, but I wasn't able to locate it until I saw the Common Ground section linked at www.rainbowsashmovement.org. I've visited it every day for the last week or so, and I still haven't read the entire page! But I would like to thank you for what I have read. I haven't been spiritually well for the last three weeks or so, mainly because I have just now begun to come to terms with my sexuality as it relates to my Catholic faith. But your page has helped put me on the path to recovery.

I'm a Catholic lesbian, 23 this August, and very interested in making more lgbt Catholic friends. I'm still in University and while I'm interested in theology, I'm not very well-schooled in it. My training has been largely in the fine arts (literature and theatre), and I've only taken one philosophy class during my entire university career.

I'm very excited to see a new refutation on your site (particularly as it addresses Gay Marriage!)

I am also writing .... to thank you for providing such a wonderful resource to LGBT Catholics -- and particularly to me. In my attempts to better educate myself about my faith and the relationship of my sexuality to that faith, I have consulted your site on at least a weekly basis since June of this year. I am particularly interested in the aspects of your site that relate to Traditionalism as this is, by virtue of being born after Vatican II, family background and geographical location, not a topic I was ever really taught about until finding your site. Your papers on magisterial infallibility are especially illuminating (though I must confess I still have some confusion on the topic, related solely to my own long-held misunderstandings).

Overall, however, I feel great hope when reading through your site - especially as I have spent the last four years of my life feeling on some level that I had to choose between my faith and a full expression of my sexuality. I am, slowly but surely and not without much fear, beginning to realize that I may be wrong.

Thank you again, Stephen! Oh, I was also interested to notice that you are a D and D player :). It's a pity I live on the other side of the Atlantic - I'd love to join your campaign, otherwise!

And another ....

Having read a great deal of your web site, I love you like a brother! Which, being a lesbian, is probably the best I can do.

It was extremely refreshing to see someone else is gay and into the Tridentine Mass. I have only attended it once, but I have often expressed my sadness that I couldn't have been a Catholic before Vatican II, so I could officially have it all the time. I should go more, but my one year of high school Latin is insufficient for real understanding, so I just read the English as they go. Now I go to church occasionally at the most conservative churches in town, where they have kneelers and Saints galore. But I have to remain strong inside knowing that many of those around me would condemn me if they knew what I was. It was hard to get into the Church, I don't want to get thrown out now that I'm in.

I wish I knew as much about the Old Rite as you do, nothing a lot more reading can't solve.

Thanks for being you Pharsea!

And another ....

I saw the part of your site about Reconciliation and it really helped me with something I started worrying about recently. I got the link to your page from lieuwecaritas on livejournal.  But I thank you for your site because it really helped me!  I'm going through RCIA and I was excited about Confession a while ago, but more recently I was starting to wonder what the point of it was, like why is it so important that I have to wait, and if I should tell my priest (we moved in the middle of RCIA, recently) who I don't know very well, that I'm a lesbian. After reading your advice, I'm deciding to hold back on that for now, so at least I'm not worrying about it anymore. I'll probably read more on your site.  Thanks!!

An Anglican [now a member of my email list]

Thank you so much for your website. As a liturgist in training, I have found food for thought on your site. Though now Anglican, I still tend toward a Catholic approach to matters, and in fact, have found myself moreso now than ever. Indeed, I've found myself being more Catholic than when I was Catholic, strange as that may seem.

I appreciate especially your reasoning on matters. Logical engagement is not my finest strong point as I rather intuit or come from a poetic perspective, so it is most helpful to see someone coming at matters logically. I only wish I had discovered your site when I was coming out as an undergraduate, reading through stacks of works to think through the matter, and finding myself up against a brick wall with regard to current Vatican statements and the relatively poor pastoral care of priests in helping me wade through. I might have found more grounds for staying and dissenting.

I have been of late ruminating over your thoughts on the Tridentine Mass. There is so much which you have written that I can only say "Amen!" to. Your notes on ICEL language are spot on: liturgy is icon, poetry, our participation in the Rite of Heaven, that we offer such shoddy response to G-d making love to us is a deep shame if not heterodox in it's own right.

I found your statement about the "goings on" in the typical parishes of the Roman Jurisdiction to be virtually a "different religion" quite poignant. I thought the same thing growing up in my relatively conservative parish in comparing my experience of catholicism at the time with that I saw in the "lives of the Saints" etc.  It was for all general purposes a "different religion". This breach with continuity is most disturbing.

I still feel robbed and cheated out of  my heritage due to the misinformed ever changing directives of some diocesan liturgical commissions in regard to liturgy on the parish  level. Most of what passes for liturgical use in the average Roman parish  has little in my humble opinion to do with the liturgical directives of Sancrosanctum Concilium in the documents of Vatican II.

That makes me angry. It  makes me angry that a whole generation of Romans have grown up being led by many  who for all their good intentions basically destroyed the Romant Rite in their  zeal for antiquity and making the liturgy revelant to the common man. I have seen the Novus Ordo Missae done with much beauty and solemnity (St Agnes church in St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Michaels Church in Munich) but unfortunately too often the liberty that is taken in regard to rubrics and decorum is lacking in continuity and is not an organic development of the centuries but in many situations a real breach with continuity. This is what disturbs me. This and the often times indifference I've found among many Roman priests who are misinformed has caused me much grief. If the faithful are thereby strengthened in their faith in the Eucharistic Saviour and in their zeal for performing good works by their assisting at and participating in the Holy  Sacrifice of the Mass when their lives are transformed in holiness by the  liturgy be it Anglican Use,  Novus Ordo, Tridentine or whatever then the liturgy  is serving its purpose I  think.  My question is whether this is the case in many places.

I am however not of the school of thought that places the blame on Vatican II. On the contrary I believe the implementations at least liturgically speaking if not more have never been realised in the Roman Church. This is sad to say the least. What is worse is that you have liturgical commissions and directors who are doing what they can to "update" the "faith communities" with "revelant" liturgy all in the name of "the spirit of Vatican II".  The much maligned "spirit of Vatican II" has not been tried and found wanting liturgically speaking it has been misinterpreted, left untried and unimplemented.

I'm not attempting to demonise the Novus Ordo Missae by any stretch of the imagination: though in its current widespread usage I find it very wanting and lacking of continuity, transcendence and mystery. I do not argue the validity of the Novus Ordo Missae vs Traditional ie Tridentine. I have a very different concept of Catholicity than the average Roman anyway.

I find the Holy Mass celebrated in my own parish church to be much more traditional and catholic than that celebrated in many Roman Churches but I do not seek to malign the Holy Roman Church by saying this. I do not think I am any less Catholic than any Roman that I know. I'm convinced that the "Great Mystery" as I said is larger than the Holy Roman Church. This is not to say that I have no respect for the Roman Church. I pray daily for her priests, religious and faithful and especially for the Holy Father.  I do not consider myself outside the pale of the Catholic faith of the ancient undivided Church.

A Lecturer in English

I have had a quick look at your web site and I see the difficulty of the route you're travelling!  My great sympathies! I have always been (very actively) much more homosexual than heterosexual. I like the way I am very much, think of it as very close to the reality of everything. I've never joined any group or movement because I don't like being put into categories much, and anyway I think my experience of desire is perfectly normal and OK and I see no reason to defend it (or to 'defend' it any more than my opposition to fear.) I feel confident [the true] god is the same. You see another reason I can't feel much confidence in the christian fiction of "God"!

A prospective convert to Catholicism

You may be finding it a little strange that I keep sending emails after reading  your web pages. It is because since 1996.. I have been struggling with faith. I was studying at London Bible College at the time, and I have used my theological training to honestly find the truth about God, the bible, Church, etc. I've considered atheism. On 13 Jul. this year, I started getting my answers. I was helped by Rembert Truluck's book, even though I hadn't finished it. Your web site, explains things in the way I understand them to be. I was puzzled as to why I felt the Lord calling me to the Catholic Church. It is because there are many like you in her. I see the RC Church as the New Israel. I was a 'gentile' believer, as it were, now I'm coming home. Thank you for publishing your web site. Your Fantasy Encyclical, I found to be beautiful. It was balanced and simple, but not simplistic. I noted the date 2112, are you a Rush fan?

A lawyer

We DO have a lot in common! This is just a quick acknowledgement of your email as I am currently in Chicago on, of all things, a management course. So no free time for long emails (and hardly any for Mass, which is rather more important). Have quickly looked through your site and there is a really remarkable correspondence of ideas. Would love to talk at greater length, when I get back to the UK. In the meantime please do not interpret a short answer for now as lack of interest in following this up.

An amusing correspondence in "Catholic Forum"

Jeff,

If you get the chance, could you take a look at these two links? I have not read them through and don't know what else is on the site, but for the development of dogma, it looked interesting. I must re-read them both, they are long and a little involved.

            http://www.geocities.com/pharsea/DefinitionOfDoctrine.html
            http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/faculty/ckaczor/articles/development.htm

Jeff replies:

They are interesting and pretty well done. I have barely skimmed through both of them, but from a preliminary look I would be more inclined to go along with the first one.

The second appears to flat out deny infallibility or even the possibility of infallibility altogether. I noticed one of its links went to a page by Paul Halsall. I realize it is not a valid argument to "attack" someone else's character, but on the other hand, I would note that he is an outspoken proponent of homosexual relations.

Pharsea remarks:
The commentator has gotten his "first" and "second" mixed up :-) Moreover, he clearly hasn't read my article!

A female work colleague

I have signed your guest book. I read the poetry and think it is beautiful. Wish I could write like that, but I can see that you were deeply inspired. Poetry like that only comes at certain times in one's life. I could not fault it either. On first reading it all flowed easily. You love with no reservation. In some ways I envy you your love. I always have doubts about mine.

Another fan of my poetry

I just stumbled upon your web site, read your life story and then read your beautiful poems. Paul is a beautiful person and it's completely understandable why you fell in love with him. I bet he was even more lovely in person when you met him. It's too bad your love for him couldn't be consummated. It seems like Paul really missed out. One can only imagine how wonderful the sex would have been between you.

And another one

I read your poems and wow they remind me so much of this boy I'm so in love with like "him" and the one where you say he touched you. I just wanted to let you know that I love these poems.

And another one

UR one fine dude. I appreciate PJH in a big way!! Your gay life story is an inspiration to all homosexuals over the world! Carry on your good work for the gay community. Your poems really hit the spot and are heart warmingly felt with pasion and delight!

A fellow Platonist [now a member of my email list]

Your website is an earthly reflexion of the heavenly reality that Jesus spoke of in [John 14:2]. One wanders around from house to house, room to room, and it is always wonderful. I wish I had a pond with frogs, such as yours. Ici dans la ville, nous n'avons pas les grenouilles. Au moins ainsi je pense. Malheureusement. Nous les aimons beaucoup. Little Dog says she would have liked to meet Adrian's mother's poodle.

Having learned more now about you and Mr. Hammond, I am sorry that it fell out as it has. I should be happy to stand in as a sort of philosophical intermediary.

Your links throughout are great, but Ludditish dullards like myself, scraping our knuckles on the floor as we shuffle uncertainly forward - and I hope I am the only one of our kind left, actually, having had such a hard time getting a hearts table together lately - might do better with an easily accessible over-all map or directory of the site. In my experience it is the richest site on the web; there is so much worthwhile material available. But it is not easy to access.

Intermediately, the ethical business at the end [of my paper on epistemology], about knowledge of the Good, etc., would probably be placed in a somewhat more discrete section, to the satisfaction of most philosophers.  By all means maintain the link. But inasmuch as epistemology and ethics have been divided in modern philosophy into two quite distinct areas of investigation and discourse, perhaps you should point the way to a "knowledge of the Good" page from both directions, ethics and epistemology. Plato was indeed astoundingly brilliant, persistently so to those of us who have the patience to keep reading him with respect, to have returned to this concept of the union of those two ideas, what we can know and what we should do.  By all means carry on the connexion.

Your page is too long for me to be able to comment conveniently on aspects of it, aside from my general considerations given above. I might point out that you do not make any mention, as I recall, of eudaimonia as an ethical object of either the normal life or of the life well lived. Aristotle, it seems to me, is just an ingenious industrious Platonist, with other interests. And so, there is no need for us Platonists to distance ourselves from Aristotle and his admirers, as much as some of us have perhaps tended to do.

Thanks for the passage from the Meno. It brought tears to my eyes, specifically the Pindar fragment. Pindar definitely deserves to be prayed for, along with all the other beloved non-Christians. Vergil too, never mind Dante. But poor Pindar had this two-dimensional Mussoliniesque admiration of certain kinds of special people, on the surface; while at the same time he clearly was trying to find a moral, religious foundation somewhere in the divine sphere, wherever that was to be located, within, above, in mythology, in prophecy, wherever.

A fan of my page on Friendship

I was basically surfing the web trying to find information on Christian Friendship and came across this site. I found so much information that will help me in establishing the kind of friendships that I have been denying myself for too long. I believe the kind that I am seeking are the ones that God wants us to have first with him, and then with each other. After all, how can we know how to be friends to each other if we do not first have a clear understanding of what God's requirements are on establishing a deep and meaningful friendship with him first. Thank you and God Bless you.

And Another one.

I love reading the page on friendship because it has great value! Reading this page shows me the great treasure I have in my friendships. Truly the highest form of love! Thank you!

A heterosexual(?) Catholic

I found your site by following some Catholic links. I have enjoyed reading your articles. If you do [one on] relativity.... please let me know. A paper, from a physics perspective, that might excercise the mind, is a paper on transubstansiation, that I would like to read. Thanks again for giving me some thing to excercise my mind and my faith. May Our Lord bless you and your site.

A not altogether sympathetic layman

Thanks for getting back to me. I must say that your arguments are quite refreshing to me. I say this, not that I agree with you per se, but that in making your arguments you respect the Church's authority and appeal to reason (something I find usually lacking in groups that contest Church teaching, whether of the fallible or infallible Magistrium). I wish you the best of luck!

A Mulsim

I have always found your site interesting and relevant for its discussion of Catholic doctrine in general, and homosexuality in particular. I find most discussions on homosexuality/LGBT issues to be disappointing. Your site is an exception.

A theology student

I am a frequent visitor to your site as I find your writings to be very helpful. I especially appreciate your treatment of homosexuality, the Liturgy, and Byzantine leanings. I'm a graduate student at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA. This spring I expect to graduate with an M.A. in systematic theology, emphasising in Trinitarianism.

A Catholic language teacher [now a member of my email list]

I have spent most of the afternoon... reading posts on your "Pharsea's World" group. I am most impressed at the depth and breadth of the discussions. I belong to several Catholic e-groups... but a lot of them really fall short. They are either trite commentaries that have very little to do with faith issues, stupid arguments about heresy and infallibility or lists and lists of... "forwards", but very little of what I would call deep discussion of theological issues, with respect for differing views rather than the kind that attack the views of others. I kept telling myself I would just read one more post and then go about some other business, but I found that I could not resist seeing what you or someone else had replied to that one and so on.

I find that in many cases your views are more similar to mine than I had first thought. You indeed do know, and very thoroughly, the Primacy of Conscience, although I don't think you used that terminology. And following links you put in some of your posts I found there was even MORE of your site that I had not read yet.

I was most impressed with your thorough disection of the passage in Leviticus in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, especially since neither theology nor linguistics is your profession! I am a language teacher and I know how easily words can be misinterpreted in the context in which they are used, and how some words can have multiple meanings depending on their placement in a sentence and the endings that indicate gender and number... I don't know Latin, Greek or Hebrew at all, but no matter, the concept of the way that different nuances in languages affect meaning helped me to follow along what you were explaining.  I found it utterly fascinating.

A Professor of Electronic Engineering

Why is it that some girls come and go in my life and I can get over it relatively easily, and yet there some that are the equivalent of PJH who I am head over heals with and feel as if I will always have a burning flame inside me for them? Whether we are heterosexual or gay, I think we can have some solidarity in sharing the same mysteries in relationships and can help each other move through them! So here is my bit of wisdom drawn from dozens of heterosexual relationships, that I think should be universal even for gay ones. You probably won't like this, but it seems to me that "attraction". "falling in love" and all that sort of stuff is a temporary state that eventually wears off when you live with that person. In a healthy relationship these feelings move towards respect, co-operation, holy love etc [i.e. friendship] . The initial "falling in love" is just nature's trick to get us to pair bond.

Now if the bonding is unrequited or cut short (e.g. the other person gets run over by a bus), we have a tendency to stay locked in this "fallen in love state" and we don't have the relationship with that person to help us to move forward into the next stage. So we get stuck in a love rut. We have a tendency to put on a pedestal those that are taken from us. Half the male heterosexual population would not be so in love with Marilyn Monroe had she grown old and not died young. Now as any true-blue dyed in the wool bejesus heterosexual will tell you: the best way to snap out of this state is to find someone else to fall in love with. I've tried it and and works every time for me.

A Professor of NeuroScience

I read both those articles ["Catholic Common Ground" & "Joint Declaration"]. Some of the negative responses to Common Ground are shocking!  I agree that the joint declaration seems more a case of trying to play with the words and reinterpret them, in a way to try and say "we mean the same" without altering anything of substance.

By the way, I am incredibly impressed at the amount you have achieved in a pretty short period. You have the capacity to get enthused by a subject and produce substantial material. I've just started reading a book called "Disciplined Minds" written by a guy who worked for Physics Today. It is all about professional work, and how the companies want "yes men" who will sell their minds without raising any tough questions. The premise is that all professional work is political, but professionals are trained to offer their creativity in a straight jacket, without questioning the politics and goals of what they are doing. I highly recommend the book. It seems like the Catholic church fits right in with the corporate culture in this regard!

I felt a share in perhaps some personal anger of yours, in that clearly your theological understanding is superior to most priests, as is probably your passion for Jesus and the Catholic Church - which should give you a clear role within the Church, that the Church should appreciate, so they committed a serious wrong when they rejected you either because of "personality issues" or because you "won't just do as you're told". It is good that you also have great enthusiasm for physics, so the Church has not cut you off from your only calling.

Regarding the Joint Declaration on Justification :

When they [the Lutherans] stress that God's grace is forgiving love ("the favour of God"), they do not thereby deny the renewal of the Christian's life.
The point is to clarify what the Lutherans believe.  Some Protestants might consider that "the favour of God"  is no more than a naming game. Once you say "I believe", although you are just as sinful as before, God "counts you  as righteous" (when you're not) because He sees Jesus when He looks at you. Saying the Christian's life is renewed is an attempt to negate this concept.
They intend rather to express that justification remains free from human co-operation and is not dependent on the life renewing effects of grace in human beings.
It is clear from the document that the Lutherans really believe that God chooses to view and treat some people as righteous (when they are not) simply because they believe in God, and that it is only because of God's goodness that He is able to take this viewpoint and see Jesus instead of the sinner. The Lutherans then would say that it is impossible to be in this state (of believing in God and viewed as righteous) without becoming a better person, so the result is the same as the Catholic result but cause and effect are opposite. (Lutheran: God chooses to see you as good, because you believe, but as you believe and through God's help you become a better person; Catholic: God helps you become a better person and as you say, sees the final result.) The document seems to be an attempt to ignore the "cause and effect" issue and agree with whatever can be said to be agreed upon. I think the Lutherans are loathe to change, even if their theology does not make much sense, because of sentences in the Bible, which they are reluctant to deviate from (e.g. God imputes the righteousness of Jesus on the sinner).

A Catholic Physicist

I read your essay on the definition of doctrine some time ago. I think the question of what "infallible" means and how it works is quite a legitimate theological issue and it was certainly encouraging for me to read something about theology which was understandable. Your paper offers room for a serious discussion so here it is.
  1. I think your main thesis is that an infallible statement of a church authority is "literary infallible by its own", i.e. disregarding what the speaker had actually in his mind. It is the "precise wording" of the statement which matters and a careful analysis of an infallible statement may actually show that it says something totally different than what the speaker intended. I think this interpretation poses quite a lot of troubles.
  2. You write in the introduction that "insisting that the formula should be given the meaning intended by its framer does not help",  noting that one has to take into account his background knowledge, presumptions and (even!) prejudices.
  3. You write that Holy Spirit protects the magisterium from making erroneous statements but that those statement may be in fact quite cryptic and even not helpful at all.
  4. As quantum mechanics is concerned:  Your comparison seem to invoke that the truth about God is something that develops with regards to (infallible) statements which have been made.
  5. My analogy between physics and theology goes along lines: "theory vs experiment".
I will write you my notes on other essays of yours when I read them.  I enjoyed reading your "Doctrine" article.

I read some time ago your essay on free will.  I found it quite stimulating but I am still not quite sure what I really think of it.
In short, before I started reading your essay I considered the "free will problem" to be one of the most ungraspable problem of maybe any religion in general and having finished reading your stuff, I still do.

  1. You point out that the problem of consciousness is maybe more fundamental and interesting than problem of free will.
  2. To be short:  I do not think that one can ever "solve" the free-will problem.
  3. In general, I think that physics cannot really say much to this problem.
  4. One may fuss a bit about quantum mechanics and probability etc but that is just words and nothing more.
  5. The interesting peculiarity of chaotic systems is their exponential dependence on tiny variations of initial conditions: at least that's what I think of it.
  6. If I understand you correctly, you present free will as a process of evaluation of what is good for me.
  7. I think the quotes of St. Pauls letters you mention naturally tend to oppose the concept that sin is just ignorance and/or stupidity.
    1. If I am stupid, it is God's fault that He created me in that way: so it is His problem and not mine that I am a sinner.
    2. I believe that when we make decisions, when we choose between right and wrong, there are other processes involved in it than mere "cool" evaluation of the outcome.
    3. But do not ask me to describe those processes more specifically.
    4. I feel this is just a mystery - more incomprehensible in fact than the Trinity itself.
    5. Because with the Trinity, you can formulate that problem and pinpoint to what is unclear and at which point the human reason fails.
    6. Unlike in the "free will problem".

A francophone

Un grand regret, ce site si extrordinaire devrait être traduit en français avec des intervenant des pays francophones, sinon, BRAVO



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