Friday, December 20, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing or The Duck Dynasty Debacle


I can't believe the amount of attention that this is getting. Actually, I can. So I'm going to give it more, but not much more. Here's the deal: the guy gave an interview where he said a lot of offensive things, not just about gay people. A&E has a really slick marketing department. They said "We are going to have egg on our face if we do nothing. So let's turn this into a major publicity stunt! We'll fire the guy, but instead of giving the boring obvious reason (he's a racist) we'll make it into a gay-rights, first-ammendment foofaraw! We will mobilize the entire Culture Wars machine to create publicity for our crappy little reality TV show. Huzzah!"

That is the whole story. Pay it no more mind.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sexual Authenticity - More Reflections


I just published my new book, Sexual Authenticity: More Reflections. It tells the story of the development of my thought over the six years since I published the first Sexual Authenticity. It includes the best of my blog, extensive commentary, material that was published in obscure places or never published at all, and some battle stories for around the yuletide fire. Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like 100 000 words about queer Catholicism!

It's now available on CreateSpace, it should be available on Amazon in about a week. If all goes well, by that time I'll also have another book out. My husband and I are now going to go and argue about whether it should be the book of fantasy short stories that is nearly complete, or the book of philosophical dialogues that I want to finish first.

UPDATE: Amazon.com now has it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning



So I read Simcha Fisher's book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning. If you're a couple who has just decided that you might give NFP a try, go ahead and read this book. If you are a good and faithful Catholic woman whose marriage is falling apart because your husband is a sex-crazed troglodyte who only wants to use your body as an object for his filthy lusts, you should really, really buy this book and read it right now (forget the rest of this review. Read Simcha. Here's the link.) On the other hand, if you're a couple who has just experienced their Nth NFP failure, you've already called every Priest and theologian that you know, and you're so frustrated that you're starting to think about jumping ship and becoming an Anglican, this book might not be for you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trans-formations

 (cross-posted from spiritualfriendship.org)

I wrote recently on being gender-queer, and I promised that I write about transsexuality.

Before I do that, I want to give some idea of where I’m coming from on this issue. I recently wrote a paper on transgender and transsexual issues, and how trans identities relate to the traditional Catholic teaching on essential sexual complementarity. The paper was 5000 words long. I could have written four times that. As the foundation for writing I talked to trans people, read their writings, and listened to the stories that they had to tell about themselves rather than just approaching their experience through the filter of the “experts.” I’ve seen my own experience presented by experts often enough to know that there is often something missing in an allegedly “objective” account, and that the something missing is usually the heart of the human person.

Sex and Gender

(cross-posted from spiritualfriendship.org)

I wanted to write a post on transgender/transsexual issues for the Day of Remembrance yesterday — but it wasn’t coming out right. I’m trying again today.

A couple of weeks ago, Ron received an e-mail from someone who was asking about trans people, and who wanted to know whether this is something that we’ll be covering at Spiritual Friendship. We tend to concentrate a lot on the LGB in LGBTQ, but the T, and to a lesser degree the Q, kind of get left out. The reason for this is simple: most of the writers here ID as L, G, or B. We don’t have any trans writers on board yet, and while I consider myself gender-queer that’s not really the same thing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ordered Towards Procreation



Last time I said that I was going to talk about the argument that “unnatural” forms of sex prevent the great good of new life from coming into being. Most people, in any moral system, will agree that even if it's okay to pursue pleasure for its own sake it must be pursued proportionately: that is, the pursuit of any good (pleasure included) ceases to be morally acceptable if it gravely violates a greater good. So, for example, even though we acknowledge the pursuit of knowledge to be intrinsical good, we would characterize Mengele's experiments as profoundly evil because they involved pursuing the good of knowledge in a way that violated the basic rights and dignity of other human beings. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Flotsam on the Internet


Slave of Two Masters is now available as a Kindle e-book. It's only $2.87. You need to read it as a preparation for the grim commercial meat-grinder of the Holiday Season. Not so much to "put Christ back into Christmas" as to "put sanity back into December."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hermeneutic of Suspicion



I've decided that I'm going to write a series that deals with the reasons why natural law arguments about sex are not actually an effective way to port Catholic sexual morality to secular society. My purpose is not to show that Catholic sexual morality is wrong, but rather to show that the arguments that we use to support it are not actually good arguments. This is important for two reasons: first because if a Catholic only believes in the teaching because of arguments that are ultimately inadequate, sooner or later they are likely to suffer the scandal of disillusionment – a scandal that often tempts people to reject the faith entirely. Secondly, as Catholics we often fall into the bad habit of thinking that people who disagree with us do so because they are fundamentally stupid, irrational, or addicted to sin. A willingness to look honestly at the flaws in our own arguments is essential in order to maintain the intellectual humility and compassion necessary for fruitful engagement with others.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reading as a Loser


A long while back, when I first became interested in postmodernism, I read a collection of essays by philosopher Mark Kingwell entitled Better Living. One of the essays, “Reading as a Loser,” became one of the most transformative pieces of philosophical prose that I've ever read. It changed the way that I interact with text, and in doing so changed the way that I interact and relate with other human beings.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Out There



Just finished watching Stephen Fry's “Out There,” a two-part BBC documentary. What it's about, exactly, varies situationally. Sometimes Fry says that it's about “being gay around the world,” and it is kind of about that. Sometimes he says it's about trying to understand homophobia. It's not really about that.
I'm sure that my reactions to this documentary are far from typical. The average viewer would probably find a lot of information here that they weren't already familiar with. It's presented in a way that is emotionally impactful, and I was quite happy to find that it almost never made me cringe. Unfortunately, its identity-crisis regarding what, exactly, it's trying to do prevents it from being able to really achieve either of its goals.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On the Public Square


I just finished reading Elizabeth Scalia's On the Square article about Facebook and social media. She argues that FB is a "self-referential church of me" and she quotes Francis' comments on spiritual narcissism as a means of bolstering the argument.

Usually I really like Scalia's stuff, but this one I feel misses the mark. It's not that I'm inclined to defend Facebook. I closed down my FB account years ago, largely motivated by the kinds of concerns that Scalia raises in this article. It was too much of a temptation to waste time fretting about filling out boring questionnaires about myself, waiting, hoping for some sort of social affirmation in the form of a wall-post or a friend request. I just didn't have the energy to engage in that kind of virtual social anxiety. I think, though, that to see this as a manifestation of narcissism and worldliness is to judge too harshly.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Doing it Right


I wanted to write a follow up to Ron Belgau's piece on LifeSite's interview of Joseph Sciambra.

 Joe's story is one of the those pieces of data that needs to be taken into account if we're going to adequately provide for the pastoral needs of LGBTQ people, but it is a story that needs to be taken into account in the right way. LifeSite, not surprisingly, presents Sciambra as if he were a typical gay man and thus presents his story as the gritty, diabolical reality that underlies the sanitized images of gaydom that one finds in the mainstream media.

Sciambra's story is perfect for this. It's horrific. Literally. I write horror. I like The Shining, Lost Highway, Hour of the Wolf, and zombie movies. But by the time that I was halfway through Joe's memoir I had overcome my capacity to handle the content. It's also real, and although it would be politically convenient for me to sweep it under the carpet as if it were a very isolated and bizarre account, that would be just as irresponsible on my part as it is for LifeSite to present the story as if it were the norm. Grappling with Sciambra's experience responsibly involves recognizing that the sadomasochistic porn scene really is a part of the gay community, and that although sexual excess in the gay scene is sometimes overstated by Christians it is also real. How do we address that reality? How do we provide responsible warnings for those who might be at risk of encountering the kind of horrific and predatory community that Sciambra found, while at the same time avoiding alarmism?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ratio ad Absurdum



I am absolutely sick to death of hearing the following Catholic meme: “If only people today were more rational and able to think more clearly they would see that the Church is right about (x).” Whether the issue is abortion, contraception, gay marriage, or the existence of God, intellectual Catholics too often seem to be under the impression that in some bygone era public discourse took place primarily on a rational level and that the downfall of our society is being brought about by people's irrational susceptibility to emotional ploys.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spiritual Friendship


I've been promising Ron Belgau that I would write for the Spiritual Friendship blog for a long time now. I finally did. Interscape is a piece about Gerard Manley Hopkins, intersubjectivity, the meaning of friendship, and the Communion of Saints.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Peter and the Cock



I want to talk about the problem of what is meant when someone says that they cannot overcome their sin.

On the surface, this looks like it's just whining. Probably untrue. They're making excuses. But no, I don't think this is right. It is a very comforting idea, to think that we are always capable of overcoming sin in our own lives, but I don't think that it's true.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Creator Has a Master Plan


I found myself in Toronto several months ago, alone in the city for the first time in many years. It used to be my home, but I was surprised upon returning to find how much had changed. Not how much had changed in the city: Toronto is pretty much Toronto, though I think that some of the buildings were different. The change was primarily a change in me.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sad Bad Sex



We are human, and we long to be loved. It's not just LGBTQ people who feel isolated and demeaned by the way that the sexual teachings of the Church are generally portrayed. For the most part the secular media puts forward the idea that there is a Catholic answer to every question about sex, and the answer is always “No.” Sadly, Catholic apologists tend to confirm this impression: “Can I use contraception if my wife refuses to have a baby or use NFP and I'm going completely bananas and finding myself compulsively gawking at teenage starlets on my iPad in the early hours of the morning?” “No.” “I go to my local Courage meeting every week, and attend daily Mass, and say fifteen rosaries a day, and wear seven different scapulars, and I still end up at the Bathhouse every Friday night. Wouldn't it be more prudent to get a permanent sexual partner so I don't get AIDS?” “Well, it's a tough situation, but...I would have to say...No.” “Is it okay if I make love to my wife in a Batman costume?” “Mmmm...it's not covered in the Catechism, but if I had to give an answer, based on what I understand of the dignity and beauty of the marital act, most likely your safest bet is...No."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Slave of Two Masters



I have now officially released my first self-published book! It's about money, providence, detachment, and the joys of poverty. There's the usual smattering of philosophy, occasional wild flights of hyperbole, and a lot of solid research: my husband and I read all of the Vatican social documents from the past hundred years, and scoured the Bible for quotations about money and poverty. The goal was to create something that would briefly but accurately portray the role that money is supposed to play in the lives of Christian laypeople.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Systems of Grace



I wrote last time about how chastity is a grace, not a demand. This is a point about the Law which is frequently misunderstood, but it's all over Scripture. Psalm 119 gives us a portrait of what the Law is supposed to look like to the human heart: “Be good to your servant and I shall live, I shall observe your word. Open my eyes: I shall concentrate on the marvels of your Law. Exile though I am on earth, do not hide your commandments from me. My soul is overcome with an incessant longing for your rulings.” It goes on from there, as the psalmist rhapsodizes about how much he loves the commandments, how they have given him hope, comforted him in his suffering, kept him alive. This echoes the text of Deuteronomy where God lays out the blessings that will come to those who keep the commandments. (cf. Dt. 28:1-14) Those who do the will of God are promised that in doing it they will find joy, prosperity, increase, and life in abundance.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Gift of Chastity



I've been challenged recently to provide some suggestions for how we can actually reach out to LBGTQ people. This is a very large and complex question. I'd like to begin with this single point. We must offer something before we demand something.

This is consistently the modus operandi of Our Lord when dealing with people, and especially when dealing with sinners. The call to repentance comes after, not before, the healing, the feeding, or the deliverance. Christ begins by finding out what it is that His people need and then offers the thing that they are hungry or thirsty for. Only once He has established His credibility by making it clear that He is able to deliver on His promises does He tell people to “go and sin no more.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

Answering Michael Voris



I'm responding to a letter from Michael Voris' staff, posted on the First Things web-site in the com-box. ChurchMilitant.tv writes:
Mrs. Selmys,

We thank you for taking the time to write a lengthy rebuttal to our work; however, we feel that your comments are totally off base.

The entire point of the program is to help people see the homosexual sexual movement for what it is – a rejection of the divine and natural law. It wasn’t aimed at ardent homosexuals, but those who love and want to be apart of the church.

In actuality, we spoke the truth and if that’s hard for people to hear so be it. We’re told to preach the gospel in season and out of season. The point of the Christian life is to become a saint and not to hide, rethink, rework, or downplay the gospel. It needs no reworking or rethinking. What it needs is strong Catholics to go out and preach no matter the personal cost. Each person deserves to hear the truth in the clearest terms possible.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I Mean By Acceptance



I posted a review on the First Things web-site of Michael Voris' FBI: Homosexuality, and it's raised a few hackles in the com-box. My basic thesis is the Voris' production is not really an effort in evangelism or apologetics, so much as it is an expression of grief over the loss of America's Christian identity. I point out that grief is a process which ends in acceptance, and that you can't really move on and start building a new life – or a new evangelization – at any of the earlier stages of grieving. So long as Catholics are still deeply upset, angry, and horrified at the widespread social acceptance of homosexuality, and remain in denial about the fact that gay marriage is going to be a political reality in the very near future (as it already is in my home country), there's no way of effectively preaching the gospel to homosexuals.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Death of the King



(A rose-gold pearlescence has gathered on the horizon, spreading across the skirts of the winter clouds as Pheobus Apollo sinks to his rest. A perfect time for the telling of omens. Jerome Kirkman walks towards the slaughterhouse, a weathered outbuilding on the edge of his property. Catullus follows in his father's footsteps, bearing, amongst other things, a slightly chipped clay amphora.)

Jerome: Good weather.

(Catullus surveys the snow-shrouded landscape. The weather is indeed good, but it is inadvisable to assume an auspicius outlook on the basis of pathetic fallacy. Jerome pushes open the slaughterhouse door and Catullus follows him inside. A goat lies in a small pen to one side, reclining on a bed of straw. Catullus put the amphora down atop a simple wooden altar and proceeds to rouse the goat.)

Catullus: Wake up. It's time.

(The goat raises its head and looks up, its eyes glazed with the effects of its last supper of red wine and barley. Catullus drapes a garland of winter ivy around its shoulders and crowns it with a wreath of yew. While he prepares the sacrifice, his father builds a fire beneath a large, shallow cast-iron cauldron which is suspended from the ceiling: a remnant of the days when the slaughterhouse was a maple-sugar shack. Once the fire is built, he takes down a sickle-shaped knife which is hanging on one wall and begins to sharpen it. Catullus lifts the goat in his arms and carries it to the altar.)

Jerome: Would you lead the prayers?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Endgame



(The stuffed dormice are particularly succulent this year, but the wine is running low. Catullus has just complained that nobody is answering his arguments and Germanicus, pausing to refresh his glass, has taken up the challenge.)

Germanicus: The reason that no one has answered your original argument is that it's based on a really bizarre paradigm. It assumes that the body has some sort of archetypal significance. I don't see that. It's just a machine, a tool that gets you through the day. Sure, you have to look after it and do basic maintenance if you want it to work for you, and there's kind of an implied obligation “If you have enjoyed the experience of having a body, you will find that yours is supplied with the necessary equipment to provide bodies to others. Please use responsibly.” But if you're doing your duty and procreating like you're supposed to, I don't see that it matters what else you use the equipment for. I mean, think of your reason. This is the faculty that leads you towards truth and allows you to know God. But so long as you're doing that, no one makes a fuss if you also use it to play chess or analyze episodes of South Park. So it would seem that if the reason, being the noblest of faculties, may be justly used in the pursuit of trivial pleasures, then surely the baser parts may likewise be used to recreate.
Juvenal: I can see that Sheila is contemplating how she would feel about being a trivial recreation for Germanicus' baser parts.

My Year of Faith Article


Here's a link to an article that I published for the diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend's "Year of Faith" website.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Update


Hi all,

I'm now on twitter. I can be followed. I'm just melindaselmys. (Does the word "follow" somehow strangely suggest "stalk"? Or is that just me?)
Apart from that, Germanicus, Catullus et. al. haven't been available to argue about Catullus' sex life because they've been busy saving their sister from a malevolant well that was sunk in the foundations of the earth at the beginning of time in order to hide secrets that need to be kept from the eyes of God. They've almost got it sorted, and should be back for parts 11 and 12 of the dialogue series soon.
The NFP series is on hiatus until after lent is over. I've decided that I need to take some time to spiritually recharge before I get back into that particular minefield -- but thanks to all of my commentators. You've all been lovely and helpful, even when I've disagreed with you :)
Also upcoming, I'm putting together a self-published book called "Slave of Two Masters." It's about Vatican social teaching, the virtue of poverty for lay people, and alternative forms of economics -- hence the self-publishing thing. Depending on how long it takes me to get the cover art together, it should be coming out in the next month or so. I'll keep y'all posted.

Happy (?) Lent!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nobody's on Nobody's Side


-->

Scene: A Roman style dining room in South-Eastern Ontario where a debate about homosexuality is taking place.

Dramatis Personae:

Juvenal Kirkman: A darwinian social constructivist, more or less.
Germanicus: His brother, a stoic.
Catullus: A flaming but closeted homosexual who is arguing in favour of Catholic sexual morality.
Sheila: The arbiter. Not Germanicus' girlfriend.
Ali: A postmodern feminist, allegedly Catullus' girlfriend.

The Story So Far: The opening speeches have been made, and Sheila has just recommended throwing coconuts at Juvenal. Ali is arming herself with almonds, the closest available substitute.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Dog Ate My Chart


Hi! I wanted to thank everyone for the responses on the NFP post. I'm going to just put up a second post here rather than overloading the com-box, 'cause it gets hard for folks to follow.

I'll start with a frank and open declaration of what my problem with NFP is. I know that it works for some couples, and that's lovely. The problem is that it is presented as a one-size-fits all solution for all couples, and there isn't room made for individual couples to reasonably discern whether or not it's a practicable solution for their particular situation. I feel lucky because I'm a Canadian, and the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops has acknowledged this problem and allowed some wiggle-room for conscience in the Winnepeg Statement -- but of course that's severely controversial within the Catholic world.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whatever Happened to That NFP Series?


Okay, so I was supposed to be writing a series about NFP and it turned into a series of philosophical dialogues about homosexuality instead. Blame the Muses. I do, however, have a lot of things to say about NFP, and that's what I promised, so here goes.

There are seven common things that I hear about NFP from real people on the ground:

1. NFP is so beautiful because it really respects a woman's body and her natural fertility. I'm not married yet, but I'm really looking forward to practicing it. (Naive Family Daydreaming)

2. My spouse and I used/are using NFP to get pregnant, and it's great. (Natural Fertility Promotion)

3. We used NFP to space our ten beautiful children. (No Family Planning)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Opening Ceremony


(Catullus and Ali arrive at the Kirkman house. Germanicus and Sheila are already there, filling an effigy of Saturn with olive oil. Juvenal has just arrived. Catullus leaves a small gift at the feet of the household gods and joins his siblings.)

Juvenal: Catullus, Ali. Glad you guys could come out.
Catullus: Hello Juvenal.
Juvenal: Hey little brother, I've been hearing some scandalous rumours about you.
Catullus: Oh?
Juvenal: I was talking to Lydia – You sure you want me to bring this up in public? I could take you aside later.
Catullus: I've nothing to hide.
Juvenal: Brave man. Okay. According to her, not only did you, in clear violation of Kirkman family policy, attend Perpetua's baptism, but you were also observed eating Jesus.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Black Knight

(A phone rings in an apartment halfway across the province where Juvenal, Germanicus and Catullus' older brother, is in the shower. Stepping out, he consults the call display and discovers that Lydia is calling. Shocked and slightly embarrassed at the thought of talking to his big sister without even a towel, Juvenal throws on a bathrobe and answers the phone. Opening pleasantries are exchanged, and then Lydia gets down to the point of her call.)

Lydia: Okay, so this is going to sound crazy...but I think that Catullus might be gay.
Juvenal: Astounding Holmes! What incredible sequence of deductions brought you to that conclusion?
Lydia: So you think so too?
Juvenal: Why do you think I call his “girlfriend” Ali?
Lydia: Why?
Juvenal: Because she's his Ali-bi.
Lydia: So you've thought so for years. But do you have proof?
Juvenal: We've reached the point where even you've noticed. Q. E. D.
Lydia: That's not fair. I mean real proof.
Juvenal: How about you start by telling me what put you on to him?
Lydia: Okay. So we're in a bar, having a conversation with Germanicus and Sheila about the morality of sex. Catullus claims that he's just playing devil's advocate, but he seems pretty invested...