by David Morrison
(Our Sunday Visitor, 1999, 245pp, $29.95. Available from AD Books)
Hardly a week goes past without a report in the media which endorses or presents homosexuality in a favourable light. Similarly, most of us during the course of any week would hear homosexuals described in disparaging terms in conversations with colleagues, friends and family members.
Beyond Gay provides a challenge to both attitudes. The author, David Morrison, once a leading homosexual activist, now is at the forefront of promoting chastity for those who are attracted to persons of the same sex.
The first chapters of Beyond Gay are autobiographical. Morrison describes his same sex encounters as a teenager before becoming a homosexual activist as a young adult. Morrison's conversion can be said to have occurred in stages. He become and remained a committed Christian while still being an active homosexual. Gradually, however, he became convinced that homosexual practice was incompatible with Christianity. His decision to live a chaste life was soon followed by a decision to enter the Catholic Church.
Morrison's approach to the issue of same sex attraction is faithful to Christian teaching. While a same sex attracted person did not choose his or her attraction, nevertheless, the Church teaches that all genital acts with a person of the same sex are sinful. Underlining the author's analysis is the conviction that sexual activity between persons of the same sex does not lead to happiness, even within committed, long term same sex relationships.
Beyond Gay also deals frankly with issues such as long term homosexual relationships and teenage "coming out". For example, citing recent research, Morrison argues that deciding upon a same sex attraction identity too young and engaging in homosexual activity can have a severe negative psychological impact.
At the same time, Morrison does not intend to "throw stones at men who experience same sex attraction or even those who act upon the temptation" (p. 19). Throughout the work, he shows compassion towards people who experience same sex attraction and reminds the reader that the Christian response should be a love of all people, regardless of their orientation, and zero tolerance of belittling of, name calling, or violence towards homosexuals.
Practical advice and reassurance is offered, for example, to parents of homosexuals and a portion of the book discusses strategies designed to assist those who experience same sex attraction but wish to live out their Christian call to holiness, focusing upon the centrality of prayer, Eucharist, confession and works of charity.
Beyond Gay is a significant work which addresses the issue of same sex attraction from a Christian perspective. Balanced, compassionate and faithful to Christian teaching in its approach, it would be useful reading for those involved in ministry, education, and those experiencing same sex attraction, along with their families and friends.
John S. Webster is a Melbourne Catholic writer.