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Fall 2016 · Vol. 45 No. 2 · pp. 228–229 

Book Review

Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith

Eve Tushnet. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria, 2014. 215 pages.

Reviewed by Tim Perry

Writers who refuse to collapse into one or the other of an easy polarization and yet stand for something are rare treasures. Eve Tushnet is one such writer. Based in Washington, DC, Tushnet blogs at Patheos’s Catholic channel (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/evetushnet/), is a novelist (her first novel, Amends, was reviewed in this journal), and has written for Commonweal, Christianity Today, The Washington Blade, and The Weekly Standard among others. Any reader familiar with these publications knows it is a rare writer who can contribute to all four. Gay and Catholic, her first book, similarly refuses any easy classification.

The work is part memoir, part theological reflection on identities that seem, as time passes, to be more and more mutually exclusive. For Tushnet self-identifies as gay/lesbian/queer/same-sex attracted (she recognizes the nuances and shades of meaning between the words, but uses them more or less synonymously) and as Roman Catholic—a confession-and-mass-attending, catechism-believing, struggling-to-live-it Roman Catholic.

Part I, “Coming Out Catholic,” accents the memoir while theology simmers away in the background. Tushnet’s acceptance of her sexuality came fairly early and easily, feeling supported by family, school (kind of), and several official and unofficial gay-friendly organizations. Her adolescence also saw her introduced to two life-long centers of fascination: Catholicism and alcohol—the former because of its eerily erotic art; the latter because “When I drank I felt sparklier and smarter.”

Her conversion to Catholicism in 1998 while a student at Yale was, for her family and friends, far more controversial. Indeed, Tushnet associates the challenges the dominant cultural narrative often associates with “coming out” with her conversion. It began with a debate with a Catholic divinity student, which in turn led to friendships with conservative Christians. Particularly striking is that Tushnet’s evangelization came as committed Christian friends gave her the language she needed to name her experience.

Part II, “You are Called to Love,” reverses the roles: memoir remains, but slides into chiaroscuro as theological reflection is illuminated. Here, Tushnet asks the polarizing question: “How can someone who self-identifies as gay live as a faithful Roman Catholic?” Refusing the easy and oft-repeated answers—repress or sublimate one’s erotic experience for the sake of faith or embrace one’s sexual identity and call the Church to renounce its teachings on human sexuality, marriage, and {229} celibacy—Tushnet argues that gay Catholics can, by faithfully living into the Church’s teaching on sexuality, vocation, friendship, and service, deepen rather than alter those teachings. Her three appendices—one for further resources, for frequently-asked-questions, and for strategies to make local congregations welcoming to same-sex attracted people—will be especially helpful for pastors wishing to reflect on this further.

Which is precisely the neuralgic point in all of this. The space needed to think, pray, and reflect further, the space needed to deepen (rather than reverse) traditional Christian teaching is shrinking at a rapid pace as the poles pull more and more away from living with tension and into the gravitational pull of their own admittedly easier solutions. Tushnet (along with other writers like Wesley Hill) continue to remind all that easier is not necessarily better or wiser or truer or more loving. They remind us of Jesus’s words, that the way to life may well be experienced as narrow, hard, and sparsely populated.

Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Tim Perry, who most recently served as rector of the Church of the Epiphany and as a lecturer at Thorneloe University, both in Sudbury, Ontario.

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