Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I am perhaps writing in the heat of the moment, but I feel I need to, else I will forget about it as work and other obligations take over.
I frequently attend an EF Mass in a place in suburban [X]. Which is all good, by the way. Now after Mass, it is an informal custom for all the young people to hang about the edge of the parking lot, where we socialize.
Now there was this girl (let's call her Stacy - not her real name, obviously) who I knew (and who I admit I carried a torch for a little bit) who I had not seen for a while (in part because recently I've been [away] ). So this Sunday, after Mass, I go see her, and like any normal male, I say, "Afternoon, Stacy, haven't seen you in a long time!" She greets me back in a friendly manner. Then I ask, "How is Charlie (again, not his real name)?" Charlie was last I checked her boyfriend.
She says, "Oh, no, Charlie and I broke up. I have a girlfriend now."
Naturally, I was bewildered, so I asked clarification, and yes, she was, in fact, stating that she not only had SSA, but was in an, ahem, relationship with another woman.[...] I was naturally caught off-guard, so I tried to change the topic, but most of the rest of the conversation was rather awkward to say the least. (Let us remember this discussion is taking place immediately after Mass.)
How can I a) make amends, and b) try to be friendly with Stacy, even though I believe all that the Church teaches on those sorts of relationships? I naturally can't affirm everything is all right, given Church teaching; on the other hand, I do still want to be her friend, and don't want to be the one who drives her out of the Church even more. I'm asking for advice.
When I was at my own local EF Mass yesterday, I contemplated Middle Eastern Christians who tattoo Christian symbols to themselves as a safeguard against forced conversion. I suppose the idea is that even if in the agonies of fear and torture their tongues forswear +Jesus Christ+, their very flesh will continue to proclaim him Lord. Of course, the Christian tattoo might result in death. However, there are many things worse than death.
I pondered whether or not it would be a pious action to have myself tattooed with a "nun" or some other Christian symbol, but then discarded the idea as fanciful. Living in the UK, I don't need a tattoo to keep faith. After all, I have the internet.
So, knowing perfectly well that social death may ensue, in a few years when this post is found by the curious, if not now, I shall tattoo the following to my blog:
Dear Caught Off-Guard,
First of all, you didn't do anything wrong. It is weird when, after the EF, someone tells you that they are (in effect) living in a state of mortal sin--or contemplating doing so, as we can assume in charity that Stacy never lays a lustful hand on her "girlfriend" and by "girlfriend" she means only "we go to the movies together, read each other romantic poetry and swear undying fidelity to each other." But even if we assume this (in charity), it is normal for your jaw to drop and your brain to freeze like ice-cream. You don't need to "make amends".
If Stacy had said "Charlie and I broke up. I'm dating Mr Smith now", and Mr Smith is a married father of four, we could assume again in charity that they never lay lustful hands on each other. Nevertheless, we would still be surprised and shocked that someone who goes to Mass, let alone the EF, would feel so comfortable mentioning her unusual and scandalous entanglement to us afterwards.
In short, Stacy has blown it. Not you. You are and were uncomfortable, and understandably so. Stacy was rude. I don't feel I can say anything else about Stacy. But I do feel comfortable saying that Stacy was thoughtless and rude. I wonder if she considered what an effect mentioning her lesbian relationship would have on the sexual imagination of a young man. Probably not. Girls can be incredibly stupid. And thoughtless. And scandalous.
As you were hoping for a relationship with Stacy, I don't think Stacy would make you a good friend anyway. So I recommend just being polite to Stacy when you see her. "Hi, Stacy, how are you?" is friendly enough. "Coming into the parish hall for a cup of coffee?" is as friendly as I'd recommend. Otherwise, you might find Stacy trying to get you to "affirm" her relationship by acknowledging her "girlfriend" at parties, etc.
Actually, it has just occurred to me--happy thought--that Stacy might have just said that as the ultimate way of discouraging your regard, had she noticed it. In short, she might have been lying. That would be a sin, but at least it would give you an excuse--actually, the obligation--not to think about her in future. For a girl to tell a guy she knows outside Mass that she is in a lesbian relationship just to discourage him would be pretty extreme, though. So I admit this possibility is far-fetched.
Ultimately, Tracy is not marriage material, and I highly recommend not spending any time worrying about her and her social life. There are people whose job it is to talk to Tracy about her life choices; you are definitely not one of them. So continue to say "Hello, how are you? What's new?", but otherwise keep a respectful/wary distance and go out and meet three new girls.That's my advice.
Grace and peace,
To wax less charitably about Stacy this morning, I wonder if she wasn't deliberately pushing at the boundaries of traditional Catholic modesty in a most unladylike fashion. As we recall from Anna Karenina, as far as fashionable society was concerned, Anna's big sin wasn't having an affair with Vronsky, it was being open and obvious about it. These Russian Orthodox sophisticates could understand and even wink at adultery, but acting like open vice was virtue was highly dangerous to society and therefore RIGHT OUT.
Well, as we all know, increasingly the only sin non-Christians recognize is hypocrisy. However, hypocrisy isn't just "the tribute vice pays to virtue"--it protects virtue. One wonders if Stacy would be so open about her sex life (if sex life it is) to her four year old cousin, but--alas--I suspect she might be. Because, for some reason, she chose not only to say "Charlie and I broke up" but the truly gratuitous "I have a girlfriend now" right after traditional Mass, to a traditional Catholic.
Of course, the most charitable explanation is that she made that clear because she didn't want my reader harboring renewed hopes of romance. Still, "I have SSA" would have made that clear without scandalizing my poor reader. Still, perhaps she is very young. Perhaps it is harder to say "It turns out I'm gay" than "I have a girlfriend now." Never having been there, I do not know.
But I have been situations in which a woman or a man has told me gaily of an irregular relationship as if it were all perfectly alright and only a Big Meanie would think otherwise. The biggest temptation to Christians in the comfortable West is the temptation of feeling tolerant and open-minded and splendidly hospitable towards The Marginalized Other, especially when the only other option is feeling like a lemon. Well, too bad. If feeling like a lemon because people are rude enough to embarrass us after Mass with the details of their scandalous-to-us love lives is the worst we have to put up with in our public fidelity to God, we are seriously lucky.
Update: I am trying to imagine what it would be like to have a similar conversation myself.
Chap: We broke up. I have a boyfriend now.
Me: A whatsit?
Chap: A boyfriend. I'm gay.
Me: Holy crap. That's rather hard cheese for poor whatshername, isn't it?
And it occurs to me I never considered how dear Charlie the ex-boyfriend must be feeling.