Is There “Gay Respect” in the Good News?

The openly “gay” pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Clarksville, Tennessee, Fr. Steven Wolf, has self-published a book titled Gay Respect in the Good News. The book purports to be a “draft for discussion” of the landscape of the Catholic Church’s understanding of and response to homosexuality and other LGBT issues.

But is there really “gay respect” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Examining Wolf’s book in detail gives us an answer.

Wolf’s thesis is rooted in his personal belief that “gay” is okay, adopted from no-longer-active priest and homosexualist theologian James Alison. Wolf states it like this:

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[O]ne of the more helpful writings in my personal healing has been from James Alison who proposes that the world is undergoing a discovery that there is a regularly occurring non-pathological minority variant in the human condition … which we currently call “being gay.”

Wolf believes that, for himself and others, “coming out” as “gay” is the only healthy choice. Yet this fully contradicts what the U.S. Bishops said on this subject in the 2006 document “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,” which clearly states:

For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.

But Wolf says:

It has become clear to me that my Church has not been doing what Jesus would have us do in walking the human journey of faith in God with Catholics who discover and faithfully discern whether being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer in any way might be part of the truth of who they are.

Wolf tells readers that he endorses the group PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG is an advocacy group that is incompatible with the Catholic faith. The group falsely defines “family” as “two or more people with shared goals.” It affirms the “right” to be a parent regardless of “orientation” or marital status. It endorses not just “sex education” but “inclusive sexuality education.” It supports “marriage equality” as well as treating “LGBT” people as a “protected class.” PFLAG also opposes reparative therapy for people with same-sex attraction.

Wolf’s 2016 manifesto is only 46 pages in paperback, but its pages evoke serious concern.

He states that “[o]ne’s sexuality is a private personal sacred truth.” This is not Catholic teaching. It’s the erroneous ideology of “orientation” and multiple “sexualities.” For Catholics, “sexuality” is always singular, never plural. Sexuality is ordered toward the conjugal love of man and woman (CCC 2360). No one on the planet has their own “private personal sacred truth” that is “his” or “her” sexuality. The Church also teaches that there are only two “sexual identities”—either man or woman.

Wolf erroneously says that the objectively disordered homosexual inclination is a “sacred part of one’s human identity,” while the Church says that this is no “identity” at all. It’s an experience of a disorder in one’s human nature. That is the real “sacred truth” here.

He goes on to say that not “coming out”—not embracing this false identity—is unhealthy and causes “damage to the soul and psyche.” It’s an astonishing inversion of the truth to claim that an existing damage to the psyche—the homosexual inclination—is not the pathology or the problem. Instead, you “damage” your soul and psyche when you refuse to “discover” this “sacred truth” about who you supposedly are. As the kids say nowadays, that’s messed up.

When it comes to personal conscience, his message is no less troubling. He says he won’t resolve the “controversy” over whether conscience must agree with Church teaching. What controversy? It’s right here in CCC 2039: “Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.”

“Controversy” resolved.

In discussing the “gift of celibacy,” Wolf claims that “[m]ost human beings are called to couple, but not all.”

His remarkable euphemism—”called to couple”—is clearly intended to include “LGBT” people. Contrasting “coupling” and “marrying” is intentional, since Wolf does admit that the Catechism teaches that “gay persons are called to remain unmarried.” But later he questions whether they are all truly called to be single and “celibate”:

[M]any of the Christians who discover they are gay also discover they are not wired by God for the generous single vocation but for a lifelong committed relationship that may look a lot like marriage. And many of these have grown up Catholic and studied the teaching of the Church, and following their conscience discern a call into a lifelong committed relationship with a beloved of the same sex. And in obedience to conscience many of them still feel called by the Lord to practice their faith as Catholics.

Wolf also takes on Scripture: he quotes CCC 2357 on how the Bible is used to support the intrinsic disorder of homosexual acts. He says that “if” you think such acts are “grave depravity,” Scripture may seem to support that idea. “But many who have made the discovery of being gay as part of the truth of how they have been created by God have additional insights to offer.”

Wolf adds his own “additional insight”: “None of these passages say anything about two people of the same sex making a commitment of fidelity to each other for the rest of their lives.”

Regarding natural law, Wolf twists its reality beyond recognition: “Gay folks testify that being gay is part of their nature, and that to act as if they were not gay would be contrary to natural law.”

Equally misshapen is Wolf’s attempt to relativize “complementarity” as though it’s not rooted in the sexual difference between male and female:

Children are indeed a blessed grace of sexual complementarity in the sacrament of marriage, but not the only one. One gay couple tells how the complementarity of their personalities is both a gift and a challenge in their genuine affective complementarity in a way that has led friends and family to joke, “Yep; they’re married.”

In another passage, Wolf provides a base rationale for accepting same-sex partnerships—inability to control one’s “sex drive”:

Few would seriously argue that being promiscuous is the ordered use of sexuality that God intends. But some who have discovered they are gay and have an above average sex drive feel that if they cannot make a public lifelong commitment consistent with the truth that they are gay find themselves at greater risk of random hookups.

However, the Church teaches that same-sex-attracted persons are no less capable of true chastity than anyone else, and they absolutely should not be encouraged to merely go find a nice, stable lifelong “partner.”

In a footnote, Wolf recommends Evangelical Christian Justin Lee’s book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. What he doesn’t tell readers is that Lee staunchly “believes that God blesses same-sex marriage.”

Wolf also turns to Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, paragraph 297, which Wolf says offers us “a logic of integration when dealing with the complexity of various situations.” He cites the controversial footnote to paragraph 305, which states that “the help of the sacraments” can “in some cases” be granted to those in irregular relationships. His readers could then easily ask: Why not let “gay” Catholics in same-sex partnerships go to Communion? Footnote 305 opens that door, right?

Does Wolf address the “transgender” issue? Yes, and his own disturbing and misleading words are worth citing at length:

If one of my nieces told me that she was uncomfortable because a boy was in the girls’ bathroom, I would tell her that if it was indeed a boy it would be reasonable for her to report that to a teacher. If however she was uncomfortable because a trans girl was in the girls’ bathroom, I would tell her something else:  that sometimes babies are born with confusing genitalia and sometimes when doctors and parents choose the baby’s gender they choose incorrectly. … [T]hat sometimes a person born with genitalia of one gender will discover that their real gender is the other… [T]hat sometimes people are confused about their gender identity and need some time to safely sort things out.

At the end of his book, he gets back to same-sex “partnerships” and pushes the “discussion” even further:

Is it possible for two adults of the same sex to enter together into the sacrament of marriage by freely exchanging consents to bond in permanence, fidelity, and openness to life in the same way as a man and a woman who already know for whatever reason they will be unable to conceive a child? How will these unions be seen by the people of God? Will they recognize them also as domestic churches? Time will tell in the reality of those who feel called to such unions of the whole of their lives.

Wolf adds a hopeful appeal to the Holy Spirit, stating we should be “giving the Holy Spirit room to do her (sic) thing.”

Among resources mentioned at the end of the book, Wolf lists “support opportunities” that include the authentically faithful Courage apostolate as well as all the known dissenting faux-Catholic entities: Fortunate Families, DignityUSA, New Ways Ministry, and Equally Blessed.

Wolf’s book Gay Respect in the Good News is a work overrun with error and ambiguity. The faithful deserve better than this from a Catholic priest writing on this topic.

The kind of “respect” present in the Gospel, the Good News, is assuredly not “gay respect”—it’s human respect. The subhuman and false identity-label “gay” deserves zero respect. That a priest claims this label as his own “sacred truth” is both sad and alarming. That he vocally and vigorously encourages others to do the same runs deeply contrary to a priest’s pastoral obligations.

It’s all there in black and white—in the book Wolf should have left unwritten.


  • Jim Russell

    Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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