What Kind Of Catholic Is Richard Rodriguez?

by Matthew Sitman

In a remarkable review of Darling, Rodriguez’s recent “spiritual autobiography,” Paul J. Griffiths ponders the question:

He is, by the account of this book (a more detailed account of his raising and formation can be had from Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation) a regular Mass-goer; a lover of the Church; one who intends to stay in and with the Church until death; one who rarely goes to confession (he notes a thirty-two-year span when he did not go at all); one who loves the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a ­gay-transvestite group that performs corporal works of mercy while also publicly mocking the Church), and Mother Teresa; and one who has deep and principled disagreements with some of the Church’s doctrinal positions on the nature and place of women, and on the acceptability of homosexual acts and the loves that accompany them. More important than all this, informing and subtending all this, is that he is the kind of Catholic who understands, represents, and tries to respond to the love of the Lord in a devastated world of pain.

Griffiths goes on to grapple with how Rodriguez approaches the fraught issue of homosexuality and the Church:

I don’t agree with every position taken in Darling, or with every argument offered. On Islam, I suspect that what’s needed at the moment isn’t emphasis on the similarities among the three so-called Abrahamic religions as desert faiths, real though these are, but rather on difference and complementarity. The recent work of Rémi Brague on this, especially On the God of the Christians (and on one or two others), is especially instructive. On homosexuality and homosexual acts, by contrast, I think Rodriguez much closer to being right than not. Insofar as such acts are motivated by and evoke love, they are good and to be loved; insofar as they do not, not. In this, they are no ­different from ­heterosexual acts.

There are other interesting differences between the two kinds of act. But if you think, as Rodriguez seems to, and I do, and all Catholics should, that we live in a devastated world in which no sexual acts are undamaged, free from the taint of sin and death and the concomitant need for lament, then the fact that ­homosexual acts have their own characteristic disorder is no ground for blindness to the goods they enshrine. Gay men should, of course, darling one ­another; those of us whose darlings are of the opposite sex should be glad that they do, and glad of instruction in love by the ways in which they do. Love is hard enough to come by in a devastated world without encouraging blindness to its presence.

That last sentence is an almost perfect way of putting it, made all the more heartening because the review is from First Things.

Previous Dish on Darling here. Listen to Andrew’s Deep Dish conversation with Rodriguez here.