The Silence of Sodom

No book by Mark D. Jordan will ever see a "Nihil Obstat" on its copyright page. In that spirit, Jordan nails his 9.5 Theses on our virtual door.

"A thought-provoking and guaranteed-to-be-controversial analysis of a perpetually troubling issue within the Roman Catholic Church."—Booklist

"Here the reader will find knowledgeable and generally dispassionate observations melded with the sensitivity and insight that a gay man can bring to the table. If homosexuality is the guest that refuses to leave the table, Jordan has at least shed light on why that is and in the process made the whole issue, including a conflicted Catholic Church, a little more understandable."—Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times

"What Jordan accomplishes is nothing less than brilliant, giving readers with open minds a better appreciation of the intrinsic homosexual fixation, as well as homoerotic imagination of the Roman Catholic church. His scholarship deserves serious consideration by faithful Catholics in America."—Chuck Colbert, National Catholic Reporter

"A brilliant and incisive work. . . . Some will find Jordan's description of homosocial clerical culture distressingly familiar; others may find it tasteless, shocking, and sensationalist. But as Jordan insists, facts—and the rhetorical devices used to conceal them—need to be unmasked. Jordan's book offers a clear, candid and courageous discussion of homosexuality in modern Catholicism."—Nathan D. Mitchell, author of Cult and Controversy

9.5 Theses on Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism

by Mark D. Jordan, author of The Silence of Sodom

Thesis 1.  The Roman Catholic church has long been both fiercely homophobic and intensely homoerotic.

Thesis 2.  Most official Catholic pronouncements about homosexuality are meant to prevent serious discussion of it. Any real change in the "magisterial" pronouncements would require not just revision of conclusions in moral theology, but renunciation of the methods of authoritative teaching.

Thesis 3.  Catholic denunciations of homosexuals are chiefly intended to produce silence around the topic of the male homosexuality that is within the church, especially in the priesthood and religious orders.

Thesis 4.  So long as the present regime of church power lasts, we will never have accurate estimates of the number of "gay priests." Even if the regime disappeared tomorrow, we could not reconstruct a convincing history of priestly sodomy. These losses should not prevent us from understanding how important male-male desire has been in the development of the Catholic church.

Thesis 5.  The best way to understand contemporary clerical cultures in American Catholicism is by comparing them to life in America's gay enclaves.

Thesis 6.  Procedures for excluding gay candidates from seminaries and religious orders have succeeded chiefly in helping anxious candidates build more ornate closets.

Thesis 7.  Contemporary quarrels over Catholic liturgy resemble clashes between competing forms of gay sensibility. Indeed, they are often those very same clashes in a different venue.

Thesis 8.  The exercise of power in the Catholic church enacts some of the unhappiest forms of suppressed desire between men.

Thesis 9.  While there are more and more communities in which to live as an honestly gay Catholic, there are still no words adequate for telling those lives.

Thesis 9.5   (the other half being exhortation). The most Catholic way to begin speaking about homosexuality in the church would be a public liturgy of repentance. This liturgy would have to be something more than vague formulas addressed to God. It would require at least a confession of hidden desires—and a vow to undertake twenty centuries of charity as penance for the twenty centuries past, which saw much less.

Copyright notice: ©2000 by Mark D. Jordan. This text appears on the University of Chicago Press website by permission of the author. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that Mark D. Jordan and the University of Chicago Press are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of Mark D. Jordan.

Mark D. Jordan
The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism
©2000, 248 pages
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-41041-8
Paper $22.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-41043-2

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for The Silence of Sodom.

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