A recent guest speaker at the University of Notre Dame spoke on his decision to live chastely instead of act on his homosexual desires, a talk that prompted some debate on campus from pro-LGBTQ students concerned they are not allowed a rebuttal.
Writer and speaker Dan Mattson spoke March 26 about his life as recounted in his recent book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.”
Mattson’s book “chronicles his journey to and from a gay identity, finding peace in his true identity, as a man, made in the image and likeness of God,” according to its online description.
During his talk, he told students of his homosexual relationships and how they fell short.
“We were using each other in that moment. It felt like love, it seemed like love, but it wasn’t. It was mutual use of each other, which is anything we do outside of God’s plan for human sexuality,” he told the students.
In the end, he found true peace in God, and is living a chaste lifestyle rather than a homosexual one, he said.
“I am actually somebody, believe it or not, who came into the Catholic Church because of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and homosexuality,” Mattson said during his talk. “The gift that [the Church] gives to me is to constantly remind me of how beloved I am by God. And part of that … is to guide me in the path that will lead to human fulfillment.”
Student Shaun Evans, president of Students for Child-Oriented Policy, a student group which co-hosted the talk, said the club sought to highlight a person seeking to live according to God’s design in the face of steep challenges.
“We believe his personal testimony … is a powerful witness to the peace that can be found when one seeks to live out authentic love united to the truth about human sexual complementarity,” he told The College Fix.
But a week after the lecture, an op-ed in The Observer campus newspaper claimed Mattson presented a “repressive picture of sexuality.”
In the column, “Does Notre Dame fear the queers?” sophomores Michael O’Dea and Mary Szromba went on to state that the “rhetoric of people like Mattson creates a culture of exclusion and repression,” and cited stats on the steep LGBTQ suicide rates.
“Though we believe the opinions expressed by Mattson to be harmful and glaringly unsupported, we understand that he has a right to express them on our campus. All we ask is that those who are most affected by these opinions be allowed to do the same,” the op-ed stated.
The duo accused the university of repressing LGBTQ speech.
“While groups like SCOP are permitted to host lecturers like Mattson who have unconventional qualifications and are in favor of a traditional interpretation of Catholic theology,” they wrote, “PrismND, Notre Dame’s LGBTQ student organization, is not permitted to invite speakers with opposing views … despite there being a very real debate about this within the Church.”
According to O’Dea and Szromba, Mattson’s “central argument rests not on science … but on his interpretation of Catholic doctrine: Individuals attracted to members of the same sex ought to live chastely in the hope that God will one day orient them toward an acceptable, heterosexual relationship.”
Junior Jim Martinson, incoming president of Students for Child-Oriented Policy, told The College Fix he disagreed with that assessment. Mattson’s speech stressed that “chastity,” understood in the Catholic sense, is not synonymous with “abstinence” or reserved for individuals who are unmarried or experiencing same-sex attraction.
“Mattson argued for universal chastity [as in living love and sexuality with temperance] of Catholics regardless of sexual orientation [and according to circumstance],” Martinson continued. “Additionally, he said that he left the Church because ‘God wouldn’t make [him] straight,’ but returned when he realized his error in understanding God’s will.”
In his talk, Mattson stated that originally, he had seen heterosexual relationships and marriage as his only acceptable option.
“I had this idea,” he said, “that I would have the same sort of relationship as my parents. So I thought, ‘What do you do with life? … You go to college, you find a sweetheart, you get married, you have kids … That was my vision of happiness.”
That conviction, Mattson added, drove him to pray that God would remove his homosexual urges or at least send him a girl with whom he could fall in love and marry. However, Mattson went on to explain how his perception of happiness changed.
“Mattson learned that God loved him exactly how he was,” Martinson told The College Fix, “and that he could pursue a relationship with God in its fullness by living chastely, in the same way a husband is faithful to his wife.”