Being one of the few Catholics in America not at all familiar with Fr. Mike Schmitz, I read his book ‘Made for Love’ mostly out of an appreciation for his stellar reputation as a genuine and holy priest who truly loves the audience that he caters to (and partly because his book is a relatively short read).
I went into the book not expecting to learn much about actual Catholic teaching on sexuality and, thus, homosexuality because I knew I was not Fr. Mike’s target audience: those who identify as LGBT+ and/or those who know little about Church teaching on the matter. But I still wanted to read it as a kind of refresher course, and as such this book accomplished its goal.
Fr. Mike does not start his discussion with ‘why gay people can’t get married’, but instead starts it at the place the conversation needs to start at: in the beginning. Not merely the beginning of Scripture, mind you, but the beginning of the human person, what we know about God’s intention for us and how that helps define our inherent dignity.
It would be a mistake to dive right into any discussions of sexuality, let alone homosexuality, without first discussing what it means to be made ‘in his image and likeness’, what it means to love another, and what it means for us to love God and for God to love us. Fr. Mike avoids this mistake by using the basic building blocks of the Natural Law developed by St. Thomas Aquinas to spell out what we as children of God are intrinsically made for.
From here he spends the rest of the book discussing sexuality, its purpose and love-affirming intention, what sin is, and how sexual behavior, including but not limited to homosexual behavior, turns itself away from that original love-affirming intention and into sin. But by first laying down the bedrock of Catholic teaching not just on sexual ethics, but on ethics in general and the purpose of the human person, Fr. Mike helps the reader to better follow the logic of Catholic sexual teaching while answering potential questions that may otherwise develop; our faith, he shows, is not a shallow list of things we can and cannot do because ‘God said so’, but is in fact an interconnected web of truths that relate to and build off of each other, all while being constructed on the foundation of Christ and His Body.
As much as I appreciated this, though, what impressed me the most was not the content of the book, but the way in which it was presented. He had an entire introduction on the importance of Catholics loving those who have same-sex attraction, sincerely sympathizing with those who will find this teaching difficult, and speaking the truth sternly but compassionately. What’s more is that he spends the rest of the book doing what all good priests and evangelizers do: unwaveringly teaching the truth of God’s love for us in the act of sex and of the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, but doing so in a way that drips with tenderness and love for those who struggle, disagree, or otherwise have difficulty assenting to said truth.
Most books I have read on the subject have no trouble speaking the ‘truth’ part; the problem is they spend most or all of the book on only the ‘truth’ part. In some cases this may be warranted, but in general it risks a slippery slope occurring where we might neglect or ignore love of neighbor over preaching the Truth. For how many people steeped in apologetics, even with good intentions, know how to write and speak hard truths with concern and clemency for those most affected by those hard truths?
Fortunately, Fr. Mike does. He doesn’t just say it; you can feel from the page the empathy he has for all those who are LGBT+, for those who disagree with Catholic teaching, and for those who don’t understand it or don’t know about it. That alone makes this book worth the read.
In the way of criticism, I would only say that as an introductory book, it occasionally has statements that are, at best, corny and may rub his target audience the wrong way (I always feel a bit of second-hand embarrassment when a Christian author says that sex releases Oxytocin which ‘binds’ one partner to another; for those outside the faith, that is as true as it is useless). Also, if you are fairly knowledgeable in Catholic sexual ethics then this book will probably not teach you anything new in that regard.
Nevertheless, ‘Made for Love’ is a strong witness as to how to speak the Truth with Love and Compassion. During Pride month, this book can serve as a witness on both what to evangelize and how to evangelize.
‘Made for Love’ is available as an audiobook for free on formed.org.