The pastoral care of homosexual persons | May
20, 2004 | 2 of 3
A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to some priests of the Diocese of Phoenix, asking them to withdraw their support from a public statement entitled "No Longer Silent Phoenix Declaration." The letter was intended to be personal and confidential because I had hoped to engage these brother priests in a person-to-person conversation about the pastoral care of homosexual persons, without the distraction of publicity. To my disappointment, news of the letter was leaked to the press. While not making my fraternal dialogue with these priests impossible, the leak has made it more difficult. Nonetheless, I have been able to engage the majority in substantial conversations about this important pastoral matter. And I am grateful that most, in accordance with my request, have withdrawn their support from the declaration. I continue to hope and pray that the others will do the same.
Since portions of my letter have become public, I have decided, for the sake of accuracy and fairness to all, to publish it in its entirety in this same issue of The Catholic Sun. I would like also, in this part of my series on the "Blessing of a Chaste Life," to write about the pastoral care of homosexual persons: what not to do and what to do.
What not to do
Do not see those with homosexual inclinations as problems but as persons, persons whom Jesus redeemed by His Cross, persons called to holiness, persons with an inviolable dignity and an eternal destiny bestowed on them by God, persons like you and me, persons who have a welcome place in our Church.
Do not condone homosexual activity or fail to teach clearly that it, along with all sexual activity outside of marriage, is seriously wrong. We should not presume that others know that homosexual behavior is wrong. Our silence about it could reinforce that mistaken notion.
Do not support any group such as No Longer Silent or Dignity that fails to uphold clearly the teachings of the Bible and the Church on homosexual acts and homosexual persons. We cannot help one another along the path of conversion and union with Christ if we deny the truth.
What to do
Lend encouragement to groups like Courage that offer support to homosexual persons in their vocation to holiness, and who do this in full conformity with the teachings of the Church.
Be well informed about the teachings of our Catholic Christian faith on this topic. Read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this topic (#2357-2359). Read the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. Read good books on this topic such as those by Fr. John Harvey: e.g. The Homosexual Person and Truth about Homosexuality.
Should you be aware of persons who have homosexual inclinations, accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ and support them by authentic love and prayer.
Should persons you know be engaged in homosexual activity, look for an opportunity to invite them back to the faithful practice of a life of abstinence, assure them of the power of Gods mercy to forgive and to bring fresh hope, and pray for their conversion. Christ calls us all to on-going conversion of life; so our prayers for conversion encompass ourselves as well as others.
These are only a few of the dos and donts of a full program of pastoral care of homosexual persons. The books and documents mentioned above can provide a more encompassing program. As I stated in my letter to my brother priests who signed the declaration, our relationship with homosexual persons needs to be that of Christ, one that offers full and fraternal acceptance of each person as made in the image of God and one that is animated by both truth and charity. When carried out with the help of the Holy Spirit, it can help us all to grow to full maturity in Christ.
Difficulties faced by homosexual persons | June
3, 2004 | 3 of 3
Since the universal call to holiness demands of all a share in the Cross of Christ, it is not surprising that persons with homosexual inclinations face difficulties of various sorts as they, like all other followers of Jesus, seek to love God with all their mind and heart, and to love their neighbor as themselves. These difficulties include the following four.
1) Intellectual confusion about whether sexual activity outside of marriage is always wrong. In recent years, one sector of the popular culture has made a concerted effort to persuade public opinion that same sex relations (indeed all kinds of sexual relations outside of marriage) are normal and morally neutral (or even morally beneficial!). Whoever would challenge such assertions runs a high risk of being labeled as homophobic or some other derogatory term.
In fact, what has occurred in these cases is a rejection of an understanding of human sexuality found in most cultures and major religions of the world down through history, one found in both the Old and New Testaments, and one found in Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christian Tradition. According to the modernist view, a morality based on truth and on objective norms is being replaced by a "morality" based on desire. Feelings, not truth, become criteria for whether something is right or wrong.
However, a morality not built on objective norms will never stand the test of time nor does it serve well the men and women of our present age. Truth does not change to suit our tastes. Some things are always wrong, no matter the times, the circumstances, or peoples intentions.
It is not homophobia that leads followers of Christ to consider homosexual acts to be wrong, it is the word of God found in the Old and New Testaments and in more than 2000 years of the Churchs consistent moral teaching. A brief look at a few Scriptural texts makes this abundantly clear. For example, there are the commands of God contained in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) that point out the sinfulness of homosexual acts. And in the New Testament, St. Paul teaches the same in several places (e.g. I Cor 6:9-10, Romans 1: 18-32, and I Tim 1:10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2357) summarizes our Christian tradition quite succinctly: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from the genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."
2) Confused notions of what constitutes marriage also make it difficult for homosexual persons and others to make good judgments about love and responsibility. The present push to give "homosexual unions" equal legal status with marriage shows the prevalence of such confusion in popular culture.
But marriage can exist only between a man and a woman because only the union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity created and willed by God for marriage. In the marital embrace, husband and wife make a total gift of themselves to one another in their masculinity and femininity. They do so as persons with equal dignity but truly different as man and woman; as such, they are able to express sexual love as intended by God to build their communion as persons and to serve the transmission of new life.
For this reason, it is not unjust to deny legal status to "same-sex unions" because such unions are essentially different from marriage. Moreover, such a legal redefinition would harm the institution of marriage itself. As the U.S. bishops stated recently, "When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened. The weakening of this basic institution at all levels and by various forces has already exacted too high a social cost."
3) Reductionist views of the personhood of those with homosexual inclinations present serious obstacles for them on their road to holiness. A certain fixation on ones sexual orientation can occur such that the rich and complex nature of a person gets reduced to just one part of his or her identity, only the sexual orientation. This serves neither a persons dignity nor inner freedom. Rather, it gives exaggerated emphasis to a single aspect of ones identity while undercutting or obfuscating the other dimensions, some of which are far more important. For example, more important is our identity as sons and daughters of God, created in the divine image. More important is the privilege of being brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition, this reductionism can hinder ones ability to see the human body as a temple of the Holy Spirit created by God for the fruits of chastity, joy and peace.
4) False views of human freedom assert that homosexual acts are not sinful for homosexual persons because of their sexual orientation. They assert instead that such acts are morally neutral or even morally beneficial. After all, the argument goes, a good God would not allow homosexual inclinations if they were ordered towards a sinful end.
But such argumentation reflects a false understanding of human nature and the way it has been wounded by original sin. In addition, it runs contrary to both love and truth. St. Paul talks about this struggle with sinful tendencies common to every human person (Romans 7:19-25), "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Yes, the whole human race stands in need of a Redeemer. We all have temptations and sinful inclinations to oppose. We all need to be strengthened by grace in order to avoid what is wrong and to know the blessing of a chaste life. But that is precisely what we have in Christ. He gives us the grace to love in truth; He gives us the call and responsibility to do so. To excuse oneself of this freedom and responsibility is to take a road that spirals downward into ever-greater sadness and confusion. It is a road no one needs to take.
Rather, God calls us to the opposite road, the narrow road, the way of holiness, the way of the Cross, the way that leads to fullness of maturity in Christ.