The world has never been a truly sane place since the time Adam and Eve first bit into the apple, but our present world has taken this insanity to a whole new level. As it says at the top of my blog, I am a Catholic searching for truth in a world gone mad, and more often that not, my quest for truth among human beings has not been successful.There is no one to lean on apart from Jesus. He alone faileth not, and it is exceeding joy to think that He can never change.St. Therese of Lisieux
Everyone is convinced of his or her own hold on the truth, and anyone who doesn't agree is either stupid or evil or both, and therefore must be opposed and ultimately crushed. The Internet has caused even more polarization in our world because people can now hide under the cover of anonymity and attack and demonize each other without even revealing who they are. And the attacks are vicious.
This, sadly, is just as true among Christians as it is in the secular world, and in some cases, it is worse among those who claim to be followers of the King of Peace. I have written about this many, many times on this blog.
One of the latest controversies is how the Church should relate to the LGBT community. I have no horse in this race. I am not gay, nor are any close family members. None of my close friends are gay, although I of course know gay people. I find this argument important because it is about how we as a Church relate to sinners. Christ founded his Church for one main reason - to bring sinners to Him. The question is, do we confront sinners with their sin, tell them they need to change or they are going to hell, or do we reach out to them with compassion, love and understanding, and open them up to the Holy Spirit, who alone can transform hearts.
As I have written, I was greatly heartened by the approach of Father James Martin. As he has correctly pointed out, the LGBT community has suffered great persecution throughout history, and this has been true in the Catholic Church as much as anywhere else. The Catechism of Trent, published in 1566, barely touched on this issue, and even then, in the most negative way:
In the Gospel, too, Christ the Lord says: From the heart come forth adulteries and fornications, which defile a man. The Apostle Paul expresses his detestation of this crime frequently, and in the strongest terms: This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication; Fly fornication; Keep not company with fornicators; Fornication, and an uncleanness and covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you; " Neither fornicators nor adulterers, nor the effeminate nor sodomites shall possess the kingdom of God.This is pretty condemning stuff. How does the Council of Trent propose to help people?
- Avoidance Of Idleness - it was by yielding to the enervating influence of idleness that the Sodomites plunged into the most shameful crime of criminal lust.
- Temperance - Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.
- Custody Of The Eyes - the eyes, in particular, are the inlets to criminal passion, and to this refer these words of our Lord: If thine eye scandalise thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.
- Avoidance Of Immodest Dress - Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up. Many women adorned with gold and precious stones, have lost the only true ornament of their soul and body.
- Avoidance Of Impure Conversation, Reading, Pictures - Next to the sexual excitement, usually provoked by too studied an elegance of dress, follows another, which is indecent and obscene conversation. In the same class are to be numbered soft and obscene books which must be avoided no less than indecent pictures.
- Frequentation Of The Sacraments - If the occasions of sin which we have just enumerated be carefully avoided, almost every excitement to lust will be removed. [This is truly a naive statement]. But the most efficacious means for subduing its violence are frequent use of confession and Communion, as also unceasing and devout prayer to God, accompanied by fasting and almsdeeds.
- Mortification - But the body is to be mortified and the sensual appetites to be repressed not only by fasting, and particularly, by the fasts instituted by the Church, but also by watching, pious pilgrimages, and other works of austerity
Of course, all of these suggestions are good and right - for a person who has already repented and received the love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. But none of this will bring people to Christ. There is no compassion shown in these "remedies." We are basically told here that if we have a problem with sin, then it is our fault because we are not doing what we should be doing. For those who fall short and find it difficult or impossible to live up to these ideals, they will be filled with shame and self hatred. This is not the way of Jesus Christ, who said His yoke is easy and his burden light.
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.The remedy, while similar to the Council of Trent, has one big addition:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The Church is telling us here that we are not alone. The Church is also saying that this is not something that will happen all at once, that it is a process and we should not be discouraged if we fall back once in a while as we "gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."
This is a very beautiful passage, and one which is leap years away from the rigidity and coldness of Trent. It is the direct result of the Second Vatican Council, when the Church decided that mercy, not judgment, is the way to lead people to Christ. The Second Vatican Council said we need to look at people as Jesus Christ did, as wayward sheep that needed to be gently led back to the fold. Like Jesus Christ, the Church is seeing that people are more than their sins, that they are children of God for whom Christ died.
For some people this is not enough. Human nature being what it is, some go from the extreme of total condemnation to NO condemnation. Some feel that any condemnation of homosexuality constitutes hate. Some feel that we need to actually affirm the homosexual lifestyle because to do otherwise is to condemn the person.
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that two people of the same sex can truly love one another. We have the example of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. We are told that Jesus Christ especially loved the apostle John. These examples show that loving another person of the same sex can actually be a good and holy thing. The problem is when it becomes sexual.
Sex is a gift from God. On a certain level, sex makes us more like God than any other physical act because sex creates life when used as God commanded. If the sex act is not open to life, it is a misuse of this precious gift because this is the first and ultimate purpose of sex. Sex is not just for our self gratification. Sex, because it is a gift from God, is all about giving. When it is used any other way, it can actually destroy us.
Homosexual sex can never be of God because it is does not have the element of giving life, not even in a same sex "marriage." There is no way to ever condone the homosexual act. Those who try to do so are not just fighting the Church, they are fighting God Himself.
This is where I get so torn. Those who are fighting for the respect due to the LGBT community as human beings are absolutely correct and should be listened to. No one is intrinsically evil just because he or she is gay. They are children of God and Christ loves them as much as He loves anyone else. Plus, it is absolutely true that many gay people seem to be blessed with tremendous artistic talents. That is why so many are involved in the entertainment industry, in writing, etc. They tend to rise to the top of society in many different levels. I have seen them move into depressed neighborhoods because they were not accepted anywhere else, and completely revitalize these areas.
At the same time, I absolutely agree with those who say we cannot stop telling the world that homosexual acts are sinful. The question is, how do we condemn homosexual acts without condemning homosexual people?
I really thought I had found an answer in Father James Martin. And I think he is correct in many ways. But sometimes he goes too far in that he supports those, such as Sister Jeannine Gramick, who are fighting against Church doctrine and demanding that the Church recognize same sex marriage as legitimate. Sister Gramick actually promoted disobedience to the Magesterium. The following is taken from an editorial written by Jeannine Gramick in the Washington Post:
As Catholics who are involved in lesbian and gay ministry and outreach, we are aware that many people, some of them Catholics, believe that Catholics cannot faithfully disobey the public policies of the church’s hierarchy. But this is not the case.
. . .
When we see the manifold changes that marriage has undergone throughout history, many Catholics wonder why our bishops believe that heterosexual marriage in its current 21 century state is a matter of divine revelation.
. . .
The deeper one looks into the church’s core teachings, the more one realizes that the bishops are not representing the breadth of the Catholic tradition in their campaign against marriage equality. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of Catholic social justice teaching.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I can never accept that, and I am deeply disturbed that Father James Martin seems to have no problem with this.
But I am also deeply troubled by those who feel that gay people need to be completely silenced and relegated to a corner where they cannot be heard. It is not a sin to be gay, and we should never judge anyone on that basis.
I think the answer is in the Catechism. It is a hard truth, but one that for the sake of eternal salvation, cannot be ignored. That is why this statement is also included in the Catechism. But please notice, even in this statement, it still is not totally condemning:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 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 a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.Please notice that this statement does not condemn homosexual people. In fact, the Catechism states that we do not know why some people have same sex attraction. This gives some credence to Father Martin's statement God made people gay. We don't know that this is true, but then again, we don't know that it is not true. We know that certain other traits can be inherited, such as alcoholism and obesity. Many people feel that God did create them to be gay because they always felt this way. That is a compelling argument.
But this gives the LGBT community an especially heavy cross to bear. We need to remember what we are asking of them. We are telling them that they must deny who they are. Just as alcoholics must never take a drink, so gay people must never engage in sex. There is nothing wrong, objectively, with drinking and nothing wrong with sex - in the right place and at the right time. But think about this - there is never a right time for gay people. They need our understanding and support, not our condemnation.
The conclusion I have come to is that there is no easy answer to this situation. One thing I do know is that if we truly want LGBT people to become followers of Jesus Christ, then we must show them the same love and forgiveness we have received from Him.
I quoted St. Therese of Lisieux at the top of this post. This is the conclusion I have come to. I will not look to any one person for understanding. I will listen to all, but then I will take it to Our Lord and let Him sort it out. He doesn't expect me to solve any problems. That's his department. He only asks me to love. And that is what I will do.