Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life

Many facets of American secular culture is contrary to basic Christian ethics, which as a consequence, requires a response on the part of the faithful. One of these issues is “tolerance” and homosexuality. The Christian commitment to protecting and promoting marital dignity and the family is absolute. The profound temptation in politics, given the “us” versus “them” mentality is to lose a sense of charity that is due to our neighbor, even those with whom we disagree. This happens quite regularly; we even do it to those we love.

Just recently one of my roommates — who is entirely oblivious to my sexual orientation — made a discourteous statement about “fags.” It was hurtful. Given our friendship, if he knew I am homosexual, perhaps he wouldn’t have said it. But that’s not sufficient. I would rather he — because of interior conviction — would refrain from such comments, not simply because of his audience. This should be true of all Catholics.

The point here is certainly not to offer disagreement on the sanctity of marriage and on the disharmony of homosexual acts with the complementarity of the sexes and the sexual design itself. The point of interest rather is the approach one ought to take in the debate about marriage, family, and the rights of homosexual people. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to speak about homosexuality without stirring up preconceptions or emotional reactions. Nearly everyone comes to the subject of homosexuality with some agenda — often enough, their position is non-negotiable. Perhaps, it shouldn’t be. After all, what does the other side possibly have to say that is relevant? Right? Of course not. Yet, this is often how we think. The problem with agendas is that they can take on an importance and value that closes us off from empathy, compassion, and understanding.

The fundamental question I’m concerned about is this: how can Catholics be faithful to the constant and clear teaching of the Church on the issue of human sexuality and still be inclusive and sensitive to the plight of homosexuals, both in the Church and American life? Let’s move past the basics. No, homosexuals cannot marry. No, homosexuals should not adopt children. No, same-sex sexual activity is not equal or comparable to marital love. Despite these moral truths, most Americans have a profoundly different view of human sexuality than the Catholic Church. There must be dialogue with those who disagree with us and we have to educate our Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else with the authentic Catholic view.

There is yet another question. How did this “hot-button” issue become the problem that it is? This is a question that often goes unnoticed and unanswered.

Many gays and lesbians drift away from their faith. Often enough, a sense of alienation or hurt isn’t traced to a particular event or person, but it’s there nonetheless. Personally, I am friends with many homosexuals, both male and female. I’d say less than half of them believe in God; I’ve discussed sexuality with many of them and have listened to stories of their quiet drift away from faith into skepticism and their sense of liberation away from religion and religious people. The others who believe in God, particularly those who are in some sense religious, do not share my view on living the Christian life, i.e., lifelong celibacy, as a homosexual person. But is this really surprising?

What my friendships with them has offered me — which I hope to share with everyone I can — is profound insights that have formed my views and approach to homosexuality, marriage, and family life. In my discussions with other homosexual men and women, there is a single reality that we all unfailingly describe. It has effected all of us — regardless of our experiences or views — and that reality is silence. People often talk about what is important to them. Given this, silence can have many meanings. It can be perceived as a form of denial of another’s presence or existence in the community. This silence to many homosexuals means “you don’t matter.” In a debate about whether the Church loves gays enough to support those who live chastely, a homosexual Catholic said to me, “Eric, never once is a prayer uttered for homosexuals — for their souls, for their struggles, or for their concerns — in prayers of intercession during Mass.” I haven’t forgotten it and I think about it daily at Mass during the prayers of the faithful; it’s always the prayer I hold in my heart that the priest commends to God with all others. But truly, such an omission is especially noticeable because we usually pray for literally everything else under the sun.

Back to the theme of silence — what does a homosexual person do in this silence? We typically internalizes the negative messages we hear. I’ve always found that the so-called “gay lifestyle” people talk about, which encompasses a subculture of anonymous sexual encounters, sex clubs, pornography, drugs, and an over-identification with one’s sexual orientation to be grossly (and wrongly) applied to all homosexual people in an unfortunate generalization, especially by conservative Christians. This is not the experience or way of life for many gays. There’s not a moment of my own life when I wasn’t aware of “being different” and in my adolescence, this view deeply upset me. I’ve never been promiscuous. Many homosexuals aren’t, but admittedly, the danger to be promiscuous is there.

Never once in my life have I attended a gay pride parade. I thought the entire idea was stupid. To say “I’m a human being with equal dignity, deserving of rights and respect” seemed dubious if one is willing to stand on floats cross-dressed, often enough half-naked, behaving in a flamboyantly sexual manner with people of the same-sex. It was ridiculous. I never once wanted to flood the education system with programs to teach children that homosexuality is a normal, acceptable alternative lifestyle and violate others’ rights to have their view on homosexuality. Surely, more gays and lesbians than we imagine simply want to be able to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make decisions for them when they’re dying without being prevented from seeing them or making health care decisions solely because they aren’t married and as well enjoy other benefits — that don’t necessarily require the status of ‘marriage’ or undermine marriage — while living quietly and peacefully without disturbing society as a whole.

Much of the talk about homosexuality and generalizations made about us often don’t take into account or reflect our actual lived experience. Even within the Catholic Church, the talk about homosexuality hardly ever has anything to do about homosexuals themselves. There is hardly a word uttered about our pain, our journeys in faith, the hard questions we face, and so much more. I’m saying we’re more of an abstract subject than people. We’re also spoken to (don’t act out on your sexual impulses) or about (homosexuals in general). But no one hardly ever speaks with us. Listening is not always about agreeing with all that one hears.

I mentioned that there isn’t a moment in my memory of consciousness when I wasn’t aware of a “difference” and it didn’t take me long to realize what it was. This isn’t the case for all gays as individual testimonies will affirm; some realize it later. But for some reason still unknown to me is that I never dared to mention it to anyone. It was a secret. In fact, the complete absence of any note of the subject in my family, in school, in television, in newspapers, or in books I could get a hold of, made the reality much more interesting and more difficult to deal with. I recall wondering if this curious reality — this unmentionable fact — had any physical manifestation. This in many ways deeply shaped my views later when I was certain there were others like me and how negatively society seemed to view us and treat us.

I remember reading a letter written by a homosexual Catholic quoting Will Rogers who once said, “An Indian always looks back after he passes something so he can get a view of it from both sides. A white man doesn’t do that. He just figures that all sides of a thing are automatically the same. That is why you should never judge a man while you are facing him. You should go around behind him like an Indian and look at what he is looking at, then go back and face him and you will have a totally different idea of who he is.” The Catholic in question practices his faith, loves God, and is deeply religious. He also dissents on the issue of homosexuality. From his perspective, most Catholics don’t take the time — and frankly are not interested — in learning about the lives of their homosexual brothers and sisters, or imagining what it is like to walk in their shoes. “Look and listen before you judge and speak,” he said.

What is the experience of gays?

The “gay experience” is the experience of being different. Long before I was conscious of sexuality, I was different.

The “gay experience” is one of being bad. The topic is often avoided all together. It’s discussed in hushed tones or it’s discussed angrily. Often enough, the whole experience is reduced to genital acts. Regardless of sexual orientation, sexuality is an important element of human personality, an integral party of one’s overall consciousness. It is both a central aspect of one’s self-understanding and a crucial factor in one’s relationships with others and influences how one relates to others. The common expression “homosexuality is a sin” can be very misleading and easily misinterpreted by a homosexual person, particularly an adolescent struggling already in the period of their life where the focus is self-identity and that is even more difficult with a powerful sense of difference that in our society they feel they cannot talk about. In listing homosexuality — “the sin of homosexuality” — in a list of sins, without explanation or clarification that is found in Church teaching can be simplistic and again, misleading. This is not just for homosexuals, but for everyone. All Catholics can misrepresent the Church’s teaching without proper clarifications being made. But all of this is especially harmful for homosexuals who recognize their sexual orientation as a discovery of an already existent condition not a self-conscious choice to be attracted to the same-sex.

The “gay experience” is the experience of secrecy. Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Forget the interior destruction it may cause you. All that matters really is that others are uncomfortable with it — the homosexual condition is inconvenient and disturbing to them, so keep it to yourself. In essence, keep it quiet and in the closet. Become two people. Live in two worlds. Why reveal it? Who wants to be called a “fag” or “dyke” anyways? This may not be the intention of others, but it is often enough how it’s experienced and in many respects what it translates into in practice. Demanding silence and secrecy is truly a type of rejection. Additionally, this isolation inflicts further damage and hurt on homosexual people who already by their condition have lost capacity to fulfill the desire for marital love and intimacy that is wired into human nature, which includes all that comes with it: family life with a spouse, children, grandchildren, and so many other blessings that most people simply take for granted. Some people choose to become priests and religious, others choose to stay single; for homosexuals, there doesn’t seem to be much of a choice on the road to Heaven and alienation only makes it more difficult.

The “gay experience” is the experience of loneliness. Years can be spent carrying a secret that cannot be shared. This reality creates a rift in even the most profound and closest of friendships. Everyone knows the “façade-me,” but not the real me. The problem goes beyond sex because sexuality is not only about sex. All humans are sexual beings and the real challenge for homosexuals, practicing and non-practicing, is intimacy, self-disclosure, acceptance, and love. This sense of loneliness is the breeding ground for dysfunctional lifestyles, compulsive sexual behavior, depression, and even suicide.

What is often the result of this experience?

The “gay experience” is the experience of freedom — transcendence, may be a better term. Homosexuals can make a clear analysis of what others often take for granted because they, at times, look from the outside. But this is not all that “freedom” means. In modernity, this “freedom” is a movement away from the rigid definitions of manliness and womanliness because to abolish this, seemingly, is the only way for homosexuals to gain recognition and acceptance. What do they want this for? Peace. A chance at not living a fragmented, broken life — showing one face to the world and living with another. This is the heart of the “gay movement.” Years of loneliness and isolation — that should and could have been avoided — brings gays together in a sometimes nihilistic movement for self-affirmation.

The “gay experience” is the experience of compassion. How can anyone who experiences so much exclusion not become experts in inclusion? Since it is traditionally conservatives who oppose homosexuality (in the broad sense), this movement often manifests itself as opposition to anything conservatives support. The gay rights movement links itself to the “pro-choice” movement because allegedly all pro-life conservatives care about is unborn babies — what about everyone else?

The “gay experience” is one that is paradoxically and ironically open to God. Homosexuals can be deeply religious. Jesus of Nazareth is a misunderstood, alienated figure. He is the “suffering servant” that the prophet Isaiah talks about. Suffering is an experience that homosexuals easily identify with. But homosexual religiosity is often done in a free form way, away from organized religion, away from structure because homosexuals don’t feel that these communities are very welcoming. If it is done in a religious community, it usually occurs in one that is politically liberal and affirmative of gay rights.

We all know that gays “come out.” But what we all don’t realize is that “coming out” is not a once in a lifetime thing. It’s a daily task. Gays live out their lives in a predominantly heterosexual world. It’s always presumed that everyone is heterosexual. Often enough, gays are faced with the question of whether or not this or that occassion calls for revealing one’s sexual orientation and it always involves risk — risk of alienation, rejection, misunderstanding, violence, loss of a job, or a rift in a relationship. When a gay person “comes out,” often enough, the most difficult person to tell is their own self. Homosexuals condition themselves to not accept and recognize who they are. The false identity, in a way, becomes their identity because no one can simply “act” for so long without the false realities imprinting on them. It’s the worse kind of sin, the worse kind of oppression. Self-deception. It opens millions of doors to other vices, particularly moral compromise. In such dire circumstances, one might do anything to gain the approval of others.

This is fundamentally the story of homosexuality in the lives of many men and women. It begins as considerable time and effort doing everything possible to rid themselves of any outward sign of one’s own homosexual desires, that is, by crafting an elaborate system of hiding true feelings and acting “straight.” Some even attempt marriage and even parenting, which only ends in heart break or a life of self-deception and internal destruction. The energy it takes to hide and pretend is too costly: ruined marriages, disrupted relationships, double lives of secrecy, loneliness, internal conflicts and isolation.

It makes sense then that after experiencing such isolation, homosexuals often have an overidentification with their sexual orientation. They finally can “be themselves” and that “self” that they never were, is a homosexual and it maintains a lot of their attention.

Gay subcultures don’t exist to ensnare people into a certain way of living. To be sure, there are destructive elements to such environments. But most certainly, it is more liberating and comparatively a more safe environment from the perspective of a homosexual who has lived in silence, in a heterosexual world. I can easily see why one would choose such a path. The reason homosexuals seek out each other is not because of in-built pervesion, but from misunderstanding and an often a lifetime of loneliness and a universal need for intimacy, and for that embrace they feel they never had. The sense that no one in the world cares nor understands, can lead to in the long run compulsive tendencies (after you’ve revealed yourself), to rebellion, and to the pull of homosexual company where one is at home with people who care and people who understand — away from a lifetime of gay jokes and haunting words like “fag” and “dyke.”

The public debate on homosexuality leads to a more fundamental question. What is the origin of homosexuality?

It’s the age-old question: is homosexuality the result of nature or nuture? Truthfully, little is known or understood about the origin of homosexuality with any kind of certainty. The fact that certain theories are politicized makes answering this question all the more difficult.

Again, when you think about it, what do we know about the origins of heterosexuality? Sure, it is evident that is apart of the creative order, but children generally show a “repulsion” (‘eww girls!’) or uneasiness about the opposite sex at a young age. Why the shift for the majority? And how do we accomodate this or that theory when even with modern knowledge, we don’t know what over half of the human genome actually does, that is, what ‘this’ or ‘that’ gene is for. It seems that what is normative is taken for granted. And while this question doesn’t bear the same urgency that homosexuality does, I think it’s a humbling question. There is much to learn about human sexuality.

I certainly have my views on the origin of homosexuality and I have no interest in trying to make a case for them. Several studies, including one by The Kinsey Institute, reported that no one knows what causes homosexuality. In fact, they argued, scientists are more clear on what does not cause homosexuality. Parenting in itself doesn’t cause homosexuality. Children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to grow up homosexual than children raised by heterosexual parents. This isn’t to deny other ill-effects of having same-sex couples parenting, but to show that homosexuality is not solely caused by “bad” parenting.

Homosexuality possibly has a genetic foundation. Many Christians don’t like this idea because it seems that God causes homosexuality. But it doesn’t mean that God actively intends it rather than passively allows it. The same is true for a person who may be genetically inclined toward alcoholism or aggression. These things wouldn’t be termed “good,” but they certainly have a biological foundation. In a fallen world, Dawkins’ idea of “selfish genes” is not entirely impractical. Moreover some things don’t make sense in solely genetic terms. It doesn’t make sense in terms of pure biology for a person to use contraception, since their genes lose out due to this decision. In certain circumstances, it doesn’t make sense for organisms to act altruistically — e.g. humans sacrificing their lives for others — in terms of reproduction. Even then, a biological foundation doesn’t make alcoholism moral — no matter how strong the inclination. In the same way, a biological foundation of homosexuality wouldn’t change the morality of homosexual sexual behavior. Why? Free will doesn’t change. Metaphysics doesn’t change. Men and women would remain complementary to one another based on their ontological, metaphysical differences and their union would reflect the inner unity of the Creator. This would occur still in their striking way of cooperating with God in the transmission of life and still remains that choosing a partner of the same-sex would be to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the built-in goals of the sexual design. That is to say, ultimately, human nature does not evolve. It is objective and shared in common by everyone. It’s not based only on genes because genes vary person to person.

A genetic inclination toward homosexuality is an example of what may be a fundamental, universal cause of homosexuality. If homosexuality doesn’t have a biological foundation, it is more difficult to account for. Why? If homosexuality is entirely, say, psychological, then one of the challenges any theory would have to meet lies in the fact that there is no one way that all homosexual men and women feel and act. All homosexuals have entirely different life experiences, which leads to different psychological experiences. Arguably the rift in parent-child relationships between homosexuals and their parents may not be the cause of homosexuality, but a result of homosexuality–the “rift” is due to the secret that you can’t share, that disables you from in some sense from identifying with things masculine and feminine, etc and maybe not the other way around. It could very well be the former. Nevertheless, to accomodate this position, I’ve seen many make the case (which I’m not arguing for or against–here, at least) that there are probably a number of “homosexualities” — since human beings are multidimensional (more than just biology), situational (unique in their own life experience and interpretation of it), and contextual (in a particular culture at a specific time). Homosexuality then is compromised of a variety of experiences and expressions. This view, potentially would even include a possibly genetic inclination toward homosexuality as well as other types of conditions that result in same-sex attraction. Given this complexity, it seems that speaking about a “homosexual lifestyle” can really be unfair at times because what one is trying to conceptualize in such a phrase may be grossly inaccurate.

Given that the genesis of homosexuality is obscure, it is increasingly more difficult to define it. So then what is a homosexual person? “A homosexual person is a person who sustains a predominant, persistent and exclusive psychosexual attraction toward members of the same sex. A homosexual person is one who feels sexual desire and a sexual responsiveness to persons of the same sex and who seeks or would like to seek actual sexual fulfillment of this desire by sexual acts with a person of the same sex.” That’s the best definition I’ve ever encountered and it includes pretty much all we know about homosexuality and homosexual people — very little.

How are Catholics to respond to homosexuality?

When gays rebel, or “act out” — particularly when they do something religiously offensive, e.g. dress up like nuns — there is an immediate temptation to respond to such outrageous behavior with divisive comments that are just as outrageous that accomplish nothing and fuel the fires of hatred against the Catholic Church. When rage meets rage, the Devil has met his goal. How can we be proactive and not reactive?

The scriptures give a clear and consistent condemnation of same-sex sexual activity. However, the research of the natural and social sciences and the lived experience of ordinary Catholics should all play a part in how we approach the issue of homosexuality — particularly in subjective culpability and how the truth is to be preached. I find that a rigid and coldly objective application of the Church’s teaching can be most discouraging. The least effective way is to be stridently objective, not taking into account the spiritual journey of the person you are advising. When we focus on the homosexual orientation, we’re ignoring the whole of the person. Each human person is a story in his or her self. A person that is thrown into the mystery of life, trying to uncover its meaning, living in a world with all its unanswered questions of history, of competing philosophies and religions with even more stark differences in how they view the human person, as well as with different life experiences that influence how we respond to the question of what it means to be human. Sexual orientation does not encompass the entirety of humanity, but it does play a vital role and this needs to be taken into account, not just in the Church but in American life, particularly in our public policies.

In dealing with the complex issues surrounding homosexuality, it is very easy to give simple and at times caustic answers. It is more difficult and more rewarding to travel the road less traveled and to listen with an open heart and apply objective moral norms sensitively to basic human needs, concerns, and aspirations. Conversion is normally not something that happens in an instant or overnight, it is an ongoing process; we grow only gradually.

A simple insight into the general Catholic response to the “problem of homosexuality” lies in parish life. When one thinks of ministry that involves “family life” how quickly do we think of homosexuality? Not very quickly, I’d imagine. Why isn’t homosexuality considered a part of family life ministry? Homosexuals have families, are apart of families, and parents often have a hard time dealing with the revelation that their son or daughter is homosexual. It’s a family issue. So why do we hardly talk about it? In fact, how frequently does one see a ministry in support for homosexual Catholics trying to live in accord with the Church’s teaching in parishes? In the U.S., the sole ministry to homosexual Catholics, Courage, has about 100 chapters. This is good news and bad news. It is good that there are so many chapters. It is bad that there are so few. Only about half of the dioceses in the country have a chapter. In most dioceses, only one parish has one. What does that say about the Catholic Church in America? In my view, Courage does not get remotely the support it should from bishops and clergy.

It seems that homosexual Catholics hardly get the support they need from their Catholic brothers and sisters. It is absolutely true that Catholics have an obligation to build a moral and just society. However, there seems to be a hypocrisy in the way Catholics and other Christians make extraordinary demands on homosexuals in American life on the basis of “loving them”, yet the amount of effort spent in offering support and educational awareness of the plight of homosexuals and how to accomodate them sensitively within a Catholic moral framework is very disheartening. How many chastity resources for homosexuals can one think of that is secular, that may appeal to homosexuals who have struggles with approaching anything religous? What are non-religious homosexuals to do? Moreover, just how much do we actually think of the concerns and journey of homosexual people when considering public policy?

Much more can be said. But I think one thing is clear: before we, as Catholics, critique the moral inadequacy of society, perhaps we should reflect just on how much we contribute to and perpetuate that inadequacy. By reflecting on the common experience of homosexuals, we can take it into account as we develop our views of public policies about family life, particularly in terms of marriage and homosexuals in America.

53 Responses to Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life

  1. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Excellent, excellent post!

  2. Eric Brown says:

    Why thank you. I’m honestly concerned about the tone. You’d think it was an editorial. Perhaps I’m being too analytical. Time will tell.

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    “we have to educate our Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else with the authentic Catholic view.”

    I’m still reading this fine post, but I just wanted to say that I agree with this point unequivocally. We need to educate even our not-so-Catholic friends and acquaintences. Poor catechesis come’s poor decision making.

    OK, back to reading the rest of this fine post.

  4. Excellent post, Eric.

    With regard to this:

    In fact, how frequently does one see a ministry in support for homosexual Catholics trying to live in accord with the Church’s teaching in parishes? In the U.S., the sole ministry to homosexual Catholics, Courage, has about 100 chapters. This is good news and bad news. It is good that there are so many chapters. It is bad that there are so few. Only about half of the dioceses in the country have a chapter. In most dioceses, only one parish has one. What does that say about the Catholic Church in America? In my view, Courage does not get remotely the support it should from bishops and clergy.

    Too true. Unfortunately, I think for every diocese that lacks a group like Courage, you can probably find a “gay friendly” parish with a questionable program along the lines of ‘Dignity’ or ‘New Ways’ ministry.

    I suspect that the American Catholic understanding of a lived ‘gay and Catholic’ life is less the model set forth by Courage as it is of the other groups mentioned; itself a reflection of contemporary America.

    Q: Do you read John Heard?

  5. Eric Brown says:

    I haven’t read him. I’ll look into it.

    I’m not a member of Courage, but there was a point when I inquired about it and there are a few things I was horrified by. First, in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston which is home to nearly 1,050,000 Catholics, there is a ministry to homosexual Catholics at one church. Second, the pastor of my parish had no (and still doesn’t have any) interest in orientation-related ministries and therefore, it won’t happen anywhere near me. Third, he and about every other priest I asked were totally oblivious of the one parish that did it.

    By the time I found what parish had did it, I honestly lost interest and started seeing a psychologist instead.

  6. Tito Edwards says:

    Eric,

    No, the tone is just right in my opinion. Not melodramatic nor “editorial”. OK, maybe “editorial” but why may that be bad?

    An apropos column in this point in our nations history.

    Bravo, I expected this from you when we invited you to join us.

    You’re part of the reason why I wanted to start this website. To get the message out there of what our beautiful Catholic faith is about.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  7. Eric,

    John Heard has a unique writing style — blunt, honest, open about the struggle for fidelity. But it offers a window into the perspective of a “gay Catholic” crazy about John Paul II and Benedict XVI. (How many of those do you know? ;-)

    I also admit that i find his courage to be a source of inspiration, as I try myself to live in fidelity to the Church. Homosexual, heterosexual, we’re all called to Christ and we should be a support for each other.

    Some selected posts:

    http://johnheard.blogspot.com/2005/06/sabbath-st-josemaria-escriva-or-how.html

    http://johnheard.blogspot.com/2005/09/dreadheart-seachange-not-shortchange.html

    http://johnheard.blogspot.com/2005/01/like-prayer-or-body-of-christ-save-me.html

    http://johnheard.blogspot.com/2005/05/dreadapologia-suffering-homosexuality_01.html

  8. j. christian says:

    Bravo, Eric. A thoughtful, insightful, and well written article. I hope you can continue this as a series here. Even as a straight person, I know the silence you mention all too well; it hangs ominously over some deep friendships of mine with persons who are gay. Especially lately here in California with all the political rhetoric swirling around… I remain faithful to the Church as always, and so I nervously hope that the subject of the teachings never comes up… But this seems so wrong and counterproductive; in a way, I’m in my own closet about it. I want them to know that I’m not a bigot or a hateful person, yet I’m not sure they’d understand or accept my belief.

  9. Cheryl says:

    I think j. christian expresses the feelings of most Catholics regarding most topics (especially abortion and homosexuality): we live in fear that someone will confront us on our views. I personally am afraid that the words I say will push them farther away from God or will result in an ugly, angry tirade. More than this, we’re uncertain as to how to broach the subject in a way that will allow the homosexual to be comfortable, so we wait for a time when he/she feels comfortable doing so.

    I also think that your post and others like it are first steps toward creating understanding between heterosexuals and homosexuals. The sort of dialogue created in this manner is the sort that can heal rifts and open hearts to true friendship.

    Thank you for your honesty and your openness.

  10. Cheryl and j. Christian speaks for me as well.

  11. John Henry says:

    Excellent post Eric. Thank you for your openness.

  12. A well thought out and deeply moving analysis.

  13. Eric Brown says:

    This could be an entirely different post in itself, but I’ll raise two questions.

    First, without explicitly encouraging homosexual activity and relationships, or accepting them as the norm — but as much as possible only remotely tolerating it — what are reasonable policies that would respect human dignity without undermining marriage? If I were a Senator (I hope to be some day), I might vote against protecting gays against hate crimes based on the effects of such laws in Canada — not that I think gays aren’t a minority group worth recognizing and protecting (obviously). As Catholics, we’re obligated to oppose civil unions and “domestic partnerships,” the latter essentially being an embrace of common law marriages and situations of cohabitation receiving marital benefits regardless of the nature of the couple. In essence, is our approval as Catholics contigent on the nature of the policies, e.g. a hate crime law that explicitly recognizes that peaceful and non-violent expression of religious opposition of homosexuality does not constitute “hate speech.”

    For various reasons, I’m very sympathetic toward the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. I am very aware of its reasoning and what it tries to accomplish. Though, I’m very much concerned about the psychological health (and the perpetuation of a dual life) that it causes for those who are basically obligated to keep their sexuality a secret. I’ve read of some moving stories of soldiers who feared going to higher-ranking officers confidentially or even seeking some sort of counsel, whether it be for mental health, or whatever in fear of being “outed.” However, I’m not sure what the effect of the reverse would have on the military. Its’ a difficulty. Thoughts?

    Actually I have a third question. Given that after the Protestant Reformation, society began to make a distinction between religious and civil marriage. Civil marriage, of course, is the legal aspect in which properties and rights are bestowed uniquely between a husband and a wife. However, it is this idea of a “contract” that is wired into our Western thinking. Marriage is now simply a two-party, social arrangement written on a piece of paper that is recognized by the law. The contract is not permanent (divorce). In fact, we may have to reach other agreements before entering the contractual agreement (a pre-nuptial agreement). How can we reverse this? I think much of this thinking is related to the gay rights debate.

  14. Cliff says:

    “When rage meets rage, the Devil has accomplished his goal.” Really neat line. However, wouldn’t you agree, that there is a place for “righteous indignation”? To protect the innocent, redress wrongs, etc…

    One item was not mentioned, and that is, “Can the homosexual orientation be changed?”

  15. Eric Brown says:

    I’m very, very skeptical of it.

  16. I think perhaps everyone feels a little hesitant to come out with strong opinions on the substance when they know they’re addressing someone who’s dealt with things both personally and also so substantively in the main article, but it’s no fun to write a substantive article and only get “yeah, that was great” comments, so here goes on your further questions:

    First, without explicitly encouraging homosexual activity and relationships, or accepting them as the norm — but as much as possible only remotely tolerating it — what are reasonable policies that would respect human dignity without undermining marriage?

    One thing I can think of that might have serious benefits at a basic humane level for those in homosexual relationships, while not explicitly normalizing such relationships would be a more household approach to taxes, healthcare, legal decision making, etc. This would have useful benefits for a number of disparate groups, actually: large families, immigrants, people with disabilities, etc.

    Essentially: There’d be a legal definition of “household” which has to do with all living in the same residence. For taxes, you could elect to pay either as individuals with dependants, or as a household, with the total income of all earners in the household being divided by the number of people in the household and then paid on a per-capita tax rate basis.

    Similarly, anyone who was not separately covered through their own employer could be claimed as a member of your household for household level benefits. (So if you have an elderly parent living with you or a disabled sibling living with you, that person could be included in your benefits.) And for things like hospital visitation, you could make it a rule that if you haven’t left clear designations on check in — any adult within your household is qualified to visit and/or make decisions about you.

    The catch would, of course, be that there’d be incentive for fraud, since you could reduce your taxes or get extra benefits by claiming that people lived with you who didn’t. Finding a good way to keep that problem to a minimum would be a major criteria for success. But if one could figure it out, it would provide a lot of the benefits which gay advocates traditionally seek without attacking the cultural institution of marriage.

    (That said, I suspect that people would want same sex marriage anyway in many cases, as it’s as much of a “you must accept me” move as a “I need these benefits” one, but it would clarify what the issue is. I think it would have real positive effects for a number of groups regardless of whether it would successfully diffuse the gay marriage question. And while I have a strong objection to creating or changing cultural institutions to recognize “alternative lifestyles”, it does strike me as a basic social and human justice issue that if you live in a household arrangement with someone, regardless of the reason, that person should have priority in being able to visit you in the hospital, etc.)

    For various reasons, I’m very sympathetic toward the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. I am very aware of its reasoning and what it tries to accomplish. Though, I’m very much concerned about the psychological health (and the perpetuation of a dual life) that it causes for those who are basically obligated to keep their sexuality a secret. I’ve read of some moving stories of soldiers who feared going to higher-ranking officers confidentially or even seeking some sort of counsel, whether it be for mental health, or whatever in fear of being “outed.” However, I’m not sure what the effect of the reverse would have on the military. Its’ a difficulty. Thoughts?

    I would tend to think that it is pretty seriously needed to avoid weird tension and unit cohesion problems. But then, I’m one of the ones who generally thinks it’s a bad idea to have women in the military for the same reason: romantic tensions between deployed soldiers within a unit (even in a non-combat area) are simply asking for trouble of some sort or another — personal if not professional.

    Actually I have a third question. Given that after the Protestant Reformation, society began to make a distinction between religious and civil marriage. Civil marriage, of course, is the legal aspect in which properties and rights are bestowed uniquely between a husband and a wife. However, it is this idea of a “contract” that is wired into our Western thinking. Marriage is now simply a two-party, social arrangement written on a piece of paper that is recognized by the law. The contract is not permanent (divorce). In fact, we may have to reach other agreements before entering the contractual agreement (a pre-nuptial agreement). How can we reverse this? I think much of this thinking is related to the gay rights debate.

    Man… That’s a tough one.

    I’m not sure what I think about this one, but let me go out on a limb and argue the opposite: That “civil marriage” probably should basically be a dissolve-able contract.

    As Catholics we believe that marriage is a permanent covenant, not a temporary contract.

    However, we also believe that in some circumstances it may be acceptable or even necessary for spouses to separate (say in certain kinds of abuse or abandonment) even though they are validly married.

    Further, there are some cases when a marriage is formally contracted but is invalid, and it is annulled later.

    In a mass secular society, the chances of the civil authorities of any sort being able to sort out whether this is or is not a situation in which one spouse should be able to achieve financial and practical separation from the other are pretty low — and so making some provision for civil divorce and division of property is arguably the least intrusive way for the state to deal with its inability to have direct knowledge of what’s going on.

  17. Steve Golay says:

    Read the literature the Prop 8 folks distributed: complete support for all those ‘civil rights’ for homosexuals you listed.

    The high volatge anger on the “No on 8″ side has nothing to do with those rights being disenfranchised. That was not even the issue.

    And it must be remembered that the “No on 8″ (now, a national campaign) is composed of more than homosexual advocacy groups. That campaign is participating in something more basic than the preservation of certain positive rights under law – it is the take-no-prisoner attempt to change the verry nature of the human person.

    Yes, yes, I see and (more than you know) understand your points about “loneliness”, “secrecy”, etc. But war has been declared against the foundations of the human person and natural law – and is now being waged with a viciousness untold and unseen since ____________________ (fill in the blank).

    Yes, yes, yes we as Catholics must take on campassion as we put on Christ (even in the midst of battle). But this is a war that must (for the sake for so much) be won. Unfortunately, it is our tattered time and generation that has been called to fight it.

  18. Eric Brown says:

    Thank you, Darwin. I’ll ponder your points.

    Steve, I see your points, but I still think the notion of “war” can obscure us from what we’re trying to do — not just obtaining a just, moral social order, but in fact saving souls. Though, I don’t entirely disagree with you.

  19. John Henry says:

    “Though, I’m very much concerned about the psychological health (and the perpetuation of a dual life) that it causes for those who are basically obligated to keep their sexuality a secret. I’ve read of some moving stories of soldiers who feared going to higher-ranking officers confidentially or even seeking some sort of counsel, whether it be for mental health, or whatever in fear of being “outed.” However, I’m not sure what the effect of the reverse would have on the military. Its’ a difficulty. Thoughts?”

    I think Darwin’s point about romantic relationships interfering with the effectiveness of the military has some merit. Personal relationships can seriously undermine professional relationships. At the same time, I am not sure ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ really prevents these tensions. It simply means a group of people aren’t able to talk about their sexual preference. It’s more of a ban on a certain type of speech, in my view, than anything else, and I am not sure how valuable it is. The burden it places on some individuals, whose career could be ended merely for stating their sexual orientation, may be disproportionate to the benefit. Additionally, if the policy were reversed, there still would be a fair number of social disincentives to coming out. I tend to think that there should not be discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. The military is a unique workplace in many respects, but it is not obvious to me that this requires such a harsh penalty.

  20. TSO says:

    Good post. A good reminder of how our conversions are slow. And strident reactions against homosexuality are not even effective. Remember the issue w/r/to the Southern states? By the 1830s, the morality of slavery was still ambiguous. The Virginia legislature met to decide if slavery should be abolished in that state, and the vote was close. But that ambiguity didn’t last perhaps in part because abolitionists demonized Southerners and by the 1850s slavery was no longer seen as ambiguous morally by the South, but as an actual moral good as described by John Calhoun & others. Was the reaction of the South due partially to the hardness of the North?

  21. Ben George says:

    “Eric, never once is a prayer uttered for homosexuals — for their souls, for their struggles, or for their concerns — in prayers of intercession during Mass.” I haven’t forgotten it and I think about it daily at Mass during the prayers of the faithful; it’s always the prayer I hold in my heart that the priest commends to God with all others. But truly, such an omission is especially noticeable because we usually pray for literally everything else under the sun.

    This is not exactly true. Within the context of the Mass, I’ve never heard prayers uttered for people with pornography addictions, erectile dysfunctions, bowel disorders, or jock itch. I’ve not heard prayers uttered for murderers, or child molesters. I don’t recall ever hearing a prayer said for men who frequent strip clubs, or the women who work there.

    I have heard prayers uttered for the sick and the sinful.

    Given that we are a universal Church with all ages of people worshiping at any given Mass, lifting up prayers for certain specific categories of sin or sickness aren’t always appropriate. It doesn’t mean that we don’t pray for those people. In certain context-specific ministries such prayer IS appropriate, and that prayer is united with the prayer of the Church. The Church does pray for homosexuals, it’s just not always out-loud in a Mass.

  22. Eric Brown says:

    Ben — I’m very well aware of that. The point of hyperbole is to stress the urgency of the situation and much, I think, it is necessary for it to be more explicit. Sometimes people have a hard time connecting general prayers to specific situations. Less broad prayers actually connect dots and brings to our awareness the gravity and scope of the problems in society.

  23. Ben George says:

    Perhaps I am missing something: What is the urgency of the situation as compared to the urgency of any of the other groups of people I mentioned?

  24. John Henry says:

    Not to expend too many words in service of such a small point, but I think Eric’s observation about petitions is useful as an indication of the failures of the Church in the U.S. to adequately minister to Catholics of a homosexual orientation (and other small sub-sets of the Catholic population). I have heard similar complaints from many different groups within the Church; hispanic Catholics relate stories of relatives who have left the Church not because of a doctrinal difficulty but because they did not feel that the Church was concerned about them. Those who are hearing impaired have difficulty finding services at which there is an interpreter.

    I think, in general, the Church in the U.S. has a lot of room for improvement in terms of establishing parishes as genuine communities rather than just places where people go to Mass once a week. Eric’s observation about intentions underscores that point, I think. In many cases the Church is not very responsive to communities individuals who have particular difficulties in American society (whether it be with language, culture, or sexual orientation).

  25. Ben,

    Well, most of the maladies and sins and propensities you listed aren’t generally considered to be defining characteristics. I rather doubt that anyone thinks of himself as being a “jock itch sufferer” as one of his defining characteristics or a “guy who frequents strip clubs” as his primary identifier.

    Given that a permanent attraction to one’s own sex is going to have pretty far-reaching implications for one’s life, it seems quite natural to me that those taking that difficult high road of living out Church teaching would want to sense that they are not simply “those who must not be named”.

    Inclusion is a difficult thing in that mentioning a group just for the sake of mentioning them invariably comes off rather hollow. And in this case its doubly tricky in that there’s also the “gay movement” out there acting in ways that make it a cultural enemy of faithful Catholicism. However I think that Eric makes a very decent point that given gravity of the cross which Catholics of homosexual orientation are asked to bear — a willingness to explicitly acknowledge and pray for them would be greatly appreciated.

  26. And a side liturgical note: In a sense I think the problem is made worse by the fact that the prayers of the faithful are usually written up as an informal list of causes to pray for, but through a semi-formal process. Thus, one tends to end up with rather vague, politically correct intentions.

    Frankly, I think we’d be better served liturgically if we had a standard set of intentions for each day as part of the text of the liturgy — as we do in the Liturgy of the Hours. And specific formulas for deriving those: Always one intention for priests and bishops, always one or two for the themes or professions associated with the readings or feast day, the last one always for the dead, etc.

  27. Patrick says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for being courageous and staying true to the faith in the loneliest situation ever.

  28. Karol says:

    I think that you would be suprized to find out how many heterosexuals struggle to just as a great an extent with their sexuality without being able to share or talk about it. It is the nature of sexuality to be a private thing, and I can attest to the intense lonliness that one can feel sexually even as a heterosexual. And, for those who are married, there is no way out. You are looking at a problem that will last the rest of your life. I think that heterosexuals very often share the same experiences and that your interpretation of the silence is misguided: it is not directed against homosexuals, it is directed toward sexuality (at least in real life, even if not on TV) in general.

  29. [...] American Catholic takes a look at how Catholics can be faithful to Church teaching and still be inclusive and [...]

  30. Phil says:

    Thanks, Eric for the excellent post (I think you are the author, as I could find any attribution to it either before or after).

    You spoke to my situation well. I am a man with SSA, who is married for many years. I married out of fear, and hiding who I am. While I am attracted to men, I will not act out while my spouse lives. Does this make me a martyr? Maybe. I try to stay faithful to the Church.

    I look forward to the time when my Church would speak to the desires of men and women with SSA who desire to live faithfully to God and his Church.

    However, with the state of the liturgy taking a seeming step backwards, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Peace,

    Philpatrick

  31. Eddie G says:

    Eric & others,

    I too have suffered the homosexual crisis that you so bleakly write about. I understand your pain intimately. But let me tell you, man, our Lord came into this world of misery to set captives like you and me free.

    More is known about homosexuality and healing it than you think. It’s not a genetic defect from birth. And it doesn’t have to be a life sentence either. The good news is, there is a way out. But it’s a tough way out. It’s the way of the Cross.

    If you pick up this lifetime of pain you’ve been so heavy-laden with and carry it stumbling to the Cross of Christ, He will lead you to the truth, and the truth will make you free. There is no quick or easy fix on the way of the Cross, but there is indeed healing for those who believe in it and perservere.

    God will not deny you your God-given masculine sexual orientation if you seek it. I can testify to that and so can thousands of Catholic men (and men of other faiths) who are seeking the manhood they lost in boyhood.

    Homosexuality is nothing more than craving another man’s masculinity because you cannot feel or act out your own masculine power. But there is a way to grow out of being a wounded boy and into the man who you are. It takes a willingness to feel unwanted emotions and expose false beliefs about yourself.

    This kind of work takes guts, but again I say, Christ will show you the way out of homosexuality — out of the behavior and the disorientation. Those who endeavor to do this do not regret it.

    Catholics, let’s become equipped with this truth and proclaim it. Let us “be not afraid” to speak the truth. Don’t worry about those who may react negatively. The truth won’t kill them. But lies will. And so will silence!

    Here are some resources that will help you become equipped:

    * http://www.NARTH.com — Nat’l Assoc. for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality

    * http://www.CourageRC.net — Catholic support group

    * http://www.exodus-international.org — inter-denominational Christian support

    * http://www.PeopleCanChange.com — non-sectarian healing organization. Any man with unwanted same sex attractions should go on one of their Journey into Manhood weekends.

    Blessings to all who are searching for the truth about homosexuality,

    EG

  32. coheleth says:

    EG,

    Have you ever considered that sometimes, God doesn’t show a person a way out of homosexuality? Indeed, often enough, the Lord allows us to remain in the grasp of one disorder, so that we do not fall into the clutches of an even worse sin, such as pridefulness.

    A wise physician knows that healing every wound at once can lead to a patient’s death. Some illnesses must persist for others to be treated properly, and besides that, certain ailments actually strengthen a person’s immune system if left alone. At other times, the effects of drugs are worse than sickness.

    Hence, God permits that we should endure our present, fallen state for as long as we live, at least to some degree.

    If Christ wished to release us instantly from all infirmities, why do we continue to struggle against concupiscence, almost two-thousand years after Jesus crushed the devil, trampling death by death and bestowing life to those in the tomb?

    Why does evil remain, even after its defeat? It remains to strengthen righteousness; it abides to confirm holiness; it lurks because every protagonist needs an antagonist for their character to properly develop; it haunts because every hero needs a flaw, lest he succumb to the neurosis of unbridled egotism.

    Pax Christi,
    Geoffrey

    “For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19).

    Amen, Amen, there must be heresies, even in the members of your own person, in truth, divisions and warring factions within your very soul.

  33. Cheryl says:

    This is a really late addition, but I’ve been thinking about this off and on, and I would have to say one of the biggest problems we have in our culture is that homosexuality (and sexuality, as Karol pointed out) IS talked about all the time, but our public forums – the media, the political world, even the religious world – rarely provide us with the opportunity or the information for a genuine discussion. We’re flooded with imagery and propaganda about rights and wrongs, but nobody talks about what homosexuality (or sexuality) IS, leaving us ill-equipped to have private discussions concerning the same.

    The comments from Eddie G. and Geoffrey (coheleth) are a good starting point for these questions. Eddie represents a group who report going from being homosexual to heterosexual. Should we discount their experiences as being imaginary or should we hail them as the possible, but often unrealized, experience of every homosexual person? Geoffrey defends those who remain sexually oriented towards the same sex as being stuck in that position because God sometimes allows us to live with one sinful inclination to protect us from or strengthen us against other temptations we may not be able to resist (see St. Paul). Should we accept that experience as the expected norm instead of Eddie’s?

    Both of these comments and experiences assume that homosexuality is a sinful inclination (it inclines people to sinful activities). But within the Western world, homosexuality was considered a mental illness (it is a disordered perspective on reality) until fifty years ago (maybe less, maybe more, but historically speaking – not that long ago). At the same time, we have the experiences of many homosexual persons who report that it is relatively or entirely inherent. To further muddy the waters, we find that identical twins (same egg, same sperm – identical genes) are often split with one being homosexual and the other heterosexual. In the Greek world, for many philosophers, same sex relations were considered the height of human sexuality, which suggests that their experience of homosexuality may have been as much a choice as anything.

    These experiences are so varied and often so aggressively proclaimed as to prohibit any possibility for discussion – each set of participants vociferously demands that his experience is the one true experience and everyone else is either imagining things or lying (I’m generalizing according to the media’s portrayal). There are still more questions beyond homosexuality’s origins whose lack of definite, or even discussed, answers leads to tremendous confusion, particularly among young people. Our children are now asked a question most of our parents probably never considered under conditions that only work to deny a person his capacity for genuine discernment. Given this state of affairs, how are we even to know if a person IS (let alone was) homosexual?

    Is a person homosexual if they are occasionally attracted to the same sex, but primarily attracted to the opposite? if they are primarily attracted to the opposite sex, but sometimes attracted to the same? if only attracted to the same sex? What about a six year old boy who doesn’t like girls, because they have cooties? Is there an age at which a person knows his sexuality? Is a homosexual person attracted to the same sex from birth? Can a person think and believe he is heterosexual as a young man only to realize in his thirties that he is homosexual? Can the opposite be true?

    If those who are most intimately involved with homosexuality can’t even provide a mutually satisfactory answer to these questions, how can the rest of us have a conversation about the matter? Those of us who lack the personal experience of being homosexual seem to have two options: join a side or throw our hands in the air and watch the rest duke it out…

    Thanks again for the excellent and thoughtful post. I hope there will be more conversations to come.

  34. neal says:

    its so hard to get the whole “free of hate, not supporting gay marrige”
    thing across.

  35. Eric Brown says:

    Well, if it’s of any value, that problem isn’t exclusively heterosexual. Today, I had to decline an invitation by a homosexual friend of mine to an anti-Prop 8 rally and articulate why I agree with the Catholic Church.

    It was one of those moments when a perfectly good friendship will never be the same again because of what you believe…and downright awkward.

  36. [...] Ryan Harkins To be honest, I feel inadequate to deal with the topic of homosexuality. Eric has a remarkable, stunning, and moving post on homosexuality in general, focused predominantly on the human aspect of those struggling with [...]

  37. Gabriel Austin says:

    As the Church has proclaimed repeatedly and forcefully that the inclination is not sinful, and that those with such inclinations are especially called to the practice of chastity, it would not be so great a change to include in the Mass a prayer for those who must suffer so great a burden. It would normalize the affliction by not attempting to ignore it. Rather it would recognize the effort that must be made.

    And it might put to shame those heterosexual Catholics who do not hesitate to indulge in sexual relations. or even fantasies, outside of marriage.

  38. Tito Edwards says:

    Gabriel,

    A fine point. In my experience too many priests are to timid to tackle ANY difficult subject matter in an attempt to be ‘popular’ and not ruffle feathers.

  39. Matt says:

    The Mass should not to be changed to be more inclusive of a group because of their disorder (and it IS a disorder, it is only sinful if practiced). Frankly the whole practice of the offertory should be restored to the former practice for the benefit of all, that is, specified prayers of a universal nature, tied to the liturgical calendar. Masses can and should be said for those suffering from this disorder that they will be able to live chastely, however this would not be part of the missal, nor should it apply on Sundays or other feast days.

    I think the thing we need to worry more about is not being more “inclusive” in offertory, but more “inclusive” in the homily to address all of those that have difficulty with sexual sin. The key problems in my opinion:

    1. Contraception
    2. Masturbation and Pornography
    3. Premarital and extramarital sexual activity (up to and including intercourse)
    5. Homosexual behavior (up to and including sodomy)

    Does anyone hear about these ALL of these serious and common sins regularly in their parish?

    It should also be noted that more inclusiveness could be had in the readings if some of the passages addressing sexual immorality were restored from their banishment to weekdays or in complete exclusion.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  40. Ryan Harkins says:

    I’m not well enough versed on the GIRM to know whether or not private requests can be included in the prayers of the faithful (say, by request), but it might be useful and helpful to ask every now and then that prayers for those struggling with same-sex attraction be added into the general intercessions. At my parish in Laramie, St. Paul’s Newman Center, Fr. Carl opens the floor for anyone to offer their own petitions. If anyone has a situation like this, it should be simple to insert an appropriate prayer.

    Matt, I wouldn’t say that this is asking to change the Mass, but instead is asking our priests to address a topic that all too often has been left silent. And moreover, as homosexual inclination is disordered, people who have to struggle with it need our prayers and support. I’ll definitely agree that we don’t need a revamping of our MIssals or feastdays, but I don’t believe that’s what Gabriel Austin was asking for. I think it was just a request for more attention and prayers on the issue.

  41. Daddio says:

    I think I have actually heard a prayer intention in our parish for those struggling with “sexual sin” or something like that.

    I agree with Gabriel’s statement that a prayer intention “would recognize the effort that must be made.” But, I’d want to be careful that the language was no so explicit that I would have to have conversations about it with my young children. I’m sure they could word it so that the adults would know what they were talking about.

    How about, “For those struggling to live their lives chastely.” That would encompass a lot of issues including pornagraphy, infidelity, and SSA. I’m sure those who want to be Catholic and still live the “homosexual lifestyle” (sorry for using that generic term) would be offended. Is it enough of an acknowledgement for those who have SSA and do hope for healing?

    I missed the original post the first time around, but I’ll also throw in a comment about the Church’s failure to provide support for SSA. Too few Courage chapters, etc. Eric, you go on to comment that when you did finally find one, you were so frustrated that you never attended. I’m not sure that’s the right response. Surely you feel an obligation to promote it yourself, maybe start a new chapter where you feel it is lacking? We’ve had a similar furstration in our diocese in our efforts to start a support group for another cause. (I’m referring to an adoption support network. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?, as influential as our pro-life network is.) Yet we can’t seem to get anywhere with our pastor. The Protestants are really showing us up in this regard. So what are we to do – withdraw and complain, or make it happen ourselves? I’m sure we could list a whole bunch of stuff the Church isn’t doing enough of. The Church isn’t the federal government. We have to do more than lobby a congressman for some pork or apply for a bail-out loan. Get to work, make it happen yourself.

    I hope I’m not being too presumptive here, I have no idea what you have or haven’t done in service to your fellow gay Catholics. I’m sorry it I sound harsh, and I do appreciate your post.

  42. Eric Brown says:

    Matt,

    I did not suggest that Mass be changed. Many parishes allow prayer requests to be read from the pulpit, some more general than others. I think in particular a prayer for gay Catholics would not hurt. It could be something like this: “for homosexual men and women living within the tradition of the Church and those struggling with their sexuality and identity, that through self-mastery and the sacramental life may witness to the teachings of Jesus in chastity and love” (thats the prayer I personally pray during the prayers of the faithful to myself in silence). I think recognition of people hurting deeply within the church is most important for all the reasons I’ve said and more.

    Daddio,

    When I attempted to learn about Courage in my archdiocese (Galveston/Houston), it was a horror. Either way, the place/meeting time of the Courage chapter was very inconvenient. On my university campus, I know there are quite a handful of homosexual men and women who are Catholic. Of those I know, which is about ten or twelve, I am the only one who believes in the church’s teaching on the matter. Courage is a very, very confidential group and the way it must be set up makes it very difficult for people to find out about it and/or locate it. I looked into starting a chapter; I’d be the only member, no one was interested. I’m entering the last semester of my senior year and I may not even be in the state of Texas after graduation. Most importantly, I couldn’t find a priest with the time and availability to start it. My parish said ‘no’ to the matter and none of the 15 Basilian priests living on my university campus have time either. A las, I said nevermind to Courage and pursued a logotherapist instead. I think I’ve faired well.

  43. Laura says:

    How do you propose we address the problem of a gay and lesbian support group in our parish which does NOT at its core support men and women who want to live a chaste life? The basis for the group seems to be supporting and indeed celebrating gay and lesbian Catholics in the parish to live a gay life style. The way they support parents who are faced with children and teenagers who ‘come out’ is to encourage them to accept them as they are. Many of us in the parish are frustrated because this ‘ministry’ does not hold up the teachings of the Church as their foundation (as a Courage group would). Our parish is know to be welcoming to all — but this going to far. What do you advise?

  44. Matt says:

    Eric,

    I think recognition of people hurting deeply within the church is most important for all the reasons I’ve said and more.

    Are you asking for recognition or prayers? The intercessory prayers are asking for God’s assistance, they are not there to provide recognition of anyone’s suffering. That’s why I’m in favor of returning to the customary usage of prayers which are universal in nature, and allowing Masses on non-Sunday and Feast Day Masses which would provide for particular intentions.

    Laura,

    Assuming you’ve already done what you can in the parish, I would contact the Bishop, if he doesn’t act than probably the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. You could also reach out to Courage and propose a presentation by them at the support group. The likely refusal to allow Courage would support your complaint that the group is not orthodox. Personally I would depart from that place to a more orthodox parish, as there are surely other issues there.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  45. Gabriel Austin says:

    Laura writes:
    “How do you propose we address the problem of a gay and lesbian support group in our parish which does NOT at its core support men and women who want to live a chaste life”.

    Curiously the group which does not “at its core support men and women who want to live a chaste life” seems to echo the general problem of chastity as approached by many pastors. How often does a pastor bring up the matter of contraception? How does he make the connection that the use of contraceptives is an offense against chastity.

    It seems to me that hearing about chastity regularly as required of married couples would make easier the burden imposed upon homosexual couples.

    What is the difference between Catholics remarried while the first spouse is alive and gay marriage. It seems to me nothing, except the object of one’s sexual activity. Both are sinful, but I think the case of remarried Catholics a greater sin for it mocks the marriage vow and the sacrament.

  46. Matt says:

    Gabriel,

    It seems to me that hearing about chastity regularly as required of married couples would make easier the burden imposed upon homosexual couples.

    While any preaching about chastity is good, and might be a help to all those challenged by such sins. There is a significant difference in the “chastity” required of married couples and that of homosexuals. In fact, a homosexual “couple” is by definition sinning against chastity by behaving as and holding themselves out as a couple, even if there is no sexual activity.

    What is the difference between Catholics remarried while the first spouse is alive and gay marriage. It seems to me nothing, except the object of one’s sexual activity. Both are sinful, but I think the case of remarried Catholics a greater sin for it mocks the marriage vow and the sacrament.

    There is a major difference of nature, as to severity that’s territory for a moral theologian. Both cases attack the fundamental nature of marriage. Some would argue that the potential of a decree of nullity, and the parties belief that the original marriage was invalid, and the current one is valid would potentially mitigate the degree of culpability.
    In the case of homosexual mock-marriage, there is no possibility for a moral resolution other than ceasing the relationship. Some would also argue that the homosexual act is a denial of the participants very nature, rather than an abuse of their nature, as in the case of adultery and/or heterosexual pre-marital relations.

    I guess my point is that it is not a good approach to conflate homosexual sexual sins and heterosexual sexual sins.

    Matt

  47. Matt says:

    Gabriel,

    I missed your point about contraception and would like to amplify it, this is likely the most common serious sin in almost every parish in the US, and yet it is RARELY if ever preached. This is a very sad situation.

    I noted earlier that most readings which would aid pastors in preaching against all manner of sexual sin have been relegated to weekdays, made optional, or eliminated altogether in the current lectionary.

    Matt

  48. [...] Inquisition. RR Reno on faith and fertility. A heartfelt and very worthwhile personal reflection of Catholicism and homosexuality. From the Audacious Epigone: gender parity and fecundity and educational gender parity . From [...]

  49. Brian says:

    The problem with dealing with the faithful who are homosexual is one of wanting to communicate but without offending. My reading of the catechism tells me that homosexual orientation is not sin but the acts are sin. How does the parish or a priest or deacon address this issue without offending? Keeping in mind that many of the faithful who are homosexual have had more than their share of hate words spoken to them from many people for many years. I see it as a communication issue with the church not having much experience in helping homosexuals without also at the same time offending them as many already have a low tolerance from years and sometimes decades of verbal abuse.

  50. Gabriel Austin says:

    As to the problem of the parish priest who will not address sexual sins which is to say, the question of chastity], the point of pressure should be the bishop. During the Arian heresy – shared by most bishops at the time [which is why St. John Damascene remarked that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops] – it was the faithful who pushed the bishops back to orthodoxy. In out time and country, we have the matter of the sexual scandals with which to browbeat the bishops who tried to cover up out of timidity of all things, to call them to order, to make clear our respect for the office and suspicion about the men. Ordination does not guarantee sanctity. It demands greater effort on the part of the bishop, greater than that on the part of the priest.

    For example, if a gay Catholic teenager commits suicide, that suicide is properly laid at the door of the bishop. Where was he when one of his flock was in despair? It is what bishops are paid for [so to speak]. If the bishop does not want the responsibility, if he finds it too great a burden, he should resign. He should acknowledge his mistake in having too lightly accepted the responsibility. It is not the parish priest who is the shepherd of the flock [which includes no small number of those afflicted with SSA].

    And I believe it is no small number of our clergy which is similarly afflicted, teste the number of priests who abused chiefly boys.

    I have forgotten where it is that I have recently read that Original Sin which besets us all was a sin of sexuality. Testosterone is an insidious hormone. Whence the great emphasis on celibacy not only for our priests, but also for ourselves who are not married.

    To be distracted to think of the sexual activity of the afflicted is to overlook the graver fault of infidelity. Think about the meaning of that word with respect to our faith. Breaking the marriage vow I think to be a greater fault than same sex misbehavior, because it is failing to live up to one’s word. A man who will not keep his word, is not worthy of trust. As Harry Truman put it, if a man will not keep his word to his wife, to whom will he?

  51. [...] is much debate in society about homosexuality (cf. Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life; Theology, Sanity, and Homosexuality for previous discussions of the issue). This issue is just as [...]

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