The controversy surrounding the events at St. Cecelia Parish, where a scheduled Mass that was announced as a commemoration of Boston Gay Pride Month and later cancelled, was what President Obama likes to call “a teachable moment” for all Catholics in the Boston archdiocese. The following uses the 2006 “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” that I have featured with reading selections elsewhere on PayingAttentiontotheSky. Time to rerun that moment again:
“First, it is important to state that no Catholic should embrace prejudice against individuals with homosexual orientation. Such prejudice is incompatible with our faith. On the contrary, the Church welcomes every individual and encourages personalized pastoral care of many different groups of people who have particular experiences or needs. In that context, groups caring for individuals with homosexual orientation are needed and promoted in the Church.
It is also vital to understand that homosexual orientation is not, in itself, sinful and people experiencing it are welcome to participate in the life of the Church. In this regard, the Catholic Church is far more welcoming than some other groups of Christians.
However, the issue at hand is not the sexual orientation of Catholics but how those attractions are lived out and acted upon. Yes, God loves us all, even in our sin, but that does not mean that everything we do is good.
We are all called to live a celibate life outside of marriage. Sexual acts outside of sacramental marriage are sinful. Adultery, fornication and homosexual acts all fall into that category and cannot be promoted, and much less endorsed or celebrated. All of us are subject to sin and all of us are called to conversion, just as all of us can fall. However, in our journey of faith it is essential to recognize right and wrong as such, even if we do not always make the right choices.
In 2006 the U.S. Conference of Bishops published a document, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” which affirms the need for the Church to accept those individuals with homosexual orientation and provides clear guidance to Church leaders for their pastoral care. We present here an excerpt of the document to help our readers understand the Church’s position on homosexuality, which is based on love for the person, not bigotry or hate.
Respecting Human Dignity
The commission of the Church to preach the Good News to all people in every land points to the fundamental dignity possessed by each person as created by God. God has created every human person out of love and wishes to grant him or her eternal life in the communion of the Trinity. All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected.
In keeping with this conviction, the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” We recognize that these persons have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence in some sectors of our society. Sometimes this hatred is manifested clearly; other times, it is masked and gives rise to more disguised forms of hatred. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”
Those who would minister in the name of the Church must in no way contribute to such injustice. They should prayerfully examine their own hearts in order to discern any thoughts or feelings that might stand in need of purification. Those who minister are also called to growth in holiness. In fact, the work of spreading the Good News involves an ever-increasing love for those to whom one is ministering by calling them to the truth of Jesus Christ.
The Place of Sexuality in God’s Plan
The phenomenon of homosexuality poses challenges that can only be met with the help of a clear understanding of the place of sexuality within God’s plan for humanity. In the beginning, God created human beings in his own image, meaning that the complementary sexuality of man and woman is a gift from God and ought to be respected as such. “Human sexuality is thus a good, part of that created gift which God saw as being ‘very good,’ when he created the human person in his image and likeness, and ‘male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27).” The complementarity of man and woman as male and female is inherent within God’s creative design. Precisely because man and woman are different, yet complementary, they can come together in a union that is open to the possibility of new life. Jesus taught that “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh'” (Mark 10:6-8).
The purpose of sexual desire is to draw man and woman together in the bond of marriage, a bond that is directed toward two inseparable ends: the expression of marital love and the procreation and education of children. “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life.” This is the order of nature, an order whose source is ultimately the wisdom of God. To the extent that man and woman cooperate with the divine plan by acting in accord with the order of nature, they not only bring to fulfillment their own individual human natures but also accomplish the will of God.
Homosexual Acts Cannot Fulfill the Natural Ends of Human Sexuality
By its very nature, the sexual act finds its proper fulfillment in the marital bond. Any sexual act that takes place outside the bond of marriage does not fulfill the proper ends of human sexuality. Such an act is not directed toward the expression of marital love with an openness to new life. It is disordered in that it is not in accord with this twofold end and is thus morally wrong. “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”
Because of both Original Sin and personal sin, moral disorder is all too common in our world. There are a variety of acts, such as adultery, fornication, masturbation, and contraception, that violate the proper ends of human sexuality. Homosexual acts also violate the true purpose of sexuality. They are sexual acts that cannot be open to life. Nor do they reflect the complementarity of man and woman that is an integral part of God’s design for human sexuality. Consequently, the Catholic Church has consistently taught that homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law…. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
In support of this judgment, the Church points not only to the intrinsic order of creation, but also to what God has revealed in Sacred Scripture. In the book of Genesis we learn that God created humanity as male and female and that according to God’s plan a man and a woman come together and “the two of them become one body.” Whenever homosexual acts are mentioned in the Old Testament, it is clear that they are disapproved of, as contrary to the will of God. In the New Testament, St. Paul teaches that homosexual acts are not in keeping with our being created in God’s image and so degrade and undermine our authentic dignity as human beings. He tells how homosexual practices can arise among people who erroneously worship the creature rather than the Creator:
”Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”St. Paul listed homosexual practices among those things that are incompatible with the Christian life.
Homosexual Inclination Is Not Itself a Sin
While the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, she does distinguish between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual inclination. While the former is always objectively sinful, the latter is not. To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency. Although one would be morally culpable if one were voluntarily to entertain homosexual temptations or to choose to act on them, simply having the tendency is not a sin. Consequently, the Church does not teach that the experience of homosexual attraction is in itself sinful.
The homosexual inclination is objectively disordered, i.e., it is an inclination that predisposes one toward what is truly not good for the human person. Of course, heterosexual persons not uncommonly have disordered sexual inclinations as well. It is not enough for a sexual inclination to be heterosexual for it to be properly ordered. For example, any tendency toward sexual pleasure that is not subordinated to the greater goods of love and marriage is disordered, in that it inclines a person towards a use of sexuality that does not accord with the divine plan for creation. There is the intrinsic disorder of what is directed toward that which is evil in all cases (contra naturam). There is also the accidental disorder of what is not properly ordered by right reason, what fails to attain the proper measure of virtue (contra rationem).
It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church. Sometimes the Church is misinterpreted or misrepresented as teaching that persons with homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered, as if everything about them were disordered or rendered morally defective by this inclination. Rather, the disorder is in that particular inclination, which is not ordered toward the fulfillment of the natural ends of human sexuality. Because of this, acting in accord with such an inclination simply cannot contribute to the true good of the human person. Nevertheless, while the particular inclination to homosexual acts is disordered, the person retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value.
Furthermore, it is not only sexual inclinations that can be disordered within a human person. Other inclinations can likewise be disordered, such as those that lead to envy, malice, or greed. We are all damaged by the effects of sin, which causes desires to become disordered. Simply possessing such inclinations does not constitute a sin, at least to the extent that they are beyond one’s control. Acting on such inclinations, however, is always wrong.
Many in our culture have difficulty understanding Catholic moral teaching because they do not understand that morality has an objective basis. Some hold that moral norms are nothing more than guidelines for behavior that happen to be widely accepted by people of a particular culture at a particular time. Catholic tradition, however, holds that the basis of morality is found in the natural order established by the Creator, an order that is not destroyed but rather elevated by the transforming power of the grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ. Good actions are in accord with that order. By acting in this way, persons fulfill their authentic humanity, and this constitutes their ultimate happiness. Immoral actions, actions that are not in accord with the natural order of things, are incapable of contributing to true human fulfillment and happiness. In fact, immoral actions are destructive of the human person because they degrade and undermine the human dignity given us by God.
The full text of the document is available at http://www.usccb.org/doctrine/Ministry.pdf.”
This all comes from a Roman Catholic blog focused on sharing and exposing the actions and words of Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, Cabinet Secretary of Social Services for the Archdiocese of Boston and a key aide to Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap (Bryan Hehir Exposed). It makes for an amazing read and I would suggest you begin at the page http://bryanhehirexposed.wordpress.com/bryan-hehir-chronology/ as it summarizes all the reasons certain Catholics go nutz when confronted by certain other Catholics. Suffice to say we live in interesting times.
I was entertained by the entries concerning the Paulist Center in Boston. Knowing nothing but convinced I should seek conversion to the Catholic Faith, I had sought help at the Paulist Center, the nearest Catholic Church to my current digs at the time, a homeless shelter for veterans near Government Center in Boston. One of the things I have to confess to is that I am an old fat white guy who provides every visual key to the alert Catholic Liberal of channeling William F. Buckley. Anyways, the Paulist Center is where (in the inimitable words of the Weekly Standard) “people who hate the Church go to church.”
Knowing none of this at the time, I submit to an interview with a chubby woman who questions me about my reasons for conversion, uncovers my admiration for G.K. Chesterton and others, and suggests that I would probably be happier at other parishes where my traditional-leaning faith would not be challenged by others in attendance at the Paulist Center. It was insulting and the cloying condescension this agent of the Boston Church slimed me with was unbearable but I maintained my cool and simply told her that I didn’t care about the politics of the Church but simply wished instruction on the faith, RCIA, I thought it was called.
That this is where Fr. Hehir hangs out came as no surprise, suffice to say. The admin of that site was impressed by the same article I was in the Boston Pilot last week. I will do what he/she/they did and provide you with a reading selection from True Compassion by Dale O’Leary, lecturer and author of “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality:”
The Church, by which I mean hierarchy, clergy, religious, and laity, must step up and face the challenge posed by the militant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer activists — the GLBTQ coalition. It is simply not enough to defend marriage; we have to explain to the people in the pews, to our children, and to world why the Church does not — cannot — accept sexual relations between two persons of the same sex. We must do so with love and compassion, but without sacrificing the truth.
First, while many people sincerely believe that individuals are born with same-sex attraction (SSA) and gender identity disorders (GID) and can’t change, there is no replicated scientific evidence to support that belief. There is overwhelming evidence SSA and GID are not genetic or biological conditions. If they were, then identical twins would virtually always have the same pattern of sexual attraction and this is not the case.
That does not mean that SSA and GID are a choice. Nor is there a single explanation for all SSA. Each person with SSA has his or her own unique personal history. A number of therapists are convinced that some babies are born more vulnerable to the anxiety. This vulnerability combined with early negative experiences can affect the babies’ ability to identify with their same-sex parent or peers. The child grows up trying to find the love and acceptance missed as a baby and this need becomes interpreted as sexual desire. Because these negative experiences occur during the first two years of life before memory, GLBTQ persons may honestly say they always felt different and were born that way.
Although persons with GID and SSA have free will and can choose not to act on their feelings, the inner forces driving them to engage in sexual behavior with persons of the same sex are very strong and their struggle and suffering should not be underestimated. There are, however, numerous reports of change of sexual attraction — both spontaneous and through therapy. The more we understand about the origins of SSA, the greater the potential for prevention.
Therapists who work with people who want to be free of SSA and GID have made real progress in understanding the early childhood traumas and deficits which put a person on the path to GID and SSA. I strongly recommend “Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy” by Joseph J. Nicolosi and “The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource” by Janelle M. Hallman.
There is growing understanding of the part failure to attach plays in many psychological disorders. According to attachment theory, in order to achieve psychological wholeness a person needs to successfully negotiate several stages in early childhood: attachment to the mother, separation from the mother, identification with the same-sex parent or peers. Failure to negotiate the first stage, makes it more difficult to negotiate the second, and third. While a history of failure to securely attach, separate, and identify probably accounts for many instances of SSA and GID, there are other less common reasons. When the individual histories of persons with SSA and GID are probed, the reasons for their patterns of thought can usually be discerned.
As Catholic Christians we have an obligation to treat every person as a fellow sinner in need of grace. We can thank God that we do not have these particular temptations, while at the same time making sure that therapy, counseling, support groups (like Courage), and understanding priests in the confessional are available. If the problem is never mentioned from the pulpit, if support and counseling are not easily accessible, if the priest in the confessional has no practical direction to offer, those who suffer from such temptations will rightly feel alone and abandoned. They will be tempted by the world which says “Come out. Join the gay community. Be proud.”
When they do so, they will join a community where psychological disorders, suicidal ideation, substance abuse problems, relationship instability, domestic violence, STDS, HIV, cancer and other health problems are far more common. They will cut themselves off from the source of grace and often become angry at God.
Compassion requires that we do not, like the priest and the Levite, pass by the man who fell among thieves, but offer real help.
Well said, Ms. O’Leary.