Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homosexuality: One Catholic's Perspective

"unless you yourself have ever felt same-sex attraction, questioned your entire identity and had to entertain the thoughts of being alone, single and celibate for life, fighting the desire for sexual intimacy, you cannot possibly understand what it is like."

A college-age friend of mine has been struggling to understand her sexuality, spirituality, and how they intersect. She recently wrote a series of posts explaining her personal experience, the experience of homosexual Christians in general, and her understanding of the Bible related to this topic. She's a big fan of the book Love is an Orientation, by Andrew Marin, and cited a lot from that text. I affirm her statement quoted above. I also believe that lack of first-hand experience does not prohibit one from speaking on a topic. And she asked for feedback. :-)

I agree with her (and Marin) on a few crucial points. The way many Christians have treated homosexuals is wrong and completely inexcusable. Every person deserves to be treated with compassion and dignity. Christians seem to be defining themselves by what they oppose rather than what they believe. This is no way to behave as a follower of Christ.

I do not think same-sex attraction is a sin; I think it is a temptation. So I don't think that one who has a homosexual orientation is a sinner. I don't think that person should be cast out of a fellowship group, especially if that person has come to the group seeking prayer and support.

However. There are many pro-homosexual-Christian arguments that don't hold water for me.

Jesus never said anything against homosexuality. Sure. He never said anything about abortion, either, even though that was happening at the time. He did talk about the sanctity of marriage, though, how God joins man and woman (Matthew 19:3-9). He then continued that some are not called to marriage - those made eunuchs by others, those who choose it for the sake of the Kingdom, and those born that way (Matthew 19:10-12). Maybe that's not about homosexuality, but maybe it is.

Jesus accepted the outcasts. He ate with sinners, touched lepers, and chose a tax collector as an Apostle. He certainly did. And what happened when these people encountered Christ? They changed. They were healed, forgiven, told to go and sin no more. If Christianity was only for non-sinners, there would be no one at church. It is for sinners. But the response to an encounter with Christ is to change.


The consequence of sin is injury. Love doesn't injure. Examples here include theft, lies, and idolatry. Sin hurts others or hurts our relationship with God. Homosexuality does hurt our relationship with God. It takes the sacred life-giving gift of sexuality and turns it to our own design rather than God's. As I've said before, the issues of homosexuality, extra-marital sex, masturbation, contraception and more are not issues to be debated separately. They all come from twisting God's gift to us. Living an actively homosexual life is injury against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). The injury isn't readily apparent, there are no obvious victims, but harm is done all the same.

God wouldn't ask me to be celibate. That's not fair. Our life on earth is not fair. There are parents who desperately want to conceive; it's not fair that they can't. There are children who would do anything to be loved by their parents; it's not fair that some parents don't want their kids. There are men who desire to enter the priesthood; it's not fair that discernment of their superiors bars them from it. God has a plan, a vocation, for each of us. It may not be the one we want, but if we are willing to accept that our God of love knows what's best for us and fully embrace our calling, we may find peace if not happiness.

Society accepts homosexuality, so it can't be immoral. The idea here is that other sins (murder, stealing, abuse) are frowned upon, but homosexuality is becoming accepted, so if the Bible isn't explicitly opposed, shouldn't we assume society is right? Society should never be the measuring stick for our conscience. The Bible doesn't condemn slavery. Society supported it for a long time. It was still wrong.

A final point. I cannot emphasize enough that homosexuals are no less human and have no less dignity than any one of us. No one should be harassed, certainly not by those of us claiming to follow Christ. This does not mean, though, that actively homosexual Christians who intend on remaining so are entitled to Christian fellowship. I know this is harsh, but check out 1 Corinthians 5:6-13. It's not our job to judge non-Christians. Reach out with love. But if a person is claiming to be Christian, while refusing to acknowledge sinfulness and repent, his continued presence in the Christian community may lead others to sin. No one is perfect. But we're expected to try.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this so gracefully. I've had many of these same thoughts.

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  2. Wondering how you feel about the story in the news about the (lesbian) woman who was denied communion at her own mother's funeral mass?

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    1. I'm not familiar with this case - will you post a link here for me to read about it? Thanks!

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    2. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/02/lesbian-woman-denied-communion-at-mothers-funeral/

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    3. Thanks. An action, even if objectively morally wrong, can only be a sin if the person committing it understands it as an act that will break one's relationship with God. That's why we believe little children are incapable of sin, even though they know when they are misbehaving. The priest appeared to have no previous relationship with this woman and so COULDN'T have known if she understood herself to be in a state of sin. I consider his behavior inappropriate at best.

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  3. I agree with everything you said except this line: "This does not mean, though, that actively homosexual Christians who intend on remaining so are entitled to Christian fellowship." How else are we supposed to help them if we aren't embracing them into Christian fellowship? (This does NOT mean communion, which you have to be disposed for, but, say, Mass attendance and participation in other events like Bible studies.) I know that homosexuality is a particular kind of sin that makes some of us uncomfortable, but it isn't the Church's way to ostracize sinners of any kind, but simply to help lead them to repentance. I think it would be far worse to cut homosexuals off from so many opportunities for grace than to allow them to participate and risk that some might find it a scandal.

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    1. A similar concern was brought up on my personal Facebook page. I'll post the same reply here:
      Do you think there is any situation in which that verse applies, or do you see it as outdated? Separately, I would clarify that if a Christian congregation wanted to accept homosexuality, did not see it as a sin, then they are entitled to do as they please. [As long as they don't call themselves Roman Catholic - we're supposed to follow the authority of Rome!] I included the last paragraph to counter the indignation I've found, "They aren't being Christian! They're not accepting everyone!" I think any religious group has the right to exclude people working counter to their beliefs. For example, if I consistently refused to remove my shoes when entering a mosque, and was working to convince everyone else that what I'm doing is no big deal, I think the Imam would be well within his rights to ask me not to come back.
      Finally, this needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, and in love (with a full explanation, face-to-face, with compassion, etc.). For the proper response to be casting out, the one being asked to leave needs to understand that his actions are indeed sin. If he doesn't see it as sin, the pastoral leader with the congregation need to work with him to develop his conscience, not cast him out.
      Do you think that fits with Catholic understanding, or am I still missing the boat here?

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    2. If we followed your ideas, no one would be left in the church...we are all sinners. The Roman Catholic Church I attend has at least one same sex couple who attend and are active. The priest welcomes them into God's house.

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    3. We are indeed all sinners. But there is a difference between falling into sin and advocating to remain there. And as I said, this needs to be done on a case-by-case manner. Maybe a same-sex couple has acknowledged their sin and are seeking the best way separate with their dignity intact. Maybe they are living in celibacy together. Or maybe they need to be lovingly challenged about their lifestyle. It's not my call to make and I wouldn't want to be the priest in that position.
      Sinners are welcome. Seekers are welcome. Those working to overturn what has been accepted as truth by Christians for nearly 2000 years (and Jewish people for longer)? Those arguing that their sin should be condoned? I think there is a clear precedent in the Bible (and Tradition) for asking them to leave.

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  4. As I just posted to Jeremy on an entirely different topic--I so appreciate your thoughtfulness and ability to articulate your beliefs so well. I learn a lot from you! We wish we lived closer so we could hang out more often! I guess your blog/Facebook will have to suffice! :-)

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    1. Thank you! Tis mutual. As soon as we are independently wealthy and have a private jet, we will be out there all the time to visit. ;-)

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    2. Just reading this post way after-the-fact, but ditto what Andrea said. =)

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