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Your Gay Neighbor: A Catholic Primer

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5336982484_65fcf5bbd8_oSex-ed in our house was a clandestinely placed book on puberty at what I guessed to be the proper time. My children are lucky to have received an anxious, pre-high school, “Don’t have sex,” and pre-college, “Don’t have sex, but if you do…” talk, while they twitch nervously in their seats. Operating at this level of repression, you would be right to guess I did not talk to my children about homosexuality.

My son had a gay teacher in grade school to whom I shall refer as Mr. X. He was well-loved and oft-requested. He was not openly gay, but, lacking knowledge of the politically correct words to use in this regard, just trust me. A couple of years later, my son saw Carson Kressley on t.v. and commented that he reminded him of Mr. X. Had this been my opening to discuss homosexuality? If it had been, I missed it. Anyway, at that point, it would have been a cursory discussion about stylishness and mannerisms.

My husband and I are Catholics who teach our children a loving world view, tolerant of differences and intolerant of discrimination. We discuss the Civil Rights Movement and, living in Arizona, immigration. We watch loads of Netflix documentaries. Homosexuality just hadn’t come up.

It finally did. My son got a bee in his bonnet about applying to the University of Wyoming, and my husband and I, independent of one another, said, “But they kill gay people there, don’t they?” “Love everyone and don’t kill gay people” is a woefully inadequate Catholic primer.

Further confusing the issue is the finely honed hatefulness of Westboro Baptist Church popping up in the news and social media. Catholics often remain mute in the face of such false-Christian nonsense; we know Westboro Baptist and their ilk are reactionary, attention-seeking nutters who don’t represent the faith and we assume everybody else knows it, too. They don’t.

The waters are also muddied by the fact that Catholics, in practice, fall on both ends of the spectrum; there are those who base their spirituality on the the Great Commandment, or, as St. John of the Cross, a Doctor of the Church, wrote, “In the end we shall be judged on love alone.” On the opposite end are, shall we say, the more legalistic Catholics who possibly feel a sneaking affiliation with radical fundamentalism.

Let us review:

1. Homosexual attraction is not a sin.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “[homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358).

This is in the current Catechism and has been for some twenty plus years, but it is not common knowledge. When I once mentioned it in a Catholic forum, it was received with disbelief by one woman who promptly asked me to provide a citation.

While homosexuality is not inherently sinful, according to the Catholic Church, homosexual acts are. The same paragraph, 2358, begins, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.”

For gay readers who feel offended by the word “disordered” or for anti-homosexual readers who feel vindicated by it, perhaps a search of the word “disordered” in the Catholic Catechism might prove sobering. The Catechism offers twenty-four different descriptions of disordered behavior. Here are but a few examples:

2539 Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:

St. Augustine saw envy as “the diabolical sin.” “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.”

2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual
pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.204A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity.
The list goes on, as they say. Envious? Using birth control? Love money? Divorced? No? How about gossip? It is potentially a mortal sin, a form of murder. Read here. Read enough of these and one will find oneself in all one’s inglorious imperfection. These examples bring to mind the hackneyed expression that the Church is not a temple for the holy but a hospital for the sick. There are, of course, those people who can read an exhaustive list of disordered passions and not find themselves in it. We call them Pharisees. They make life hard on all of us, God bless them.

2. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.” —Pope Francis.

This was Pope Francis’ response to a reporter on a plane asking about the alleged homosexual lobby at the Vatican.

Whenever Pope Francis says anything controversial, Vatican officials and conservative commentators jump up to clarify precisely what the Pope meant. Their rallying cry is, “His statement was taken out of context.” To that end, feel free to read the Pope’s statement in context here: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-press-conference-on-return-flight-from-brazil-part-2. Forgive my irreverence, but they bring to mind clowns with pooper scoopers running behind the horses in a parade.

In context, the Pope is not changing the teaching on homosexuality, but preaching the ancient and immutable scripture of Matthew 7:7, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He includes in his statement about homosexuals this anecdote: “I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.” So let’s give that more thought.

In an answer about homosexuality, Francis mentions grave sin and fitness for the papacy—a Pharisee wouldn’t do that— essentially saying, that in the spiritual life, where one “searches for the Lord and has good will,”as Pope Francis states, this is a non-issue. We are all sinners.

3. “We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against the faith. . .” –Pope Francis.

These are the words with which Pope Francis concluded his speech to the Union of Superiors General. It was his response to the question of educating and “proclaiming the gospel to a generation that is changing,” including the proper Christian response to the children of same-sex unions.

In an interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis states,

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life . . . You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.”

Doctrinal security might provide comfort to some; to some it might be the ammunition they use against people whom they presume to be sinful, or at least more sinful than themselves. The Pope is asking us to look outward towards a changing world, not insulate ourselves from it in rigid ideology. He is not changing doctrine; he is preaching a doctrine of love that has been enshrined in Christianity since Jesus spoke it to the Pharisees. There will be same-sex couples in your neighborhood. Their children will attend your children’s schools. Will you see God in them? Or will you cherry-pick quotes from Leviticus to vaccinate them against a loving God?

Finally,

4. Mercy.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

—Pope Francis.

I challenge anyone to take the above quote out of context. Love your neighbors— all of them. Accompany the people God puts in your life. Have mercy. TC mark

featured image – Stephen Mackenzie
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