Category Archives: Church Teaching

Understanding same-sex attraction

Same-sex attraction: Read this before you risk your credibility.
By Dr. Jeff Mirus Oct 14, 2015

I mentioned two weeks ago that Living the Truth in Love from Ignatius Press is an important book, and that I would have more to say about it. Having now read each of its score of theoretical, testimonial and pastoral essays, I am even more convinced that everyone concerned about the “gay revolution” should read them as well.

I learned something valuable from each one of this winning combination of writers, who possess personal, academic, therapeutic, medical and pastoral experience with same-sex attraction. But to my surprise the essay which had most to offer me personally was Jane Hallman’s “Do No Harm: Considerations in Supporting Youth with Same-Sex Attraction.” Hallman pointed out that young people who experience SSA are already likely to feel “different”, as if they do not “belong” owing to problems in their affective development. Therefore, if they experience anger and rejection as they try to discuss their difficulties with friends, parents, family members and other significant adults, it only exacerbates the problem. Hence her title: “Do no harm.”

In particular, common parental reactions, such as scorn and denial from fathers and “How can you do this to me?” from mothers, will almost inevitably alienate the child even further from a healthy affectivity. Instead, all who love the child must continue to accept him or her with love, including a continuation of habitual displays of affection, such as looking pleased rather than distraught when the child seeks to spend time with the parent. The focus needs to be on taking the child’s experiences seriously while maintaining a clear moral instruction which distinguishes feelings (which generally arise unbidden) from sins. This is the best context for other appropriate steps, such as counseling.

The Way Forward
There is no one best way for a same-sex attracted person to deal with his or her disordered affectivity. As with other disordered affectivities (including, really, all the inordinate attachments which constitute temptations in our lives), bringing them under control is largely a process of prayer, sacramental life, sound spiritual direction, helpful insights and encouragement from others, trial and error, sin, and repentance—all leading over time to self-mastery.

Sometimes God intervenes with a particular gift of grace which removes even the temptation that this (or any other) cross entails. This point is made by Robin Beck in her personal testimony entitled “Why Maintaining Biblical Language Matters.” She recognizes the importance of confidence in Christ’s ability to make of us a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). At a certain point in committing herself to Christ, Beck experienced freedom from all of homosexuality, both “the behavior and the desire.”

But—again, as with other trials that come to us through God’s permissive will—most of us are not healed in this way, but through a patient struggle to conquer sin without completely eliminating temptation. For this reason, many will find Daniel C. Mattson’s witness more helpful: “Total Abandonment to Divine Providence and the Permissive Will of God”. There are also testimonies from Joseph Prever (“The Curse of the Ouroboros: Notes on Friendship”), Eve Tushnet (“In This Our Exile”), David Prosen (“Breaking Free”), Doug Mainwaring (“Married and Same-Sex Attracted: Are We Hiding the Light of the Gospel under a Basket?”), and Bob and Susan Covera, whose “From Pain to Peace” explains their journey as parents of a same-sex attracted child.

Incidentally, one fairly common thread throughout the book is the importance of the Courage and EnCourage apostolates, founded by Fr. John Harvey and continuing under the leadership of one of the editors, Fr. Paul Check. This apostolic work has helped many men and women deal with the challenge of same-sex attraction in accordance with a sound spiritual life and a true

Christian anthropology.

What We Know and What We Don’t
New challenges invariably lead the Church and her members to a fuller and more accurate understanding of and response to the problems each challenge represents. In the present case, it has been necessary to explore the philosophical and theological dimensions of Eros along with the biological and psychological developmental factors that might incline a person to same-sex attraction. This need is addressed by the sections of Living the Truth in Love which deal with theoretical knowledge and pastoral care.

For example, Rachel Lu addresses the question of sexual identity in “Eros Divided: Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Homoerotic Love?”. In addition, although Bob Schuchts may be too quick to claim an almost miraculous process of healing in Christian therapy, his emphasis on “Restoring Wholeness in Christ” is clearly important to the kind of self-knowledge and spiritual growth which must be part of any healing process. Deborah Savage explains what she believes is “At the Heart of the Matter: Lived Experience in Saint John Paul II’s Integral Account of the Person”. My favorite natural law theorist, J. Budziszewski, explains how we can make important connections through “The Conversational Use of Natural Law in the Context of Same-Sex Attraction”.

Msgr. Livio Melina studies a much-contested issue: “Homosexual Inclination as an ‘Objective Disorder’: Reflections of Theological Anthropology”. There is even an essay on “The Healing Role of Friendship in Aelred of Rievaulx’s De spiritali amicitia”—a work which some of the witness essays mention as well—by Dennis J. Billy, C.Ss.R. All of these authors are impressively credentialed in their fields.

In the pastoral section (after learning from Dr. Hallman to do no harm), we find careful considerations of the psychological and medical aspects of same-sex attraction. Again, the titles are indicative. Timothy G. Lock explores “Same-Sex Attractions as a Symptom of a Broken Heart: Psychological Science Deepens Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity”. And Timothy Flanigan, MD details “HIV and Other Health Risks Associated with Men Who Have Sex with Men”.

Two essays map out the cultural background underlying the way we deal with same-sex attraction. Jennifer Roback Morse’s essay, “Understanding the Sexual Revolution”, explains what old hands have long known about the tactics used to break down traditional sexual morality, an analysis which will put things into perspective for those new to the struggle. Peter Herbeck insists in “Our Prophetic Moment” that only a strong and vibrant Catholic proclamation of the vision of Christ for the human person and human sexuality can possibly make a positive difference. Accommodation is deadly.

Edited, introduced and concluded by Fr. Paul Check of Courage and moral philosopher Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Living the Truth in Love not only covers many aspects of the subject but also permits the expression of a variety of slightly different (but always Christian) viewpoints on how best to deal with same-sex attraction—both personally and in counseling. As Janet Smith states in the preface, “We believe that some of the differences are matters of prudence, and others perhaps are more serious. We include different positions because we believe it is important that we remain in dialogue with those who share important foundational views.”

This actually makes the book stronger. Whether there will ever emerge a single paradigm for best addressing same-sex attraction by those who are morally committed to chastity as enjoined by Christ and the Church, it is clear at this stage that one size does not fit all in terms of successfully coming to terms with SSA and integrating it into a thoroughly Christian life. I found myself more indebted to some contributors than others, but let me say again that I benefited from all of them.

For those who are not otherwise genuinely expert in the problem of same-sex attraction (which is the vast majority of us), I would venture to say that, after the publication of Living the Truth in Love, it has become irresponsible to hold forth on this subject based on gut feelings. Do not risk your credibility! Before addressing same-sex attraction again, read this extraordinarily apt, fascinating and incomparably convenient book.

Editor recommends: Timothy G. Lock explores “Same-Sex Attractions as a Symptom of a Broken Heart.

False marriages

What about Catholic affirmation for those in false marriages?
By Dr. Jeff Mirus,| Oct 08, 2015

It would be a grave mistake for the Church to start speaking positively about intrinsically inauthentic “marriages”. I refer here to the pleas of a few Synod fathers that the Church must explicitly recognize and commend what is positive in the relationships of those who have divorced and remarried, and of same-sex couples who lay claim to a marital commitment. But this is precisely what the Church must not do.

For an intensely personal appraisal of this question, read Rachael Marie Collins’ superb testimony on the First Things website: How the Church Saved My Marriage. I have no such testimony to offer. But what I can do is consider the reasons.

1. Marriage may in some sense be a virtue, but a virtue is not marriage.
Every single person who has ever lived has had some good qualities or virtues. But if those qualities or virtues are directed toward the wrong ends, then they cannot be praised in their ends. I might recognize that Fred is an extraordinarily careful, thorough and dedicated worker. But if his “job” is robbery, I cannot commend him as a careful, thorough and dedicated thief. To do so suggests that thievery is a good thing if we pursue it with a significant level of perfection.

Similarly, it may well be that a same-sex couple—let us call them Beverly and Melissa—exhibit a touching fidelity in their pseudo-marital relationship, and even derive a number of benefits from it. But like Fred, they are faithful to the wrong thing—to an objectively evil thing. Therefore, the more the Church praises the qualities of their relationship, the more the Church will undermine the conviction that the relationship is, in itself, seriously wrong.

2. Exclusion from Communion is salutary for the unrepentant sinner.
Holy Communion is not only a grace and a consolation but a commitment and a sign. This is so true that, without the proper disposition or commitment, the grace of the sacrament works toward condemnation rather than salvation. Read St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [vv. 26-30]

We may take the last sentence physically, if we wish, but only in addition to its chilling spiritual meaning: That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Therefore, those who claim marital bliss, in defiance of Our Lord’s own Revelation of the nature of the marital union, are far more likely to be harmed spiritually by the reception of Communion. Part of the reason lies in the very nature of both sacraments. But part of it is also found in what we might call the psychological disposition created in the wayward couple—at the very least, a disposition to a false sense of spiritual security.

Here we might raise the question of why so many others who are guilty of objective evils receive communion freely. The answer is that this is an abuse, and two wrongs do not make a right. But even so the Church has a special reason to distinguish between those who have sinned in the past (but might be repentant) and those who seek the sacrament of the altar while still clinging to a public relationship which mocks all of Catholic sacramental life. To divide what God has joined (Mk 10:9), or to pretend God has joined what He has expressly divided, is to breach the Body of Christ.

3. Orthodoxy and orthopraxis go together (you can’t have one without the other).

In the third quarter of the twentieth-century there was much talk of “orthopraxis” (right practice or right action) as opposed to “orthodoxy” (right doctrine or right teaching). It was frequently claimed that the two could be separated, “orthodoxy” being a dirty word imposed from on high, and “orthopraxis” springing from the Christian heart (at the urging either of the dominant culture or of dissident theologians). But this is self-evident nonsense, for all right action must be consistent with the teachings of Christ and His Church. These alone are a sure guide to the reality to which we must respond in love.

I take it to be elementary that our actions either follow and reinforce our beliefs or contradict and weaken them. I referred above to the psychological dispositions created by bad ecclesiastical practices in those whose approach to Communion is a contradiction. But what of our own awareness of the Church’s teaching? If, as a matter of fact, our speech and our ecclesiastical policies are calculated to affirm the good in the relationships of those who are not really married, it will follow as night follows day that the community as a whole will gradually lose its instinctive sense of the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. True marriage will be thought of as one of many possible relationships which are “OK”—perhaps not quite ideal, but definitely good enough to get by.

We would also be wise to stop and consider whether the faith or even the raw numbers have increased in any Christian body which has progressively accommodated itself to modern cultural ideas on sexuality and marriage. It might be good to look—to take an arbitrary example—at the Anglicans. Have their policies of inclusion deepened the faith of those in the pews, or increased their numbers? The question answers itself. A Church cannot adopt practices which belie her own teachings and expect commitment to those teachings to grow. The result is always self-destruction.

The language of mercy is the language of repentance.
One of the questions Mrs. Collins raises in her beautiful testimony is essentially this: How many Catholics who are struggling to follow Christ through authentic fidelity and chastity will be discouraged if our Church leaders confuse the objective state of a relationship with the personal virtues of the participants, now exercised for the wrong ends? How many will fall into sin, lose their Faith and become estranged from Christ if they continually see ecclesiastical persons fall all over themselves to affirm what, at root, Our Lord does not affirm?

Note again that there is a big difference between condemning the objective aspects of a relationship and writing off the sinners in that relationship as somehow unredeemed or unworthy of love. In fact, it is actually love which compels the Church not only to minister to all but also to keep the full truth about Christ and man at the center of that ministry. Even when we sorrow over the waywardness of our children, we embrace them with tears. But the surest way to lose one’s children is for parents to hide their own values in the hope of winning their esteem, and the second surest way is the abominable condescension by which we assure them that their most serious decisions do not matter.

There is a dramatic difference between capitulation and mercy. In the immortal words of Phil Lawler concerning the use of less condemnatory language: “That would make perfect sense to me, if I could find ‘condemnatory’ language in any recent Church document.” Instead, Our Lord continually enjoins even the Church to “go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). I say “instead” because one of the deeper meanings of this passage is that we are not to pretend that the sinner is righteous, for the righteous are closed to the mercy of God. Rather, we are to help the sinner to know Christ, and so to desire nothing more than to respond to His love in the utter joy of a repentance that is fully accepted and richly blessed.
Christ used the metaphor of thirst more than once to capture the essence of this exchange of love: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10). This is so beautiful and so consoling that we might imagine Our Lord and Savior wishes to say nothing more!

But we would be wrong. In his conversation with the same woman, he continues:You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly. [Jn 4:17-18]

_______________________________

Gender ideology

Counter gender ideology, encourage confessions, Pope urges bishops
Catholic World News – June 08, 2015

Pope Francis warned against the influence of gender ideology in a June 8 message to visiting bishops from Puerto Rico.

The Pope told the bishops, who were making their ad limina visits, that the distinct roles of men and women are designed for “communion and generation, always as the image and semblance of God.” He encouraged them to protect and defend the beauty of marriage.

The Pope cautioned against the influence of other ideologies as well, reminding the bishops: “The Church, by virtue of her mission, is not linked to any political system.” He urged them to work together to promote the Gospel, noting that divisions within the Church dampen the force of evangelization.

During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope said, all bishops and priests should be “faithful servants of God’s forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows God’s love to be experienced in the flesh and offers every penitent the source of true inner peace.”

Pope: marriage between man and woman, no to gender ideology

(Vatican Radio)  The challenges facing the Church in Puerto Rico were under the spotlight in the Vatican on Monday as Pope Francis met with the bishops of the Caribbean archipelago.

Among the difficulties facing people there, the Pope mentioned the serious economic situation leading to widespread migration, unemployment, corruption, drugs trafficking and domestic violence.

Stressing the need to focus on the pastoral care of the family, Pope Francis also spoke of the challenge of gender ideology in his prepared remarks which were handed to the bishops during the audience .

In his discourse, the Pope again invites the Church to distance itself from ideologies and political trends and asks the Church leaders to bind together to address the many problems facing the Caribbean country and U.S. territory.

The sacrament of marriage is one of the Latin American people’s most important treasures, the Pope says, and it must be defended. He urges them to emphasize family pastoral ministry in order to counter “serious social problems” such as “the difficult economic situation, migration, domestic violence” and  “unemployment, drug trafficking and corruption.”

No to gender ideology, protecting the complementarity between men and women

The complementarity between a man and a woman is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology in the name of a freer and more just society, the Pope observes. In fact, he warns, the differences between men and women are not a question of “opposition or subordination but rather of communion and generation… always in the image and likeness of God.” Without mutual giving- he adds – neither can have an in-depth understanding of the other.

Bishops are united to face the country’s problems

The Pope invites the Church leaders not simply to pray but also to reach out in friendship and “fraternal aid” to address the many serious problems facing Puerto Rico. And, he warns them against “wasting energy in divisions and clashes.” “The more intense the communion…the more it favors the mission,” he says. 

Pope Francis encourages the bishops to distance themselves from any ideologies or political trends that can “waste their time and a real passion for the Kingdom of God.” Because of its mission, he points out, the Church is not tied to any political system so that it may always safeguard the transcendence of the human person.

Be merciful pastors, care for vocations

The bishop, the Pope affirms, “is a model for his priests and motivates them to always seek spiritual renewal and rediscover the joy of leading his flock in the great family of the Church.” In view of the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope therefore asks bishops and priests to be “servants of God’s forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  To have good shepherds , he notes, one must start with the seminaries so that they can generate an adequate number of vocations. And, he urges the faithful of Puerto Rico,  in particular associations and movements, to cooperate generously in proclaiming the Gospel in every environment including the most hostile and alienated from the Church.

Church does not accept gender theory

European bishops: say
Catholic World News – September 17, 2015

The presidents of Europe’s episcopal conferences issue a message at the conclusion of a six-day meeting in the Holy Land.

In the message, they lamented the plight of refugees, called for peace in the Middle East, and discussed the importance of religious freedom and “the fundamental right of parents to educate their own children according to their convictions.”

In view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, the bishops said that at the meeting of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), “the human and Christian beauty of the family and its universal reality was reiterated: father, mother, children. The demographic decline to be seen in almost all European countries is a matter of particular concern.”
The bishops added:

The Church strongly believes in the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman: it is the basic cell of society and of the Christian community itself. It is difficult to see why different situations of coexistence should be treated in the same way. Of particular concern is the attempt to apply “gender theory”: it is a plan of the “one thought” which tends to colonize Europe, too, and about which Pope Francis has often spoken. The Church does not accept “gender theory” because it is an expression of an anthropology contrary to the true and authentic appreciation of the human person.

Orthodox leader criticizes transgender ideology

CWN – April 02, 2014

In a meeting with Russian business leaders, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church criticized transgenderism.

“The fact that marriage is considered to be between a man and a woman and that gender choice is not an intellectual choice, but God’s choice is being disputed,” said Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, according to an Interfax news agency report.

“Probably, some sick fantasy exists,” he added. “Of course, it can be said that this is a clinical case. And probably, this will be the most reasonable reaction. But this clinical case is protected by law in some countries. And children are taught this and are told: you should choose yourself whether you are a boy or a girl.”

Me: All you have to do is look down, then you will know.