Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Be A Nice Catholic When It Comes To Homosexuality

The Church's on-going Synod on the Family had a recent testimony about including homosexual couples in (Catholic) family celebrations.  The testimony was given by a husband and wife pair, the Pirolas, who offered up the view that friends of theirs were doing a noble thing by welcoming their (the friends')  homosexual son and his partner to the family Christmas celebration.  In the Pirolas' words,  “What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighbourhood! It is a practical example of what the Instrumentum laboris [essentially the working papers] says concerning the Church’s teaching role and its main mission to let the world know of God’s love.”

In other words, say the Pirolas, take the love that God has for each of us with all our various flaws and mirror that love to others who, just like us,  have their own flaws. We'll be living our faith and evangelizing to the world!  The gay son and his partner won't be offended!  Everyone can have Christmas together without a showdown!

Besides their rather bold assertion concerning the "main mission" of the Church, the Pirolas have also unwittingly, or conveniently, homogenized the matter of God's love to solve the thorny problem of how the Catholic faithful should engage with matters of homosexuality. Their comment suggests that God's love is a simple matter, easy to understand, easy to communicate to others and easy to attain. The presumption in the Pirolas testimony is that God loves us no matter what --yes--but that he doesn't really expect us to conform to his ways.  Not exactly. For starters, one might recall that when Christ defended the adulterous woman against her detractors, he did also tell her to go and sin no more.  The Ten Commandments come to mind as well.

In rebuttal to the Pirolas sanguine conclusion about their friends' behavior,  Voice of the Family  (VOF) countered: “It is because we desire the eternal happiness of those we love that we need to support them to overcome temptation and to live chastely. This path is not easy, but nor is any cross that is the way of true mercy, love and new life.”  Voice of the Family mentions the damage done to all members of a family including young children when actions "normalise the disorder of homosexuality."

Voice of the Family rightly points out that the son's homosexual actions are a wrong according to the Church, a wrong in need of correction if a depth of love and caring are to be shown for the son.  VOF is right to note that there are those in a Catholic family who will see the acceptance of a homosexual partner at a family event as approval of that partnership and, by extension, see homosexual behavior as compatible with Church teaching, which it isn't.

I had hoped that one of the outcomes of the Synod would be guidance from our bishops and priests as to how faithful Catholics might engage the modern, secular culture on the matter of homosexuality. More specifically, I had hoped that the bishops would begin to fashion a way that the Catholic laity might deal honestly and openly with the matter of homosexuality in the family.  Like abortion, co-habitation, pre-marital sex and divorce, homosexuality is an issue in many families, Catholics no exception.

Though they set the stage nicely for laying out the dilemma of witnessing to Church teaching on homosexuality, neither the Pirolas or VOF provide much of an answer. The Pirolas demonstrate a healthy longing to spread Christian love, but they seem woefully unconcerned about simultaneously spreading a fractured if not false picture of the Church's teaching on homosexuality. In their zeal to spread the love, they have also fudged over the matter of witnessing to the truth. We are enjoined (in Matthew 18:12-17) to correct error as part of the loving care shown to others so that not even "one of these little ones should perish."

On the other hand, VOF telling the culture about the "disorders" of homosexuality will not only fall on deaf ears, it will fall on hostile, combative ears.  The very intent and focus of the activist homosexual community is to gain society's emotional and legal stamp-of-approval for homosexuality as a normal  and very "ordered" sexual behavior.  While VOF may understandably talk to fellow Catholics about the disorder of homosexuality, it will only sound like the punitive, authoritarian Church wanting to bring down fire and brimstone on evil homosexuals if  we talk to the secular culture in those terms.

How then to be loving and truthful, to point out error without arrogance. If, when discussing homosexuality,  the Church has as its primary focus to not offend the gay person in the family, to not offend the  secular culture and its mainstream media mouthpieces, then the Pirolas and the rest of us---I think of our own Cardinal Dolan here--might don our rose-colored glasses, host homosexual partners for Christmas, march in all manner of parades and even publicly yuk it up with the President of the United States whose aggressive policies threaten the religious freedom of Catholics.

If, however, the point is to get at the truth of human sexuality, including the purpose of being created male and female, while still able to engage the modern culture, we as Catholics will have to use a bit more ingenuity than even VOF who, though they speak the truth of the matter, speak it in language foreign to the secular culture we're trying to reach.

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