When it comes to the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, especially related to LGBTQ+ issues, the Church and those of us who follow her teachings are getting smacked around. The smacking is coming from outside and inside the Church—and with increasing intensity. While being Catholic has never been easy, I’d say that the difficulty has been ratcheted up over the last ten years. Truths that have stood firm for thousands of years, despite many not following them, are now ignored by most and seen as hateful and ignorant. The spiritual weight of the apostasy can be burdensome and exhausting.
I recently began reading the book The Pope Benedict XVI Reader. The first few pages state that at the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict was “weary of the endless sniping between Protestants and Catholics.” Some might argue that this weariness seems to have impacted how he approached the differences between Catholics and Protestants to the detriment of souls. I would say that the same exhaustion from battle is settling into many Catholics who have orthodox beliefs, and its impact has the potential to negatively impact just as many souls.
About a month ago, a friend shared an old interview that self-identified “gay Catholic” Eve Tushnet did with the National Catholic Register. Though I disagree with her in many areas, I came away from the article feeling that she made many valid points. For example, people who experience same-sex attraction and sexual identity confusion should feel welcome in the Catholic Church and be protected from physical violence and undue discrimination.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Around the same time that I read her article, I was reading The Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian, where he speaks about the ills for the Church and society when same-sex sexual activity is allowed within the Church. I was also sent a video in which Bishop Barron speaks about the weeds and the wheat. He explains that the weeds and the wheat not only grew up next to each other but that their roots were intertwined, so there was no way to pull the weeds out without destroying the wheat. And finally, a week later, a pastoral letter from one of the Church’s archbishops on the care for LGBTQ+ people was shared with me. All of this together got me thinking maybe it is time the Church compromises with the LGBTQ+ crowd.
The archbishop’s letter often refers to the people he seeks to care for as “LGBTQ people” or “gay people.” Referencing people this way flies in the face of the teaching of the Courage Apostolate, the apostolate in the Church that serves people who experience same-sex attraction and seek to live chaste lives. Reading his letter after the interview with Tushnet, St. Peter Damian’s book, and watching the video of Bishop Barron’s homily wearied me.
St. Peter Damian’s book was written almost a thousand years ago and shows that sodomitical behavior has been a serious problem in the Church for a long time. The Church seems to have been unsuccessful in ejecting the behavior and those who engage in it from positions of influence and power; and over time, from many reports, it has become even more entrenched.
I thought maybe its roots have become so intertwined with those of the Church that to try to rip out the behavior now would do more harm than good; so, perhaps, we should just compromise and let people identify themselves however they want. Let’s “live and let live” and let others do what they think is best. You want to say you are a queer Catholic or a gay priest; what is the big deal?
Thankfully, through two other books I read more recently, I recognized what the big deal is and why we cannot compromise on the question of identity. Not one bit.
The first book is Dying Without Fear by Dr. Paul Chaloux. In it, he states,
It is a sign of His (God’s) love and mercy that He uses evil, suffering, and death to lead us to share in His divine nature and to live with Him forever in joy and happiness. What we perceive as detrimental to us in the short term is actually medicinal in the long term.
Same-sex attraction and sexual identity confusion are crosses, no doubt, and one of the jobs of the Church is to help us carry our crosses. The problem at this point in history, and even back a thousand years ago during St. Peter Damian’s time, is that many in the Church think the way to help us carry our cross is to do their best to make it no longer a cross. This is done when these behaviors and desires emanating from wounds are falsely legitimized by those who think they are being kind by approving gay behavior and identity while those who engage in these behaviors seek affirmation.
The cross is not lightened by this shortsighted behavior. Instead, it is made all the heavier and more burdensome because it does not bring relief but traps us in behavior and an identity that blocks the grace necessary to grow closer to Christ and His Church. Instead of helping us “share in His divine nature and live with Him forever,” they separate us from Him now and possibly for eternity and keep us from the divinization the Church is to lead us to through our crosses. To “compromise” in the way the world sees compromise, to legitimize gender choice and homosexual activity, is actually compromising with evil; and that cannot be tolerated.
The second book is Rediscovering Our Lost Fullness by Andrew Comiskey. In it, he states simply but with a strong impact: “I realized all that stood in the way was the belief that I could not relate seriously with a woman because ‘I was gay.’” These words smashed into me like a Mack truck.
From a very young age, I was simultaneously attracted to females and being told I was gay. After many rejections by women, exposure to porn, and constant reinforcement of the gay identity, I relented and decided to go with the gay thing. Along the way, I intermittently found myself attracted to women, but I blew it off because I was convinced I was a gay man; the attraction must not be anything more than a desire for friends like women are to other women. I never entertained the idea that my attraction to women might have been the beginning of something more—as non-lust-based relationships are supposed to begin.
Because I believed those who mistakenly told me that my identity was gay, I shut women and any possible romantic relationship with them off. What a tragedy to be robbed of this by people who forced an identity on me from an early age based on lust and misunderstandings of the difference between it and attraction. This is what the gay label did to me. And I have no doubt it does the same to many others. Because of this, we cannot compromise by using labels that keep us from the healthy, chaste, loving relationships with the opposite sex that our Creator intends.
Identity is foundational to growing into the men and women God lovingly created us to be. Without a firm understanding of our biological sex and the God-given purpose of men and women to love, support, and protect each other, we are lost and cut off from the goodness Jesus wants for us all. As we mature, many feelings and desires will challenge our understanding of who we are and how we relate to the opposite sex. Without a firm understanding of our biological sex and the God-given purpose of men and women to love, support, and protect each other, we are lost and cut off from the goodness Jesus wants for us all. Tweet This
The Church’s job is to guide us through these struggles, maintaining the truth of our identity while helping us understand the roots of desires that fall outside of what our sexual identity and activity are ordered toward. Doing anything outside of this is a form of spiritual malpractice. It robs us of opportunities for divinization through our sufferings and confusion, and it steals from us the love that God intends us as male and female to exchange, whether it is through marriage or spiritual and emotional support.
So, can we compromise just a little bit to get along? No, we cannot. When most of Jesus’ disciples walked away after He told them that if they did not eat His flesh and drink His blood, they had no life in them, He did not soften the truth so they wouldn’t leave. I believe He knew that if He let them leave, they would eventually recognize that something was missing from their lives and come back to the truth. The same perspective is necessary in this wearying time.
If we compromise on identity, we compromise the foundation of what we need to know about ourselves to help us understand what to embrace as part of ourselves and what to reject and carry as a cross, the carrying of which can lead us to the divinization we are all called to. Compromise, here, robs people of the opportunity to love the opposite sex as God intends.