“Unfortunately, in our efforts to teach the wrongness of homosexual acts, at times all that has been ‘heard’ is the sound of condemnation and rejection. What is missed, then, what is not heard, is the Church’s teaching that people with a homosexual orientation, like everyone else, are created in God’s image and possess a human dignity which must be respected and protected.” – Cardinal Bernardin
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a teen. Curious about their take on the recent passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Legislation in New York, I ask them what they thought. Their response was basically, “They have the right to love and marry who they love, so it’s okay. I know what the Catholic Church teaches, but they’re good people and have the right to do what they want.”
Sigh. It was a response that was not entirely surprising, though it was slightly disheartening to hear from a teen that I know so well and that has a deep love for and understanding of the Catholic Church.
After the teen shared their opinion, I paused for a moment in silent prayer and to take in what they had said. I wanted this teen to continue to trust me and make sure that the dialogue between us on this, and many other future topics would always be open, as they have been in the past concerning both personal and faith matters. And then I responded with a gentle, charitable conviction for the Catholic faith, treading lightly but firmly. (At least I hope and pray I did.) Here is some of what I said…
We, as man and woman, were created in the image and likeness of God, purposefully made male and female (Genesis 1:27). All of us, because we are created in God’s image, have dignity and worth, regardless of who we are, what we do and how we live. And that in that dignity and worth God has created special purposes, vocations, for us all.
For some, it is to be a priest, for some, to be married, for others, to be single. And that within this vocation is the universal vocation, a call that we have all been given, to be holy. It is in this call to holiness that we recognize that God has declared us sacred by his authority, with a special and dedicated purpose. Everyone as a right to live out that call to holiness.
Someone who is gay has dignity and worth because they are created in God’s image and likeness. And God has a special vocation for them, and a special trial and struggle for them. Theirs is a vocation that is clearer than for those who are heterosexual (straight): to live single, chaste and celibate lives. God has set people who are homosexual together with a clear vocational path and calling to holiness and living for God. This calling is particularly difficult to follow and adhere to because we live in a society that is constantly telling us to do things that ‘feel right to us’ and follow God only in ways that are right for us personally. This often results in disregarding parts of the God’s purpose for us and not completely following the faith that He has set out for us. Everyone has a right to live out what God’s purpose is for us, and everyone as a right to not live it out.
We have to remember that God doesn’t make mistakes with anyone because we are made in His image and likeness and that He has a specific plan for us, as we are reminded in Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” Jeremiah 1:5).
Also, we are called to love everyone, including anyone who is homosexual because they have dignity and worth, however, we don’t have to agree with their lifestyle if they chose to live outside of the plan that God has set out for them. We’re called to love the sinner, not the sin they are committing by not following God’s call for them. Just as someone who is straight might pursue sex outside of marriage in an adulterous relationship, or someone might be a perpetual thief, or someone might struggle with pride, we all have our trials and crosses to bear in living our lives for God. Some of them might seem more difficult than others, but each is still a cross and trial to the individual person that will have their own struggle with it, whether it’s homosexuality, pornography, lying, gossiping, etc. Everyone has a right to take up their crosses and live for Christ through their trials.
After I shared this with the teen, they gave me a “I’m processing what you have shared with me” look. They had to leave to go home at that moment, but said as they were leaving “Let’s talk about this again later.”
Now, in this blog (and in my conversation with the teen) I just barely skimmed the surface of this controversial and often divisive topic. But especially living in Austin with a large homosexual population and living in a country where the definition of marriage is being re-defined, it is important for us to understand what the Church teaching and be able to share it in a charitable manner. So please, consider looking at some of the resources I’ve provided below to answer questions you may have. Everyone has a right and responsibility to share and live our Catholic faith, which means we need to know and be able to share what the Church truly teaches about homosexuality and marriage.
What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian’s suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ. –Blessed Pope John Paul II
Summary of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on Marriage and Same-Sex Unions from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage