Sunday, April 15, 2007

Can One Be Homosexual and a Practicing Catholic at the Same Time?

In 1945 while studying for a degree in Thomistic Philosophy at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C, I had the incredible privilege of sharing the wisdom of such greats as Fulton. J. Sheen, Ignatius Smith, the scholarly Dominican priest (who was my mentor), Fr.Robert Slavin, the Silver Tongued Cosmologist, , Fr. Charles Hart, the international Ontologist and so many others. They opened our minds to the great thinkers of History and to the consequences of such thinking. We learned of Occam’s Razor and Categorical Imperatives and Principles of Non-contradiction. But throughout all our studies there was the omnipresence of the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, whose spirit seemed to dominate everything we read and assessed.

While I have forgotten most of what I heard from those days, I have incorporated a cognitive “Thomistic piece” which might be a mutation of his thinking (or even a “rumor”). However, it has made much sense to me. He reputedly [1] said: “Never deny. Seldom affirm. Always distinguish.” Rumor or not, using this little schema allows one to attempt to answer the question: “Can one be a homosexual and a practicing Catholic the same time?” I think that one can use the “distinction” element for even rudimentary insight into the “truth” of the question and the answer.

For example, what does homosexual in this question mean? Does it mean merely the tendency [2] to same sex attraction? Does it mean actively practicing same sex behavior as a pattern? Does it mean an intellectual, political, psychological, even religious acceptance of the whole “Gay” [3] agenda? Does it speak of homosexuals living in a same sex union?

If then one distinguishes here and holds that the question asks only about a tendency which is recognized as such and which is controlled by healthy spiritual and psychological specifics, then ,of course, such a person can be, has been and will be a “good” practicing Catholic. There is no obstacle. In fact, there have been innumerable instances of Catholics with the tendency to Same Sex Attraction (SSA) who have become not only admirable Catholics but have attained high levels of sanctity. The Members of the Catholic group called Courage [4] have coined their own phrase, “The platform of Holiness” which embodies their belief that their struggle for chastity (in the Catholic sense) has allowed them a closeness to God, previously not experienced by them. Interestingly, while their success stems from many sources, one such source is the use of the mechanism called Suppression. This is substantively different from repression which stems from fear and is basically unconscious. The suppression usage is conscious and follows a courageous confrontation with sexual drives. It looks directly at sexual compulsions and deviations and makes a conscious choice to opt for interior chastity. It nourishes the chaste external lifestyle so strongly demanded by the loving Lord.

Fairly recently, a Manhattan group of dissident homosexual Catholics met for monthly meetings in which they supported each others’ active gay life. They encouraged each other to continue partaking of the Catholic life and insisted that it was appropriate to simultaneously carry the persona of the “Good Catholic.” The layman leader of the Group testified in a local newspaper article that they never actually raised the Catholic position. He liked keeping it all “ ambiguous.” He preferred to “leave it to the person.” There was no confrontation with the actual teaching of the Church. Here was deliberate suppression with a negative choice. One might predict like a hyperbolic curve that the group would become chaotic and dissolve. It did. Both the present Pope, Benedict XVI (when he was Prefect of the Defense of the Faith) and Cardinal Trujilllo (when he was with the Family Council of the Vatican,) supported the notion that to be silent about the teaching of the Church in this instance is “ neither pastoral nor caring.” This can be analogously applicable to the alleged “love” of the all permissive parent who watches his child disintegrate while he protests how accepting he is. Perhaps, we should label such parental behavior for what it is—basic hostility with a mask!

There can be, in fact, a contradiction in the question itself unless one makes the necessary distinction. Oxymoronic means a basic inner contradiction of terms, within a word or phrase or sentence. “Practicing Catholic and active homosexual” is clearly oxymoronic.

The Catholic Church definitely teaches that homosexual acts are always wrong. Always sinful. Always abominable in God’s sight. Such behavior can never be approved. With this distinction, the answer to the question is also patent. Such persons are in direct opposition to the Catholic teaching and in no way could be considered as good or practicing Catholics. So, should a questioner fail to make such a distinction and hold, a la the theology of inclusion, that homosexual sexual behavior between two men or women is acceptable to the Church and that such persons might approach the Communion line or rail, he would be obviously acting out of order. Logically, any behavior could otherwise be justified, couldn’t it? Adulterers. Thieves. Arsonists. Perverts. Character assassins. Fornicators. Anything? The only requirement, then, is a desire to join the Church. Don‘t ask questions. Don’t have criteria for admission. God will understand. A reductio ad absurdum! [5] Realistically, the Catholic Church is not meant to be a warm, fuzzy place which makes you feel good. It is rather a place of transformation, sacrifice and Cross carrying.

There are some within the Church (alas, including even some na├»ve clerics) who, with loving but misplaced compassion, opt to overlook Catholic wisdom and centuries old experience and, in effect, say that we will disregard the teachings (ultimately) of Christ’s own Church. Recently, a prestigious Religious Order announced that because of financial strictures, it would close a Center in a large city which was dedicated to Gay persons. In the announcement, it was stated that many persons (presumably homosexuals) have been kept in the Church because of the accepting style of the Center. Yet when the Members (homosexuals) were advised that they could continue their religious lives by attending the local Cathedral, they refused because the local Bishop would not support same sex marriages! Yet, in the minds of the well intentioned clerics, these Homosexuals were being kept in the Church!

It was particularly upsetting, at a public meeting, to hear a “searching” Catholic lesbian lament that in a recent confession, the confessor gave her advice which was utterly contrary to Catholic teaching and practice. “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.. so it is O.K”. “Don’t be too hasty in shelving your gay relationship..” The Church will change in time and will publicly accept gay living into Catholic life…” An old priest present at the meeting in some kind of semi-tragic need to appear chic and “today,” suggested that the confessor was just being kind. The lesbian replied with a terse remark that Jesus did say something about those who mislead His little ones and the attendant millstone tied around the neck of the disloyal one [6]. Such clerical malfeasance, especially in the Confessional, does nothing in the long run but confuse and hurt God’s people. It almost appears that these clerics are obsessed with the need for others to love and approve them. This is quite distant from the Lord’s rule: we are to serve and not to be served. To a psychologist much of the all giving and all loving stance of these clerics is really a mask for deep unconscious hostility which is difficult to face consciously. It is a similar dynamic one finds in the all permissive parent, mentioned above, who unconsciously says: “Go cut your throat. Don’t bother me. Do whatever you want…” True love is tough and other oriented. Priests are called “Father” and are expected to act as loving surrogate parents not as buddies for their teenage charges.

When once I asked a liberal homosexual priest why he stayed in the priesthood when he blatantly disagreed with his own Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior, he assured me that despite his interior angst, he believed that he was functioning as a prophet. He intended with this prophetic dimension of the priesthood to change the Church’s teaching by working from within. There was little I could do to enlighten him that his ambition was similar to butting his head against the wall. God’s commandments were not for one era only or to end in April of 2007. They are forever and unchangeable.

The threat by active homosexual Catholics that they will leave the Church unless they get what they want is analogous to children threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue unless their desires are met. Spiritual blackmail cannot change God’s Will. Interestingly, the stance of other religious groups which fully accept homosexual demands is unappealing to these people. They still wish to remain Catholics but find it very difficult to live up the Catholic ethic. But that is the challenge of the Cross which realistically cannot be dismissed. Sometimes in my vulnerable and tired moments, I find myself hoping they will join another group, take their demands elsewhere and leave us alone! But we have the obligation to seek all lost sheep which is exactly what the Church does in insisting on the observance of the law of God. And it is important to note that keeping God’s law is not unjust oppression or discrimination. It is a concrete expression of the Love of the Lord for us all. One might recall His admonition: “If you love Me, keep My commandments…” Love, after all, does serve!

There is the constant and beautiful picture of Christ presented as loving everyone and forgiving everyone. And everything. The woman caught in adultery is a favorite image presented by some all loving, all forgiving and all accepting liberal Catholics. God understands, they say, and besides everyone has a right to love and be loved. Therefore, gay people have every right to live their sexual lives however they wish and still have every right to the Eucharist. Put some big bucks in the basket on Sunday – and Voila!--- homosexuals can be good Catholics. Cynical? Perhaps, but that was one aspect of the rationale presented once by an angry gay Pastor for admitting active Gays into full communion in his parish.

Where is the rest of the story of the adulterous woman? Most of us know that Christ did indeed forgive but clearly ordered the woman to amend her life and “Sin no more.” Atonement is expected, even required. Forgiveness has its own painful price. This is understood by those of good faith. A retired top NYPD official (whom I have known for 40 years) after a bitter divorce, entered an illicit relationship with a divorced person. In spite of his deep desire to receive the Eucharist, he refrains because he has faced a harsh truth. The Church regards his present arrangement as “sinful”--- at least objectively. While only God knows his real moral status, he is still barred from Holy Communion, a consequence he accepts with sadness. But he is ruthlessly honest and knows that Mary Poppins resolutions are not necessarily Catholic. Patronizing pats on the head are for children. Adults face reality and own their responsibility.

Obviously, another distinction must be made. What does one mean by the Church? Are legitimate discussion debate, dissent and dialogue included in the notion of Church? One would think so as long as challengers (like me) believe and accept the teachings of the Lord as taught in Catholicism. Those who wish to turn the Catholic Church into a long range image of the Episcopalian church which is so obviously imploding or, even, into Unitarians, are not, in my opinion, of the Church. It is an old and solid principle that one can tell the loyal Catholic by how he follows the axiom: Sentire cum ecclesia [7]. And that means, clearly, the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church.

Like almost every living psychologist, I answer the question with a cautious “ It all depends”.

Yes. The Catholic with SSA who strives for a chaste life and accepts the teaching that sexual expression is only for a man and a woman in lawful marriage, is to be encouraged to practice the Faith in all its privileges.

No. The Catholic with SSA who rejects the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, both as a personal practice and as a belief is out of order.. Until and unless he accepts Christ in the fullness of Catholicism, he cannot be considered a “good” Catholic. He can and should attend Mass, refraining from the Eucharist and should pray daily for the grace of conversion .

Hence, to prepare to answer the question of this essay, one might gainfully understand the value of distinctions. Then make your answer.

[1] Up to now, I have never been able to track down any attribution in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. It might have been Duns Scotus after all.

[2] Tendency is used rather than “orientation” which implies total almost innate pervasion. Tendency avoids this mistake by seeing the drive as secondary rather than primary as do the Gay Activists.

[3] Gay basically means a political stance whereby everything is assessed in terms of homosexual values and goals. This means same sex marriage, gay adoption, equivalence of homosexual practices with the usual historical norms of society.

[4] Courage, founded by Cardinal Cooke and Fr John Harvey, articulates the Catholic view that licit sex expression is exclusively for a man and a woman in lawful marriage. All else including homosexual behavior is not only inappropriate but sinful.

[5] This refers to the reduction of a proposition to such an intellectual position that the mind involuntarily rejects it as irrational and totally unacceptable.

[6] Does one need to be reminded of the horrific consequences noted by the Master?

[7] Loosely translated, “… feel with the Church..” Or vibrate or believe.

1 comment:

therese said...

THank you for a article of the truth.
I have heard liberal priests use the story of jesus loving the adulterous woman as excuse to say he loves everyone, even gays, adulterers, etc.. but they fail to say that jesus would never say to those in a active homosexual lifestyle to continue in that sin>
love is professing the truth. even if everyone around you wants to be "nice"