It is and always has been the explicit and unequivocal position of the Catholic Church that Chastity, as considered under the Virtue of Temperance, is the obligation of everyone. There is no exception. Fully aware of the failures of some of its own members, even those of very high standing, nevertheless the Church has taught perennially that it is the Will of the loving and provident Lord that all persons must restrain, and correctly direct but not repress, the sexual drives which all human beings possess.
"Catholic" anthropology (and, of course, theology) believes in a great aboriginal calamity , technically termed "Original sin" which is deep in and integral to fallen human nature. It is described by the Blessed apostle Paul as doing what I do not want to do and not doing what I want to do. It has been likened to an inner tension which must be properly controlled or even in Plato's thought as the powerful horse one strides which needs the strong management of the rider. It is described as one font of seven negative inclinations called "Capital sins" one of which is lust or the inappropriate use of sexual drives. Lust is considered as antithetical to love in Catholic thinking. Actually, these inclinations are merely inclinations and not sins as such but which can incline the person to actual sin. Hence, Catholic spirituality has always been sensitive to "occasions of sin", i.e. those specific factors such as people, places, things and which are to be assiduously avoided because their specificity might lead a person to sin. This is a basic, elementary Catholic attitude and very deep in the Catholic psyche.
In the light of the above, it is difficult for the average, especially well educated Catholic to fathom the anger or what borders on rage which surfaced in Toronto, Canada, about a chastity focused activity offered at the Catholic Student Centre ( or Newman Centre). This Centre while not sponsored in any way by the University of Toronto, offers a wide variety of optional programs to students which are meant to foster deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His own Catholic Church.
Surprisingly, though clearly distinct from the University, one of the academic Vice Presidents strongly urged the Parish to drop this basic Catholic activity which is totally congenial to the Church's thinking and simultaneously optional to students. One wonders what led this academic to invade religious space with the weight of a high Campus position. The activity is a religious and optional program, called Courage, presenting a Chastity program for Same Sex Attracted persons. Courage was personally blessed by Blessed Pope John Paul ll and Cardinal Trujillo of Family Life Office in Rome. The anger/rage reaction comes from persons portraying themselves as "Catholic" with protestations only of concern for the well being of the local Parish.
The negative reaction is surprising because of the clarity of the official Catholic thought (Catholic Catechism) which is as follows:
- Under no circumstances can they (homosexual acts) be approved CCC 2333
- Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. CCC 2358
- Homosexual persons are called to chastity CCC 2359
- Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman CCC2360
- Sexuality by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses is not something simply biological…….it is an integral part of the love by which man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death…
To ignore the Church's teaching is surely one form of disrespect for Christ and His Church but to misquote, misinform and even calumniate is totally unacceptable. A former helper from the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas and an openly homosexual Catholic is quoted with a series of appallingly false allegations about the Church approved movement of Courage.
He is quoted in the local newspaper with the following allegations:
- Courage people are taught that they should pray to be made "straight."
This is utterly false. A few seconds perusal of Courage literature would enlighten him that Courage works for the attainment of Chastity. It does not "re-make' people psychologically. Should some one pursue heterosexual orientation possibilities, such a choice is personal and not any stated goal of Courage which seeks only the attainment of living out God's will for living chastely. The basic human needs for friendship, intimacy and love are accomplished in chaste relationships with God's grace and the sanity of sexual sobriety.
- Courage teaches the young, confused and frightened that they are damned, i.e. going to eternal hell.
This is also false. Deep in the structure of Courage, as in the universal Church, one finds the palpable awareness of the Mercy of the loving God. Courage, like the Church, always speaks of the ever present welcoming by God Who yearns to offer forgiveness for any sin. Like the Church, Courage will speak of the mercy offered to the woman caught in adultery but always with the necessary and often omitted requirement of Jesus---"Sin no more.." or don't do it again. Renovation of sinful ways is necessary. This is quite different from saying that being homosexual by orientation sends a soul to hell. Again nowhere in Courage does one find anything even remotely resembling the charge published in the paper.
One wonders if the person quoted is simply following his own agenda. Some persons can twist facts, realities or truth attempting to harmonize their personal behavior which conflicts with universal Catholic norms. Perhaps, they do not accept the Catholic teaching as noted above that homosexual acts are sinful. If that is the case, then, they are in real trouble with conscience strictures and integrity issues. This involves moral dissonance which ultimately, under honesty, demands either submission to what The Lord teaches or personal severance from the Church whose teachings one rejects.
Such inner confusion and turbulence is sometimes found even among clergy who struggle personally for the homeostasis of inner drives, One such sad priest whom I knew insisted that he would stay in the priesthood with the hope that he could change Church teaching from the inside. He was totally blind to the whole notion of unchanging truth. We hear constantly from the Holy Father, now Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, that the true modern danger is Moral Relativism, and that there is Truth beyond evolution or personal desire. There is an Absolute Truth woven into the very existence of God. Overall we are facing the creeping advance of De-constructionism which means, ultimately a world of no essences, disorientation and an idea/emotion Tower of Babel.
- The same person mentioned above claims that Courage teaches homosexuals that they are defective.
If the accuser attended even a backwoods school of journalism, he might remember the elementary rule of "checking your sources and facts." Courage ( in other words reflecting the official Church teachings) teaches that homosexual persons have a disordered tendency which is disordered only because it can lead to that which is intrinsically evil, i.e. homosexual acts. Again tendency does not mean sinful any more the tendencies stemming from the Great Aboriginal Calamity, called original sin are sinful. Tendency to anger or laziness or greed or lust or envy is not sin. It is merely tendency which does need struggle, with God's grace, for pursuing His holy Will.
Courage, then, specifically notes that the tendency in itself is not evil, nor is the person, only the behavior. Nowhere does the Church, nor Courage, say that the homosexual person is defective any more than is anyone else. For further research on this point, the accuser might consult Cardinal Ratzinger ( who later achieved an even more clarifying stature on this point) in his Pastoral Letter to Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (PCHP).
The meaning of Courage is the same meaning as the Official Church, love of God and fellow human beings. Courage exists to help persons who wish it the support that Christ can give to open hearts. It is not suppression or discrimination Courage offers but Love. It is an offering accompanied by the Cross which some reject as impossible. When Jesus offered His own Body and Blood, some walked away murmuring "This is a hard saying" Jesus did not modify His Words to stem their walking. The Eucharist is here to stay no matter how hard it is. Analogically, so is Courage.