Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Question of Love, Part Two

This will be my last day on a series of posts on the difficult issue of marriage, sex, the Church’s teachings, and particularly the very difficult issue of same-sex marriage (ssm) and its civil recognition. My effort has been to establish a dialogue that is respectful and charitable, and to present the anti-ssm argument and the Church’s teachings on the moral meaning of human sexuality in a clear respectful manner.

Yesterday I gave in short, summary form the essential teaching of the Church on sexual morality: sex as a meaningful act in which our embodied humanity reflects the life of the Trinity in the mode of the flesh. Hence sex must be loving, committed, exclusive and open to life, or it is not a true reflection of God’s life and love.

I hope everyone realizes that I have given this teaching in a short summary form (all that is possible in the blog format, right?). Many, many books have been written that go into this in much greater depth and argumentation; I don’t have a ready-made bibliography to provide, but will cobble something together in the next days and put it up as a post. If you are a committed Catholic but find these teachings truly hard to take, you might want to read one or two books about them, just in the interest of unity and fairness.

OK – so in this last post I want to change the subject a bit. Because of course there is this reality that a significant population of the world is not sexually attracted to the opposite gender. Statistics vary, but the most generous reliable statistic I have read is 3% of the population. That sounds small, but in Canada and the US that comes to about ten million people. And even if the number was much smaller yet, each of them is a precious, beloved, beautiful, good child of God, deserving of love and happiness, and made by God to live in the happiness and joy of communion with Him in the communion of the Church.

So we have two problems. First, the teaching itself (to which, as you may have figured out, I wholly ascribe) sounds hard and cold and loveless to many, condemning LGBTQ people to a lonely miserable life. Second, the LGBTQ population do not in general experience a loving welcoming attitude from Catholics, except from those Catholics who have distanced themselves from the Church’s teachings. These are both big problems.

Regarding the first, the best person I know trying to address it is Melinda Selmys, a lesbian converted to Catholicism who is married with six children. Her book Sexual Authenticity is well worth the price of buying, and moves the discussion forward in a way that I very much like. She has written that, in her view, the fundamental orientation of every human being is neither ‘straight’ nor ‘gay’. Our fundamental and first orientation is towards Christ, and not towards this or that expression of genital activity.

I think that is a deeply profound insight, one we all need to take to heart. Because one of the loaded words that tends to end conversations is the word ‘disorder’, that homosexuality is ‘disordered’. LGBTQ people are incensed at this, as what they hear is ‘you people are disordered! You people are broken, messed-up, no good!’ And of course, ‘Get away from us, you nasty disordered people.’

But if Selmys’ point is taken, then a conclusion follows. And I wish I could write this next sentence in words twenty feet high, flashing in neon, and written on the sky for all to see. I will settle for bold and italics. Everyone is disordered! Everyone. The Pope, the pastor, the family with twenty kids, the little old lady, the nun, the member of Madonna House, the young and in love couple, and yes, the gay guy and the lesbian gal. We are all disordered, until the grace of God puts us in order, and this order is not fundamentally a question of a change in sexual orientation but a true turning of our whole inner being to the Lord Jesus Christ, His love for us and our communion in Him.

The Church is just a bunch of disordered, messed-up people trying to get turned around to Jesus, and helped by His grace to do so. And I think this second problem, the lack of hospitality, welcome, human kindness that so many LGBTQ people say they have experienced in the Catholic Church, is something we have to address.

We are all sinners. My sin may not be your sin. Your sin may not be the sin of the gay or lesbian who walks into your parish tomorrow. But everyone one of us is a disordered mess, until God’s merciful love sets us in order. So… let’s be kind to one another, eh? In the end of our life we are not judged on how right our answers were, but on how loving we were.

I do believe the Church’s answers are right. I really do, you know. But in the end, it is the love with which we try to present those answers, and the way we treat people who are ‘different’ from us that matters most. Ultimately, it is a truly a question of love, but this love is not in its deepest level a matter of this or that sexual expression, but a matter of God in our human flesh, the Bridegroom embracing his Bride, which is each one of us male or female, the communion of love of the Trinity which He wants to be the communion of love of the Church.

In short, ‘Christians, let us love one another.’


  1. Beautiful; worth the read.

    God Bless!!!

  2. Selmy is a great read , honest, open. But, she is still basically a queer girl who fell in love with a man. Her story is painful to read because she is always struggling with her queerness. It is her journey and she is brave and strong.

    Catholic choices for queer folks: fit your queerness into a celibate life or struggle to be an authentic queer as as a heterosexual. Does that about sum it up?

    I am glad Melinda has found her path, is sticking to it. But, it is not a solution that I would choose.

    It is just not right. It is just not right to call queers disordered in their own unions. Plus, those ssm seeking marriage are folks, for the most part who have done a lot of inner work, who are healthy and have much to share.

    I agree with you that we are all seeking Jesus. But, we all come to him differently. To place that yoke that loss on a queer Christian is just not loving. Choose the discipline for yourself if you like, but some of us really truly were created for marriage...that life partner is the gift that God gave us because, queer or not, he loves us and knows we need the support of each other to truly love and bring his life and love into the world. The queer relationship does bring life you know, if you but had eyes to see.

    Bless you anyhow.

  3. I would say Catholic choices for disordered folks. Pick your disorder( Pyromania, kleptomania. necrophilia, pedophilia sociopathic serial killer etc. Liars gossipers slanderers, sloths, child or wife abusers, addicts to anything etc).Resist the temptation, turn toward a higher good. I think what Father was saying was, we are all in that same boat and all should be trying to turn away from our propensity to do our own thing and do God's thing instead. Struggle isn't always a bad thing in fact it is the human thing. And we're all stugglers.

  4. So, you think the sexuality God gave me is akin to pedophilia? After everything, I have come to this: queerness is a God given disposition as is heterosexuality. It is not disordered and not treatable. Any decent therapist would tell you reparation therapy is like leech treatment. Your thinking is disordered here and offensive.
    This is a way we can use sex to seperate ourselves from each other and God. When we use it to relieve our own need instead of giving ourself to the other... Both gays and straights can misuse the sex act... But the bishops do not consider married heterosexuals sinful for sneaking a quickie before work.
    The issue is that the church thinks that queerness is disordered dysfunctional wrong- science and experience now say otherwise.
    We disagree.
    It is not right to withhold the sacraments for this reason.
    It is just not Christian.

  5. Denis, this is not bad, probably as good as a traditionalist Catholic priest can do right now on marriage and the family. You don't make the cut though and that's so sad. For now, I stay with those priests who have left the Church to marry, Gay and Straight and those valiant ladies of the Women Priest movement. Bless them.

    Sexual orientation is God given. The reason is not for us to determine. All God's gifts and all God's children should be cherished and shared. You aren't there.

  6. Anonymous I think you made a huge jump in logic if you would reread my post.You're forgetting that the church teahes that heterosexual intimacy outside of marriage is also disordered. To try to quantify which disorders are worse than others is way beyond my ability, in fact there might be no worse or better disorders. Isn't gossip akin to murder?Isn't a person who tells lies constantly worse off than a pedophile who refuses to give in to his/her inclinations?All I was trying to say was we are all sinners and if we try to not give in to what is disordered we come closer to being what we should be.

  7. “Sexual orientation is God given.” That statement is partially correct – God invented meosis which is the basis of sex. Does meosis and subsequent gametogenesis work differently between “straight” males and “gay” males?


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