Equal in Dignity and Responsibility: Ministering to Those With Same-Sex Attraction

040715A conference is being planned in August to ponder an authentic pastoral response in ministering to those with same-sex attraction. Dr. Janet Smith is the organizer; Courage International and the Archdiocese of Detroit are the sponsors. It looks to be a  fine gathering of solid speakers. Though I am clearly a “back-bencher” among the fine speakers being lined up, I was asked to submit a paper for possible inclusion in the book that will likely be published by Ignatius Press just prior to the conference.

As a kind of followup to yesterday’s post, I would like to publish a draft of the paper I submitted (Dr. Smith has permitted this). It is only a draft, but I have tentatively titled it “Equal in Dignity and Responsibility.”  In it I explore some of the pastoral challenges and opportunities presented in ministering to those with same-sex attraction. Since the article is rather long (3500 words) I include a link to the PDF in case you would prefer to print it and  read it later (Equal in Dignity and In Responsibility).

Equal in Dignity and Responsibility: A Pastoral Consideration of Ministering to Those With Same-Sex Attraction 

The very public emergence of those among us with same-sex attraction and other self-described orientations presents many pastoral challenges for the Church. To a large degree much of this public emergence has taken up the premise that those with same-sex attraction have been victims of unjust discrimination and unequal treatment. The charges of inequality and injustice are also laid at the feet of the Church.

In this article I would like to argue that the Church does not treat those with same-sex attraction unfairly, either in terms of her teachings or her expectations. On the contrary, we insist on one standard for every person: to live chastely according to our state in life. For the married man and woman this means being faithful to each other in body, mind, and heart. For the unmarried, living chastely means refraining from all genital sexual activity, immodest touching, and lustful thinking rooted in pornography and/or masturbation. There are no exceptions to this standard, which is rooted in a biblical vision and in natural law. This one standard is just and equitable in that it binds all and blesses all. That those with same-sex attraction cannot marry someone to whom they are sexually attracted is unfortunate (there are many unfortunate factors in life), but there are also many who do not have same-sex attractions who for various reasons are not married and may never marry.

As a pastoral stance in ministering to those with same-sex attraction and in addressing our culture, it would seem wise that the Church emphasize the equanimity of our teaching, since allegations of unfairness and discrimination are pervasive. We have one standard and one teaching that is for all and applies to all without exception. We are all equal in dignity and responsibility.

This stance is also helpful in terms of how we handle the increasingly complex situations presented to us. Simply put, we should handle these situations in the same way we handle irregular situations involving heterosexual persons. One standard exists and must be applied to all. We ought learn to see these complex situations more simply and to apply our norms equitably to those who present them to us. They are equal in dignity and equal in responsibility.

Below we will apply this principle in four pastoral examples. But first we do well to examine a couple of things in the culture that make the task of demonstrating our equanimity more difficult.

The first matter is the notion of reducing one’s identity to one’s sexual attraction. Sexuality is an important component of who we are, but surely it is not the only component or even the most significant one. Yet in a hyper-sexualized culture there are increasing numbers who want their sexual attraction to be front and center, and who see this facet as almost the sole way they want to be understood. Never mind that they may like classical music, or be a car mechanic, or even a child of God. Many want to be known first and foremost as “gay” and be identified with a behavior that both Scripture and human tradition see as deeply problematic and sinful.

I leave it to other authors to develop the case for why it is problematic and sinful. The main point here is that if people identify sexual orientation as central to their identity, then they are bound to take very personally the rejection of the behavior with which they identify. This presents special challenges to us who say that we reject the sin but not the sinner.

But this is all the more reason that we in the Church must emphasize the equanimity of our teaching and strive to ensure that our policies reflect what we teach: that all are equal in dignity and responsibility; all are called to live according to the one chaste standard articulated in Scripture and Tradition.

The second matter is the rapidity of the change, the revolutionary quality of the issue. Less than ten years ago our current president spoke against so called gay “marriage” and suffered no political harm; he may even have benefitted from his stance. Even in a generally liberal state like California, a bill to approve marriage for same-sex couples was struck down in 2008. Since that time dramatic changes in the perception of those with same-sex attraction and in attitudes toward recognizing their unions as “marriages” can only be called stunning. Almost overnight, demands, now even coupled with threats of legal sanctions, have been directed at the Church to conform and regularize approval at every level for same-sex activity, same-sex  “marriages,” and so forth.

Here is the special challenge presented by issues related to same-sex attraction: its sudden appearance on the scene with a “take no prisoners” approach. The message seems to be this: “Comply quickly or experience condemnation, possible legal action, and/or being labeled unkind, intolerant, and ‘homophobic’.”

This rapid change of climate is important to acknowledge because to some extent it also helps explain why our simple, equal standard for everyone is not up and running in every diocese. There are many complicated rules and exceptions that seem to set up, which are interpreted as either unfairly targeting those with same-sex attraction, or as bending over backward to make exceptions for them in a way that compromises the moral requirements of Scripture and Tradition.

In contrast other matters such as single motherhood, divorce and remarriage, and cohabitation (all “common” sins among heterosexuals) showed up more subtly and gradually over the course of several decades. First there was one “single mother” and we handled it quietly; then there were a few, then dozens, and so on. But this occurred over time, decades. The awareness that we had a problem was (sadly) very slow in coming. The same can be said for cohabiting couples and for divorce and remarriage. In these cases as well, the effects extended over a longer period time, disguising the fact that we had a real problem on our hands.

Some with same-sex attraction claim that it was only when they appeared on the scene that the Church suddenly concluded we were in a crisis. I believe this is a fundamentally unfair accusation. I do, however, understand what has given rise to this charge. For decades now “divorce and remarriage” has gone on with relative silence from Catholic pulpits. Cohabitation, fornication, contraception, and pornography are also seldom the subject of sermons or statements from the Church. But enter gay “marriage” and suddenly it would seem the hierarchy has awakened and statements, court briefs, and other concerns abound. The “gay community” is cynical that our level of outrage is consistent across these issues. Fifty years of heterosexual misbehavior and redefining of marriage (through no-fault divorce and contraception) have seemingly been ignored. But the sleeping giant of the Church suddenly awakens when homosexual misbehavior appears. Or so the charge goes.

There are priests and bishops who have consistently preached against all sexual misconduct and spoken about the complex issues of divorce, but in general our pulpits have been too silent.

Our stance now cannot be to continue or deepen our silence but must be to proclaim without ambiguity the one chaste standard that binds and blesses us all. Bishops, priests, and deacons who preach on issues related to same-sex attraction must carefully present it as part of a whole teaching. I do not think I have ever preached or taught on the sinfulness of homosexual acts without also laying out the sinfulness of fornication and adultery. No one is or should be singled out. The point is that there is one standard.

If we have been sleepy and silent, shame on us. But the task before us now is to be clear, consistent, and charitable, announcing equal dignity and equal responsibility to follow the one standard for sexuality and marriage given to us all by God.

Some in the Church will also argue, with proper concern, that homosexual acts are not only sins against purity but also sins contrary to nature (St. Paul calls them “paraphysin” (Rom 1:26-27)) and that Scripture consigns them to the category of sins that “cry to heaven for vengeance” (cf Gen 17:20-21). And this is true and surely valid in a theological discussion.

But from a pastoral point of view, fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts are all serious violations against purity and are all objectively immoral. None of these acts can be reconciled with a proper understanding and living of the Catholic faith. Pastorally and practically when such situations arise in our parishes and schools, the decisions we make about giving sacraments, accepting children in our schools, employment issues, etc. are going to be handled in a similar manner.

As we go forward, I would argue that this is the key We must do a better job of presenting our objections to issues related to same-sex attraction in the light of our received teachings on sexuality, teachings that bind and bless everyone equally. There are not different standards for homosexual and heterosexual persons, neither are there different versions of human nature at work. Sexuality has a proper purpose and place; this vision, given to us by God and Natural Law, applies to all of us without exception.

Having set forth the principles of equality and simplicity, and having acknowledged the difficulties of the current climate, let’s look at some real-life situations and see how our teachings, properly applied, are fair and respectful to all involved.

Scenario 1: Two men present an infant they have adopted for baptism. The men are living in a same-sex relationship and have had their “marriage” recognized by the State. They claim to be parishioners and the pastor does recognize them, though he never knew of their relationship, living arrangements, or the existence of their civil “marriage” license. In the baptism of infants and young children there is to be some well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith (cf Canon 868.2). This highly irregular situation makes the pastor wonder as to the proper course of action.

Reply: In a fairly straightforward way, this scenario can be handled like that of a cohabiting heterosexual couple or a couple in an invalid marriage. When irregularities exist in the presenting family, the pastor must balance the fundamental need of the child for baptism with the likelihood of him or her actually being raised in the faith given those irregularities.

Some irregularities, such as validating a marriage, can be easily resolved; others cannot. Some cohabiting couples are planning to marry, but for others marriage is either not in the near future or is unlikely to occur at all. The faith of some heterosexual couples is vigorous despite the irregularities, but for others their faith is tepid and their practice of it is tangential to their lives.

And then there is the large number of single mothers presenting children for baptism. Some have had a one-time fall, others are prone to promiscuity or serial relationships that are unhealthy. Some are actively practicing their faith; many are not.

And yet here is a child in need of baptism. Given the urgent need for baptism, the historical tendency of the Church has been to baptize even the children of prostitutes. The “well-founded” hope that children will be raised in the faith has more often been understood to mean even a glimmer of hope. The fact is, whatever the irregular situation, the parent(s) are coming to the Church and requesting baptism. That means there is some faith.

Some pastors are far more restrictive in their interpretation, but the usual and historical stance has been to be generous in seeing a well-founded hope, given the necessity of baptism for salvation.

My own approach in cases of irregularities among heterosexuals is to use this as a teachable moment, a call to repentance; I use it as an opportunity to summon the parent(s) to faith. I don’t just stay silently “nice. ” I exhort cohabiting couples to separate if reasonable and not deleterious to the child.  I tell them that they should prepare to marry if this is advisable, and that they should most certainly stop fornicating right away. I tell those in invalid marriages that they should be validated. I tell those who are not coming to Mass to do so faithfully starting right away.

I also instruct them that they are going to be making a promise to God (and I read it right from the baptismal rite) to raise their children in the faith. This means that they cannot go on living in a way that is at odds with that faith. I ask them to soberly consider whether they are really ready to make this promise (which includes working to eliminate the irregularities). I tell them that if they are not, they should delay the baptism. It is difficult to imagine how they can avoid being sentenced to Hell if they fail to follow through on such a promise; I am very clear with them on this.

I would not change a thing with a same-sex couple. It is unlikely that I would refuse to baptize the child. However I would make it clear that they, too, have a decision to make in terms of the promise they will make to God. If they are going to raise this child in the Catholic faith, like any cohabiting couple, they need to stop having sexual intimacy, possibly separate entirely, and most certainly never teach the child that homosexual acts are anything other than sinful, as God’s Word teaches. If they are not able to make these changes and begin to conform to Catholic teaching (which their promise in the baptismal rite indicates) I recommend they delay the baptism until they are ready. But the decision is theirs.

In cases where baptisms involving any of the irregular situations described above go forward, I recommend that every parish handle them discreetly. In other words, celebrate them more privately, at times other than Masses or regularly scheduled baptisms. They ought not to be done alongside baptisms where properly married parents present their children. If such a practice has developed it should be discontinued so that further scandal and desensitization to irregularity are avoided. The baptism of a child presented by a same-sex couple at Mass or alongside proper situations would shock most congregations. And while unmarried heterosexual parents at baptisms are less apparent (and so cause less shock) these sorts of baptism also ought to be done more discreetly.

This may mean more work for clergy, but it must be done going forward if we are to assert, as I think we ought, that those with same-sex attraction are treated with equanimity.

Scenario 2: A reliable parishioner has reported to the pastor that a long-time, popular teacher in the parish school has begun living with a same-sex partner. How should the pastor deal with this situation?

Reply:  No pastor should ever handle such a situation alone. Consultations with the diocese and with legal staff are important in any decision that results in the termination of employment. Even apart from matters related to same-sex attraction, hiring and firing have become highly litigious matters. Clear evidence, including an interview with the teacher, must be assembled. Policies and procedures will have to be carefully followed.

There are also different expectations of those in roles of teaching and ministry as compared to other staff such as maintenance employees. Given the complexities, a pastor or principal who foresees a possible termination of employment must never do this alone at any stage; the diocese should be consulted.

However, from a moral standpoint, how is the situation described above any different from a teacher openly living together with her boyfriend? We reasonably expect the teachers in our Catholic schools not to live in open opposition to the teaching of the Church. If perchance a teacher has a disagreement with our teachings, we cannot force him or her to believe, but we can rightly insist that he or she remain discreet and not openly support or do what the Church teaches against. This applies to every person and to all our doctrinal teachings equally. So again, equality is essential. The standard is the same for heterosexual persons and homosexual persons.

Several major dioceses in this country have already undertaken measures to spell out reasonable norms and apply them equally to all teachers. Such norms have also been carefully crafted to avoid legal challenges and to respect the civil and constitutional rights of employees, even as the Church legitimately seeks to ensure that our schools hand on the faith in word and deed.

Scenario 3: A known lesbian couple” want to enroll their adopted daughter in kindergarten at the parish elementary school. The principal approaches the pastor for guidance. Perhaps it will good for the child to be in be in a religious environment where the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family are upheld. But perhaps, too, it could cause harm to the other children who would be exposed to a confusing situation that might imply the Church’s approval.

Reply: Here, too, no pastor or principal should ever handle this alone. A proper and equitable response is going to require a diocesan-level decision that is followed in all our schools. Different schools with different policies convey the message that the teaching is really up for grabs or that it just represents personal opinion.

A situation like this occurred recently in a large archdiocese in this country. The diocese had reason to suspect that homosexual activists may have orchestrated this as a “set up” since three same-sex couples all applied at once, to three different schools in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese convened a panel of pastors, principals, legal experts, and others to consider the applications and develop a response to them and a policy going forward.

The solution was essentially to place the matter squarely in the hands of the applicants. Application forms for every school were enhanced to indicate that, in enrolling their children in the archdiocese’s Catholic schools, parents were expected to live in a way that did not express opposition to Catholic moral teaching. Currently they are asked to sign a statement certifying that they can meet this requirement. This puts the onus on the applicant and does not require principals and pastors to go down some sort of checklist that, no matter how long, might be called selective and be subject to the parsing of every word.

Again, everyone is treated equally: equal in dignity, equal in responsibility.

Scenario 4: A student preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation has just publicly supported same-sex marriage. After ongoing discussions, his pastor advises him that he is not ready to receive the sacrament and should delay it until he can resolve his differences with the Church. Further, the student intends to make public the intervention by his pastor, according to his side of the story.

Reply: Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation given by the Lord to strengthen one in the proclamation of the Faith. As such, those who are confirmed publicly affirm the Creed and by extension whatever truths the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. The public support of same- sex marriage is directly contrary to biblical and Church teaching. Hence the student would, in effect, be publicly lying were he to proceed with the Rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Nothing is being denied the student. He is excluding himself from being able to receive the sacrament since he does not share the faith in which he seeks to be confirmed. Further, unlike baptism, confirmation is not necessary for salvation.

The student is free to make public his side of the story and to relate what the pastor said. The pastor is not free to report what the student said in their meetings but he can issue a generally worded statement about what confirmation is (and what it is not) and what the recitation of the Creed means in the context of the celebration of the sacrament.

This might also allow the pastor an opportunity to teach the congregation that the reception of Holy Communion each Sunday also involves an affirmation of communion with the Church and with her doctrinal and moral teachings.

So the priest can use this as a teaching moment but would be advised not to allow the matter to be reduced to the questions surrounding same-sex attraction. Instead this can permit him to apply the principle of equality and remind all Catholics to seek communion with the Church on all matters, doctrinal and moral.

So again, here is a clear application of the principle of equanimity wherein Church teaching on matters related to same-sex attraction is seen in the light of wider teaching that applies to all.

In summary, though a new landscape confronts us, our teachings have not changed. They continue to apply to all equally. We do not single out certain groups or acts for special condemnation or praise. In such matters as our moral teaching on human sexuality and the call to purity, no one is exempt; no one exists in a special category. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. It applies to us all; it binds us all; it blesses us all. We stand before God as equals. We all receive the grace to be holy whatever temptations particularly assail us, whatever sinful attractions draw us. We are equal in dignity and responsibility.

53 Replies to “Equal in Dignity and Responsibility: Ministering to Those With Same-Sex Attraction”

  1. i recommend writing/speaking also about those non-Catholic Christian communities, namely Protestant, who are making it their business to condone and promote homosexuality and same-sex marriage (in light of their own invalid interpretation or ignorance of Sacred Scripture) and the damage they may be doing as a result to the way some otherwise faithful families may be thinking about true Christian practical living. Perhaps the real issue could be the motivation of that non-Catholic pastor for promoting immoral life styles…fear which comes with having little or no base of support to fight against a bullying congregation could be a factor. Pastors can be fearless if given the grace, and if Catholic pastors come to their aid with support and right teaching, it could help mend the crumbled dyke of human moral integrity.

    1. Taylor, you raise a good point, but I as a Catholic am offended by the way your speak about Protestants as “ignorant” of Sacred Scripture and having “invalid interpretation.” I know many Protestants who are much more familiar with the Bible than Catholics, mostly because it is part of their tradition to hold the Bible above any other Christian sources.

      Furthermore, to claim that Protestants have an “invalid interpretation” or the Bible is also false, because Catholics and Protestants actually have a lot in common in their understanding of the Bible and its interpretations. For example, we believe in a Triune God, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, we believe that Jesus redeemed humanity through his life, death, and resurrection, we believe that we are brought into the life of Christ through baptism, etc. There are also many differences, but to judge their interpretations as “invalid” is not true nor charitable.

      Part of being Catholic (universal) Christian is that we acknowledge the diversity of traditions within Christianity, and our aim should be toward unity, not division. We shouldn’t compromise what we believe in as Catholics either, but we shouldn’t denigrate another person if they do not agree with what our particular traditions and teachings.

      1. Adam,

        Being outside the Church is mainly because one does not understand Scripture-or at least key points, ie, following Tradition versus Scripture alone; papal authority; 7 Sacraments. While we should call for unity, it is unity in the Church, only. Pax.

      2. Also, as for “Part of being Catholic (universal) Christian is that we acknowledge the diversity of traditions within Christianity,”, we “acknowledge” things within the Catholic Church, be it Western (Latin) or Eastern Rites and even then, the “diversity” is many times in poor taste, if not scandelous. (Our good Monsignor has reported such incidences in detail in past writings.)

        1. Thanks for your response Craig.

          I do agree with you that ultimately we will be united as one holy people of God, and that the Catholic Church is a sign of that unity.

          You also mentioned the different rites within the Catholic Church, but your description does not capture what I am speaking of when I say “diversity” within the traditions of the church. For example, even within the Western rites there is diversity, which Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have celebrated and affirmed. Pope John Paul II even claimed that Christ is Indian through his solidarity with them, and celebrated mass in accordance with the traditional rituals of the Native Americans. (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1987/september/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19870920_indigeni-fort-simpson.html)

          What you have failed to do Craig is to justify the language used by Taylor to affirm Catholic teaching and tradition, which while perhaps done with good intention, has negative consequences when it comes to ecumenical dialogue, and cause friction within Catholics themselves who express more mercy and compassion to those who are not a part of our church.

          P.S. People are not “mainly” outside of the Catholic Church because they “[do] not understand Scripture-or at least key points”. There are a plethora of reasons why people are not a part of the Catholic Church. Some are born outside of the Catholic Church within different Christian traditions. Others are born in different religious bodies., and there are those who are not born within any particular religious body, such as atheists or agnostics. Some leave the Catholic Church because they have been ostracized, sexually abused, or have not connected with their parish or the teachings of the Catholic Church. Please do not generalize people’s reason(s) for not being a part of the Catholic Church, it is unfair to them since you do not give them a chance to explain where they are coming from.

  2. Oh Father..this was so good. ..and actually so simple. ..”equal in dignity and responsibility”. You nailed it with addressing “responsibility” …so often left out of cries for equality.

  3. Thank you for your witness, Monsignor. I pray that one of the pastoral benefits of the conference will be the readmission of the Courage Apostolate to the Archdiocese of Washington, from which it seems unaccountably to have been shut out for the past several years.

  4. “every person: to live chastely according to our state in life. For the married man and woman this means being faithful to each other in body, mind, and heart….”

    Should being faithful be explained “sex that is open to human life” be added?
    just asking.
    I live in metro detroit… i will be looking forward to the conference. thank you Monsignor..

    1. open to life is only relevant for a small amount of a married couple’s life. If average age at first marriage is 26 for women and menopause is typically at 44, we’re only talking 18 years. Per CARA, the average age of teen and adult parishioners in the pews (including those ages 14 and older) is 52.

      1. No, open to life is relevant for the whole of married life. Each and every marital act is to remain open to life. Granted this affects some more than others, but a post menopausal couple still cannot engage in acts which would prevent conception if fertility were still existent.

  5. I see a distinction in item #4. In this a student has indicated he supports a political stance that the Church doesn’t support, but it’s only a political stance. Surely Catholics are going to disagree on political matters. And civil marriage is purely a political matter. He has not personally sinned or joined a sinful lifestyle himself. He may be supporting same sex civil marriage for reasons unrelated to his Christian beliefs. Maybe he feels it’s simply a pragmatic way for everyone to get along in a pluralistic society. There was a case in MN of a lad who was denied confirmation, in his case he didn’t even state he supported SSM, he simply did not want to amend his state’s constitution to deny it. In that case, he could be making a pragmatic decision that Constitutions shouldn’t be cluttered up with legislation and instead should outline only how a government should be set up. Should those kinds of purely political matters have anything to do with the Church in a non-throne and altar system?

    I think most people would actually prefer private baptisms, so if you make it available to the hard cases, I’d suggest you make it available to everyone. You might discover most people would prefer it to be a private family affair.

    1. Civil marriage is not a purely political matter.

      Not everybody prefers private baptisms

      I am not an explorer, so “actually discovering” things is not in my job discretion. If you’re implying I am clueless, I deny the charge

      1. I didn’t mean any insult. I simply know from experience of hearing relatives complain that they would have preferred a private ceremony to having to have it at Sunday mass with everyone else. My own nephew and niece were tickled pink when the priest suggested their 2 children (the older was sick at birth and they had been heavily involved in his health care and hadn’t baptized either one until the younger one was born) be baptized privately.

        Also by making private baptism an option for everyone, it would make private baptism less of an obvious matter of this is a hard case and more just an option that some are steered toward.

        I understand the impulse behind the public baptisms was that the Mass was the community of the Divine, but if that horizontal mode of worship is no longer the common currency of Catholic theology then why not return to private baptisms?

        1. @cermak_rd:
          Please consider that in parishes with only one or two priests and medium to large congregations, scheduling one Baptismal ceremony each month helps conserve the energy and workload of the priests. Exceptions take time and additional energy to process. Do you have any relatives in the priesthood? Do they seem busy to you?
          Praying for more young adults to answer the Lord’s call to priestly and religious vocations would also help.

          1. I do have relatives in the priesthood, and their notion of “busy” is highly skewed.

            They certainly aren’t working 80 hour weeks like some of my relatives in the corporate world. Neither do they seem anywhere near as busy as people I know who are lawyers, doctors, or teachers (I was stunned at how much work the last group brings home with them each night.)

            A mass every morning, an hour of confessions once a week, a few hours at the hospital each week, and a couple different committee meetings each week…is not even really a full-time job.

            Can they create more work for themselves? Sure, and some priests do tirelessly. But the minimum just isn’t that high, especially if they’re not a full Pastor.

    2. Cermak, if the student’s intention were the streamlining of the state constitution, I assume you can point to all the other laws he publicly did not support in this effort. Otherwise your conjecture is pointless.

      The current Confirmation programs involve a good deal of study and research. Students are supposed to make a thorough examination of conscience before they make the choice to be confirmed. Confirmation is not obligatory nor a requirement of any Catholic. Like marriage, the candidate enters the Sacrament voluntarily. To publicize a Pastors discussions with the candidate regarding deferral or delay of this sacrament is nothing but pride-laden public shaming, akin to a society that believes itself greater than God. Such an act would in fact corroborate the Pastors concerns.

  6. You are a good Msgr. I pray that you will become a Bishop some day!

  7. First, thanks for your excellent article.

    I have a question about some of your statements regarding baptism and co-habitating or same sex couples. Given that the child has a right to their mother and father, how should we approach situations where the child being presented for baptism has a mother and father (cohabitating)? Is asking of them something other than that the mother and father get married leave the potential for the child to not grow up with his or her parents?

    Also, for a same sex couple who has adopted, what you ask of the couple (which I do not disagree with) leaves the child in a bad (or worse) position. What additional ministry is needed for these, and maybe similar, situations for the children? Obviously we wouldn’t want to contradict Catholic teaching in terms of marriage, but the child issue seems to make it very thorny. Thank you!

  8. This is logically and eloquently expressed (as usual, by Msgr. Pope)

    None of it will survive the buzzsaw of unbelief or popular opinion (the same thing!!). I have attempted to explain the Catholic point of view when I have been challenged to do so, but the argument falls apart at the point of faith because most of those who support the alternate view (same sex marriage) have left faith behind. Some claim to be believers, but can they be and still support this position? I ask because I think the answer is “no”, but many disagree.

    It seems to me that our culture no longer accepts a Judeo-Christian underpinning of how things should be arranged. Without that, we have lost a common language that we can use to talk to each other about these difficult issues.

    1. Agree! Plus, the Catholic Church’s timidity on talking openly in church on these issues, “but in general the pulpits have been silent on the issue,” dug the ditch deeper.

  9. “It is difficult to imagine how they can avoid being sentenced to Hell if they fail to follow through on such a promise; I am very clear with them on this.”

    What a pastoral approach!

    When it comes down to it, the Church is failing to fully contemplate on the issue. It does not matter what pastoral approach there is because at the end of the day, the Church is saying that the homosexual individual is hell-bound in his innermost desires and person. The fact that persons have an established and lasting orientation to a member of the same sex — to love and share love with that person (and NOT just commit certain acts that the Church says are “intrinsically evil”) — should wake up the conservative members of the magisterium and theologians. Maybe we do not have this teaching quite right!

    1. Are you aware that Jesus warned of Hell on many occasions and that 22 of his 37 parables are warnings about hell and judgment and not being ready. Jesus was also “indignant” (i,e, very angry) that the little children were hindered from coming to him and warned that if we did not receive the kingdom of God like them we will not inherit it. BAd example is of course one way we hinder children and not raising them in the faith is another.

      Jesus also said that deep desires were the cause of many other sins and impurity: Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and render a man impure. (Mark 7:21) So much for your conviction that “innermost desires” cannot lead to commit serious sin. If any one needs to wake up from a moral slumber, I don’t think it is “conservative theologians” I will take 5000 years of biblical teaching any day over Patric’s concern that we “might not have this teaching quite right.” Also, that possibility of hell shocks you means I should encourage you to go and read the words of the real Jesus: http://blog.adw.org/2013/05/jesus-who-loves-you-warned-of-hell-a-catalogue-of-jesus-warning-texts/

      And that post contains only a few of the sayings and parables.

      1. Dear Msgr.,
        I am not saying anything about the existence of hell. I didn’t mean to question that. I understand that obeying God’s will is necessary to living a fulfilling life now and finding fulfillment in the life after. I mean to say that our Church seems to be taking for granted this teaching on homosexuality, without fully trying to listen to and understand the homosexual person and research and contemplate the issue of homosexuality as a real condition that affects real people. The suffering the teaching brings to many people should lead us as a Church to question whether we are really grasping the full truth on the issue; there is plenty of research out there that expresses a differing view of the biblical texts relating to homosexuality then what many (conservative) Christian groups say about it.

        1. I don’t know if you realize, but I wasn’t even talking about a homosexual person or couple in the line you quoted. Hence my presumption of your difficulty with the reference to Hell. Also your implications that any such reference was unpastoral. I am not so sure what say homosexuality is “real” and affected “real people” has to do with anything. Finally this is a blog, not a parish and I don’t suspect you can know how I deal with people personally and do not appreciate your implication that I do not deal with them well. I get along reasonably well with folks and am not known to be a grouch or whatever you want to think. I think the real problem is that you do not agree with the biblical or Church teaching on homosexuality and have allowed what you call research and “differing views” to deceive you. Your use of the word conservative is also unhelpful. Read the Catechism this is about correct doctrine not liberal vs conservative.

          1. I was not commenting on your pastoral approach. I am sorry if you thought that. I would never want to attack you in that way; I am sure you do a fine job with the people who do approach you for help.

            But yes, I do disagree with current magisterial teaching and do not think the biblical teaching is condemning homosexual relationships as expressed today. The biblical writers were not writing in a context aware of homosexual tendency as a particular orientation. Rather, all of the passages, as I am sure you know, refer to certain and specific actions in their own contexts.

          2. You have been deceived. The biblical texts could not be clearer and more consistent down through every age they were written, in every stage of salvation history on this matter. I am not going to reopen this debate here. I have done it plenty and you or anyone can use the search bar to see what I have written.

            For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths 2 Tim 2:3-4

          3. Father, thanks for that scripture reference. I’ve been searching scripture to try to find a better understanding of culture we live in, and this speaks so clearly on the matter.

          4. Patric says, “…I do disagree with current magisterial teaching…”. And there is the problem. Msgr. Pope teaches and acts on what the Church knows to be true with regard to homosexuality and same sex marriage. But when he encounters someone who has abandoned that teaching, then the conversation is over. There is no more basis for understanding. I’m repeating myself (see my 12:36 pm comment), but this interchange is a perfect example of the point I wanted to make. What is needed? I have three ideas: 1) Catechesis. Msgr. Pope and other parish priests are forced to go back to the beginning of things and explain how our faith works. 2) Faith. This provides the courage to abandon our own desires in favor of God’s will. 3) Love. Love of God strong enough to truly commit to a life of faith.

          5. Patric, who came first? God or man?

            You appear to not believe the Bible is infact the authentic Word of God and want the Church of that same God to bow down to man because we see things differently now.

            Sweetie, that line is probably as old as the Bible. We are the same silly humans we alway were, we just have more of these shenanigans in our face than ever before. Our grand “global” intelligence is really just another lie of the devil.

            God’s House, God’s rules. It really is that simple.

          6. Patric,

            One of the great blessings of belonging to a Church that has existed for 2000 years is being able to draw upon Her tremendous wealth of experience.
            This idea of same sex attraction and the acts associated with it are nothing new.
            There really is “nothing new under the sun”.
            Holy Mother Church has dealt with this before.
            The Homosexual Lifestyle is not the result of any modern day enlightenment.
            In fact, our Holy Father , Pope Francis, has referred to it as “anthropological regression”.
            He has also stated that the adoption of children by homosexual couples is child abuse.
            The model for us to follow is the Holy Family.

  10. Once fornication is accepted, the moral aspects of sexual activities are adrift.

  11. Should you decide to go ahead and baptize a same-sex couple’s adopted (or artificially conceived with one of either partner’s gametes) child, how would you register it in the book of baptisms?

    Someone hides the fact of being civilly “married” with a person of the same sex, he goes ahead with RCIA etc, and on the Easter vigil receives baptism. The sacrament is valid, ex opere operato, he has lied but the christening leaves him in a state of baptismal innocence. Convoluted but possible.

    If the mother of all synods goes ahead and in an edifying gesture of mercy, right on time for the holy year, allows the pious adulterers to communion (under certain validated circumstances), why such a fuss whether to baptize, keep in employment, etc.

  12. Thank you, Msgr. Pope. Brilliant as usual.

    However, even if this approach were consistently implemented, the homosexualists would not accept it. They will not be satisfied until homosexual conduct is “taken off the sin list” and they are allowed to marry in the Church. Which means, of course, that no amount of accomodation or outreach will ever satisfy them. This is the point that I fear many of our bishops fail to understand; they do not realize the existential nature of this threat and the unwillingness of the homosexualists to accept anything other than a complete capitulation. Even so, the biggest threat to the Church is not even from the outside – it is from the majority of Catholics who already reject the Church’s teaching and from the many homosexual bishops and priests who would like nothing more than to see the teaching changed. Soon, the statistics will be staggering. I predict that within 5 years or so, 80% of Catholics in the United States will be in favor of same-sex marriage and will believe that homosexual acts within “so-called” same-sex marriage are not sinful. We have to be realistic here.

    1. Thanks, I don’t think the extremists will accept it all. However, I do think there are many who are SSA who are not extreme. I certainly know them in the parishes where I have served and they are understanding of Church teaching and the limits and even if they fall short (as many heterosexuals also do) they know how to find a confessional. It is to such as these that we must assure them of our love and manifest an equanimity. RE the percentages, you may be right. But this is already the case with “women priest” and contraception and the Church takes a long view and tries to keep people in the conversation until the current madness is over, as I stated in the article yesterday. I DO think that those who publicly dissent (especially on abortion) to the degree that they can mislead others, should face sterner warnings and that we need to teach more clearly on worthy communion, but there is also something to be said for holding the teaching and waiting either for the culture to mend or go away. And the Church has seen both. I would also be far more vocal than many bishops are today and teach with clarity since silence is equated with assent

  13. One problem here is that you’re still using the “sinning vs living-in-sin” double-standard.

    No one lives “in conformity with catholic teaching” because everyone is a sinner.

    Taking certain “lifestyles” (always defined relationally/sexually) and defining them as stigmatized as if they are the practical embodiment of heresy or something like that…is not accurate, and not consistent.

    I know plenty of people in irregular situations who wouldn’t claim to be any sort of example, who don’t necessarily dissent or see their irregular situation as objectively moral, who are just human beings trying to wrestle with human weakness and balance seemingly competing goods as best they can.

    And I know plenty of people who could be accused of “living in sin” for a million other subtle reasons. Sure, maybe they’re not in a semi-permanent relationship in which illicit sex acts happen on occasion, but there are a thousand ways in which they are in semi-permanent occasions of sin (it’s not up to us to say how remote or immediate) about a hundred other sins. People who don’t cut off the friends they gossip or get drunk with, who don’t quit the job that implicates them in greed and exploitation, don’t throw out the TV which is their temple of sloth and vain curiosity.

    The double standard is real, Msgr, and people know it and react badly.

      1. Well, I walked by the St Patrick’s a Day parade a few weeks ago, but I guess you’re right: there was nothing subtle about the sin (involving alcohol mainly) I saw there.

    1. We live in conformity with the Gospel if we acknowledge our sins, seek penance and forgiveness and strive by God’s Grace to avoid sin. Where is the double standard and who approves of sin in others? Perhaps it is because I am simple that I don’t understand some of your terms. But Sacred Scripture teaches us certain ‘lifestyles’ are gravely disordered and that habitual sin leads to greater darkness. Think of the idoidolatry, e.g. 1 Kings 18 or Romans 1. Our Lord doesn’t want to leave us in darkness. He is always calling to us, waiting. God is the good, there should be no competition.

    2. First, such lifestyles are not always defined sexually. See Pope Francis’ remarks on organized crime.

      Second, and more importantly, there is no double standard here. Its a question of repentance.

      The crime boss who goes to confession while fully intending to continue his crime has not repented and is in a state of sin, but the criminal who truly does repent but finds himself tempted to steal and gives in has fallen – but has fallen once with that action, and so long as his intent to reform holds, he has sinned but is not living in sin, to use your words.

      The drunkard who confesses drunkenness while fully intending to continue to regularly get drunk has not repented, but the alcoholic who has repented, intends to fight it, and fails and then gets drunk, even repeatedly, has sinned and may very well end up living a life marked by many sins (though perhaps his addiction mitigates some of his guilt) but is not living in sin, as you would say.

      The adulterer/fornicator who continually lives with someone they call their spouse but are not married to and fully intends to continue having relations has not repented. By their perpetual state of intending to continue doing wrong, they are in a state of sin. But the person who is trying to live as brother and sister with the other parent of their child who they cannot marry, and occasionally falls to temptation and has relations – this person has sinned, but as above, so long as they do not fall into the state of intended to continue in sin, it is only a single sin, which he can confess and move.

      Of course, states of sin can be confessed as well, but they have to stop first. What you call living in sin isn’t about doing a sin a lot of times in a row. That’s bad, but that’s not a perpetual state of sin. Living in sin is giving in to sin (or in some cases, embracing sin) and saying, with words or deeds (where deeds are not instances of the sin, but in this case a refusal to resolve to stop) that the sinning is ok, or at least not something that we will fight and stop.

      So even with your example of the invalidly “married” couple who realizes that having relations with each other is objectively immoral. Realizing the morality is a good first step, but so long as they do not at least resolve to act on this knowledge and try to live morally (even if their efforts do not succeed) they have not repented their actions, since contrition requires “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (CCC 1451).

  14. Very good piece, Msgr. Just curious as to what the solution would be in scenarios 2 and 3 if it is later discovered that the individuals (whether or not homosexual) did not abide by the norm (in scenario 2) or their statement (in scenario 3). Would the consequence be removal from employment (scenario 2) or removal of the child (scenario 3) from school?

  15. Why do you include single mothers? How did they become single mothers? widows, victims of divorce, choosing life for unplanned pregnancy outside of marriage? To see a single mother and not know her situation is judgmental. It is better to embrace them, then shame them into having abortions. I don’t believe many women chose to be single mothers.

  16. Concerning scenario #1 I generally agrre; but there are few fine points that need to be clarified.
    Nonetheless, under NO circumstance can a same-sex couple (living as partners in a union where same-sex sex acts are accepted, condoned, promoted, advertised, celebrated, embraced, or practiced), be accepted or acknowledged as a couple presenting an Infant for the Sacrament of Baptism.
    Under no pretext of Mercy or Compassion must these abominable relationships be condoned, and used to defile God’s holy Parish Churches.A single parent suffering from same-sex attraction (SSA), but who accepts Church teachings on Sodomy, can present an infant for baptism; provided, as usual, that faithful Catholics are presented as Sponsors and Godparents.
    However, NO same-sex couple, either in a civil union or in a government-recognized marriage, should be allowed to present, as a couple, an infant for the sacrament of Infant Baptism.
    Such a scenario must be rejected at all times and in all places; until the abominable family situation is appropriately rectified. [e.g the civil union terminated]
    Condemnably, such occasions [Infant baptism presented by people practicing same-sex acts] are often instances of lewd homosexual acts, and sources of scandals among the ordinary faithful, and starting points of corruption of the morals of the Youth.
    Couples practicing same-sex sex acts are, certainly, one irregular family situation gone too far; indeed gone over the precipice.
    Read more: http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/10/15/category-archive-message-board-144-letter-to-shepherds-1/

    1. Please state your canonical grounds using current canon law. The canon which speaks of a well founded hope that the child will be raised in the faith is a prudential matter, hence a case by case basis. Hence I question your absolute and categorical language here and do not think even rather particular canon lawyers would be as absolute as you. So, canon law citations please and they must be airtight since your refusal is airtight.

      1. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2X.HTM
        Really Fr, the sin of Sodomy is an abomination which is incomparable to such sins as cohabitation, prostitution, even incest. I think that is fairly clear from Sacred Scriptures and the Church Fathers and Church Doctors.
        In short the sin of Sodomy must not be tolerated not even slightly in the Holy Church of Christ, no matter what the secularists say..

  17. What a storm of confusion we see in the world today.
    When did sexual orientation become an identity for Catholics?
    It is well established that homosexuality is a disordered attraction, is it not?
    It may be a terrible imperfection to suffer sometimes, but many human imperfections cause terrible suffering.
    Mental illness is one terrible suffering that comes to mind.

    What about other sufferings caused by sin or imperfections?
    Are you full of pride? Are you not able to fully serve Jesus Christ and his Church?
    If you are wrathful and commit murder then you will probably go to jail.
    If you are lustful and commit adultery then you could lose your marriage or worse.
    How about depression, do you suffer severe depression to the point of suicidal thoughts?
    Can you not control your gluttony? Do you always want more from God? Are you not thankful for the good you have?
    Can you not control your envy? Do you have an envy so strong that you cannot control the feeling of sorrow from the good of others?
    Do you suffer from sloth? Are you spiritually week because of it? Do you ask God for his will, his good stuff?

    The world says, “Come, taste, eat. These things won’t hurt you!” Sound familiar?

    Our Lord said that we should pick up our cross and follow him–sins and everything else.
    He also said that if we do not pick up our cross and follow him then we are not worth of him.
    How do we heal ourselves from pride, lust, greed, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony and all the other sins and imperfections that flow from these?
    Frequent the sacraments, especially confession and Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
    Pray, pray, pray then pray some more.
    Take heart, be joyful. Follow Jesus Christ.
    Not sure where you can find him? Ask his mother.

  18. An editorial comment: I wasn’t sure what you were trying to convey when you mentioned “equanimity”, as you did several times in the article. That the Church is cool-headed in its approach to these matters, and is not singling out those with SSA out of some animus towards them? It struck me while reading, so I thought others might also be wondering about it…

    In any case, thank you for these insightful observations!

  19. The lesbian couple situation strikes home for me. I teach at a Catholic girls’ school and we have and have had several girls with “two mommies.” My sister pointed out to me the cruelty of this. The girls know they have a different home life and they are in contact every single day with a Church that is never going to change her mind about the meaning of homosexual activity. The child is thus in conflict every single day between her love for her “mothers” and what she hears in school. If the parents aren’t going to amend their lives and if the child is still going to live in a gay or lesbian home that celebrates that, it’s also not right for Catholic schools to accept such children and subject them to that kind of constant cognitive and emotional dissonance. This really should be pointed out to the prospective parents. Just another angle on the problem, for what it’s worth.

  20. I think this is an outstanding piece, Msgr. Pope. The perception that heterosexual sins and lusts are only “merely bad,” while homosexual desires and behavior are “really most sincerely bad,” is deeply destructive. Our society is collapsing from heterosexual sin – beginning with contraception. The current prominence of homosexuality is a very late trailing indicator, and it can be successfully addressed by the Church only, as you say, by teaching chastity as “a standard that binds and blesses us all.” That is a powerful and positive phrase!

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