Advise and Dissent
Which 'Supreme Court' ultimately matters?
Rev. Raymond Gawronski, SJ
Last summer's Supreme Court decision has reminded Catholics, once again, that we are not living in a Catholic culture. On issue after issue, the ruling elite of this culture have been rejecting that Christian morality which conquered the decadent Roman Empire and served as the backbone of what became Western civilization.
Rather than bemoaning yet another loss in the seemingly endless retreat in our culture wars, this is yet another invitation for Catholics to re-discover the truth and beauty of the Faith that underlies our civilization, and to re-enter that status the first Christians knew in the ancient world. A life-giving Mass.
Ancient Rome, like contemporary America, was awash with sex. Virginity, if an ideal for the Roman vestals, lies at the heart of Jesus' life and teaching. Miraculously born of a Virgin, the Master lived a single, chaste life; His great disciple Paul continued that manner of life, and urged it on Christians.
Though the Church did not prohibit marriage — indeed, it was heretical extremists who banned marriage — still St. Paul was under no illusions as to the difficulties of the married life. Sexual restraint within marriage is clearly indicated by St. Paul. The overarching goal is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: and in the words of Jesus:
"Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
The "little children" are to love one another. The ideal is the love of friendship, for the Master's last gift was to call those who followed Him "friends." Those to whom He gave those words were His male apostles.
What we would call same-sex friendship reaches far back into the Bible, where David found the love of Jonathan "greater than the love of woman" — and continues to John, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus.
The Bible acknowledges that there are temptations in the flesh that come to people, including temptations to sexual activity we would call "homosexual acts." From start to finish, the Bible condemns these in no uncertain terms, including those acts in the catalogue of behaviors that will keep one from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Christian is to wage war against "the world, the flesh and the devil." Part of that warfare is the taming of the flesh: by fasting and mortification, as did all the saints, most recently, St. John Paul.
The Bible knows nothing of "sexual orientation" — let along "sexual persons." We are judged on what we do with the desires of our hearts, many of which are quite wicked — for all of us — as Jeremiah teaches.
Heaven is the goal to keep in mind. The realities of Heaven and Hell continue, quite unaffected by any decision of any Supreme Court. And, as taught and witnessed by the Lord Jesus, our ultimate state depends on our relation to His Cross.
Do we accept His healing and forgiveness, His mercy, and, in His words "sin no more?" Do we "take up our crosses" and deny the unruly urgings of the flesh — or do we simply live like the world around us, and try to be extra "nice?"
Surely this way of resignation is one of a weary defeatism in the face of the enemies of the Christian soul and death for the Christian life. We are blessed to have the living example and help of Christ and His saints, our heavenly family — and, on this earthly journey, to have the sacrament of mercy, confession, and above all to have that share in the Body and Blood of Christ Crucified and Risen to strengthen us on our way, in which we must learn to love — as little children. Mercy Incarnate yet says: "Go and sin no more." May He strengthen us in this battle!
(Father Raymond Gawronski, SJ, is professor of theology and spiritual director at St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park.)
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