Advise and Dissent
Be creative in the ways we show
generosity and welcome
I appreciate Rev. Danielson's attempt to make light of the confusing messages regarding the Church's pastoral overtures toward gay men and women. As a practicing Catholic who is also gay and committed to living chastely, I feel an obligation to address some of the points he raises which may have unfortunately confused the matter even more.
Father Danielson asserts that being someone born homosexual does not make one bad. I agree. He continues to say that it is not a mental aberration. While it is true that many of us grew up in stable environments, equally loved by both parents, many of us share similar stories of complicated upbringings where we experienced isolation, feeling like we couldn't fit in, or suffered from the lasting effects of strained relationships with one or both parents, exacerbating in us the desire to seek in someone else of the same gender something that we couldn't quite have or be.
Although calling homosexuality a mental aberration is very strong, I would like to offer that the experience of homosexuality, whether late or early in life, is not an easy one and is one that profoundly affects the human person. The catechism is correct when it says that the homosexual person "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."
Professionals debate the "whys" of the psychological and biological beginnings of homosexuality. As Catholic Christians, we believe God created male and female. The Old Testament is unequivocal about it. Except for some very rare cases, the biology of the human body is clearly distinct between the sexes.
On the other hand, how the emotional expression of one gender or the other evolves is the product of many things. What tips a woman or man toward homosexuality, I would like to suggest, is a mystery, a mystery that fits within the story of the fallen creation.
Would God, who is all knowing and who made all things good, alter what He created? In the light of original sin, does homosexuality then not stand, to the same degree as many other things, against the "order of creation?" Is it allowed by God as a path back to holiness and perfected unity with the Creator?
Why not? Homosexuality is a mystery that also fits within the story of God's salvation. The homosexual man and woman, because of the particular dissonant experience of our journeys on this earth, are particularly called to holiness and to experience the mystery of the Risen Christ.
What does this mean in terms of pastoral care? Father Danielson says "all forms of discrimination, abuse, disrespect, prejudice, hatred etc." toward gay men and women must never be condoned. And "those who have a homosexual orientation are welcome to be members of the Christian community." He could not be more correct.
A community can be a powerful vehicle to allow a transformative process in a person to take place. As God's faithful, we have an obligation to be just that toward one another, whether we express it in the sincerity of our outward behavior or genuine heartfelt prayers. The Holy Father himself is calling us to be creative in the ways that we show welcome especially toward those among us who need it most.
On the flip side, for a transformation to happen, the person needs be open and have the desire to receive the gifts such an invitation is calling to discover.
Father Danielson admits all people are called to be "chaste." Yet, he then writes further down that "we cannot judge the stable relationships of homosexual couples, whether those relationships are called partnerships or marriage by our civil laws and our society."
Does Father Danielson imply that such relationships should be presumed chaste and, therefore, are justifiable in good conscience?
With his "Who am I to judge," Pope Francis asserted in a fundamental way that a gay person, when faithful to Christ, is called to a life of holiness. However, according to Father Danielson, I could shortchange my calling to something greater by virtue of an accommodated conscience simply because I am "different," and allow myself to live in a union the Church could never condone. If true, it would be a grave injustice to people like myself who are just as capable of greater things by God's grace.
Father Danielson says "the Church believes that marriage between a man and a woman is the best environment to raise" a child. However, he also says that "while the Church's teaching is generally correct, it does not work out that way in many instances." Bad examples cannot be made exceptions to imply that Church teaching is wrong or used as an excuse to justify why children could be raised without the full benefit of a mother and father.
There is no question that men and woman who are gay are capable of "self-sacrificing love." There are millions of us, successful men and women, joyfully living a life of chastity, who are entrusted with the spiritual care and development of children as godparents, uncles and aunts. However, for us, marriage is never a panacea for the deeper longing that many of us may experience for a greater sense of purpose, connection and love.
Children deserve a father and mother. However imperfect the environment they grow up in, parents are bound by duty and faith to raise children to the fullest of their potential as the children that God is calling them to be. To muddy the waters by condoning same-sex unions in which children are raised is an injustice to future generations.
("Michael" is a practicing Catholic of the Oakland diocese who is also gay and committed to a chaste life.)
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