Part III – How do I fit into the church if I’m gay?
In the first section, we dealt with the question – is it a sin to be gay? – and the answer I established is – no, it is not. The second section dealt with the question of gay marriage – that it is not permissible, in fact, when we understand the definition of marriage, gay marriage doesn’t even make sense.
Just a point of clarification on this - all this about marriage is because, as mentioned in the last FAQ, the government is not qualified to call ANYONE married. On the other hand, from a moral perspective, there should be NO obstacle keeping two consenting adults from calling anyone they want their 'next of kin,' in regard to hospital visitation rights, power of attorney, and so on, and to establish a legal contract ratifying as such. And there's no obstacle preventing the government from introducing legislation making such a contractual relationship possible. Just don't call it marriage. Marriage is something else.
AND, it must be completely clear that hatred or discrimination to homosexuals will ALWAYS be morally reprehensible. The Church SUPPORTS THE RIGHTS OF GAY PEOPLE not to be victims of violence or hatred on account of their sexual orientation.
So what’s left for the homosexual? How do homosexuals BE THEMSELVES, and integrate their sexuality into their personality WITHOUT being able to have a sexual relationship?
Answer – well, I don’t have an answer, not a perfect one anyway.
This is an issue that the Vatican itself has attempted to deal with, in a document called, “LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS,” authored by the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. To read it, click HERE.
The Canadian Bishops also put out a letter called "Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction." Link HERE.
Now first off, I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the language of this letter, particular its repeated reference to homosexuality as a “disordered state.” This terms doesn’t translate well from Latin – and doesn’t mean exactly what we think it means in English.
On the other hand, I don’t know ANYONE that isn’t “disordered” in one way or another.
I’m also not crazy about how often the document repeats the same things over and over again, mainly, what homosexuals are not allowed to do. It doesn’t say a lot about what they ARE allowed to do.
Basically, the document leaves celibacy as the only life suitable to homosexual persons – that homosexuals HAVE to live as celibates. The only problem is, in other documents and church teachings, the church clearly states that celibacy is a SPECIAL calling, to which very few are called. Seems like a bit of a contradiction. I guess this is something that we as a church have to keep working on.
Right here in the Archdiocese of Edmonton there are support groups, intended for homosexuals struggling to find a place for themselves in the church – the group is called COURAGE – to learn more, click HERE – I don’t know much about them, I have to admit – but I’d be leary of any group that treats homosexuality like alcoholism, as a disease that one has to learn to live with and to overcome. Such a practice walks a fine line between integrating sexuality and suppressing it – one has to be very careful not to cross that line. Hopefully, COURAGE doesn't do that.
The bottom line however is that what people need, ALL people, including homosexuals, is INTIMACY. Sometimes we confuse our need for intimacy with our need for a sexual relationship, our need for ORGASM, which isn’t really a human NEED at all – it’s just a WANT. And this is a cultural problem – in our culture, we are often taught that the way - the ONLY way - to have ANY intimacy is in a sexual relationship – and that just isn’t true. Meanwhile, non-sexual expressions of intimacy are discouraged, often regarded as signs of weakness.
What I’ve discovered in my own struggle to live as a celibate Priest is – if we can find ways to address our need for intimacy without sex, then the desire for sex decreases substantially.
Of course, even then, such a life is not a easy one – in fact, it’s a sacrifice – but all people, homosexuals and heterosexuals, need to understand that even our own sexuality isn’t supposed to be about “how to find personal happiness for OURSELVES.” Our sexual expression is supposed to be about “how to serve God and serve others.” Sometimes it means sexual intimacy; sometimes it means celibacy. Either is a tough life – but it’s like the life that Jesus himself lived – it can be one way that we experience our own cross – this is one thing about the above document that I liked.
Still, I admit, this isn’t a perfect answer. In fact, I’m not sure there is a perfect answer. I think we as a church have to stay open to the Spirit on this one, and work together to find the truth. Some members of our family are gay, with the same right to love and intimacy that we all have.