It is hard to not notice that June is now considered “Pride Month,” which in popular culture translates to a month long celebration of all that is LGBTQIA+. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual, and Gender Fluid/Pansexual/Two Spirit).
It is also hard to not notice the sometimes heavy criticism leveled at the Catholic Church over this issue. However, what can be truly difficult, is wading though the fact versus fiction when it comes to what the Catholic Church teaches (and doesn’t teach) regarding homosexuality, homosexual behavior, and gender confusion. Here we attempt to confront some of the bigger fictions and if you keep reading, we will present to you the facts of what the Church has to say about all things LGBTQIA+
Fiction: “God hates gays”
Fact: God loves ALL of His children
We need to get this one out of the way first and foremost. It is absolutely, patently false, without even a grain of truth in it. God loves each and every one of His children. He loves His creation. There is nothing we can do to make Him STOP loving us, or make Him love us less. Yes, we can cut ourselves off from His grace, but we can NEVER cut ourselves off from His love. God loves each and every person regardless of the sexuality or gender they are proclaiming. He. Loves. You. Period.
But what is love, exactly? Keep reading…
Fiction: The Catholic Church says that homosexuals are disordered
Fact: The Catechism states that homosexual ACTS are disordered, not people
This can be confusing for some. Especially if one isn’t used to differentiating between who a person is and what a person does. To help us in our discussion, lets go directly to the Catechism and see what it says specifically about homosexuality:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.CCC 2357-2359
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
So what does this mean? It means that those who struggle with SSA, gender dysphoria, or find themselves identifying with one of the many letters in the LGBTQIA acronym are no different than any one else in the body of Christ. They are called to live a chaste life, and to grow in virtue. Just like every one who is striving for Heaven.
The Church doesn’t single out homosexuals by calling homosexual acts “disordered.” Rather she is speaking quite clearly about an act that is not ordered to how God created humanity. God is a God of order. His natural law and His created order are meant to work together in a way that points us towards Him. When something is disordered, it means it is contrary to how God intended things to work. A desire to eat so much chocolate cake that one passes out, lusting after person, drinking to excess, bodily mutilation (such as destroying or altering one’s healthy and functional sexual organs), wantonly destroying God’s creation for no reason – they are all examples of disordered activity and they will all lead away from God, not to Him and His truth.
Fiction: Members of the LGBTQIA+ Community are not welcome in the Catholic Church
Fact: ALL are welcome in the Catholic Church
The word “Catholic” means “universal.” We are truly the one and only “inclusive” church! This particular fiction is deceptive. It tries to paint the Catholic Church as hostile or against certain people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The church is always “for” people. All people. The goal of the Church is to be the bulwark, the guide, to Heaven, and the guardian and proclaimer of the deposit of the faith. What the Church IS against is sin. Yet, even the greatest of sinners is welcome in the Church! It is because we are all sinners that we have access to the amazing sacrament of confession! It may sound cliche, but the Catholic Church is a “hospital for sinners!” Who among us is without sin? We all need the Church and we are ALL welcome! The fiction often comes into play when the Church declares that sin (all sin) is intolerable. The Church does not tolerate an openly gay lifestyle because she understands that it is a sinful lifestyle. This teaching doesn’t mean the Church “hates gays” any more than the Church’s teaching on the seventh commandment (Thou shalt not steal) makes her “hate thieves.” The Church doesn’t hate any person! The Church hates the sin itself, and loves the sinner!
Fiction: Gay marriage isn’t allowed in the Catholic Church
Fact: Gay marriage is impossible
This can be really hard to understand. I mean, “love is love”, right? Actually, no (See the next fiction for more). The Catholic Church deals in reality. Spiritual reality AND temporal reality. The Church isn’t just all philosophy, polyphony, and chant. The Church is about the nitty, gritty grind of daily life and the natural law of the created order. As such, the Church is very concerned about the reality of daily life on earth. (After all, it’s the daily grind and how we navigate it that will ultimately get us to Heaven!) When dealing with reality, the Church makes some very important observations and declarations. One of these is regarding marriage. You see, the Church understands that marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman. Why? Because that is how the created order works. It is a law of nature. It is only men and woman who are made to fit together in the way that allows them to mirror the love of the Trinity and possibly create another human being. That is a reality! A biological, earthly, ordered reality! But it is also even more than that: marriage is a sacrament. That means that it happens in HEAVEN as a heavenly reality as it happens in earth. This is a big deal. So the Church is going to be outspoken and protective of this spiritual and temporal reality!
Gay marriage is not a reality. It literally CAN’T happen. There are actually four requirements for a marriage to be considered valid (read: real) by the Catholic Church: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the canonical form, i.e., in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized church minister. A homosexual union cannot ever be open to life or the possibility of creating children according to the biological, natural order. Therefore, it is not possible. This isn’t a case of the Church being against anything! It is a case of the Church stating simply and honestly what is and isn’t possible according to God’s own laws!
Fiction: Love is love
Fact: God is love, love is a choice, and the highest form is charity
“Love is love” is a popular mantra. After all, who wants to deny someone the right to love? It is often used as the excuse for any number of irregular or disordered relationships. It is a sneaky fiction because we all intuitively know that love is good. But what actually is love? If we reduce love to a feeling, which is what the “love is love” proponents champion, we are in for a very rude awakening. Our problem isn’t necessarily with love itself, it is with the actual definition of love. The Church understands that love is so much more than a feeling, in fact, it understands that true love, the kind of love that is required for marriage, family, and the building up of society, isn’t a feeling at all.
First and foremost, God is love. This is a pretty big deal, especially since we are called to love like God. Thankfully, the Greeks broke it down for us a bit more and explained not only 4 different types of love, but the hierarchy of love as well. Love as a feeling, which the Greek philosophers called eros, is actually the lower form of love. The highest form of love, agape love, which is akin to the virtue of charity, is the highest form of love, and it is absolutely not a feeling. It is a choice. A choice to love another, by an act of the will, for the greater love of God. And what does it mean to love another? In the truest sense, according to the Catholic Church, it means to desire the good of the “other.” And what is the greatest good for the other? Heaven. The highest form of love is not selfish. It is all about loving others, because God first loved us and commanded us to love others. It has nothing to do with how we feel, although feelings, when they match our will, sure do make it easier. Too often though, our feelings won’t match what our will should choose. This is because we are humans, and Adam and Eve ate that darn apple.
The theological term for the discord between our will, our feelings, and our base, bodily desires is concupiscence. Sadly we too easily fall into concupiscence and mistake our feelings for the greatest good. Our feelings are so easily influenced and can change so suddenly, that the church takes special care to try to explain to us that real and true love cannot be about feelings. This important (and soul saving) truth has been misinterpreted and misrepresented as a hatred of love, and a hatred of lifestyles that if lived and not repented of, could deprive people of heaven – the greatest good! This is the exact opposite of what the Church is proclaiming! Love, true, Christian, agape love (charity), is a choice made by the will that in action says, “I want you to get to Heaven, even if it is uncomfortable for me!”
Fiction: It is us (Catholics) vs. them (LGBTQIA+)
Fact: We are all in this together
So often it seems that the discussion about same sex attraction, living the gay lifestyle, transgenderism, etc is about an “us” versus “them” mentality. The reality is that it is not about “us” (the Church) versus anyone! The church is against sin and evil. Never, ever against people! Some in the LGBTQIA+ movement have bought into this fiction. For a variety of reasons they have come to define their entire worth as a person in terms of their sexual preferences and struggles. And because of some very real instances of hate that has been geared towards them, feel as though they are “against” the world, “against” Christians, or “against” Catholics. The reason the church is so misunderstood in this regard is because she doesn’t define people by sexual identity or preference or as a letter in an every growing acronym. The Church is all about loving the whole person and only ever categorizes someone as Christ taught us – as part of His Body, a son or daughter of God, created in His image. So the Chruch isn’t “against” anyone! When it comes to the issue of being gay, trans, bi, questioning, fluid, etc, the Church doesn’t differentiate. Because to the Catholic church it is only about “us.” ALL of us. All of us sinners, with different crosses, different struggles, different thorns in our sides that will ultimately be our road to sanctification!
Perhaps the best explanation of this “all of us together” understanding of this issue comes from Fr. Mike Schmitz. You can watch and listen by clicking here.
In the meantime, as this confusing month of June, “Pride Month,” continues and concludes, you can be confident in your faith and in your church. The Catholic Church loves each and every person and invites everyone to come and accept the love, the forgiveness, the mercy, and the redemption of Christ.