The Vatican has rightly stated that “exhaustive treatment” of the issue of homosexuality is “complex.” Because it is so complex, there appears to be a lot of confusion out there about the appropriate way to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality, even among faithful Catholics. One of these areas of confusion relates to what we are saying to the public about same-sex attraction being objectively disordered. I have a question for Catholic moms out there who are speaking publicly on this issue, especially the bloggers. What are you teaching your kids about same-sex attraction, and is that consistent with what you say in public about the issue in the context of our culture and public policy?
Mark Latkovic, Professor of Moral Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary, writes at Truth and Charity Forum a very good article offering an overview of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Unfortunately, as so many articles on this topic are these days, it is a “text book” presentation. As such, it is not likely to convince people who disagree with Catholics on this subject. It can be helpful to Catholic parents, though, who need clarity on this subject so that they can properly catechize their children. Catholic moms, how might you present the following, from Latkovic’s article, to your children? How, too, might you present it on your blog?
Official Catholic moral teaching holds that while the same-sex attraction or inclination is not in itself sinful, the inclination considered anthropologically is an “objective disorder.” By this expression, the Church does not mean that the person who calls himself or herself gay or lesbian is disordered, but that the homosexual orientation (whatever its origin) is so because it inclines one to engage in acts that can only be intrinsically immoral (and therefore harmful on many levels) for the one who performs them.
As a Catholic mom of three teenagers and a pre-teen, here is my very brief rendition of how a Catholic mom might present this to her teenager.
“The Church teaches us that it is always a sin to commit a homosexual act, and that would include any kind of physical contact that is sexual in nature, like touching with hands, or kissing. The Church also teaches us that it isn’t a sin to have desires like that, but that it is still not okay because those are temptations that can lead us into sin. Some people have those kinds of desires, especially when they are going through puberty and are just beginning to think about sex. The vast majority of people are naturally drawn to people of the opposite sex, but sometimes young people are confused about that. If your friends at school are telling you that it is okay to be attracted to someone of the same sex, they are wrong. It is not okay.”
In my experience with my own teenagers, I have noticed that it is difficult for them to understand the difference between something being a “sin” and something being “not okay.” Certainly, the distinction can be confusing for anyone, let alone a teenager. It occurs to me that confusion is spread when Catholics are out there presenting arguments in public that it is “okay” to have same-sex attraction but “not okay” to commit a homosexual act. Do you tell your kids at home that it is “okay” if they are attracted to someone of the same sex? If so, you’re leading them into temptation, not away from it. Read the “Our Father” and see, that’s not good parenting. Are you a Catholic mom of teenagers telling your kids one thing at home and telling the world something different on your blog? That, too, is bad.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Our duty is to speak with clarity on this issue. Unfortunately, when we are discussing matters that are complex even for the Catholic faithful who may be well-studied on Catholic teaching regarding human sexuality, it is difficult to speak out in a way that can be understood by all people, no matter where they are on the spectrum of understanding. Often, you may believe you are being “pastoral” to one person, or a small group of persons, who have a certain understanding of things by denying certain realities that we know are true from our Catholic Faith, but by denying those realities you are not being pastoral to others as you lead them down the path to hell with your failure to speak the truth. For this latter reality, make no mistake, we answer to God. He will judge our intent, to be sure, but don’t forget that even if our intent is good, there are still consequences that influence how long we may be spending in Purgatory.
Everything that I have written above is a reflection of self-examination. It is not easy to sit here and blog about this issue, being a Catholic mom whose kids sometimes read her blog while, at the same time, being something of a missionary in the Catholic blogosphere. Every time I write on this topic, I pray that the Lord will keep me solidly within His will. I fear offending the Lord. I cannot fear offending you. At the same time, my fear of offending the Lord includes an awareness that I will be held accountable on The Day for whether I led people to Him or away from Him in the things that I write. I pray that all of us who write on these issues are looking at it from that perspective.
Photo: High School Youth Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, FranciscanUniversity on Flickr.