The National Catholic Review

Here's a real pastoral question to consider: What place is there for the gay person in the Catholic church?  With the warning from the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., that it would pull out of social services in the city rather than accede to a bill that would afford benefits to same-sex spouses, a question, too long neglected, arises for the whole church: What is a gay Catholic supposed to do in life?

Imagine you are a devout Catholic who is also gay.  Here is a list of the things that you are not to do, according to the teaching of the church.  (Remember that most other Catholics can choose among many of these options.)  None of this should be new or in any way surprising.  If you are gay, you cannot:

1.) Enjoy romantic love.  At least not the kind of fulfilling love that most people, from their earliest adolescence, anticipate, dream about, hope for, plan about, talk about and pray for.  In other cases, celibacy (that is, a lifelong abstinence from sex) is seen as a gift, a calling or a charism in a person's life.  Thus, it is not to be enjoined on a person.  ("Celibacy is not a matter of compulsion," said then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)  Yet it is enjoined on you.  ("Homosexual person are called to chastity," says the Catechism, meaning complete abstinence.)  In any event, you cannot enjoy any sort of romantic, physical or sexual relationship. 

2.) Marry.  The church has been clear, especially of late, in its opposition to same-sex unions.  Of course, you can not marry within the church.  Nor can you enter into any sort of civil, same-sex unions of any kind.   (Such unions are "pseudo-matrimonies," said the Holy Father, that stem from "expressions of an anarchic freedom")   They are beyond the pale.  This should be clear to any Catholic.  One bishop compared the possibility of gays marrying one another to people marrying animals

3.) Adopt a child.  Despite the church's warm approval of adoption, you cannot adopt a needy child.  You would do "violence," according to church teaching, to a child if you were to adopt.

4.) Enter a seminary.  If you accept the church's teaching on celibacy for gays, and feel a call to enter a seminary or religious order, you cannot--even if you desire the celibate life.  The church explicitly forbids men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" from entering the priesthood.  Nor can you hide your sexuality if you wish to enter a seminary.

5.) Work for the church and be open.  If you work for the church in any sort of official capacity it is close to impossible to be open about who your identity as a gay man or a lesbian.  A gay layman I know who serves an important role in a diocese (and even writes some of his bishop's statements on social justice) has a solid theological education and desires to serve the church, but finds it impossible to be open in the face of the bishop's repeated disparaging remarks about gays.  Some laypeople have been fired, or dismissed, for being open.  Like this altar server, who lives a chaste life.  Or this woman, who worked at a Catholic high school.  Or this choir director.

At the same time, if you are a devout Catholic who is attentive both to church teachings and the public pronouncements of church leaders, you will be reminded that you are "objectively disordered,"  and your sexuality is "a deviation, an irregularity a wound." 

Nothing above is surprising or controversial: all of the above are church teaching.  But taken together, they raise an important pastoral question for all of us: What kind of life remains for these brothers and sisters in Christ, those who wish to follow the teachings of the church?  Officially at least, the gay Catholic seems set up to lead a lonely, loveless, secretive life.  Is this what God desires for the gay person?  

James Martin, SJ 

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Paige Smyth | 10/31/2015 - 1:33pm

You'd think this was written by an Episcopalian minister. It's very clear Jim Martin, a Catholic priest, is against the Bible and Catholic doctrine. I do believe that makes him a heretic.

Mary O'Keefe | 4/23/2015 - 6:37pm

Dear Father James Martin, SJ:

Although your conclusion says: "Nothing above is surprising or controversial: all of the above are church teaching."

You then continue and ask:

"But taken together, they raise an important pastoral question for all of us: What kind of life remains for these brothers and sisters in Christ, those who wish to follow the teachings of the church?"

Well, honest to God, Father, it appears as if you answered your own question. Those who wish to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church should follow the teachings that you listed.

I take it that the point of your article is that you have problems with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Are you suggesting that the rest of us should not follow the teachings of the Catholic Church? In other articles you suggest "we," the "faithful," change our language to be more loving to "Gay" Catholics who feel hatred from the Church. Do you mean that telling the truth is hateful? Are you accusing the faithful Catholics of being hateful for following the teachings of the Catholic Church? Whatever it is you are trying to say, Father, is very confusing and chaotic to say the least. If we philosophically are looking for the Church to be the stalwart of truth in a world filled with lies and deceit, and to teach the way, the truth and the light of Christ with clarity, then listening to you would cause anyone pause.

How dare you accuse the faithful of not being loving because they are good Catholics. How dare you make a blanket judgment about all Catholics based on a flimsy accusation by a group of people who have no intention of following the teachings of the Catholic Church and find in you the accuser who will condemn the innocent--read Daniel Chapter 13 about Susanna's accusers.

Why do the gays say they "feel" hatred from the Catholic Church? Does their feeling of hatred come from the teachings of the Catholic Church or from the people who follow the teachings of the Catholic Church? If Catholics follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, then we are really caught between a rock and a hard place if we listen to you. You ask how can gays follow the teaching of the Catholic Church and then accuse those of us who do for being at fault for following those teachings.

I think that the definitions and connotations of words matter. The term "gay" connotes the embracing of the active homosexual sexual lifestyle and engaging in homosexual sexual activities. So, according to the language you use, active gays could not be leading a Christ centered life according to the Catholic Church teaching, so they cannot be Catholic. If you change the teaching of the Catholic Church, upon what basis are you changing the teachings? On what basis are you suggesting those teachings are now based? Are they based on lies? Are you telling us that sodomy should be institutionalized as on a par with the pro-creative union representing the two different created beings on the planet--man and woman? Are you suggesting that homosexuals, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transsexuals/transgendered/transsvestites, queer and questioning people do not perhaps suffer from some disordered belief? Heterosexuality is normal sexual human behavior. homosexuality is a deviation from the normal and is therefore abnormal. Is your position different from that position?

Father, these people need our love. They certainly don't need to be told and we certainly don't need to be told by a Catholic Jesuit Priest that they have no sin, no problem and that the teachings of the Catholic Church are what is the problem, not their indulging in sexual temptation.

Your reference number 4--Enter a Seminary. I thought that rule came as a result of the Catholic Church's engaging John Jay college of Criminal Justice to perform an objective investigation into the Priest child molestation scandal and the report revealed less than 2% of all priests were involved and that the bulk (about 96% or higher) of the molestations were homosexual in nature and were between Priests and teenage boys--that would classify those priests as pederasts--homosexuals seeking sexual satisfaction/gratification with teenage boys.So, Father, don't you think it is prudent to not allow homosexuals into the seminary when the seminary is filled with young men?

I think you're compassion is misplaced. Or, you're just not a loving Jesuit.

Paige Smyth | 10/31/2015 - 1:35pm

Loving someone is wanting eternal life for them. As a Catholic priest, if you tell a gay person that they are free to "live their lifestyle, you are damning them to hell. That is the opposite of love. This guy is scary.

David Kilmer | 7/28/2010 - 1:40pm
Hello and forgive me for my other two comments that I see were not approved this is good, I did the priest wrong by accusing him of something I had no right of accusing him. I was wrong-thought about it I was wrong.

But you must understand one thing. We gays hear it from all sides. We have society telling us what we should do and we have the Church telling us what we should do. I have lost gay friends because I believe in the teachings of the Church. I never preached to them telling them they should be chaste but because I refused to live my life as a gay man who constantly getting hook-ups I lost friends.

Us gay catholic must remain in the Church it is our hope, our love or eternal reward. All of society including the media, gay websites, gay blogs, anything at all that has to do with homosexuality tells us to leave the faith, or stay in the faith and live a life of sin. I come to this site and read what the Fr. Martin had said and he was no different than the hundreds of other websites. Only difference he is a priest, the others were gay websites.

I do think it is a terrible mistake and grave error what he is saying. We Catholics gay or not all have crosses we must bare. We try to give it to Christ and try to live the life Christ asked of us. Then a gay man like me come to a catholic site and reads what a catholic priest writes he is making the church out to be our accusers that christ is the accuser. And I don't feel this way at all. What good does it do when a younger homosexual catholic person come here and reads what the priest has wrote? It will only cause further harm to such a person

The priest Fr. Martin is wrong. He should be helping us, he is a man to help the souls of man-he is Christ priest. He should be helping us gays in a forum such as this to lead a life of prayer, life of confession, life of the Holy Eucharist. But he never mention this. This is what Christ is all about. This is Christ love to us. Not what society says we must do but what Christ ask of us.

I plead with the father to recant his article or post something that can give us gays real hope and love. We have it hard enough, but we refuse to be victims. We refuse to allow our homosexuality to rules us. We live for christ we do not live to only love self and others.

If a gay man must deny himself the pleasures of the flesh for eternal salvation than this is what we do.

On the day of my judgement I will stand before Our Lord and plead for mercy. Chances are I will be spending many years in purgatory for my sins, and not only the sins of sexual things, but of pride, lack of charity, lack of love. But in purgatory Gods love will cleanse me so I can enjoy in his eternal presense. Please Father Martin I beg you as a humble gay man to please a post that will help us in real matters of faith, charity and love. Homosexuals need to hear Gods love Father we desperately need it. So many gays leave the Church turn their eyes away from God and articles such as the one you posted does little good and help us homosexuals. Only causes more confusion.

Fr. Martin you will never understand what it means to be a homosexual unless you remove your shoes and put on our boots. We wear boots cause of all the crap that is piled to our knees, because the world tells us to deny our faith and that is a lot of crap.

God Bless you Father Martin.
David Kilmer | 7/28/2010 - 11:19am
Mr. Martin with all do respect I am not lonely, loveless, secret life. I am gay and I am devout catholic and i am chaste. I have never felt I did not have a place in the church cause I am gay. are priest who also chaste lonely? loveless? I think not. If we are gay we pray for God's help in fulfilling his wishes. you should not be encouraging us to sin. the church is perfectly clear on the matter and will never change. so we take up our cross and we give it to Our Lord. Our Lord carried His cross for us so we do the same. Your argument plays the part we homosexuals are victims of the Church. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are saying I have do have sodomy and be in a romantic relationship to be complete? Do you really think when I walk in my parish people say "Oh Christ here comes the homo!NO this is stupid.

Not once did I see you mention the words Jesus Christ, prayer, confession or the Eurcharist. You soley think we are gay this trumps these things? By your words you are a catholic progressive-otherwords you are not a devout catholic. You throwing things such as women priestesses which is a pagan idea by the way. and priestly celibacy and other stuff. What is wrong with you? has your brain overshadow your faith?

You should encourage homosexuals to have a better understand of Christ. A better understanding of Church teaching and things such as divine and natural law. You should encourage us to prayer and confession and to holy communion. But none of these things you mentioned. You are not of Christ. Shame on you!

Paige Smyth | 10/31/2015 - 1:36pm

God bless you. I believe homosexuality is THE hardest cross to bear and those who turn to God and live a chaste life, to me, get a much easier entrance to heaven

Anonymous | 12/15/2009 - 1:34pm
As a married man who has strayed from his marriage, engaged in homosexual activities, and has returned to fidelity in his marriage, I can tell you that what's left for our bretheren and sisters who wish to follow the teachings of the church: Follow the teachings of the church. Pray the ''Our Father,'' and focus on the words, ''lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil.''

Father Jim's later comment (#100) about love suggests that Father has watched too many Hollywood love stories. God commands us to love; He does not encourage us to fall into it. The kind of ''love'' that Father refers to as most desired by people - most notably sexual love - seem to me to be the kind of ''love'' that is most destructive. Rather than feel compassion for those who are deprived these kinds of ''love'' by the Church, perhaps it would be better to spend more time teaching about what true love is.
Devon Zenu | 11/17/2009 - 1:42am
I actually agree with much of what Brett, j.a.m, PAD and others have said here about sin and the Christian life. I agree that there is a strong current in modern culture that wants to deny the concept of sin and embrace relativism, particularly when it comes to the area of sexuality. I agree that we should resist this trend. I agree that there are times when what God calls us to is difficult and at first burdensome, and that these crosses we bear are often imposed on us rather than chosen.
My disgreement comes to the applicability of these concerns to the question of committed, lifelong, monogamous, homosexual relationships. Nearly all the comments admonishing us not to "embrace folly and sin as diversity or individuality rather than repudate it in the name of Truth and the reality of God's creation" (to quote Brett) have begged the question of whether such relationships are in fact sinful.
The catechism defines sin as "a failure in genuine love for God or neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods" (#1849). I have tried my best to offer clear arguments about why homosexual marriage ought to be allowed and tried to show how the traditional arguments against it fail to stand up to reason. I would invite those of you defending the current Church teaching on this topic to explain in what way such relationships embody a failure to genuinely love God or neighbor. To which goods are people in such relationships perversely attached?
I anticipate two major lines of response:
(1) That gay marriage is a failure to love God because it violates his will as expressed through Scripture and Tradition. >> I would respond by inviting you to examine some of the scholarship that Terrence Weldon and others have pointed out regarding both Scripture and Tradition on this matter. The case is not nearly as simply or straight forward as many defenders of the current Church teaching would have us believe.
(2) That gay marriage is a failure to genuinely love the other because genuine love is rooted in truth. >> This of course is predicated on the assumption that the truth is that homosexual relationships are intrinsically disordered and sinful. This once again is simply begging the question.
In Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates famously asks whether holiness is holy because it is commanded by the gods or whether the gods command it because it is holy. The Christian answer to this question has always been that God's commandments are not arbitrary; rather they are ordered towards what is best for us. God tells us not to do the things that disrupt the genuine love that should pervade our relationships with Him, our neighbor, or ourselves. He tells us not to do the things that hurt us or our relationships. Please tell me what is harmful or hurtful about committed sexual love between two people of the same sex? What harm (be it physical, emotional, or spiritual) is caused by such relationships?
I know that I for one at least will remain unpersuaded until I hear a convincing answer to this question. It is in many ways the crux of the argument, but it too often goes unaddressed in discussions such as these (which is why they often go nowhere). My suspicion is that defenders of the current Church teaching are reluctant to articulate a specific answer to this question because their answer will be challenged by the hard evidence of the experience of the many fruitful lifelong gay relationships that exist in the world. But perhaps my suspicions are wrong. I am open to thoghtful and prayerfully considering your reply.
Eric Stoltz | 11/17/2009 - 1:31am
My last comment on this post:
Anonymous | 11/17/2009 - 1:29am
I like your concise logic and style in these responses; in any case, have you read Rene Girard - "I see satan fall like lightening" or "Violence and the Sacred"? 
He is out of Stanford Univ and I think you would like his ideas - a bit of theological anthropology that has a facinating theory on culture/religion and the passion/atonement.
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/17/2009 - 1:06am
Eric, in deference to our host I'll refrain from reciprocating your pity, and just point out the fundamental contradiction of your post. You say both that "we are on a journey toward becoming who God means us to be" and also that "we accept who we are". Whether or not I am on a path "toward becoming who God means [me] to be" depends upon whether I exercise my God-given free will to turn away from sin and accept God's saving grace. I can't do that if I simply "accept who we are". (As expressed beautifully in that great spiritual film "Junebug" and perhaps elsewhere, God loves you the way you are, but too much to let you stay that way.) If we are seriously committed to "becoming who God means us to be," then we have a serious commitment to pursue a virtuous earthly life (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). If living a virtuous life is not a struggle for you, you are indeed blessed, because for most it is. Moreover, it is a very peculiar idea of "love" either of God or neighbor that does not involve "grit and determination," sacrifice and self-denial.
I love your line that sin "really just complicates our lives unnecessarily." It reminds me of a homilist (sadly, in a prominent Jesuit parish) who opined that the only real sin is that we're all just too darn busy. I'm not obsessed with sin. However, the vacuous bunnies-and-rainbows blather, and the endless mental contortions to legitimize sexual immorality, do not give God His due as our Creator, and do not bring us closer to becoming who He created us to be.
Anonymous | 11/17/2009 - 12:33am
Mark 8.34: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.  For what does it profit a man to fain the whole world and forfiet his life? For however is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he come in glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Anonymous | 11/17/2009 - 12:17am
Eric Stoltz: "I can't imagine how sad it must be for you to live a life where you stand in fear of a God who demands that you give up happiness so that you can get pie in the sky when you die."
Please, please tell me that you are not really a Catholic deacon...if you are, do you mind telling us where?
In any case, the true question here is philosphical/theological - what is happiness and how is it attained? What is sin and how is it avoided.
The problem with both sin and happiness is that we "moderns" have lost our "sight" or our ability to judge one from the other.  We, in effect, no longer can distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic - the reality from fantacy - and, as predicted, much of the time we now call evil good and good evil.
Happiness can be an illusion and much of the modern versions of happiness (i.e. autonomy, freedom, unlimited desire) are exactly that.  If you believe that are following your "true self" "as God made you" much of the time you are immitating ideology or social trends/conditions around you and you do not realize it.  As for "giving up sin," the nature of sin and Satan is such that we rationalize our actions and the majority of the time to do not even see that we are in fact in a state of sin.
Only by imitating the life and words of Christ - not our autonomous idea of self - are we able to SEE what is real and take steps to follow his path on earth.  However, this act of faith takes effort on our part too!  This means using our free will to decide which path through this fallen world will best lead us to the life of Christ.  And this is the main role of the Church - supporting our pilgrimage and helping us to RECOGNIZE and to atone for our sins along the way.
We are not living in a pre-lapsarian world; sin is real, evil is real  (recall the body count from last century?), and Satan, the father of lies, is more active than ever.
Christ has given victory and truth; however, there is one more victory to come and, until then, we need to fight to remain on the path that Christ prepared for us and to avoid the snares of the Devil. 
The world is fallen but God is great and the fight is not over...if you believe otherwise, you have been lied to.
Eric Stoltz | 11/16/2009 - 11:21pm
j.a.m., I must admit I have become sorry for you. I can't imagine how sad it must be for you to live a life where you stand in fear of a God who demands that you give up happiness so that you can get pie in the sky when you die.
You say that giving up sin is the cost of salvation. And yet Jesus came to set us free not just from sin, but also from fear, doubt and death. The freedom that Jesus offers us is what will make us truly ourselves, truly happy. If you like to quote popes, conceder what Benedict XVI said: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great."
You see, j.a.m., for some disciples of Jesus the whole idea of giving up sin as some sort of sacrifice is foreign to us. To us it is a joy to live the Gospel. It makes us more alive, it gives us purpose, it frees us from the slavery of the world. The disciple does not secretly desire sin, grimly  forgoing it so as to be "saved." Salvation is not achieved through one's own grit and determination; that's what we call Pelagianism. And we have a word for the worldview that sees life as a trial and a test, through which one passes only by giving up what he or she truly desires to do: Jansenism.
When we find who we are meant to be, we begin to become our true selves, as God has made us. This is why denial is not an option for the gay person. We are on a journey toward becoming who God means us to be, and along the way we learn that everything must be integrated into this primordial call of the Father, even our sexuality. We can no longer leave that out of the equation than we can the name he has given us from before the foundation of the world.
And so we are left with two ways of approaching life: the fearful, resentful way of life where we grudgingly give up sins we really want to do, and resent those who do not; or the way of the Gospel, where we accept who we are, hope in the love of God and seek to learn how sin is actually not as attractive as others make it out to be, and really just complicates our lives unnecessarily.
Part of the hopeful view of life is learning to think for ourselves and not being afraid of what we don't know. We are enlivened when we hear of others' life experiences, we are fascinated by science, we are engaged in society. That is a living faith. A dead faith closes off avenues of learning that do not fit our agenda, it clings to words and parses them, it seeks to set human experience in stone rather than flesh.
j.a.m., I do not accuse you of having adopted the harsh and stony view of human experience, but some of the things you say make me sad. I am concerned that you may perhaps look at life and the Gospel this way. And that makes me feel sorry for you. I am sad when you reduce the compassion of Jesus to "Patch Adams." How tragic for you, that divine compassion can be so easily ridiculed. Perhaps you are one of those who refer to others as "bleeding hearts. " And yet the Sacred Heart is a bleeding heart.
"I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full." That's not just after we die, but here on Earth as well. And if you live your life with resentment for all the "sinful" things you "gave up" for heaven, then that is a bleak life indeed.
Anonymous | 11/16/2009 - 11:19pm
Hello again, William -
I think are are misunderstanding each other on the term theraputic - I am speaking not of medical therapies for healing a particular disease but, of psychological therapy which focuses on a sense of personal well-being at any cost (usually deceiving oneself about the nature of reality via coping mechanisms).
Regarding your reference, Christ clearly states that He came to fulfill the (Jewish) law, not to break it - He saved the sinner but also told them to go and sin no more.
Of course the Church offers solace and healing to the sinner (and I include myself in this category) but, as j.a.m. states, this healing comes at a heavy price - a price that Jesus specifically spelled out in the gospels - there is nothing more trying for us "moderns" than the forsaking or destruction of self...
As a youngish, single celibate male who struggles everyday of the week with modern transcressive culture and then struggles socially as a single person going to Mass (filled with families or couples)  - I understand what it means to be on the outside looking in. 
We all have a cross to bear and, as a person who avoided/refused his cross until fairly recently, I can honestly say that sacrifice and dependence on God is 1000x more satisifying than smoother road of autonomy and self-affirmation (which usually leads to madness).
God bless and I will say a prayer for you.
Terence Weldon | 11/16/2009 - 11:10pm
Silly me - I thought that Chrst summed it up Himself in the idea of love!
However, sin can be found not only in individuals, but also in institutions.  Have you even considered that Christ's message here might be to remove the cross of sin from the institutional church itself?
And before replying that the church can do no evil, just take  a look at history.
(And, to answer your question "B" applies to Bisexual)
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 10:40pm
William, I'm sorry, but to formulate Jesus's "whole significance" as you do and to say nothing more — viz., "He went about healing the sick and doing good" — reduces our Saviour to a Galileean Patch Adams. The meaning of Jesus's healing ministry ultimately lies in liberation from sin and from the oppressions of the devil. His "whole significance" is incomprehensible apart from the cross and resurrection.
The Church's mission is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not the happy talk of therapy. Therapy has its place and yes, the Church must offer solace and refuge. But salvation is not therapy, and salvation comes at a cost, the laying down a life of sin.
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 9:59pm
Jim, dumb question, but what is a "B" couple or a "T" couple?
Jim McCrea | 11/16/2009 - 9:27pm
People keep insisting on referring to LGBT “lifestyles.”  I’d like someone to tell me what a straight lifestyle is.  Didn’t think you could.  There are as many differences between how straight couples meet, court, wed, live together, raise children and live out their lives as there are couples.
My partner of 37 years and I, like other couples of any stripe, do not have a “lifestyle”:  we have a life together.  It really isn’t all that much different from the straight couples who live on either side of us.  We keep our house up.  We tend to our gardens.  We participate in our parish and local civic activities.  We volunteer.  We celebrate holidays with both our biological as well as social families. We watch out for our neighbors’ houses when they are away, and they reciprocate. We don’t raise children, but know many LGBT couples who do - and straight couples who don’t.  Our relationship has outlasted by far those many of the straight couples who we know, their relationships having been sanctified by church and financially supported by state.  (So much for the straight – and Catholic -  “lifestyle.”)
I recommend the following article from about a year ago that sheds a lot of light on the similarities and dissimilarities between straight and LGBT couples – and what straight couples can learn from LGBT relationships:
Two telling paragraphs are these:
“A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships.”
“Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.”
John Kolar | 11/16/2009 - 9:23pm
Thank you, Fr. Martin, for your post.  This is directed at some of the commenters: the capacity of humans, even Christians, to marginalize people never ceases to amaze.  Despite the example of Jesus, we (and I don't exclude myself in other situations) constantly strive to erect barriers to what kind of people are acceptable to God and what kind are not.  And it seems we cannot be satisfied to simply enact our own exclusionary preferences as our personal predilections, we invariably ascribe our own prejudices to God.  I think the majority-we heterosexuals-may well be genetically programmed to be oriented toward those of the other sex, but I also believe-based on my own friendship with gay people-that their genes also program them to be oriented toward persons of their own gender.  Because we are the majority, there probably has been in many societies a marginalization of the minority who are homosexual in orientation.  But I can not believe that (1) gay people choose "gayness" over heterosexuality any more than I chose my orientation (it was planted in me by my genetic code); and (2) since being gay is no more a choice than my being hetero, that the gene for being gay is some "evil seed" planted in people by God, or some mutation of the "good seed" that God planted.  Based on my friendship with gay people, I believe that they, like all of us, are a gift of God to the human race.  I can think of my friends, Sid and Steve, who were as faithful to one another, as my wife and I have been to each other for 30 years.  When Steve was struck down as a quadriplegic by a tragic accident, Sid (who was Jewish) brought Steve to Mass every week because it meant so much to Steve, and when Steve no longer was able to get to Mass, Sid arranged for communion to be brought to him every week or two.  I know because I brought communion to Steve.  There was as much love and care between Sid and Steve as is present in my marriage to my wife.  This was not disordered or anything of the sort.  I wish our church could see and recognize what I think God recognizes: spiritual/physical love between two persons who pledge themselves to love each other monogamously for life is a marriage, and is one blessed by God.  Jack Kolar
William Lindsey | 11/16/2009 - 9:19pm
Thanks for your reply, Brett.  I assure you that I do understand tha the church is not a therapeutic institution.  At least, it often fails to be, when it forgets what it's all about.
The church looks to Jesus for its originating impulse - Jesus whose whole significance can be summed up, according to Mark's gospel, in the statement, "He went about healing the sick and doing good."
The church is called, at the most fundamental level possbile, to heal, to be a therapeutic institution.  When it fails to fulfill that mission, it betrays the gospel and fails to be church.
Anonymous | 11/16/2009 - 9:11pm
What you fail to understand this that the Church is not a theraputic institution - it, rather, is an institution divinely created to uphold and spread the truth and reality of God's creation and revelation.
It does not exist to affirm your actions no matter their consequence or support your claim for autonomy.
I understand that many are misled by modern insitiutions due to the fact that most are theraputic - commercial enterprise and ads constantly affirm individuality and desire as natural goods - the government promotes moral hazard by disconnecting actions from concequences in the business and personal areas - etc.,etc.
However, the Church, unlike those using desire and the illusion of autonomy to sell sneakers or get re-elected - will not allow you to be decieved into believing that your trangressions are any thing but trangressions and are a threat to your soul.
This is not descrimination or hostility - it is the truth - and, as I am sure you know from personal experience, you have to truely love someone to tell them a tough truth - especially when they do not want to hear it.
William Lindsey | 11/16/2009 - 8:50pm
Sorry for the typo in the last paragraph of my previous posting: ''indefensibel'' should read ''indefensible.''
William Lindsey | 11/16/2009 - 8:41pm
This thread will probably soon go into the archives.  Since my posting happened to be the initial posting on the thread, and since it was self-revelatory and confessional (in the classic sense of that word), I am probably not totally mistaken in thinking that some of the expressions of concern for those who live the gay "lifestyle" are, at least in part, a response to my statement at the start of the thread.  And to my development of that statement as the thread developed . . . .
I believe that when people speak from their real places, from their hearts, it's important that they know that their wrords are heard. And so I want my brothers and sisters who have expressed Christian concern for those of us living the gay "lifestyle" to know that I have heard you on this thread.  And I have listened carefully.
I have to say in all honesty I am not convinced by your arguments, however.  They don't seem in any honest or effective way to engage the data set forth by Fr. Martin in his posting that began the thread.
What's more, I have to tell you honestly - in all Christian charity - that I'm not really convinced at all that pastoral concern and love motivate many of the negative responses to Fr. Martin's initial statement and to the statements of those of us who took seriously his invitation to deal with the question, What's a gay Catholic to do?.
When I hear people continue to talk about the "gay lifestyle," after those of us who are gay have asked you to move beyond the false stereotypes and engage real persons, I hear not a religiously motivated crusade but a political one, one not conspicuously respectful towards the people you profess to wish to save.
And it's not a crusade I can endorse, as a Catholic.  My Catholic values move in a different direction.  I see that there is real evil at work in the world, to be combated.  There are real wounds to be healed.  And that evil has far less to do with sexual infractions than with inequitable distribution of the goods of the earth, something that often seems to fail to concern my anti-gay brothers and sisters.
It seems preferable to me that the church devote its energies to feeding the hungry, healing the sick, providing shelter for the homeless - not inflicitng needless pain on its gay children.  It seems preferable to me that if the church is going to address sin in the world today, it deal as aggressively with those who exploit the poor, destroy the environment, neglect the needs of the indigent, as it does with those who happne to be gay.
In my experience, Christians who attack and demean their gay brothers and sisters rarely demonstrate much concern at all about the sins that really wound the world and the body of Christ today. In fact, I'm sorry to say, in my experience Christians intent on demeaning their gay brothers and sisters are not uncommonly allied with political groups that defend the "right" of the rich to exploit the poor.
As a result, I'm sorry to have to tell those who have logged onto this thread to invite me to renewed engagement in the Christian community that you haven't, unfortunately, made me feel more welcome.  Rather the opposite, sad to say.
I do live in hope, though.  I believe that there will come a day - perhaps sooner rather than later -when the strange, indefensibel need of many contemporary Christians to demonstrate that their gay brothers and sisters are unwelome and inferior, while those Christians claim to have the high road, will perplex historians and Christian communities.  As much as the need in the past to do the same thing to the Jewish people, to women, and to people of color perplexes people of good will today . . . .
Anonymous | 11/16/2009 - 8:01pm
Beautiful post of testimony from PAD!
It seems that those who oppose the Church's teaching on homosexuality deny the fundamental freedom of Judeo-Christian revelation: the freedom to turn from evil, the freedom to repent.
This vision of this particular blog seems to be a form of relativism or Manichaeanism - which sees evil as co-eternal with good and, in doing so, embrace folly and sin as diversity or individuality rather than repudate it in the name of Truth and the reality of God's creation.
I am afriad that Fr. Martin and his co-bloggers - when in modern, comspolitian company that dominates the public square these days - are embarassed of their own tradition and, more importantly, the revalation of truth as found in the Old and New Testaments.
peggy doherty | 11/16/2009 - 7:24pm
I have been following this blog for a couple of days now and thought I would weigh in on the questions that Fr. Martin put forth. What is a gay catholic to do? What kind of life remains for these brothers and sisters in Christ, those who wish to follow the teachings of the church?  Officially at least, the gay Catholic seems set up to lead a lonely, loveless, secretive life.  Is this what God desires for the gay person?  I am a catholic christian woman, who lived a life fully immersed in the gay lifestyle for 18 years. Today however I am happy to proclaim by the grace of God that I don't and its been 9 years. I will start off by telling you it isn't because of Courage, or reparitive therapy or the likes. Its because I took a chance on the possibility that what the church teaches about homosexuality just might be true, and if it is, which I do believe it to be true, I was not willing to risk my soul, on it. God has blessed that decision.  My life isn't lonely or loveless, it isn't secretive, why because I have surrounded myself with faithful catholic chrisitians, and by faithful I mean they believe in church teachings, who witness to me everyday what appropriate relationships should look like, in married life, single life, and family life. Don't get me wrong I do experience loneliness at times, however I don't think my loneliness is different then my brothers and sisters, some who happen to be married and those that are still single. My experience with the gay lifestyle is that many folks living that lifestyle somehow think their cross is different then those who have never struggled with SSA. I don't believe that, I believe that the call to holiness I have is the same for everyone, God makes no distinction in this call. I also don't spend my time focusing on the above mentioned list of the things I can't do because of SSA or defining myself by my sexuality. I try and focus on who it is God wants me to be, and ask for the grace to live that life. Some practical things I have done is attending daily mass and adoration. I go to reconciliation on a regular basis, I have a pastoral leader that I am accountable to. I also took the time to look at the root causes of my SSA and sought counciling where I needed to and prayer.  Some of you might come back and say it isn't a choice or roll your eyes, I used to do that too. But I have experienced freedom in my choices and God wants to extend that freedom to all sinners. It isn't without its fare share of pain and suffering but its worth it. As people we run from pain, we don't want to hurt, we want what we want, when we want it and with who we want.  Here is a great quote from C.S.Lewis ''We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.'' God does want the best for us but are we willing to trust Him, and wait on Him to fulfill it. Are we going to keep trying to fit God into our lives or are we willing to try and fit our lives into God's life.
As a church we have not done well and certainly have a lot of room for growth in how we care for those who struggle with SSA. So I say lets pray that God will raise up a group of people who have a heart for those who struggle with SSA so that the walls that divide us can be healed.  That we can truly dialogue with one another, and I say truly dialogue because from my own experience those struggling with SSA seem to want to dialogue only if the end result is if the church will change its teachings on this topic.
There is a truth here and I have decided to live a life that is worthy of God's inheritance. If I live for God I lose nothing but if live for my own inclinations, rights, desires, fantasies I could lose everything and I just am not willing to take the chance. Are you?
In Christs love,
Terence Weldon | 11/16/2009 - 7:22pm
Joe Alwin #40
I missed this post earlier, so apologise for responding so late.  But as I live just outside London, and regularly visit the West End and Soho to attend Mass, I cannot let this pass without comment.
Of course, I recognise the world Fanshawe describes - but he is dead wrong in calling it "the" gay lifestyle.  It is, rather, the lifestyle of a few, a very few, who have made the mistake of latching onto a certain stereotype and concluded that to be "gay" means to conform to it. It most certainly does not apply to the people I know who attend the London gay Mass, nor does it apply to the many men I know from other gay groups here in London. 
Fanshawe states, without evidence, that "we" (by which he implies he includes all or the majority of gay men) 'are " hooked on vanity, and regard older men with contempt. Despite AIDS we're still chasing the ultimate sexual high and what's more are determined to wreck ourselves on designer drugs. We're happy to assist the straight world in keeping alive the image of all gay men as limp-wristed queens.''
Huh?  Again, that might be so for some people, but absolutlely not for all, nor even for  a major portion.  
Have you ever heard of the gay "bear" movement? This was and remains a conscious backlash against this primping, queenish vanity, and quite explicitly rejects the obsession with appearance, and specifically rejects the fascination with fashion that Fanshawe seems to think dominates gay life. To check his facts, all he needed to do would have been to visit a few of London's most popular gay bars (which I frequent "regularly", like most gay men - about once every second month.) just a look around the bars, or even just walking down Compton Street, would quickly demonstrate that the fashionistas are jsut a very small minority. And remember, we are  talking here of the absolute heart of the gay "culture" as far as it exists. Substantial numbers of us never go into this gay "heartland" at all, staying atading, looking after the home, watching sports, hanging out with friends and family - or raising kids, just like anyone else.
I fear Fanshawe claims to be reporting on "the gay lifesttle", but in fact is reporting only on his own.  I know that some people do fit his description, but I also nkow that some young black men are drug- addled drop outs hanging out in gangs.  That does not make them representative of "the black lifestyle".  Some straight men are serious adulterers and lavish expense account funds on lap dancing clubs, cocaine and the like.  That doe not make them representative of "the straight lifestyle". The people Fanshawe describes may be typical of the people he used to mix with, but that does not make them "the gay lifestyle."  
There is one point on which I agree with him, and it is an important one.  He notes that  vast amounts of our leisure time is organised around sex, straight or gay, but what gay men have done is to organise our identity around sex.  To the (limited) extent that this statement is true, we need to look at why, and the reason is clear: it is a simple social self-defence mechanism, where social opprobrium in the past has been so strong, that we have not been able to form normal and healthy romantic attachments in public, like other people can. Organising to meet around sex is often the only way we can meet up with other gay man in the hope of friendships that can lead to more serious relationships.
It is striking that as same sex friendships and relationships are becoming more acceptable and more visible, so the traditional gay bars and gay clubs are finding that their appeal is dropping.  In countries where marriage or civil unions have been recognised for any length of time,  male couples are taking their relationships more seriously, and developing pattterns of fidelity and permanence that resemble any other. (In the classical world, where same sex relationships were seen as entirely nomral, many people believed that male couples showed greater loved and greater fidelity than opposit gender marriages.)
If you are appalled by this misnamed "gay lifestyle" and would like to see it disappear in your own state, encourage gay marriage and gay parenting. Works every time. 
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 6:53pm
RE: Devon (#115): I do follow your argument. The problem is that you simply can't dismiss anatomy, because we are talking about acts that have everything to do with anatomy. If we were not talking about the sinful misuse of anyone's reproductive organs, then no moral concern would arise. It's ridiculous that we're debating anatomy, but that is where the fundamental disagreement lies.
RE: Numquam(#117): "So, j.a.m. apparently acknowledges that God not only made them male and female but also every variant in between, and all are good as part of creation." Uh, no, that's the opposite of what I said. The existence of a thing is not proof of its goodness. Lots of bad things exist. How you reconcile that with an all-good God is your problem and a whole other discussion. The mere fact that involuntary same-sex attraction exists, or may exist, does not mean that it is good or that God intended it.
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 2:58pm
Num, why does God permit any kind of birth defect or congenital abnormality? Why does he permit any kind of suffering, hardship or sickness? Why does he permit famine? Why does he permit all manner of natural disasters? Why does he deny some the gift of sight or hearing or any other good thing that he gives to others?
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 2:26pm
Whaddya mean, aside from anatomy/chromosomes? Isn't that like asking Mrs. Lincoln how she liked the play? Vive la différence. The essential difference is sufficient; the rest is the stuff of poetry, drama and music.
Jim McCrea | 11/16/2009 - 6:10pm
Martin in #81 said:  “I do think that Jesus did intend a teaching Church whose teachings would be protected by the Spirit.”
Which teachings?  Any and all?  Infallibly defined? Those dealing with Creed (belief)?  Code (disciplines)?  Cult (worship practices)?
I suggest to you, my friend, that a cursory review of Church history will reveal more than one instance with the Holy Spirit has been derelict in Her/His duty if what you believe is supposed to be true. 
Three related citings may help bring clarity to the dogmatism of “Truth”:
If our understanding of God develops slowly and somewhat uncertainly, then there will always be as much reason to regard any putative (i.e., commonly accepted or supposed) heresy as a new insight as there will be to regard it as a distortion of the truth.   
Gordon Graham, "The Goodness of God and the  Conception of Hell"  New Blackfriars, November 1988
“Heresy is willful theologizing of conduct unworthy of the faith.  It's not always possible to be sure we're dealing with it.  It can for a while be perfectly sincere:  people may honestly not see the contradiction between confession and conduct.  But we're not talking about complicities with evil that are part of our human lot. We can repent of these, pray to be delivered, bear the burden of guilt, so long as we don't defend them theologically.  Heresy is rather the hardness of heart that knows something is wrong but seeks to cover it up with doctrinal blustering.  It is most often the heresy of the establishment.  But it can also be the heresy of the prophet who embraces causes for personal aggrandizement rather than legitimate conviction.“   
Thomas Oden, Can There Ever Be a Center Without a Circumference:  A Response to Lewis Mudge (see article immediately above), Christian Century, 4-12-95.
“Heresy may be the result of poor timing.” 
Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Christian Tradition:  A History of the Development of Doctrine", Vol I, "The Emergence of Catholic Tradition."
david power | 11/16/2009 - 6:09pm
I dont need the catholic Church to tell me that I am objectively disordered.I am not a homosexual and feel no antipathy towards them or others who are in the same both as myself and in need of redemption.But the constant banging on about their pain leads me to see the Philosophers truth of failing to see the other or put even better by Rosanne Barr.An Irishman and a Jew would nail this argument in a flash."I know you well " is the observation,acute,of alienation and the second is Philp Roth ""The cry 'Watch out for the goyim!' at times seems more the expression of an unconscious wish than of a warning: Oh that they were out there, so that we could be together here! A rumor of persecution, a taste of exile, might even bring with it the old world of feelings and habits — something to replace the new world of social accessibility and moral indifference, the world which tempts all our promiscuous instincts, and where one cannot always figure out what a Jew is that a Christian is not."[10]

The much maligned catholic church and Joe Alwin are better guides than self proclaimed devils advocates.

Terence Weldon | 11/16/2009 - 4:40pm
This discussion has been fascinating, for the range of responses:  from gay Catholics telling of their own experience, to sincere and sensitive responses from others who recognise and are responding to the real problem posed by Fr Martin's questions, to those who once again repeat the instruction to follow church teaching without question, or (more generously) to pray - and then follow church teaching. Implicit in this last group is an assumption that church teaching will not, must not, and has never changed, so we should follow 2000 years of church teaching on homosexuality.  The problem here is that the assumption is simply false.  The teaching has already changed, and is today far harsher than it was in the early Church. For example, try reading the groundbreaking and magisterial work by the noted medieval scholar, John Boswell - "Christianity, Social Tolerance and Heterosexuality. "(Boswell's work is controversial, but scholars today recognise that no sensible discussion of the history of gay people in the church is possible without serious consideration of his argument.  Read it, before dismissing his findings.)
The evidence that Boswell presents is that:
Homoerotic relationships are not in fact condemned by scripture - the so-called clobber texts have been mistranslated, misintpreted, or just misunderstood in what have become the traditional presentations.  (Many other reputable scripture scholars agree.)
That the opposition from the church was originally based on the Epistle of Barnabas, which argued from ''natural law'':  but Barnabas' ideas of nature included some totally bizarre understandings of zoology, and in any casee argued in contrary directions for different animal species. This writing is no longer considered canonical, but remains the root of teaching on homosexuality, in spite of its absurd understanding of zoology
That some of he early church fathers, following Barnabas, wrote against homosexual practices, but these  were a minority view for many centuries, In any case, actual church practice showed substantial acceptance. Male prostitution was legal and taxed even by Christian emperors. The early church recognised and honoured many gay saints - most notable Sergius and Bacchus, Roman Soldiers, and lovers, martyred in the early 4th century.
The early saint and bishop, Paulinus of Nola, who was celebrated for his religious poetry, was also noted for his explicit homoerotic verse - some of which is included in the ''Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse''. (Not recorded by Boswell but noted elsewhere is a second bishop and saint, Virgilius Fortunatus of Poitiers, who also has verse printed in the same Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse.) 
Opposition to homosexuality developed gradually after the fall of Rome, largely as a result of a decline in urban culture, and in parallel with increasing intolerance of all outsiders - homosexuals, Jews and gypsies. Opposition from the church authorities followed, and did not lead, this secular growth of intolerance. Even so, for many centuries yet, the increasing view of this as ''sinful'' did not see it as particularly more serious than other sins - including some that we today consider fairly mild.
Early in the 11th Century, an openly gay man was nominated by his lover, Ralph the Archbishop of Tours, as Bishop of Orleans. He was also known to have been the lover of another bishop, and the appointment drew strong opposition - not on the grounds of his sexuality or promiscuity, but because he was too young and would be too easily influenced by his mentor. Despite strong pressure, the then pope refused to override the appointment, and the following pope (Paschal II) refused to revoke it, at about the same time that he did depose another bishop, Etienne de Garland, for adultery - implying that an open homosexual relationship between two bishops was less serious than one of secret adultery by another.. 
In the early twelfth century, Peter Lombard wrote a text that ''was to become the standard moral text for all of Europe's Catholic universities for the next century''. It contained no reference at all to homosexuality.  The ''sin against nature'' was discussed at length - in the discussion of marriage and adultery, and was defined as the illicit use of a woman by a man. 
It was not until 1179, at thc Third Lateran Council, that the church as a whole  for the first time took a clear consensus stance against homosexuality - in response to growing secular intolerance once again of homosexuals, Jews and gypsies.  
This does not appear to me to be 2000 years of continuous teaching against a sin supposedly worse than all others, as some people claim. The current teaching is the result of historical development, not of a fixed, unchanging position. It can and inevitably will develop further, and this time will be more soundly based in reality and the findings of science and scholarship, . 
(Other scholars have pointed to serious flaws in the later development of the theology, after the period covered by Boswell, but I allow that to pass for now.).
Carolyn Disco | 11/16/2009 - 3:58pm
So, j.a.m. apparently acknowledges that God not only made them male and female but also every variant in between, and all are good as part of creation.
Now if something is good at its core (or at least not sinful), how can its expression be the opposite?
I understand minds are not changed by the discussion here, but more questions may  be generated along the way.
Thank you, Jim McCrea:
“Anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority, in ignorance of true facts, imposes a demand that offends (his) clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate (his) conscience.“ St. Thomas Aquinas
And from Benedict himself, commenting on a conciliar document:
“For Newman, conscience represents the inner complement and limit of the church principle.  Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. 
             Joseph Ratzinger on article 16 of Gaudem et Spes, in Volume 5 of the ''Commentary on Documents of Vatican II'', edited by Vorgrimler (New York/London 1969).
Devon Zenu | 11/16/2009 - 2:48pm
Perhaps you need to reread my comment (#106). Here's my argument in short form:
- The church rests much of its argument against homosexual marriage on the supposed lack of complementarity between two people of the same sex.
- I contend that there are no universal differences between the sexes other than the anatomical differences produced by differing chromosomes. All other differences that people identify (e.g. women are more relational, men are more competitive, men are from Mars, women are from Venus, etc.) are merely trends and don't apply to every man or women.
- Thus it is possible for two people of the same sex to have real complementarity in their relationship in the same way heterosexual couples do. The only place where they will lack complementarity is their anatomy.
- This anatomical difference is not insignificant, but is not morally decisive in evaluating homosexuality. The couple still will be able to share sexual intimacy in a way that is supportive of the unitive end of marriage. They will not be able to engage in a sexual union that furthers the procreative end of marriage. However the church has made clear that Church has made that it is not wrong for a man and woman to get married who are biologically incapable of producing children. As the bishops outline in their forthcoming document on marriage, such couples can still further the procreative end of marriage by supporting the children of friends and relatives and in other such ways.
Carolyn Disco | 11/16/2009 - 2:41pm
Again, if the source, the core, the essence (homosexual orientation) is not sinful, how can its expression not be in concert with that judgment?
The inconsistency seems illogical.
We think we know all about male and female, when a great deal more humility is called for. What about the births of transgendered babies? Very often the judgments about the true gender of the infant was incorrect based on biological characteristics alone. Tragic consequences resulted from premature surgeries that chose the wrong physical correction. We learned instead of the key role of the brain and biochemical agents.
Did God make a mistake when He allowed those with ambiguous gender identities to be born? Or is there much more mystery here than we can imagine? We really know very little about sexual orientation...
Did God likewise make a mistake when he made those with homosexual orientations? Speaking of objectively disordered and intrinsically evil, it would seem He did, if you follow the logic. I did not choose heterosexuality, and neither is homosexuality chosen.
HCS Knight | 11/16/2009 - 2:31pm
''Here's a real pastoral question to consider: What place is there for the gay person in the Catholic church?''....Followed by copious ruminations deeply focused on the ''self''.....As one who received a ''Jesuit'' education, I can honestly say I am ashamed of what has become of the Jesuits.  When I was young I held the men of the order in great regard, admiration even.  Today, I work to ''hold my anger's tongue'' and pray for them.P.S. Padre, real pastoral questions concern God.  Not about stroking the ego's desire to play a desired role in His plan.It's about Faithfulness to God, to God Alone.  And if He so chooses to Bless one of His children so that their role is ''great''... then A.M.D.G.  It's NOT the other way around.The great error of Vatican II, and that which is so clearly deeply afflicting the Jesuit Order and the priesthood is a selfishness that has crept into the priesthood.  It is a selfishness clothed in terms like ''social justice'' and ''social action''.  They are the ''new sacraments''. 
When did all this occur?  When,  during the Mass, the priest's eyes were turned away from Golgotha and toward ''his'' flock....
Devon Zenu | 11/16/2009 - 2:16pm
Okay j.a.m,
Please aleve me of my obtuseness and enlighten me on what 99.999% of the world knows: Aside from anatomy/chromosomes, what are the hard and fast differences between men and women that make us complementary? In you answer I would simply ask that you observe the "plain meaning" of my words and not identify traits that are merely trends; please limit yourself to identifying traits that are in fact universal features of one or other of the sexes.
JANICE JOHNSON | 11/16/2009 - 1:31pm
JANICE JOHNSON | 11/16/2009 - 1:31pm
I would never minimize the pain and difficulty of living a life of sexual abstinence.  Nor would I ever minimize the miraculous power of Christ working through the Sacraments.  As a divorced Catholic, unable to remarry if I wished to continue to receive the Eucharist, I have lived those realities.    Like many other divorced Catholics and many, many single (never-married) Catholics , celibacy, without the charism is a process of falls from grace and re-conversions.    We are sinners all.  Otherwise,we would not need to be Catholic!  Giving up one's adolescent fantasies of a life of romantic love and sexual fulfillment for  a deepening relationship with Christ  is a difficult choice that the church offers us.  The pastoral care for divorced and single Catholics who choose to attempt to live a life of celibacy includes frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist, prayer, meditation on The Cross, imitation of the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, supportive friends and parish.
Now, how does any of the above relate to homosexual Catholics.  As with every human being, homosexuals should be treated with the dignity inherent in their humanity.  Parishes should welcome and accept them as all other people, and be grateful for their contributions to parish life.   It seems to me that pastoral care of homosexual Catholics would include what is offered to divorced and single Catholics who try to live celibate lives.  The problem arises for pastors who do not believe the teachings of the church regarding homosexuality and believe that the church should change its teachings.  I think this is what Father Martin is getting at.    The pastoral approach I described above does not fit in that scenario.  Confession would be a farce if there is no sin to confess.  Obedience and sacrifice, certainly unpopular concepts in our culture would not apply.    The pastoral ministry, Courage, would be irrelevant. 
I think Father's post and this blog are not the way to deal with this enormously complex issue.  As one blogger said, it provides much heat and little light.  The issue of homosexuality should be examined in the context of our society's obsession with sex, straight or gay, and the individualistic mentality of many who use others sexually without any regard for their humanity.  And what about the children in our society??  Not one blogger mentioned children .  The welfare of children should be uppermost in any discussion of this type.
GIOVANNI SAFFIRIO | 11/16/2009 - 1:30pm
You can deny the complementarity of the sexes, but you will lose 99.999% of the earth's inhabitants, because virtually everyone who ever lived understands that there are in fact two distinct complementary sexes. That's why they call it the facts of life (and no, all the eggheads in the world can't revoke or rewrite them).
If we can't make the perfect the enemy of the good, neither ought we choose the obtuse when plain meaning more than suffices.
Pearce Shea | 11/16/2009 - 1:26pm
And in response to Fr.'s comment in 100:
I agree that it really is not permitted in the Catechism. You are right to bring up these questions, as they are hard ones. I would say this, though: yes, a caring, romantic relationship is something most of us want. But what should be a fundamental question is: is it what we deserve? Numerous commentaries on the theology of the body, and on much earlier works within the church touching on human sexuality point out that we should never love our spouse before God. Indeed, I have found, in talking to married couples, that it is in loving and trying to obey God that they were able to love each other better.
Perhaps we have duped our selves into thinking that everyone should be able to do what everyone else can. I'm not sure that that's been the healthiest impulse.
Pearce Shea | 11/16/2009 - 1:20pm
Devon at al
I suppose the fundamental point here is this: can you be openly, actively homosexual and still adhere to all the teachings of the Church as best as you possibly can?
I would answer no. A gay person seeking marriage to their lifepartner or simply living an openly gay lifestyle isn't "struggling" with some Church teaching, but living in open and admitted opposition to it. Your point about complementarity seems to miss the mark. Elements of complementarity do arise out of gender/gender role differences but is predicated on the biological function of generative sex. The entirety of the doctrine of complementarity as the Church teaches it today is founded on heterosexual intercourse.
You are right that we shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good, but I suggest that as hard as it is to say this (and it is terribly hard) that part and parcel of the good ought to be striving for the perfect. Settling for the good is spiritual laziness. We ought to strive as strongly for affordable healthcare for all as we ought to strive to stop the crime of abortion. That we may not get either one accomplished in our lifetime, that sometimes we've caved in heated discussions to avoid a real confrontation, is merely a failure on our part to be properly open to God's and wisdom and should not be taken as an indication of where we ought to be. Part of being Catholic is recognizing that this world and its inescapable concupiscence is precisely where we ought not be.
Devon Zenu | 11/16/2009 - 10:57am
1) You are correct to say that some people find celibacy imposed on them by their circumstances in life. For example, some of our soldiers who have been badly maimed by IED's are no longer capable of sexual intercourse. Two questions present themselves: (i) Does this condition mean that they should not pursue romatic relationships that do not include sexual intercourse? And (ii) is homosexuality an analgous situation? I answer no to both questions.  On the first question I believe we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. (See below for futher thoughts on that.) On the second question there is a real difference between someone whose life circumstances render them incapable of a sexual relationship, and someone who is fully capable of a loving, committed sexual relationship who is told that it is forbidden for them to enter one. Or in the case you mention of people who want to get married but never find a suitable partner: it is one thing to never find someone; it is quite another to find someone and be told that one may not marry them.
2) You wrote: "Love needs a medium, and in the context of erotic activity, only fertility can provide the raw material for that expression." This seems to me to be contrary to Church teaching. As I've noted several times already in this discussion, the Church permits infertile couples to marry. (And by "infertile" I mean not just couples who are struggling to conceive, but also couples for whom conception is impossible.) 
Why do we make the perfect the enemy of the good? Two people of the same sex cannot achieve all of the goods of marriage, but they can achieve some of them. Why not allow two people of the same sex to marry and strengthen and support one another with companionship and committed love? The Church allows infertile heterosexual couples to do this. The main issue the Church keeps raising on this point is that of complementarity. But as I've pointed out above, this relies on innaccurate sex/gender stereotypes. In the new document that the USCCB is discussing this weekend (on marriage) you will see that they spend a lot of time extolling the "complementarity" of the sexes, but they never get specific about the traits that make us complementary. This is because as soon as you start naming "male" and "female" traits (other than physical ones) you are immediately confronted with evidence of large numbers of men and women who don't fit that mold. There are sex/gender trends, but no hard and fast rules other than the essentials of anatomy. And biological/anatomical complementarity is only essential if fertility is essential to marriage, which the Church says it is not.
Joseph Kalwinski | 11/16/2009 - 9:45am
You've said it all and said it well. I have had similar thoughts when I see young people severly disfigured or handicaped. We do indeed have our own crosses. Some of us suffer more deeply than others. Who has know the mind of the Lord, and who has been his counselor?
Brian Killian | 11/16/2009 - 9:39am
OK, now I know to hit 'enter' twice for paragraphs.
Brian Killian | 11/16/2009 - 9:36am
This 'imposing celibacy by the Church' is silly. The Latin Church obviously does impose celibacy on its priests, and that doesn't exclude embracing it as a gift. That's because human beings can embrace anything that is imposed by nature or circumstance and turn it into a gift through the spiritual action of their free will. That what happens when we 'offer it up'. That's why Christ's sacrifice was both imposed on him by men, imposed (in a sense) by his Father, and at the same time was offered his life freely of himself. 
Nature and circumstance 'impose' celibacy on many people, it doesn't seek out men and women with same sex attraction. Lots of people never find a mate and suffer loneliness, irregardless of their orientation for example. But more importantly, so what?
Life is a b*tch isn't it? Like the Psalmist said regarding our short span of years: '...and most of these are emptiness and pain'. That's why there are biblical titles for this life like 'bitter valley' and 'valley of tears'. Life sucks for everyone, not just people with same sex attraction. So in this regard, you're not special. Whining about something that is part of everyone's fate in this present life is not a good argument.
Now the really big problem here is regarding same sex attraction as something normal, natural, wholesome, and generally on the same level as the sexual complimentarity of men and women. This is the disputed question. This is no small matter, it's huge. The ramifications are huge. This question implicates the whole biblical faith itself. And it faces many serious philosophical and theological problems. Yes, we should definitely improve our pastoral approach to people with homosexual tendencies, but this has to proceed from a correct understanding of things from a natural, scriptural, and philosophical standpoint. 
I think that theologians and the magisterium are partly to blame for the lack of comprehension on the Church's understanding of things like contraception and sexuality in general. For some reason I don't fully understand, theologians have insisted in trying to put these things in terms of natural law instead of fully explicating them in scriptural and theological terms. 
The only thing that can objectively save erotic desire is its relationship to fertility. The human race has always seen the sacredness of sex in its fertile power. And if sex isn't sacred, it's sacrilege. Without this reference point of fertility, there is no hope for making sex into an expression of love. Love needs a medium, and in the context of erotic activity, only fertility can provide the raw material for that expression. That's why Christ used the grain of wheat as an image for the paschal mystery.
Can you describe the relationship of Christ and his Church in homosexual terms?
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn | 11/16/2009 - 9:19am
The vitriol here is toxic. It is the dismembering of the Body of Christ. For all the smug who think themselves without sin, I would remind them that dry lives without love are separation from God. Separation from God is what is at the heart of all sin. If sin and sex were synonymous what would the point of that be?

Oh rail against what seems so wrong and wrap yourselves in self-righteous self-justification. If the heart of embracing Christ is the crucifixion of letting go, that position seems antithetical.

God have mercy as one strikes another in the name of "exhorting against sin." This is all done without love it would appear.
Eileen Paul | 11/16/2009 - 9:16am
Thank you for this article, and also thanks for the many thoughtful responses. I am gay and living in a committed relationship for 38 years. I am Catholic and have studied theology. I first met gay people in New York when I had just left the convent with my theology degree. They were embittered by their forced exit from the Church. I asked myself (and still ask myself) "What would Jesus do?" I concluded Jesus would love these people as much as anyone else and include them in the circle of communion. I see the theology of Eucharist as healing, not dividing. We go there to be healed and become whole and to celebrate our unity in community. No one can be excluded. There is one judge and it is not us. Also I reflect often on the last judgment scene- no one is asked if they are straight or gay, Catholic or Muslim. Did we give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, bury the dead? This judgment scene makes the recent move by Catholic Charities even more obviously lovelss.
Devon Zenu | 11/16/2009 - 7:16am
But polyamorous relationships also produce children. If I had two wives, I could have children with both of them simultaneously.
Remember, of course, that polygamy was the norm for much of the Old Testament period. The reason the Church rejects it is not because it can't produce children, but because the church recognizes that having multiple partners interferes with one's ability to give oneself wholly to the other, and it produces inherently unequal relationships.
I anticipate your response will be that one can't fully give oneself to the other unless one gives one's fertility as well, but recall that the church allows infertile couples and couples past child bearing age to marry.