by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
As Catholics, we believe every human being has been created in the divine image.
Moreover, God revealed the great worth he has placed on every human life by Our Lord’s death on Calvary. Each one of us is so valued by God that the Second Person of the Trinity became a human being and died for us.
We also believe that because of the original sin of our first parents, our humanity has been fractured in such a way that we are drawn to desire pleasures, experiences, things and relationships that are inconsistent with our God-given dignity. Like our first parents, we often rebel against God’s will for us.
Sometimes, we perceive his commandments as restricting us from what we mistakenly believe will make us happy, rather than protecting us from that which can harm us and isolate us from experiencing God’s love. Each one of us needs Jesus. We need a redeemer who can rescue us from our sin, our disobedience, and make it possible for us to experience God’s merciful love.
The inclinations that entice us to desire what is evil are consequences of our fractured human condition. We choose sin because our disordered inclinations make us vulnerable to perceive what is bad as good, what is actually disfigured as attractive.
This is particularly evident in our sexuality, the great gift God gave to humanity that allows us to be co-creators with him of new human life. Disordered human sexuality is why pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, fornication, cohabitation, lust, homosexual activity and marital infidelity are so prevalent.
The Catholic Church is criticized by some for what they consider an overemphasis on sexual sins. Some even ask the question: Does God really care if someone views pornography or two individuals, who are not married but care for each other, engage in sexual intercourse? The answer is: “Yes!” Why? Our sexual sins have significant ramifications on us personally and, perhaps more importantly, upon the life of the family.
Sexual immorality impairs our ability to love others authentically. No matter if it is consensual between adults or not, the bonding that takes place during sexual intimacy leaves emotional scars when those relationships end. As St. John Paul taught in his theology of the body, in sexual intimacy we communicate through the language of our bodies a meaning that we cannot ignore or redefine.
Sexual sins often weaken and, in some cases, destroy marriages — the foundation of family life. Wives and husbands are wounded when marriages fail, and children are profoundly affected by divorce. Finally, sexual sins can result in an unplanned pregnancy, creating a climate causing emotional panic that, in turn, is the context for a decision to abort an innocent, unborn child.
Living a chaste life is challenging for all of us, no matter our socioeconomic status, our age and our state of life. This is uniquely true for individuals who experience same-sex attraction.
The church calls Catholics to show the utmost respect for the God-given dignity of all individuals, including those experiencing same-sex attractions. Our identity is not determined by whether we experience heterosexual or homosexual attractions, but in the truth that we are beloved children of God.
We all have a need for friendship. It is in the community of the church that we should find the opportunity, not only to have our spiritual — but also our emotional needs — met. It is in the community of the church that we should not only experience God’s love for us, but also find the opportunity for warm friendships and the chaste love of others.
One of the most thoughtful treatments of the experience of those with same-sex attraction and the church’s call to the virtue of chastity is a 60-minute documentary entitled: “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.” This film chronicles the experience of three individuals who experienced same-sex attraction and who discover from their lived experience that, ultimately, peace and happiness can only be found in their relationship with God and following his will, which in part requires striving to live the virtue of chastity. You can view this film by Googling “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” or going to the Courage apostolate website.
Courage is a Catholic ministry that supports men and women with same-sex attraction who are striving to live the virtue of chastity. Courage has a sister ministry called Encourage that assists parents and other family members in supporting a loved one with same-sex attraction. If you are interested in contacting the local chapter of Courage or Encourage, please call the Courage Helpline at (913) 428-9893 or go to the website.
Authentic love has no labels. It always seeks the good of the other above our own wants and desires. True love — whether that of a married couple or of family or of friends — always seeks to bring the person we love closer to God. Real love involves a willingness to get involved in the life of another by getting to know them and, in part, understand the joys as well as the challenges of their life. Authentic love is always characterized by encouraging the one we love along the path of virtue and union with God. For the Christian, Jesus is the example of true love.
This week, let us all pray for the grace to live chaste lives in accord with our state of life. Let us ask the Lord to help us recognize where there is any type of disorder in the living of our sexuality. God’s mercy and grace are available to us through the sacrament of reconciliation. In our families and our parishes, let us encourage each other to seek God’s love above everything else, realizing only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.
At the same time, may our families and parishes also be communities where chaste love and true friendship are fostered and experienced by all.