by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
In the aftermath of the decision not to admit into one of our parochial elementary schools a child of a same-sex married couple who attend a Protestant church, I met with the parents of the child, as well as several other individuals, who had concerns about this decision.
During these conversations, the issue was raised about the impact of this controversy upon students in our Catholic schools and schools of religion who experience same-sex attraction. The question was posed: Will these students feel welcome in our schools?
Many young people do not understand the reasons for the church’s countercultural teaching regarding homosexual activity and related issues pertaining to sexual morality. It is for this purpose that I write this open letter to the young people of the Archdiocese.
Dear young people,
God loves you! Jesus desires friendship with you. The church values and respects you. God has entrusted to each of you special gifts. The church needs your talents, your insights and your youthful energy!
I am also convinced that you need the church. Despite the weaknesses and personal failures of some of her bishops and priests, the church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and has been given the gift of wisdom to inform her moral teachings.
Moreover, we all need the sacramental life through which we uniquely encounter the risen Lord and receive his love, healing and mercy. We also all need companions to accompany and encourage us in our efforts to live our faith and to develop virtue. We need to be part of a community where love for God is celebrated and holiness is nurtured and encouraged.
We also all need to love and to be loved. We all desire and need friendship. We were not created to live in isolation. No man or woman is an island. Friendship is as essential to our well-being as oxygen, food and water. Life is dreary and difficult if we do not have others with whom to share our joys and sorrows.
One of the most beautiful gifts that God gave to humanity was marriage — the special, unique, faithful and permanent love of a husband and wife. God created within us a longing for sexual intimacy — to give physical expression to our desire to give ourselves totally to another.
However, this physical expression of the union of a man and a woman can only be authentic within marriage. In marriage, a man and a woman make a public pledge to a life of faithful, fruitful and forever love.
Moreover, through the physical expression of their total love for each other, God gives married couples the incredible privilege of being his instruments in creating a new human life.
Healthy marriages provide the optimum environment for children to grow and thrive. It is a great blessing for children to have a father who loves their mother and a mother who loves their father and who together love and sacrifice for the good of their children.
No family is perfect. Not everyone has the opportunity to grow up in a home with both of their biological parents. I grew up in a single-parent family. I have nothing but admiration for single parents who labor heroically to provide the best for their children. However, most single parents will acknowledge how much they would love to have in their home the assistance of a supportive spouse.
When we use something very beautiful and holy for a purpose other than that for which it was designed, we can damage and destroy its beauty. If we use a fine china plate for a Frisbee, we will most likely shatter its delicate beauty. Or if we use a well-crafted violin as a tennis racket, we will ruin the violin and not do very well in our tennis match.
When we use beautiful things for purposes that they were not intended, the result is disastrous.
Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is using something beautiful for a purpose for which it was not designed. It is spiritually, emotionally and physically harmful to both persons. It is sinful to use one of God’s most precious gifts in a manner he did not intend.
It is not possible for us to simply redefine the meaning of sexual intimacy. By design, sexual intercourse emotionally bonds a man and a woman. When we walk away from a relationship in which we have physically communicated that we give ourselves totally to the other, it creates emotional wounds. Promiscuous sexual activity is also physically harmful. Many young adults today are afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases.
When a pregnancy occurs outside of marriage, it places the child at much greater risk to abortion. It creates a crisis for both the mother and father of the newly conceived child. It also means that the child will be born into a less-than-optimal environment for his or her growth and development.
The cultural encouragement for young people to use contraception to prevent pregnancy is a false solution. Contraception does nothing to protect young people from the emotional, physical and spiritual harmful effects of sexual activity. It actually encourages young people to be sexually active. The research conducted even by the abortion industry reveals that many seeking abortions were actually using contraceptives.
A couple of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage, asserting that same-sex couples had a right to marriage. While the Supreme Court does have the authority to interpret our Constitution and thus determine public policy for civil society, it is powerless to redefine the nature of marriage that was instituted by God.
Experiencing same-sex attraction is not sinful. In fact, in the journey to maturity, many experience confusion about sexual attractions. If you are experiencing same-sex attraction, it is wise to share this reality with your parents and other adults whom you respect and trust.
Many with assistance discover that the experience of same-sex attraction is transitory. However, if the experience of same-sex attraction persists in your life, it is not wise spiritually, morally, emotionally and physically to act upon your impulses.
Experiencing same-sex attraction does not mean that you are doomed to a life of loneliness. Do not believe the cultural lie that sexual intimacy is essential for happiness. Do not confuse sexual pleasure with abiding joy.
The absence of sexual activity does not prevent one from living a full and rewarding life. You can relish the joy of incredible friendships through which you seek to support and encourage each other in a life of service and virtue. You can experience inner peace and deep satisfaction that comes from using your gifts and talents to make our culture and society better.
You are coming of age in a sexualized culture. You are the target of a billion-dollar industry that wants to get you addicted to viewing pornography that offers you experiences of momentary pleasure but leaves you with enduring feelings of emptiness and regret.
Our culture promotes the false notion that all forms of consensual sexual expression are good. If sexual freedom was the key to happiness, we should be the most content society in human history. In reality, depression is at epidemic levels in our nation.
Many of our political and cultural leaders believe that young people are helpless and incapable of controlling and directing their sexual desires. Many believe you are not able to live the virtue of chastity.
Throughout human history, living a virtuous life has been challenging. Jesus never promised his disciples an easy life.
However, Our Lord did tell them his yoke is easy and his burden is light — not because what he asked of them was not difficult, but because Jesus promised to assist them. Chastity is worth the effort because, when we discipline our passions and use them according to God’s design, we discover the pathway to authentic and enduring joy.
We also have the great consolation of knowing God loves us and extends his mercy to us, even when we fail in our pursuit of virtue. Jesus came to redeem us, to save us from the enslavements that our sins impose upon us. God’s love for us is greater than our sins and imperfections. Jesus came not to leave us in our sins, but to rescue us and redeem us with his divine mercy.
Our sexual longings are an icon of the intensity of God’s love for us and his desire to share his life with us. Our culture has turned this icon of God’s love into an idol. Even though we are surrounded by contrary evidence, our society wants us to believe that indulging our sexual passions will make us happy.
Our culture often panders to young people, telling you what they think you want to hear and failing to share with you the inevitable negative consequences of a misguided sexual freedom. The church loves and respects you too much to fail to speak the truth about the beauty of authentic love and the dangers of its counterfeits.
Know that you were made for greatness. The Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Cosmos desires friendship with you. Jesus promises those who choose not to take the easy path, but rather to follow him in the way of heroic love, abundant life in this world and eternal life with him and all the saints. Choose to pursue chastity and virtue! Choose authentic love! Choose Jesus!