Total mania swept across Twitter recently after Bishop Tobin, Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, said that Catholic families should not be attending LGBTQ pride events.
“A reminder that Catholics shout not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”
He was widely criticised, both on social media and in the mainstream media. This follows the recent sacking of Israel Folau, an Australian rugby player, after he shared a passage from the Bible which said “hell awaits” “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters”. He added that they should “repent” as “only Jesus saves.”
This is not the first time he has got into trouble for sharing his Biblical views, and in April of last year, he was reprimanded for sharing a quote from 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. This furore prompted him to defend himself in a PlayersVoice article.
It is often levelled at Christians that they hate homosexual people. Of course, the Bible is unequivocal in condemning homosexual acts but is this the same as condemning homosexual people?
When dealing with fraught issues such as homosexuality, Catholics have a priceless resource in the catechism. The Catechism sets out clearly the position of the Church on homosexual acts.
It says, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” because “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life”.
On homosexual people, the Catechism states, “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Therefore, the Catechism presents two positions: homosexual acts are a moral evil and people with homosexual inclinations must be treated with respect. It is equally condemnatory of, for example, pornography, saying “it is a grave offence”, but no-one in their right mind would say the Catholic Church hates people who watch porn.
Lust, masturbation, fornication, and prostitution are also dealt with harshly by the catechism but the accusation that the Church hates prostitutes or people who masturbate is not bandied around with such venom.
So why the fixation on homosexuality?
We live in a sex-obsessed society as anyone with eyes can see. Billboards, music videos, films, TV shows, even newspapers, are all full of sexual images and material. Sex has become a god in of itself, a way for people to fill the void of a Christ-less existence.
Thus, due to the huge amount of emphasis society puts on sex, our sexuality is now held up as an integral part of our identity. A man with homosexual urges is now a homosexual before he is a son, father, brother, artist or friend. He is encouraged to make this the foundational stone for his whole existence.
If what you are sexually attracted to is the most important part of you – it determines the places you drink, the people you date, the friends you have, the journalism you consume, the music you listen to, the literature you read – any criticism of this will feel like a direct assault on your very person.
But why does our sexual attraction have to determine us so viscerally? If I am a married man, is my identity an adulterer because every now and then I might feel fleeting, unasked for attraction to a woman on the street? If I am a single woman, am I a homewrecker because I think my married colleague is handsome?
Speaking against the need to label ourselves, Pope Francis, speaking to British actor Stephen K Amos, said: “Giving more importance to the adjective rather than the noun, this is not good.
“We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity.”
The Christian life is not to deny the existence of these human emotions and impulses, but to teach us how to discern what to act upon, and what to ignore. It is, as the Catechism states, about “self-mastery”. Yet, when it comes to homosexual inclinations, all of a sudden this is the number one defining feature of you.
Why? Why reduce yourself to your genitalia?
We live in a secular society where the underlying assumption is that we are naked apes on a rock hurtling through space. There is no reason for our existence, no meaning to our lives, and we enter and leave a cruel, callous world that cares not one jot about us.
When presented with such a nihilistic, confusing worldview, is it not surprising that people grope around in the dark to find something that grounds them. Something that gives their life purpose and thrust.
When they ask themselves, “Who am I? Why am I here?” they can answer, “I’m John, I’m gay and I spend my life trying to make the world a more welcoming place for gay people.” Through this constructed identity, and commendable synthetic purpose, they can cope with the terrible absurdity of a Godless existence.
Yet, the Church doesn’t see our identity as decided by arbitrary factors such as race, gender or sexuality. Our identity is fundamentally as a child of God. Our purpose is to carry out God’s will for our lives. We are not the acts we commit, the people we are attracted to: we are precious, unique, treasured human beings crafted with love and care.
We are miracles.
The strategic merit of Folau’s social media post is up for debate. Only God knows whether it brought people closer to Him or drove them away.
Yet, his treatment shows that the powers that be believe that Christians hate gay people, rather than condemn homosexual acts. “Hate the sin, not the sinner,” is the phrase that is used to explain the truly Christian position. Jesus loved sinners, but he told them, “go and sin no more.”
The battle Catholics and Christians face is in extracting sexual acts from identity, for the two have been firmly wedded. The answer to the riddle is Christ, for through His eyes we see ourselves as what we really are: children of God.