Fr. Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, has just published the second in what’s shaping up to be a brilliant 3-part series on the controversy at St. Cecilia’s in Boston and the pastoral care of homosexuals. Once again, it’s “must-reading” by every Catholic and Catholic priest who cares about ministering to homosexuals and leading them to a life of holiness.
(For anyone attending the 11am Mass at St. Cecilia’s this morning, please remember this is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, regardless of what else is happening around it. All sinners are called to conversion and we hope and pray that message is delivered today, especially in view of the Gospel reading for today. Mayor Tom Menino will be there, and with all of the advance publicity, this could be somewhat of a media circus. Please be careful to not turn it into any more of a media circus than may already be in store).
Now, without further ado, here is Fr. Landry’s column:
Fr. Roger J. Landry
July 8, 2011
Last week we began a look at the controversy at St. Cecilia’s Church in Boston over the scheduling of a Mass originally advertised to celebrate “gay pride” and then after criticism postponed and relabeled to a “welcoming Mass,” which while perhaps no longer explicitly extolling gay pride still seems poised to give no-questions-asked hospitality to those who believe that gay pride should be glorified, including within the context of a Catholic Mass.
We noted that the controversy raises several concerns that extend beyond a particular parish or archdiocese with regard to the authentic pastoral care the Church owes those immersed in a gay lifestyle or in any lifestyle that exalts practices that are incompatible with the Gospel. The only adequate Christian response to anyone is love, but this love can never remain a shallow hospitality that fails to help the person recognize and respond to the rather conspicuous ways Christ is challenging him to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. Particularly with those ensconced in a gay lifestyle — which is a way of life built on regarding several basic truths of anthropology, sexual morality, marriage, Scriptural inspiration, and magisterial authority as antiquated and repressive “hang-ups” from which people need to be liberated — the Church’s charity must always be bound to the compassionate, clear and compelling presentation of the fullness of the truth that alone can set them free (Jn 8:32). The stakes of the Church’s failure to carry out this service to the truth are huge, not only for those presently involved in a gay lifestyle, but also for the conscience formation of all in the Church and society. As we recently witnessed in New York and are well aware of in Massachusetts, people are being barraged by an aggressive, well-financed gay campaign, assisted by the media and educational establishments, to get people to adopt the anthropological and moral categories of the gay movement and anathamatize those of the Church. If the Church remains silent in the face of the moral heresies of the gay movement today, it could prove to be as injurious to her mission for the salvation of souls as if she had remained silent before the Christological heresies of the fourth and fifth centuries.
With that in mind, we will examine three common falsehoods that have come to the surface in the St. Cecilia’s controversy to which the Church must respond with the truth.
The first is the facile citation of “What would Jesus do?” that was repeatedly employed by supporters of the “gay pride Mass” against criticism of the Mass. They implied that Jesus would never do anything other than embrace those in the gay movement and that the critics were therefore nothing other than modern Pharisees against whose hypocrisy Jesus reserved his most pungent castigations. The irony of this reference to what Jesus would do is that it suggests that just as Jesus never turned his back on sinners, neither would he turn his back on gays and lesbians; while absolutely true, it goes against one of the fundamental premises of the gay movement, that gays and lesbians are doing nothing sinful. Thinking about what Jesus would or would not do as a standard for morality, nevertheless, is helpful. It deserves to be asked: Would those defending gay pride by citing WWJD think that Jesus would want to associate with, not to mention participate in, a gay pride parade like the one held in downtown Boston last month, in which men dressed in religious drag as the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” shamelessly simulated acts of sodomy on parade floats, and passed out free sex paraphernalia and sadomasochistic literature to passers-by? We see a relevant example of what Jesus would do in his interaction with the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:2-11). He first defended her against those who sought to kill her, by reminding her accusers that they were not innocent enough to throw stones at anyone else. But after assuring her that he didn’t condemn her, he told her to go and sin no more. The Church likewise seeks to protect and defend those engaged in same-sex conduct from hatred and violence, but, like her Founder, lovingly insists they leave the gay lifestyle behind.
The second falsity is about the “acceptance” of those with same-sex attractions. Many of those speaking to the media during the St. Cecilia’s controversy expressed their desire to be accepted and allowed to worship God “as they are.” This is a sincere and noble desire. Those in the gay movement, however, generally have two profound errors about what this acceptance should entail.
One error flows from the fact that those in the gay movement generally have too shallow and reductive an understanding of what it means to “accept” them. They want others to acknowledge their attractions for people of the same-sex, not condemn them for having them, and not try to get them to change them. The Church, however, can’t stop there, at the level of their attractions, because their sexual desires are neither co-extensive with “who they are” nor constitute the fundamental basis of their identity and dignity. True acceptance also involves recognizing that at the deepest level of their being, those with same-sex attractions are made in God’s image and likeness, and ordered ontologically as male or female toward sexual complementarity (Gen 1:27). Those with same-sex attractions need to accept this fundamental truth about who they are, even though it’s obvious that they faultlessly do not experience these natural attractions. This is one reason why the Church teaches that that those with same-sex attractions experience an “affective disorder,” a misalignment between their nature as a male or female and their sexual feelings (CCC 2357). This fuller truth about who they are can’t be ignored or rejected when they ask for, and we give, acceptance. Just as we must go beyond a shallow welcoming that fails to help them in turn welcome the fullness of the Gospel, so we must also go beyond a superficial acceptance that fails to help them accept the full truth of how God made them.
Another error over “acceptance” occurs when those in the gay movement suggest that by accepting them we must accept their same-sex activity, as if their actions, like their attractions, are something over which they have no control. Cardinal Sean O’Malley responded to this demand with clarity and courage back in 2004: “Sometimes we are told, ‘If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me,’ In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: ‘Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.’” True love means, obviously, that we don’t condemn them for the behavior that disfigures their identity, but it does mean that we try to help them to change their behavior to align it with the love of God and true love of others.
The third falsehood relates to the common calumny that any opposition to the gay agenda, or any criticism of a “gay pride Mass,” comes exclusively from “homophobia” or “hatred” for those with same-sex attractions, as a few members of St. Cecilia’s alleged in interviews with the media. While there’s no dispute that, sadly, in some places real homophobia does exist, ministers to the gay community have a duty not only not to abet this confusion but to disabuse those entrusted to their care from thinking the Church’s teachings on same-sex activities are based on hatred rather than love grounded in truth; they also have the responsibility to remind them that judging others or mendaciously bullying others with epithets about their character are grave sins that those with same-sex attractions are not exempt from committing.
These false accusations, however, lead to a larger point about how much the tide has turned with regard to the direction of bullying between those with same-sex attractions and others in society. Whereas in the past, those with same sex attractions were often subject to ill-treatment and ridicule on account of their attractions, including sadly by those who claimed to be Christian, now it’s Christians who are often subjected to ridicule and, in a growing number of cases, discrimination. If anyone doubts this point, they should just ponder what Constance Cervone of Jamaica Plain said in a June 28 Boston Globe article on St. Cecilia’s: “It was harder for me … to come out as a Catholic than as a gay person.” This is an indication that, at least for her, “Christianophobia” is presently more menacing than “homophobia.” The Church as a whole, and those who minister to the gay community in particular, must have the courage to address this.
Next week we will finish this three-part series on the full pastoral care of those with same-sex attractions in the truth by focusing the Church’s responsibility to call them and everyone in the Church to true love, which is always and exclusively chaste love.