Thursday, April 28, 2016

Is There a Place for those with Same Sex Attraction in the Church?

I was once asked by a student if I was "pro-gay" or "anti-gay." My simple, but emphatic response was, and still is, "I'm pro human being."

What most wouldn't realize is that response is perfectly in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Consider paragraph 2358 of the Catechism:

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. 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. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." (emphasis added)

People on all sides have a hard time with the "hate the sin, love the sinner." The only option seems to be love both or hate both. The Catholic Church is perfectly happy with the slightly more complex, slightly messier "both/and" approach that is one of the hallmarks of Catholic thought.

We are called first and foremost to love the sinner--any sinner. At the same time we call sinners to accept the challenges (crosses) of our situations and states in life. This includes me. As a married man, I have challenges and temptations that are the normal stuff of life in a Fallen world. My Church calls me to embrace those challenges and, with God's grace, allow them to lead me to a fullness of life I would miss out on if I refuse to take them up.

Our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction are called to share in this life too. Without question they face different and probably heavier challenges than most of us. I'd like to think the possibilities and promises are just as great.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent is...Wait for it....Wait for it...

We do a lot of waiting.

Some waiting we don’t mind so much. Some waiting irritates us. Some waiting brings eager excitement.

Hopefully, Advent is the third kind.

Waiting is anticipating. Whatever is at the end of that wait means something to us, even if it is simple as the end of the checkout line or as thrilling as a new baby.

Real waiting occupies us. If I am in the checkout line, I stay there. The end of the line and the need to pay for my items has my time and attention. I may be looking at tabloid headlines or forty varieties of chewing gum, but my real concern is the end of the line.

Advent is waiting—waiting for Jesus. The word “Advent” comes from a Latin word that literally means “arrival”. Think of children waiting for grandma and grandpa to come, “When are they going to get here?”  As they wait, they prepare. They might clean their room, make cards, figure what games they want to play.

Expectant parents do not proceed with life as if nothing has changed or is going to change. They prepare by getting baby’s room ready, stocking up on diapers, finding a childcare provider.

How anxious are we for Jesus’ return? How anxious are we to have him come into our lives right now? To what extent are we waiting? Does Jesus’ arrival occupy our thoughts and our time? Are we preparing?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Predicting Pope Francis

With Pope Francis now in the United States there is plenty of talk about the comments he has made so far, and plenty of speculation about what he will say throughout his visit and beyond.

If you want a pretty good predictor of what Pope Francis might say and do, pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

People think that everything Pope Francis does is so new and fresh, when in reality, he is simply saying what the Church has always taught.

Take for example his comments on the flight back from Rio in 2013 regarding homosexuals. When asked what he would do if he found out one of his priests was gay he simply replied, “Who am I to judge?” Everyone treated it as if he had said something revolutionary. He said himself in the interview published in Jesuit journals across the world including America in the U.S., “I really just said what was in the Catechism.”

Here is the paragraph he was hinting at:

“[Homosexuals] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”  (CCC #2358)

Another more recent example is the letter he issued September 1 giving priests the authority to grant absolution to women confessing the sin of abortion. Is this a change? Not really. Priests are required to have permission from the bishop to grant absolution to anyone confessing the sin of procuring or helping some to procure and abortion. What the pope has done, as part of the Year of Mercy that will begin December 8, is extend that permission to all priests.

 In doing so he is not downplaying the seriousness of abortion, he merely making further effort to extend the healing and forgiveness of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that has always been there.
Pope Francis has made changes in papal protocols and has begun changing the way the Church is governed most especially in the Vatican itself. He also intends to explore ways women can have more of a role in Church governance. There is one thing he will not do. He will not change what the Church actually teaches in matters of faith and morals. These are not the possession of any pope, but rather the entire Church—past, present, and future.

The pope is a big deal because the gospel is a big deal. The attention Pope Francis is getting is proof of how desperate people are to hear it and see it in action, even if it confuses them a little.

The days to come will have no shortage of “new” things the Pope Francis will say that the Church has already said—that people will finally hear.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, February 14: More than Enough

Mass Readings: Genesis 3:9-24/Mark 8:1-10

Sometimes, when following the Lord, we get to that point where we feel like we have nothing left. If we were to continue on, we would collapse. Today’s gospel tells us Jesus will never leave us empty or send us away hungry. He will always take what we or others have and make it enough.

This is one reason Jesus gave us the Mass. He knew that without it we would collapse under the weight of our sins, anxieties, and efforts. The feeding of the four thousand foreshadows Eucharist in that it reminds us of three important truths: 1) Jesus will never send us away hungry; 2) Jesus will take what we have and make it more. 3) Jesus is super-sufficient. Jesus will give us everything we need and enough to share.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, let me never forget that you are more than enough.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflection for Friday, February 13: Deliverer

Mass Readings: Genesis 3:1-8/Mark 7:31-37

When the crowd exclaims, “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak,” they are referencing a passage from Isaiah describing Israel’s deliverance. Deliverance had different meanings to different people back then, as it does today.  In Jesus’ time, deliverance from Rome was one of the deepest desires of the Jewish people. As Messiah, Jesus is certainly the deliverer, but ending Roman rule was not Jesus’ mission. Besides being freed from foreign, rule one could be delivered from deafness, blindness, disability, or disease. One can also be delivered from sin and death.

All that holds us “captive”—addiction, ill treatment, sickness, unhealthy relationships and more—flows from Original Sin. Only in Jesus, the promised Redeemer, and in his Church can we find the deliverance we all seek.

Prayer: Deliver us, Lord, from all that holds us captive.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, February 12: Speak Up

Mass Readings: Genesis 2:18-25/Mark 7:24-30

Jesus was beyond his home territory and reaching beyond his mission to his Jewish brethren. Why limit his efforts to the Jews? Were the Gentiles just not ready? The Chosen People, after all, had been waiting for the Messiah for 2000 years.

The Syrophoenician woman seems to have understood the difference. She seemed to grasp better than most her place in God’s plan of salvation and was better prepared to receive the Messiah. Perhaps Jesus’ challenge was to get her to confess her faith out loud. Spoken out loud and received by Jesus and others, her faith was made real to all.

How often are we challenged to express out loud our faith in Jesus? As a sacramental people, if it is not said out loud or otherwise made tangible, then how real is it?

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust you enough to make you known in the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, February 11: External vs. Internal

Mass Readings: Genesis 2:4b-9/Mark 7:14-23

The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were obsessed with the external. Strict observance of every ritual and law was paramount. As we see over and over, this preoccupation with the external was at the expense of the internal. Worse, they seemed most obedient to the obligations that most sheltered them from serving their neighbor.

It’s easy to do the external. Following rules or rituals doesn’t require much difficult change. The external does not necessarily require us to be open to the needs of our neighbor. Real change, real conversion, real love--that’s a different story. If God breathes his own breath into us to make us living beings, then “evil thoughts, unchastity…greed, malice” and other impurities of our hearts are all the more profane. Our need for cleansing is all the more profound.

Prayer:  Lord, cleanse my heart of all impurity; of all that is not you.