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Divine Mercy

This revised edition takes you on a tour of Divine Mercy throughout salvation history, through the Old and New Testaments, in the writings of the Church's great theologians, and in the lives and writings of the saints down through the ages.

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Part 2: What's Church Belief on Homosexuality, and Why?

Robert Stackpole Answers Your Divine Mercy Questions

By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Feb 8, 2012)
A friend who read my last column on homosexuality complained I had forgotten something very important: "You said that according to the Bible and the Catholic Church, homosexuality is an unnatural, wounded condition, not what our Creator intended for us, and therefore cannot lead to human peace and fulfillment. But what about the fact that scientists have now discovered it is genetically inherited — that people are gay because of their genes? If it's in their genes, how can it be a 'wounded,' 'unnatural' condition?"

Well, the "gay gene" is not a fact, it's a theory. Back in the 1990s a study purported to show a genetic link with homosexuality, but to the best of my knowledge to date that study has not been duplicated, and "the court is still out" in the scientific community about the possible genetic roots of same-sex attraction.

Personally, I should not at all be surprised to find there is a genetic factor involved in many or even most cases for same-sex attraction. After all, scientists have been finding genetic factors involved in all kinds of human proclivities for decades now (including tendencies to enjoy reading books and to be afraid of roller coaster rides ... I am pretty sure I have both of those genes myself!).

But two important things to bear in mind here.

First, the fact that one inherits a degree of inclination toward a certain attitude or behavior does not mean one is necessarily compelled to behave that way — or even that one's inclination in that direction is solely genetic. There may be other factors at work that affect one's attitude and behavior as much, or even more, than genes. For instance, one's upbringing and the effect of choices one has made throughout life.

Second, whether or not same-sex attraction is rooted in part in the human genetic code does not necessarily mean it is "wholesome" or "natural." There are all kinds of traits that human beings inherit from their parents that are far from "natural": tendencies toward melancholy, irascibility, alcoholism, sickle cell anemia, type 1 diabetes, and congenital blindness, for example. What makes an inherited human trait "natural" (in the sense of God-given and in accord with our Creator's loving plan for us) is whether or not it leads us toward human flourishing and fulfillment. If it doesn't, then the inherited trait may be the result of the wounding of human nature caused by the fall of Adam and Eve (that is, the inherited corruption of our nature called "original sin") rather than any natural gift from our Creator.

So, apart from divine revelation given to us in the Bible and the Sacred Tradition of the Church (see my column last week on all that), what reason do we have to believe that the same-sex condition and gay relationships are "unnatural" and cannot lead to human flourishing and fulfillment?

One of the main reasons comes from developmental psychology. In a great many cases, a major factor in the development of same-sex attraction seems to be a broken, wounded relationship with a child's same-sex parent. One of the pioneers of research in this area was Elizabeth Moberly at Cambridge University in England in the 1980s. As psychologists well know, children naturally long to bond in a special way with their same-sex parent. But in cases where the same sex parent is weak, absent, indifferent, or hostile, or where even just a single experience of perceived "rejection" by the same-sex parent has been internalized, the result can be devastating: an ongoing search by the individual to meet their unfulfilled need for intimacy with the same-sex parent by developing affective relationships with people of the same gender. Of course, the search is in vain. The wound from the past cannot be healed in that way—and the gay individual therefore goes from partner to partner. As the song goes, "looking for love in all the wrong places" — in this case, looking for the healing of lost mother-daughter or father-son love in all the wrong places. Moberly's research matches the findings by others as well (e.g., see Dr. Richard Friedman's Male Homosexuality, Yale University press, 1988).

Now, it is true that the American Psychiatric Association has removed "homosexuality" from its list of psychological disorders. A little known fact, however, is that in order to do so, they actually had to change the definition of a psychological disorder. Previously, psychological illness was described as anything that arose from a psychological wound or trauma of the past and/or resulted in the inability to function properly or live with a degree of contentment in the present. In order to accommodate homosexuality, however, the APA decided the drop the criteria of psychological wound and trauma from the list! The professional associations may prefer (perhaps for the sake of "political correctness") to turn a blind eye to the painful childhood roots of much same-sex attraction, but the Church is under obligation from our Lord not turn a blind eye to the truth. In addition to this, there is plenty of evidence to show that suffering sexual abuse as a child often results in the development of same-sex attraction. Apparently this is especially the case with female children. As Christian counselor Joe Dallas reports in his book When Homosexuality Hits Home (Harvest House, 2004), "A violated girl will often conclude that men are unsafe and destructive, closing off future potential bonding with a male partner" (p.63). How can something so often rooted in the wounding of the human spirit be" healthy," "natural" and "God-given"?

It is reasonable to dispute the APA decision anyway. In her book One Man, One Woman, (Sophia Institute, 2007), Dale O'Leary documents the extensive amount of research that shows that those with same-sex attraction "are more likely to suffer from depression, substance-abuse problems, suicidal ideation, sexual addiction, and a number of other psychological disorders" (p. 28). Of course, gay activists say this is all the result of the social oppression and rejection that homosexuals experience in a "homophobic" society. But as O'Leary discovered (and documents):

If these problems were caused entirely by lack of public acceptance of [same-sex attraction], we would expect to find fewer problems in places where tolerance was high and "homophobia" low. But this isn't the case. Studies done in the Netherlands and New Zealand, for example, where there is generally high tolerance of sexual "diversity" found the same high rates of psychological difficulties as those done elsewhere. (p. 29)



Then there are the extra social and medical problems associated with the same-sex lifestyle.

Clearly, God intended sexual bonding to be characterized by "faithfulness": a reflection of, and mysterious participation in, His own intended relationship of spousal faithfulness between Christ as Bridegroom, and the Church as His Bride (Eph 5: 21-33). To be loved intimately and exclusively by one's spouse is therefore a deeply enriching human experience. It mysteriously participates in the spousal love at the heart of God's plan for the whole world. But sexual faithfulness is almost always conspicuous by its absence from gay relationships. In his book Our Social and Sexual Revolution (Baker Books, third edition, 1999), John Stott discusses the evidence for this:

The concept of lifelong, quasi-marital fidelity in homosexual partnerships is largely a myth, a theoretical ideal which is contradicted by the facts. The truth is that gay relationships are characterized more by promiscuity than by fidelity. A number of researches have been made. "One of the most carefully researched studies of the most stable homosexual pairs," writes Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, namely The Male Couple, "was researched and written by two authors who are themselves a homosexual couple." They found that "of the 156 couples studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity; of the hundred couples that had been together for more than five years, none had been able to maintain sexual fidelity." They added that "the expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals." The result of these research studies led Thomas Schmidt to conclude: "Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience—it is virtually the only experience" ... There seems to be something inherently unstable about homosexual partnerships. (pp. 206-207)



Stott gives us the grim medical facts about the extra dangers involved in homosexual erotic activity (especially among males):

It is difficult to maintain that homosexual partnerships are just as much an expression of love as heterosexual marriages in the light of the known damage and danger involved in usual gay sexual practices. Dr. Satinover has the courage to give us "the brute facts about the adverse consequences of homosexuality," based on the most recent medical studies. He writes of infectious hepatitis which increases the risk of liver cancer, of frequently fatal rectal cancer, and a 25-30 year decrease in life expectancy. Thomas Schmidt is even more explicit, describing seven nonviral and four viral infections which are transmitted by oral and anal sex. It is true that some diseases can also be transmitted by similar activity between heterosexual people, but "these health problems are rampant in the homosexual population because they are easily spread by promiscuity and by most of the practices favored by homosexuals." And these diseases are apart from AIDS.... Thomas Schmidt justly calls this chapter [in his book] "The Price of Love." If these physical dangers attend common gay sexual activities, can authentic love engage in them? (p.207)



Perhaps now we can see that the Bible and the Church are right to call homosexual acts "disordered," and same-sex relationships "unnatural." It is not because our Catholic Tradition is inherently "homophobic," but because we cannot turn a blind-eye to the wounds that usually cause the homosexual condition, or to the psychological, social and medical minefield into which those who live out a gay lifestyle have wandered. And besides the evidence of the social and natural sciences, philosophy tells us that a form of sexual bonding that cannot participate in the natural complementarity between male and female and cannot naturally be open to the procreation of new human life, is truncated and sub-natural right from the start.

Given all of this, how should we as Catholics respond to friends and family members who "come out" and tell us that they are gay?

How about responding with merciful love? Isn't that the goal and fruit of the whole message and devotion to The Divine Mercy?

Jesus said to St. Faustina:

I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this, or try to excuse yourself from it. ... My daughter, look into My merciful Heart and reflect its compassion in your own heart and in your deeds, so that you who proclaim My mercy to the world may yourself be aflame with it. (Diary, 742 and 1688; my emphasis)



Notice the "always and everywhere" line here. If we find it especially hard to show kindness and respect to homosexual acquaintances, friends, and family members, that often says a lot more about ourselves and our own insecurities than it does about them.

It might also say something about our pride. After all, why do we suppose that their problems, and their besetting sins, are necessarily worse in our Savior's eyes than those of many heterosexual people? Is our merciful Lord necessarily more "put off" by the sin of homosexual acts than He is by greed, or racism, or adultery? The fact is that homosexual couples are, in most respects, just like the rest of us: "sinners not yet fully cured." As the book of Isaiah puts it: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to His own way, and the Lord has laid on Him [that is, on Christ] the iniquity of us all" (Is 53:6 KJV). You see, every homosexual person that you meet is a sinner whom Jesus loved so much that He gave His life for them on the cross — just as He did for you and me. And whatever we do "even to the least" of His brothers and sisters — especially those who are probably carrying deep wounds from the past, and certainly wandering in a moral, psychological, social and medical minefield in the present — He accounts as done to Himself (Mt 25:40).

Now, I know that there are a host of practical questions people have about how to practice merciful love in real-life situations that can arise, especially regarding gay friends and family members. For example, what do I do if my teenage son or daughter tells me he/she is gay and wants to join a gay-support group? What do I do if my grownup son or daughter or my gay brother or sister asks if they can bring their gay lover home to meet the family and join in holiday celebrations? What do I do if my neighbors who are a gay couple insist I treat them just like any other married couple? The book by Joe Dallas mentioned above, When Homosexuality Hits Home, is by far the best detailed discussion of these pastoral issues that I have ever read, and I heartily recommend it for those seeking guidance. His underlying approach to all of these situations is surely the right one:

I know that when a loved one comes out as gay, the right response is not to condone homosexuality, nor is it to despise the homosexual person. But I've seen both these extremes — the whitewashing of the sin, or the cruel mistreatment of the sinner — practiced by too many people for too many years. (p.14)



One final word. Some of my readers may be thinking that the most merciful and loving response to those with strong same-sex attraction — especially if they are our own family members — is to encourage them to get "treatment" so that they can be healed. Perhaps a combination of faith-based psychotherapy and healing prayer will "cure" them, so that they can then be attracted to members of the opposite sex, according to God's creation-plan, and even get married and have a family someday.

Now, I have absolutely no doubt that in some cases, people with this affliction can indeed be miraculously healed, just as those who come to Jesus with other ailments sometimes receive dramatic, supernatural healing by His loving power. Healing prayer and good Christian counseling can indeed be channels of His healing love, and always help. But let us remember that just as with physical ailments, so with other human afflictions: miraculous and total healing is rare and exceptional rather than the rule. In his book Moral Choices, Protestant ethicist Scott Rae discusses the charge that such "cures" almost never happen:

It is common for Gay activists to hold that cures rarely, if ever, happen. But they are using the term "cure" in a way that is not used in treating other kinds of struggles and addictions. There is a crucial distinction between being cured of the behavior and being cured of the impulse. To be cured in the more common, psychological usage is to be content apart from the specific behavior in question. For example, the alcoholic who is cured has not necessarily lost the craving for alcohol. Rather, he has learned to be content apart from drinking. The same is true for the homosexual. He or she may not be cured of attractions for the same sex, but is content apart from acting out the sexual attraction. On this view, it is possible for someone who has developed a homosexual orientation to follow Christ and abstain from homosexual behavior in the same way that an alcoholic can follow Christ and stop drinking.



In this regard, we can be encouraged by Scripture, for St. Paul tells us that some of his readers "were" (past tense) practicing homosexuals before being converted to Christ and receiving His sanctifying grace (I Cor 6:11).

In fact, some of you may know many Catholic dioceses have branches of a group called "Courage," which consists of men and women with same-sex attraction who are committed to living chastely according to the truth taught by Jesus and His Church about human sexuality (see especially Catechism entries 2357-2359). They pray for each other and support each other in this endeavor, relying on divine grace flowing to them through the sacraments of the Church to help them. They also welcome whatever degree of healing of their condition that our Lord has for them along the way. And they do all this because they trust our Lord's mystical Body on earth, the Catholic Church, when she tells them about the path of authentic love that leads to true peace of heart. Once again, it all comes down to trust in the end: "Jezu Ufam Tobie"! In this way, too, the homosexual person is no different than the rest of us: The only way to salvation — theirs and ours — is the way of trust in the merciful love of God.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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Anna — Feb 12, 2012 - 17:35 EST

Watching professional football the other day and seeing all the hugging and other body gestures , wondered if there are hidden agendas that could mislead those who carry Father wounds and incline them towards any worsening of their weakness !

Also , would it not be good for us in The Church , to proclaim how our God is even Thrice Fatherly , like He is thrice Holy ..that The Father relationship with all Three in The Trinity , thus could help to do away with the many related ills (including homosexual weakness ) and heresies ; Mormonism also has been poised to take advanatge of perceived weakness in this regard , addressing all their prayers to The Father alone who, by the way, is made out to be only a human - thus denying God His divinity !

Our Lord called the disciples 'children' , being One with The Father !

Seeing how the underlying weakness of the current leadership in the country is leading The Church into difficulties , it would be good for us to be careful , as to what are the areas of deepest convictions of these persons and if there is a pattern of overcontrol and deceptions , such as in both Islam and Mormonism
( which , by the way , are very similar !) then , we better be careful , as we are learning now, before the country gets into much deeper , unforseen problems , for us participating in these heresies, even if indirectly !

May His mercy keep us in His truth and help to bring all the errant , to same !

Lori — Feb 16, 2012 - 14:44 EST

Dear Dr. Stackpole, We are all sinners in need of God's Divine Mercy! Jesus called us to love one another not to judge one another. Any sin of the flesh whether it be the same sex, sex outside of marriage, drug and alcohol addictions never lead to true peace unless we are healed through the mercy of God! So I say love the sinner hate the sin! the most important thing we can do is pray for one another!

Tony — Feb 18, 2012 - 3:35 EST

A gay persons sexuality is another expression of God's love that the church condemns. The problem is not with the gay person but teachings that are thousands of years old. I pray we can all move forward with the Spirit of God today, and not get stuck in the past. God is love, however love is expressed. Do not judge.

Bill of Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy Manila, Philippines — May 15, 2012 - 23:32 EDT

In the end, our actions must be based on the scripture. If the scripture says being gay and lesbian is a sin. It is our responsibility to correct any person we aware of being gay or lesbian in a polite and merciful manner or even so by prayer. Jesus always forgive and will always forgive. But he also asked all of us to sin no more.

humble slave of Divine Love — Jun 8, 2012 - 18:25 EDT

Goodness and Truth comes from God alone, and they are absolute, consequently, our love for others should be directed toward God. We should not love anyone before God, more than God and apart from God for our resurrection consists of the transformation of the totality of our being, spirit and flesh, by the Re-creative Power of God’s Love, which is not only an idea, attitude or orientation. It’s the constant miracle of God’s Mercy which transforms souls and raises them up to Eternal Life. God’s Love alone fulfills the longing of every human heart which is created for the Infinite Love of God. God has planted a seed of His Goodness in our heart which needs to be nourished with His Love, and we really want what God wants and if we revolt against His Holy Will - His Divine Essence - we are tearing our inner being monstrously, grievously separating ourselves from God. God created everything for us, but He created us for Himself. God is an Ocean of Happiness, and we were created to participate in His Unchangeable Goodness, and His Joy is to pour His Holiness in us which comes from His Unchangeable Goodness and our joy comes from His Goodness. His Joy is Light, and His Light is Joy, and the Inconceivable Goodness of God shields us at every step from the enemies of our salvation.

The true life in perfect union with God is quite different. The true life is that of man whole and entire when he is lifted out of the corruptibility of biological existence and transformed by the divine energies which communicate incorruptibility to him. This life is the one which Saint Paul calls "spirit" in opposition to "flesh”. Man is spirit in his soul when this is lifted out of the emptiness of merely natural thoughts and feelings and invested with those divine habits which are called faith, hope, and charity. Man is spirit in his body when the might of the Spirit, seizing his frail flesh, lifts it out of its destitution and mysteriously enriches it with incorruptibility. This life is the one for which man was destined in the beginning. Jesus is the Life of the soul, and the Trinitarian Divine Love is the oxygen of the human heart.

Our relationship with God does not represent some kind of accessory truth, fitted on to a perspective which could exist substantially apart from it, but is constitutive of man as such. Hence a man who refuses to consider it, a man without adoration, is mutilated in his person. When we raise our voice today against every sort of atheistic perspective, whether this be liberal humanism, it is not simply God that we are defending, but man himself. A man without God is not fully human. I am surprised that Christians are not better aware of the human stake in what they are defending. Without adoration human society becomes a world where we gasp for breath. And that, in truth, is the menace that overhangs the world today.

What constitutes the soundness of the natural order, so much disregarded by contemporary thought, but the importance of which we are increasingly rediscovering, is the fact that it is God's thought regarding man. We cannot, as so many men today think we can, make anything we like out of man. Man is not the creation of man, as modern man have thought; we are not called on to invent a type of humanity; that has already been supplied, and what we have to do is to help bring it to fruition. In Christ there is revealed to us the final page of our destiny, which is not simply an earthly destiny. The Uncreated Word of God Himself came to seize upon our fragile human constitution to raise it up to the Father and to plunge it into the abysses of the life proper to him. "We know ourselves only through Jesus Christ." And true enough, it is only in Jesus Christ that there is revealed fully to us the mystery which we ourselves constitute.

Here, then, there is something more, which is not simply of the order of natural laws. The task of the Christian as regards
earthly realities is to consecrate them that is, to supply them with that ambient of grace within which alone they can reach
their full development, finding in it health for their wounds and growth for their powers. This comes about through the sacraments. But the specific task of the laity in the Church is to be the agent who in a certain fashion turns upon the things of earth what is received by the grace of Christ. The function of the priest is to transmit this grace. And the function of the laity is to cause it to penetrate into all human things. This begins with the sacrament of marriage. It is in the climate of the grace of matrimony that human love, the love of man and woman, the love of children, has attained in its own line its finest delicacies and its greatest depths.

Truth is the intelligence's grasp of its unison with being, and being's transparence to the mind. The intelligence has no fulfillment save in the knowledge of being. To be intelligent is to know that which is. Intelligence or reason informed by faith consist in knowing Reality as it is, the brightness of Absolute and Eternal Truth that is God. Truth consists in the mind's giving to things the importance they have in reality. Now, the thing that is sovereignly real Is God. Truth, then, must consist in the mind's acknowledging God's Sovereign Reality. This Reality is that of God as He is in Himself. Truth must consist in acknowledging God's Infinite Majesty and
Holiness. This is also the Reality of God as expressed in His work. Truth, therefore, must consist in the intelligence's being conformed to the Divine Intelligence, to the divine sense of existence. It will consist in the will's entering into the ways of God, co-operating with His designs, and aiding Him to accomplish His work in us and in the world. Cooperating with God as His instruments in bringing His Goodness into the world. The absolute of the Truth which enlightens my intelligence is the absolute in the first instance of the Word of God, and our actions should be the fruit of Truth, and charity the work of faith.

But we believe in the dignity of intelligence. No, prostituted though she has been, we shall never repudiate her. Conversely, when we ask her to turn again to truth, it is the very opposite of a repudiation that we ask of her, for we but ask her to realize her own nature. Truth is no stranger to her. It is interior to her. It is her transparence to herself in a light more interior to her than herself inttmior mtimo meo, said Saint Augustine. And it is by being faithful to this light that she herself will become once more the light which men need to see their way by.

It is in Christian grace that the human intelligence has reached its highest
peaks because human reason has been aided by the grace of Christ's Revelation
without, and by the vivifying energies of the faith within. It is one of the marvels of the grace of Christ that it draws human realities themselves in their own line to their natural perfection, independently of what it adds to them, by bringing them to surpass themselves. Christians should work to re-establish ambients of Christian life. Human love, human understanding, and human work would find there, too, their full dignity and meaning, and it is in our lives, just as they are, that we have to find God.

The whole of the spiritual life consists in nothing more nor less than this. The whole road of spiritual progress lies between the point where things are obstacles to the point where they have become means. And it is there, then, that our temporal activities, our work in the world, become the very material, we might say, for our practice of the spiritual life means for going towards God. At that moment, we shall have caught on to the unity of our life. A day that can be spent in the most total banality, taken up by the purely human aspects of work, and bringing me in the evening only a kind of frightful void it is up to me to transfigure it by a miracle of the heart and to invest it with a kind of incorruptible substance.

The truth about reality is the fact that our being is oriented towards God and must, on the level of awareness, make Him out in and through all things. He lies hidden everywhere in our lives. We simply fail to discover Him. We seek God by desiring Him. We find God by loving Him, and in the silence of our heart, we love God by finding Him in the inmost interior of our soul. It is, after all, up to us to find His Uncontainable Peace. And this not in some kind of slipping away from our earthly tasks, but simply in a new view which we bring to bear upon them, the reflection that we have received them from God and are bearing them back to Him. There is no other secret of existence; and this secret lies within our grasp.

A person who has made a gift of self lives entirely out of the Love of the Son for the Father, on the strength of the Sons inner-divine Love. The Holy Spirit will therefore accomplish in His way the same thing that the Son accomplished living as man: out of the inner-divine Love. He will administer something that enables man to lay eyes on this Love. The Holy Spirit, whose descent transforms men and strengthens them in faith and love, takes over and continues the Son’s task. To a certain extent, He does so without a sound and without letting His work appear His own. In all this He is bound to the Son in a way that presents a mirror image of the Son’s loving obedience to the Father.

Similarly, the Son’s commandment of love, which extols the love of one person for another as the meaning and goal of life, is nothing other than the expression of inner-divine Love. We should love one another because God loves us so much and because God simply is love, and our perfection consists in , and leads to, His Merciful Eternal Love. A love of neighbor that is directed exclusively toward human beings and disregards God’s Love would ultimately form an egotistical circle; such a love would produce a reciprocal love that corresponds to it but that would be terminated and extinguished in this reciprocity and he would dissociate himself from his infinite purpose. However, when a believer who knows the love of God for him loves another, he loves the other person in a way directed toward God; he loves his neighbor with a view to God and in a love that places him in the service of the ever greater God, a love that he offers up like an act of worship so that God might perfect it. He entrust his love to God so that God can draw it to Himself and let it be efficacious from heaven. Such love might just as well be called prayer as called love; for God accepts all genuine love like a prayer in order to use it exactly where He needs it. He can make do just as well with the love between two people as He can with an express sacrifice or prayer. He takes this love to Himself, sanctifies it completely, and gives it back sanctified to men in order to lead them back to God.

O Divine Will, be my Love!


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