It's Time to Talk

Probably no issue in America today causes Catholics more confusion than the issue of homosexuality. Gay marriage has been approved by the Supreme Court, annual gay pride parades take place in major cities across the country, and sympathetic treatment of those with same-sex attraction permeates the media and entertainment industries.

Given the direction our culture has taken on this subject over the past few decades, many Catholics - and especially young Catholics - are simply bewildered: Are the Church's teachings on same-sex attraction still credible, defensible, or even livable anymore?

Catholic parents, too, face a whole new set of problems in this regard. How should we relate to friends, relatives, colleagues at work, when they "come out" and tell us that they are gay? What do we do if our son or daughter tells us they have a gay lover? What do we do if a friend invites us to his gay wedding? In short, how can we follow Christ's command to love our neighbors as ourselves, if our "neighbors" are a gay couple? How do we love them in a way that neither compromises the truth taught by our faith, nor falls short of the call to practice merciful love?

Precisely because so many Catholics today are feeling confused or even overwhelmed by these dramatic changes in our culture, I thought it was time to write a book to reassure them, to help steady the ship, so to speak: a book that would show them that the truth has not changed, just because our culture has. That book was released this spring by Marian Press, titled A Bridge of Mercy: Homosexuality and God's Merciful Love.

In fact, what the Church teaches about same-sex attraction is both credible and defensible. Its foundations are firmly set in what God has revealed to humanity through Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, to be sure, but also in much that sound philosophy and the social sciences can teach us.

It is hardly loving for a doctor to "cover up" the diagnosis of a serious health condition just to keep his patient from feeling bad about it! In a similar way, the Church cannot ignore the painful wounds from childhood that most often cause the homosexual condition, or the moral, spiritual, social, psychological, and medical minefield into which people with this condition inevitably wander when they decide to live out their same-sex attractions in homoerotic relationships.

As Pope St. John Paul II often said (quoting St. Edith Stein): "Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie." To "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), therefore, will not necessarily make us more popular, but real love for others would never do any less.

At the same time, just clearing up and reaffirming moral guidelines is not enough. As Catholics, we need to learn to do something that we have never done very well before, either as individuals or as the Church. We need to learn to love our gay brothers and sisters as people who in most respects are no different than ourselves.

Just like them we are children of God; just like them, we are sinners not yet fully cured. Just like them, we are invited to journey into the Heart of merciful Jesus, to receive His grace and healing love. To be sure, they have brokenness and inner wounds in their lives - including the wounds that resulted in their same-sex attractions in the first place. But so do we. Ours just have different names than theirs. So we are all on a common journey, and no one has the right to look down on anyone else.

In the world today, therefore, in which Catholics find themselves in a minority on this divisive social issue, the Church is not called to put up angry, defensive walls, but to build a bridge of mercy that we can all cross together, heterosexual and homosexual alike. As I wrote in my book: "Christ loves us all, unconditionally, just as we are, in the midst of our sins and our brokenness - but He loves us too much to leave us that way."

This book points the way to living with authentic mercy the truth about our sexuality in God's amazing, loving plan for us.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

You might also like...

The following is the second part of a two-part series addressing criticism of Pope Francis.
During Easter week, a group of 19 Catholic scholars from around the world signed an open letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church calling upon them to declare Pope Francis guilty of "the canonical delict of heresy."
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, tells us what it's all about.