This is the third article in a series about approaching LGBT ideology from a Catholic perspective. Read the first article, which explains the disordered nature of homosexuality and transgenderism, here, and the second article, which discusses the moral obligation to fight the LGBT agenda, here.
(LifeSiteNews) – Amid rising LGBT identification and homosexual sin, Catholics must make clear to people in LGBT lifestyles that they are gravely offending God and that He can heal their disordered inclinations.
In addition to a public and firm opposition to the LGBT agenda for the sake of our country, our marriages, and our children, a genuinely Catholic perspective on the matter cannot neglect the need to take a pastoral approach to individual persons. Such an approach, however, must be grounded in reality and in divine revelation if it is to be truly Christian.
Supernatural charity is not charity if it is not grounded in the truth, both the truth that reason can understand on its own and the truth that God Himself has revealed. It is the same God who created the natural order, who has also revealed what man must do to attain salvation, and who died on the Cross to obtain the graces necessary for that salvation.
A few basic truths about the power and workings of grace must be understood clearly, then, to develop a truly pastoral approach to LGBT persons.
Grace and virtue heal, elevate, and order more perfectly in accord with both right reason and faith. They presuppose what is natural, correcting, raising, and perfecting it.
God can heal disordered LGBT orientations
In sexual sins that deviate from the order of virtue, desire itself is still natural—the natural inclination toward the opposite sex remains intact. Grace and virtue heal by turning this natural desire to what pleases God in a faithful and fruitful marriage and family.
However, in sexual sins that deviate from the order of nature, like homosexuality, sexual desire has become distorted and unnatural, turned toward the wrong object. Here a deeper healing is needed. However, this is not beyond the power of God’s grace, which is an all-important point. Two fundamental errors are often adopted in this regard by well-intentioned Catholics. One is to think that persons are sometimes immutably fixed in something that is not natural—namely, that a deep-seated homosexual inclination or “gender dysphoria” is impossible to change or heal. Another error is to think that the virtue of chastity for homosexual persons simply means they cannot engage in sexual acts with the sex to which they are inclined. The first is an error about the power of grace, the second an error about the virtue of chastity.
It must be understood, then, that the first thing that God’s grace does in the soul, after setting the will at peace with God by turning it toward Him and away from sin, is to begin to restore what is good at the level of human nature. The healing of the sexual inclination which consists in turning back toward the natural object of this inclination is a natural effect of God drawing the soul toward Himself through the power of grace. The natural order of the heterosexual inclination is a created participation in the life-giving love of God as Creator, and in the sacrament of marriage it is a participation in the spousal spiritual love of Christ for the Church. Grace can and does heal the disordered desires and inclinations of the human heart. Nothing in this life is beyond its power to rectify.
The virtue of chastity, properly speaking, orders rightly the sexual inclination that is already directed toward its proper natural object; that is, the virtue of chastity takes the natural desire toward the opposite sex and directs it towards one’s spouse. This is the mean set by right reason, which looks at human nature and understands that sexual intercourse is for the sake of the procreation and education of children as the fruit of a stable love between man and woman, and so belongs to the lifelong communion of marriage. Chastity, then, directs toward and guards marriage as the proper place for the sexual love between man and woman. But it also presupposes the basic inclination of man and woman toward each other. This is not to say that we can in no way speak of the observance of chastity for those with a homosexual inclination—indeed, the Church speaks in this way—but it is to say that refraining from sexual acts with those of the same sex is not what the virtue of chastity is most properly about. Chastity most properly keeps a person from sexual acts with those of the opposite sex who are not one’s spouse. Put positively, chastity is that virtue by which one loves his or her spouse properly.
A pastoral approach must make clear that sin is sin
A final word must be said about the necessity of observing God’s commandments. God Himself has revealed that no one can be saved without keeping His commandments. He has also revealed that no one can keep His commandments in a way that pleases Him without the graces that come through Christ’s death. In his Confessions, St. Augustine famously prayed, “Command what you will, O God, and give me grace to do what you command.” Christ Himself, when asked by the rich young in the Gospel what he had to do to inherit eternal life, replied, “Keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:16) Nor did Our Lord ever forgive sinners without their repentance from sin and instructing them to sin no more. Christ did not come to confirm man in his sins, but to take away sin by shedding His blood.
In this regard it should be said that it is impossible for any man to fully understand how offensive sin is to God. Christ’s bloody death on the Cross gives us a small glimpse of the evil and malice of human sin. Until we see the divine essence, which is goodness itself, we will always fail to fully fathom the depth of the depravity of sin.
It should also be said that the divine abhorrence for sin is manifest in Christ’s preaching. There is no person in all of Scripture who speaks of hell more or who attacks sinners with more forceful condemnations than Christ Himself. The same Christ who forgives the woman caught in adultery, telling her to sin no more, also condemns the pharisees and chief priests for the sexual sins of adultery, fornication, lust, and divorce. Nor does he mince words when faced with a refusal to repent, saying “You will die in your sins.” (Jn 8:21) When, in the middle of a litany of woes uttered against the pharisees, the lawyers object that Christ is condemning them as well, Our Lord does not soften His tone but doubles down and pronounces further condemnations against the lawyers who share the sins of the pharisees (Lk 11:45).
These condemnations are worth considering because no Christian would accuse Christ of being unpastoral. And it is not merely proud obstinacy that He condemns, but sexual sins, both interior thoughts and desires as well as external actions. He also condemns the refusal to believe in His word, a word that requires such things as purity of heart and exclusive faithfulness to one’s spouse in marriage.
So, an authentically Christ-like and pastoral approach to those living a sinful way of life entails, first of all, a clear stating that sin is sin. In the face of hardness of heart or attachment to sin, after the example of Christ, even sharp accusation may be called for. In this regard the Church cannot set aside the duty to unambiguously and unapologetically condemn sin as offensive to God’s goodness.
Condemnation, however, is not the last word. The Cross of Christ and His bloody death reveal not only the malice of sin, but even more the redemptive love of Our Lord, who did not hesitate to under that death to bring us out of our sins into the life of grace. It is hope in the transforming, healing power of that grace that must have the final word in any personal, pastoral outreach.
If we really believe in what God has revealed, we will be convinced that the human heart longs deeply for the truth, however hard it may be, and for the grace that enables man to live according to that truth. Genuine charity, desiring the salvation of souls, will seek to bring others to accept that truth and the healing grace that Christ alone offers.
Church teaching and Scripture on sexual ethics
Below are several texts of the Magisterium and of Scripture, offered here for the sake of seeing the continuity of the Church’s teaching and its foundation in divine revelation.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Persona Humana, 1975:
At the present time there are those who, basing themselves on observations in the psychological order, have begun to judge indulgently, and even to excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people. This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people.
A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.
In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.
In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.
In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, 2000:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
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.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Genesis, 13:13, 18:20:
“Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” “Then the Lord said… the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave.”
“Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
1 Corinthians, 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”