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Vatican document carries dire consequences

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, December 5, 2005

I want to thank my colleague Andy Beuchel for his compassionate, reasoned response to the Vatican’s new instruction regarding homosexuality and the clergy. I apologize if my own anger and pain about the document detract from the larger points I attempt to make.

Always bear in mind that when God surveyed his creation he deemed it good, not perfect. We must recognize the value of others despite any deficiencies.

None of the effects of this document have only theoretical ramifications. It harms the flesh and bones of Christ’s Mystical Body, gay and straight, lay and ordained. This document renders the Catholic Church less catholic, less compassionate and less Christian. Furthermore, it will exacerbate the priest shortage at a time when so many Catholics lack the nourishment provided by a communal celebration of the Eucharist.

It alienates not only gay and lesbian Catholics but their loved ones as well who have perhaps struggled but succeeded in accepting their homosexual loved one as a good person in whom the Spirit is active. As a gay Catholic I find it difficult to conceive a place for myself that maintains any semblance of intellectual, spiritual or emotional integrity; I see a dismissal of my ability to achieve a humane communion with my fellow persons and with Christ. The Vatican has further marginalized an already marginalized group by pandering to people’s fears and stereotypes. This document amounts to a predation upon those men with whom I share a unique emotional commiseration and thus speak more effectively to my spiritual struggle. It attempts to amputate part of the Mystical Body.

We cannot pass this position off as a “hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner” exhortation otherwise a commitment to celibacy would suffice. The equation of predilection to actual act has dangerous implications for all Catholics. The inclination to sin, common to all and part of our imperfection, should never be squared with sin itself lest we abandon the hope for living in a Christ-like way by overcoming the inclination to sin to instead act with love and justice.

What those who condemn homosexuality fail to realize is that it is not only or even primarily about sex, just as heterosexual attraction is not. To be momentarily flippant, if attraction was primarily about sex, everyone would be having a lot more of it. If it were only about sex I’m sure more gays and lesbians could reduce it to a “transitory problem” by fulfilling their emotional needs with friends and family. A non-normative attraction does not constitute an “affective immaturity” that precludes normal relational interactions. In fact, in my experience and that of every other gay person I know, the stifling of our sexuality through denial, self-loathing, an attempt to enter straight relationships, or a spiritually unsatisfying celibacy causes much more dysfunction in relationships of all types than does admitted homosexuality. The “trial” of homosexuality comes from the fear of reprobation or the rejection of others, to which the Church contributes under the pretext of stabilizing the priesthood. Once we come to terms with our own sexuality and remember that we are still children of God, we can see ourselves as God does: good, imperfect but unquestionably good.

E.S. Emmegraduate studentOff-campusDec. 1