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A paradigm of love

| Friday, January 22, 2016

There seems to me to be a great struggle within the Catholic Church over how to integrate members of our community who are gay or lesbian. Too often, a cursory examination of the Church’s theology appears to offer no hope for love, acceptance, aspiration or peace to the homosexual person. Yet it is inconceivable that the salvation of Jesus would exclude any person simply because of the nature God Himself gave that person. When I consider the challenges which gay Catholics currently have to overcome in order to find our places within the Church, I can’t help but feel a human disconnect must be present in the world.

It’s surprising how often we hear people arguing over the morality of this or that specific action without ever acknowledging the underlying dignity of the human person. This demeanor is distressingly common today. I would like for us to change that. People of faith must commit to viewing their gay brothers and lesbian sisters through a lens that sees them first as children of God, the same as any other person. I would add further that we LGBT Catholics should take exactly the same approach when meeting those more traditional, less experienced Catholics who struggle to give us space within the Church community.

There is an inexplicable revulsion felt from certain Catholics towards “being gay.” I do not understand it. I have never understood it. I’m not talking about those who merely argue that homosexual sex is an immoral act, though the people to whom I refer do that too. I mean the people who are offended by the very essence of a gay person. They recoil from the fact that a man who feels sexual attraction for a man even dares to be. His actions are almost beside the point. For those who do not think this way, I doubt I can explain it to you. It is only by being on my side of the issue that I know such people exist. They have forced their reality upon us in a way we would never have chosen to imagine by ourselves.

This mindset is not in keeping with Christ’s treatment of sinners. It is not the mindset Jesus adopted towards the adulteress in John 8, a woman who committed a grave sin by violating the sacrament of marriage. Jesus did not recoil and proclaim, “You are an adulteress, you are foul to be able to do such a thing, and therefore your existence offends me.” Jesus simply said “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus does not refrain from criticizing sin, but his instruction is cached in a paradigm that loves the inherent dignity of the woman. She deserves to be saved. Christians should want everyone to be inside the community.

Nothing innate in anyone’s being can ever put him or her outside our hope for that person’s participation in the Body of Christ. It is not correct to condemn gay and lesbian persons because of their nature. It is a great tragedy to do so, a misunderstanding of what the Church is. The Church is for every single person. No one is excluded by his or her nature. If we must argue over which actions are sinful, let it be from a place that first recognizes the dignity of each person as a child of God.

This paradigm of love should run both ways. Within the gay community, there is a saddening action-reaction taking place which furthers the divide. It is a response that makes it even more difficult for us to be faithful members of the Church. When gay people experience rejection of part of our essence, it is tempting to despair. It is easy to criticize the sin of the hateful person and allow his flaw to embitter our own hearts. Many people make the very human yet still mistaken choice to turn away from the Church because of such encounters. I have great sympathy for my brothers and sisters in this position.

And I would ask them, humbly, to please come back.

When a gay Catholic gives up on a religious ideologue, the person who rejects him from his essence, doesn’t he commit the same error? I profess myself to be a member of the Catholic Church. Do I want to reach Heaven? Yes. Should I want the ideologue who has done nothing but hurt me to reach Heaven as well? Absolutely. Does this require that I be able to relate to that person? No, it does not.

We must desire to be united to all our brothers and sisters, even those who hurt us. We are not divided because anyone’s essence has separated one from another. It is not even sufficient, in my opinion, to say we love a person and hate his sins. Hate must be left out entirely. Hate is not given to human beings. It is a failing of gay Catholics to push away the Church when some of its members create seemingly insurmountable barriers to our membership in the community. And it is a failing of the wider Church to reject anyone based on his or her essence. A paradigm of love would acknowledge the human community is one family, united to each other and in Christ. The Church must be understood as the home in which everyone belongs with no exceptions.

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  • Amen, Michael. Amen.

  • Punta Venyage

    Thanks for the article Michael. I was having trouble understanding what the main point is, can you please clarify?

    “It’s surprising how often we hear people arguing over the morality of
    this or that specific action without ever acknowledging the underlying
    dignity of the human person.”

    Surprising to whom? Is there are a problem with arguing over morality of an action? Are you saying that in any discussion of a moral action (i.e. is it wrong to steal) there has to be an acknowledgment of “underlying dignity of the human person” in order determine whether or not said action is right/wrong? What does that even mean?

    Sorry, I am just trying to understand the logic of what that sentence or the entire article means.

    As the author, what’s the main idea that you want the reader to walk away with?

    • Brendan

      Some writers are only aware of the print version of their article. I think I know what the purpose of this article is. He is stating his agreement with church teaching on sexual morality, but at the same time lamenting that many Catholics do not accept that people are born gay, frequently use the word “gay” in a derogatory manner, use harsh slurs against gay people, stereotype gay people, limit individuals to just their sexual orientation, and define them as a sinner without knowing anything about them (assuming that being gay is the sin, although the Church only condemns homosexual acts). Naturally, this offends both gay people who live in accordance with church teaching and those who reject it. He is calling both for Catholics to cease this extremely unpleasant behavior and for gay Catholics to try and reconcile with these other Catholics who have hurt them. This is what I got from the article. Only the author could explain the ramifications of the quote you mentioned, since you are asking for his worldview on a wide variety of issues.

  • Brendan

    Sorry about the delay, I’m usually not logged in when I read the Observer online.

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. I’m not qualified to respond to your first point, but I am aware that it is the source of endless controversy. I agree with your second point and your fourth point, although our society will definitely continue to do this (because of heated political disputes on related issues).

    The teaching of the Catholic Church on sexual sin and desire (not specifically homosexual sins and desires) recognizes the nature of temptation. For example, I might see an inappropriate image on my computer, a girl in front of me in class with her pants and underwear both extremely low (Its happened four times during my time here), or have an inappropriate thought. In each case, I did not initially consent to the inappropriate thought, picture, or sight. I sin by continuing to look or think after I realize what I am doing. My struggle is similar, but no activist defines me by it. Temptations are not sins until we indulge them by continuing to think about them.

    Homosexual desires and actions would not be respectively sinless and sinful according to the passage you are citing. However, temptation is not a sin, but an opportunity for sanctity. Based on your first point and part of the third, this may not entirely answer your question.