St. Joseph Catholic Church - Toledo, OH

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November 13, 2016 - Extending Mercy to Individuals and Families Impacted by SSA

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  • Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. (Misericordiae Vultus, 10)[1]*
  • “An essential dimension of authentic pastoral care is the identification of causes of confusion regarding the Church’s teaching.” Thus begins an early paragraph (no. 4) of the pivotal 1986 CDF “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”[2]
  • It is our mission to reflect the face of the Father’s mercy especially to those who are most in need. The members of our family of faith who have been impacted by same-sex attraction deserve a greater experience of compassion and a renewed sense of belonging and welcome. *
  • Mercy is an inclination of the will to relieve the misery of another; it flows from charity ... For he who loves his neighbor as a friend in God must grieve over the latter' sorrows as if they were his own.
  • Persons who experience homosexual attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (CCC 2358 [emphasis added])*
  • When the Catechism speaks of showing respect, compassion and sensitivity, the Church is speaking of showing this respect etc. to a person as such and not to homosexuality. ... In reality, persons are not homosexual—(as though there were such a thing as homosexual being). Rather, some persons have homosexual inclinations; that is, they struggle under the influence of impulses toward same-gender sexual activity. In not a few cases, this is actually a struggle with a self-inflicted identity, namely the identification of themselves with their same-sex activity (which is not in keeping with their enduring identity as imago Dei). Accordingly, here the Catechism is calling on Church members to accept and love these persons. This kind of acceptance and love means to view the person as imago Dei; it also means that the Church must be resolute both to lead these persons out of confusion about themselves and to oppose their sinful (homosexual) actions. Moreover, it is never unjust to oppose homosexuality—one’s own or another’s, whether in the form of a thought or a desire or an action. Such opposition can be accomplished without any diminution of the dignity of a human being, even one who is attached to a homosexual (“gay”) identity.[3]
  • ... The issue is more fundamentally a question of the nature of the human being. It is an anthropological question. (This is “anthropology” in a philosophical not a cultural sense.) What (who) is man as a created being? For what kinds of relational exchanges is he made? What is the given direction of human sexuality? Is human being itself radically distorted by the claims of same-gender sexual advocates? These are real questions nowadays. They are—all of them—implied in matters of human sexual experience. The editorial is glib when it raises the question in the precise form that it does (i.e., “too much attention?”) ….
  • Vatican Council II convened to reconcile the gap between Church formulations and human experience. In this the Church demonstrated an accurate grasp of “the signs of the times.” The signs of the times in the third and fourth centuries of the Church called her to demonstrate a correct understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. The Church responded in the formulations of such figures as Leo the Great and Augustine and Jerome. In the current age the Church faces profound challenges particularly in the western democracies of Europe and the United States regarding a correct understanding of “the anthropos” (i.e., the human being). A major example of these challenges is the distortion of human nature itself (not to mention society) by advocates of same-gender sex/marriage.[4]
  • “We recognize that these persons have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence in some sectors of our society. Sometimes this hatred is manifested clearly; other times, it is masked and gives rise to more disguised forms of hatred.” (USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination)*
  • “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons)*
  • To further our goals of compassion and welcome, we must seek a deeper understanding: a better understanding of the experience of those who have been impacted by same-sex attraction and a better understanding of the Church’s Good News about sex and chastity.*
  • Inclusion of anecdote
  • Chastity is about loving well according to your state in life. Every Christian, regardless of their state in life (married, single, celibate, widowed), regardless of their age, regardless of their attractions, and regardless of their past—everyone is called to the chastity proper to their vocation.*
  • Individuals and families who are impacted by same-sex attraction have a right to be loved. They are to be affirmed in their dignity and identity as brothers and sisters in Christ. They must know, through our words and actions, that regardless of what they do or have done, no matter what is going on in their lives, they are loved unconditionally. We are called neither to condemn persons nor to condone sin; but to love persons back into the love of Christ and His Church. This is part of the duty of each one of us.*
  • Individuals who experience same-sex attraction are called to the same chastity alongside their brothers and sisters who experience heterosexual attraction. We are all called to love well and in doing so, to find the deepest meaning and joy of our lives. (Cf. CCC 2359)*
  • “Love is love” is a common refrain in our society today. By this it is meant: all love is equal and all love is the same. But Christians know that authentic love is much richer and broader than this! We know that the love between parents and children is a unique kind of love which is itself different than a unique kind of love shared by friends. These loves in turn are different from the unique kind of love shared by a husband and a wife.*
  • To say that “love is love”—that all love is the same—is to deny the vibrancy of the different kinds of love that all reflect, each in their own way, God who is love. There is a complementarity to love. The love of a man complements the love of a woman. The love of husband and wife complements the love of a chaste celibate or consecrated virgin. Their love complements the love of the chaste single person. And the love of the chaste single person complements the chaste love of the widow or widower.*
  • Persons with same-sex attractions are called to a life of love. Even if they do not share in the unique love experienced and expressed between a husband and a wife, they are called to experience and express other kinds of chaste love, which are also paths to joy and fullness of life. • The intimate community of life and love between one man and one woman which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws… God himself is the author of marriage.” (CCC 1603)*
  • Because God is the author of marriage, no human person or human institution is free to alter the definition of marriage. No human law can supersede divine law.*
  • Every Christian should be aided by the Body of Christ to love in the ways that are proper to their vocation. The rediscovery of the profound joys of loving, chaste friendships would be beneficial to all—especially to those who are not yet married or who are called to live a life of celibacy. The Church should be a place where such loving friendships are able to thrive.*
  • “The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate…Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.” (CCC 2347)*
  • Amid being realistic, however, there is great reason for genuine hope that authentic chastity is attainable even if we cannot “purify” the homosexual inclination itself. Instead we can, with hope-filled hearts, ask our Lord not to purify but to crucify our same-sex attractions upon his Holy Cross.[5]
  • The Cross is part of life’s journey for every Christian. Individuals and families who are impacted by samesex attraction experience a variety of crosses unique to their circumstances. Like all Christians, they are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and…to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC 2358)*
  • It is the Christian duty not only to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily and follow Christ (Lk 9:23) but also, like Simon of Cyrene (Mk 15:21) to assist others as they struggle to carry their cross. This is especially true of our brother and sisters in Christ who have been impacted by same-sex attraction and have often felt abandoned or rejected by the very members of the Church who are called to love them with authentic mercy and compassion. In charity, we help one another carry our crosses.*
  • Finally, “we can and should pray always. Yes, let’s fulfill our obligation to truth by pointing out and even despising error when we see it, but let us never ever despise those who may be in error. You and I may be the only ones who can compassionately help our brother and sister Christians see the hairline fracture in their thinking on same-sex attraction. Our prayers and words may be the only antidote that can prevent greater confusion and deeper suffering among those infinitely loved by the Lord, those whom we should hope to see at our side someday in the everlasting bliss of Heaven.”[6]

[1] All points denoted with * are taken from “Homiletic Talking Points for the Church’s Mission of Mercy: Regarding Individuals and Families Impacted by Same-Sex Attraction” prepared by Fr. Jeffrey Walker, approved by Diocese of Toledo Office of Catechesis, and published with the permission of Bishop Thomas.

[2] Dcn. Jim Russell, “Do we Understand the Homosexual”, Crisis Magazine, Nov. 10, 2016. http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/well-understand-homosexual-inclination 

[3] John Collins, “Why America [Magazine] has it Wrong About Homosexuality” Crisis Magazine, Nov 3, 2016 http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/america-wrong-homosexuality 

[4] Collins

[5] Russell

[6] Russell

 

 

Iustus germinabit sicut lilium: et florebit in aeternum ante Dominum.
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