Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Document from Marriage and Family Life Project Office

A new document entitled
What is life like if you or someone in your family is gay or lesbian in their sexual orientation? ...and what can your parish family do to make a difference?
issued by

Marriage and Family Life Project Office
Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales
39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX

There are lots of references to various documents, mainly from US Bishops, ones which have come in for serious criticism by different Roman Congregations, and some which the US Bishops themselves have replaced.
As priest in Brighton I spend quite a bit of time trying to help people make sense of their sexual attraction, I really find this document troubling. We used to speak alot about "meeting people where they are at" which is fine, Christ does that but he calls us break from sin and to live a new Life in him.
As this document is issued by the Bishop Conference, one of course accepts that there is great eagerness to pass on the Catholic faith whole and entire, here there seems to be something missing, no-one is well served by partial truths. This document is aimed at supporting families with "gay or lesbian" members, but we are called to much more than that.

Article 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

"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. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

There is a great deal about "acceptance" of gay people in this document but nothing about Christ's radical call to "unite to the sacrifice of the [his] Cross", nor is there any teaching about the sinfulness of genital acts outside of marriage despite the fact that this document comes from the "Marriage and Family Life Project".
Compare and contrast this document this little document with Cardinal Biffi's radical vision which I linked to yesterday. It seems to lack something important, could it be a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ?


Anonymous said...

"As this document is issued by the Bishop Conference one of course accepts that there is great eagerness to pass on the Catholic faith whole and entire"

I think there should be a great eagerness to... but to be honest I don't see it. This document seems to be more geared to making the inclination to homosexual behaviour acceptable as another way of being and one must not judge it disordered. Frankly, it stinks to high heaven and is an act of hatred because it denies the truth to people who need it sorely. If truth is the highest form of charity then this document falls very short.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I think this document is trying to say:

"The English Catholic Church is an equal opportunities employer and is fully committed to diversity in the workplace and the community. It is therefore our policy to recruit, hire, and promote for all job classifications without regard to race, creed, national origin or ancestry, sex, age, marital and family status, disability or medical condition, sexual preference and orientation, transgendering, or any other consideration made unlawful by law."

Anonymous said...

The US Bishops however are clearer!

Anonymous said...

Like Marvin Gaye, when it comes to the Bishops of England and Wales, I have to cry out, "What's Going On?"

If Bishops carry on like this, and take it from someone who knows, gay men will be saying, like St Mary Magdalen, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him?"

And when it comes to this issue the Bishops shall say, we buried Him.

Gay men deserve compassion and respect, but above all we deserve the Fullness of the Teaching of the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

However...I know this is my third comment Father, but I am well-placed to do so. The great danger of not offering some kind of documentary compassion to homosexual men is that you could lock up the doors of the kingdom and not enter it yourself.

I know you are a good confessor but, I'm sorry Father, I know too many homosexuals who have suffered nasty confessors and have been outcast from their families for their sexual orientation. How many lapsations have bad priests caused? How many souls have been lost because of the misunderstanding of Catholic parents?

It has to be understood that sexuality and chastity as the writings of St Augustine teaches, can take a lifetime to master. Those struggling with it, whether gay or straight, should feel that there is a refuge in Christ and His Church.

For Christ, the great Physician, did not come to call the righteous but the sick to repentence. You are a wonderful priest, Father, you are a wonderful Confessor and I cherish you. But sometimes, I do wonder whether Holy Mother Church does not say to homosexuals, "Come back to Christ!" For many will feel they are so despised by the Church that Christ has rejected them also.

Anonymous said...

I can't resist. If you want to know what years of frustration and rejection by the Church and family sounds like, Father...then here it is.

Anonymous said...

When I was young gay man (I am now in my mid forties) the Church had written little of any positive nature on this subject in either official publications such as the Catechism or in documents from Bishops Conferences.

As a result most other young gay men and lesbian women who I knew who were Catholic quickly drifted away from the Church and therefore from all that the Church offered as a life affirming way to live. I was encouraged to persevere with my faith by a priest friend who helped me to realise that being gay was only a small part of my identity. He was also very clear what was being held up as the 'ideal' (celibacy)as the way to live and love by our Church, which I think is what Father Ray is getting at here.

While this is great, this message has got to be tempered with realism and gentle encouragement which it seems that this document and others issued by different Bishops Conferences over the last 20 years have aimed at. To tell a 20 year old stuggling with coming to terms with his gayness or her lesbianism, that they are 'called to be celibate for the rest of their lives and that is the end of the story' is hard and runs the risk of alienating these young people from their faith. To read such documents as this enables them to realise that others understand their situation and that their Church still has something to offer them in their journey through life.

Then as they mature both in themselves and in their understanding of their faith, they can make the right choices about sex and relationships on the same basis that other young unmarried Catholics do every day.

Give the teaching of our Bishops a chance....not as a some sort of politically correct manifesto, but as an encouragement to gay and lesbian Catholics to embrace their faith and not reject it solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Delia said...

Rather scandalous that they didn't include a mention of Encourage -

Anonymous said...

I know you and Abp of Canterbury were both great friends of Dom Robert Gough of Quarr, he helped me to realise my homosexuality could help me to love God more, that it could be an aid rather than a hindrance in a personal relationship with Christ. He taught me that if I loved him passionately I could carry this particular cross with ease.
I fail at times, but only when my love has fails.

PeterHWright said...

I've followed the link to Cardinal Biffi's book "Pecore et pastori", and I have to say his book makes far more sense than the recent document from Eccleston Square.

Christ came to call sinners to repentance, and there is great hope in that, for all sinners - whatever our particular temptations - and it is the lot of the priest to encourage sinners to live in Christ who is our hope and salvation. I liked the comment that those who are struggling should feel there is a refuge in the Church. Exactly ! That is what the Church is there for : to be the refuge of sinners.

The priest's task must be a difficult one : always to act with charity, forebearance, patience and understanding, but without compromising the Truth.

There is no point in denying the Truth. Only the Truth can set us free. I would therefore agree with Ma Tucker and other commenters that to withold the Truth from people who need it - and we all need it -is the most uncharitable act of all.

Anonymous said...

Fr Ray, could you throw some light on an issue I have with sexual labels? The issue I have is that a person can will to have relationships with people without desiring to use them sexually. When you've trained your mind to see others as sexual objects then this will is difficult to enforce. In time and with discipline you can overcome this disordered impulse.

What I do not understand is the sexual identification issue. Surely the sexual inclination is only an appetite, like an appetite for chocolate muffins (although far more serious). Why is a person happy to label themselves in accordance with what appeals to their sexual appetite. I'm gay, I'm lesbian I'm a homosexual, I'm a heterosexual etc. Christ told us that desiring lustily even only in our hearts can be classed as adultery (in the case of married people). Is not even embracing any of these labels a rejection of Christ's teaching?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ma Tucker,
In Christ there is more Jew or Gentile, slave or free, no more male or female, and I would add, no more "gay" or "straight".
The problem we have is making Christ peripheral rather than central.

Anonymous said...

I like that Father.

Anonymous said...

I like that too, Father, Fr Robert used to say, "First of all, you have to remember you are loved and desired by God, even more than you might love and desire, God or anyone else. You are the centre of his universe"

Anonymous said...

On Always Our Children

by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz

Last October 1st, a document entitled Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children was published by the Committee on Marriage and the Family of the US bishops' conference.

Although this document was evidently "approved" by the Administrative Committee of that conference, and it would seem the correct procedures outlined in conference rules were followed, it should be made clear that the document was composed without any input from the majority of the American Catholic bishops, who were given no opportunity whatever to comment on its pastoral usefulness or on its contents.

As almost always happens when such procedures are used by committees of the conference, the illusion is given, perhaps deliberately, and carried forth by the media, to the effect that this is something the US bishops have published, rather than the correct information being conveyed to the public; namely, that most bishops had nothing to do with this undertaking. I believe one would be justified in asserting that in this case, flawed and defective procedures, badly in need of correction and reform, resulted in a very flawed and defective document.

The majority of America's Catholic bishops were allowed nothing to say about this document. Still less were they permitted any suggestions or comments about the "advisers" and consultants used by the committee, who, by their own boasting and the ordinary "rumor mill", have been detected to be people whose qualifications in this area of moral conduct are highly questionable. The document, in a view which is shared by many, is founded on bad advice, mistaken theology, erroneous science and skewed sociology. It is pastorally helpful in no perceptible way. Does this committee intend to issue documents to parents of drug addicts, promiscuous teenagers, adult children involved in canonically invalid marriages, and the like? These are far more numerous than parents of homosexuals. The occasion and the motivation for this document's birth remain hidden in the murky arrangements which brought it forth.

Not only does this document fail to take into account the latest revision in the authentic Latin version of The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, but it juxtaposes several quotes from the Catechism in order to pretend falsely and preposterously that the Catechism says homosexuality is a gift from God and should be accepted as a fixed and permanent identity. Of course, the document, in order to support the incorrect views it contains, totally neglects to cite the Catholic doctrine set forth by the Holy See which teaches that the homosexual orientation is "objectively disordered". Also, the document's definition of the virtue and practice of chastity is inadequate and distorted.

The character of this document is such that it would require a book of many pages to point out all its bad features, which sometimes cross the border from poor advice to evil advice. For instance, I believe it is wicked to counsel parents not to intervene, but rather to adopt a "wait and see" attitude when they find their adolescent children "experimenting" with homosexual acts. Parents have a grave moral duty to prevent their children from committing mortal sins when they can. It is certainly and seriously wrong to counsel parents to "accept" their children's homosexual friends. In my view, parents should be vigilant about the friends and companions of their children. Of course, the document deliberately avoids distinguishing minor children from adult children in its advice to parents and seems to delight in this ambiguity, just as it confuses the acceptance of a person who does immoral acts with the acceptance of such a person's immoral behavior.

Sinners are always the object of Christ's love and so they must also be the object of ours. Loving sinners while hating their sins must mark the followers of Christ even when dealing with homosexual people. However, true love is never served by obfuscating the truth as this document appears to do. Homosexual acts, insofar as they are deliberately and freely done, are mortal sins which place a person who does them in the gravest danger of eternal damnation. The document says to parents, "Do not blame yourselves for a homosexual orientation in your child". Many scientists and psychologists say that the orientation is likely and often due to certain parental defects, which are usually unconsciously present, and proper therapy requires that these matters be confronted. The document claims that something is "the common opinion of experts" when in fact it is no such thing. One critique of this document says that it is really an exercise in homosexual ("gay and lesbian") advocacy. It is difficult not to see it as such.

"Calamity and frightening disaster" are terms which are not too excessive to describe this document. It is my view that this document carries no weight or authority for Catholics, whom I would advise to ignore or oppose it.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

Bishop Bruskewitz encapsulates the real issue very well when he says tht the document issued by the US Bishops Conference:

"pretends falsely...that the Catechism says homosexuality is a gift from God and should be accepted as a fixed and permanent identity."

The divergence within the Catholic Church over homosexuality separates those who believe that God ordered the human race into two sexes, and those who believe that it is ordered into three (or maybe four). This is the real issue: what is natural, or ordered, and what is disordered? I believe what the Catechism says, but many Catholics adopt the secular "it exists therefore it is natural" point of view.

Anonymous said...

This does beg the question, however, what should a Catholic parent's response be to their son acknowledging to them their true sexual orientation?

In truth, any Catholic who suffers the condition of homosexuality knows he is disordered. Deep down I would suggest that non-Catholics who outwardly maintain it is not sinful, know deep down that it is a perversion of the natural good.

My friend in America knows 15 year olds from counselling them online, who were literally thrown out of their homes onto the streets when they told their parents. Is that the Will of God?

The Law of God is written on all men's hearts, but our Lord is as interested in mercy and compassion as He is in chastity. If that were not so, He would not have cried out, "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice."

Perhaps this document need not have been produced. Perhaps all Catholic parents would never consider rejecting their own if they were not what they wanted them to be...but, I know some who were utterly rejected. The ones who did reject them can in no way call themselves Christian.

Anonymous said...

I called a friend of mine today who was literally in bed with another guy. As a Catholic what am I to say? "Repent or die? The fires of Hell await you, O friend."

What a hypocrite that would make me who have fallen so many times! What a hypocrite that would make me when, I could fall in a similar way any day! All I can do is pray for his conversion to the Faith that he too may seek reconciliation with the Eternal Father and show forth the humility of Christ.

It is a fallen World, Francis and how well your paton knew, but one thing I do know and that is that he wanted all men to know that God is Mercy and Love, and to love and serve Christ. All men!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Good manners might suggest you get off the phone quick.

To save your own soul it might be best to find other friends because otherwise you will fall and be sucked into a lifestyle which earlier you have said you do not.

To save your friend's soul, it might be best rather than talking about damnation, and threatening him on God's behalf, to talk about what might actually make him truly happy. Christ offers us Life (and Love) in its fullness.

Why not read I Corinthians? That might provide a glimpse of what Christ really offers. Corinth and most of the places St Paul writes to had their own "gay" culture. It was most probably more prevalent in the Greco-Roman world than ours.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father for your advice. He does ask me about the Faith and we talk about it...but I have to say...

If our Blessed Lord Jesus had denied His friendship to everyone who fell into sin, He would have had no friends at all. Not only that...but Heaven would be largely empty.

I may be a poor unworthy sinner, Father, but I don't think I can realisticly deny my friend my friendship because he falls into mortal sin. Now that would damn my soul. I can fall into mortal sin any day and I don't even have to be with another human being to do it.

As Christians we are to imitate the faithfulness of Christ who loves us even when we fall. His love is unconditional.

As St Paul says, "Love is is patient." These are aspects of God which we imitate with our neighbour. To reject my friend, would, I'm afraid be pride and as St Paul says, "Love is not proud."

Fr Ray Blake said...

We should stand and fight against sin, ignorance, heresy, oppression everything infact, except in two cases, (unless we are certain of victory):
Against attacks on our faith, in which case we should flee to the Magisterium.
Against attacks on our purity, in which case we should flee to the Cross.

Loz, we have to ask what is the purpose of everything in our lives, including the purpose of friendships. Simply, "Does it give glory to God?"

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...