Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
limiting-anothers-horizon-Norma-Desmond

Judge Not? (Part 2) Limiting Another’s Horizon

God is the only One qualified to determine the eternal fate of His creatures. The fact that we even aspire to His role as Judge reveals an ugly trait in us. It may not always express itself in condemning others to hell; it may well involve lesser expressions of judgment in which we bind others to a lesser image of themselves.

Our own hurtful experiences with loved ones prompt defenses and fears that tempt us to reduce them to our image. That is far removed from the image of his/her Creator; it is the defensive image of our own design. Wounded hearts pronounce final judgments as a way of self-protecting and of getting even. We the created can operate outside the Creator and close the horizon of another.

For example, Annette and I faced much hardship with a gay-identified friend. In frustration and hurt, it was easy to agree with our friend’s own self-sabotaging, self-hateful ways. Our feelings were at once understandable and diabolical. Jesus gave us the chance to repent and forgive him, so that we could become mirrors and providers of his own dignity. God is faithful to help us keep another’s horizon open even when (s)he wants it shut!

The same principle applies as well to what I describe as ‘homosexual fatalism.’ That involves a secular understanding of persons with SSA in which we make them an ‘ethnos’, a people group defined from birth as ‘gay’. That engenders a strange kind of ‘queer’ orthodoxy in which the vulnerable must become baptized and confirmed as forever ‘gay’ if in fact they are to be true to their deepest ‘selves.’ This new sexual orthodoxy is neither scientific nor particularly moral; it is in truth a worldly spirituality.

As a student on the UCLA campus, two groups vied for my attention: the evangelical one and the Gay Student Union. I found the latter particularly compelling, as it is easier to worship the creature whom you can see rather than the Creator whom you cannot. By grace alone, I found the ‘gay’ world to be ultimately a closed horizon, a form of fatalism.

Richard John Neuhaus writes: ‘Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the ONE who is worthy of our trust.’ I am eternally grateful for the gift and community of faith. There I discovered Jesus– my goal and my path—my ‘new horizon and decisive direction’!

Naming one another as gay and reinforcing that identification closes one’s horizon; it is anti-Gospel. St. James invokes the power of the Creator when he entreats his readers to not close that horizon with false declarations about each other. ‘Brothers, do not slander each other…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?’ (J 4: 11, 12)

Some macho friends at the gym were ranking on an evidently gender-confused man. I could not take it: ‘You know guys, your judgments only add to the pain and confusion of that dude’s life.’ We must live out in all walks of life this profound truth of St. Paul’s: ‘From now on we see no-one from a worldly point-of-view’ (2C 5:16).

We can train ourselves to lay down the false judgments of our modern age and see and name our fellows according to a true anthropology based on the catechism. ‘Every man and woman should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity; that includes gender difference and complementarity…the harmony of society depends on how that complementarity is lived out.’ (CCC2333)

That’s why St. JPll could say decisively in TOB: ‘The dignity of future generations depends on who man will be for woman and who woman will be for man.’ We each have the high call to help confirm the clarity of another’s dignity as either male or female; future generations will thank us for doing so!

Judging others by naming him or her according to an image less than what God intends usurps the role of God Himself. That tendency took on a more familiar form in Jesus’ day through the Pharisees. These Jewish religious leaders spun hundreds of rules from the Mosaic law and wound up entangling others in their web of religious tradition.

Pharisees complement the worldly spirituality of homosexual fatalism. Pope Francis describes them as infected by a ‘spiritual worldliness’: a religiosity based on rigid orthodoxy, pride in that orthodoxy, yet without an inner transformation of heart. With no ‘cor’ (or heart) shift, these ones could impose rules but not inspire redemption. The Pharisees tended to be punctilious, hypocritical, and uncaring toward those they served. Jesus said it best when he described the Pharisees as having exchanged the commands of God for the traditions of men (MK 7:8).

Pharisaic religion in Jesus’ day reduced the horizon of who God was and how He saw His children. Into that mix, Jesus brought a new Kingdom in Word and wonders. He invited the poor into a mercy tender enough to touch their wounds and strong enough to heal those wounds from the hazards of bad religion.

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Pope Francis: Clarity, Please

Pope Francis: Clarity, PleaseAs the new ‘people’s pope’, Francis’ recent statements on homosexuality seem more concerned with shining the light of Jesus on persons with same-gender attraction (be they priests or seekers) rather than on making moral judgments about homosexuality. His good intentions could mislead us.

Take for example, his offhanded use of the English term ‘gay.’ Here he goes beyond affirming the dignity of persons with certain tendencies; he unintentionally affirms an identity which in our age has become the rallying point for an artificial ‘ethnos’, a people group, whose misbegotten activism has redefined marriage throughout the world.

To be fair, Francis decries any kind of ‘lobby’ with which gays bully their way into power and privilege. Here he references the alleged ‘gay’ block in the Vatican administration. The good pope wants to keep homosexuality an individual affair, and thus subject to the will of the person to choose Christ (or not).

Yet such an honorable intention fails to recognize the irrational and demonic corporate power committed to afflicting a generation with gender disintegration. To benignly ‘not judge’ that corporate power could mean a lack of pastoral clarity that subjects those afflicted with SSA to a nauseous blend of worshipping both God and Baal.

Priests with SSA need that pastoral clarity above all else. Francis’ claim to not ‘judge’ gay priests alarms me. Though I agree that the Church should not exclude priestly candidates on the basis of SSA, these ones need special care to ensure that they are sufficiently well-integrated to pastor others with clean hearts and hands. In the last month alone, I have counseled two vulnerable men who were objects of priests with SSA. Instead of wise counsel, they received spiritual abuse.

I wondered as I read the Pope’s comments: Does he know anyone who has actually repented of the ‘gay self’ and behavior, and who has given all to Jesus in order to live a pure life?

I just came from the annual Courage Conference where men and women with SSA gathered to urge one another onward to live chaste, integrated lives. (Courage is the only official ministry of its kind in the Catholic Church.) These men and women know both the afflicting nature of homosexuality and the sweet rigor of walking His way; their families have learned to love them courageously by refusing to name them as ‘gay’ but rather as beloved family members who need to repent unto the pure life Jesus offers. At Courage, I witnessed a renewed dignity born of sacramental grace and repentance.

These are the saints of the Church whom the Pope has a responsibility to shepherd with wise commentary. I fear he did not represent well the faithful in his words. His desire to provide a fresh open face for seekers is welcomed as long as he grounds it in the call of costly grace.

Such grounding is in part the responsibility of those of us who come out of SSA. Instead of slamming the Pope we must seek to inform him and any church leader with the witness of amazing grace. That is not the grace that threatens to become cheap by accommodating deadly mixtures of perverse sensuality and spirituality. That is the grace seasoned with virtue, a grace that is ours at the cost of Jesus’ life. It cost us our old lives too but those losses mean nothing in light of our gain, who is Christ.

‘Shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.’ (Phil. 2: 15)

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Power to Change 3: The Awakening Church

communityChanging deep patterns of sexual desire, behavior and motivation require the support of an entire community: it takes a village, Jesus-style. Any program or therapy is only as good as the greater community of faith surrounding the one seeking change. Perhaps that is why the enemy of sexual integrity seeks first to divide and weaken the church. If Jesus’ body falters toward those with same-sex attraction, no community of healing exists.

But when local churches become advocates of grace and truth for the gender broken, healing rises like sun breaking through clouds. And I am pleased to say that the church is rising in this hour to mobilize for such healing. She has been provoked by ‘gay marriage’ victories, by the confusing face of once reliable ministries, and by the falling away of many whose sexual shame has now become their boast.

Most importantly, her faithful pastors have heard the cries for help from children and parents alike who have been afflicted by homosexuality, sexual abuse, and sexual addiction. In Jesus’ Name, these shepherds are arising to become an answer to the prayers of the faithful.

Take Pastor James Marocco and his large church on Maui with campuses throughout the Pacific Rim. God provoked him to act on behalf of his sexually broken congregants. We are privileged to help the church there initiate safe and deep healing opportunities for the broken. Marocco is not content to merely react to the moral crisis at hand. He is acting on behalf of the God who delivers those in crisis.

Similarly, Catholic leaders in Kansas and Missouri are mobilizing priests, lay-driven support groups, and community-wide forums to offer loving, truthful care for persons with same-sex attraction.

We at Desert Stream are fielding requests from churches throughout the USA who are seeking out healing opportunities for the sexually broken for the first time. They can no longer minimize the suffering of their people, as if the moral decay ‘out there’ does not impact the people in the pews.

Catholic and Protestant churches alike are raising up ancient foundations (Is. 58: 12) for very modern problems. They are intent on becoming the healing presence of Jesus for those who will perish without Him.

We are in a moral eclipse. Right is wrong, and those who disagree are vilified. Good people deceive many. But the deceiver himself is not greater than our God. Satan’s exploitation of ‘homosexuality’ will only provoke God’s people to become what Jesus intends for them—a truthful and powerful community of transformation. What the enemy intends for evil, the Lord turns around for good—‘the saving of many lives’ (Gen. 50:20)–through His holy church.

‘Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.’ (Is. 60: 1-3)    

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Power to Change 2: A Fortress of Friends

‘A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds.
For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.’  (Sirach 6: 15-17)

Fortress of FriendsThe journey out of homosexuality and into Christ-centered heterosexuality is unimaginable to many. That is apparent in the ludicrous way that the popular media frames ‘change.’ From cartoonish images of flipping off the ‘gay switch’ to ‘praying away the gay’ to intensive ‘camps’ that promise reorientation in a week, journalists seem intent on dismissing efforts to grow beyond the ‘gay self’ as nearly delusional.

What most fail to realize is that the journey to actually becoming a whole-enough gift for the opposite gender is a magnificent and arduous journey that cannot be reduced to a method. Rather, it involves a profound relationship with Jesus Christ. Through His advocacy, we can be reconciled to the intrinsic value and worth of our respective genders. Yes, we face real impasses to becoming the men and women of God’s design. Yet the fractured and shameful parts of our identities are no match for His power to redeem us. Such redemption is the task of His empowered Body, the Church.

Gender integration requires ‘grace with faces’: those walking partners we discover in the healing community who satisfy our deep longing for same-gender identification and intimacy. Here we discover the love/hate relationship we actually have with our own gender. Holy and humble friendships help us navigate the fear of rejection, the threat of desiring too much, and the surprise discovery that that we are actually good gifts to out comrades. Deeper still, we realize that our ‘homosexual’ needs are not erotic at all but rather deeply emotional.

These needs line up with how the book of Sirach describes real friendship: ‘a sturdy fortress’, ‘a life-saving remedy’, ‘a treasure, beyond price.’ These attributes describe beautifully my significant friendships. United in Christ, these comrades have freed me to be forthright, even painfully honest. Together we have discovered what it means to be men whose goal is faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

That is where Sirach’s emphasis on ‘the fear of the Lord’ comes in. Our fighting for the best in each other is informed by how God defines us. We offer great drafts of mercy to each other in our weakness. Yet such weakness also compels us to call each other onto the deeper, truer realities of God’s destiny for us.

Refusal to uphold a brother in truth is serious business. That is why many fall away. They define love as accepting whatever one wants at whatever point in time. Friends who fear the Lord know better. We know that to love another means to see him as God intends him to be. We become sturdy fortresses for one another, a life-saving remedy for those of us seeking to follow Jesus in a perverse, uncomprehending age.

‘Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.’ (Is. 32: 2)

 

 

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Truth Ascending

‘When He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you into all truth.’ (John 16: 13)

 

weddingringsGod has a lot of nerve. He comes and He goes with only the promise of an unseen Spirit to remind us of His truth (John 16). I know, the Holy Spirit is awesome but we are weak and fickle creatures more inclined to spiritual dullness than acuity.

Yet Jesus trusts us with His truth; His ascent to the Father declares: ‘Listen to Me, My Spirit is speaking and you can hear Him; submit to His lead and I will guide you; as My Spirit advocates for your dignity, advocate for the dignity of others.’ What a God! What trust He places in our responsiveness to Him and His truth!

Like you, I look upon many indignities in our world today, especially those concerning the dull and irrational misinterpretation of homosexuality. That has resulted in ‘gay marriage’ victories from New Zealand to France, and in several states in the USA.

Amid the deadening clamor to redefine marriage, the voices of the faithful can also be heard. Are we listening? I have been amazed in the last several weeks as I have heard those who listen to the Spirit and who declare His beauty in marriage.

The Church of England recently defied its Prime Minister’s drive to legislate ‘gay marriage’ by insisting: ‘Marriage is a gift from God, not a right granted by the state or a cultural construct…It is an expression of the human nature which God has willed for us and which we share.’

Flatirons, the largest congregation in Colorado, defied its ‘hipster’ status by declaring unashamedly ‘God defines marriage, and no human institution can change that; we can only choose whether we want to acknowledge it or not.’

Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann spoke beautifully for his state and God’s heart when he said last week: ‘Cultures and societies place themselves at risk when they no longer recognize the importance of marriage as an enduring, committed relationship between one man and one woman…this is primarily about the well-being of children’ who result from such a relationship.

Catholic Bishops throughout the USA are united in their stand for marriage as an expression of the dignity of all persons, especially children who have no voice. The bishops declare together: ‘Redefining marriage says…what adults want trumps what a child deserves and has a right to.’

Jesus ascended and left us His Spirit. In spite of the dreadful drive to disintegrate marriage, let us advocate for what He advocates for in us: our dignity, our creativity, our capacity to make and keep promises of love that dignify all involved, especially children.

Please join us as we join prayerfully with the Catholic Bishops on behalf of marriage, June 21st to July 4th. For more info, visit www.Fortnight4Freedom.org

“He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; He gave gifts to men. What does ‘He ascended’ mean, except that He also descended into the lower regions of the earth? One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Eph. 4: 8-10)

 

 

 

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