Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
liberating chastity

Liberating Chastity

Chastity has taken a lot of hits lately. Many would deem this ‘successful integration of sexuality within the person’ (#2337) a failure, the prospects dim for unifying one’s best spiritual aspirations with bodily desires. As Church sexual abuse scandals drone on like a dirge, we are stumbled in our stewardship of ‘these powers of life and love.’ If our fathers who claim to represent Jesus have faltered to the point of wrecking children’s lives, and their fathers (bishops) cover for them in order to defend ‘holy’ banks and appearances, what hope for us?

Hypocrisy fires our anger, which readily goes south to ignite dark longings for justifying our own lusts—you screw up ‘holy’ man, I’ll screw up worse!

Eloquent fools rush in. I just read with sobriety and incredulity LGBT activist Frederic Martel’s ‘outing’ of the last four popes and their Roman administrations: ‘In the Closet of the Vatican.’ Pretty intense stuff; more later. What alerted me to Martel’s interpretive key was this one line skewering Pope Emeritus Benedict, whose commitment to sexual orthodoxy is consistent and much hated: ‘He was haunted by the fact that someone else might be having pleasure…’

Huh. That’s Benedict’s legacy, his own chaste life (and there’s no evidence to the contrary) so curdled by conflictual desires that he spends his life spoiling others’ ‘gay’ revelry? That’s Martel’s cause and cure: ‘out’ these collared hypocrites and party on! Unwittingly, Martel ‘outs’ himself and shows he knows nothing about genuine chastity. Only in discovering more about this misunderstood virtue can we rescue it from such a caricature.

Chastity is about uniting the good of our bodily desires for pleasure and creativity with a desire to dignify other lives. This is not a virtue of children but of adults who must lay aside childish things in order to own good and lusty longing for human connection then decide, with ongoing training, to assert the upper hand on what drives them; desires channeled to achieve life, not destroy fun.

No stranger to lust-propulsion, I through Jesus’ mercy discovered a longing greater than sexy idols—that is, a peaceful composure that invited me to explore a range of relationships fully-clothed in which I learned to open my mouth and heart, not my pants. It was fun–pleasurable, if not sensational. I grew up without sensual limits so biblical boundaries saved me. A clear unbiased reading of Scripture led me to conclude that ‘Jesus committed to only one model of sexual union, opposite-gender monogamy…He regarded all sexual activity outside of marriage to one person of the opposite gender as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom.’ (‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’, Dr. Robert Gagnon). To follow Him meant to commit to the same. Scary stuff.

Yet I needed the fear of God in regards to what I did with my body, precisely because of its impact on others. Masturbation hid me from others, porn demonized my vision of God’s children, and immoral acts violated the trust of holy friendships.

Two keys from the work of St. John Paul ll helped transform fear into expectancy. The first is his philosophical ‘personalism’ which invites all persons into an interior journey toward actualizing the truth in their lives, one that requires self-awareness and commitment to a process of development. Chastity, endowed by this ‘personalism’, is ‘how the subjective desires of the heart come into harmony with the objective norm’ (Christopher West).

That norm involved acting upon the second key. I learned through Theology of the Body that I was a ‘gift’ to others and that my design, however damaged by homosexual lust, was still inclined toward the other gift: woman. Then I discovered a pretty good relationship with a real one; I marveled at the difference between lust-propulsion and the emerging chastity in me that could open to Annette’s gender gift and grow to appreciate its exquisite rhythms. As I did, sexual ardor increased in a way that I can only describe as integrated. St. John Paul ll’s insists that chastity applies as readily to marrieds as to singles. We do not marry in order to avoid or channel lust; Jesus calls us in the spirit of St. Paul to love her like Jesus loves His Church. That requires nothing less than integration—the gift of slow-growing chastity.

Hypocrites and rumors of hypocrites aside, I can take responsibility for my own happiness. That requires loving free from the fetters of childish desires. Chastity liberates that happiness. Long may she live and grow in us.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Church

Blemished

My face is a mess. Overexposed for years in the California sun, it now looks like rugged desert terrain, baked red by heat. I am undergoing a harsh chemical treatment that surfaces precancerous blotches. Hidden no more, these sores must face the light, scab, and fall away with the advent of new skin.

Vanity aside, I am glad to be monstrous for a time. How else will I heal?

Our Church’s face has become monstrous too. I tremble at the deposing of now ex-Cardinal McCarrick whose charismatic persona charmed and seduced countless young men. Everyone loses here. A recent book on praying for priests begins with the author—a devout woman–gushing over McCarrick’s nearly perfect homily as he kicked off the Year for Priests in 2009. How devilish the divided heart; how deadening for the devout.

So we pray. For this convert, it means laying aside childish dreams of the Church; it means looking at her through adult eyes, seeing her blemishes while beholding her underlying beauty. That takes work. I am convinced that we can discern the truth of sin, artfully dodged by big guys that we should be able to trust, while not allowing that sin to destroy our vision of what she can be. The truth: she needs our prayers and discernment. If I forsake her, she will suffer. I suffer too. Sick with sin—McCarrick’s, mine, ours–I must spit up my waste and eat Jesus. Strange: at her ugliest, I need Jesus’ presence from her more than ever. We are one. Head and body cannot be split.

What do we pray? First for sheep partaken of by shepherds: may the abused be respected, heard, and restored. By a miracle of mercy, might the house of horrors become for the wounded a home that heals?

Secondly, discipline for those who abused. The main way we liberate healing for the abused is by verifying that in truth (s)he was abused, the abuser committed a criminal act, and both the Church and the state are holding him accountable for what he did. For once I agree with the NY Times editorial board: ‘Priests who are credibly shown to abuse children should be thrown out of the pulpit and identified to civil authorities; bishops who cover their actions should be laicized and exposed, and the order to do so must come from the pope.’

We in Kansas City have the backhanded honor of being the first diocese in world history to have its bishop investigated by a grand jury for mishandling a priest mucking around in kiddy porn (now in jail). Though good Bishop Finn wasn’t fired by the pope, he was compelled to resign in 2015. Our own diocese served as a testing ground for the state refining the Church. Let us pray that the Church will act before the court must! We can pray that the pope will unite the global Church to discipline abusive shepherds and their protective bishops. Anything less re-wounds abused sheep. No more chatter on the horrors of abuse. Action alone speaks now.

Yet we have a deeper problem that includes but is not limited to child endangerment: pastors who forsake vows of chastity and engage with consensual adults. What’s the big deal, you ask? They’re only human, eh? Does it really hurt anyone? Consider this spiritual incest–a father making a son or daughter his lover. Is it not obvious how this undermines our trust and moral fortitude?

Scripture and Church teaching hold us to holiness–a high standard for happiness in the sexual realm. Shepherds who sidestep their own vows mock this standard—chastity–and the Holy One. Sexually divided priests defile us all by rendering chastity an option when it is God’s call upon every human being.

So third, let us pray for the grace of repentance for our shepherds. Pray for safe opportunities for them to return to the One who can restore hearts and boundaries. Prayer frees us to act and to hope again. After all, we are conversing with the Lord of all! That action may well begin with our turning back to Him where we have grown dim and disillusioned, compromised in our own right.

And we can pray with discernment. Let’s look at the blemished face of Jesus’ bride and love her as ‘gently as doves, as wisely as serpents’ (Matt. 10:16).
As we do, we can be assured that God hears our prayers and will act. After all, He ‘gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water though the word, to present her to Himself as a radiant bride, without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5: 25b, 26)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Killing The Truth

The other night, I dreamt of complicity—a good friend and colleague had been pronounced innocent of murder yet I knew otherwise. She killed someone and I killed the truth by saying nothing.

I was just speaking with a fellow minister/healer from another country who described an important priest there who brought in a lot of money for the Church; most there knew he regularly pursued same-gender sex, yet even the bishop gave him a ‘pass’ because of his usefulness.

Are we all a little complicit? Certainly we are all divided by a duplicitous Church: shepherds who race after lone lambs in order to consume them, fathers who seduce spiritual daughters under silky vestments, bishops who see but don’t say, a man who pontificates over ‘child sacrifice’ yet whose sword is soft with unsanctified mercy, so much so that we struggle to trust his rhetoric.

Yet my divided heart toward the Church benefits no-one. My rant may just amplify the voice of the accuser himself; he is good at saying for the sake of slaying even the righteous.

Perhaps we should pray. I awaken these days after bad dreams and recall the mess we are in, yes we. I am one of the faithful, with as much say as anyone before God. Prayer knows no hierarchy. Or if there is one, it seems from Scripture to be inverted, as if God Himself prefers little ones who cry out for mercy (Matt. 18: 31, 32; LK 10:21) over the wise and strong.

I don’t know many big leaders, just weak people who trust God. And become mighty in faith, ‘routing foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34). Mary herself sang of the One who ‘brings down rulers from their thrones and lifts up the humble’ (LK 1:52).

Lent is a time of deliberately humbling ourselves before the One. I pray that He might take us down in order to lift us up as we ask Him to initiate in all members a clear call to repentance. For those who resist Him and persist in hypocrisy, I ask for Him to use our prayers like stones of David and to slay giants.

I can wake up numb to the divided Church and further dull myself in a host of sins. I then become like the ones I accuse. Or I can pray. Will you join us this Lent (which starts Ash Wednesday the 6th) as we cry out for a Church that is at once chaste and fruitful through undivided devotion to Jesus and each other? We shall do our little part through a 6-part Lenten prayer series. May prayer make a way through duplicity and complicity!

‘Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.’ (J 4:9, 10)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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in the closet of the vatican

Good Natured

‘Just as there is a momentum to evil, so is there a momentum to repentance.’

Sour moods tempt me easily these days. As bishops from around the globe gather in Rome to bind up an abused Church (Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency–RAT—unfortunate acronym), ‘In the Closet of the Vatican’, a lurid expose debuts and incites the ‘rat’ by sensationalizing what the author describes as an essentially ‘gay’ administration surrounding the pope—a point made more respectfully by Archbishop Vigano when he wrote of a Roman ‘clergy rife with homosexuality’: ‘It is an enormous hypocrisy to condemn sexual abuse, to weep for its victims, and yet to refuse to denounce the root of so much abuse—homosexual predators.’

Blinded by its rainbow lens, the New York Times stumbled badly at nationalizing the ‘gay’ priest thing with a front page article featuring a gaggle of them entitled (don’t laugh) ‘It’s not a Closet, it’s a Cage’! What follows wouldn’t make the National Enquirer’s cut; the author knows little to nothing about what she writes except the now dreary ‘ain’t it an outrage when every immoral identification isn’t given equal time on every imaginable front, including the Church?’ The piece is full of zingers from collared whiners who lament: ‘It was never my shame; it was the church’s shame’! ‘The vast majority of gay priests are not safe’! ‘This is not a me issue. This is a human rights issue’! ‘Listen to how the Church traumatized me for being gay’! I look forward to the telenovela.

On the home front, cultural warriors who live to kill the prospect of life beyond sexual narcissism accuse me of being ‘a self-loathing homosexual…who needs to be straight and to portray himself as SUPERIOR to others.’ Relentless is the drone of activists who apparently base their LGBT+ liberties on everyone doing just as they do. Could make you blue.

Not a chance. I reread one of my favorite books: J. Budzisweski’s ‘What We Can’t Not Know’ about the moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). In spite of ‘the evasions and subterfuge of men’, I can know the truth of God’s evident design for my masculine sexuality. My calm in the storm is clarity of conscience, the fact that I live in alignment with who I am as a man made for woman—to dignify and secure her in love and to have the strength to care for my kids and grandkids well.

The ‘gay’ self? Just a figment of one’s impoverished imagination. There is no such thing as an ‘LGBT+’ person, just pilgrims who have yet to discover the truth of who they actually are.

A smarter man said it best (my paraphrase): ‘We have a nature we must respect, that we cannot manipulate at will. We cannot create our own freedom, because we don’t create ourselves. We possess intellect and will but also nature, and we are ordered to the degree that we respect this nature, listen to it, and accept ourselves as persons who did not create themselves. In this way, and in no other way, is true human freedom fulfilled.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

My nature is good, outlook sweet, because I line up with the One who made me. Deep calls to deep and composes my soul. Free to think and to feel and to act in accord with the truth, I recall homosexuality as a distant imposter. Lurid media-handling of the Church? I’ll wait for the telenovela.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Shepherdless?

‘When Jesus saw the crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’ (MK 6:34).

If the wise-men are any example, then Epiphany is about the worship of Jesus manifesting itself in loving people most in need of it. Our new neighborhood is full of possibilities, including a rainbow house full of gender-benders, sweet and clueless as to the purpose of their sexuality. I ask Jesus to help me show them His love. He is faithful. The other day I helped one housemate change a tire. I pray for them always, awaiting the chance to know and love them more; I believe that the King of heaven wants to dwell there and embrace any willing heart among them.

They have no guides, just a string of well-intentioned, misdirected relationships (if the revolving door of tenants is any indication). And I wonder; how are our churches inclined to welcome and shepherd them into true happiness?

I keep going back to a disturbing article I read in the New York Times last month about the mess our Church is in concerning ‘good news’ for the LGBT+ set. It seems Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wants to reach gender-benders but has lost his way; this Catholic shepherd of the tenth biggest city in the USA allowed a ‘gay-married’ man (we’ll call him Steve) to pastor a parish in the thick of the ‘gay’ community there. The priest overseeing Steve got promoted, leaving Steve to do the job. The effect was disastrous: a man redefining/defying Catholic marriage and sexual ethics taught ‘gay’-seekers accordingly, thereby presenting a Gospel falsified by cheap grace.

Worst still, reactionary persons hurled all kinds of at poor Steve, who although deceived (and deceiving) did not deserve the slurs and even life threats he received for his service. First and foremost, Steve is a man under authority, and his authority is Bishop McElroy. I ascribe primary blame to the good bishop for putting a man on the firing line who shouldn’t have been there.

The greater problem? A brand of traditionalism that has no vision or authority to welcome persons into Jesus’ Church in a way that is merciful, mighty, and transformational. If the article is correct (and few are, entirely), many of the ‘faithful’ opposed to Steve acted as if LGBT+ reality had more power than Jesus Christ to define His Church. They responded with a fearful, vengeful spirit rather than with a robust Gospel that declares to all who seek: ‘The time has come—the Kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the Gospel!’ (MK 1:15) In this, every Christian is a shepherd in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, called by Him to bear witness of the One who takes us as we are then shakes us down to our very foundations in order to establish a new creation.

Sexual ethics in light of King Jesus? Forego your lovers, and faddish self-assessments! He gives all and demands nothing less of us. Only the Gospel, empowered by the Spirit and declared through broken, blessed people like us, can make Him known in a way that commands repentance.

Shepherds confuse today: guides driven by a worldly, feel-good Gospel (McElroy) or by traditional exclusionary attitudes that frighten off rebels. Conservatives cannot afford the latter! Either we cultivate merciful vision and passion for persons caught in a web of lies or we will be spit out of Jesus’ mouth for upholding a form of godliness but denying its power to transform lives (2 Tim. 3:5; Col. 2: 20-23).

That must be our call—every one of us standing in the gap as a pretty good under-‘shepherd’, praying for and inviting the hurting into holy family.

“‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 34:16)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Download PDF
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