Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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.’

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Holy Family?

I prepared myself for the worst last Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. I prophesied a dismal homily on the too-radiant-to-be-believed triad: you know, ‘be holy as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are holy’, piercing neither the surface of family nor holiness.

Wrong on all counts. My pastor pointed out the disparity between our generosity to family members and to strangers. We write big checks to orphans then all but get restraining orders on family members who ‘trigger’ us. Overly sensitive to those we love so much we hate, many of us are anything but holy in how emotionally stingy we are toward family members.

It’s our nature to defend ourselves when loved ones frustrate us. Or take some disturbing turn that frightens us. Jesus stressed Mary out by ditching the clan for some temple time. It was the first sign of Him distancing Himself from her for reasons not yet clear. To be sure, the analogy breaks down with our families: confusing members are messianic only in their own darkened minds. Yet it can help to remember everyone has a subtext that only God ‘gets’ as well as a noble destiny we may have forgotten.

This holy week I had the privilege of responding to an emergency call from colleagues in marital crisis. That holy family nearly blew up as they walked onto a landmine of familiar suspicions and judgments. But they surrendered together to the Father who calmed the storm; holy peace helped them to hear each other so they could glimpse his or her goodness once more. Another couple met with us to seek wisdom on how to best love a son in the throes of an identity crisis. (It’s hard to love a 36-year-old acting 16.) But these parents are digging deep into the Father’s love for their child and his best. However painful, the only way is down– on one’s knees–where love and wisdom are distilled. Generous, tempered care for the other’s good can result from such prayer.

Mary shows us the way here. After her anxiety over Jesus’ disappearance, she does something we all can do—she ‘treasured these things in her heart’ (LK 2:51). That word for ‘treasure’ means to reflect, to conceive something new out of the brooding. It provides sacred space for entrusting the beloved to the Father who sees all (LK 2:51); it may also grant one inspired sight. You could say that Mary’s prayer transformed her fear into marvel. May such prayer make our families holy this year too; may we love our members wisely, generously, in 2019.

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

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Unflinching Mercy for the Abused

‘The beauty of the cathedral does not oppose the cross but is its fruit.’ – Cardinal Ratzinger

The other morning in prayer I was startled by the image of a priest opening his vestments in a cathedral and abusing a boy. The act was as ugly as the building was beautiful. I felt rage: the boy was sacrificed on the altar of another’s perversion, and this, before the Lord! Ordained to protect, the priest destroyed. And the man over him—a bishop—protected the building, not the boy.

I wanted to race from the image and lose myself in mystery. But I could not. I asked God why and He seemed to say: ‘That boy relives the nightmare constantly. I give you a share in it. Money cannot heal him; His restoration hinges on whether or not he is believed and that priest defrocked, along with any bishop who covered for him.’

I could not flinch and turn away from the boy’s nightmare. To be unflinching means ‘to not be frightened of, or not to not try to avoid something dangerous…to look and describe something directly.’

I vented my anger in prayer and asked for justice to be served at the recent US Bishops’ gathering in Baltimore; I prayed for ways that the bishops might censure themselves (apparently, this question will be taken up by a global gathering of bishops in February.) Please pray for this crucial issue: unless bishops are disciplined, there is no restoration for victims.

I realized that day was the Feast of the Lateran Basilica, one chance a year for the Church to honor the cathedral of the pope in Rome, a mere building but one that conveys an essential about this Church built on apostles and prophets who point us to the new Jerusalem. I felt conflicted; in our abuse crisis, I am tempted to disdain the Church for what I fear hides beneath her ancient creeds and cloaks.

And yet this rather minor feast has always been my favorite day of all. Why? As I reread the Scriptures—Jesus on fire for the temple, incinerating its robbers (John 2), and the river flowing from the temple to ‘make all things new’ (Ezek. 47), I remembered: this is the Church I love—zealous in truth, and boundless in its river of life flowing from the Cross at altar—the water levels rising and my friends and I growing as trees along the banks of this holy river, our fruit becoming food for the hungry, our leaves anointed to heal the broken (v. 12).

Might this be the hour, O holy and merciful Jesus, when You re-enter Your house and expel those who crush the most vulnerable then lie about it? Might You then stir the waters and release a greater flood of healing for those most in need of it? May those devoured by robbers in Your house be restored by Almighty mercy.

May we not cease to pray and act until this is accomplished for the abused. Through the fruit of Your suffering—the healing flood rising in our midst—might the beauty You intend for Your house be restored, first for them then for all.

‘I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest, until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of all the earth.’
(Isaiah 62: 6, 7)

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

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Safe House

‘O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires…All your sons and daughters will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace’ (IS 54: 11, 13).

Our churches, lashed by identity politics and afflicted by abuse, need the Bridegroom to make us a ‘safe house.’ This is our last week of ‘Becoming Good News’; in truth, it is only the beginning of our becoming the Church ‘whose conventional appearance makes it a safe place into which one might take refuge,’ aka a ‘safe house.’

But how can a Church riddled with immorality become a sanctuary for the abused and identity confused? Responding to a rebuttal of his claim that the Pope and many Vatican officials covered for high-ranking homosexual abusers, Archbishop Vigano writes: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that homosexuality has become a plague in the clergy…It is an enormous hypocrisy to condemn sexual abuse, claim to weep for its victims, and yet refuse to denounce the source of so much abuse: homosexuality.’

Why pray for prodigals to come home to a sleazy celebration? Because God is raising an army of wounded healers who are intent on making that Church safe. Cowardly men in power cannot stop the Lord of hosts. He accomplishes what He wills. He wills to set captives free through His house, not in spite of it.

I write this at the end of a rocky finger pointing east off the Connecticut coast. We are lashed here by winds and rain as seasoned Living Waters leaders and new leaders-to-be gather. The range of churches–from contemplative Catholics to shaking Pentecostals—is awesome. We need each other’s gifts to become safe houses in our communities for every estranged son and daughter that Jesus is calling home. In response to our prayers!

We tell the truth about our lives—the disordered desires, abuse that divided us, shame that derided us—and the family of God whose pure hearts and clean hands helped reconcile us to the gendered gifts we are. No human powers can block what God is building. We are following His plan: humble disclosure met by Almighty mercy flowing through Christ’s members. Unstoppable. God does not need more clever administrators, more artful dodgers; He just needs willing hearts made tender and trustworthy by mercy.

We take our places–mutually submitting to bishops and pastors as we become ‘like living stones, built together into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 P 2:5) Our sacrifice? The re-offering of our wounds, now visible to all–washed, set, becoming integrated into our good full lives. I submit to you this short film—Chaste Together (click here to watch)—that describes how Living Waters helps create a ‘safe house’ in local churches for the abuse and afflicted.

My hope is in Jesus. I am not discouraged by sleazy strains in the Church. I cannot answer for the accused. All I know is that God is mobilizing a healing army that will accomplish His purposes—‘to present to Himself a radiant bride’ (Eph. 5: 27), a bride who welcomes the wounded in mercy and truth.

‘See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them besides streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble. For I am Israel’s Father, Ephraim, my firstborn son’ (Jer. 31: 8-10).

We are currently in a time of prayer and fasting. If you’d like to pray along with us, let us know and we can send you a book or you can get it through kindle here: https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Good-News-Andrew-Comiskey-ebook/dp/B07F95JKP5!

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Kingdom Fire and Foes

‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing…Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, division’ (LK 12:49, 51).

As we proceed in our 40 days together, I am grateful for answered prayers.

The Bishops’ Youth Synod concluded with a 60-page text that roundly rejected the use of any LGBT+ language. On one hand, a victory.

On the other, the Church that stays true to her noble ethic must ignite sinners with an empowered Gospel—the witness of the living God who transforms them. Jesus wants to encounter us afresh with His declaration: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the good news!’ (MK 1:14). The Spirit invites us to marvel anew at this ‘new teaching, and with authority!’ (MK 1: 27), what St. Paul described unflinchingly as ‘the whole will of God’ (Acts 20:27). Do we still believe that Jesus is able to raise the disordered into lives of splendid chastity?

I urge us all to pray for the Spirit to consume our sound teaching, like fire blazing from hard wood.

Here we must name the barriers that prevent the pure fire of the Gospel from burning in our midst. In humility, we pray for:

Zero tolerance for any priest found guilty of manhandling children, and any bishop who covered for him. Here the state is helping us. The US federal government has undertaken an investigation of many dioceses, including one in Buffalo that is heart-rending in its allegation of a standing bishop who played ‘god’ in selecting which abusive priests under his charge could remain hidden and active. The Church that protects her honor and resources over the well-being of children invites demonic oppression.

Consistent discipline and clear channels of restoration for all priests and bishops who cross sexual lines with adults of either gender. These sinners mock chastity, abuse power, scatter the sheep, and throw a wet blanket on the fire of transformation. The sexual sin of leaders hinders those who aspire to authentic purity. Porn addiction and unchaste relationships (often in the form of weird emotional bonds) need to be faced squarely by leaders whose bishops also provide restorative care for them. Please pray that Living Waters might provide a safe place for clergy to resume the journey to chastity. Pray for almighty mercy to prevail over judgment in their lives. Today’s climate of abuse exposure makes it extra-hard for clergy to admit moral vulnerabilities, let alone outright failures.

Empowered, holy women to take their places in the Church. We cannot know the whole truth without feminine wisdom and discernment. The Synod called for a ‘courageous cultural conversion’ in the church regarding the female voice and vote. Let it be so, Lord. Becoming sexually whole is meaningless without women.

Bold and relevant witnesses of how to ‘live the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15). We say we want to reach young people but with few exceptions (Christopher West’s Theology of the Body Institute being one) we have done a rotten job at translating our truth for new generations. The only way to break the formalism that besets most Catholics? Earthy witnesses of what Jesus can actually do: persons who articulate their messes and the splendid order acquired through confession, Eucharistic worship, and discovering chastity together. Jesus has power to make crooked lives pure and upright. Yet we rarely hear such voices. I’ve attended the second biggest parish in my city for nearly a decade, and have yet to hear such a witness. And this in an hour when God is exposing the Church’s sexually immoral secrets. Pray for us to expose boldly and well our lives of beautiful chastity!

Kingdom fire in the Church is our freedom. But her flame smolders—not blazes– due to abuse, sexual sin among clergy, and the absence of feminine wisdom and earthy witnesses in our midst. Pray for the Spirit to burn what is foul, rouse what is true, and ignite our blazing torch of salvation.

We are currently in a time of prayer and fasting. If you’d like to pray along with us, let us know and we can send you a book or you can get it through kindle here: https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Good-News-Andrew-Comiskey-ebook/dp/B07F95JKP5!

 

 

 

 

 

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