Tag Archives: Rome

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Irresistible

In these last couple weeks of our fast, I’ve had the privilege of making two trips to the Northeast where I witnessed the irresistible splendor of Jesus in His Church, both evangelical and Catholic. The Spirit is stirring up His saints, girding them in truth and welling up like living water to grant the gender broken a better Word. One can have any number of freedoms and still be a slave! Jesus alone frees the sin-shackled and makes us true sons and daughters of the one Father.

In Pennsylvania, I gathered with a group of priests who meet regularly to share their sexual vulnerabilities and the healing love that sets them free; in New York City and New Jersey I gathered with turned-on Korean-Americans who are as committed to becoming whole as they are becoming good news for their LGBT+ friends. I spent most of my time in the borough of Queens where I invested in a church renowned for its efforts at creating emotionally healthy community and fostering racial reconciliation. Stunningly so! Yet the pastors have the wisdom to know the difference between ethnicity and gender identity issues; they celebrate a diversity of tribes and tongues while refusing the ‘gender spectrum’ ideology that fractures God’s children. Mercy welled up as we testified of His unfailing love that reconciles us to our true humanity—male and female–in this one body.

Before setting off for these trips, I had the privilege of assisting at the Mass celebrating the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It is my favorite feast of the church year, as it is the only one that celebrates the Church herself: the irresistible splendor of Jesus revealed in His body. As I read from Ezekiel 47 about the water levels rising in the temple until the saints are immersed and flowing out into the world in order to heal and feed the broken (‘their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine’, EZ 47: 12), I realized that this is our mission. It is being fulfilled as we gather and lift up Jesus as Healer!

In all of our Northeast gatherings, I fielded questions from countless saints who face increasingly complex hardships due to LGBT+ demands: the deacon working with a nominal Christian family whose 4-year-old daughter showed up in Sunday School as a boy, the assistant male youth leader who announced his ‘transition’ to womanhood, the influential minister now ‘gay married’ and adopting children while extolling the joys of ‘gay Christianity’, the worker whose ‘gay’ boss firmly encourages his employees to stick rainbow emblems on their office doors, and many who simply want to know how to care for loved ones who now live under the rainbow. As we prayed at every meeting for Jesus to come and show us His way–the mercy that is ours only as we enter through the gate of His body and blood shed for us in the one body–the water levels rose and immersed us in the divine love that breaks human enslavement. We bring a better Word endowed with power to save the gender broken. His love radiant in humbled, poured-out saints: Irresistible.

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On this Sure Foundation, a Fountain

Report on Family Synod

Last month I addressed a group of Catholic leaders in Rome on the transforming power of Jesus’ love, through His Church, for persons with same-sex attraction. That was on the eve of the Family Synod, a group of 270 bishops from around the world who deliberated for three weeks on a host of family issues with an eye toward pastoral care. I’ve only read excerpts of their final report so I offer you this limited reflection.

Drawing upon Scripture and Church tradition, this concise report will be a helpful document for the Church as she rises up to fulfill a range of responsibilities for the families of the world. No small world, no easy tasks. I am grateful for the clout wielded by bishops from Asia (our beloved Filipinos), South America (blessed Cordoba), and namely Africa, whose Cardinal Sarah opened our one-day event in Rome and whose leadership there mobilized many bishops to refuse the liberalizing tendency of some western bishops. The poor cannot afford to wage ‘gay marriage’ wars or worry about gender reassignment costs; they bring us back to first things–helping a man and woman make it work it for the kids they create.

Alleluia. I joined the Roman Catholic Church because she remains the sole, coherent global institution that upholds the beauty of man and woman as God’s image on earth, and marriage as earth’s immovable foundation that must be restored and strengthened for the good of everyone on the planet.

On that basis, the synod report offered only one paragraph (#76) on persons with same-sex attraction. While reiterating the fundamental principle of respect for persons bearing that burden, with special sensitivity to the needs of family surrounding the struggler, the report stated that ‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ The Church is the Rock. She is immovable in her anthropology and commitment to real marriage.

But her foundations require a fountain, an evident gusher of mercy for persons ravaged by the idolatries of our day. Will we as the Church be Jesus for the Samaritans around us who will keep drinking from polluted wells until we make ‘living water’ real to them? Our truth is sure. Let mercy arise for the lost and least.

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Rome Report 2: The Child is a Warrior

‘In today’s society, we grant adults any kind of sexual freedom they want and insist that children take whatever these adults are willing to give them.’ Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

In the center of Rome, we convened on October 2nd to fight for children—those most vulnerable to adults who now define ‘justice’ as the freedom to assume any sexual identity their feelings demand. The Church is caught between this new ‘justice’ and her own age-old version of human dignity as she convenes for the Synod of the Family throughout this month.

Cardinals, bishops and priests listened intently as our warring band taught and testified to an authentic appreciation of the human person who originates from God as male and female and who reveals Him in that beautiful duality. To describe how Jesus redeems persons who confess the brokenness of that image—well, we had to become like children. In tears and great joy, we marveled at the Father who transformed us from slaves to chaste sons and daughters.

Not surprisingly, our advance began on the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She urges us to not get entangled in the traditions of men and their constant strife (a temptation in the heart of the Catholic hierarchy) but rather to surrender ourselves to the Father ‘who hides Himself from the wise and learned and reveals Himself to little children’ (LK 10:21).

Children need strong, tender fathers who clarify the path to purity and gender clarity. I marveled at Robert Cardinal Sarah from Africa who spoke the truth to us with such gentle authority that we straightened up, feeling at once challenged and protected. The wise words spoken throughout the conference by Fr. Paul Check, Director of Courage, were best distilled by my friend Alberto (coordinator of Courage Rome) who said: ‘Fr. Check extends the arm of the Church to guide us to chastity.’ What the Church asks of us, she helps us to realize.

Children need a mother. For that, the Father provides His Church and the beautiful witness of Mary, whose womb housed Jesus and whose wonder throughout His life invites us to marvel at His desire to dwell with us too. Popes and pot-scrubbers find level ground as the resting place of God. Encircled by Mary, each child can welcome Jesus and nourish the divine life maturing within. Our sorrow lies in our resisting His Presence; joy rises as we yield to His stirrings and enter the dance of life.

As a child, I rejoiced in my fellow strugglers in Rome whose good lives reveal the Father who fought for them and ‘Mother’ Church who enfolds them. We rejoiced together, the shame of our ‘gay’ lives eclipsed by Someone glorious, the Child Jesus who frees us to be both children and warriors.

We fight for the dignity of voiceless children everywhere who need clear markers to chastity, and wise guides to help them realize that wholeness. Pray for the Synod gathering now in Rome. May the witness of the Church liberate the children of God.

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Heading for Rome 1: Passion for a Chaste Bride

‘Always Go Forward, Never Turn Back’ (St. Junipero Serra)

This Wednesday I shall depart for Rome, site of the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family. On Friday Oct. 2nd, I have the privilege to speak (alongside others far more qualified than me) at a conference designed for synod leaders who shall deliberate on family matters, including homosexuality. The synod’s pastoral recommendations will not change church teaching but will influence its pastoral application for years to come.

Please pray for me! I am a seasoned minister but a new Catholic. During confession with my priest last week I admitted tearfully to intimidation (Catholics revere advanced education and in the west are deeply divided on the ‘gay’ issue). While in prayer, I saw an image of a child holding a small cross and joyfully declaring the gift, and virtue, of chastity. My priest then quoted the Gospel reading in which Jesus placed a child in the midst of the disciples and said: ‘Whoever receives one such child as this in My name receives Me’ (Mk 9: 37). Thank You Jesus; I go as I am, simple and on fire with the beauty of chastity.

Friends, may I enkindle that same fire in you? I am convinced that the goal of chastity is the best counsel we can embody and proclaim to all Christians. Though a Catholic term, it has dynamic meaning for all humanity, regardless of their sexual histories (LGBTQRSTUVW…). Simply put, chastity means sexual wholeness: ‘the successful integration of sexuality within the person’ which means human beings growing in the unity between who they are as spiritual beings and as persons with a gendered body and thus a direction for their sexuality (CCC2337).

Such ‘successful integration’ is a lifelong adventure with God and our fellow humanity. Cross-in-hand, let us discover together the beauty of what it means to be beloved sons and daughters of one Father, and good gifts as men and women for each other. Chastity necessitates self-control so that our offering is clean and clear for our fellows; progressively chaste witnesses have power to mirror to one another the awesome gifts we are without clouding the image with robbers like fear, porn, lust, and seduction.

I love chastity! My whole being is aligned with Jesus who made me and who is reclaiming the good gift of my masculine humanity. I cooperate whole-heartedly with His rhythms because I love the fruit of chastity, which is the freedom to love others generously, not confusedly.

As I proceed to Rome, I am cheered on by the saints, and in particular, the first saint canonized on American soil, St. Junipero Serra. (Pope Francis made this ‘Apostle of California’ a saint last Wednesday in Washington DC.) Growing up amid the California missions, I followed St. Junipero’s footsteps up the El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco, and marveled at this 5’ 2” missionary. He left Spain in the middle of the 18th century to Mexico City then travelled hundreds of miles by foot and donkey with an ulcerated leg to what is now California. There he lifted high the Cross in a series of still intact missions; with tender care and much suffering, he introduced Christianity to the first Californians.

His suffered as Spanish soldiers and other opportunists abused his beloved native peoples. I have done mush reading on this subject and am amazed at the herculean efforts St. Junipero exerted to protect the first Christians of California. He helped reclaim their dignity then fought to stave off the cancerous side effects of Spanish colonization.

I love him. I honor him. I am proud to be a California signed by the very Cross he planted on the soil of my birth. May I honor his witness as I go to Rome.

‘Our clear duty is to conform ourselves in all things to doing the will of God, and to prepare to die well. That is what counts; nothing else matters. If this is secured, it matters little if we lose the rest; without this, all else is useless.’

St. Junipero Serra

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family synod

The Bad, the Good, the Urgent: An initial take on the Synod of Family Report

Rome’s synopsis of its synod on ‘family life’ includes 3 paragraphs (out of 58) on homosexuality which could be a cause for alarm. The bishops appear to grant ‘homosexuals’ a kind of ethnic status—homosexuals are treated as a people group whose ‘sexual orientation’ we are ‘to accept and value.’ (50) Further, ‘it must be noted’ that the supportive components of homosexual unions are to be treated as ‘precious’. (52)

This troubles me for many reasons, not the least of which is the faulty anthropology on which the bishops base their views. Persons with same-sex attraction are not an ethnicity but a diverse group of persons made in His image as male and female whose desires are disordered; ‘gay’ feelings cannot achieve the end for which God intends human sexuality.

Basing identities and relationships on homosexual desires is uninspired, at least. Of all communities, the Church can and must know better in order to love better. Relatedly, I weary of Churchman who split homosexual desires from action—ascribing nobility to homosexual desire while slapping hands for ‘acting out.’ Perhaps Jesus is a little more holistic in His approach.

And this is where the good of the document comes in. Early on in the document, we get the best of Pope Francis (and of Christian redemption) when he speaks of our decisive need to fix our eyes on Jesus and follow Him upon new paths, into new possibilities. Jesus reveals both the order of creation and redemption (12, 13), a direction profoundly relevant for persons riding the wave of the ‘gay everything’ 21st century.

I long to see that theme of redemption developed for persons with same-sex attraction. Let us as Christians embody His merciful gaze, so tender and burning with love toward ‘homosexuals’ that they are invited to cast off their old selves and follow Him into newness of life. Sadly, the small part of this document that applies to homosexuality fails to point in this direction at all. It affirms the status quo but not the call to genuine conversion. In that way, paragraphs 50-52 cannot be deemed genuinely Christian.

Over the last 30 years, I have witnessed nearly every mainline Protestant denomination lose its salt due to a failure to recognize and minister effectively to the sexually broken, especially persons with same-sex attraction. I trust that my Church will not do the same. Please join us in our 40-days of prayer for the whole Church, starting tomorrow. The Synod has given us much to pray about.

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