By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Pope Francis had made clear that we are to reach out in pastoral care to homosexual persons with the charity of Christ while rejecting the “gay lobby.” Language is important and the battle for hearts and minds today begins with the war of words. The “gay lobby” knows this and is very clear those who are part of it will not compromise on their terminology, and insist on using the term “gay” while vociferously rejecting the phrase “same-sex attraction” or SSA.
Why are these distinctions important? “Gay” is often used to promote and glorify same-sex genital activity and SSA describes only the attraction while leaving open the possibility which freedom confers on every human person to reject acting upon such attractions.
A recent column by Fr. Peter Daly in the online edition of National Catholic Reporter leaves us asking why priests would continue to promote the language of the lobby which promotes homosexual activity while rejecting the language the Church uses to affirm freedom. On May 5, in “What our parish does about gay relationships,” Daly described his call to give the sacraments to a man who lived with a male friend, saying that the positive experience helped both friends to reaffirm faith and with it hope of eternal life. Certainly this is good and necessary, but accompanied as it is by unnecessary conjecture or probing into people’s personal lives, followed by publishing one’s ruminations, is inappropriate.
Pastoral work on the part of priests is for all souls, for every human person without exception. This is true despite, and perhaps in the hope of, turning them away from any lobbies, agendas, or sins contrary to their true pastoral good or that of others.
Again, Pope Francis has spoken out on several occasions to remind us that when it comes to persons with SSA we are to reach out to them with the charity of Christ but not in such a way as to promote the “gay lobby.”
This reflection leads me to respond to Fr. Peter Daly’s writing about his pastoral experiences with homosexual persons and to ask some questions. First among these, given the advanced age of the men involved, and given that roommates who happen to have SSA is a non-issue for the Church and for pastors, why does Daly choose to use the term “gay” in describing some of those who receive his pastoral care?
Certainly many SSA persons choose this term and we really cannot have much influence over that choice except recourse to dialogue and prayer. But Daly chooses to use it rather than the alternative “SSA.” Does he do so in order to promote the “gay lobby”? I would hope not, but leaving even a little doubt open about this in the minds of others is not pastoral, adding as it does to the already considerable confusion which is hampering constructive dialog and catechesis in the Church.
Priests also should avoid recounting pastoral experiences in order to appear to promote themselves. Pastoral work is a privilege but involves the sensitivity to let remain private what is private about the lives of the people served thus by the priest. Putting terminology on others that confirms errors and seems to encourage wrongdoing is out of bounds and requires correction.
Daly writes, “Personal experience is important. More and more people are coming out as gay. More and more people will have to accept their relationships.” The idea that this wedge of “personal experience” is more important than anything else in people’s lives is being promoted more and more and militates against Church teaching.
The nonsense that everyone must accept the actions of others in order to accept the acting person is an error that causes much damage among the People of God, cementing as it does the lie that we are always identified with what we do, think, or feel. God Himself as revealed in Christ makes clear through the gift of mercy that we are to be finally and ultimately freed from all slavery to what we have done, in particular by sin, in our past, so as to be freed for life on high in Christ Jesus.
I am very much afraid that some priests mislead those who have been made vulnerable by the nearly unprecedented catechetical emergency in the Church today. They should instead spend their time and efforts to catechize and evangelize with the truth.
Please pray for priests and for bishops, that the true good of the souls served by the Church may be upheld despite the weaknesses of those whom Christ sends as the servants of their salvation.
+ + +
(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. E-mail Fr. Cusick at email@example.com.)