Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pope Francis and the Church's Vision of Sexuality

Pope Francis and the
Church’s Vision of Sexuality

          I missed much of the World Youth Day coverage this year due to travel for a family function across the country.  However, on July 29, as I was waiting for a connection at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, I saw a television screen in the distance with a reporter’s face on it and the caption, “Pope Francis on homosexuality: ‘Who am I to judge?’”
          Obviously I knew immediately that the truth about whatever the pope had said was quite different from what was being spun.  By now we probably all know the proper context.  The pope was simply reaffirming Catholic teaching that, though homosexual acts are sinful, same-sex attraction in itself merely constitutes temptation, not sin.  Specifically Pope Francis was responding to a question regarding homosexual clergy.  He responded that he would not judge a priest who was faithful to his vow of celibacy and trying to grow closer to God, regardless of whom he was attracted to.
          His faithfulness to his vow, in fact, would be a heroic virtue.  But every priest has sacrificed to be faithful to his vow.  They have all laid down their passions for the sake of the Kingdom.  One thing that is lost is that chastity is a requirement for every faithful Catholic, and for every unmarried Catholic, that means abstinence.  There is no singling out of those with same-sex attraction, and the virtue of every chaste Catholic is heroic, especially in our age.
          Why, then, was such a big deal made out of what the pope said?  There was nothing new or earth-shattering in it.  True, his tone on the issue is very pastoral, but the broadcast I saw in the airport was clearly trying to present him as leading the Church in a new direction.
          With the recent court battles over same-sex “marriage,” and the constant restrictions on religious speech on the issue of homosexuality, it is a very hot button issue right now.  Those on the left are selling the notion that there is unstoppable momentum for the redefinition of marriage and the outlawing of “hate speech.”  But they keep running into a wall which they can not topple: the Catholic Church.
          The Church refuses to “get on board,” and continues to defend an authentic definition of marriage.  And what’s more, she does it with conviction and compassion.  Any opportunity to report cracks in that wall, even manufactured ones, is an opportunity to drown out the most powerful voice we have left.
          In the process, though, there is so much lost.  The Church’s position will not be successfully distorted, and she will never stop speaking the truth.  However, there is such a powerful message that is being overlooked.
          As our country fights back and forth over the issue of same-sex “marriage,” the Church offers a vision of hope and dignity.
          The position of the Church on same-sex “marriage” is crystal clear, but there’s a reason she doesn’t get involved in the shouting and mud-slinging that dominate all political discourse these days.  The Catholic Church has a message of dignity and identity.  It is only the Church that insists that every human being is made in the Image and Likeness of God; that all people have unparalleled dignity and inestimable worth.
          The Church offers a vision of marriage and sexuality so much higher than the culture, our culture can’t even begin to understand it.  Marriage is a sign of the relationship between Christ and the Church, and we participate in the building up of the Kingdom of God and dare I say the very life of the Trinity, when we faithfully and chastely live out our sexual nature, according to our state in life.
          The exalted vision that God gives us for our sexuality has been rejected by a culture that is totally base.  We suffer from divorce, infidelity, sexual addiction, perversions, abuse, pornography, rape, single-parenthood and the rest, because we are fools grasping on our own to define a gift that can never be properly expressed apart from the Giver of the gift.
          The Church continues to be the only hope for civilization, and to offer the only vision for sexuality that affirms our great dignity.  And our culture continues to tune her out.  Pope Francis will continue to present this vision to the world.  And sadly, he will probably continue to be distorted.