I recently read an article about a priest’s “coming out” as gay. In the article, while emphasizing that he is “celibate” (i.e., “chaste”), he says, “God brought me out of this depression by the grace of accepting God’s complete love for me and simple acceptance of being gay.”
I want to ponder this for a minute. God deeply loves this priest, as he loves all people. But homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” (CCC 2357), and the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” (CCC 2358) — and we are called not to disorder, but to order ourselves properly toward God.
The priest in this article says it doesn’t matter. But it does matter. We are all called to sainthood, not to identify ourselves by an earthly desire. So, the question becomes, does his announcement draw others toward sainthood? We wouldn’t celebrate a man who was married announcing his attraction to other women. We would call him to order himself toward God. This is no different.
The priest essentially announced to everyone that he has a disordered desire, but he named it as his identity. He said, “I am gay.” But that is not who he is. He is a beloved child of God who has a desire toward the same sex.
If he were to use his announcement to reorder himself toward God, and help others to do so, what a beautiful thing. But if he uses it to justify sin and leave people stuck in disordered desire, then woe to him.
This is not a call to condemn anyone with same-sex attraction, for what they are experiencing is a real desire. But the lie they are being told is that this one particular desire is their identity.
The truth is that our identity does not come from any one worldly desire. It comes from our dignity as beings created in the image and likeness of God. Our final destination is not of this world. It is the restored and complete union with God Our Father in Heaven. There is no sex in the afterlife, so why would God want us to identify ourselves with something that is only of this world?
Our walk in this world should be oriented toward truth and away from sin, toward self-sacrificial love and away from indulging in our selfish desires, toward obedience to the Father and away from being prideful, toward the imitation of Jesus who was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross. Why are we ignoring what God has already revealed about this?
In his own human nature, Saint Paul too had a weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), though he did not announce what it was, because he knew his weakness was not his identity. He kept that between him and God, and God’s grace was sufficient to lift him to perfection in his weakness. Paul instead united it to the cross.
People with same-sex attraction, who unite this weakness to the cross, are living redemptive suffering. These are the champions of faith and they should be applauded. But the lie that has a stronghold on our culture has successfully convinced a great majority of us that our sexual desires define who we are. In this we see a culture with an acceptance of sin or sinful desire, instead of a call to reorder our desires back to God. We have confused who we are with what we desire.
One final thought, about an oft-heard belief regarding the anger people have toward this particular sin. It is asserted that the people who are angry must have pain, or perhaps even hidden homosexual inclinations.
This is wrongheaded. There is such a thing as holy hatred of sin. The enmity God put between mankind and Satan is a holy hatred of sin. We are supposed to hate sin — not people, but sin. We get angry because, when we know the truth of what our sexuality is for, we want to protect that truth. We have an aversion to the perversion of it. Sin should make us mad. We are fighting powers and principalities that are out there trying to deceive and trick us into turning away from God. So, we must get on your knees to pray, and let God deal with the people.
A parallel lie that has a stronghold on our society is a twisted understanding of mercy. There is a distinct difference between extending mercy to the sinner, which is our call as Christians, and accepting the sin. Sin is a direct rejection of God and thus a movement away from Him. It should never be tolerated by society. But in our call to mercy and love for one another, we must rise up and lead each other out of our sin and help strengthen and reorient each other back to God.
We should not judge or condemn people, but we should also not accept or dismiss their sin for the sake of tolerance. Priests, ministers and lay people all should be accompanying people on their journey — and this accompaniment should lead us all to heaven, not on the path to hell.
This is not a call to shoot poison arrows at people or priests who struggle with same-sex attraction, for this is a huge cross to bear. It is a call to get on our knees and pray for them ardently that they will be obedient to Christ and his Church and will unite their sufferings to the Cross and help others to do so as well, for this is what brings glory to God’s kingdom. This is the radical love that Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. This is what we too are called to imitate.
Susan Skinner is an RCIA and Adult Faith Formation Coordinator in Nashville, Tennessee.