Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
The midterm report from the Extraordinary Synod for the Family has provoked a firestorm, and some Synod Fathers have already criticized the document, while noting that it is not definitive. The focus of attention is on one paragraph dealing with the Church's outreach to persons with same-sex attraction:
50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
Now Father Paul Check, who leads the international Courage apostolate, which helps Catholics with same-sex attraction live in accord with Catholic teaching on chastity, has expressed concern about this passage. During an interview today, he said that Courage members are worried and confused about the message from the Synod:
I am most concerned for the people who are part of the Courage apostolate. They trust that what the Church teaches on homosexuality is true. They are striving with God’s grace to live that teaching, amid other voices — including their own families — telling them to live another way and find a partner.
They look at this language with dismay, concern and some pain. They count on the voice of the Church to keep them strong and reassure them that the choices they have made are true. The Church gives them strength to persevere.
I also think about our EnCourage parents and their struggle to trust what the Church teaches is true, when there are many other voices in the legislature and judiciary that want to normalize same-sex unions.
Father Check applauded the Synod Fathers’ desire to reach out to Catholics with same-sex attraction. However, he noted that Jesus modeled the way to engage people on the margins without appearing to dismiss the reality of sinful attachments.
Our Lord spoke plainly, but he spoke with a deep insight into the human condition: the weakness to which we are prone, as well as the nobility. It is not an either/or proposition — either you have a sterile doctrine and a severe teaching or you lovingly embrace people as they understand themselves, as they want to be and live.
Our Lord said, “The truth will set you free. For this I was born to come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” He is the logos and the agape. There is no conflict in Christ between truth and charity.
There is a loss of confidence that revealed truth, understandable and knowable by human reason, can be lived and that it can lead to fulfillment.
When i read the statement, one thing that went through my mind was to ask the question, “Do we have the conviction that a chaste life is part of the good news of Jesus Christ, no matter what our state of life?"
We don't do someone any justice by allowing them to remain in a sinful way of life. but the call to conversion does not ignore the conditions in which someone is living.
Look at the example of Jesus in John 4, where he speaks to the woman at the well. Our Lord engages her in conversation and builds a relationship with her. He gives her the assurance that she is personally important to him. Christ is always inviting individual people to come and live the fullness of the faith in truth.
I asked Father Check what he hoped the Synod Fathers would do now to clarify matters.
I think it would be wonderful if we could have a confirmation from the Holy See that the teaching of the Church with regard to chastity is secure and will always be secure because it is founded on unchanging human nature, which itself is created in the image and likeness of unchanging divine essence. Christian anthropology cannot change because God can't change.
A homosexual inclination is not something to be embraced for itself, for as the Church has said, it is an inclination, more or less, toward an action gravely contrary to chastity. Logically, it doesn't make sense to praise or suggest that the inclination in and of itself is good. It isn't logical to say that an inclination directed toward a grave sin is good.
Father Check invited the Synod Fathers to watch a film recently released by Courage that offers the deeply engaging stories of three Catholics dealing with same-sex attraction in light of Catholic teaching on chastity.
When I was preparing to succeed Father Harvey, who previously led Courage, he told me that our members are our best ambassadors. They show us that it is possible and it is good to embrace the Chruch’s teaching. That is not to say that as soon as they become members of Courage that their desires are vanquished. But they find great solace, strength and comfort in the truth.