Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
In recent remarks, Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, remarked that his same-sex “marriage” to Chasten Glezman has brought him closer to God. His remarks were directed toward Vice President Mike Pence, who is on record as opposing such “marriages.” Buttigieg said:
Being married to Chasten has made me a better human being because it has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.
This raises a question: To what god has he moved closer? Respectfully and sincerely, Mr. Buttigieg, it cannot be the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures and through the Church. God is not in the habit of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He does not contradict himself by altering, let alone reversing (as you claim) his teachings.
At every stage of scriptural revelation, from Genesis through the New Testament, God has spoken of homosexual acts as sinful and disordered. He also condemns other forms of illicit sexual union such as fornication and adultery. Jesus even condemns the entertaining of lustful thoughts. I have written before of the biblical record on these teachings (“Do Not Be Deceived: God Forbids Homosexual Acts”).
Some point out that Jesus is never recorded in Scripture as condemning homosexual acts. That may be true — but he is not recorded as condemning rape, either. An argument based on silence is weak at best and erroneous at worst. Further, Jesus said to his apostles “He who hears you hears me” — and the apostles unambiguously describe homosexual acts as sinful. These biblical texts are not ambiguous, and they are consistent across every biblical era. They support the Church’s proper conclusion as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, [Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:18ff; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; inter al.] tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved (2357).
There are too many people today who think they have a perfect right to simply reinvent God, ignoring what he has plainly revealed. This refashioned God, amazingly, just happens to agree with them about everything! We used to call this practice of creating one’s own god and worshipping it “idolatry.” In this age of euphemisms and double-speak, we prefer terms such as “the god of my own understanding,” or “the god I know,” or “the god within.” But let’s be honest. Imaginings are just that. They are not real. We are dealing here with fake gods, not the real God, who has revealed himself and his teachings in sacred Revelation.
Revelation is an important word. The Scriptures are not our words about God; they are his Word to us. In them he says, in effect, “This is who I am. This is what I have set forth as true. Here is what I expect of you and what you are called to be. Whatever your thoughts are, make sure you conform them to what I have revealed.”
Buttigieg and those who share his views assert, in effect, that they are free to think what they want, to do what they please, and then to decide that God approves. Many even feel righteous as they do so. They do not recognize the immense pride they exhibit by casting aside millennia of teaching revealed by God himself, replacing it with their own views, and then slapping God’s imprimatur on it. This is naked pride disguised as tolerance and modernity.
Again, I must respectfully but firmly say that the god to whom Buttigieg is growing closer through his disordered behavior is not the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. It is some other god, perhaps even a demon clothed in the garments of false compassion masquerading as a god. Pretending that God is happy with what he has consistently condemned as sinful is a fantasy. Thus, I respectfully and sincerely warn that his god is imaginary at best and a demon at worst.
And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand; if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator. Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade.
I will agree, Mr. Buttigieg, that you are “speaking only for [your]self,” but you are wrong. God did not directly will to create you with same-sex attraction any more so than he directly willed people to be born prone to obesity or alcohol abuse. God allows each of us to be born with certain struggles, but he summons us to overcome them not to “become” them. If a man is inclined to abusing alcohol, he should not call that a strength and take pride in it. Doing so would be harmful to himself and to others.
Celebrating a disorder and attributing it to God is injurious to us and insulting to him. Any distortions that have come into the human family have come as a result of sin, original and personal. Don’t blame God. We live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures. This is something to be sober about, not to celebrate.
Most men face a mighty battle in trying to overcome lustful thoughts. Saying that “God made me this way” is a cop-out. Self-mastery and living within God’s norms are both possible, with his grace, and required of us. God no more creates a person to have a homosexual inclination than he creates a person to be promiscuous or to be an alcoholic. Regardless of the attractions and weaknesses with which we are born, we are summoned to overcome them with grace.
Mr. Buttigieg, stop attributing what is disordered to God. Start calling on his grace to overcome it. We are all called to chastity. It is not easy for anyone, but by his grace it is possible for everyone. If I were to say that you and others with same-sex attraction should get a pass, I would be dishonoring you and discriminating against you unjustly by implying that you can’t live what God, in his revealed Word, clearly sets forth for all. For this reason, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition (2358).
The Catechism also recognizes the truth and dignity of those with same-sex attraction:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection (2359).
Who, then, is the god to whom Peter Buttigieg says he is drawing closer through his same-sex “marriage”? Again, I must firmly assert that it is not the true God who has revealed himself to us in Sacred Revelation. It cannot be. God does not change. He does not say that something is sinful one day and holy the next. Ceremonial precepts and customs may change, but doctrine and moral truths cannot. The true God has firmly forbidden all illicit sexual union, all sexual intimacy outside of true Holy Matrimony. Fornication, adultery and homosexual acts are sinful, and this fact has not and cannot be changed. God has spoken these truths. They are part of our created nature. They cannot change because God, our creator, does not change.
The real Jesus warned:
Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many (Mark 13:6).
For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, showing signs and wonders to seduce many, even if possible, the elect (Mark 13:22).
And St. Paul warned:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Yes, myths and false gods abound in this age of the “designer god.” Here is my advice to the wise: Avoid idolatry in all its forms and make sure you’re not growing closer to a mythical, false god.
May the true God give us courage to announce and live the truth he has proclaimed once and for all.