On first read I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about the headline that bothered me so much. Homosexuals Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer the Christian Community was the highlighted statement being used to draw readers into the newly released documents coming out of the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. Of course, as one could imagine a firestorm has been lit on social media and I wasn’t really planning to jump in. But once I recognized just what had me so unnerved by that title, I decided weighing in on the matter was worth the risk of getting singed.
Homosexuals, that’s the word that has me uneasy. Because why must we identify a group of people by their sexual preference? I mean, it goes without saying (or at least it should) that every person has gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community. Yes, Bob, who may happen to be attracted to Larry, can sing in the choir or minister to the home-bound just as well as Joe, who’s married to Linda. So what does homosexuality or heterosexuality have to do with it? Nothing. Well, nothing insomuch as every person is created in the image of God and he has the ability to reflect that image (or not).
In truth, a Christian church which is not welcoming to all people has ceased to be genuinelyChristian. Last Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) was a fitting reminder that God invites all of us, good and bad alike, to join His celebration.
Of course, there was a catch in that gospel parable of the wedding feast. When the host’s A-listers RSVP’d “No, thanks, we’ve got other plans”, he sent his servants to invite everyone they happened to find milling about in the streets. The catch was that everyone who came had to leave their street clothes at the door and don the provided wedding garments. Those new duds symbolized the putting on of Christ and repentance from sin.
Now in the gospel parable, the host specifically instructed his servants to invite the good and the bad alike. He knew they all had gifts and qualities to offer. But the catch meant those bad guests had to make a change in order to avoid being cast outside. Of special note was the fact that the errant guest had ample chance to correct his mistake, but he chose to cling to his old ways and that is why he was escorted to the curb.
What bugs me about the headline is that it labels one group of sinners as though the rest of the Christian community is sinless or perhaps less sinful. The headline could just as easily read “Adulterers or Fornicators or Drunks or Liars or Thieves or Murderers Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer”- because they do. And newsflash everybody,those sinners (all of us) are already offering those gifts in our Christian communities. So why the headline if nothing has really changed?
Before I tell you my opinion of why, I first think we need to own up to some realities.
Firstly, a person who has same-sex attractions is not a sinner because of his/her feelings. Feelings don’t equal sin and thank goodness because I’d be in deeper trouble if they did. It takes acting on those attractions (feelings) or willfully entertaining the thoughts of them to commit a sin.
Secondly, if Joe the choir guy is cheating on his wife then he is an adulterer and his sin is just as grievous as Bob’s should Bob be acting on his homosexual attractions. Yeah, and this applies to Joe’s porn habit, too.
Thirdly, as a teacher of Natural Family Planning (and a repentant sinner myself – who is still a work in progress), I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The majority of couples presenting for marriage in the Catholic Church are either already living together and/or are engaging in premarital sex. And nearly all of them will sterilize their sexual unions during part or throughout their married lives.
Huh? What’s the connection, you’re wondering. Well, the real issue here is sin and man’s propensity for it and enslavement to it. All those couples signed up for Pre-Cana who are cohabiting and/or engaging in sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage, they are just as guilty as an adulterous Joe or a homosexually active Bob.
Focusing on sexual sin here, we need to acknowledge that homosexual acts are no more sinful than all of the other acts which violate the marriage covenant. Real love, true, Christ-like love has requirements just like the wedding feast did. In order for any sexual act to be rightly ordered according to God’s natural law it must be both unitive and potentially procreative. So, the homosexual act never has any chance of meeting those ends; therefore, it is a sin. But sex outside of the sacrament of marriage is also a violation of the requirements because the union, while physically present, isn’t sacramentally (or really even mentally) present. Sexual intimacy (given freely, faithfully and fruitfully) within a sacramental marriage is the physical expression of the marriage covenant made between one man, one woman and God. It is a reenactment, so to speak, of the vows and promises made to and before God. Couples who are sacramentally united, but who willfully choose to unnaturally thwart the procreative ends of the marital embrace, are also culpable of violating the requirements of sincere, Christ-like love.
How come then that headlines didn’t point out the gifts those sinners bring to the church? Is it because we’ve already recognized their potential and welcomed it, but we are only just now coming to the realization that homosexuals present no greater challenge than do every other type of sinner sitting in the pews? I think we have to concede that it was nothing more than a provocative label meant to incite more discussion, for the better or the worse.
I think the real point that needs to be made is that we are all sinners and we should all be striving to break our self-imposed chains. That label in the headline seems more like a proud proclamation of one particular sin. We are all invited guests (every lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, in-law hating, drunken, drug addicted, gluttonous, vain, prideful one of us), but we have to strip off our worldliness (our brokenness) and put on the garment of Christ.
Indeed, if the sinner wasn’t welcomed, the Church would be a vacant building and the Body of Christ would be missing Its hands and feet. But if the sinner passes through the Church doors unchanged (happily clinging to his label/sin), then heaven could end up with one less invited guest in attendance.