The Call to Chastity
The Glory of Chastity.
Regardless of whether same sex attraction diminishes or not, the Church tells us that the basic solution to the problem of deep seated homosexuality is to hand, i.e., the virtue of chastity. Chastity is often seen as a sentence of punishment by our sex saturated society, but it in fact is a profound
blessing to those who strive to practice it. Chastity, while certainly a struggle for most, is nevertheless a great good and
well worth the struggle. First of all, chastity can lead to the joy of a clear conscience, a feeling of communion and
closeness to God, and assurance of eternal salvation. Think of how Jesus treasured purity of heart. And we know what a treasure it is every time we exit the confession stall. In addition, chastity
gives us a great freedom that those with family commitments may not necessarily have. We can use this freedom to accomplish
all sorts of good works for ourselves and others. We have more time to put ourselves in the conscious presence of God through
a regular prayer life. We can engage in regular charitable and social activities that help other people, including
family members, friends, acquaintances and society at large. Chastity encourages a self-discipline that frees us from slavery to sin. We
should be able to enjoy the people and things of this world more for what they are, not for what they bring us. We can truly
admire the physical and spiritual beauty of God's creation, including that of other humans, if we appreciate them chastely. The glories of this evangelical counsel radiate throughout time and space and have always been treasured within the
Many Chaste Lives are Fulfilled Lives.
We should recognize that a lot of people go and have in history gone without sexual intimacy and
yet have led fulfilling lives. Think of the vast number of clergy and religious in the Church down the ages and all the good
that they have done. The selfless lives of many holy and celibate priests and religious are such a wonderful sign of contradiction to the
values of the world and such an encouragement for those of us who live in chaste singlehood that it would be a shame if the
Western Church were to dispense with this superlative discipline. Besides priests and religious, think of those who may have
some sort of health problem or disability that would prevent sexual intimacy, those who may be unattractive to
others due to ugliness of body or soul, those in the past who had been castrated at birth, and the vast number of poor and disadvantaged, especially in less developed economies, who may not marry for various
social and economic reasons. We who live in such comparative luxury and wealth in developed economies are no worse off and in
many ways are much better off than many of those living in the third world. Let's stop whining about not "getting any" and start counting
our blessings! Even better yet, let's go out and do something to help those worse off than ourselves.
Necessity of Grace, but Grace Offered to All Baptized.
God's commandment to live without sin despite our disordered will is difficult to carry out, to be sure. However, it would be wrong to conclude in our pride either that
God's revelation is wrong or that we can achieve a state of sinlessness solely by our own efforts. While we must of our own
free will make a responsive step to God, we cannot without God's grace follow the moral and natural law. What a wonderful
tide of conversion there might be if all those with same sex attraction were to say in humility, "Lord, I can't handle this
alone, so I ask your help to walk the straight and narrow path of chastity in love and holiness"! God
promises in the Bible grace sufficient to resist temptation. Practicing homosexuals
occasionally maintain that only some are given the grace to remain chaste. At first glance it might seem that there is some
Scriptural support for such a proposition. St. Paul and even Jesus seem to suggest that it is not given to all to be
celibate. However, I have come to think that they must have been addressing the skirt chasing males among us, not those with
deep-seated predominant same sex attraction. For one thing, the remedy commended by St. Paul and suggested as the
alternative by Our Lord is marriage. By marriage they clearly mean a heterosexual union (Jesus even quotes Genesis about the
creation of Adam and Eve in his discussion about marriage right before the "eunuch" passage in Matthew 19). Obviously if one
is incapable of consummating a marriage, then this is not a solution. However, as certainly would have been well known to
Jesus and St. Paul, there are some sinful activities that certain people may have a strong inclination toward, e.g.,
pedophilia, cannibalism, bestiality, murder and mayhem, etc., which activities cannot be licit in any circumstances. For
those with deep-seated homosexuality, therefore, as for those with inclinations for other such sins, it must be that the
relevant Scriptural texts would be those about being offered sufficient grace. I think in the cited passages, St. Paul and
Our Lord are just making the pragmatic point that for those who have strong heterosexual urges, there is an easy solution --
marriage. For the rest of us, let us call upon God's abundant grace and mercy for help in approaching evangelical perfection!
Taking Responsibility for Our Actions and Presumption of Volition.
Oftentimes we just don't want to cooperate
with God and we make excuses for ourselves. Thus sometimes when we say we "cannot help ourselves", there is nevertheless an
objectively volitional element. We may not have really made an effort to seek out God's help in earnest. Of course if
someone objectively cannot help doing something, then by definition there would be no sin because there is no volition. However, as with masturbation, I think it altogether too easy to let oneself off the hook by claiming that one could not help oneself. I personally think it better to operate with a presumption that acts are volitional and that we therefore should take
responsibility for them, except in perhaps the most extreme cases. Of course, we should also avoid the other extreme of
overscrupulosity and irrational obsession over every minute failing. Nor should we be morbidly obsessed with how sinful we are. We should confess our sins with contrition when we fall, do penance and move on. God in his mercy and love will forgive us our sins if he knows we are making a good faith effort to avoid sin. In any event, remember that our sanctification, even
post-baptism, is an ongoing process here below. We should use the graces offered by God, especially through the
sacraments of the Church, to grow in virtue over time and reduce the effects of our wilfull sinfulness.
Aids to Chastity.
Some view the struggle for chastity as similar to the struggle of an alcoholic for sobriety. They admit their powerlessness and seek God's grace through a "twelve step" process similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Courage and groups like Sexaholics Anonymous use this approach, and many seem to find it helpful. Seeking out and treasuring
chaste friendships can also be a means of chastity. Getting involved in healthy and non-sexually oriented pursuits and
activities is of course also a good thing. Most important, however, is to stay close to God through regular prayer and
the sacraments, including regular confession and communion. Private devotions such as the rosary are also a good means to do
this. Publications like the "Magnificat" have very simple and easy to follow morning and evening prayers for those who don't
have the time or inclination to master the intricacies of the liturgy of the hours and who are not required by their clerical or
religious status to read or sing the same. Remember that prayer simply means communicating with Our Lord and God. It
is amazing the difference it can make to do this on a regular basis, morning and evening, even if for a short period and even
if we do not always feel like doing it. Christianity has always had a tradition of sanctifying the time. This is to help in our own sanctification. Space and time can be sacraments in a broad sense -- i.e., guaranteed
meeting places with God -- if we live and worship in the spirit and in truth. Our faith is incarnational, which means not that
the material is primary over the spirit, but that we should act in the world in order to bring out the spiritual potential in
all matter. As the seraphim sing, "Heaven AND EARTH are full of thy glory"!
Singlehood and Marriage
The Single Vocation.
One healthy development in the Church stemming from Vatican II is the greater recognition
of the single vocation. This is great news for those with same sex attraction. Contrary to the traditional view that the
single state should be a temporary state that one passes through before either going on to marriage or a religious
vocation, the Church recognizes more and more that many different categories of people, including many people with same sex attraction, may find themselves in permanent singlehood. While this vocation may not be a specific calling the way it sometimes
is for marriage or for the religious life, clearly if neither marriage nor the religious life are feasible for us, then God
certainly must will that we stay where we are, follow his commandment of chastity and rejoice in the life that he has given. For many of us, of course, the reaction when we think that we have to live this way is dread at what an empty life it
must be. However, the single vocation need not be empty and dreadful -- it is a life close to God and filled with the radiant
glory of chastity. And it will be valued in heaven even if not by others on earth.
Marriage and the Family Life.
Although marriage may not be feasible for some of us with same sex attraction,
there may be some with a sufficient degree of other sex attraction for whom marriage is feasible. Alternatively, some may have
made full disclosure of the issue to an intended spouse who still wishes to go through with the marriage
and is willing to help the individual work through the problem. While marriage should not be viewed simplistically as a means
of "curing" homosexuality, I would encourage that people, especially young people, who have same sex attraction and who have
met a potential mate with whom there is a basis of affection and love to build on, explore the feasibility of marriage
(although I am not condoning fornication here!). I would say, however, that if one does not experience a sufficient degree of
other sex attraction, one might consider disclosure of the issue before marriage. I know this is a real problem for many. Nondisclosure seems unfair, and yet there is always the danger with disclosure that the other person would not understand. There certainly are no simple solutions in this area, so it must be an area of prayer and careful discernment. Certainly if one is to be married, one
should in any case resolve to remain faithful and honor the sacrament.
Those Already Married.
Those already married are of course in a somewhat different situation. Since marriage
is a sacrament that Our Lord cautioned against breaking asunder, married people should stay together and try to work out
problems if at all possible. It always seems to me something of a selfish betrayal for someone to up and leave a longstanding
marriage, particularly if there are children, to "explore" their sex drive. Love is not simply romantic feelings, but
involves actively doing things for others. There is nothing more important than marriage and the family if that is already
among our responsibilities. Of course, if a marriage is incapable of consummation, there may be grounds for an annulment
(i.e., a determination that a sacramental marriage never occurred in the first place). Please see your pastor if you
are in this situation and if the parties involved want to explore the possibility of an annulment.
The Law of Charity
Say No to Self Hatred.
How should people with same sex attraction view themselves? Courage and the Church's
teaching are often accused of promoting self-hatred. I certainly have had my moments in life where I did feel immense
self-loathing and when I wished the ground would just swallow me up. On the other hand, these alternated with periods of
exaggerated and undeserved self-love, so I think on average it probably is a wash in my case. Of course, low self-esteem and
in some cases suicidal tendencies are real problems among those with same sex attraction, and I certainly do not mean to
trivialize that issue. And of course a lack of charity of others to those with same sex attraction contributes to this
problem. Those with same sex attraction certainly should not give in to self-hatred. I do not believe, however, that the answer is to
tell people to give in to their lustful desires as if morality no longer applied. Nor do I believe that the Church's
teaching, if properly understood, promotes self-hatred. If we understand this inclination as a character defect similar to
other character defects that humans have, and as an inclination to sin that we share with all those who experience the
concupiscence that is the effect of original sin, and if we remember that one's human dignity and identity do not solely
consist of our sex drive and that so much more is involved, then there is no reason for self-hatred. Moreover, while
we choose and must be responsible for activity and what we do with thoughts that come into our minds, we cannot consider
ourselves responsible for what kinds of thoughts come into our minds. Of course we should be contrite because of our sinful
activity, but in that way we are no different from heterosexually inclined individuals, who also sin with obvious frequency
and ubiquity. The inclination is not a sin and so we should not feel guilty about it. We clearly can take pride in ourselves
as humans created in the image and likeness of God.
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.
How should people who do not experience same sex attraction view those who do? As mentioned above, Christianity enjoins upon all of us the maxim, "love the sinner, hate the sin". However, there is always
the tendency in human nature to take the easy way out and try to ignore rather than synthesize these seemingly conflicting
principles. Most either slide into hating both the sin and the sinner (and the potential sinner, i.e., those with same
sex attraction) or else loving both the sin and the sinner, and even denying that sin is involved at all. The Church demands that we walk along the ridge of the roof with
a foot on each side, firmly rejecting the sin and refusing to affirm such activity, while at the same time loving and having compassion for
the individual that has this condition. The Church thus has the true centrist position between the extremes of hatred and
license, and political categories of "right" versus "left" in the context of Church teaching are therefore almost always
misleading. Sure charity and condemnation of sin are difficult principles to reconcile, and there will always be ambiguities
in specific situations as to where to draw the line. Nevertheless, we have no choice but to use our consciences to reconcile
the two principles and put them both into practice if we are to call ourselves Christian. Each prong of the maxim is
fundamental to the faith.
Patience with those Practicing the Lifestyle.
Because homosexual inclination (unlike the activity) is
something that is not chosen and can be deep-seated, those who do not experience same sex attraction should be patient and
charitable with those who do. While people can and should be held accountable for their behavior and the ideas
that they promote, it is unfair to hold people responsible for the inclination itself, which is not chosen. Holding signs that say "God hates fags" just is not helpful and appears to be unfairly vilifying people for an unchosen inclination. Even with regard
to those who are practicing and promoting homosexuality, patience and charity is required. Since the inclination seems
natural, and since society now tells people with same sex attraction that nothing is wrong with fulfillment of sexual desires, many are simply ignorant and
misled into really believing that nothing really is wrong with the activity. Also, many wrongly equate lack of sexual intimacy with loneliness.
While this certainly need not be the case if we are open to close chaste friendships, it is an understandable equation in
our sex-worshipping society that has lost sight of the true meaning of friendship. Since the culture often obscures the
beauty of chastity and virtue, it is wise to show sensitivity and patient understanding for those in the "lifestyle", while
quietly and calmly witnessing to the truth with love.
Those with Same Sex Attraction Also Should Practice Charity.
Just as those with same sex attraction are
certainly owed charity, those with same sex attraction also owe charity to others, even those who do not accept the morality
of homosexual activities or who have a hard time even accepting the fact of the inclination itself. It is hard for those
without same sex attraction to understand what it is like, so one should not be surprised if there is often a negative
reaction. Just as those with same sex attraction would hope for a little understanding, perhaps those with this attraction
could show a little more understanding of the sometimes negative reactions of others. Since there are other facets of one's
personality besides sexuality, one might look for such points of commonality with other people in order to avoid sharp and hateful
ruptures among persons, particularly with relatives and friends. With respect to parents and family members especially, I
think those of us with same sex attraction should be understanding and tolerant of differences of views and perspectives. God
tells us to honor our father and mother, and I cannot understand the attitude of those who simply want to confront parents
and arrogantly insist that they give their blessing to what their parents may sincerely believe to be immoral behavior. Parents have a right to
their own beliefs, even if one does not always agree with them. Frankly, if I had to choose between my parents or the "gay"
lifestyle, I would without hesitation choose my parents. Obviously, a background of abuse may lead to a different attitude,
but I think even in that situation we owe it to our parents to make an effort to be charitable and understanding of them. After all, parents are human too and have their own weaknesses and foibles, as well as good points.
Freedom of Religion.
Finally, because so many traditional Christian denominations are being attacked quite
viciously these days by those who call themselves Christian but who do not accept Christian teachings on sexual morality
(e.g., groups like Soulforce), I thought it appropriate to make a plea for true religious freedom in our society. Those who insist that the Church must change its teaching to suit themselves simply do not respect the ideal of freedom from
coercion in matters of religion, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution as well as the constitutions of many other countries, and
set forth by the magisterium in the Vatican II Council document, Dignitatis Humanae. If a citizen of a society where
there is freedom of religion disagrees with the teachings of a religion, then the intellectually honorable thing to do is to
find a religion with which one does agree. It is unfair to insist that a religion must change its core beliefs and that
everyone else must step into line just because one feels that it must change. For those who wish affirmation of homosexually
active lifestyles, there is no Inquisition present in this day and age to prevent one from joining any number of
denominations that will provide this affirmation. The Unitarians, the Anglicans/Episcopalians and various other
denominations that have compromised with the values of the world will welcome such a one with open arms. However, those who believe
in traditional Christianity in its fullness have every right to do so and should be left alone to worship God without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of their lives. Of course it is sad when communion is broken, but a communion that increasingly has
no content is no communion at all. The Church will welcome everyone, but it cannot
change its teachings about sin and behavior. Christianity has always been a sign
of contradiction to challenge the world's nostrums. Once Christianity cuts itself loose from the anchor of God's revelation in the deposit of
faith as protected by the magisterium down through the ages, once it simply accepts and sanctifies the ever changing fashions
of contemporary values, then Christianity ceases to be a timeless verity and will sooner or later be shipwrecked and sunk. Thank God that he has given us the assurance that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church. Let's all resolve
therefore to follow God's moral commands in charity and build up the Church of Christ, not tear her down! This is my earnest
May my prayers
rise up like
incense to Thee,
oh Father of