News items added on Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sermon on homosexuality

You know the commandments” (Mark 10.19)

Our Lord loved the young man who came to him to ask about eternal life. In his love, he rejoiced that he kept the commandments and he invited him to find treasure in heaven by following him. The Church also rejoices in the goodness of the young and this is why we undertake Youth Work. The primary aim in any such work is to bring young people to Christ.

“You know the commandments” should be something we could start with. Sadly, many young people are misled and do not know the commandments. Many are misled particularly by caricatures of Christian teaching, especially in the media.

The first three spiritual works of mercy are to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, and to admonish sinners. These are all rather unfashionable today. We can’t say that anybody is ignorant – especially in moral matters because whatever you believe is supposed to be right. If we counsel someone we are not supposed to give advice, merely to help them clarify their own values. As for admonishing sinners – nobody sins any more, we only make mistakes.

Nevertheless, the objective moral truth of the natural law means that our instruction, counsel and admonishments are as necessary as ever today.

We need to use the virtue of prudence in order to do any of these effectively. However, prudence does not include the fear of being thought narrow-minded.

One area of life in which many people are ignorant, doubtful or in sin is in relationships with others. Today, many young people have been led to think that being “gay” is an acceptable “alternative lifestyle.”

Here, we should be familiar with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church’s teaching in that area is routinely misinterpreted. This is what the Catechism says:
The Catechism teaches that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, it reminds us that scripture presents them as “acts of grave depravity” and says that they can in no circumstances be approved. (2357)

In the routine misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, that is the only part of the Catechism that is known. But this paragraph is speaking about particular acts. Those sorts of acts we believe to be sinful.

The very next paragraph teaches It also teaches that homosexual persons must accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. (2358) It is the simple formula applied in practice: hate the sin, love the sinner. This part is important because otherwise, the teaching is caricatured as “all gays go to hell”. Nobody is saying that. But we do not accept that this is simply an alternative lifestyle.

The Catechism goes on to say that they are called to chastity and can reach Christian perfection. (2359) This is true for all of us. Many of us must lead a celibate life in order to keep the commandments. Some, like myself, make this a permanent commitment under vow. Others must live in this way until they are married. Still others must live a celibate life because they are deserted by a spouse.

We must not be silent about this teaching which was, until quite recently, believed by most people in society. People sometimes ask me what should a young person do if they feel this way. I would say as with any other young person with any other spiritual problem that prayer, regular confession and Holy Communion are the most important things to start with. It may be also that if these feelings are troublesome it might help to talk with a priest they could trust, or religious sister who can help them to lay the foundations for a good spiritual life.

As a priest, I have often spoken with young people who believe that they are “gay”. I have also given a Day of Recollection for some young men in Encourage, a group for homosexual persons who wish to live according to the teaching of Christ and the Church. The Church does teach the moral law but we are also there to help people who find it difficult to keep it.

It should also be said that homosexual feelings can often simply a passing phase and that young people should not be encouraged to think that these feelings or temptations are necessarily permanent. Sometimes a good and wholesome friendship with someone of the opposite sex can be the end of them.

The political lobby of the gay community would like to characterise this teaching and pastoral work as homophobic or “hate speech”. We need to stand up for the right to teach this compassionate and pastoral teaching. If the law were to prohibit us from teaching it, we would have to reply with the apostles: “We must obey God rather than men.” In this case, the reason we must obey God rather than men is for the protection of young people and the promotion of a decent way of life for our young people.