Between Boulder and Mississippi (there’s an unnatural pairing if ever there was one), the debate over “gay rights” is raging hot and heavy in the national and local press right now, leaving many wondering what all the fuss is about.
The Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality, scarcely explored and oft-misrepresented, have come under particularly heavy fire in my neck of the woods in light of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s affirmation of the archdiocese of Denver’s – and the Church’s – enrollment policies for Catholic schools. In a press release given earlier this week, the Archdiocese eloquently and firmly stated that:
To preserve the mission of our schools, and to respect the faith of wider Catholic community, we expect all families who enroll students to live in accord with Catholic teaching. Our admission policy states clearly, “No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese.”
Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment. To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home.
Accusations of hatred, bigotry, intolerance and slander have been sent flying, and GLBT activists in Boulder – and nationwide – have been stirred into a frenzy, but is there cause for such distress?
Let’s examine the reasoning behind the decision to refuse re-enrollment to these kids. According to the above statement, prospective parents are fully aware of the implicit adherence to Catholic teachings upon enrollment of their offspring in a Catholic institution. I suppose that Jewish, Muslim and heck, even Montessori schools have some kind of “code of conduct” or “system of belief” to which they ascribe, and from which they inform their academic curriculum. If not, then what would be the point of attending a specific type of school?
Catholic teaching, however difficult to swallow in a multicultural milieu such as ours, has remained consistent, if nothing else, over the millennium. Why then all the shock and disbelief over the school enforcing their own clearly stated policy?
Because it’s “intolerant.” Of course, that same argument could be turned against the parents in this situation, seeking to enforce and superimpose their beliefs upon the Catholic Church… but I don’t suppose that’s going to be a popular argument.
Because the Church is one of the last remaining scapegoats of our time. It is perfectly acceptable – laudable even – to demonstrate the most outrageous anti-Catholic bigotry in the media and in common conversation at cocktail parties. It’s acceptable to advocate for the advancement of anti-Catholic legislation in our government. And it’s becoming increasingly popular to pressure Catholics into abandoning their practices of faith in public… in short, it’s the last acceptable form of discrimination.
But isn’t that precisely what the Church is attempting to do to gays?
In a word, no.
The Church views the practice of homosexuality as just one disorder in a long list of conditions which afflict the human person. (Consequently, until recent decades, so too did the American Psychological Association, but you’ll have to score a copy of DSM-II if you don’t believe me.)
Let me be quite clear in stating that the Church does not – nor has she ever – condemned the homosexual person. Partly because she staunchly refuses to identify the person by the disorder from which he suffers. A person is never just an alcoholic or just a cancer sufferer… the condition does not the man make.
I’m sure blood pressures are spiking at this point because, yes, I just drew the analogy between homosexuality and disease. But hear me out. Or rather, hear us out. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2357:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 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.
Hard words, those. But read on. Paragraph 2358 concludes:
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.(emphasis mine)
Respect. Compassion. Sensitivity. Three values that any human person – however he or she might identify sexually – longs to be viewed in light of.
Do I contradict myself, then? Am I foolishly advocating for an archaic institution which is in regular violation of all three of the aforementioned values?
Again, no. It is not the Catholic Church who commits the grave sin of giving the suffering person over to their difficulty, to their compulsion… it is our culture.
Study after study has revealed the loneliness, depression, hopelessness, and instability which mark the homosexual lifestyle… but we now advocate for it as a “civil right,” insisting that it is intolerance of the behavior – not the behavior itself – which is causing such anguish. It’s funny though, because in the Netherlands, arguably one of the most pro-gay places on the planet, a place where the practice of homosexuality has been widely and unquestioningly embraced, the suicide rate among individuals identifying as gay is 8 times that of men in heterosexual marriages.
I return then to the Denver Archdioceses’ statement, focusing now on the closing paragraph: “To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home.”
Odd that the Church, the very “cause” of such suffering in persons identifying as homosexual, would base a decision upon the purported well being of the students. I’d wager many would argue that’s not at all the case. But it is, much as our confused and troubled world would like to deny it.
The Church recognizes the grave disservice done to a child who is being taught one thing at home and another in school… and with that, the autonomy of the parent. Now, does this mean the Church should cow to the beliefs of the individual and adjust her doctrine accordingly to suit the will of the people? Again, no. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve said it before, but “man does not his own reality construct.” Well, except on reality TV. But that’s really another matter.
What this couple is essentially asking of the Church is a renouncement of belief on the Church’s part. Notice that the Church does not respond in kind, does not demand from the couple that they renounce their beliefs. It is quite simply a difference of opinions … on the nature of sin.
Our role as Catholics, as Christians, is to preach the Gospel, not to enforce it. I know a million people would argue that this is precisely the Church’s policy … but they misunderstand the nature of sin and of the human person. The Gospel, after all, speaks for itself through Christ and His disciples, through their lived witness, and much of what is contained “is a hard teaching… who can bear it?”