Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In defense of Catholic teaching on homosexuality


In concluding her Jan. 30 column about homosexuality and the Catholic Church ("It's not a mortal sin to work for justice"), Mary Jean Smith writes: "The archbishop and others are wrong on this issue. I am not guilty of mortal sin. It is not a sin to love my daughter and work for justice on her behalf."

Here is what Archbishop John Nienstedt actually said:

"Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin," he wrote. "They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving Holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest."

What Smith fails to see (or at least acknowledge) is that we can, we may and we must judge actions. It's not the person who is attracted to the same sex whom the church says is bad. The church, in fact, demands that all persons love and respect all other persons as reflections of God himself. It's the surrender to the impulse to act, sexually, on that attraction. That surrender is what the church judges to be wrong. We must love our children and others, but not the sins they commit. Any form of sexual action between two people of the same sex is inherently wrong. It obviates the purpose for which that faculty is intended, procreation.

The author finds "it strange that any reference to persons of homosexual orientation is always reduced to sexual acts." That's because it's not being attracted to the same sex that is wrong, but homosexual acts.

The author's story touches the heart, truly. However, it would be no less touching to hear of a son or daughter who had some other condition. The affliction does not justify taking actions that are inherently wrong. At the same time, we (everyone who responds to Christ's call to love and respect all people) are saddened at the injustice and persecution of people, particularly children, who have same-sex attraction. It is not easy to tell them that they must remain chaste, but as Nienstedt said in a further article:

"As a priest and bishop, I have the responsibility before God and in the name of Jesus Christ to call all men and women to conversion, the first step of which is recognizing sinful activity for what it is. Sometimes that is not a comfortable thing to do, but it is always the compassionate thing to do."

Smith has her facts wrong about priests. Only a very small percentage of Catholic priests, about 4 percent, abused children. And 80 percent to 90 percent of the priestly abuse attacks of minors were committed by priests (males) on post-pubescent males. See the report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice titled "The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States."

There are good priests, of course, who are afflicted with same-sex attraction, probably some of the most caring and concerned. The vast majority do not give in to the desire for sex with another male, let alone a minor.

Nienstedt, in admonishing those who advocate and condone homosexual activity, either for their children or others, does not act on his authority alone. He is conveying the teaching of the church's magisterium, its teaching authority, as that teaching has existed since the church's inception. We are thankful for him and his insight into and readiness to take on those who, while calling themselves Catholic, misrepresent this important teaching of the church. Pioneer Press

Pat Phillips of Roseville is president of the Catholic Defense League.

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