Catechist reached out to Courage International for some answers
FR. PHILIP G. BOCHANSKI RESPONDS …
St. Paul’s advice to the Ephesians defines the catechist’s mission: “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, NRSVCE). When our students are bombarded by messages from secular society and popular culture about sexual identity and sexual morality, it is the catechist’s duty to speak with both clarity and charity about God’s plan.
The following questions will certainly come up in discussions with students, parents, and even fellow catechists. The Church provides clear, compassionate answers that help us all to embrace God’s will for our lives.
1. What does the Catholic Church say about same-sex relationships, and why? God creates us in his image, which means we are made for relationships; in his likeness, which means that we are called to make a sincere gift of ourselves; and male and female, which means that there is a plan for our sexuality based on the nature of loving relationships.
God made man and woman for each other, and their gift of self is based on complementarity; they have physical, emotional, and spiritual differences that correspond to each other. Their relationships must be open to procreativity, creating new life in cooperation with God as a fruit of their love for each other. And they must be permanent and faithful: a total gift cannot be given only temporarily.
These four characteristics are essential for a sexual relationship to be good, holy, and fulfilling, and sexual intimacy that lacks one or more of them is sinful. Sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex always lacks both complementarity and procreativity, and so these relationships cannot be part of God’s plan for sexuality.
2. Is it a sin to be gay? The Church is clear that same-sex intimacy is always seriously wrong. When a person knows this teaching and freely chooses to disobey it, he is
committing a serious sin.
But the Church distinguishes between actions and desires. Attractions are not something
that a person typically chooses, and we do not sin just by feeling a feeling. We are always free to act or not to act, and so we must make good choices about whether to act on desires. However, simply having an attraction to a person of the same sex is not itself sinful.
People who experience these attractions and practice the virtue of chastity are fully welcome in the Church. If someone wishes to serve in a leadership role in the Church and to receive the sacraments, they must live what the Church teaches and not say or do things opposed to that teaching. But no one is excluded just because of the attractions that they experience.
3. Shouldn’t the Church change its teaching about same-sex relationships? The Catechism explains that teaching that same-sex intimacy is always wrong is based on Sacred Scripture and is part of Sacred Tradition and has always been taught consistently by the Church. This means that the teaching is part of the revealed Word of God, which the Church does not have the power to change.
Many people do not fully understand what the Church teaches and want the Church to change it. The answer to this is not to drop the teaching but to explain it more clearly.
4. What does the Church say about people who identify as transgender? Sexual identity is a gift from God. From the first moment we begin to exist, we are either male or female, and God’s plan for our lives includes this sexual identity. God does not make mistakes, so our bodies always reveal our “true selves.”
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable with their sexual identity or feel pressured by other people’s expectations. We should give them a chance to express these feelings and help
them to be themselves as they follow God’s plan. But encouraging someone to change their
name, their actions, or even their bodies to resemble the opposite sex is not helping them to be who God created them to be.
5. Isn’t telling someone to be chaste forcing them to live a lonely life? Every person is called to be chaste, whether they are married, single, consecrated, or ordained. Chastity means integrating our sexuality into our identity and choosing to act on those desires which are part of God’s plan.
Even when chastity means living as a single person, this does not always mean loneliness.
There are many other kinds of love — charity, affection, friendship — and making good choices about sexual desires set a person free to live all their relationships more authentically.
Fr. Philip G. Bochanski is the executive director of Courage International. Learn more about the work of Courage at CourageRC.org
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2020.