Catholics Must Listen to the Gay Community – Augustine Wheelhouse

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It is time for the Catholics to listen to the Gay community. What they are saying reflects to us what they are hearing from us. We need to listen and evaluate these words in light of what we want to say and Jesus wants us to say.

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As a writer, especially on Medium, I recognize there are writers here who are self-described members of the LGBTQ+ community and who write of being castigated by Christians including Catholics. They write of being condemned to Hell, labeled evil, some say they understand that they understand that they are worst of all sinners, they write of satanic nightmares, of understanding that they are rejected by God and more. Is this the message we want to send? Is this the message Jesus wants them to hear?

Many Christians quickly condemn the homosexual community. Others promote Conversion Therapy designed in theory to turn them heterosexual. Its success rate is small if not dubious as well and its founders admit failure in the goals of healing homosexuality.

The condemnation of the homosexual community runs on the belief that all must live good moral lives to be saved, but if we do not, then we are damned to hell. Therefore, the homosexual community labeled immoral is by default damned to hell. This is not Catholic teaching. Knowing that the homosexual community hears this from Catholics regularly is disturbing.

We see immediately two errors: one that homosexual activity is a sin while heterosexual activity is not. Actually, in the Catholic Church, a heterosexual living outside of a sacramental marriage and engaging in practices that are not open to life is just as sinful as any homosexual activity. However, all Catholics recognize that we are sinful beings and will continue be so until we are finally united to Christ in Heaven. The greatest saint would never call him or herself anything but a sinner and most, if not all, would consider themselves the worst of all sinners. Therefore, to send the message that the LGBTQ+ community is filled with the worst of all sinners is just plain inaccurate. In fact, that message might be evil in itself. It lends people to self-condemnation and being closed to God’s love, grace and mercy leading them to harden their hearts against Christ.

The other error is the greater. It is preaching that anyone in the homosexual community can live a holy life through their own willpower. They need only to stop engaging in homosexual practices and they will be saved. Many do not know that this far from what the Church teaches. Failure to understand the incorrect nature of these words has done great damage to the homosexual and heterosexual community.

“Prayer is an indispensable condition for being able to obey God’s commandments.” That is from paragraph 2098 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Catholicism is not a system of morality; it is a way of life rooted in a relationship with the living God who is Jesus Christ. Everything to do with our faith begins there, not in morality. This is because it is through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we come to understand and live our morality. As the Church teaches: without prayer, we cannot live the morality of the Church. This is because rules without an intimate relationship with Christ are like dead bones — lifeless and rigid. It is when we incorporate our relationship with Christ through prayer that life is given to those bones. This applies to all not just the homosexual or heterosexual communities. Remember, Jesus said that his followers were his friends and not his slaves.

Demanding people follow the rules of our faith without a relationship with Christ is at best misleading and incorrect and at worst enslaving tyranny.

Prayer is an essential component of our faith. Our prayer in the depths of the humanity of our faith is when it is most powerful. The person who feels far from Christ but prays is closer than the person who feels close to Christ and does not.

St. Alphonsus Liguori taught that those who pray are saved and those who don’t are not. The one who humbles himself in prayer, even when he or she sins is closer to Christ than the one who lives the perfect moral life and who does not pray. This is because the one who prays correctly humbles himself before the living God seeking his grace, love and mercy. The one who does not pray presumes to have all he or she needs. St John Vianney considers these people the worst of all sinners. He called them lukewarm Catholics and had little hope for their salvation.

As Father Raneiro Cantalamessa preached to the US Bishops in January:

“Some Fathers of the Church, like Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, and Saint Bernard, ended up even saying that an incontinent [sexually] person who is humble is better than a proud celibate.”[1]

Catholics who do not teach this to themselves cannot be expected to teach it the homosexual community or for that matter the heterosexual community either and in doing so we have been beating them over the head with the dry bones of a Catholicism without prayer.

It is through humble prayer that we listen to Christ and open ourselves to him and receive his response. It is the sine qua non of Catholicism. St. Augustine, whose sexual struggles can be best described in the words ascribed to him: “Oh Lord give me celibacy, but not now,” later recognized in prayer how much in error he was by believing he could live the moral demands of Catholicism on his own strength alone.

I believed that continence lay within a man’s own powers, and such powers I was not conscious of within myself. I was so foolish that I did not know that, as it is written, no man can be continent unless you grant it to him [see Wisdom 8:21][2]

Despite these words being central to our faith, we do not teach them and, therefore, we condemn people to live a way of living that is not even what we teach Catholics to do. What right do we have to make these demands?

Cardinal Robert Sarah the Vatican Prefect of Divine Worship, in his latest book, The Night Is Far Spent (Ignatius) writes that the sexual crimes and action of the bishops and priests of the world have at their root a lack of prayer, a lack of the quest for holiness and a theology lost in issues. If this is the sign of not praying how can the Church demand of those, who do not understand prayer, to live by the same standard as many bishops and priests who we learn were not living it in the past?

Many people say we need to change the teachings of our Church to make them more merciful and accepting of homosexuality. We actually do not, because the attitude that recognizes the struggle of homosexuality and the impossibility of living the moral demands of our faith on our own is part of our teaching. We do great damage when we neglect to teach it.

Let us listen to what the homosexual community is saying to us, look at our own teachings and reflect back what they actually say for they say be merciful and lead people to Christ.

[1] Cantalamessa, Fr. Raneiro, “To Be with Christ Means to Share His Celibacy for the Kingdom”, talks to the United States Catholic Bishops January 2019

[2] Ibid.

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