CE Forum : How can we be more welcoming to those who struggle with SSA?

shutterstock_108233207 - 2It’s time for another Catholic Exchange Forum!

By now we’re sure you probably know the guidelines (which in fact apply to all comments at CE), but here they are again:

-keep it as short and streamlined as possible

-keep it on the subject

-no vulgarity

-be respectful of other people’s human dignity

The question for this week is:

Keeping in mind Pope Francis’ recent statements:

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”

How can we be more welcoming to those who struggle with same sex attraction?

 

 

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  • Christina, NYC

    Can you post the comment with the ellipsis as I would like to read the Pope’s statement in its entirety. Thank you.

  • Christina, NYC

    Correction: please post without the ellipsis. Thank you again.

  • JMC

    I usually do it by simply treating them the same as I treat everyone else. If they want to discuss the issue, I’ll discuss it with them. We had such an incident last year when we went to a distant farm to buy a goat. The farmer cheerfully introduced her “wife,” and neither one of us batted an eye, just responded to the introductlion as we normally would. They were both very pleased at the absence of that awkward moment that usually follows being told that someone is gay, and in the conversation that ensued after business was done, they were much more willing to listen to our viewpoint on SSA. They were actually startled to learn that the Church teaching that expects people with SSA to remain celibate also applies to unmarried “straights;” they did not realize that the Church still teaches that sex outside of marriage is sinful. I don’t know if we managed to change their minds, since we haven’t seen or heard from them since, but it would seem that part of the “cultural divide,” if you will, between gays and straights is that straights react with awkward silence on the subject at best, and utter vitriol at worst, and the gays respond in kind. Perhaps that is why the gay movement gets so ugly at times: Gays have been treated with hatred, and they’re returning the “favor.” It’s really no different from the ugliness that characterized some of the early civil rights demonstrations in the early 1960s, and it stems from similar reasons.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Those who are incapable of being welcoming to those with SSA – or those in dissent, or with any other ‘problem’, for that matter – have far deeper issues. There are no techniques or strategies which can be ‘applied’ to help these people. If there was, I’d suggest behaviour therapy, rather than Christ.
    To the degree I am unwelcoming, to that degree I remain unconverted and wrapped up in myself.
    There is the only one thing which should not be welcomed into our midst: Self-righteousness.

  • DebChris

    How do I react when I know that two unmarried people are living together? Why should I react any differenly if the two people are of the same gender?

  • RoodAwakening

    Since Pope Francis reportedly does not speak English, I am curious if he
    actually used the slang term, “gay,” or if that was the translator’s
    choice. “Gay” implies that a person with same-sex attraction is living
    the so-called gay lifestyle, after all, which is not necessarily the
    case for people with SSA. Many do adhere to God’s law and the Church’s
    teaching regarding chastity. (If he DID actually use it, I’m sure it
    was merely as a [mistaken] synonym for “homosexual,” however, as so many
    people do.)

  • Pamela

    We had a heated discussion about this in my Bible study group this morning. I personally don’t think that we — if by “we” you mean the laity and clergy who are informed, devout Catholics vs. the vast numbers of uninformed, secularized “pew sitters” — need to do anything different than what we presently do: Adhere to the Catechism.
    Our Catechism clearly tells us to love and respect the dignity of those with the “intrinsically disordered” inclination toward homosexuality. And we do. They are not only welcomed in our fold but strongly encouraged to practice our faith, which strictly prohibits the practice of homosexuality and is the very prescription for their happiness in this life and eternally. To invite openly homosexual behavior into our Church in the name of “tolerance” shows a reckless disregard for these individuals’ souls.
    So how should we welcome individuals who struggle with same sex attraction? The same way we welcome any sinner — and we are ALL sinners — with compassion and empathy and, most importantly, The Truth. Try replacing “same sex attraction” in the previous sentence with “adultery” or “stealing” or the sin of your choice. Is there really a difference?

  • John

    The key, I think, is dignity. The Church insists that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, with inestimable dignity. Nothing changes that. We’ve had legalized abortion for 40 years, and depression and suicide remain epidemic in post-abortive women. It is the Church that says, “There is healing. There is hope. There is forgiveness. You are still precious in God’s Eyes, the God who said, ‘Behold, i make all things new.’”

    Homosexual ‘marriage’ will not change the difficulties those with SSA experience. Only the Church can offer healing, hope, true compassion – rooted in truth and charity – and rebirth. It is because we insist on the fact that all are made in the image of God, by an act of pure love, and that no temptation or even sin changes that. We insist on everyone’s dignity and worth.

  • Eliz33

    Good question. I think that an initial meeting does not always tell this reality (if a person has SSA or not). So, I would greet them cordially. If I did suspect, by some outward signs, that they were SSA or gay, then I would greet them cordially. Finally, if they just outright said, “I am gay”, then I would greet them cordially. If we began a discussion on the topic, then I would ask the Holy Spirit to give me a heart of love and speak gently the truth of who they are (made in His image), how much they are loved and that they are precious in His eyes. I would also try to hear them. I have actually done all of this. To truly love anyone is to hope for them heaven. I really agree with Pamela, “tolerance” (as in, live and let live) is not charity but an impediment to the truth which can set souls free.

  • Lee

    Loving others, but not agreeing with their behavior , is what Jesus would do.

  • Subvet

    Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve learned to take people as I find them Some of the most decent folks of my acquaintance are gay while some of the biggest creeps are straight. The funny thing is the issue of sexual preference always arises in an incidental manner, as if all concerned believe character is more adaquately defined from other issues than sexual preference.

  • DoughRemy

    JMC, As a gay man, I’m pleased to hear that you have gotten over the awkwardness of meeting gay people. That’s a step in the right direction, and I hope it will lead toward further insights.

    Maybe I can help point you toward the next step, which is to really and truly “treat them as [you] treat everyone else.” You don’t normally bring up people’s personal lives in a context like the one you described (buying a goat from a farmer). You don’t normally treat their living arrangements as an “issue.” I assume you don’t regularly explain to people why your church thinks their lives are “sinful.”

    You said that they “did not realize that the Church still teaches that sex outside of marriage is sinful.” Did you tell them this? You told them that they were living in sin according to your own Church’s teaching?

    I’m putting myself in their place and imagining how incredibly awkward the situation must have been for them. They want to sell you something and need to maintain cordial relations with you during the transaction. In addition, they need to be hospitable while you are their guests. And yet you explain your Church’s teaching to them and try to “change their minds.”

    I suspect they were fuming after you left.

  • DoughRemy

    Though I think this conversation is long overdue, I applaud this magazine for launching it.

    The forum’s title question is “How can we be more welcoming to those who struggle with SSA?”

    I would suggest that the first thing you can do is to acknowledge that many people who experience same-sex attraction, like myself, do not “struggle” with it. Much earlier in my life, I did struggle with it for the sole reason that it was socially unacceptable, and my church was telling me that I *should* be struggling to overcome it.

    But my life has changed for the better. I got out of the church that wanted me to “struggle” with SSM and into a truly welcoming church where I was told, “You’re welcome here just as you are… No ‘buts.’” I have been a member there for 23 years and have never once been told I should be “struggling.”

    I am happily married to my partner of 13 years. My struggles are over. But yours have just begun, because you’re going to have to figure out how to square the circle—how to be “welcoming” while you are telling LGBTs that they are living in sin and need to change their lives, leave their husbands and wives and children, and live without love and family. That’s what it comes down to.

    But it’ll never work. They’re not buying it.

    Try saying to them, “You’re welcome here and we love you just as you are. No ‘buts’.”

  • dlapointe34

    DoughRemy, I’m sorry to hear that you left your church, which I assume was the Catholic Church. I think what it really comes down to is whether you believe that homosexual relations are sinful. If you do not, then there is nothing Catholics can say that will be welcoming for you. Please understand that when the Catholic church is loving toward SSA people, she can never include in that love leaving them in their sin. Jesus didn’t do it with the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. He welcomed them, but told them to go and sin no more. The only thing the Church wants for all people is for them to be saved. Which is more loving…. to welcome someone but leave them in sin so to appear to be welcoming, or to welcome someone but to help and encourage them not to sin? The latter is more loving since it is more concerned with the salvation of their soul rather than their temporal happiness. If a church welcomes you but, leaves you in sin, that is not very loving. In fact, Jesus said it would be better for those to have a millstone tied to their neck and thrown into the sea, rather than lead someone into sin. So it really comes down to acknowledging what is a sin.

    I will offer a prayer for you. God bless!

  • dlapointe34

    DoughRemy, I’m sorry to hear that you left your church, which I assume was the Catholic Church. I think what it really comes down to is whether you believe that homosexual relations are sinful. If you do not, then there is nothing Catholics can say that will be welcoming for you. Please understand that when the Catholic church is loving toward SSA people, she can never include in that love leaving them in their sin. Jesus didn’t do it with the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. He welcomed them, but told them to go and sin no more. The only thing the Church wants for all people is for them to be saved. Which is more loving…. to welcome someone but leave them in sin so to appear to be welcoming, or to welcome someone but to help and encourage them not to sin? The latter is more loving since it is more concerned with the salvation of their soul rather than their temporal happiness. If a church welcomes you but, leaves you in sin, that is not very loving. In fact, Jesus said it would be better for those to have a millstone tied to their neck and thrown into the sea, rather than lead someone into sin. So it really comes down to acknowledging what is a sin.

    I will offer a prayer for you. God bless!

  • DoughRemy

    Well, there you have it. The Church can’t become more welcoming than it already is. Just keep doing the same.

  • DoughRemy

    Guest, the kind of “welcoming” the Church now offers homosexuals is the kind of welcoming they would get in a reparative therapy clinic—sincere, compassionate, and concerned, but dangerously misguided and harmful. It tells homosexuals that they should feel guilt and shame about a sexual attraction that has the potential for binding them together in love and commitment with another human being. Our deepest longing as humans is to be loved and to love in return. Sexual and romantic bonding is a powerful force for psychological health, emotional security, and family formation.

    I am now 69 and I finally was married only three weeks ago to my partner of the past 13 years. We live in a community that totally accepts us for who we are, we are in a welcoming church that affirms who we are, and we feel not only accepted but cherished by our families.

    What does the Catholic church have to offer us that could be any better than what we have? Would it like to separate us? Take away our marriage? Force us into celibacy? Burden us with guilt and self-loathing? Treat us as sick and sinful? Thanks, but no thanks.

    And threats of eternal damnation don’t work for us. We believe in a God who wants us to be happy and productive members of society. We have found a way of achieving these goals without the Church’s help. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • ML

    change does not make the truth change. The truth is the
    truth at anytime in history. Our perception may change, we may change and move toward or away from truth, and still announce we have the truth because the majority of people now claim as we do. But I would say this is a very deceptive reality. When one holds to a very basic truth…let say a rose is a rose. I ‘ve always believed it to be a rose and always known it as a rose. But a new thought came up and said we should really call it a thistle because it has thorns on it. People began agreeing and decided to change the name because enough people agreed. But there were still some people who believed it to be a
    rose because they saw a unique beauty in the rose and could never image calling it anything else. So my question is, would it be a rose or a thistle?

  • dlapointe34

    DoughRemy, actually you have it all wrong. The Church offers everyone the same kind of welcoming, and it’s based on what is best for their salvation. We don’t treat unmarried homosexuals any different than unmarried heterosexuals. The Church has always taught sex outside of marriage is sinful. Period. But as I said previously, if you don’t accept this as sinful to begin with, then we can’t come to an agreement. The evil one wants nothing more than to trick us into thinking that something is not a sin, and he has tricked so, so many people with his lies. He is, as Jesus called him, the Father of Lies.

    Our deepest longing as humans should be union with God, not temporal happiness, not mere human love only. God is pure, perfect love. That’s why Jesus said “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind” – even above our loved ones.

    Unfortunately you believe in a God that is not Scriptural, so if you belong to a Christian bible-believing church, I would seriously question their understanding of Scripture.

    This earth is not our home, nor is our goal to achieve happiness here on earth. Certainly we can experience a glimpse of heaven here on earth at times, but we are destined for heaven because we are created in the image and likeness of our Creator. If God has revealed to us, through His Church, how we are to live to achieve that goal, anything less is not what God desires for us. And if our will is in line with God’s Holy Will, we can achieve the kind of joy that we could never have imagined was possible this side of heaven. But that requires that we trust God and His promises to us.

    I pray for the salvation of your soul. Please pray for me as well.

  • DoughRemy

    Diapointe34, Your informing me that “I have it all wrong” is the reason I’m not drawn into your church. I don’t want people telling me what is best for my salvation or deciding how I should live my life. I don’t feel welcome in an environment where people are doctrinally incapable of recognizing the obvious—i.e., that the life I have chosen makes me happy, healthy, and strong. My life is several orders of magnitude better than it was when I thought I should “struggle” with my same-sex attraction.

    I love my husband, and you believe I should leave him? Get a divorce? Do you think that is what God wants me to do?

    I believe Catholics are no longer taking Church teachings seriously because they have, for all practical purposes, ceased to believe in heaven and hell. They believe this earth IS our home, and one of our highest goals should be to achieve happiness.

    This is why I would just reiterate that the Catholic Church will only become truly “welcoming,” as several of the other Christian denominations have done, when even the priests begin to ignore official Church teaching about homosexuality. It is already happening, in fact, in many parts of this country, including some parishes in my own city. You will say they are not faithful Catholics, and I will say that this is a sign of schism in your church. Things *are* changing from the bottom up, and before long the Catechism’s stance on homosexuality will be taken about as seriously as the Old Testament’s prohibition of eating shellfish. It will still be on the books, but Catholics will simply ignore it or find some new and more charitable way to spin it.

  • Dave

    I have a gay son and a gay grandson, both adults, fully initiated in the sacraments who are not angry with the Church, they just disagree with the moral teaching that their sexual activity is sinful. The do attend Mass with me on special occasions, do not receive the Eucharist but believe they are loved by God– they are shown love and respect by family and friends. Both have suffered a loss in their prayer life and in their connection with Jesus through the Word. Sin has shown its effects. I pray and wait.

  • dlapointe34

    The Catholic Church has withstood much in its 2000 year history, this won’t be any different. My bet is the Catholic Church will be around much longer that any winds of change that St. Paul wrote about.

    We cannot ever think that we know better than God; the servant is never above the Master. We don’t get to decide what is right and what is wrong, that’s what happened in the Garden of Eden. We simply receive the Truth, not make it up ourselves.

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

    God bless you DoughRemy, you are in my prayers.

  • DoughRemy

    ML, I think you and I had this discussion about the rose a few months ago. It’s true that a rose is a rose (and not a thistle). But they may be classified as bush roses, climbing roses, or shrub roses. Within each of those categories, there are many varieties. The bush roses include the so-called “hybrid teas,” the hybrid perpetuals, the floribundas, the grandifloras, etc. You get the picture.

    I don’t know if a rose is ever classified as a kind of thistle, but you would be correct to claim that it is never classified as a kind of rock. But traditional marriage and same-sex marriage are not analogous to a rose and a rock. Rather, they are like two varieties of roses.

    I periodically move my hand from my keyboard to my mouse. Do you think my mouse is furry, with a tail?

  • DoughRemy

    John, when you refer to the “difficulties” that those with SSA experience, I wonder what you mean. Can you tell me what difficulties I experience? As I said elsewhere on this thread, I am 69 and happily married to my partner of 13 years. Life has never been better.

  • ML

    It was not me who had this discussion with you. I fail to see your point. I would say ‘yes’ there is many varieties of roses, but it is still a rose. Marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman because it it clearly such a union physically, biological, and spiritually. Same sex union do not have the same characteristics as a marriage between a man and a woman thus it can not be defined as such. There are many varieties of rose and thus due to their same characteristics are defined as a rose. I see no characteristics of a SS union to be that of a marriage, so I simply can not accept the redefinition of such.

  • JMC

    Actually, the subject came up because they asked; I was wearing a crucifix, and they figured it meant I was Catholic. They wanted to know if I wasn’t being hypocritical, being friendly with them when my Church taught that what they were doing was wrong. The conversation evolved from there; they asked honest questions, and we answered them honestly. That’s all there was to it.

  • As for me and my house

    I am concerned that in being “welcoming” we do not fear offending people instead of offending God. Are we willing to be “welcoming” to the following individuals (all of whom do things with consenting adults): customers of prostitutes, polygamists, members of group marriages, the incestuous (adults) etc…? Jesus first commandment is to love God. That includes His laws. If my son was a rapist or murderer I would love him. But if he did that or any of the “consenting adult” examples I just mentioned, there must come a “repent and sin no more” message from me or I am not showing true love for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fr.petebarnabite Peter Calabrese

    While Italian has its own words, polite nad impolite for those with same sex attraction the word “gay” is sometimes brought in. As oyu can see form this Salt and Light Link the Hoy Father used the English word “gay”: http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/world-youth-day/a-note-on-the-popes-remarks-to-journalists-en-route-to-rome

  • http://www.facebook.com/fr.petebarnabite Peter Calabrese

    This is the part of the interview that dealt with the quesiton of homosexuality. N ot sure if it what oyu are looking for: http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/world-youth-day/a-note-on-the-popes-remarks-to-journalists-en-route-to-rome

  • gfazzari

    We first need to get past the strange idea that the sexual act is always a loving act. It is not. When selfishness enters in, the sexual act becomes a lustful act – the extreme of this is rape. However, it even occurs within marriage. Even for married couples, the sexual act is a loving act only when it is done lovingly. A loving sexual act is open to life. It does not selfishly seek the unitive without being open to the procreative.

    Selfishness is the problem!

    We also need to get past the assumption that SSA have unique problems that the rest of us do not share. We all have a problem with lust. Even marriage does not take away our capacity to want to “use others” sexually. Any person, married, single, SSA, attracted to blondes…whatever, needs to control their urge to “use others sexually”.

    We should always love the sinner but hate the sin. The “sin” in this case encompasses not only people with SSA that act on their lust, but anybody that acts on their lust. The loving response is to invite them to control their lust so that they can truly love again.

  • TK

    “I don’t want people telling me what is best for my salvation or deciding how I should live my life.”

    What need of you of any church, then? Your philosophy is secular humanism.

  • TK

    How is the Church /not/ welcoming? It’s not the Church’s job to make everybody comfortable. The Church is the Fullness of Truth and Truth is its mission. That truth includes some hard facts, but it is also the fullness of charity. If the Church is “not welcoming”, it’s the failing of the people, not the Church.

  • Cathi Haggard

    Please be always mindful that the offense is not in BEING GAY, that is being attracted to others of your own sex, the offense is in being sexually active outside of marriage. You cannot condemn your son for his boyfriend while condoning your daughter’s sexual relationship with her boyfriend. The sexually chaste, celibate gay person is not sinning. Any person who is misusing and squandering their sexuality outside of a valid marriage is the sinner.

  • Raymond Cote

    Well, if there is a great apostasy from the Catholic Church
    over immutable moral laws, then that is what shall be.
    Once upon a time one might have awoken to find that
    the Catholic Church was Arian. But God provided
    St. Athanasius contra mundum. Jesus was virtually
    abandoned at the Cross by nearly all His disciples.
    I have struggled with SSA for most of my 70 years of
    life. I have never felt unwelcomed by the Catholic Church.
    If any particular priest or parish were to encourage
    me to live out my SSA, I would know them to be either
    wrong in their approach or worse, as corrupted by
    this world. Following Christ is as it always has been:
    The Way of the Cross. I have not always borne my cross
    of SSA just as in many others labririnthian ways I have
    fled from Him. He has never abandoned me. I only hope
    To embrace the Cross contra mundum.

  • BillinJax

    Whoa…! The Church’s numbers are not going to increase and we
    are not welcoming enough to outsiders “… as long as its teachings remain so resistant to change.” That is the clearest statement for heresy as you can formulate.

    I can think of many “changes” I’d like to see in local parishes that would help increase attendance and enliven the spiritual awareness of their members. Having moved about the country in the fifty some years of my working days and saw first hand how different it can be parish to
    parish when it comes to the vitality and spiritual livelihood of the folks in the pews one can’t help but realize many of our local shepherds lack the ability and/or enthusiasm to awaken the dynamic potential Christ’s church has to offer his followers.

    But it has nothing to do with its Teaching! In fact it is when the Truth of the gospels is clearly explained and taught through the many
    facets of ministry which the church has available to us locally and
    parishioners are challenged to become a part of those ministries which the Lord himself has set as examples for us can we expect to draw souls into communion with the Body of Christ as well as retain the faithful lives of our congregations.

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