Friday, October 31, 2014

What the Catholic Church Could Learn from an Evangelical With Same Sex Attractions

Nuptial Cross
Every week, the Catholic Center at Boston University hosts a spaghetti supper.  This past week, I found myself sitting next to a gentleman who helps lead the BU chapter of "Navigators," an evangelical Christian group.  He and a few of his friends joined us for dinner, and during our conversation I mentioned that we were having a presentation in a couple of weeks on "Having Same-Sex Attractions and Living the Catholic Life."  He mentioned that his group was doing something similar this week and invited me to attend.

Last night, I attended their weekly gathering, and a young man who works for Navigators gave a great presentation on the beauty of marriage and the Gospel vision of human sexuality.  A couple of times during his talk, he briefly mentioned that he has same sex attractions, but that was not the focus of his presentation.  His focus was on St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians and how marriage is an image of Christ's love for the Church.  He focused upon how marriage between a man and a woman is the beautiful and God-given design for human sexuality.  His presentation was made with humility, joy, and serenity.

Clear and faithful teaching is always a joy to hear, but there is just something more convincing when such clarity and fidelity is accompanied by personal witness.  Publicity surrounding the Synod of Bishops this year made it sound like the bishops were discussing rules, regulations, policies, and loopholes.  In contrast, this young man gave a presentation that spoke of the beauty of human sexuality, the truth about marriage, and the grace that God wants to give each one of us.  He began with the truth and beauty of human sexuality and then he discussed sin, grace, and freedom.  Whereas the publicity surrounding the Synod made it sound like the Catholic Church was pessimistic about the possibility of people living the full truth about human sexuality, this witness humbly testified to the power of grace.  Did he fall short of living the full truth at times?  Perhaps.  But, he is nonetheless fully convinced of the truth, and he is confident that God, who has begun good work in him, will bring it to fulfillment.

A few things struck me about this event.  Firstly, I was just grateful for the opportunity for Catholics (me) and Evangelicals to be together in fellowship and to share in the joy of the Gospel together.  I find moments like this to be encouraging and fruitful.  

Secondly, I was struck by his methodology.  He began his presentation by situating sex within a Divine Plan that is beautiful and good; a plan that is centered in marriage.  From there, he talked about how sin has disfigured our understanding of this original beauty and goodness.  Then, he went on to speak about how grace can restore us and help us to live according to this Divine Plan.  This, I think, is what was missing from so much of the publicity surrounding the Synod of Bishops.  The headlines for the Synod all seemed to focus on the difficulties people confront when it comes to sex, but not upon the beauty of God's original plan nor the power of grace.

Thirdly, I was struck by the fact that this gentleman--who experiences same sex attractions--is a leader in the organization of Navigators.  It seems that the only time we ever hear anything about same sex attraction and the Church is when there is some sort of controversy.  So often we read about or hear about priests and other workers in the Church undermining the Church's teachings on human sexuality.  It's a real scandal.  It's a scandal not because they are "disagreeing with the Church's rules."  It is a scandal because it leaves people in sin and doesn't provide to them the lifesaver of the Gospel.

The guy who spoke the other night was a Christian man.  He was a Christian man who happened to have same sex attractions.  But, his identity was a Christian man.  Like every other man--every other human being--he needs the power of grace in his life in order to become more like Christ.  The presentation made me think about how there are so many people--especially in positions of influence in the Church--who purposefully attempt to undermine the Church's teachings on human sexuality.  And yet, there are men and women who--though they may struggle to live those teachings--believe them and try to live in accord with them.  We need people like this working for the Church.  We need men and women who can witness to Christ, witness to the truth about the Gospel, and witness to the power of grace.

I heard a Christian man give a witness the other night.  It was really beautiful.  He spoke eloquently on the beauty of human sexuality, marriage, and the family.  He spoke briefly on his own struggles to live according to that theological vision.  And, he spoke on the power of grace at work in his life.  He does not want the Church to teach something different.  He is too in love with the Truth to desire something less than the full truth.  A problem in the Catholic Church is that too often there are people put in positions of influence who do not necessarily adhere to the Church's theological understanding of marriage and human sexuality.  We are led to believe that the only alternative to this situation would be to put in those same positions of influence people who foam at the mouth and seek to condemn everyone to Hell.  But, there is a better way.  There is the Gospel way.

There are men and women like the gentleman I heard speak last night.  They are people who have heard the truth and who love the truth.  They are people who love Jesus Christ and want to submit their entire life to Him.  They are men and women who are living the Catholic life, going to confession, receiving the Eucharist, praying daily, and striving to live a life of holiness.  If the Church really does want to welcome people of same sex attraction, perhaps we ought to make an effort to include among our communities and our programs men and women who say, "I have same sex attractions, I believe everything that the Church teaches--including everything about human sexuality--and I am striving to live accordingly."  I don't know exactly how that all would work, but I think it would be fruitful.  I think it would accomplish two things.  Firstly, it would make truly clear that the Church does in fact love and welcome those who have same sex attractions.  Those would no longer just be words, but would rather be made made manifest in real persons.  And secondly, their witness would wield a power that would severely undermine the influence and power of those who seek to advance the ideology of the sexual revolution.  Contained within their witness would be the power of the Gospel and that is a power that sets people free.  The guy who spoke last night was filled with joy, humility, and serenity.  Nothing can defeat that.

Witnesses.  That's what the Church needs.


  1. I hope you will let students whom you council know about the Courage and Encourage apostolates:

    1. Thanks. We were hoping to have someone from Courage give a talk to our students this week, but were not able to get hold of anyone. Apparently they are in between on a contact person, so we couldn't get through to anyone by email or by phone. Maybe another time.