Recently John Langan, S.J., Professor of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, wrote this great article on a way forward for the Catholic Church as the struggle with the changing realities of Homosexuality in the United States. In it he lays out four elements that should mark a Catholic “stance” toward homosexuality… take a look.
- The first is humility. We must acknowledge what we do not know and what we do not understand about the contemporary situation of homosexuals. This is an important point both for advocates of alternative lifestyles and for social and religious traditionalists. It is especially needed as we explore the difficult questions about how to understand the causes of homosexual inclinations and actions and how biological inheritance, historical experience and personal choice come together in shaping sexual orientation. Difficult questions also surround the social consequences of giving legal acceptance to same-sex unions, especially the effects of such a policy on the institution of marriage in Western societies. Humility is appropriate not merely for debate on broad social issues but also in the settings of family and friendship and in the decisions to seek and provide counsel and care for persons who are uncertain and distressed about homosexuality in themselves or others.
- Second, we must show respect for the dignity of homosexual persons as creatures of the one God and Father of us all, as members of the community of the redeemed and as fellow citizens of the city and the world. The affirmation of traditional views needs to take place within an ethic of dialogue and must be marked by civility, compassion and charity. Desires that homosexuals should cease to exist, or that they should disappear from public space, or that laws should be enacted that would deny their human rights are simply not acceptable. Precisely because the disagreements over the moral assessments of homosexual acts and the future of relevant social institutions are real and are deeply felt, it is necessary to practice moral attitudes that will sustain conversation over time. This will help to bind the advocates of change and traditionalists. It should also restrain the mockery and denigration of people who in a spirit of honesty and faithfulness honor traditional social values. For in the church, we are called to show charity and mutual forbearance rather than to be victorious masters of cultural warfare.
The greater burden rests with those who, consciously or not, have been influenced in their attitudes and reactions by homophobia, by the fear and hatred of homosexual persons and acts. This can be manifested in schoolyard bullying, in malicious outing and violations of privacy, in blackmail and psychopathic violence. Many of those who are most critical of church teaching on sexuality have suffered wounds from homophobia, sometimes with the connivance of church members or, even worse, with their approval. For all these offenses against our brothers and sisters, there is need for repentance and conversion. As we turn to the future, there is a corresponding need to look critically at those who offer themselves as allies against gay and lesbian agendas
- Third, all parties need to show realism in acknowledging the problems of perception and trust that complicate our efforts to understand and collaborate with one another. We must be aware of the challenges to mature and responsible behavior that human sexuality presents to all of us, regardless of our orientation. There is a profound need for realism in acknowledging the ambiguities that mark our histories, both personal and social. God’s judgment is not likely to yield a simple division between heterosexual sheep and homosexual goats, just as God’s creation does not produce persons who remain consistently on one side of this divide. Expulsion of those with sexual differences from the sacred precincts of the church and expunging their acts and gifts from our institutional memory may express a detestation of intrinsic evil, but it also carries with it an effective denial of common humanity. We must not only be charitable with others, but also honest with ourselves. Realistic self-understanding leads to the abandonment of hypocrisy; realistic understanding of others prepares the way for acceptance in community. Looking seriously at the communities in which we participate will disclose a complex tapestry in which the multicolored threads of the rainbow catch and reflect light, increase splendor and range, and are to be gratefully received.
Realism also involves a recognition that the moral, personal and spiritual development to which we are all called in Christ is not identical with some form of legal or philosophical consistency or even with doctrinal orthodoxy. Nor, on the other hand, is it to be defined as the successful working out of one’s sexual orientation. Both of these distortions involve a reduction of the human person to one or more favored aspects of what is a richer, more complex reality. They also involve the substitution of an immediate, testable accomplishment for the movement of the soul toward the transcendent Other in faith, hope and charity.
- Fourth, during this period of scrutiny and reassessment, we must be patient with ourselves, with each other and with the friends and allies of the contesting groups both in the public arena and in the life of the church. The tasks of sifting arguments, modifying laws and institutional arrangements, reshaping personal and social expectations and examining the effects of changes when they are proposed and when they are enacted are all tasks that are best done over time. The process of learning, listening, revising, beginning anew and encouraging participants on all sides and at all levels consumes immense amounts of time and energy. In the United States and elsewhere, the whole process is going to be conducted under the shadow of the sexual abuse crisis, which will be a continuing source of suspicion, fear and acrimony. The very American desire for quick and unambiguous outcomes will make the necessary patience shorter in supply and harder to sustain. We have to bear in mind that law and public opinion in the United States now understand and treat homosexual relations between consenting adults and the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons as significantly different realities.
The rest of the article is very thoughtful and more then worth your time. You can read it here. I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below!