Clerical Malpractice and Priests Who Encourage People in Their Sins

Deacon Greg Kandra, who always has the story, published a recent post about a priest in San Francisco who removed the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI because members of the parish complained that they felt hurt by things the Holy Father had said about LGBTQ people.

The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait. In his letter to the parish, he wrote about people who “will not accept us as we are” and what we should do about them. His letter asked parishioners to “forgive” the pope, as if the pope had sinned by refusing to back down on Church teachings.

While I have not read every word Pope Benedict wrote, I have read quite a few of his statements on the question of gay marriage and the responsibilities of political office holders. None of the things I read said anything condemning homosexual people. So far as I know, the Holy Father has always supported the simple truth that homosexuals are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and that they are precious in His sight. 

Despite this, I admit that some of what I read was hard for me to accept. I had gay friends who meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint them by failing to support gay marriage. I wrestled with this, prayed about it and engaged in lots of long talks with my pastor over it. It was a tough one for me.

I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom. I have made egregious mistakes that resulted in great harm to other people by assuming that I knew more about right and wrong than 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

It was not an easy step for me, but I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is to “trust and obey.” What that means for me, as well as for any other Catholic, is that I follow the teachings of the Church. What has happened since I made the decision to bow my head and stop trying to be my own pope is that I have found that the Church proves itself right in the long run. I may have difficulty with a particular teaching at first. I may be so deeply embedded in the world’s reasoning that what the Church says seems upside down to me at first. But I have learned that this is the nature of following Christ.

Jesus’ teachings have always seemed upside down to the world. I believe that is a natural outgrowth of seeing things through eternal eyes versus seeing them with our temporal, fallen vision. It you follow Jesus, you will often be at odds with the world. If you follow Jesus, you will often find yourself practicing one kind of self-denial or another. It may be that you find yourself denying your own selfish impulses to take the easy way out to instead follow Jesus through the narrow way. It may be that you have to go against the popular reasoning and place yourself at odds with the people around you.

This can cost you a great deal. It can cost you your friends, your comfort level with other people, even your job or livelihood. But if you persist in denying Christ with the words you say and the things you do you will  inevitably come to a point where you have denied Him in total. You will no longer be His follower. You will be the world’s thingy person. The cost of that is your soul.

The priest in Deacon Greg’s post missed an incredible opportunity to stand for Christ. He side-stepped a chance to express his vows to the Church in living action in front of the people of his parish. I am sure there would have been painful consequences if he had done this. But I am equally certain that he would have been a much better priest and a much better witness for Christ if he had.

We are not called to duck and cover when the going gets tough for Christians. We are called to persist in following Him, come what may, until the end.

A priest who sidesteps this responsibility and in essence gives people support in their sins is not functioning as their shepherd. Instead of protecting them from the wolves of a culture that tells them their sins are not sins and they can do whatever they want and God Himself is wrong if He disagrees with them, this priest joined that culture and supported it in its contentions.

Gay people are human beings. There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing. Homosexuals are just people who are slightly different from heterosexuals, and that difference is not something that interferes with their functioning as productive people. However, some of the things that homosexual people do are wrong. I’m not going to be specific here, because I am not their priest and it is not my job.

But if it was my job, I would hope that I did not fail them by encouraging them to think that their sins don’t matter. That is not tolerance. It is, in fact the ultimate cruelty. It leads people away from God in the name of God. It is clerical malpractice.

For a Catholic priest to take down the portrait of the pope because parishioners don’t like things the pope has said concerning their sins, is weak in the extreme. Poor, sad priest. Poor, sad parishioners who have such a shepherd.


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What Causes Homosexuality?

A recent discussion in one of this blog’s comboxes veered off into the old nature-or-nurture/chicken-or-egg question about homosexuality.

The question: Is same-sex attraction the result of the individual’s genetic make-up, or it is the result of the environment in which they were raised?

Based entirely on a crude anthropology, I would guess that there must be a genetic component to homosexuality. Why else would same-sex attraction show up in most, if not all, societies and epochs of recorded history? The ways in which children are raised vary quite a bit from one time in history — and one culture or society — to the next.

So far as I know there is no way of ascertaining if certain cultures or methods of child-rearing have historically resulted in a higher proportion of homosexuals among their citizens. But it does seem — again, this is crude anthropology — to be pretty much ubiquitous.

That raises the question: Is there a “gay” gene somewhere on our chromosomes, like the brca genes that predispose people to breast cancer? The answer, at least for now, is that no one knows.

What we do know is — like my “anthropological” assessment — guesswork based on derivation. Perhaps the most interesting guesswork in this field comes from the so-called “twin studies.”

When I did a quick google, I found that there is more than one study attempting to correlate same-sex attraction with heredity by looking at identical/fraternal/non-twins . It turns out that these studies seem to indicate that there may be a genetic component in same-sex attraction, but it does not appear to be definitive.

Of course, there’s no way to know what this genetic component might be. Is it one gene, or two, or a combination of genes? It’s possible, say, that identical twins who are both homosexual might have inherited a combination of genes that made this outcome certain for them, while other pairs of identical twins where one is homosexual and the other is not might only have inherited one or two genes of this same combination, thus injecting the factor of environment into their sexual fates.

On the other hand, it made be that there is a set of inheritable factors that predispose a person toward homosexuality, but that same sex attraction develops only when this genetic make-up coincides with an environment that pushes the individual in this direction.

Another factor that some of the scientists who did these studies have raised is the environment in the womb. How did the hormonal input to the baby from the mother affect its development? Perhaps the “environment” in question is not so much psycho-social as it is biological.

All this is to say that we don’t know what conditions or factors lead people to experience same-sex attraction as a definitive sexual orientation.

I have seen, based entirely on being around gay men, that there are individuals who, though they experience same-sex attraction and define themselves (at least internally) as homosexual, are quite capable of functioning sexually as heterosexuals. They can and do marry women and hide their homosexuality. On the other hand, I have known gay men who simply could not do this. Their same-sex attraction was so profound that it precluded them even attempting to marry and “pass” as heterosexual.

I only mention this because it raises, at least to me, the thought that same-sex attraction may not be an all or nothing orientation for many people. It may, in fact, be more a matter of degree, at least for some.

None of the things I’ve mentioned here affect the arguments for preserving traditional marriage. I don’t see supporting traditional marriage as a denial of either the reality or the humanity of gay people.

It is just simply that men and women together are the people who create other people. No matter how much sympathy I have for gay people, no matter how completely I agree with many of their concerns, the fact is that homosexual unions are sterile. They do not make other people.

I am well aware that many homosexuals have resorted to manipulations of biology to have children. But these manipulations lead directly to the exploitation and commodification of both women and human life. They are, in themselves, misogynistic and evil.

Gay sex does not make people. Traditional marriage between a man and woman produces children and is the best cradle for nurturing those children to responsible and productive adults who can have children of their own and nurture them. Redefining marriage in strictly social terms that ignore this basic function of marriage is destructive to society as a whole. I am certain that gay marriage is the road to nowhere for our society.

On the other hand, I am equally certain that homosexuality is a fact of human existence. I do not think that we can set aside the reality of homosexuality, or the just claims for civil and human rights of gay people.

You can find one of the studies Gay is Not All in the Genes which was published in Science in 2008. I chose it because of the reputation of the publication and its relatively recent origin. There are many other studies out there, if you want to look.

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