Mercy for heterosexuals? Everybody is fine!

Mercy for heterosexuals? Everybody is fine! October 13, 2014

Mercy for homosexuals?  Everbody loses their minds!

NPR is calling it a “seismic change”.  Hysterical Reactionaries like Christopher Ferrara in my email box are calling it a “catastrophe” while declaring that the Pope worships an “invented deity”.  (Remind me again: the difference between Reactionary Catholics and Fundamentalist Protestants is what now?)  And the Catholics in the middle are just trying to figure out what’s going on?

So what’s all the hysteria about? Well, to put it simply, it’s  a sort of whirlwind of media theological illiteracy and Reactionary panic, all generated by the completely non-volatile mixture of Catholicism, politics and sex being tackled by #Synod14.  Easy peasy!

First, some background:

The latest in months of Reactionary panic (ongoing since March 2013 with the election of Francis) was on display last week in the fears about “gradualism” being discussed at the Synod. What’s gradualism? Gradualism is the common sense fact that conversion usually takes a long time and sinners typically require baby steps to change.  Calah Alexander, who is, like Yr. Obdt. Svt, a wretched sinner, has some rather appreciative words for gradualism. To which I say, “Hear! Hear!” I’ve never met a confessor who was not a gradualist and I doubt you have either. Indeed, most confessors I know tend to discourage gigantic vows of massive instantaneous conversion, particularly with entrenched sins. Why? Because when we fail to keep them, as we almost surely will, we can fly to the opposite end of the spectrum and despair. So the counsels tend to be “slow and steady wins the race”.

Unfortunately, Reactionaries (who tend to lack people skills) tend also to understand “gradualism” to mean “Let’s gradually change basic Church teaching until it conforms to the world, the flesh, and the devil.”  When they hear “gradualism” they don’t hear “How can the Church welcome sinners and help them to become saints by baby step?”  They hear “How can we slowly pervert the teaching of the Church until  abortion and gay marriage are the eighth and ninth sacraments?”

In short, neither Progressive nor Reactionary dissenters really trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or the indefectibility of the Church. Both believe the development of doctrine is, at bottom, not the Church coming to a deeper understanding of the will of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but a random collision of power and mere human will in which anything might happen and any ideology might become top dog depending on who is the strongest.  And therefore, they believe it is all on them to (for Progressives) Change the Church into modern reflection of Liberal Values or (for Reactionaries) Save the Church from mutating into a “dark and false Church“.  Neither really believes the job of Savior of the Church has already been filled, so they need to make it happen. That’s also, I think, a major reason Reactionaries despise evangelism: because it brings in riff-raff (homosexuals among them) who screw up the Perfect Diagram of Catholicism that is often the Reactionary’s true object of worship. Also, Reactionaries simply tend to be rigorists: they tend to have a distrust of even the legitimate definition of gradualism and view expressions of mercy, love, gentleness, forbearance, and all that touchy-feely stuff as Kumbayah Catholicism–especially when directed at Selected Sin, homosexuality first and foremost.

(For my part, one of the things I love about the Faith is that it works on us, as a general rule, by a kind of slow glacial pressure on the soul instead of through impossible demands and Pharisaic worship of diagrams. The people who are screaming about gradualism tend to be the sort of people who insist that man was made for the law, not the law for man. Happily, they are not in charge. But they still do lots of damage to scrupulous people in comboxes. I recommend to such Pharisees a reading of Matthew 23, particularly where Jesus says, “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Mt 23:4–5). And to scrupulous people I say, “Do not, I beg you, let these Pharisees get their hooks in you and drive you into the dirt with their crushing judgmentalism. The very fact that you are so troubled in conscience about your sins, whatever they are, and so eager to try to do right by Jesus shows that you are not the calloused sinner the Pharisees tell you that you are. Stick with the Church and your confessor, and do not let the Pharisees burden you with a yoke of slavery.”)

Anyway, the point is this: this Synod is almost entirely about pastoral issues.  It’s not there to debate whether the Church’s moral teaching is true and whether homosex might not be just fine after all, but what the Church is supposed to do about it in a real world full of complicated relationships, profound loves, deep fears, bleeding wounds, and crying needs.  The Reactionary response to all that is “Forget that touchy-feely stuff.  Kick out the people who don’t fit my diagram”.  The Progressive response to all that is “Forget the Church’s moral teaching.  Affirm everyone in their okayness. Consent is the sole criterion of the good. It’s what the Third Vatican Council, guided by the Spirit of the Age, would want!”

So, given two polarities so utterly certain of themselves, it’s not terribly surprising that, when the Synod released a document that sort of gives an “Our Story So Far” summary of what the Synod is mulling over, there would be dogmatic pronouncements galore, particularly since the document makes a few remarks concerning the pastoral care of (BUM BUM BUMMMMMM) homosexuals. It’s not a teaching document but a kind of preliminary report on what the Synod is thinking about and how they are thinking about it.It reaches no conclusion and carries no doctrinal weight at all.  It’s a committee equivalent of “thinking out loud.”  If you are of a mind to say, “The Church should not reveal its deliberations because it sows confusion” then do be sure to remember you demanded that the next time you contrarily complain “The Church is too secretive about its deliberations and thereby sows confusion.” Then, consider the possibility that the confusion, dear Brutus, is not in our synods, but in ourselves.  And particularly in our eagerness to hear what we want–or fear–to hear.

For the document has sparked another one of those “the Church is just about to radically change everything and the Pelvic Millennium will soon be upon us!!!!!” moments in MSM and progressive Catholic media that have been so common (and so unfulfilled) since the election of Francis, and which always send Reactionaries into glass-shattering squeals of panic beyond the range of human hearing. It is, we are informed, an “earthquake“. Mhm.

Here’s the deal: As Simcha Fisher, who is her normal common sense self, points out, if we are going to welcome homosexuals into the circle of humanity for whom Christ died, that means, you know, treating them like human beings, both made in the image and likeness of God and fallen sinners. And that means, when homosexuals consistently report a sense that they are not welcome and not human beings to many of their fellow Catholics (and when those who are trying to live faithful lives report that even that effort is not good enough for some of their fellow Catholics), it may be time to do a re-think about how best to shepherd them.  That is what this document is mulling over.

Below is the passage in toto. The bold text is The Big Deal stuff, both because Progressives regard it as a shocking new idea and Reactionaries believe Progressives are totally right about that. It’s another classic example of the unexpected unity of the New York Times and the Reactionary Francis Haters:

50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

That paragraph is the real biggie causing hyperventilation across both NPR and St. Blog’s Rightwingosphere, but what, exactly, is new (or wrong) with it?  We do, after all, believe that every member of the body  of Christ has gifts for the other members.  There’s no asterisk in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 that says those who happen to experience homosexual temptations are exempt from having something to offer the Church.  Ah!  What about that line about “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation” cries both the Progressive and the Reactionary, carefully ignoring the bit about “without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony”.

Well, the only way to maintain the hysteria of the Reactionary (or the starry-eyed Progressive belief) that the Church will soon be blessing gay marriage is to doggedly ignore those last nine words.

“But… but,” the Reactionary cries, “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation???!!!!”  Uh, yes. That’s right. You may remember that ours is the paradoxical faith that says weird stuff like “O happy fault!  O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” We have an apostle who accepts and values his thorn in the flesh and martyrs who accept and value the chance to be roasted on griddles and be crucified for the sake of the Name.  A homosexual orientation is, recall, a form of temptation, not a form of sin.  The technical term is concupiscence.  Here is what the Catechism says about concupiscence:

1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.”67 Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”68

We accept those we love who have other forms of temptation.  We even learn to see that, as they strive to live faithfully to Christ, their particular forms of temptation can be part of what God uses to make them into saints, as Paul’s thorn in the flesh taught him to rely on grace.  In short, we come to value everything about them, warts and all–because of love.

The problem is that many Catholics–and especially Reactionary Catholics–don’t really believe that homosexual temptation is not a sin, just as many Progressive Catholics don’t believe that homosexual temptation can, or should be resisted. I don’t expect “anything goes” Progressive Catholics, much less clueless secular journalists, to have the faintest idea about the Church’s moral teaching.  But self-described “Faithful Conservative Catholics” whose entire boast is their superior fidelity to the Faith over that of the common herd?  When they talk as though mere concupiscence is a sin and start declaring the Magisterium a catastrophe and the pope an idolator (which is what “worshiping invented deities” means) all because a minor advisory document remarks that homosexuals are really remarkably like human beings whom we should greet with love, I have to say that the question raised in paragraph 50–Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?–turns out to be a very good one.

Sometime back, I remarked:

Nobody gets upset when a sober alcoholic stands up at an AA meeting and says, “I am an alcoholic”.  Nobody gets upset when an anorexic woman declares, “I am anorexic.”  But, for some reason, when even a chaste, celibate and faithful homosexual says, “I am a homosexual” he is told that he must not say that and, in some circles, told that he is a bad Catholic even if he lives chastely, merely because he experiences temptation.  If we want to send the message to homosexuals that the Church has no place for them and that, no matter what, God will never accept them, I can think of no better way to do it than to identify this one form of temptation with sin.

The Synod doc continues:

51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

So the eighth sacrament ain’t happening anytime soon.

52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

And again, I ask, what is the problem here? It’s ironic that the subculture who perpetually appeal to “prudential judgment” as the means for blowing off actual clear Church teaching in every matter from just war to torture to the death penalty to whether you can attend the Ordinary Form are freaking about the Church using its wits to prudently assess a real pastoral problem.  Again, recall what the Church’s actual teaching says: homosex–not the temptation or the orientation, –is the sin.  The desire is disordered, as are the myriad forms of heterosexual temptation ranging from porn to adultery to lust, etc.  But the reality that the desire for homogenital sex is disordered does not mean that the genuine sacrificial love, compassion, mutual care and responsibility lived out by homosexuals are also sins.

In short, the Church recognizes (because it deals with it daily all around the world) that people can be in relationships which, while morally thorny (like Servant of God Dorothy Day’s troubled romantic life) can be real places where grace and love happen.  (This is also a problem facing the Synod as it tackles the problem of polygamy in the Third World).  Again, Progressives want to solve the problem by simply ditching everything beyond consent as the sole criterion of the Good and Reactionaries want to solve it by simply telling gays, heterosexual obsessives and addicts, and polygamists “end the relationship or get out.”  But the Church knows that this often does violence to the real loves and obligations in which the human person finds himself.  A gay man who partner is dying cannot just show up at the hospice and announce his is ditching him.  A polygamist (who may be the sole barrier between his wives and complete destitution for them) cannot simply abandon them to their fate.  The Church, in untying such Gordian Knots, must act in the spirit of Mary, Untier of Knots and not in the Spirit of Alexander slicing his way across Asia and leaving a trail of corpses behind him.

Hence, a Synod to think about these problems and not a sudden announcement that, on second thought two millennia of teaching on marriage was  all a silly mistake and gays can go ahead and marry. Nor will there be the Reactionary’s long hoped-for Great Cleansing Fire.

To conclude, people are both declaring the Millennium has arrived and announcing the End of Days and speaking of coming schism because of a draft version of an interim report by an advisory body–and a draft that makes some decent points in surprisingly accessible language.

My suggestion: Chill

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  • OBJ15

    Ditch the language of orientation. First Things eviscerated the concept here:

  • Votipka

    You’re such a jerk Mark. You’re really no better than the trads you hate so much. God forbid you acknowledge that some clarity in all this might be nice, but some of us aren’t as nuanced as you.

    • chezami

      God bless you.

      • May don’t you know how to write in Spanish? We need these words of your blog post tropicalized for the Spanish speaking faithfuls to read!

  • Flannery64

    By “valuing their orientation“ I think the Synod means, not a homosexual’s temptation to sin, but valuing them AS homosexuals, because their very orientation may include certain gifts and sensitivities that can benefit us all. As a secular friend of mine used to joke, “I so wish I could adopt a gay son or two; those guys not only love their mothers, they really know how to shop.“

    Of course, that’s a silly case of stereotyping,but it at least shows how valuing a homosexual’s orientation can refer to something other than valuing either their sexual prefetences or temptation to sin.

  • I just feel like in the middle of a media zombie apocalypses, no matter where you go, you will see horrible things. Catholic Facebook Fan pages after Catholic Facebook fan pages (both English and Spanish speaking) crying to heaven about this mid-term report, Cardinal Burke being called “True defender of the faith” (Hello, St. Peter’s List!). And this attitude of those Catholic fan pages admins hurts, really.

    It is upsetting too that the Progressive Media is, well, being themselves.

    Hope the next year Synod start to address the issue of these Reactionaries Catholics.

    • Andrew Attaway

      I don’t think you have anything to worry about. The Holy Father has a little list. Cardinal Burke is already a dead man. I don’t think Cardinal Mueller will be around much longer, either. No doubt there’s a middle-sized German diocese pining for his services. Look for Bruno Forte at CDF. Now wouldn’t that be special.

  • Peggy

    The document is a blasted disaster full of non-Catholic gobbledy-gook. It should never have been released much less produced. What a train wreck.

  • Andrew Attaway

    So much of this discussion is beside the point. Keep in mind that this is the first synod where the debate is behind closed doors. The message is being carefully managed. Whoever made the decision to release the Relatio with such fanfare knew exactly what they were doing. The Holy See has competent people in its press office. They couldn’t have been surprised by the media’s reaction.The idea was to get the toothpaste out of the tube; as Cardinal Napier pointed out, the situation is now almost irredeemable. Why the hurry to release an “interim” document at all, especially one as apparently inaccurate as this one? Really, even in the Vatican, nobody’s that clueless.

    • petey

      “the situation is now almost irredeemable.”

      what has to be redeemed?

  • Andrew Attaway

    Oh, and I suppose Cardinal Mueller is just another uncharitable reactionary crybaby. NB: I am not now and have never been a trad, let alone a radtrad. But these days I’m keeping my options open.

    • In Spiration

      Whatever, CRAZY person. You remind me of that one passage, which I’ll of course repeat… again: “They [the PHARISEES!!!1 aka RAD-TRAD REACTIONARIES] bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Mt 23:4–5).

      Get that log out of your eye, Pharisee. As Pope Francis, in a quote NOBODY reports on, once uttered, “Who [are you] to judge?” Huh?

      That’s what I thought. Less proof-texting; more hilarious pics of cats on Facebook, please. That’s how the Church has done it for OVER A DECADE, and you and your REPUBLICAN’TS are not about to change it with your EXTREMISM now.

      • Andrew Attaway

        Goodness, I’m gobsmacked. Again, I ask, is Cardinal Mueller a radtrad. Is Cardinal Napier? Are all of the synod fathers who have objected to the Relatio?

        As to beams and logs, I’ll restrain myself. And that quote from Pope Francis? I’ll let that go by too.

        All I can say is that I can’t imagine where such rage comes from.

        • In Spiration

          Poe’s Law… confirmed.

      • Andrew Attaway

        I apologize, then. I guess I’m just a linear kind of guy. But there was such an over-the-top, sincere feeling about your parody that it had me fooled. Scared me, even.

    • NB: I am not now and have never been a trad, let alone a radtrad. But these days I’m keeping my options open.

      I.e. you’re a Protestant. Good to know.

      • Alex

        If trads are Protestants perhaps the Vatican heirarchy should apologise to them for obstructing the growth of their communities in a spirit of merciless legalism.

        • People who “keep their options open” are Protestant. The whole point about the Catholic Church is that you’re stuck with it.

          • Andrew Attaway

            That’s true, and my, I’m afraid, not very serious remark doesn’t mean what you think it does. It’s the traddie options I was referring to, and only in the context of rhetoric that in effect makes Cardinal Mueller et al. hysterical reactionary traddies. And by the way, serious Protestants don’t keep their options open, either.

            To be more serious for a moment, I am sinner and a man of weak faith, and I pray for the grace to cling, if only by my fingernails, to Holy Mother Church. I have nowhere else to go.

            I also pray for the grace to be charitable and give the benefit of the doubt to everyone, especially those set in authority over me. But as I say, I am a sinner and I often fail. I have struggled over the past couple of years to put the best construction on what has been coming from Rome, but it is now next to impossible. I have a mind and a conscience, and I have to use the one and listen to the other. No, I’m not going anywhere. But the church, too, can sometimes be a cross.

      • Andrew Attaway

        Perhaps you can supply me with a syllogism to establish your conclusion. At least you’re not calling me a mason.

        • Major Premise: Those who reserve the right to break fellowship with their fellow Catholics are called Protestants.
          Minor Premise: [It sounded to me like] you were reserving the right to break fellowship.
          Conclusion: You are to be called a Protestant

          If you weren’t expressing a reservation of the right to break fellowship with your fellow Catholics, then I apologize. I thought you were.

      • Andrew Attaway

        Thank you. I’m not going anywhere. But I’m not promising not to be annoyed.

  • FatimaToday

    The principle of gradulity is no more than relativism. Could you image John the Baptist preaching gradulity? Or the apostles? Or Christ? Of course we are all on a journey, but we should not be complacent in sin or in our desire to rid ourselves of sin that keeps us in the darkness. While we are all sinners, we must not accept the principle of graduality as it pertains to grave sin. If the Church were to accept the grave sins of adultry, sodomy, contraception, sterelization, masturbation, fornication etc.. we would be culpable of eternal darkness ourselves. Sin must be unmasked, not pandered to. Love the sinner, reject the sin is what our Lord and Savior taught. That is the way of compassion and truth.

    • chezami

      Reactionaries are always rigorists. They tie up heavy burdens for other and are absolutely merciless to the weak. Screw that.

      • misha kazoo

        St. John the Baptist was so reactionary! Well screw that! He should have just said, hey Herod, I know you’re ‘married’ to your bros wife, could you just, ya know, gradually stop that? Why need he ever have lost his head? Or how about good ole Henry the VIII. The Church shoulda just said, hey Henry, could you just, ya know, gradually quit being ‘married’ to Ann Boleyn? PRETTYPLEASE??? We know you’re weak and we don’t want to be rigorists, cuz screw that, so we’re gonna give you some graduality here and you can stop your situation of being an adulterer just like maybe in ten years? How does ten years sound? Oh, that’s too hard? Your real wife won’t be dead by then probably? 20 then? Don’t want to burden you old chap!!! And while you’re at it, you can go to communion too cuz your bishop says you’re that special case of an adulterer who can go to communion. Just go right ahead. Your state is kind of like marriage and you obviously really love Ann Boleyn forever and ever and you all are such a cute couple and you have kids and it’s like a cultural thing because you’re the king and you need a son, we totally get it. No worries chum!

        • Joseph

          I’m pretty sure Mark wasn’t calling St. John the Baptist a reactionary. But that’s just me.

          • echo4alpha

            But St. John the Baptist was rigorous

      • so true

  • john

    Exactly what “value” is there in perverted sexuality? These explanations coming out of Synod are nothing more than heresies poorly disguised as “mercy” by Francis and his apostate allies. Pray for the conversion of these enemies of the Faith. We should not have expected anything different of this disgraceful Synod, being that this man of false humility, a man who promotes perverts like Msgr. Ricca, presides over it. It is disgraceful anyone could even attempt to defend these blatantly anti-Catholic statements from men who are supposed to be guardians and teachers of the Faith as handed down from the Fathers.

    • BabyBoomerCatholic

      John–Right on, brother! There is clearly an agenda — that the pope has invited in full force — to express itself at this horrendous excuse for a Synod on the Family. What a lie and an embarrassment to faithful Catholics of all time. How dare you people foist this filth on us all in our churches! God help you, those prelates who have tried to turn our faith and Christ’s teachings into a gay brothel. You are the “kings” of Babylon that the Book of Revelation talks of. This is clear apostasy from Church teaching — you must have thought we were all dead and deaf, and wouldn’t react at all.

      • john

        100th anniversary of Fatima, two years away. All the apostasy we see now was foretold in those prophecies. Everyone needs to pray the rosary and do penance, because what it says about the coming chastisement if we do not stop offending our Lord, is not anything short of terrifying. Most of this current group of Church leadership either doesn’t believe the prophecies, hasn’t read them, or are so fogged over by Satan’s cloud that they laugh at them.

  • Carr

    Where in the bible did Jesus say “you are forgiven now go and over time gradually quite sinning”? Can someone point that out to me?

    • chezami

      Fundamentalist proof-texting: It’s not just for Protestants anymore!

      You might consider reading the Old Testament, which is *nothing but* a story of God gradually leading sinners toward holiness. Or the gospels, which are nothing but the account of Jesus leading the apostle gradually toward holiness.

      • Ken

        I did something crazy. I read the document. If a person would read the document, not saying you didn’t, they would see that the context of gradualism is exactly as you are stating it here. The document says that just as mankind as been moved towards God so can individual people. It’s also raised in one section that people who are living outside of traditional marriage and still exhibit selfless giving of themselves are already doing some of the things that can be found in a Catholic marriage. Since these people are somewhat on the right track if brought into the Church they could continue on and be fully in the family of Christ. Since the document is all about caring for people that are outside of the Church it isn’t about laying the smack down on all their sinful behavior. It’s about taking the people where they are and leading them into the Church. Which is a good thing.

  • Dan

    Ok first time on this great site. I am a traditional old school Catholic and contrary to popular views of today I still believe that Marriage is between a man and a woman only period! !!! After all God didn’t create Adam and Steven he created Adam and Eve … And matrimony is a Holy Sacrament, Jesus said only threw Holy Matrimony will you achieve Heaven … Today gay and lesbian people keep fighting to be accepted into all parts of life church’s and public life such as t.v. and movies trying to make it seem like it’s ok it’s normal to be that way and all of us God loving Catholics are bad people for following our Faith. Often I feel like the gay and lesbian community is trying to shove there perverted life styles down our throats , making bad impressions on youth of America I have a 6 yr old Daughter that I now some day I am going to have to explain to her what being gay or lesbian means and how it is a sin against God. I don’t like what has become of this world Today … I don’t hate gay and lesbian people nor do I wish anything bad to happen to them. I do prey that some day they find peace and they find Jesus and repent for there sins against God the Father God the Son And God the Holly Spirit. I do think that gay and lesbian people have value and much to offer the world . But must prey to God and ask for forgiveness, repent. Come back to Christ and his teachings.

  • Mymomchoselife

    Why does the document refer to a persons choice of mortal sin as someone who has gifts to share? Why do we have to be called reactionaries because we are hearing very troubling things from our Pontiff? Mark perhaps you are reactionary!

    • petey

      “persons choice of mortal sin”
      the act is a choice, the affectivity is not a choice any more than my desire for women is. the Report after Debate talks about affectivity and pastoral care, not acts.

      “hearing very troubling things from our Pontiff”
      he didn’t write any of this Report. so, examples?

  • Mymomchoselife

    This is reply to petey, I guess you haven’t been following the Pontiff’s comments throughout the last 18 months. Where did I say that he wrote the report????
    The report refers to homosexuals, if it about pastoral care as you say and not about someone who is a practicing homosexual then why do they need pastoral care? Why would the synod need to address those homosexuals who are living chaste lives? You can’t have it both ways.

    • Heather

      Why would it not? A homosexual who is living a chaste life certainly needs particular pastoral care. A lot of the “faithful” tend to look at them as sleeper agents for the Gay Agenda. Their particular cross, since it has to do with how they relate to other people, can make it difficult to form healthy and strong friendships. Meanwhile, the world tells them they must be repressed and full of self-hatred for trying to live chastely. If not handled with sensitivity, it’s a recipe for loneliness and despair.

      As for those who are still caught up in sin, they also need particular pastoral care just as anyone who is still caught up in sin needs particular pastoral care, with added challenges due to the culture war battleground. When you have one side claiming they are all about love and acceptance, and the other throwing around words like “abomination,” it’s very hard to convince someone who is confused and in the grips of sin that their only true happiness lies in the second camp.

      • Ken

        This is the best summation I’ve seen of the struggles many homosexuals find themselves in and what we can do to help them.

        • Heather

          Boy, if I actually had all the answers, that would be awesome. As a single person over 30, I share certain lifestyle traits with many chaste homosexuals and childless divorcees, and certain family circumstances make me more conscious of these issues, but I certainly don’t have all the answers.

          Thanks for the kind words, though.

        • Caleb L. Smith

          They don’t need help.

          • Ken

            I meant help in terms of people in the church who don’t feel welcomed. I apologize for my original wording.

            • Caleb L. Smith

              Alright, thanks for the clarification.

      • Mymomchoselife

        And Heather why do chaste homosexuals need special pastoral care over other parishioners? There any many other people that need special pastoral care why the preference for select groups? It all sounds so……lets say politically correct, so of the world.

        • Heather

          Where did I say they need special pastoral care over other parishioners? Their pastoral needs are different. Not more important than those of a young mom or a retiree whose kids have flown the nest or whoever, but different. And in a lot of cases not being addressed at all, or at least not well. I know of very few parishes in my very large city that actually offer anything like a Courage group. Such a thing is either blocked by progressive dissident elements, or it never occurs to anyone that there might be a need.

          And while no I have never actually heard the term sleeper cell used, I have seen a lot of suspicion and disdain towards writers and bloggers who write candidly of their struggles and challenges that go along with being both homosexual and a Christian who accepts traditional teachings on sexual morality. Despised by progressives for being chaste, despised by the right for claiming a “gay identity.”

          • Mymomchoselife

            I didn’t say that you said they need special pastoral care, that is what the sin-nod is saying.The whole point as you just made is that people need different pastoral care depending on their situation. Why do we need a special synod for that?
            I do agree with a lot of your points I just feel like homosexuality keeps being pushed down our throats by the secular and now by our church. I am thoroughly disgusted.

            • Heather

              Why? So that people encountering similar pastoral challenges don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel but rather share and discuss what works and what doesn’t?

              But the fact that you are referring to it as a sin-nod tells me that you are not actually interested in any of that. Ewwww they are talking about icky things, make them stop.

            • petey

              “the sin-nod”

              ’nuff said!

          • Ken

            If people would actually read the document there wouldn’t be all this freaking out. The document talks about marriage and family as a whole and then goes into the different dimensions of what is breaking the family apart and then another section that talks about specific challenges in pastoral care. One of them is people living together outside of marriage and another was homosexuality. The tone of the document is more about listing the problems of caring for these individuals and possible ways to pastor people in these cases. It isn’t elevating homosexuality, jamming it down anyone’s throat or any of the other nonsense people are claiming. Again, if the entire document is read the context that it treats homosexuality is the same that it treats all the other challenges the church faces.

            People read the document for yourselves!!!!

        • why do chaste homosexuals need special pastoral care over other parishioners?

          Have you ever talked, seriously talked, with someone in the church who is same-sex attracted? Someone who feels caught between a culture that says, “Everything is fine la la la!” and a church that seems to say, “You’re damaged goods, and damaged in a way that not only disgusts all us ‘good’ people, but which we feel the need to bloviate about in a special way since your peculiar temptation is a particularly contentious football in the culture war.” I, myself, even when I’m hanging out with Catholic friends who are same sex attracted, when the conversation turns to culture and politics, find myself accidentally making comments that express exasperation with homosexuals and the homosexual lobby. Then I have to backtrack and make it clear, without being too obvious, that I’m not dissing homosexual people per se but only the people preaching sexual license to a broken culture.

          These people are hurting, many of them are hurting bad, and they need to know that they’re valued for who they are, even when who they are includes affections and desires that the ‘righteous’ find particularly icky or that religious liberals use to slam conservatives. They absolutely need special pastoral care.

          tl;dr: Heather said it way better than I did, above.

      • Mymomchoselife

        And Heather what the heck are you talking about “sleeper agents for the gay agenda”. Where in the world did you come up with that one? Who are all of these faithful you are speaking of? I have NEVER EVER heard anyone ever say anything like that. Just saying.

        • Rosemarie


          I have. Years ago, there was a commenter in the combox of Mark’s blog (when it was on Blogspot) who was utterly convinced that Courage meetings were simply a means for gay Catholics to “hook up.” He absolutely could not believe that those meetings helped them support each other in living chaste lives. He seemed convinced that gays aren’t capable of chastity at all – not even with the support of prayer and the Sacraments.

          Unfortunately, the old Haloscan comboxes are gone so I can’t show you the stuff this guy posted. But it was bad; he even said that, by means of homosexuality, Satan had gained a certain “triumph” over the Cross of Christ! IOW, homosexuals cannot be saved. He may be an extreme example, but sadly he’s not the only Catholic I’ve come across who disdained even chaste gay Catholics.

          If you’ve never heard anyone say anything like that, I almost envy you. Because it’s immensely disheartening when you read such abysmal nonsense from Catholics who should know better. Satan “triumphed” over the Cross of Christ? Blasphemy!

  • Guest

    What about Cardinal Muller, and Cardinal Burke? They have both “reacted” to the document, and they have stances clearly opposed to Shea’s.

    Shea “reacted” to the document as well. Easy with the name-calling, sir, you are just as reactionary.

  • rudytee

    thank you for sharing this blog–gives much food for thought.

  • Doyle
  • bob

    They won’t decide to do *too* much like the Orthodox in the end. The vote will still be one to nothing whatever the issue.

  • Ken

    I would encourage people to read the document. It isn’t really that long and a lot of what is upsetting people is more imagined then is real.

    I think the best summary was given by Cardinal Dolan who says it really needs work. It is a rough draft and as it goes along it seems to become more and more of a draft than a finished product. I hope the final product is more polished because it’s so rough that it is causing some of the confusion.

    It starts with some great themes of the family and how it is a symbol of the family of Christ. Unfortunately, that theme seems to fall by the wayside and isn’t developed as well as it could be and falls off and is returned to but not deeply enough.

    It talks about the state of the family and all the different challenges it faces, which are things like cultural and economic challenges.

    The document talks about gradualism at the beginning and at another point saying that some non-married couples show selfless giving and that is a step in the right direction and if brought into the Church the relationship could grow in holiness. To me, it wasn’t really in the document that much.

    It talks a lot about people living together outside of marriage and why people do that and possible ways the Church could bring these people into marriage. It talks about divorce and remarriage and the different thoughts that were brought up about communion or maybe some form of penance but it’s just some random ideas. Here you can really see the document as people throwing out different ideas.

    The section on homosexuality is the same theme as the rest of the document. Since it’s about how to bring these people into the Church it talks about a pastoral approach to them. The problem with the section is that it starts off talking about individuals and then moves towards homosexual relationships and mentions, as it does about people living together outside of marriage, some of the good that can be found in these relationships like caring for another person. The section doesn’t transition really well so it is confusing where it stops talking about individuals and as partners. As far as the “gifts” part. I read it to say that homosexuals have gifts like everyone else does.

    Overall, the important thing to realize about the document is that it is about caring for people outside of traditional Catholic families so it doesn’t fit into the document to go over why the Church is opposed to people outside of the family. It just isn’t the tone of the document. After saying that, it does talk about the importance of being married rather than living together and says the Church will never have same sex marriages. But really, who doesn’t know the Church is against homosexuality?

    I would really encourage everyone to read it. I think the real complaint is about how rough it is and that it isn’t really polished enough to be brought to the public.

  • Caleb L. Smith

    For those who say the Church has never changed or has never changed doctrine then you haven’t been reading history.

    Today’s Islam is basically the equivalent of what the Church was in Medieval Times. Had the Church never evolved since then then today’s Church would acting the same way Islam is acting today, violently (Of course I am generalizing, I know not all Muslims are like that but you get the point). The fact is, the Church has evolved over the course of its history.

    Also while it may have only happened once in the Church’s entire history (to my knowledge), changing doctrine has taken place. The belief that the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was the center of the universe was Church doctrine. The fact that the Church changed their views is proof that this doctrine changed.

    While I’d welcome it if the Church changed its views on homosexuality it is not necessary. What is necessary if the Church remains unchanged concerning homosexuality is that they respect those who are not apart of the Church. Homosexuals should have the right to be married by the state. You trying to deny them this is stepping on their beliefs. They aren’t stepping on your beliefs unless they try to force your religion to recognize their marriage, then it would be a problem.

    • Rosemarie


      Geocentrism was never Catholic doctrine. It was a commonly held belief going back even before Christianity. Early Christians saw no reason to contradict it (it seemed in line with a literal reading of Scripture) but it was never defined as dogma binding on all the faithful. So no doctrine was changed when the Church accepted heliocentrism.

      • Caleb L. Smith

        If I’m not mistaken dogma and doctrine are two different things. I’ve never heard of a change of dogma but Geocentricism was taught as Church doctrine, I’ve done my research.

        If you don’t believe me look up the recorded transcript of the trial between Galileo and the Church. They refer to their belief in Geocentricism as doctrine several times. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

        • Tony

          Sorry, but you’re incorrect. Geocentrism was at no point doctrine. Please cite the theological doctrine title on geocentrism and what year it was proclaimed, if it exists. Answer: it doesn’t exist.

          Secondly, funny you mention Galileo’s trial transcript. If you read the records, you’ll notice he was found guilty NOT of heresy, but of suspected heresy since the council could find NOTHING contradictory to church teaching in his statements. Don’t believe me? Please look up the official verdict.

          • Caleb L. Smith

            By definition what they taught was Church doctrine. They even used the bible to back up their geocentric views.

            Your argument is flawed anyways. So if there is no formal ceremony declaring the doctrine it’s not a real doctrine.

            Going by that logic if someone fit the textbook definition of a saint but went under the radar of the Church their whole lives they wouldn’t be a real saint unless the Church declared it. Are you starting to see why this logic is flawed?

            To make it as clear as possible, the bishops thought geocentricism made sense, so they began to teach it and teach as truth, using scripture to even back it up. By definition, that is Church doctrine. But you’re saying since there was no formal ceremony stating it is doctrine then it’s not really doctrine. This is simply false.

            You see? Or are you going to tell me the first popes aren’t real popes because there was no formal ceremony proclaiming them pope?

            A Church doctrine was wrong, get over it. The only thing you could argue is that it wasn’t dogma.

            • chezami

              No. When a theologian take for granted the science of the day in his conversation, he is not “teaching” it. He is assuming it, on the way to making his main point, which is theological, not cosmological. If you want to get the hang of how *real* conversation about geocentricism happened in the Church, and how heliocentrism was worked out entirely by Christians and almost entirely by Catholics, go here:

              • Caleb L. Smith

                Thanks for the link, I’ll look into it.

              • Caleb L. Smith

                I’m still at work so I truly won’t be able to read the article you gave until tonight. I just wanted to discuss what you said before you gave the link before my break is over.

                You seem to splitting hairs here when it come to word teaching. Teaching is teaching. Whether you teach something the wrong way or the right way it’s still teaching either way. Perhaps there are different adjectives to describe bad teaching but at the end of the day it is what it is.

                Also I simply don’t understand what the big deal is. I might be a former Catholic but I still know my stuff. A teaching being a doctrine doesn’t automatically make it infallible. Dogma is supposed to be the infallible stuff. If a dogma came into question then I could understand the concern, a doctrine that is not infallible, not so much. So the Church teaching of geocentricism was wrong, big deal. The Church is made up of people, people make mistakes.

                Either way I will read the article tonight and perhaps I’ll get a better understanding of how all this went down.

  • Thibaud313

    Mark, in this post, you made 2 points :

    1) Everybody calm down

    2) The Relatio is great and perfectly in line with established, unchangeable Catholic teaching.

    You were perfectly justified in your first point and we should all be grateful for it at a time when everybody needed to calm down (myself first and foremost).

    However, I think you should admit that you may have jumped the gun on the second point, now that we know :

    1) that many non-crazy people (like Jimmy Akin : and many of the Synodal fathers and bishops around the world) expressed serious concerns that the Relatio was pretty bad, should not have been made public and was in clear contradiction with established, unchangeable Catholic teaching ;

    2) that the Relatio expressed the opinion of only a tiny minority of Synodal fathers specially appointed by Pope Francis to write this misleading Relatio, while the opinion of 90% of the Synodal fathers (especially the African bishops), that is to say pretty much the exact opposite of the one expressed in the Relatio, was silenced ;

    3) that the leader of the tiny minority of pro-Relatio Synodal fathers, Cardinal Kasper, is making some very questionable comments on the need to abolish clearly established, unchangeable Catholic teaching and to not let the African bishops speak (

    • chezami

      No. Not the Relatio is “great”. The Relatio is not an emergency/disaster/repudation of 2000 years/end of the world or even “especially hard to reconcile with Catholic teaching. It’s a working document, part of a messy process of thinking things over. That’s all. Relax.

  • orual’s kindred

    I find it disappointing when Catholics, without delay, treat a progress report (which then turns out to also be a badly-translated document) as if it were Church doctrine. Is it possible that people who rightly object to confusion and leading people astray might avoid contributing to it so well next time? Maybe not, but I can be foolish and hope 🙂

  • Invincible Hope

    look at the articles “full” title area ‘Mercy for heterosexuals everybody is fine – Mercy for homosexuals everybody loses their mind’ = I’m of the opinion that it is the heterosexual element being persecuted right now ( and and ) and no true Church member has ever had a problem the person suffering with homosexual tendencies , the person is loved – it is the activism and attempt to rationalize into normalcy behavior the Church has always said can cause that loved person and others to lose heaven that people have a problem with … contrary to the article I think it is not crazy reactionaries but true ordinary Catholics that can and should have issue when a bishop uses language to summarize (all the other bishops, even those disagreeing with him) the sentiment of an important event in the following way: the PARTICULAR inclination towards homosexual sin as Valuable; while no one values all the other sinful inclinations like pedophilia and rightfully so.

    • Invincible Hope above Burke talking about the manipulation of Synod reports being actually used to slowely advance an agenda unfaithful to the Church. The Final Document/draft from the Synod removes the language about “accepting and valuing homosexual orientation” altogether as many bishops have come forward to speak out against that wording as being inserted by special interests to push an agenda. As Burke said in the above link: “It is clear that whoever wrote the Relatio has an agenda and simply used the authority of a solemn meeting of Cardinals and Bishops to advance his agenda without respect for the discussion which took place during the first week of the Synod.” AND “A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” etc. So there you have it , the original article should wait for the final draft before commenting on the ‘surprisingly good points & accessible language’ and trying to suger coat said language that has later been shown to be the work of special interests and deemed incorrect by the vast majority of the Synod fathers. There is the Holy Spirit at work, safe guarding the Church and those who saw the “error” early are not reactionaries but often just normal prayerful everyday Catholics who love their Mother Church and can sense and speak up when someone is seeking to dishonor Her with agenda driven language.