Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to marry yourself

Just in time for Christmas, it's the "I Married Me -- Self-Wedding in a Box" kit.  Truly, you can't make these things up.  Learn more about the phenomenon and how it misses the mark of what marriage is at the "Marriage in the News" column on

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Marry someone who will suffer with you ...

Sometime around the 1,000 post on Unshakeable Hope, the combination of other writing projects for Ruah Woods, a busy schedule and the third trimester of pregnancy led to a major decline in daily blog posting. Actually, more than a decline, blog writing has completely disappeared during the last month. But I had to pop over to share this thought-provoking guest post by John Janaro on Arleen Spenceley's blog.

So much of marriage advice is the same -- go out on regular dates with one another, give 100% (not 50/50), pray together, etc. These are certainly important things to hear, but John Janaro's reflections on the wedding vows bring a refreshing and challenging perspective that we don't often hear. For example:
"Sickness and health...." Most healthy young people barely think about these words when they say them. This is not about chicken soup and colds. People can get really sick. Spouses have to be primary caregivers. If you're a woman, you will have health issues that your husband won't understand. If the husband becomes disabled and can't work, he will be emotionally shattered in a way that he will have difficulty communicating to his wife, or even admitting to himself. Disability is something we've learned a lot about in our marriage. But everyone faces health problems. If nothing else, people get older and they change physically and emotionally. And they suffer. It's important to marry someone who will suffer with you, and with whom you are willing to suffer. There's nothing "romantic" about the daily, ordinary, often banal suffering that you will have to share. But it's there that your love grows as trust, commitment, and fidelity. But this is not a cold thing. A real and deep affection is born within this love. You begin to see the other person more deeply.

You can read the rest at Arleen Spenceley's blog here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another case of "Don't trust that headline!"

Perhaps you've seen the news that China is "relaxing" or "easing" or "ending" their one-child policy?  Most people don't realize that China still has a one-child policy to which they strictly adhere.  But in any event, upon closer examination, we see that China is not ending their policy.  They are barely "relaxing" it.  Instead, China will now allow couples of whom the mother or father is an only child to have two children.

That's right, it's a modified two child policy.  

Certainly, it's a modified victory for those couples who thought they could only legally have one (and to illegally become pregnant is to face forced abortion, fines and other punishments), but it's no reversal of the hideous policy.  Rather than praise China for their newly found leniency, we should continue to challenge them to embrace life and to see the negative effects of limiting children across the country for now and in the long term.  

The possibility of having two children reintroduces concepts such as, "aunt," "uncle," and "cousin" to the nationwide vocabulary, but it's not good enough, and we can't settle for this "concession" as a massive victory.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Looking for life in Auschwitz

A story of hope and life in the midst of the devastating brutality of Auschwitz has recently been told in the National Post.

Miriam Rosenthal was four-months pregnant, starving, bone-tired, cold, filthy and afraid when an SS officer in big black boots and a crisp uniform appeared before the barracks in Auschwitz with a loudspeaker in hand.

All pregnant women line up, he barked. Line up, line up — your food portions are being doubled.

“Can you imagine?” Miriam asks. “Even women who were not pregnant stepped forward. I was standing with my younger cousin, but I wouldn’t go. She says, ‘Miriam, what are you doing?’ ”

“Something was holding me back. Someone was watching over me. I feel maybe my mother, maybe God. Two hundred women stepped forward and 200 women went to the gas chamber. And I don’t know why I didn’t step forward.

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quote book

"True love, love that is interiorly full, is one in which we choose a person for his own sake; thus in it a man chooses a woman and a woman a man not merely as a 'partner' for sexual life, but as a person to whom he or she wants to give his or her life." -- Bl. John Paul II in "Love and Responsibility"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Have you heard what Pope Francis told young people about marriage?

If you haven't heard what Pope Francis told young people in Assisi about marriage on October 4, check it out at the USCCB's "For Your Marriage" site here

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A gender-neutral menstruation app?

Say what? Apparently, a team of people has created an iPhone app to calculate one's menstrual cycle ... in a "gender-neutral" way. The creators say:
"We understand that sex and gender identity are not the same and we designed our app so it can be used by almost everyone. Mcalc is 100 percent gender neutral and it won't assume anything from your gender while using it... We all have different needs, and Mcalc can suit them accordingly."

Doesn't the fact that only half of the world's population could use a menstruation app already assume something about gender?  Do totally random people have periods, or do women have periods?  Last I heard, it was the latter.  

So, why do we need a "gender-neutral" menstruation app when gendered people who are specifically female are the only ones who menstruate?  Why do we feel a need to take out feminine pronouns or other words associated with women in order to track a woman's cycle?In an effort to promote equality are we hoping to find an artificial way to allow men to experience bleeding, cramping, mood swings, bloating and the like?  Is this app in some way meant to prepare men to experience a simulated menstrual cycle?  Or are we trying to hide the fact that men and women are different, that only women have the capacity to nurture life within their bodies, and that from the age of 12 or 14 their bodies are manifesting that fact?  Do we want to remove the pronouns so that we can pretend both men and women live and love in the exact same way?

You can't make this stuff up.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quote book

Quite possibly the most succinct, poignant definition of the new evangelization I have ever heard:

"What's new about the new evangelization? I'll tell you what's new about it.  It's intended for the baptized.  In other words, we're not targeting the pagans with the new evangelization.  We're talking about those who have actually been baptized and confirmed and perhaps married in the Church.  That's what John Paul II had in mind with the new evangelization.  Doesn't it occur to anybody that that is an extraordinary admission by a pope?  That that vast number of those who claim to be Catholic are themselves sacramentalized but not evangelized?" -- Al Kresta on "Kresta in the Afternoon" on October 21, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy feast day of Bl. John Paul II!

It's his last feast day as a "blessed."  In six months and a couple of days, Bl. John Paul II will officially be a saint!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Questions from Credo ... follow up

Last week I answered several questions from the Credo youth retreat related to same-sex attraction.  Hopefully they were helpful to you.  If you'd like to read all of those posts, you can find them here.

I also wanted to share a few sources that might be of interest if you are looking for more information.

I hope that in all of the posts in the last week, you were able to see the beauty of the Church's teaching -- beautiful but difficult.  It is only because God loves us so much that we are challenged to live in a way that corresponds with the dignity God gave us.  

It's also important to remember that the Church holds two things together at all times -- the dignity of the human person, regardless of who he or she is attracted to and the understanding that same-sex actions are wrong.  It can be easy to overemphasize one or the other, but we must hold both together.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Questions from Credo ... Why doesn't society like chastity?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. Why does society say that chastity is a bad thing to do?

A. There are plenty of ways we could answer this question.

  • We don't understand who we are -- unique and unrepeatable persons created in the image and likeness of God.
  • We don't understand what love is -- willing the true good of the other, not a feeling I happen to have.
  • We don't understand how chastity and love are linked -- chastity frees me to give of myself to another in a truly loving way.
But the answer that I would like to focus on is our society's seeming inability to say no to immediate gratification.  We are used to getting everything we want immediately -- the score to the football game, a Big Mac, cash from the ATM, a movie we want to rent -- the list could go on!  We don't like being told.  We don't like experiencing inconvenience or pain.  We pop a Tylenol at the first sign of a headache, and blast the air conditioning in our car on a hot day.

So, in a society like this, who would want to say "no" to sexual desires?  We can't say "no" without a greater "yes," and in our society today, we have lost the sense of the greater "yes."  Because we can't necessarily see the goodness of the "yes" to love right in front of our faces, like we can see the apparent good of a "yes" to experiencing the pleasure we want right now, as a society, we seem to choose the "no" to chastity instead of the "yes" to love.

But in reality we can't say "yes" to anything if we can't say "no" to other things.  We make our wedding vows by saying "yes" to one person, but that yes involves a "no" to the other 3 billion people of the opposite sex on earth.  We can't say "yes" to playing for our high school football team without saying "no" to playing for our school's rival.  

What we need to recapture in our society, I think, is the goodness of a "yes" to love, even when that "yes" involves sacrifice.  We need to see that it is worth the difficulties.  We don't have the cross without the resurrection ... but we also don't have the resurrection without the cross.  Sometimes we get so afraid of the cross, that we also say no to the resurrection.  We need to see the goodness of both and embrace them both together.  

Questions from Credo ... What about friends who aren't open?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. What should you do if you have friends that do have same-sex attractions but aren't open to the Church or even hearing the Word of God?

A. This can be a frustrating situation if you want to share the beauty of the Church's teaching, but don't be discouraged!  Perhaps God will place opportunities in your path to verbally share your faith with your friends.  Perhaps not.  But your silent witness is always speaking, even when you are not aware of it.  If you are living a life in Christ, then your joy will show, and your friends will wonder where it comes from.

The Church's teaching on same-sex attraction/actions is not a laundry list of "no's" and negatives.  Rather, it's a beautiful, positive teaching about love, marriage and family that involves "no's" to the things that do not fully embrace God's plan.  So, rather than focus on what not to do, you can be a witness of the beauty of the Church's teachings on chastity and love.  

If you are able to speak to your friends, you might want to ask them a simple question, "Are you really happy?"  Since the Church offers us good news that -- while entailing suffering and sacrifice -- brings us joy and peace, you have a unique gift to offer your friends. 

You are also able to pray for your friends, to be present to them, to be open to listening to them without condemning them.  It's important to remember that if we are called to speak we are called to speak the truth and in love.  Both must be present!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Questions from Credo ... Talking to our friends, whether Catholic or not

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. So how do we explain this to our friends?  Is there a non-Catholic explanation?  If we proclaim the truth with love, is there a good personal experience of how to do this?

A. Great questions!

First, how do we explain this to our friends?  We have to be always compassionate and understanding instead of argumentative or rude.  It's important to ask questions and listen, instead of simply speaking.  When we do talk about same-sex attraction, we need to keep the big questions in mind too. -- What is gender?  Who is God?  Who am I?  What is the purpose of sex?  What is the purpose of marriage?  Frequently, we become fixated on surface-level questions which don't engage the heart of the issue.  The more deeply we probe, the more we are able to see why the Church teaches what she does.  

Secondly, there are many non-Catholic ways to discuss this issue.  In fact, the Ruth Institute offers 77 reasons to support marriage between one man and one woman.  Rather than reproduce many of these arguments, I suggest you head to the link to read them.  

Another way to discuss same-sex actions is what Bl. John Paul II called, "the language of the body. " Our bodies were created by God who is Love, and so they have an inherent meaning -- love.  Our bodies are able to speak a language, and because of where we come from (God) and where we are going (God), the language of our bodies is love.  We did not create this language, just as we didn't create English, Spanish, Swahili or any other language.  Rather, we are able to participate in this language and communicate it, similarly to how we can communicate in English.  

The language of our bodies is meant to express authentic love, which is freely given, total, faithful and fruitful.  For any action that we do, and in a particular way we can analyze sexual actions, we have to ask if we are truthfully speaking love that is freely given, total, faithful and fruitful with our bodies, and therefore with our entire person.  Same-sex actions are inherently not fruitful.  They are also not total -- in part because they are not fruitful (and total requires giving everything of ourselves), and also because the nature of a same-sex action is not the total union in difference that the sexual act is meant to be.  We could also analyze how same-sex acts are not truly free or even faithful.  (If you'd like more on talking about the language of the body, or the general topic of same-sex marriage, check out what Jason Evert has to say.)

Finally, you asked for a personal experience of speaking the truth in love.  I mentioned at Credo the reactions of two different groups of people to a friend who was experiencing same-sex attraction.  One group defriended their friend on facebook and cut off all communication.  The other group never backed down from supporting Church teaching, but was also very present -- continuing communication, quietly praying, etc.  Over time, our friend had a profound experience of God's love because of the persistence and presence of friends who cared enough to speak the truth in love and who knew the times to be silent.  Today, our friend is living out the faith with great fervor.  If everyone had said, "Our friendship is over!" then the invitation to come back to the Church couldn't have been given.  And if the remaining friends had said, "Don't worry about what the Church says, just do what you want," then she would not be experiencing the peace and joy of the fullness of the Catholic life right now.  It's a delicate balance, but speaking the truth with love -- which can involve silent witness -- is so important!

Speaking the truth in love is also not about embarking on a warrior crusade to win converts.  Rather, it's about loving those around us and praying that they can experience the true joy that can only be found in Christ.

Questions from Credo ... Should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt children?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. Should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt children?

A. Adoption should always be first and foremost concerned with what is best for the children.  Adoption can be a beautiful gift to children who are welcomed and loved into a new family, but there is always still a loss experienced -- that of one's birth family.  So, the structure of adoption should be centered on serving and loving the children who have experienced this loss.  

We discussed the other day some of the challenges associated with being raised by two people of the same sex.  I also mentioned a study by Dr. Mark Regnerus that looks at some of the differences between being raised by same-sex parents, single parents and married parents.  You can view a summary of his findings here

No one has the right to a child.  Jennifer Roback Morse from the Ruth Institute says that adoption should be about giving children the parents they need, not about giving parents the children they want. 

What do children need?  They need a married mother and father.  Through the unity and difference of a husband and wife, their love is naturally fruitful.  It doesn't collapse in on itself or become stagnant.  Rather, their love grows and seeks to love even more.  When children are welcomed into this environment, they begin to know that they are good because they exist, not because of what they do, how they make their parents feel, etc.  Marriage provides a unique opportunity for children to learn the goodness of their existence.

If a loving, married couple, then, is uniquely qualified to give children what they need, then is a same-sex couple giving children what they need or providing themselves (the couple) with what they want?  It would appear that the best interest of the child is not held most sacred because countless studies and personal experience have revealed the importance of having both mother and father.  

Already, some archdioceses, like Boston, have had to stop facilitating adoptions because of state laws that require them to place children with same-sex couples.  (You can read more on that here.)

The Church cannot promote the adoption of children by same-sex couples because the Church seeks what is best for us, her children. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Questions from Credo ...What about the Boy Scouts' new statement?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. What does the Church say about the Boy Scouts' new law?

A. There are many different opinions on the Boy Scouts' recent statement regarding the involvement of youth with same-sex attraction.  It seems best in this case to simply share Archbishop Schnurr's statement in response to the Boy Scouts' position.  You can read it all here.

Questions from Credo ... One Million Moms?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. How do you feel about One Million Moms' strong dislike towards homosexuals?

A. I was not familiar with their position on homosexuality, so I sought some more information on their website.  Since I was unable to find any details about what they believe or teach regarding homosexuality, I can't really answer your question.

However, this is a great opportunity to point out the difference between expressing that same-sex actions and the media-promoted "gay lifestyle" are objectively wrong and speaking poorly of people who have same-sex attraction.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that that those with same-sex attraction "do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition" (CCC 2358).

I do not know the nature of One Million Moms' position, but all of us are called to simultaneously respect the dignity of every human person, regardless of who they are sexually attracted to, and to uphold the Church's teaching that same-sex actions are objectively wrong and will not bring the joy and peace we desire.

Questions from Credo ... Can you still be a practicing Catholic?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. Can a person who openly rejects the Church teaching on homosexuality still be a proud practicing Catholic and achieve the ultimate goal of heaven?  If they are a "practicing" homosexual (commit homosexual acts)?

A. Let's begin with an important distinction.  We cannot judge people -- their heart, their intentions, etc. -- but we can judge actions externally.  For example, we know that using cocaine is objectively wrong, but we don't know why this particular person is addicted to cocaine, how the past may have fueled the addiction, how much of the decision to try cocaine was the person's or was forced, etc.  In short, we can't possibly know the culpability of this particular person.  Only God can judge the heart.  Still, no matter the degree of the individual's responsibility for using cocaine, we know that, objectively, using cocaine is wrong.

So, what about a person who openly rejects the Church's teaching on homosexuality by actively engaging in same-sex actions?  

The Church's moral teaching is not a matter of opinion.  The Church is the Body of Christ, and Jesus Christ is the head.  You can't separate the head from the body.  Likewise, the Church is the Bride of Christ, in a beautiful union with Jesus the Bridegroom.  She communicates to us how to love God, love others and receive God's gift of redemption and eternal life.

So, why wouldn't we want to embrace all of the Church's teachings, which have our best interest in mind?  Certainly there are reasons we struggle to accept every Church teaching -- pride, laziness, stubbornness, ignorance, etc.  We all struggle with believing or with living the fullness of the Gospel.  Otherwise, we wouldn't need Confession!  But there is a difference between the disposition of ongoing conversion, surrendering oneself to embracing the fullness of the Church's teaching and the disposition of choosing not to seek to live the Church's teaching.  

If a person openly rejects the Church's teaching on homosexuality and actively embraces a same-sex lifestyle, then it would be inappropriate to receive Holy Communion.  Why?  Because receiving the Eucharist is receiving the Body of Christ, and our "Amen" is our "Yes" to everything that the Church believes, teaches and professes.  If we obstinately persist in saying, "I'm right, the Church is wrong," then we aren't really in full communion with Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.  

Instead of picking and choosing what we'd like to believe and what we choose to disagree with, we are called to pray, surrender and ask for the grace to understand and love all that the Church reveals to us. 

Even within this question, there seems to be a contradiction of terms.  On the one hand, the question talks about openly rejecting Church teaching, and on the other hand talks about being a "proud practicing Catholic."  If I am proud of my faith and joyfully living it, then is there room for me to reject any part of Catholicism?  

As for the question of achieving the ultimate goal of heaven, only God can know the answer to that.  We cannot presume to judge where anyone spends their life after death.  We know that God is loving and merciful, but also that He gives us the gift of the Church to guide us to Him.

Questions from Credo ... What to say to a friend

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. What would you say to someone who just came out as trans?

A. Before answering your question directly, let's look at what the Church says about our sexual identity.  *** (See paragraph at the bottom of this post for the actual citation.)  The Church tells us that every person is called to "acknowledge and accept his sexual identity."  Because our culture today tells us that our sexual identity is whatever gender we happen to "feel" like, it might seem that the Church is saying we need to embrace our gender feelings.  But, by "sexual identity," the Church is referring to our masculinity and femininity.

How do we discover our sexual identity?  From the earliest moments of our existence, our bodies, right down to our DNA are differentiated as male or female.  Some might argue that the Church puts too much emphasis on biology, basing everything about our identity, our morality and our happiness on body parts.  Instead, the Church says that our biology -- our bodies -- reveal, or make visible to us, higher truths like God, love, and who God created us to be.  The body reveals the person.  Our bodily masculinity or femininity isn't some random attribute we happen to have.  It's who we are.  And who we are, male or female, reveals something about who God is -- Love.  

On Saturday, we talked about what sexual difference/gender reveals to us:

1) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I was created.  I am not God.  I am a child of God.  I did not create myself.  My life is such a radical gift that there are some things I did not choose for myself -- my gender, my birthday, my name, my family, etc.  Since there is also another way of being that is different from me (male or female), I also realize that I cannot encompass the whole of reality.  

2) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love.  In seeing that there is another with whom I have unity ( the same gift of humanity) and difference (masculinity or femininity), I see that it is possible for me to give and to receive from another.  I am called to live "for" another.  I am then able to see that love is possible, that love is good and that love is the meaning of life.

3) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love fruitfully.  When I realize that I did not create myself, that I come from God, and when I realize that I can love another with whom I share a unity (humanity) and a difference (male or female), I can see that my love can be fruitful.  It can grow and be more.  It doesn't have to collapse in upon itself.  It can open me up to new experiences, new wonder, new gratitude as I watch love unfolded as something I am given and not as something I create, dominate or master.

In short, my sexual identity, which I discover in my body, is a constant reminder of who I am as a human person -- a gift from God, called to give in love, fruitfully.  So, embracing this gift of our masculinity and femininity, which is revealed in and through our bodies is key to understanding who God created us to be and what He is calling us to (ultimately, eternal communion with Him in heaven).

But back to your main question ... what should you say to a friend who is experiencing gender confusion?

First, be sure to acknowledge the long, hard struggle that gender confusion has caused in your friend's life.  Have compassion for their struggle and for the suffering that the search for identity has caused.

Ask your friend if he or she has spoken to parents, a priest, a youth minister or a counselor about the feelings of being transgendered.  If they need a good counselor to speak to, recommend one.  

Perhaps in conversations with your friend, you will have the opportunity to discuss the gift that God has given us of our body.  You might ask your friend what it means that he or she has the particular body God gave.  You might have the opportunity to share with your friend that God gave us our body for a reason.

Throughout your conversations with your friend, be compassionate about this struggle and know that there are qualified people who can give more guidance to your friend during this challenging time.

*** Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

224.  Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out”. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Questions from Credo ... What is gay identity?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. Could you explain gay identity more please?  Is that those who embrace and act on it?

A. During Saturday's workshop, I clarified some differences within the realm of same-sex attraction.  I mentioned three "layers," which I based on the work of Mark Yarhouse, who wrote a book called, Homosexuality and the Christian.  The three tiers were:

1) Same-sex attraction: This is an experience I have of being interested in a person of the same sex.  It might only happen one time or with one particular person.

2) Homosexual orientation: This is an experience I have of being continually attracted to those of the same sex.

3) Gay identity: This is a choice I make to identify myself by my same-sex attraction.  It typically involves embracing the idea that if I do not act on my attractions, then I will not be happy.

Notice that the first two layers are experiences -- things that happen to me -- and the third, gay identity, is a choice I make.  

Typically speaking, "gay identity" involves acting on one's same-sex attraction.  It usually includes embracing some degree of the "gay lifestyle."  That might include involvement in events like "gay pride" parades that proclaim one's identity as a same-sex attracted individual.

But as we discussed on Saturday, same-sex attraction is not one's identity.  Who you are is not a "homosexual person."  Who you are is a son or daughter of God, loved into existence and called to participate in God's love eternally.  

The Church doesn't use terms like "gay" or "lesbian" because your sexual attraction is not your identity.  The Church reminds us that it is "unfounded and demeaning" to assume that someone with same-sex attraction must compulsively engage in same-sex activity.  Rather, the Church is clear that God has given every human person the gift of freedom (the ability to choose the good) and free will (the ability to choose between good or evil).  Our attractions, inclinations and desires do not dictate our actions.  Rather, we are given the gift of choosing how to respond.  

35 years ago today ...

Questions from Credo ... Clarifying chastity

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. So, you were talking about homosexuals staying chaste.  But chaste doesn't mean staying a virgin, it just means waiting for the right time.  So is gay sex okay?

A. Before answering, it's important to clarify something in your question.  You're right that chastity isn't necessarily the same thing as virginity, but chastity is more than "waiting for the right time."  The only "right time" is marriage.  That's not to be legalistic or to choose an arbitrary life event.  Rather, marriage is the only proper place to engage in the sexual act because it's the only place where we have fully given and committed ourselves for life to another person.  And what does love want to say?  I give myself totally and forever.  The sexual act expresses this type of love through the body -- total and forever.   

Let's review for a moment the purpose of marriage.  It's not to have fun, get help with the chores, have a guaranteed nightly sleepover, enjoy a Pinterest-y wedding or even to celebrate the right to be with the one you love.  Rather, marriage is a vocation.  It's a call from God and an opportunity to grow in holiness, to learn to love and to be loved, so that we can love and be loved eternally by God.

Marriage is also prophetic.  From the beginning, when God instituted marriage by creating Adam and Eve for each other, marriage has been a sign of God's love for His people, of Christ's love for the Church.  Marriage, then is a great blessing, but also a task and a responsibility.  It is marked by two things.

1) Faithfulness: God's love for us is never-ending.  A married couple in imaging this love is called to unite "until death do us part."  They are called to give a total gift of self to each other.  Total, of course, means everything and always.

2) Fruitfulness: God's love is fruitful.  It is always life-giving, pouring out an over-abundance of love.  Married love is called to be fruitful too.  Concretely, we see this in the birth of a child, but married love is fruitful by its very nature because it shares in the love of God. 

Returning to the subject of chastity, all people are called to live chastely.  As I said on Saturday, this is good news because Bl. John Paul II once said that chastity is the sure way to happiness!

Chastity is not allowing sex to control or to dominate us, but rather frees sexual desires from selfishness, and instead, through self-mastery allows our sexuality to communicate authentic love.  This is done in different ways, depending on one's state in life.

1) For married people, this involves allowing sex to communicate the total and life-giving love that the couple vowed at their wedding.  It involves not using one's spouse as an object for pleasure, but instead frees sex to communicate authentic, life-giving love.

2) For single people and those who have made a vow of celibacy, this involves saying "no" to sexual relations as a greater "yes" to love.  It recognizes that authentic sexual love involves the body speaking the language of total and forever -- something that can only be truthfully said in marriage.  This is the type of chastity a person with same-sex attraction is called to live.

Since the only place to authentically communicate the language of the body expressed in the sexual act is in marriage, and because marriage requires the sexual difference of man and woman, two people of the same sex cannot truly marry.  Sexual activity between two people of the same sex can never be affirmed by the Church because these actions do not represent the fullness of the meaning of our sexuality.  As I've said before, same-sex attraction is certainly a heavy cross to carry, but we can be certain that God and the Church desire our true happiness.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith summarized for those with same-sex attraction who desire to follow God's plan: "Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross.  That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption.  While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ" ("Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" #12). 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Questions from Credo ... What's the difference between an attraction and an action?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. So, it's okay for a person with homosexual tendencies to like people of the same sex, but not for them to act on it?

A. This is a great question that involves making some important distinctions.  We talked on Saturday about the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that homosexual actions are "intrinsically disordered."  In discussing that paragraph of the Catechism (2357), we defined disordered.  According to, it means, "lack of order or regular arrangement; confusion."

Let's just review what we said about this on Saturday: Our sexual difference is about our "otherness" which allows us to see the fruitfulness of unity and difference.  Our sexuality is a reminder of our call to give of ourselves to one who is different than us, and yet shares the same gift of humanity, and to receive them.  It points to our call to be united with God, who created us in His image and likeness and yet is vastly different and "other" than us."  So, same-sex actions lack this order or purpose.  They confuse the sexual act, which is meant to be a uniting of two who have unity and difference, loving each other by willing what is good for the other, and which includes the goodness of becoming a mother or a father.  

But what about an attraction to someone of the same-sex?  Because of all that we have said about the nature of sexuality and the purpose of our masculinity and femininity, the Church says that a same-sex inclination or attraction is also "objectively disordered."  

What does that mean?  For one thing, it's very important to note that the Church is not saying that a same-sex attraction is a sin.  A same-sex action is a sin, but the attraction is not.  However, the attraction is still considered disordered because it confuses the authentic meaning of sexual attraction (as summarized above). 

Bl. John Paul II once wrote that we are not responsible for what happens to us in the realm of sexuality (having a particular desire, for example), but we are responsible for what we do in the realm of sexuality.  

A lot of your question depends on what you mean by "like" and what you mean by "okay."  There is a difference between experiencing an attraction to someone and "feeding a crush" or actively engaging in an attraction to someone.  Since same-sex attractions do not affirm the fullness of the meaning of our sexuality, it's best to strive for keeping the "liking" on the level of something that happens to me, rather than something I choose to engage, pursue or seek.

Once again, though, it's important to recognize that the Church affirms the dignity of all human persons, regardless of their sexual attraction.  Experiencing an attraction that is disordered does not demean the dignity of the person. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Questions from Credo ... Can you "pray out the gay"?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. Can you "pray out the gay" (for lack of a better term)?

A. Someone with same-sex attraction, just as every person, is called to bring struggles, questions, joys, and sorrows to prayer.  The answer to those prayers will be a matter of God's plan for that individual person, but we can be confident that He will give the graces to live a joyful, peaceful life.  

For some people, this might involve some degree of "change."  Perhaps, it will be a decrease of attraction to someone of the same sex.  Perhaps, someone will eventually be attracted to those of the opposite sex.  Perhaps, it will simply mean less of a desire to engage in same-sex actions.  These things have occurred in the past to various people.

But for others, there may not be a change of sexual attraction.  Instead, there will be the grace of chastity, good friends who challenge and support, a peace in living a chaste lifestyle.
We know that every one of us is given a cross to bear, an opportunity to suffer with Christ as we await heaven.  Some crosses are taken from us, and some remain, accompanied with an outpouring of God's grace.  No matter what the cross, no matter what our prayer, we know that God is present to us, loves us and wants the best for us.  

It's a good time to mention, too, that many question their "sexual identity" as a teenager.  For some who experience same-sex attraction, this turns into accepting the label of "gay" or "lesbian."  Because there can be fluidity to sexual attraction, especially during adolescence, labeling oneself in this way is particularly problematic.  

So, instead of "praying out the gay," may I suggest surrendering this cross to the Lord and asking Him to help you to bear it?  He knows what plans He has for you.  Whether your same-sex attraction "disappears" or you find renewed commitment to chastity, you can be assured that His plans are for your good.  

If you'd like to hear a more personal account, read this article: "I am not gay ... I am David."

Questions from Credo ... What about same-sex parents?

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q: One of the arguments against gay marriage is that children need a mother and father.  How do we explain to others the difference between gay parents and single parents?

A: Since our society is generally going in the direction of minimizing (or, ignoring) any difference between male and female, it's not surprising that many people see fathers and mothers as interchangeable.  But personal experience likely tells us that we learned different things from Mom, and different things from Dad.  Children who grew up with one parent often share stories about the things they were longing to know from the missing parent.  There was something that couldn't be filled, no matter how much they were loved by the present parent.

So, just to affirm the beginning of your question, it is important that we recognize the difference between a father and a mother and the need for both.

But, how do we express the difference between being raised by a single mother or father and being raised by two mothers or two fathers?  At first glance, it might even seem that the child is better off with two parents, regardless of gender.

The first point to make is that, generally speaking, single parents did not conceive their children with the intent of their children not knowing one of their biological parents.  Single parents are the result of divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, or widowhood.  Consequently, it was not in the parent's plan to keep their child(ren) away from Mom or Dad.

A same-sex couple is different.  Through using artificial reproductive technology (IVF, sperm donation, egg donation, etc.), the child is deprived from the very beginning from knowing one of his biological parents.  If two men are the parents, then the child is withheld from his biological mother (via egg donation and/or surrogacy).  If two women are the parents, then the child is withheld from his biological father (via sperm donation).  All children desire to know where they come from -- who they come from -- and this basic desire is denied to children who were conceived with the intention of being separated from one of the biological parents.  

There are also differences between being raised by one parent and being raised by two parents of the same sex.  Our family is the place where we learn about love, our identity, family, etc.  Very different worldviews will be presented by a married couple, a single parent and a same-sex couple.  

Various studies have been done to look at the effects of being raised by same-sex parents.  The most comprehensive study was conducted by Mark Regnerus a couple of years ago.  There is an easy-to-navigate website that explains the findings, available here.  There are criticisms of every study on this topic conducted thus far, and it's true that we can't base everything on a study or survey.  Still, there is interesting information available at the site.

Finally, it's important to underscore that the ideal environment for a child is a loving home between his married mother and father.  We know that this is not the reality of many families today.  Still, we cannot use the skyrocketing numbers of "alternative family structures" to affirm situations that are not best for children.  It's a difficult topic because many families in less than ideal circumstances have been left in these situations due to tragic circumstances (divorce, death, break-ups, abuse, etc.).  This answer is not to stand and judge families that do not have a present, married mother and father.  Rather, it's a reminder of the importance of seeking the good for all children, despite the difficulties that may arise.

Questions from Credo ... same-sex marriage vs. infertility

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q: By saying a same-sex marriage is ... incomplete? because they cannot be fruitful, how would you argue a man and a woman who are incapable of having a child?

A: This is a very common question and an important one to ask.  

First, let's note that if a married couple is unable to consummate their marriage through the sexual act, then they are not able to marry in the Catholic Church.  This isn't because sex is the most important aspect of marriage, but because our bodies reveal the invisible, and the sexual act expresses the free, total, faithful and fruitful love of marriage in a unique way.  A same-sex couple is incapable of consummating "marriage" with the sexual act.

A couple who is infertile, on the other hand, is still capable of the sexual act.  It is usually devastating for couples who cannot physically have children, but whether or not they are physically able to conceive does not determine the fruitfulness of their marriage.

Fruitfulness is always first spiritual.  But because our bodies speak a language and make the invisible visible, if our bodies are closed off to human life (whether through a same-sex action or through contraception), then this says something about our openness to being spiritually fruitful.

So, whether or not someone has a child, or even how many children they have, cannot indicate the spiritual fruitfulness of their marriage.  But, conversely, an incapability of engaging in the action that leads to physical fruitfulness indicates something about the couple's ability to live marital spiritual fruitfulness.  We need both unity and difference to be fruitful.  Because we are a unity of body and soul, this is expressed in and through our bodies and the sexual difference we have been given.  

Another difference is that many couples who struggle with infertility still conceive.  Perhaps it's a matter of diagnosing the main problem, of timing, of stress, etc., but many couples have waited 3, 6, 8, 10 years or more to conceive before they finally did.  For a same-sex couple, this possibility will never exist.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Danny and Annie"

Update: When I watched the above video, it immediately brought to mind the song below, recorded by Cory and Marie Heimann a few years ago.  Sure enough, it's about the same Danny and Annie.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Not wanting death to "do us part"

A Dayton, Ohio couple, Harold and Ruth Knapke, died in their shared nursing home room only 11 hours apart, just days before their 66th wedding anniversary.  Read the story here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Looking at tattoos through Theology of the Body

Emily Stimpson has a thought-provoking piece on tattoos, through the lens of Theology of the Body.

3. Last but not least, I have no desire for tattoos because I’m more interested in seeing what God does with my body than I am in seeing what some tattoo artist can do with it.

It goes back to that starting principle: The body expresses the person.

Emily today isn’t the same as Emily 10 years ago. Not on the inside and not on the outside. I have scars now that weren’t there in 2003. I also have lines, wrinkles, and (approximately) three gray hairs. But there’s also a softness to me that wasn’t there a decade ago. There’s more peace, more confidence, and more love. That somehow shows up too. It’s written on my face as much as the years and the pain are.

That’s the story I’m interested in my body telling. And God’s way, as opposed to mine, is the way I’m interested in telling it. Life—joy and suffering, peace and pain, sickness and health, what I love and what I hate, what I do and what I don’t do—will be tattooing my body according to God’s design for as long as I walk this earth. Then, by His grace, when I get my resurrected body in Heaven, those “tattoos” will shine like the sun.

Why mess with that?

Be sure to read the whole piece here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Having it all ... with or without kids?

Recently, TIME Magazine's cover featured a couple enjoying their childless life at the beach, with the headline, "The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having kids." I haven't read the article, but I can imagine what it says. Still, I can't directly comment on the article until I read it.

So, I was grateful to come across John-Mark Miravalle's take on the article, along with his own calculation system to determine whether children fit into own one's personal goal of "having it all."

I think the first thing to notice about this system of measurement is that nobody applies it once kids are actually in the picture. No one would say to a mother, “Suppose I offered you some great opportunities in exchange for little Timmy?” Somebody who went around making those kinds of offers would be reported to the authorities. Why? Probably because we know Timmy’s not the sort of thing that can be exchanged for goods, services, luxuries or career choices. Timmy’s not like other resources or consumer options, and it’s sick and wrong to pretend otherwise. But if suggesting we trade a KID for COMPETING GOODS is sick and wrong after the kid is born, why is it not sick and wrong before the kid is born?

Of course, the folks at TIME aren’t actually making that offer. They’re simply reporting that couples without kids seem to have a richer experience of life than couples with kids. Apparently (“And we’re just neutral observers,” they say) kids are cost-inefficient when it comes to happiness.

Well, I think we need a little more rigor in our analysis. I think we need some sort of scientific, absolutely reliable system of measurement that can accurately predict whether or not a kid will be an overall contribution or diminution of your own personal happiness as a couple (assuming, of course, that you’re capable of bearing and caring for a kid). And the good news is that I have invented such a calculus, and am hereby sharing it with the world. It will infallibly determine whether kids will make you happier or less happy. It consists in the following question:

Find out the question by reading it here. It's really a great article.