Thursday, October 17, 2013

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.

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