Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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). 

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