Father Schexnayder's National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries includes leaders in such ministry in 55 U.S. Catholic dioceses and 130 parishes. In an e-mail to CNS he said the bishops' guidelines "do not in fact reflect the real lives of gay and lesbian people, especially Catholics."
"For more than 25 years, diocesan ministries have welcomed in the church gay and lesbian Catholics who understand and affirm their sexual orientation as intrinsic to their identity," he wrote. "It is profoundly sad that many of them and their families will be unnecessarily alienated by the tone of this document."
He said the association's mission statement calls on those in gay-lesbian ministry to "reflect on sacred Scripture, reflect on church teaching and pastoral practice, study the social and physical sciences (and) listen to and ponder the lived experience of lesbian and gay persons and their families."
And there, in the bold, is the distinction, the core of the conflict on this issue within Catholicism. If you listened to the bishops' discussions, and follow this issue, you know that every time a bishop or someone else refers to same-sex attraction as anything close to a problem - analogizing it with a sin (I think Bishop Serratelli was questioned about analogizing it to greed and a couple of other capital sins) or, as the Paulist priest does in the part of the article I quote after the jump, to alcoholism, you find those same people called on the carpet, asked to explain themselves and apologize.
Part of the difference in positions does, indeed come from the "lived experience" of homosexuals many of whom experience a distinct relief when they acknowledged the reality of this inclination in their lives.
The difference then comes down to this:
1) How does one evaluate this inclination
2) In what direction does one go from here?
For - and this is the point that needs to be made and voices that need to be heard - acknowledging the reality of this inclination in oneself does not necessarily mean acting on it or forming one's life around it as if "fulfillment" of the desires as the contemporary secular world instructs is a holy thing to do, simply another version of Gn 1-2, one that God forgot to tell us about for a few thousand years.
I'm not an expert on the history of Christianity's experience and teaching on this matter, but it's my general impression, from what I do know, that "changing orientation" has not been the emphasis - this, by the way, is a straw man that is pretty consistently set up by secularized gay-rights activists within the Church - that what proponents of the Church's teaching are all about is reparative therapy and switching teams, and that's the only way.
It's not. When you ponder the history of the Church's practice and teaching on this, even as reflected in contemporary documents, you don't see that. I mean - consider what the Catechism says about homosexuality. Does it say that homosexuals, with enough work, can become heterosexuals?
No - the general idea is that homosexuals, with enough "work," can become holy.
Just like the rest of "us," and in exactly the same way as the rest of "us." By letting Christ live in us, so it is no longer I, but Christ.
Catholic thinking, teaching and practice, it seems to me, has been fairly consistent, when you look at the broad stream of it. There is an implicit recognition that human beings, suffering from the effects of original sin, living in a world of sin, are afflicted with desires that take them from God. Immoral sexual acts are treated as sins to be confronted, confessed and repented for, given up to God. The desires that push us toward these acts are treated as temptation - and the same general remedies are offered, no matter what that temptation is.
There just seems to me to be this acceptance of the sea of temptation in which we all swim daily, and the presentation of the life of grace, through the sacraments and prayer, to strengthen us, no matter what the temptations.
More recently, as thinking about sexual "orientation" has developed, the questions have shifted a bit, but "changing orientation" has never been a core part of Catholic pastoral thinking on this. There is a recognition that homosexuality is an incredibly complex thing, and that there are different reasons people engage in homosexual acts and relationships, different origins of self-perceived homosexuality, some more deeply ingrained than others, and there are certainly many, many people who have found succesful treatment and spiritual guidance to be very helpful in overcoming temptation and indeed, even shifting orientation, permanently.
But some can't. They just - can't.
So here we are, back to the core issue. What does "acceptance" of that inclination, at an apparently deep level of one's being mean?
The problem with Schexnayder's group - and the reason it should not have any credibility with the bishops, and, if it is in any way official, should be disbanded, frankly, is that the group has totally absorbed the secual mode of thinking about this and gives no credence at all to any aspect of traditional Church teaching on this matter - doesn't even attempt to see what the Catholic tradition of thinking about sin, sexuality and human relationships is all about, and , for a group that's all about the listening - doesn't listen at all to people like CourageMan, Eve, or David Morrison, Catholics who have "accepted themselves" - but with inconvenient, it seems, results.
So, more of the CNS article after the jump.
In a separate phone interview, Father Graham cited that mission statement and said that beyond it, the association does not set an agenda for the ministries of its members. "We have to let each ministry find its own way. If individual ministries find that talking about chastity almost exclusively is useful in their situation, that's up to them and to the bishop and their pastors," he said.
Father Graham said the 1997 statement, "Always Our Children," issued by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family and addressed to parents of children who are homosexually inclined, "states church teaching and puts pastoral care in the context of church teaching in a much more sensitive way" than the bishops' new document.
He said the pastoral guidelines are generally good, but "the heavy reiteration of the theological stuff is not going to be helpful because it undercuts the pastoral effect."
Paulist Father James B. Lloyd, a retired psychologist who runs a local Courage chapter out of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New York, said pastoral programs that expressly address sexual abstinence, such as Courage, are "exactly what they (the bishops) were talking about" in their guidelines.
Avoiding or ignoring the issue of chastity in ministering to those with a homosexual inclination is a "misplaced compassion" and is "really hurting people in the long run by falsity," he said.
He said the unofficial Catholic support group Dignity "won't even mention Catholic teaching" on homosexual activity. "I think that's very toxic," he said. "It's bad psychologically, and spiritually it's dynamite."