Friday, March 13, 2009

The Catholic Church and Homosexuals: Harsh and Soft, Judgmental and Understanding

"Everybody knows" how judgmental and inflexible the Catholic Church is: to say nothing of hidebound and harsh.

You Know What Those People are Like

For some people, Jim David Adkisson is a 'typical' conservative. He's the fellow who shot up a Tennessee church: the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist one. Two people dead, six injured.

"Afraid of Anybody or Anything that was Not Like Him"

A friend of Mr. Adkisson and one of his wives said that he " 'basically was afraid of anybody or anything that was not like him.' " Mr. Adkisson told police:
"...that he was unemployed, depressed and ready to take his anger out on what he called 'an ultra-liberal' church that 'never met a pervert they just didn't embrace.'

" 'They just glory (in) these weirdos and sickos and homos,' he said in an interview recorded by investigators...."
(AP)
On top of that, Mr. Adkisson hoped that his attack on a children's musical performance would inspire others to do the same. (With a crowd of 230, you'd think he could have taken more down.)

His suicide note (Mr. Adkisson is still alive - that's one target you'd think he couldn't miss) ended with:
" 'I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals.' "
(AP)
I sincerely hope nobody decides to follow that fellow's lead. It's wrong on several levels, starting with his exhortation to kill yourself.

The Knoxville church (or, as they call themselves, "a nonprofit organization and a community of people who meet to worship, learn, enjoy fellowship, and work together for social change") expressed the hope that Mr. Adkisson would " 'be healed of whatever motivated his actions.' " (AP)

I'll take that as a request for prayer.

There are Plenty of Crazies for Everybody

These days I think it's fairly easy, in some circles, to imagine that everyone who supports traditional values is a J. D. Adkisson, just waiting to blow.

I don't think that's true, any more than I think that all liberals are like the peacenik who punched out a wheelchair-bound girl.

The heyday of lethal liberal attacks seems to be over, for now. Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell was killed in 1970, the same year that three members of the Weather Underground blew themselves up. The sergeant's death wasn't exactly an isolated incident, but it isn't the thing we like to talk about now. Some Americans, anyway.

It All Makes Sense, Once You Understand

Mark Rudd, of the Weather Underground, says the misfired bomb was for an Army dance - he wanted " 'this country to have a taste of what it had been dishing out daily in Southeast Asia....." Perfectly reasonable, from his point of view.

Those were the good old days, of course, and now largely forgotten. No, that's not quite true. It's pretty easy to find references to the three "intelligent, vibrant, beautiful" people who lost their lives that day:
"...three of our comrades were killed in the Greenwich Village townhouse bomb accident. These were three intelligent, vibrant, beautiful friends, the same as those of us who survived, no more deserving of losing their lives than us...." (MarkRudd.com)
I'm getting off topic here. The point is that there are crazies in every group. Sooner or later I'll get around to discussing the idea of evil, but not today.

However, this post may make more sense if you realize that I think that evil is real. And that I have reason to believe it isn't entirely a result of of capitalistic oppression, bad toilet training, or schoolyard bullying.

Go and Sin Some More? No, But the Catholic Church is Surprisingly Open - to People

I do not know what that Knoxville outfit's approach to homosexuality is, but members of some denominations, like the Anglicans, are embracing the idea of normalizing homosexuality. None that I know of have toyed with bestiality, but that perversion hasn't caught on yet. Even the owner of sex.com found the practice distasteful. And, yes, bestiality is a no-no, too. (Leviticus 20:15) I can see why some people think that Christians don't want anybody to have fun.

Yes, I've Heard About the Big Catholic Sex Scandal

Scandals, actually: They merged into one big firestorm in the last decade. Without minimizing the terrible effects that a few perverts had on children over the last generation, I'm going to point out that
  • Some Catholic priests really did molest children
  • This is in direct violation of Catholic teaching
  • When the Church realized that the accusations were not the usual Nash & Monk accusations, it acted
    • And is acting
      • Paying damages to victims
      • Reforming seminaries that cranked these chaps out
  • Most Catholic priests did not molest children (no, really!)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has some publications on the topic. They're biased, of course.

Catholics and the Catholic Church Must Really Hate Gays, Right?

Unless they're priests, apparently: but I don't expect anti-anything biases to make sense, except to those who hold them.

And, no: As a Catholic, I'm forbidden to hate people. It's an option, actually, but the alternative to not hating people is unpleasant:
"We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: 'He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.' Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.' "
(Catechism, 1033) [emphasis mine]

Hey! "serious needs of the poor" - Isn't the Catholic Church Conservative?

The Catholic Church is not conservative. It isn't liberal. It is the body of Christ, present in the world, the temple of the Living God (Catechism, 797), with foundations in eternity and teachings that aren't intended to fit political ideas that developed in the last century or so.

You don't have to believe that, by the way. My job is to provide the information. What you do with it is up to you. (Luke 9:5)

Moving on.

The Catholic Church Demands that I Have Respect and Compassion Toward Homosexuals

Sensitivity, too.

That doesn't mean that the Catholic Church condones homosexual activity:
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them 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."
(Catechism, 2358) [emphasis mine]
It's that "objectively disordered" part that quite a few up-to-date people don't like about Catholic teaching. Can't say that I blame them. Besides being the basis for a multi-million dollar industry, lust (homo-, hetero-, or whatever-sexual) is regarded these days as a sort of civil right or entitlement. In America, anyway. And from what I read, Europe, too. No wonder some very conservative Muslims have trouble with the Western world. I'm getting off-topic again.

Aha! The Church is Against Sex!

No.

The Catholic Church is against lust. Sex is fine: it's built into humanity. It's a fun way to make more human beings, and great for creating and maintaining the marital bond.

Lust is something else again. "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes." (Catechism, 2351)

The Catechism has quite a bit to say on the subject. Hugh Hefner notwithstanding, there's a whole lot more to sex than overblown cuties. And it's not the sort of freestyle abdication of the central nervous system to parts of the endocrine system that has been celebrated for the last half-century or so.

There's quite a lot to say on the subject (Catechism, 2331, and following), but I'm running out of time [cue sound of loud cheers].

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

That phrase is somewhere beyond corny now, I think: but there's some truth to it.

We aren't expected to be perfect (actually, we are - but that's another topic again): but we are expected to be repentant. One of my favorite parts in the gospel narrative is where Jesus is nailed up between two criminals.

You may remember it: one of them tells Jesus to prove who he is and get them all down. The other says something like 'shaddap! We're here because we deserve it, he's not.' Then, he asks:
" 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' He replied to him, 'Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.' "
(Luke 23:39-43)
(Yes: I know that they were speaking one of the languages they knew, not English.)

Two things: the repentant thief said "when," not "if." Talk about faith. And, Jesus gave the repentant criminal a rather unequivocal assurance. And, by extension, assures me and the rest of us that there's hope for us, too.

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