Saint Paul lays down his life for Christ
“I greatly rejoice that time flies so quickly, because that means so much less time to spend in this world, where there is nothing to attract me. My heart goes incessantly in search of a treasure, an immense treasure that I do not find in creatures; a treasure that will satisfy me and console me, and give me rest.” – Saint Gemma Galgani
A version of this article was submitted to the National Catholic Register and can be read here.
By: Susan Skinner
I read this article the other day about a Priest’s “coming out” as gay. In it he says, “But God brought me out of this depression by the grace of accepting God’s complete love for me and simple acceptance of being gay.”
I want to ponder this for a minute. God deeply loves this priest, as he loves all people. And he most certainly is walking with him. How can we know this?
When Adam and Eve sinned the very first sin in the Garden, and God asks them “where are you?” (Genesis 3:9), we know that God is still in the garden with them. He didn’t leave them, it is they who are hiding from Him. He is still right there next to them even though they sinned. From this we can conclude that God loves us always no matter what we do, but he did give them consequences for their sin. It wasn’t an acceptance of it.
This first sin, brought death into the world, it brought disordered desires, it separated us from the union and harmony we had once had; union with God and all of creation.
So God sent his only Son. 1 John 3:8 tells us;
“Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”
Jesus was sent to the earth to destroy the works of the devil. That is, to destroy sin which is acting upon disordered desires, and to restore harmony, and union.
What does this have to do with this Priest’s “coming out”? Well, the bible teaches, as does the Magisterium and Catechism that homosexual desire is disordered. Many desires we have can actually be disordered and any society that cannot distinguish between true love and desire, is bound to be disordered. God has written on our hearts how sex and sexuality is to be properly ordered and Saint John Paul II in his series of homilies on the Theology of the Body outlines this clearly.
Sex is an appetite or desire. It can be twisted by Satan just as any appetite or desire can be. We all know Priests, like the rest of us, have desires. They don’t have to tell us they are attracted to women or to men, or to anything because their CALL is to order themselves properly towards God. The Priest in this article says it doesn’t matter. But it does matter. We are all called to Sainthood, not to identify ourselves by an earthly desire. So the question becomes, does this announcement draw others towards Sainthood? We wouldn’t celebrate a man who was married announcing his attraction to other women, we would call him to order himself towards God. This is no different.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:28
In that verse from Matthew, it doesn’t sound like Jesus wants us to entertain our disordered desires. In fact, it sounds like he tells us if we head down that path we may end up in hell.
The Priest essentially announced to everyone that he has a disordered desire, but he named it as his identity. He said “I am gay.” I would say that is not who he is. I would say he is a loved child of God who has a desire towards the same sex. He tells us he is celibate, which is wonderful, because he took a vow of celibacy. If he uses his announcement to reorder himself towards God, and help others to do so, than what a beautiful thing. But if he uses it to justify sin and leave people, namely those who are not priests and do not have the vow of chastity, stuck in disordered desire, then woe to him.
This is not a call to condemn anyone with same-sex attraction, for what they are experiencing is a real desire. But the lie they are being told is that this one particular desire is their identity. The truth is that our identity does not come from any one worldly desire. It comes from our dignity as beings created in the image and likeness of God. All of us need to be ministered to and walked with out of our earthly desires and into the light of truth. Our final destination is not of this world. It is the restored and complete union with God Our Father in Heaven. There is no sex in the afterlife so why would God want us to identify ourselves with something that is only of this world?
Our walk in this world should be oriented toward truth and away from sin, toward self sacrificial love and away from indulging in our selfish desires, toward obedience to the Father and away from being prideful, toward the imitation of Jesus who was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross. Why are we ignoring what God has already revealed about this?
In his own human nature, Saint Paul too had a weakness, though he did not announce what it was, because he knew that his weakness was not his identity. He kept that between him and God, and God’s grace was sufficient to lift him to perfection in his weakness. Paul instead united it to the cross.
“…because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 7:-10
People with same-sex attraction, who unite this weakness to the cross, are living Redemptive Suffering. These are the champions of faith and they should be applauded. But the lie that has a stronghold on our culture has successfully convinced a great majority of us that our sexual desires define WHO we ARE. In this we see a culture with an acceptance of sin or sinful desire, instead of a call to reorder our desires back to God. We have confused who we are with what we desire.
If any of you have ever read the Litany of Humility, you see the call to be rid of fear and desire of anything but God alone. Yes God accepts us in our weakness but he doesn’t want us to remain there. He calls us to a higher union with him to let go of those desires. He doesn’t validate them and leave us stuck in them. He gives us the grace to overcome them when we choose to pick up our cross and follow him. Humility teaches us to love the way Christ did. He was obedient to the Will of the Father even unto death. We see a glimpse into the human desire of Jesus in the Garden when he prays “take this cup from me”. His human desire is to not suffer and die on the cross, but his love and obedience to the Father reigns over his human desires. Because of the example of Jesus we see great Saints like St Paul, follow this same path of loving obedience.
One final thought, both in this article and in a statement another famous Priest had regarding the anger people have towards this particular sin, it is asserted that the people who are angry must have pain, or perhaps even hidden homosexual inclinations. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is wrong headed. There is such a thing as Holy hatred. It is the curse God gave Satan for taking our Dominion. The enmity God put between mankind and Satan, is a holy hatred of sin. We are supposed to hate sin (not people, but sin). We get angry because when we have the truth of what our sexuality is for, we want to protect that truth and thus have an aversion to the perversion of it. Sin should make us mad. We are fighting powers and principalities that are out there trying to deceive and trick us into turning away from God. So we must get on your knees to pray and let God deal with the people.
A parallel lie that has a stronghold on our society is a twisted understanding of mercy. There is a distinct difference between extending mercy to the sinner, which is our call as Christians, and accepting the sin. Sin is a direct rejection of God and thus a movement away from Him. It should never be tolerated by society. But in our call to mercy and love for one another, we must rise up and lead each other out of our sin and help strengthen and reorient each other back to God. We should not judge or condemn people, but we should also not accept or dismiss their sin for the sake of tolerance. Priests, ministers and lay people all should be accompanying people on their faith journey and this accompaniment should lead us all to heaven, not on the path to hell.
This is not a call to shoot poison arrows at people or Priests who struggle with same sex attraction, for this is a huge cross to bear. It is a call to get on our knees and pray for them ardently that they will be obedient to Christ and His church and will unite their sufferings to the Cross and help others to do so as well, for this is what brings glory to God’s kingdom. This is the radical love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. This is what we too are called to imitate.