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Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.  Full stop.  But I believe that there are ways that we can better love and serve the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for posts about the Church’s teachings on gay marriage, Jason Evert has an AMAZING video on this topic.

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

 

  1. LGBTQIA+ suicide and self harm is a pro-life issue.  As a youth minister, I believe strongly that priests, youth ministers, young adult ministers, DREs, and a variety of lay people should be equipped with knowledge of how to help struggling LGBTQIA+ persons.  At the very least, we should know how to help people get the help they need.
  2. We should raise our kids to stand against bullying.  This includes standing up for LGBTQIA+ peers and reporting bullying to trusted adults.  Bullying is not OK.  It is never OK.
  3. Watch your speech. If we want to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we love and care about them, we need to remove “gay,” “fag,” etc as derogatories from out speech and remind others to do so as well.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When we talk about LGBTQIA+ topics, do our words shine with love and the truth?  If not, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Understand where many are coming from.  One thing I’ve seen so strong from people posting about Pride is that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been hurt by (or know someone that has been hurt by) someone who supports traditional marriage.  This hurt could have been in many forms: emotional, physical, etc.  You may not have been the aggressor, but they now associate those who espouse traditional marriage with aggression.
  5. Ask loving questions.  One way that we can approach with charity is by listening first.  Not too long ago I reviewed Everyday Evangelism by Cathy Duffy.  She made the phenomenal point that:“…while an understanding of doctrine and worldviews is helpful, more often than not, the most valuable skill you bring to the table for an evangelistic conversation is the ability to listen.” We are called to become active listeners, because through listening we show that we truly care about the person as an individual.  Duff continues later to say: “Most people recognize that if we really care about someone, we should want to listen to them.  And, conversely, if we don’t care about someone, we convey that message by not listening to them.  The challenge for us is to improve our listening skills…” Before we do anything, we should listen.
  6. Be so careful as to what you post on social media.  I love social media.  But proceed with caution.  What you say is a public pronouncement to everyone and can be so warped out of context.  Fellow inkslinger Maurisa Mayerle wrote an incredible guide to interacting over social media which you can find here.
  7. Stop talking about “straight pride parade.”  This is a specific thing but it’s cropped up this particular pride month.  It feels like we’re drawing battle lines as opposed to forming relationships.   This is not how we show love, or start open, loving conversations.

 

At the core of all of this, sisters, is Love.  During this Pride month, a story went viral.  It was about a man wearing a  “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt (you can read it here).   He shares about people who would come up to him, crying, desperate for that “dad hug.”  So desperate for that love.  It’s heartbreaking to think of someone who feels so hated.  Especially when we all have a Father in heaven who longs to give them the Love that they seek.

Sisters, many of those who participate in Pride truly feel like Catholics hate them, look down on them, refuse to love them.  We are called to re-write that script.  We are called to be the Love.  

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True Love Wins

Real and Raw

This post is a part of our Real and Raw series.

 

Aunt #1: “I heard they chose green and lavender as their colors.”
Aunt #2: “Where are they registered?”

As we sat around the kitchen, the ladies in my husband’s extended family chatted about a family member’s upcoming nuptials. I nervously shifted in my chair and hoped someone would steer the conversation to another topic…any topic.

Cousin #1: “It’s going to be beautiful.”
Cousin #2: “I hope we get invited!”

Me: More squirming, a nervous smile, and another sip of coffee.

For several years, a member of our family has brought his boyfriend to holidays and family events. They are delightful people; we love them both and enjoy spending time with them.  A few months ago they became engaged. Although nearly every member of the extended family tree claims a Catholic identity, as far as I can tell, our little family we will be the only branch that chooses not to attend the “wedding.”


No, my husband and I don’t “hate” the grooms. In fact, hate has nothing to do with it; this decision is entirely about love.


Because I love the grooms, I can’t lend my presence – and therefore, my support – to something that I know is harmful to them; my conscience cannot allow it.  The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds us, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of” (Persona Humana, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, VIII).

Further, because I love my children, I can’t join with our culture in normalizing disordered sexual practices. God has entrusted my children to my husband and me as their primary educators in both life and faith.  Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42 NABRE).  

Finally, because I love the Lord, I must choose to worship Him over my self-constructed altar of family harmony. This is the hardest part for me. My greatest fear is that our branch will be cut from the family tree, and viewed as “bigots.” Still, I must remember that following Christ is not always easy or without conflict. Again, Jesus’ words are difficult, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

In my flesh, I want to attend this event. To celebrate with people I love, to remain in peace with our family. But my conscience calls me to true love, to make the difficult decision not to participate.
I truly love the grooms, and I pray for them often. I humbly ask that you pray for our family during this trying time.  And please, pray for our nation, that our hearts may be turned back to God, and our families healed.

 

Helpful resources:

http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/

An Initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

https://couragerc.org/  
A ministry to men and women who experience same-sex attractions and those who love them.

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The Real Problem with Gay Scouts and Leaders (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the Boy Scouts of America. In this article, we’ll discuss the policy to include gay teens as members. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the recent decision to admit gay adult leaders. 

As a proud Eagle Scout, my husband was especially excited to get our only son involved with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) once he was school-aged. For the past five years, my husband and son have spent countless hours together at camp outs, activities, fundraisers, and meetings. The BSA has provided them with some of their most cherished father-son bonding experiences.

BoyScouts1We breathed a sigh of relief in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that private organizations like the BSA have a right to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” Since the BSA oath requires boys and men to promise to be “morally straight,” the ruling gave the organization the legal right to exclude openly gay teens or adults who couldn’t make that promise. 

But those legal protections have been completely gutted over the past five years by none other than the BSA itself. In 2013, the organization decided to allow openly gay teens as members. On Monday, it voted to allow openly gay adults to serve. And THAT decision has left many of us shaking our heads, wondering why an organization that fought like hell just 15 years ago to protect its core values just unnecessarily embraced a policy that’s dangerous for the kids it serves.

WHY NOT GAY SCOUTS?

Even parents who weren’t entirely happy with the 2013 decision to admit gay teens could at least see some value in that policy change; certainly, young men who identify as gay need positive male role models. But even with that laudable goal, it’s still a mistake for the BSA to allow openly gay teens, just as it’s a mistake to allow gay adults. Not because these policies will lead to the moral acceptance of homosexuality, but because there are practical aspects to being a Boy Scout and working with a troop that make the policies problematic. 

scoutsWhen my son graduated from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts two years ago, he began attending camp outs. That meant putting him in a tent with other boys, sometimes while wearing nothing but his underwear. There usually isn’t an adult in the tent with the two, three, or four boys sharing close sleeping quarters. 

So far, no Scout in his troop has confessed to being gay, but if one did, that would be my son’s last camp out. And it’s not because I want my kids to shun their gay peers. Or because I believe every gay teenage boy is a lecherous, immoral sexual predator. It’s because I know from experience how easy it is for a hormonally-charged, emotionally immature young person to confuse intense feelings of friendship with sexual attraction. I know because my foray into homosexuality began when the intense friendship I had with a female friend crossed the line into a sexual relationship. This happens far more often than most people realize. 

I’d never discourage my children from having a friendship with a peer who identifies as gay; in fact, even as preteens, my kids have had peers say they’re gay or bisexual. I’ve supported them continuing the friendships, even after young woman decided she had a crush on our daughter (who learned how to respectfully rebuff such advances at the tender age of 11). That said, I still consider it completely imprudent to put my sexually- and emotionally-immature son into a situation where he’ll be in close, intimate proximity to a youth who doesn’t have the same moral convictions against homosexual behavior. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t put him in a tent with a girl: because in his immaturity, it could easily become an occasion of sin for him. Especially since my son would already have the foundation of friendship with the fellow gay Scout.

Yes, you have that same immaturity in a troop comprised exclusively of straight teens. But in that case, every boy there has a psychological and moral boundary that discourages homosexual acts. You completely change the dynamic, however, when to one of the boys, that’s a morally acceptable action. Teens crave acceptance and love and it’s easy for them to become infatuated with a peer, especially a close friend, as we saw with my daughter’s friend and as I experienced myself. Those intense feelings aren’t a problem as long as both kids have the interior conviction that homosexuality is wrong. 

AMBIGUITY+IMMATURITY+OPPORTUNITY=MORAL DISASTER

But is it wrong? Our culture doesn’t think so. Even children raised in practicing Catholic households are today finding it increasingly difficult to accept the Church’s teaching about the immorality of homosexual acts when they’re bombarded by the message that it’s not just morally neutral, but something to be celebrated. You’re more likely to find ambiguity among teens about this issue, even well-catechized teens, who are afraid of the withering accusation that they’re a bigot or hater if they take a hard line against homosexuality. 

We wouldn't mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?
We wouldn’t mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?

As a parent, it’s my job to ensure my son isn’t put into a situation that could result in more temptation than he’s equipped to handle at a young age. I wouldn’t allow him to play video games or on the computer with a friend of his that I know has a problem with porn; I wouldn’t allow him to share a tent with a teenage girl. Nor will he be allowed to share a tent with a gay peer. These things can seriously damage my son’s sexuality if he’s asked to grapple with them before he possesses sufficient maturity to make a good decision.

Spiritually speaking, a homosexual experience for youth is far more damaging than an unchaste but heterosexual one. For many people, having a homosexual experience at a young age is a bell that can never be unrung, that can lead to a lifetime of sexual identity confusion, as it has for me and for many others. Again, it’s not about gay teens being sex-crazed, but about the fact that ALL teen boys are forming their sexual identity and that their emotional and sexual immaturity makes them especially vulnerable to sin during that time. The BSA policy is dangerous because it denies the vulnerability of the teenage years and puts sexually-immature kids together without the natural boundary of everyone being attracted to the opposite sex. 

Despite the veneer of being good for self-identified gay teens, the BSA policy actually puts these teens at even greater risk than just feeling ostracized for being gay. You’re taking these young men, who are attracted to other young men, and putting them in close, intimate proximity to the very sex they’re most sexually attracted to. At best, this is a near occasion of sin for these young men. If it’s obviously imprudent to put teen boys and girls in the same tent while camping, so why are we effectively putting gay scouts in that same situation? 

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How to Win the Culture War…

… One Family at a Time
A Typical Photo from a Gay Pride Parade

I believe that the cultural battles today are a direct result of a lack of joy-filled families.  The scourge of abortion, declining birth rates, increasing divorce rates, and a pervasive hedonistic lifestyle can all be traced to a breakdown of the family.  According to Blessed John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, “the mission of of the family is to guard, reveal and communicate love.”  Today there is a dearth of examples of authentic love within families.  It used to be a given that a young man and woman would meet, get married and welcome children with joy, but this Christian worldview is questioned in just about every way in our society.  The predominate cultural thought is that the idea of Christian marriage and family life has been tried and has failed, now let’s try something else – it certainly couldn’t turn out any worse.

When we look at the societal ills of today it may seem that there is nothing we can do to stop the cultural winds of change.  I would suggest that very little can be accomplished by complaining about the culture’s departure from Christian morality.  As the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  Families need to go against the grain, and embrace a radical approach to family life.

The Beauty of God’s Plan for your Family

God has a beautiful plan for our us. His plan often includes the gift of a spouse and children. Sometimes we are tempted to view our family as a burden, but that was not how it was in the beginning. If we get rid of the obstacles in our way (work, possessions, pride, selfishness), we can see how beautiful the gift of our spouse and our children really are from the perspective of our Heavenly Father.  Our spouse is our helpmate (cf. Gen 2:5), and our closest companion in the journey of life. Our spouse is the person with whom we share our life mission.  If we are fortunate enough to be able to have children, we not only participate in God’s creation of new life, but that new life is half taken from you and your spouse and if we ponder eternity, our children are the only thing we have in this life that we can take with us to heaven.  God will provide for all our needs, and love us with a love that we can hardly fathom, and bless us with companions on our journey back home to perfect union with Him in heaven.

The Value of Perseverance
St. Gregory the Great

So, why is it that many times we don’t view our family as that great gift?  If you are like me, there are times when your family can be a source of stress and can be the cause of a lot of extra work.  Many times, we don’t view family life as a blessing, but we must ask God to help us see our family as He sees it.  The struggles will come and go and we will be better because of it.  St. Gregory the Great wrote, “There are some who wish to be humble, but without being despised, who wish to be happy with their lot, but without being needy, who wish to be chaste, without mortifying the body, to be patient without suffering. They want both to acquire virtues and to avoid the sacrifices those virtues involve: they are like soldiers who flee the battlefield and try to win the war from the comfort of the city.”

Don’t Hide your Light Under a Bushel

People were attracted to Christianity in the first century, not because the first Christians preached against all that was wrong with society, but by their steadfast faith and their love.  Conversions were made because of the faithful witness of Christian families and we are called to do the same.  We know where road of selfishness and self-love will lead our culture and we have a responsibility to raise our families to be light in the darkness so that when our society has tried their solutions to the problems and failed, they will notice the joy that exists in our families and perhaps some will ask us how we did it.  St. Peter provided some great advice for us in his first apostolic letter, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”  We have been given the great gift of faith by a loving Father, as Christian parents, we must hand on that faith with loving patience, the world is in desperate need of not only hearing, but seeing the good news of the Gospel in action within our families.

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Why Christians Opened the Door to Gay Marriage

As a Catholic, I oppose gay marriage with my whole being. But I also believe we lost the battle against it long before Massachusetts began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. Why? Because the real architects of gay marriage aren’t gay and lesbian activists, but Christians themselves.

Gay marriage actually began, ironically enough, with a call to sexual abstinence: in 1798, British (Anglican) clergyman Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, the first work to advocate abstinence for population control. Forty years later, Charles Goodyear accidentally discovered how to vulcanize rubber and our old friend the condom was born. By the 1860s, Malthusians had officially dropped abstinence and promoted condoms for birth control.

Across the pond, Protestant Anthony Comstock saw the writing on the bedroom wall and successfully lobbied Congress to ban the sale and distribution of “obscene” material, including contraceptives. The Anglican bishops had their say, too—in 1908 and again in 1920, they emphatically reaffirmed the traditional Christian teaching against contraception.

Enter American birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who worked with like-minded progressives in England to pressure public health officials and church leaders to accept contraception. Their lobbying worked and at the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Anglican bishops caved and decided contraception was licit. The Episcopal Church of the United States joined them just a year later.

The response from the rest of the Protestant denominations, however, was fast and furious. Lutheran theologian Dr. Walter A. Maier called contraception “one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations,” and Methodist bishop Warren Chandler insisted that the “disgusting” contraception movement assumed the worst about man’s ability to control his sexual urges. The Presbyterian Church joined the chorus, openly calling for withdrawal of all interdenominational support for the Episcopal Church in the United States. But like all firestorms, this one burned out quickly. By the 1960s, every Protestant denomination—Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, even the Baptists—had abandoned its opposition to contraception.

Most view the moral prohibition against contraception as one of those “Catholic things” that isn’t relevant to Protestant Christians, much less to non-Christians. For Protestants, at least, this not only ignores Christian tradition, but basic biblical morality. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God’s plan for marriage is laid out plainly, with God bringing man and woman together in marriage for two purposes: companionship (unity) and to grow the human family (procreation). This is why Protestants who oppose gay marriage because “God created them male and female” only have it half right. For God did not stop there; he joined the two together for specific purposes. In short, for bonding and for babies.

From the beginning of Christianity, what constituted a valid marriage was clear: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life. But by 1960, contraception is okay and babies are optional. So now marriage is a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Officially, the Catholic Church  is the only Christian faith to have retained the traditional teaching against contraception. Unofficially, however, dissent–both institutional and among the laity–has been rampant. (Even today, the best litmus test I have for gauging the orthodoxy of a priest is his reaction to finding out I’m a natural family planning instructor.) While the official teaching of the Church remains unchanged, it was discarded by the majority of Catholics, who decided that the Church was wrong about contraception (but right about social justice and the rest of the teachings they agreed with). Even today, Catholics contracept and sterilize at the same rate as the rest of society. 

Then came the push for no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s. And within a short time, couples that would have previously had to prove fault and undergo an arduous and agonizing court procedure to dissolve their marriage could now separate relatively easily, legally speaking. What had once been a last resort–divorce–was now considered a legitimate solution to the “problems” of marriage. And not surprisingly, the once-serious problems that had justified divorce in the past, such as abuse and infidelity, gave way to immature and self-centered reasons such as “I fell out of love with him” and “She no longer makes me happy.” Today, no one blinks an eye if someone wants to get married “for life” three, four, or more times.

Marriage, then, changed again: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Gay couples then, seeing that heterosexual marriage has become nothing more than a temporary legal contract between consenting adults, rightly asked why they couldn’t have their unions recognized, too. I sometimes cringe when I hear Christians talk about defending “traditional marriage.” Traditional marriage was open to children and until death. I can just hear the gay marriage advocates now: “So in the past 60 years, you’ve lopped off 2/3 of ‘traditional’ marriage, and now you want to claim it’s a sacred, unchangeable institution?”

They have a point, folks.

Logically, if heterosexuals–Christians, at that–have led the charge to so radically alter what makes a marriage a marriage, then what basis do we have for saying marriage must be reserved for just a man and a woman? We were the ones, after all, who fought to take procreation and permanence out of the equation. What’s left of traditional marriage is barely worth legally defending, which is why gay marriage has made so many inroads.

Polyamorist gay marriage: coming soon to a state near you. (June 14, 2006 issue of The Advocate, featuring an article about gay polygamists who expressed a desire to be legally married.)

After we’ve lost the battle for gay marriage, we’ll lose the battle for polygamy, too. Because if marriage is no longer a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life, but a temporary legal union of two adults, then why shouldn’t polygamists get their shot at the brass ring, too? Why should marriage be limited to just two people? What if three–or six–people want to get “married”? What reason could Christians–contracepting, divorcing, and remarrying Christians–possibly have to deny “polyamorists” the right to redefine marriage once again? We did, after all. Plenty of times.

My own faith is solid; I know what God intends marriage to be and I live that out with my husband. We’re open to life and prepared to stick it out until the bitter end. We teach these truths to our children, both through catechesis and example. But legally and socially, I believe we’ve already lost the battle against gay marriage, polygamy, and every other kind of “union” our crazy world comes up with for the government to ratify (“bestial marriage,” anyone?). With even most heterosexual marriages in this country being a mere shadow of what God intends this glorious institution to be, all we can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and pray without ceasing that our own children will find the narrow gate to life.