Tuesday, January 19, 2016

When "Being Inclusive" is Destructive to the Other

Last week the leaders of the Anglican Communion, including leaders from the US branch (known as the Episcopal Church), gathered in England in a crucial meeting in the hopes of avoiding a schism (breakup). By the end of the meeting, the Episcopal Church was punished by the rest of the Anglican Communion (and the Canadian Anglicans were warned) for its support of homosexual marriage (including designing a marriage rite for homosexual couples). To many, this was shocking because one of the hallmarks of the Anglican Communion is an undying support for relativism; they are literally the church of "I'm ok, you're ok," so the idea of punishing one of the branches is a bit "un-Anglican". Predictably, the Episcopal Church (TEC) is telling the rest of the Anglican Communion to get bent, that TEC will "continue to be inclusive" and is willing to pay the price to "become second-class Anglicans" because they wanted homosexuals "to be treated like first class Christians."

This is a very difficult situation because the world is so turned on its head because it's abandoned Christian orthodoxy. One of Catholicism's teachings (once held by all Christians) is that we're all called to chastity, which means that if you're single, a member of a Religious community, or are a priest or bishop, you remain chaste by not having sex and staying faithful to the responsibilities and duties of your vocation; for married couples, remaining chaste is to be faithful to your spouse alone, being open to life, and staying faithful to the responsibilities and duties of your vocation. However, the world is upside down, with sex and sexuality being the main driving force for so many. As Blessed Paul VI warned in his letter Humanae Vitae, "[A] man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection" (paragraph 17).

Indeed, the Western World has embraced the contraceptive mentality, whereas almost everything - even car ads - have subtle to obvious sexual overtones due to our hypersexualization of the culture; if you don't think it's that bad, see how one sex toy company has just opened public masturbation booths on New York City streets. Even women have embraced this contraceptive mentality, fooling themselves into thinking that if they willingly become pieces of meat they are somehow "empowered" and that if they also treat men like meat, they are somehow "equal" to us. Truth be told, in the Western World, the only way modern feminism considers itself triumphant is when women are no longer women, but are instead men with different body parts; true feminism, including its beautiful and unique fertility and maternal instinct, has become something to be rejected, hated, despised, ridiculed, or treated as a physical ailment that needs carcinogenic drugs to suppress.

Because Western minds think sexual activity is so vital to quality of life, any restrictions on homosexuals are seen as bigoted, hateful, and exclusive. And, since the Sacrament of Matrimony was rejected as a Sacrament by the Protestant reformers, who left it in the hands of the State to enforce, marriage is seen through most Western eyes (sadly, even by many Catholic eyes) as just a legal document, neither necessary for a couple's happiness, nor something held exclusive to the Church to recognize or enforce. Therefore, to deny homosexuals the right to "marry" is seen, again, as biased and bigoted; hence, the coast-to-coast call for "marriage equality" in the US last year. The Episcopal Church, in riding the tide of relativism, followed the mindset of the culture, recognizing same-sex "marriage" and creating a rite for it in their liturgy. A majority of practicing Anglicans being from Africa, and therefore still holding to Biblical Christian morality, are opposed to embracing this worldliness by TEC; in seeing the future of Anglicanism being in Africa, the other Anglican leaders sided with those bishops, censoring TEC for the next three years and reducing them to observer status in future gatherings (also banning them from ecumenical dialog with other Christian bodies) during this three year period, all in the hopes that TEC will repent and change its ways.

Even though I'm a Catholic, I don't reject my past and I have a lot of Episcopal and Presbyterian pages "liked" on Facebook, and so I get to see both sides of something like this play out. The Episcopal side of things is very defiant, embracing a sort of "bad boy" status and standing tall against "bigotry" and "hatred", proclaiming itself to be "proud to be inclusive". Once again, because the Western world sees so much through its sexual eyes, the only way TEC has understood "inclusiveness" is to allow gays to marry and encourage their lifestyle. The scope of this writing is too narrow to dive into the Catholic teachings on marriage, for that well is deep, but I will try to "wet your whistle", if I can. For a slightly deeper discussion, I highly recommend Christopher West's book, Good News About Sex & Marriage (Revised Edition): Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching, or the full collection of St. John Paul II's works on Theology of the Body.

Throughout the Scriptures, God's relationship with his people is always seen through the eyes of marriage, from in Genesis when he gave Eve to Adam, all the way until Revelation, when the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to the New Earth, adorned as a bride for her groom. We're told about the "marriage supper of the Lamb". Jesus warns us to not come to this wedding feast without the proper "wedding garment". He tells a parable about the wise and foolish virgins who are waiting for the groom to arrive for his wedding. Throughout the Old Testament, God chastises his unfaithful people with wording like referring to his people as a harlot, an unfaithful spouse, or a prostitute. Jesus and St. Paul use marriage imagery to show Christ's relationship to his Church, calling her the Bride of Christ. Jesus' first miracle was at a wedding feast. The earliest writings of Christianity dive into this imagery, seeing a husband and wife having children as an image or icon of the Holy Trinity. There is much more that can be said, but I think what's been written helps explain how seriously the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox) treat the Sacrament of Matrimony. An action proper to Matrimony is sex, just as an action proper to being Ordained is to offer the Mass, or an action proper to a citizen (and not a tourist) is the ability to vote. When Christ taught, he reaffirmed that God intended for marriage to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and whose proper action would be sexual. St. John Paul II taught that sex between husband and wife was a way in which God shared with us his joy of Creation; and through the union of husband and wife, we share in God's gift of Creation with every marital embrace, "for procreation reproduces the mystery of Creation." We blur this vision of the Trinity and of Christ's relation to his Bride when we propose same-sex "marriage" or go even further and endorse the transgender movement.

All of this might sound ridiculous to non-Catholics (and even to some Catholics) but the road to heaven is narrow and difficult; when I used to live a Christian life where anything goes, I didn't understand the Bible passages that promised that Christian life would be a cross to bear; now I understand what those passages mean! And, when we attempt to live a life of chastity, we have to look at all of these things through those lenses and not the secular West's lenses of lust and promiscuity, and when you do that, things look a bit clearer. Since marriage can only be between one man and one woman (and is lifelong), this is why the Church cannot bless second, third (or more) marriages without first investigating whether or not the last marriage was validly entered into or not. Because sex is a proper act for a validly-married couple, and because marriage can only be between one man and one woman, the Church simply does not have the power to bless same-sex marriage, either. To the minds of the secular world, this is bigotry and bias; this is hatred. But for the Catholic, true love is wanting the best for the other, even if it means laying down your life for the other person. We want everyone to get to heaven; we may not get to heaven if we live a life enjoying our sins and then dying without repentance. So, to encourage someone to sin is to gamble with their afterlife. To many, they insist this is between the sinner and God and we should have no say, and even though it is true that ultimately a person's judgement will be their own before the throne of God, it is not Biblical (nor in Christian love) to see a brother or sister of Christ sinning and not attempt to help them remember the teachings of Christ; indeed, there are many passages in the New Testament that encourage us to help each other, teach each other, and correct each other, and there are many examples throughout the Old Testament that show the entire People of God suffering due to the sins of even one person (think of King David's son dying after he had Bathsheba's husband killed, or 70,000 people dying due to King David's disobedience).

The official Catholic teaching for the proper way to be "inclusive" to homosexuals can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2357 through 2359:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

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.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

We cannot discriminate against anyone, for that is a sin; all people are of equal value and dignity because all people are made in the image and likeness of God. But we cannot endorse sin and call it equality or inclusiveness, either - that's living a lie and encouraging someone to separate themselves from God's graces, jeopardizing their eternal reward. If we embrace chastity as the cross it can sometimes be, as we've been asked to by the Lord, then we can see that we're in the same exact boat as our homosexual brothers and sisters. Then, both homosexual and heterosexual Christians would be helping each other embrace that cross in our lives. But, since most heterosexual Christians have rejected Biblical morality as it pertains to sex - and most Catholics reject our 2,000 year old teaching on sexuality and marriage - the culture is being pulled in the opposite direction, where the promiscuous, fornicating heterosexuals who cohabit as well as divorce and remarry are looking at homosexuals and saying, "Hey, why can't they be just as free as we are?" Hence, we see most of Western Christianity fighting for "marriage equality" and "homosexual rights".

I've often said that the Christian world will be renewed thanks to Africa and Asia, which is why the West is fighting so hard to introduce to them an acceptance of contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual "marriage". They are stuck in the middle of what Pope Francis calls "ideological colonization," and they suffer greatly for it. But as St. Ignatius of Loyola said, "If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint." This goes for faithful Christians trying to follow God's Word, but I think it also applies corporately to homosexuals, as well as the Church in Asia and Africa. We are going through hardships, but that's because God wants us in his kingdom.

But as long as we're faithful to God and follow his commandments, all will be ok. As St. Padre Pio said, "If certain thoughts bother you, it is devil who causes you to worry, and not God, Who, being the spirit of peace, grants you tranquility," and "Do not let temptations frighten you; they are the trials of the soul whom God wants to test when He knows that he is strong enough to sustain the battle and weave his garland of glory with his own hands," and "Guard fervently the purity of your body and soul, because these are the two wings which carry us to God, and make us almost divine."

We're all in this together, but we'll never make it to the finish line if the culture or our brethren are encouraging us to sin; survival depends on our inner conversion and a change of lifestyle, as St. Padre Pio said, "In the tumult of passions and of adverse circumstances, there arises the dear hope of God's inexorable mercy. Let us hurry confidently to the tribunal of penance where He, with fatherly anxiety, waits for us every moment; although cognizant of our debt to Him, let us not doubt that our sins have been solemnly forgiven. Just as our Lord has done, let us bury them."

Let us pray for one another and help one another, as good brothers and sisters should do. We are all sinners, and I am the worst one I know; instead of encouraging one another to keep sinning, let us remember how God's mercy endures forever, and if we want to enjoy the Kingdom, then we must "go, and sin no more." Let us, as prodigal children, run to our Father who is always willing and ready to embrace us and welcome us back if we confess our sins with a contrite heart. I applaud the Episcopal church for her desire to minister to the LGBTIQ community - we are all God's children and he loves us all - but, since we're all commanded by Christ to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and by St. Peter to live holy lives - I pray that their good intentions will one day soon be inspired by the Scriptures instead of from wandering into myths. May all of God's people find solace, peace, and conversion in the "field hospital" of the Lord.