Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell . . . Don’t Sin

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Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

The homosexual agenda is relentless; almost daily it forces itself into the public discourse. Consider the following, gleaned from headlines in just the last few weeks:

-- Congress is considering the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, established law that properly recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman. Some Rhode Islanders have petitioned Senator Jack Reed asking him to support the repeal.

-- In light of the demise of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military, a new memo from the Pentagon has allowed military chaplains to officiate at “same-sex marriages.” In response, a group of military chaplains, including the Catholic Archdiocese for Military Services, has expressed its objection to the new policy. Other chaplains are concerned that they would eventually be pressured to participate in such ceremonies, contrary to their religious beliefs.

-- President Obama has stated again that his views on homosexual marriage are “evolving,” an evolution that will be completed just in time for the 2012 election, one would suspect.

-- Homosexual activists are disturbed that the new “civil-unions” legislation in Rhode Island does not permit the same tax benefits for homosexual couples as for married couples. Of course the civil-unions law in Rhode Island has proven to be a total waste, totally unnecessary, as many of us predicted it would be. Very few Rhode Islanders have made use of the new law.

-- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has ordained its first openly-gay minister, in so doing joining other liberal Protestants, and changing its long-held ban on homosexuals serving as ministers.

-- Southwest Airlines removed a lesbian couple from one of its flights for making out on the airplane. The couple accused Southwest of homophobia. The airline responded that the couple was removed from the plane because of profane language and aggressive behavior, not for their public display of affection.

-- Actor Zachary Quinto announced that he’s homosexual. In so doing he said: “It became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough.”

These public displays, along with many others, have significant sociological and political consequences. As they find their way into the public arena, however, and in light of the growing public acceptance of, or at least apathy about, the homosexual lifestyle, it seems to me that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fundamental moral principles involved here.

Before we review those, though, let’s emphasize once again, that the teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter is not intended to be harmful or offensive to persons with same sex attraction. For the umpteenth time, let me repeat what I’ve written previously, that: “men and women with same sex attractions are valued members of the human family and must be treated with the same respect and love as every other child of God. ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard must be avoided.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2358) Hatred, persecution, prejudice and ridicule of homosexuals is a grave sin and must always be treated as such.”

Explaining and defending the fundamental human rights of persons with homosexual tendencies, however, does not mean that we can ever accept or approve homosexual activity. Remember that you can love someone deeply without accepting or affirming their improper behavior. In fact, if you really love someone you have an obligation to challenge their sinful ways and encourage them to follow a more virtuous path.

So, the teaching of the Church about homosexuality is based, first of all on the Bible. Whenever homosexual acts are referenced in the Bible they are always condemned. Always. The clearest reference perhaps is this: “For this cause God has given them up to shameful lusts; for women have exchanged natural intercourse for what is against nature, and in the same way men, too, having given up natural intercourse with women, have burned in their lusts toward one another, men with men practicing that well known shamefulness.” (Rom 1:26-27)

Based on the natural law, the Scripture and long-standing Christian tradition, the Catechism summarizes the teaching of the Church by saying: “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered; they are contrary to the natural law. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (#2357)

Why does the Church insist on this teaching when it seems so contrary to the popular culture, when so many people find the teaching offensive – or at least difficult to understand and accept? The answer is found in the prophetic nature of the Church. The Church has a duty to speak the truth, even in a hostile environment.

In the Old Testament Ezekiel has a compelling description of the prophet as a “watchman” for Israel. The Lord warns Ezekiel that he will be held responsible if he does not seek to dissuade the people from their wicked ways. (Ez, Chapter 33) And in the New Testament, St. Paul urges the Romans to be counter-cultural, to be strong in their faith: “Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)

Members of the Church, particularly those in positions of authority – bishops, priests, deacons, catechists, and especially parents – have an obligation to understand and present what we believe about the sinful nature of homosexual acts. We have an equally important obligation to foster respect for persons with same sex attraction. We should love them, respect them, pray with them, and welcome them into our churches. But we do them a grave disservice if we do not urge them to embrace a lifestyle marked by the Christian virtues of chastity and purity.

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