As I was driving home from work yesterday, the topic under discussion on the radio was “Why does the Catholic Church exclude homosexuals?” It reminded me of the recent kerfuffle when Phil Robertson’s comments on the sin of homosexual behavior caused him to come under attack for being “anti-gay”.
This misunderstanding of Church teaching happens far too often so I thought I’d address it here. First and foremost, GOD LOVES EVERYBODY! It doesn’t matter if you’re a sinner or a saint, God loves you. That certainly applies no matter what your sexual orientation might be. You’ve heard it said, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” That, in a nutshell, is the Church’s teaching. During Jesus’ time on earth He was constantly under fire for hanging out with sinners.
To really understand this, I recommend Christopher West‘s excellent series on the Theology of the Body. But, here’s the short version of what the Church teaches
The sex act is a gift from God, when it’s used as He intended it. Sexual activity is to be between a man and a woman, married to each other, and open to the possibility of children. Anything else is a mortal sin. If any one of these three things is missing, then ia beautiful gift from God becomes sinful. (Including homosexual sex, premarital sex, extramarital sex, bestiality, sex with children, and any sex where artificial means are used to prevent pregnancy).
“Be fruitful and multiply”, He told Adam and Eve. It can’t be much clearer than that. Married love is part of God’s plan. Anything we do to mock God’s plan is mortally sinful.
The radio talkers also talked about the Church’s position on artificial birth control. They said that some large percentage of Catholic women use it. That may be true. But, and this is a big but, the use of artificial means of birth control means that the couple is not open to having children. The sex act changes from a blessing from God to a sin against God. How sad.
The important thing for us to remember is this. The Church didn’t make this stuff up. People say that we Catholics have too many rules. The reality is that the Church has no rules when it comes to membership. You’re not going to be thrown out of the Roman Catholic Church for being gay; for living with your boy (or girl) friend; and you’re not going to be thrown out for taking “the pill.” The Church has no way of knowing what you’re doing and even if she did, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” still applies.
At least half of the couples who come to me for a Catholic wedding are living together. Do I still marry them? Of course I do. But I also council them to stop. Obviously, if they don’t get hit by a train between now and their wedding day, they always have a chance to go to confession at the last possible minute. And the good news is that if they do go to confession right before their wedding, cohabiting is a sin that they won’t commit again.
The thing is, we don’t sin against the Church. We sin against God. The Church doesn’t exist to condemn sinners. She exists to help us avoid sin. She teaches us what’s sinful and what isn’t. If we choose to ignore a particular teaching, we don’t hurt the Church, we hurt ourselves. If our hypothetical engaged couple does get hit by a train, they’re going to have to stand before Jesus and explain why they chose to ignore His will. That won’t be pretty.